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INDIAN EXPRESS EDITORIALS AND EXPLAINED 18TH JANUARY 2020

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ISSUE: INDIA BRAZIL CONNECTION

WHY IN NEWS?

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is visiting India as Chief Guest at the 71st Republic Day celebrations on January 26 this year, the third by a head of state from that country.

History of Indo-Brazil relations

Under Portuguese colonial rule, Brazil and Goa used to exchanged goods. During this period, India used to send coconut and mango crops to Brazil, while Brazil would send cashew here.

Apart from this, Indian cattle breeds were also been exported to Brazil, which has now formed over 80% of the country’s livestock; known as ‘Nelore’ locally (after Nellore in Andhra Pradesh). Brazil became independent from Portugal in 1822.

Modern-day diplomatic ties between India and Brazil were established in 1948, soon after India got independence in 1947.

In 1961, Brazil opposed India’s ‘Operation Vijay’ that liberated Goa from Portuguese rule, and Indo-Brazil relations did not flourish for many decades.

In the 1990s, both India and Brazil undertook economic reforms, following which, the trade relations between the two countries got expanded. Diplomatic visits subsequently picked up pace in the last two decades.

Trade relations

According to the website of the Indian Embassy in Brasilia, Brazil’s overall trade fell in 2015 after the global drop in commodity prices and the economic recession locally. Bilateral trade between India and Brazil reduced from $7.9 billion in 2015 to $5.64 billion in 2016.

In two years, as Brazil’s economy recovered to an extent, the figure rose to $7.57 billion in 2018. That year, the exports and imports between India and Brazil stood at $3.66 Billion and $3.91 billion respectively with India having a trade deficit of $0.246 Billion, according to the website. In the same year, India was the 11th biggest exporter to Brazil and the 10th biggest importer from the country.

Cultural ties

Statues of Mahatma Gandhi have been installed in the Brazilian cities of Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and Londrina.

A commemorative postal stamp of Gandhi was released by the Brazilian Postal Department on Gandhi Jayanti in 2018. Earlier in 2015, another stamp was issued commemorating “100 years of Indian Cinema”.

According to the Embassy, the Indian community in Brazil consists of around 4,700 people, with most of them living in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Manaus.

 

ISSUE: NIA AMENDMENT ACT 2019

WHY IN NEWS?

The central leadership of the Congress has backed the legal challenge mounted by the party’s government in Chhattisgarh to The National Investigation Agency (NIA) Act, 2008, enacted when the UPA was in power.

WHAT HAS HAPPENED?

The NIA Act was enacted in the aftermath of the Mumbai terrorist attacks of 2008. A decade later, the Act was amended with the objective of speedy investigation and prosecution of certain offences, including those committed outside India. The National Investigation Agency (Amendment) Bill, 2019 was passed by Lok Sabha on July 15, 2019, and by Rajya Sabha on July 17, 2019.

NIA Act: The 2019 amendment in the law focussed on three main areas.

OFFENCES OUTSIDE INDIA: The original Act allowed NIA to investigate and prosecute offences within India. The amended Act empowered the agency to investigate offences committed outside India, subject to international treaties and domestic laws of other countries.

The amended section reads: “Where the Central Government is of the opinion that a Scheduled Offence has been committed at any place outside India to which this Act extends, it may direct the Agency to register the case and take up investigation as if such offence has been committed in India.” The NIA special court in New Delhi will have jurisdiction over these cases.

WIDENED SCOPE OF LAW: The NIA can investigate and prosecute offences under the Acts specified in the Schedule of the NIA Act.

The Schedule originally had The Atomic Energy Act, 1962, The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, and The Anti-Hijacking Act, 1982, among other entries.

The amendment has allowed the NIA to investigate, in addition, cases related to (i) human trafficking, (ii) counterfeit currency or banknotes, (iii) manufacture or sale of prohibited arms, (iv) cyber-terrorism, and (v) offences under the Explosive Substances Act, 1908.

SPECIAL COURTS: The 2008 Act constituted Special Courts for conducting the trial of offences under the Act. The 2019 amendment allowed the central government to designate Sessions Courts as Special Courts for the trial of scheduled offences under the Act. The central government is required to consult the Chief Justice of the High Court under which the Sessions Court is functioning, before designating it as a Special Court. When more than one Special Court has been designated for any area, the seniormost judge will distribute cases among the courts. State governments too, may also designate Sessions Courts as Special Courts for the trial of scheduled offences.

ISSUE: SCO SUMMIT

WHY IN NEWS?

India’s announcement that it will invite all heads of government of Shanghai Co-operation Organisation member countries, including Pakistan, when India hosts the summit later this year, is not extraordinary.

The host does not have the luxury of picking and choosing between members.

CURRENT SITUATION OF INDIA PAKISTAN RELATIONS

in the 12 years since the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks — India and Pakistan have just about managed to tread water in their relations, keeping their diplomatic engagement from sinking. Sporadic attempts to engage failed, including at a previous SCO summit at Ufa in 2015. The last year has seen relations nosedive from their already low levels.

First, there was the February 2019 Pulwama attack, India’s Balakot response, and Pakistan’s counter-response.

Since August, after India did away with Jammu & Kashmir’s special status, India and Pakistan have downgraded even their diplomatic presence in each other’s countries, by withdrawing the high commissioners. A war of words is now the only engagement between the two countries.

Bilateral trade, which had managed to survive earlier shocks to relations, has stopped completely. That the opening of the Kartarpur corridor took place in this setting was miraculous, but that too was touch and go.

HOW COULD SCO HELP?

Now the SCO presents an opportunity for a bilateral meeting on the sidelines between India and Pakistan.

In deciding whether to accept the invitation, the Pakistan PM will have to take into consideration “inputs of all stakeholders”, a polite way of saying that the final yes or no will rest with the Pakistan Army.

General Qamar Javed Bajwa appears to have pushed back dissenters in the Army, but his continuance beyond the court-stipulated six months is still up in the air. Even if Imran Khan stays away and sends a minister instead, as India does routinely, however, it would still be a chance for a high-level bilateral meeting.

WHAT INDIA CAN DO?

India, which has declared several times recently that it wants to peel away from historical foreign policy baggage, should make a start with Pakistan by making it possible for such a meeting to take place — or, make it easier for the Pakistan Prime Minister to accept the invitation. A start could be made by resuming trade, which has ground to a dead halt, and by sending India’s High Commissioner back to his office in Islamabad.

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