On Wednesday, Pakistan took diplomatic measures in response to the recent Iranian air strikes in the Balochistan province, escalating tensions between the two nations. Pakistan recalled its top diplomat from Iran shortly after expelling the Iranian representative from its territory. In addition, Islamabad announced the suspension of all high-level visits, whether ongoing or planned.
A spokesperson from the Pakistani Foreign Office informed reporters that the decision involved summoning back the ambassador from Iran. The Iranian counterpart, currently traveling, was noted as unlikely to return for the time being.
Mumtaz Zahra Baloch, the Foreign Office spokesperson, stated, "Pakistan has decided to recall its ambassador from Iran, and the Iranian Ambassador to Pakistan, who is currently visiting Iran, may not return for the time being."
The backdrop for these diplomatic actions is Iran's recent air strikes in Balochistan, with Tehran claiming that the targets were associated with the Jaish al-Adl terror group. Iran links this group to attacks on its security forces along the extensive 1,000-km border shared by the two countries. Despite Iran's assertion regarding the target, Pakistan has condemned the air strikes, contributing to the diplomatic strain between the neighbors. The recall of ambassadors and suspension of high-level visits underscore the seriousness of the situation, reflecting Pakistan's response to the perceived security threat and the need to address the escalating tensions with Iran.
In a recent update on the Indian Space Research Organisation's (ISRO) Solar Mission, Aditya-L1, ISRO Chairman S Somanath provided insights into the spacecraft's successful entry into the precise Halo orbit. While addressing the media, Somanath mentioned that the mission had smoothly transitioned toward a high orbit, albeit requiring some minor corrections. He explained that the spacecraft is currently positioned correctly according to calculations, but ISRO will closely monitor it over the next few hours to ensure its stability.
Somanath reassured that if any slight drift occurs, the space agency is well-prepared to make necessary corrections to maintain the optimal position of Aditya-L1. He mentioned that images from the mission have already been released on the ISRO website, showcasing data from particle measurements capturing emissions from the Sun.
The chairman underscored the significance of X-ray measurements, covering both low and high energy ranges, and the crucial role of the magnetometer in studying space magnetism fields resulting from solar ejections. These observations aim to enhance the understanding of solar wind, which involves particle emissions from the Sun, attracting considerable interest from the scientific community.
"A lot of people are interested in understanding this effect. So we look forward to a lot of scientific outcomes in the coming days," Somanath added, expressing optimism about the potential discoveries in the near future.
He further emphasized the satellite's guaranteed five-year lifespan, supported by sufficient fuel reserves, highlighting the long-term commitment to scientific exploration. This assurance from ISRO's chairman instills confidence in the success and longevity of the Aditya-L1 mission, paving the way for significant scientific advancements in the study of solar phenomena.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has decided not to appear for questioning today in the Delhi liquor policy case, following the announcement by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). The party contends that the Enforcement Directorate's summons were unlawful and solely intended to arrest Mr. Kejriwal. This marks the third notice issued to the AAP's national convenor, following his refusal to comply with earlier summons on November 2 and December 21.
While asserting Mr. Kejriwal's willingness to cooperate with the agency, the AAP argues that the summonses were sent with the ulterior motive of arresting him. The party alleges that the timing of the notice, just before the elections, suggests an attempt to impede Kejriwal's campaigning efforts.
Notably, Mr. Kejriwal had previously been interrogated by the Central Bureau of Investigation in April regarding the case but was not designated as an accused. Speculation has been rife since the first Enforcement Directorate summons, with widespread anticipation that the Delhi Chief Minister might face arrest after questioning. Earlier instances of AAP leaders, such as former Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia in February and AAP Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh in October, being arrested in connection with the case, have heightened concerns within the party about Mr. Kejriwal's potential arrest.
The unfolding developments add a layer of complexity to the political landscape, particularly in the lead-up to elections, prompting renewed scrutiny and discourse around the legality and motivations behind the enforcement actions.
A formidable seismic event struck central Japan on Monday, registering a magnitude of 7.5, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS). The epicenter of the quake was identified in the Noto region of Ishikawa prefecture around 4:10 pm (0710 GMT). The aftermath of this powerful quake prompted the issuance of tsunami warnings, compelling authorities to urgently advise residents in the vicinity to seek higher ground immediately.
National broadcaster NHK echoed the urgency, broadcasting a directive for all residents to evacuate promptly to elevated areas. The Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Center cautioned of potential hazardous tsunami waves within 300 kilometers (190 miles) along the Japanese coast from the quake's epicenter.
Subsequent reports confirmed the arrival of a tsunami measuring 1.2 meters in Wajima city, Ishikawa prefecture. However, the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) projected a much larger tsunami, reaching five meters, expected to impact Noto in the same region.
The Noto region, situated on the Sea of Japan side of Honshu, encountered a rapid succession of seismic activities. The seismic sequence commenced with a 5.7-magnitude tremor at 4:06 pm local time. This was followed by a more powerful 7.6-magnitude quake at 4:10 pm, accompanied by subsequent tremors: a 6.1 magnitude quake at 4:18 pm, a 4.5 magnitude event at 4:23 pm, a 4.6 magnitude quake at 4:29 pm, and a 4.8 magnitude tremor at 4:32 pm. Shortly after, the US Geological Survey reported another quake with a magnitude of 6.2.
The magnitude of the largest quake prompted broadcasters to interrupt regular programming, initiating special coverage to disseminate critical information. Urgent calls were made for residents in the affected areas to promptly evacuate to higher ground.
This seismic event and its subsequent tsunami warnings underscore the ongoing vulnerability of regions prone to tectonic activity, emphasizing the need for robust disaster preparedness and response measures in earthquake-prone areas.
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is gearing up for its first space mission of 2024 with the launch of the X-ray Polarimeter Satellite (XPoSat) on January 1. Following the achievements of Chandrayaan-3 and Aditya L-1, this mission is India's another significant step in space exploration.
Once launched, India will become the second country in the world to send a specialised astronomy observatory aimed at studying black holes and neutron stars.
A second of its kind after NASA's Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE), XPoSat will be launched on the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle.
The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) faced suspension by the government a day after wrestler Sakshi Malik raised concerns about the hastily announced junior national competitions. The Sports Ministry cited the new WFI panel's apparent control by former office bearers in complete disregard of the Sports Code. They highlighted that the WFI's operations were conducted from premises controlled by former office bearers, where allegations of sexual harassment against players were being heard in court.
Sanjay Singh, the newly elected WFI chief, responded, claiming he had not received any official communication and would comment only after reviewing the letter. The government's rebuke followed Singh's recent election, succeeding Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, who stepped down amid accusations of sexual harassment by top wrestlers, including Sakshi Malik, Bajrang Punia, and Vinesh Phogat.
The protesting wrestlers had previously taken to the streets in January, demanding action against Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh. The agitation was called off after government assurances, leading to an investigation against the former WFI chief. Despite the controversy, Sanjay Singh secured a significant victory in the WFI elections against Commonwealth Games gold medallist Anita Sheoran, who had the support of the protesting athletes.
The Centre responded to the International Monetary Fund's (IMF) cautionary statements regarding alleged vulnerabilities in India's government debt, asserting that certain assumptions made by the IMF do not accurately reflect the factual position. The finance ministry emphasized key points, particularly highlighting that a majority of India's general government debt, encompassing both the Centre and states, is denominated in rupees, with external borrowings constituting only a small portion. This, the ministry argued, results in a low rollover risk for domestic debt.
During the IMF's Article IV consultations with India, concerns were raised about the potential for the country's general government debt to reach 100% of the debt-to-GDP ratio by FY 2028 under adverse shocks. The finance ministry clarified that this extreme scenario was presented as a "once-in-a-century Covid-19" type event and was listed among various favorable and unfavorable scenarios. It stressed that this extreme possibility is not a predetermined outcome.
Comparing India to other nations, the finance ministry pointed out that the IMF's extreme scenarios for them were higher, such as 160% for the US, 140% for the UK, and 200% for China. The ministry highlighted that, according to the IMF report, India's General Government Debt to GDP ratio could decline to below 70% under favorable circumstances in the same period.
Acknowledging global economic shocks like Covid-19 and the Russia-Ukraine war, the finance ministry commended India's relatively resilient performance and noted that the country's current debt level is still below that of 2002. It emphasized the significant reduction in general government debt from approximately 88% in FY 2020-21 to about 81% in 2022-23. The ministry asserted that the Centre is on track to achieve its fiscal consolidation target, aiming to reduce the fiscal deficit to below 4.5% of GDP by FY 2025-26.
For a more structured presentation, the following table summarizes key points:
Majority of India's government debt in rupees, with a small portion in external borrowings.
IMF's extreme scenario of 100?bt to GDP ratio by FY 2028 was presented as a "once-in-a-century" event.
IMF's extreme scenarios for the US, UK, and China were higher, indicating India's relatively favorable position.
IMF report suggests the General Government Debt to GDP ratio may decline below 70% under favorable circumstances.
Despite global shocks like Covid-19 and the Russia-Ukraine war, India's economy has performed relatively well.
General government debt has decreased from approximately 88% in FY 2020-21 to about 81% in 2022-23.
Fiscal Consolidation Target
The Centre is on track to achieve its stated fiscal consolidation target by reducing the fiscal deficit below 4.5% of GDP by FY 2025-26.
In a historic decision, the Colorado Supreme Court has ruled to disqualify former President Donald Trump from the state's presidential election ballot in 2024, marking the first instance in U.S. history where a presidential candidate has been deemed ineligible under the constitutional provision barring individuals engaged in "insurrection or rebellion" from holding office.
The court's ruling, based on Trump's role in the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol by his supporters, specifically impacts the state's March 5 Republican primary. However, it is anticipated to influence Trump's eligibility for the general election on November 5. Despite Colorado being considered safely Democratic, the decision sends a significant message about accountability for actions that threaten democratic institutions.
The case, brought by Colorado voters with support from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, argued that Trump should be disqualified for inciting the Capitol attack in an attempt to obstruct the peaceful transfer of power to President Joe Biden after the 2020 election.
Trump's campaign swiftly denounced the ruling as "flawed" and "undemocratic," vowing to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. The campaign contends that challenges under the 14th Amendment are an effort to undermine voters' choices and denies the courts the authority to remove Trump from the ballot.
The Colorado court's decision contradicts a previous ruling by a lower court judge who found that, while Trump incited violence, as president, he did not qualify as an "officer of the United States" subject to disqualification under the 14th Amendment.
Trump's legal defense argued that the Capitol riot did not meet the threshold for insurrection, and his remarks were protected by free speech. Advocates, aiming to use the case for a broader disqualification effort, see potential for the matter to reach the U.S. Supreme Court, where a conservative majority, including three Trump appointees, could shape the final outcome. The court has stayed the decision until January 4, 2024, allowing time for appeals.CREW President Noah Bookbinder emphasized the historic nature of the ruling, asserting that it is necessary to safeguard the future of democracy in the United States.
The Sultanate of Oman's Head of State, Sultan Haitham bin Tarik, embarked on a historic three-day state visit to India, underscoring the profound historical, cultural, and economic ties that bind the two nations. The relationship between India and Oman is deeply rooted in a friendship that spans millennia, with evidence of people-to-people contact dating back 5,000 years.
Diplomatic relations between the two countries were formally established in 1955, and this association was elevated to a strategic partnership in 2008. Sultan Haitham bin Tarik's visit to India holds particular significance as it marks the first-ever state visit by the Sultan, representing a milestone in the diplomatic ties between the two nations.
External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, in a meeting with Sultan Haitham Bin Tarik on December 15, expressed his deep appreciation for the guidance provided by the Sultan in advancing the strategic partnership between India and Oman. Mr. Jaishankar took to social media to share the moment, stating, "Honoured to call on His Majesty Sultan Haitham Bin Tarik of Oman as he begins his State visit. Value his guidance for further deepening of our Strategic Partnership."
Sultan Haitham Bin Tarik's arrival in India on December 15 was met with a warm welcome, with Minister of State (MoS) for External Affairs V. Muraleedharan receiving him at the Delhi airport. The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) official spokesperson, Arindam Bagchi, highlighted the significance of the visit, emphasizing that it would fortify the enduring friendship and cooperation between the two nations. In a tweet, Mr. Bagchi stated, "His Majesty Sultan Haitham Bin Tarik of Oman arrives to a warm welcome in New Delhi on his first State Visit to India. Received by @MOS_MEA at the airport. The visit will further reinforce the longstanding friendship and cooperation between India & Oman and strengthen bilateral ties."
During his visit, Sultan Haitham bin Tarik engaged in "productive" talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on December 16. The discussions focused on expanding bilateral cooperation across key areas such as security, defence, trade, and the economy. The meeting reflected the shared commitment of both nations to deepen their multifaceted partnership.
India and Oman's ties extend beyond mere diplomatic exchanges; they embody a comprehensive relationship that encompasses historical linkages, cultural affinities, and economic collaboration. The visit provides an opportunity for leaders from both sides to explore avenues for enhanced cooperation and chart a course for the future.
The economic aspect of the relationship is particularly noteworthy. Oman has been a crucial partner for India in terms of trade and investment. Both countries recognize the potential for further growth and diversification in economic collaboration. The talks between Sultan Haitham bin Tarik and Prime Minister Modi likely included discussions on how to leverage this economic potential for mutual benefit.
Security and defense cooperation were also key topics of discussion, given the strategic importance of the region. The leaders likely explored ways to enhance collaboration in areas such as maritime security and counter-terrorism, acknowledging the shared interest in maintaining stability and peace in the region.
As India and Oman navigate the evolving geopolitical landscape, the visit of Sultan Haitham bin Tarik serves as a testament to the enduring nature of their relationship. The discussions and outcomes of the visit are expected to contribute to the further strengthening of bilateral ties, setting the stage for a new chapter in the multifaceted partnership between India and the Sultanate of Oman.
In a strategic move by the BJP, which has chosen to introduce fresh faces for key leadership roles in the states it secured in the heartland, Rajasthan stands out with the surprise appointment of Bhajanlal Sharma as Chief Minister. Sharma, a political novice, represents the constituency of Sanganer and serves as the state general secretary of the party. This decision marks a departure from the political landscape, particularly considering the alternative contender for the top position, Diya Kumari, who now assumes the role of deputy Chief Minister alongside Prem Chand Bairwa.
Sharma, at 56, is distinguished by his long-standing affiliation with the BJP and his roots in the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the student wing associated with the party's ideological mentor, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. Unlike his predecessor Vasundhara Raje, who held the reins of the state for three consecutive terms, Sharma is characterized by a low-key demeanor. Within the party, he is recognized as an organizational stalwart, in stark contrast to Raje's occasional differences with the top leadership.
This unexpected choice for Chief Minister reflects the BJP's strategic reshaping of leadership dynamics, introducing a leader with a strong organizational background to navigate the complexities of governance in Rajasthan.
The Supreme Court, in a significant ruling, endorsed the Central Government's decision to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Constitution, paving the way for elections in the region next year. Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, delivering a majority judgment, asserted that Article 370, initially a temporary provision facilitating Jammu and Kashmir's integration into India, no longer held relevance.
Chief Justice Chandrachud clarified that Jammu and Kashmir, upon joining India, relinquished sovereignty, and its constituent assembly ceased to exist with the merger. He highlighted that the J&K constituent assembly was not meant to be permanent, existing solely for framing the Constitution, and its recommendations were not binding on the President. Despite the cessation of the constituent assembly, the state retained special status, and Article 370 persisted due to the prevailing situation.
The Supreme Court emphasized that Article 370 provided unique arrangements post-merger, acknowledging the absence of internal sovereignty in Jammu and Kashmir compared to other states. The bench, presenting three separate judgments, elaborated on the principle of asymmetric federalism, pointing out that various states, including Jammu and Kashmir, had distinct legislative and executive powers under Articles 371A to 371J.
The removal of Article 370 terminated Jammu and Kashmir's autonomous Constitution and decision-making authority, signaling the end of its special status. Embedded within Article 370 was Article 35A, granting the erstwhile state the authority to designate permanent residents and confer special privileges like government jobs and property ownership.
While not deeming it necessary to assess the validity of Jammu and Kashmir's reorganization into a Union Territory, the Supreme Court justified it as a temporary measure until the election and restoration of statehood. The ruling affirmed the constitutional soundness of scrapping Article 370 and highlighted the state's harmonization with other Indian states, dispelling the notion of internal sovereignty discrepancies.
The Court's decision aligns with the government's efforts to integrate Jammu and Kashmir fully into the Indian Union, emphasizing equality among states. The call for state elections by September 30, 2024, underscores the Court's commitment to expeditiously normalizing Jammu and Kashmir's status. This landmark judgment not only upholds the constitutional validity of the government's actions but also sets a precedent for redefining the relationship between the Union and its constituent states.
The US-based rating agency S&P Global expects India to be the fastest-growing major economy in the next three years, with GDP growth reaching 7 percent by 2026, from 6.4 percent projected expansion in the current fiscal. S&P Global Ratings on Tuesday said India will be the world's third-largest economy by 2030, but a major test for the country would be to unlock the 'immense opportunity' and become the next big global manufacturing hub.
Indian economy grew 7.2 per cent in 2022-23 fiscal ended March 2023. India's GDP expanded 7.8 per cent and 7.6 per cent in the June and September quarters respectively, . "India is set to become the third-largest economy by 2030, and we expect it will be the fastest growing major economy in the next three years. A paramount test will be whether India can become the next big global manufacturing hub, an immense opportunity.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has projected India to become a USD 5 trillion economy with the third largest GDP in 2027-28. India, with a GDP size of USD 3.73 trillion at the end of 2022-23 fiscal, is currently the fifth largest economy in the world behind the US, China, Germany and Japan.
S&P said unlocking the labour market potential will largely depend upon upskilling workers and increasing female participation in the workforce. Success in these two areas will enable India to realize its demographic dividend.
A booming domestic digital market could also fuel expansion in India's high-growth startup ecosystem during the next decade, especially in financial and consumer technology, S&P said, adding, that in the automotive sector, India is poised for growth, building on infrastructure, investment, and innovation.
It further said many emerging markets, including Indonesia, India, South Africa, and Mexico, will hold elections in 2024. Low levels of policy predictability can undermine investor sentiment and derail existing investment potential.
"Emerging markets still have work to do to reap a bonanza from the ... Structural opportunities. For instance, enhancing policy visibility will be critical in attracting investments into these developing trends," S&P said.