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RCEP Kicks Off: World’s Largest Free Trade Pact

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RCEP Kicks Off: World's Largest Free Trade Pact

On November 15, Fifteen Asian Pacific countries with China’s backing have signed virtually the world’s biggest trade alliance, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) which encompasses one-third of the global economy closely. The treaty is seen as China’s ambitious dominance in the South Asian market by fulfilling economic, geopolitical goals in the region.

Which all countries have signed?

The ten ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) bloc countries include Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and with major Asian economic superpowers China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. India, one of the largest economies, stays out of the deal.

The RCEP free trade alliance is larger than the United States, Mexico, Canada Agreement and the European Union.

Aim behind RCEP:

The treaty aims at fulfilling member’s nations aspiration to strengthen the regional economic structure. In times like COVID-19, where globalisation is going backwards to extreme nationalism, the RCEP trade pact helps Asian Pacific nations to sustain their economy by entering into the largest agreement in terms of population, trade, market size and investment.

The RCEP trade pact was launched in 2011. After eight years of the talks, it was formally negotiated and accepted in 2020 by different high to low-income Asian countries amidst global pandemic.

Benefits:

RCEP set rules for trade that will facilitate investment and businesses within the region, a must for the Indo-Pacific’s post-COVID recovery. It is anticipated to eradicate a series of tariffs on imports imposed for 20 years. It also comprises specific rules on intellectual property, telecommunications, financial services, e-commerce and professional service.

There are already Free Trade Agreements (FTA) among member nations, but the limitation which RCEP tries to eliminate.

As per BBC, a good manufactured in Indonesia and contains Australian parts might face tariffs in the ASEAN free trade zone.

Under RCEP, parts from any member nation would be treated equally, which might give companies in RCEP countries an advantage to see within the trade region for suppliers. The deal is likely to benefit manufacturing nations of Japan, South Korea and China.

The pact is anticipated to take effect within the next two years when it is ratified by enough participating countries domestically.

China is leading and how:

With Europe dealing with terrorism and the second wave of COVID-19 and America’s ongoing elections and protests, China emerges as the dominant player in the Asian Market. Recently, it held 2nd virtual conference with major neighbours of India: Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka. This indicates China’s desire to rule and capture the Asian Market to become a major superpower in the world.

Absence of USA:

United States of America is missing from RCEP agreement after the USA pulled out itself from eleven nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) by the former President Donald Trump shortly after assuming administration. This leaves the world’s biggest economy, USA, out of two trade alliance that is regionally growing fast.

All eyes are on current President Joe Biden, and Vice-President Kamala Harris on their Trade strategy as Democrats believe in globalism to regain USA’s lost glory and control over South Asian Countries.

India stays out to protect itself:

New Delhi opted out from the world largest trade bloc last November citing “significant outstanding issues, which remain unresolved.” There is domestic opposition to safeguard the existing traditional primary Indian sector of handicraft, agriculture, small business.

Vocal for local – PM Modi’s new Mantra amidst Pandemic is to encourage the intra-regional trade in India and support Indian commodities to sustain ourself irrespective of external chaos.

Last year at Bangkok Summit PM Modi said “When I measure the RCEP agreement concerning the interests of all Indians, I do not get a positive answer. Therefore, neither the Talisman of Gandhiji nor my own conscience permits me to join RCEP.”

Some analysts believe India to be making a huge mistake for not sailing in the ship due to the present condition where it has to establish its export in the Asian Market. To quote former chief economic advisor of PM Modi government, Arvind Subramanian “foreign demand will always be bigger than domestic demand,” which means India needs to resist “the misleading allure of the domestic market.”

On the other hand, the outstanding issues of import tariffs play a considerable role with China benefiting maximum from the trade and India, which is already in the trade deficit in bilateral Chinese relation doesn’t see good opportunities in RCEP. This is a major concern for India, as its industry has voiced fears that cheaper products from China would flood the already flooded market.

Loose points of RCEP:

The RCEP agreement may not be enough to fit the unequal requirements of member countries as diverse as Vietnam, Malaysia, China, and Australia. Like the European Union, it fails to create unified norms on labour and the environment or commit countries to open services and other vulnerable areas of their economies. This may have a downfall, as when Greece or other European Nation fell, others came to help economically. The same does not apply to RCEP.

RCEP isn’t as comprehensive as TPP, which was Barak Obama’s brainchild to dominate Asia with 40 per cent of the world’s GDP being a part of it.

As far as India is concerned, being an original negotiating participant of RCEP still have the door open of joining the agreement without having to wait 18 months as decided for new members in the rules.

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Escalation Of COVID-19 Cases Across The Globe

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COVID Case Spike 2021 | News Aur Chai

The United States, India, and Brazil have the most confirmed cases, followed by France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and Turkey. There are very few locations that have remained undisturbed.

Since the middle of last year, confirmed cases have been increasing. Although the actual scope of the first outbreaks in 2020 is unknown because testing was not generally available at the time. The 100 million COVID-19 cases were discovered at the end of January, over a year after it was first diagnosed. As of 6:30 p.m. CEST on July 30, 2021, WHO has received reports of 196,553,009 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 4,200,412 fatalities. A total of 3,839,816,037 vaccination doses has been delivered as of July 28, 2021.

After reaching a record high of over 0.9 million cases on April 28, 2021, new daily instances of the coronavirus continued to decline, reaching a low point on June 21, when over 0.3 million cases were reported. Since then yet, there has been a global increase in cases. On July 15, 0.53 million daily cases were reported, and over three million new cases were reported in the second week of the month. As of July 15, 188.9 million patients have been recorded worldwide. The transmissive Delta form accounting for most infections in 111 countries. Most instances were recorded in Brazil, India, Indonesia, the United Kingdom, and Colombia in the last week. With the steepest increases in Zimbabwe (72%), Indonesia (44%), the United States (38%), Bangladesh (35%), and the United Kingdom (30%). Many Asian nations, including Vietnam, Malaysia, South Korea, and Japan, have reported many daily cases. However, the spread was under control.

The number of new cases in Indonesia has been on the rise, with each day seeing a significant increase over the previous day. Indonesia is now the new Asian epicentre, with 56,757 cases recorded on July 15; India reported 39,000 patients on the same day. COVID-19 fatalities are high, according to WHO. After decreasing for nine weeks, with the highest increases in Africa and Southeast Asia. COVID-19 fatalities worldwide surpassed four million on July 7. The last million deaths occurred in under 90 days, the lowest time interval for every one million deaths ever recorded.

High vaccination coverage has been shown in the United States and much of Europe to lower fatalities and even hospitalizations. For example, United Kingdom rises in incidence. There has been fewer hospitalizations and deaths over 87% of the adult population, as they are vaccinated with one dose and over 67% with two doses. In the United States, the increase in cases is concentrated in states with low vaccination coverage, with unvaccinated people accounting for most deaths. Over 55% of Americans have received one dosage, and 48% are completely immunized. It shifts the focus back to improving vaccination coverage and achieving global vaccine equality to avoid fatalities and the spread of dangerous strains. Some nations debate a booster dosage. Even though many African countries’ healthcare professionals have not been completely vaccinated, booster injections have begun to be given to patients with weakened immune systems in Israel.

In comparison, booster shots have been ruled out in the United States for the time being. With vaccine shortages reported in many Indian states. Even among the vaccinated, rigorous adherence to COVID-appropriate behaviour is the only option to postpone and mitigate the consequences of a third wave.

This spring, India and Latin America have seen a significant drop in new cases in the hardest-hit areas of the world. But the global numbers continue to grow. The Delta variety leads them to well-vaccinated regions such as Western Europe and the United States, low but rising infections. This spring, India and Latin America have seen a significant drop in new cases in the hardest-hit areas of the world. Vaccine doses have been given to over 4 billion individuals globally (52 for every 100 people), yet the discrepancy is striking. More than 80% of the population had at least one shot in some wealthy nations. In contrast, the proportion is as low as 1% in many of the poorest.

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Why Taliban Could Not Control Panjshir Valley In Afghanistan Yet?

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Taliban Panjshir | News Aur Chai

Taliban took over Afghanistan last week, and Panjshir valley in the north is the last hope for the people of Afghanistan to fight against the Taliban.

As it was 25 years ago, there is still a part of Afghanistan that tries to oppose the Taliban; it is the Panjshir valley. The villages that rebelled against the Soviets and Taliban’s, it is now that they’re fighting against the spread of the Islamic Emirate.

Valley Of the Five Lions, also known as Panjshir Valley, is in Northern Afghanistan, 150 kilometers north of Kabul, near the Hindu Kush Mountain Range. Due to its location in the Hindu Kush Mountain range, the Panjshir Valley is only accessible through the narrow Panjshir River; this makes it easy for forces defending. Panjshir is also famously known for emeralds. It has been the base of operations for the Taliban since the 1990s. Since it was never under their control, the area has become a key target for the US-led forces.

Around 150,000 people live in the valley, and the majority are Pashtuns. The valley’s ethnic majority is Tajik. The area’s history has made it the base of operations for the Taliban. Panjshir has never been captured by the Taliban during their earlier rule, nor by the soviets. The resistance, therefore, chose to base its operations in the area due to its history.

After the Soviets left Afghanistan in 1989, a civil war broke out in the country. Ahmad Shah Massoud, who was the most notable anti-Taliban fighter, led a group of militants to fight against the separatists. He was eventually killed by al-Qaeda terrorists in 2001, just two days before the 9/11 attacks.

Following the father’s footsteps, Ahmad Massoud, the son of legendary Ahmad Shah Massoud, declared the start of armed resistance against the Taliban forming in the Panjshir. The Northern Alliance flag has been raised in Panjshir province, confirming the legitimacy of this movement, officially back since 2001. The National Resistance Front (NRF), based out of the Panjshir Valley, led by Ahmad Massoud and the former Vice-President Amrullah Saleh, leading an anti-Taliban Movement.

The Panjshir Valley stands tall against the Taliban under the leadership of Ahmad Masood. Resistance movements have begun with the formation of the Northern Alliance. Bernard Henri Levy, the French philosopher, spoke to Ahmad Massoud on a phone call and quoted saying, “I am the son of Ahmad Shah Massoud, and surrender is not part of my vocabulary.” The Resistance has just begun; this is just the beginning.

The Washington Post published an op-ed on Wednesday in which Massoud reiterated his plea for help, asking the United States to supply his military with arms and ammunition. “The United States can still be a great arsenal of democracy” by supporting his fighters, he wrote.

Since President Ashraf Ghani left Afghanistan, Saleh has declared himself as the interim president. The Taliban has been massing its forces near Panjshir. The Salang highway has been closed. He further tweeted that the militants are avoiding any confrontations with the enemy forces.

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India Takes Rein Of UNSC For August

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UNSC August II News Aur Chai

As per procedure, India received the Presidency of the UN Security Council for August this year. The three major points that the Indian Presidency aims to focus on are maritime security, peacekeeping, and counter-terrorism policies.

What is the UN Security Council?

The security council is a body of the United Nations responsible for international security and peacekeeping. The body settles disputes and identifies unwanted threats and aggressions against member States.

There are 15 Members as a part of the council. They are obligated to abide by the decisions made by the Security Council. Out of these, there are five permanent and ten non-permanent members, India being a part of the newly elected non-permanent contingent.

India is currently serving as President of the UNSC for August and is expected to do so again in 2022. They succeed France who previously presided in July this year. The order of Presidency succession is decided alphabetically. Each member gets a fair chance to preside over the peacekeeping body.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be the first Indian PM to chair a meeting of the UNSC.

India in UNSC

India has joined the UNSC for the eighth time as a non-permanent member, serving a term of two years. The last time India was on the council as a member was in the year 2011-12, during the Middle East Crisis.

In the August meetings this year, the primary concern is said to be that of the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the economy and mortality. India also aims to bid for a permanent seat on the UNSC and hence a high level of involvement is expected.

India plays an important role in the UNSC as it along with other members of the G-4 (Brazil, Japan, and Germany) are insisting on an expansion in permanent membership for countries. They want the permanent seats to be offered to countries other than the current five that hold the veto power, giving India a chance to display its potential at a global level.

India has previously chaired the counter-terrorism committee at the UNSC and introduced the concept of ‘zero tolerance’ for terrorism globally. They also successfully establish the Financial Action Taskforce (FATF).

This time around, India aims at improving maritime security and peacekeeping while returning to the counter-terrorism policies establish worldwide.

India’s efforts as President in August 2021

India is expected to organise three high-level meetings for the three topics that they have decided to focus on (maritime security, peacekeeping, and counterterrorism). A traditional breakfast of PRs was held by India’s Permanent Representative to the UN, T S Tirumurti. Along with the normal breakfast, Tirumurti put a display of Indian grains with items exquisitely prepared with those ingredients. A treat of Alphonso mangoes was also included in the breakfast. Tirumurti also presided over all meetings of the UNSC on day one.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will chair a meeting of the UN Council virtually, while external affairs minister, Jaishankar will chair the meetings in person.

S Jaishankar expressed opinions on the opportunity to preside over the UNSC for August via his Tweet, saying that India looks forward to taking over the Presidency of the Global Organisation for the month.

Indian PR Tirumurti also thanked their predecessor France and announced the takeover via his Tweets while expressing his elation on the occasion.

India began their eighth term on January 1 this year. This non-permanent arrangement will span for two years, giving the possibility of another Presidency in late 2022. India has been grateful for its turn in chairing the UNSC and hopes to make decisions and resolutions that will be beneficial to the Indian Foreign Policy and countries around the Globe.

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