1. India, Australia, Japan, US call for an open Indo-Pacific region
• Senior officials of India, US, Japan and Australia met in Bangkok today to hold consultations on their collective efforts for a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region and reaffirmed their shared commitment to preserving and promoting the rules-based order in the region.
• According to an official statement from US, the four countries underscored their intent to continue close coordination and collaboration in support of sustainable, private sector-led development, maritime security and good governance.
• The consultations were part of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) an informal strategic grouping consisting of India, US, Australia and Japan.
• China has been trying to expand its military presence in the Indo-Pacific which is a biogeographic region. China claims almost all of the South China Sea whereas Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have also counter claims over it.
2. United Nations to cut 1,000 troops from Somalia force
• United Nations Security Council has decided to cut 1,000 troops from a regional peacekeeping force in Somalia despite a rise in attacks by the Al-Shabaab militia in Mogadishu. The council voted unanimously to draw down the African Union Mission in Somalia but left the door open for the council to revisit that decision if violence worsens.
• African Union Mission in Somalia will gradually hand over security to Somali forces under a transition plan agreed in 2017. The United Nations is seeking to shore up stability in Somalia, where Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabaab fighters have been seeking to topple the government for a decade.
• The council voted unanimously to draw down the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), but left the door open for the council to revisit that decision if violence worsens.
• The resolution put forward by Britain reduces AMISOM troops by 1,000 to a ceiling of 19,626 by February 28, but maintains 1,040 police. The force’s mandate was extended for a year.
• Under a transition plan agreed in 2017, AMISOM will gradually hand over security to Somali forces, but the African Union has raised concern about the extra responsibility as the country heads to elections next year. The United Nations is seeking to shore up stability in Somalia, where Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabaab fighters have been seeking to topple the government for a decade.
• The Shabaab were chased out of Mogadishu in 2011 by AMISOM, and have had to abandon most of their strongholds, but they still control vast rural areas and remain the key threat to peace in Somalia.
• A joint AU-UN security review presented to the council this month raised alarm over a surge of Shabaab attacks in the capital including a January 1 mortar assault on the UN compound.
3. China to create blacklist of “unreliable” foreign firms as trade war with US escalates
• China announced that it would create a blacklist of “unreliable” foreign firms and individuals in a new escalation of its trade war with the United States.
• The move comes two weeks after Chinese tech giant Huawei was added to the US Commerce Department’s “entity list”. This cut it off from critical American-made components for its products, though a 90-day reprieve was issued.
• After being added to the list, several US companies said they would cut off their business with Huawei. Foreign companies have also been left to analyse if the order applies to their business with Huawei.
• The Chinese move to create its own “entity list” appears to be a way to pressure foreign companies to maintain commercial relations with Huawei.
• The announcement of the list comes a day before China will increase tariffs on 60 billion US dollars (USD) in American goods. This itself had come in retaliation to Trump’s decision to hike punitive duties on USD 200 billion in Chinese products earlier this month.
4. Iran’s stocks of nuclear materials still within limits: IAEA
• Iran’s stocks of key nuclear materials are still within the limits set by a 2015 deal with world powers as per the latest International Atomic Energy Agency report.
• Iran announced earlier this month that it no longer considered itself bound by the agreed restrictions on stocks of enriched uranium and heavy water. But, stocks of both did not exceed the ceilings set in the 2015 agreement, the report said.
• Despite an announcement from Iran earlier this month that it no longer considered itself bound by the agreed restrictions on stocks of enriched uranium and heavy water, stocks of both did not exceed the ceilings set in the 2015 agreement, the report said.
• As of May 26, Iran had 125.2 metric tons of heavy water, an increase of 0.4 tons on February but still under the 130-ton limit, the IAEA said.
• As of 20 May, Iran had 174.1 kg (383 pounds) of enriched uranium, up from 163.8 kg in February but again within the relevant limit.
• The report does say that “technical discussions… are ongoing” with Iran in relation to its installation of up to 33 advanced IR-6 centrifuges, but does not specify the content of these discussions.
• The IAEA has released several reports indicating that Iran is implementing its side of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the official name of the 2015 nuclear deal with major powers.
• Earlier this month, Iran announced it was suspending some of its commitments under the JCPOA. The move came a year after US President Donald Trump pulled out of the deal. Since then, his administration has imposed several rounds of sanctions against Iran.
• As well as no longer respecting the limits on stocks, Iran has also said it will increase production of uranium and heavy water.
• The IAEA report confirms Iran has not breached the uranium enrichment level of 3.67 percent specified in the JCPOA, according to AFP.
• Since Iran made its announcement earlier this month, there had been “no changes” in the level of co-operation received from Iran, according to a senior Vienna-based diplomat.
• Germany, France and Britain, which did not agree with Trump’s decision to leave the deal, have been scrambling to prevent a collapse of the agreement.
• The EU recently introduced a trade mechanism that would bypass US sanctions on Iran, in a bid to save the 2015 deal.
5. Philippines Prez expresses deep concerns on escalating US-China trade war
• Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte urged progress on a code of conduct for the contested South China Sea. He also expressed deep concerns about the escalating US-China trade war and its impact on the global economy, including that of his country.
• At an economic forum in Tokyo, he warned that the South China Sea issue was becoming a “flashpoint” with China. China claims sovereignty over most of the resource-rich sea. These claims are disputed by the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Taiwan and Vietnam.
• Beijing and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have tried to create a code of conduct to govern the disputed waters for years, but the process has been slow.
• Duterte is visiting Japan for talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. He said a protracted dispute would shrink world trade and investment.
• Duterte and Abe met today and discussed trade, investment and growing Chinese activity in disputed regional seas.
6. Tanzania latest African nation to ban plastic bags
• A plastic bag ban comes into force in Tanzania as Africa leads efforts to stem the tide of plastic pollution. Tanzania is banning the importation, production, sale and use of plastic bags.
• It becomes the 34th African country to implement such restrictions, according to the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP).
• Tanzania, known for wildlife tourism, has also issued a notice to travellers that they will have to “surrender” plastic bags in their possession before entering the country.
• Globally, 127 countries have some sort of plastic bag legislation. 91 of these include a ban or restriction on manufacturing, importation and retail distribution, according to the UNEP.
7. US withdraws special tax exemption to Pakistani diplomats
• The United States has withdrawn its special tax exemption to Pakistani diplomats. This move comes over a year after the Trump administration imposed travel restrictions on them.
• The Diplomatic Tax Exemption programme is usually granted to foreign diplomats and consulars. It provides sales and use, food, utility and other tax exemptions to eligible foreign officials on assignment in the US. Tax exemption privileges are generally based on two international treaties: The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. All such services and privileges are based on the principle of reciprocity.
• Last year, the US had placed “reciprocal restrictions” on the movement of Pakistani diplomats in the country from May 1, forcing them to stay within 40 kms of the city they are posted in.
• The US’ move came after Pakistan imposed restrictions on American diplomats in the country and barred them from visiting the tribal belt and Karachi.
8. Volcano erupts in Indonesian island of Bali; spews smoke, ash
• A volcano on the Indonesian island of Bali erupted today. Mount Agung spewed a plume of ash and smoke more than 2,000 metres into the sky.
• The volcano is located about 70 kilometres from the tourist hub of Kuta. It has been erupting periodically since it came back to life in 2017, sometimes grounding flights and forcing residents to flee homes.
• The latest eruption took place shortly before noon today, but caused no disruption to flights. Agung remained at the second highest danger warning level, and there is a four-kilometre no-go zone around the crater.
• Indonesia is situated on the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, where the collision of tectonic plates causes frequent quakes and major volcanic activity.
9. Indian-origin Anita Bhatia appointed UN Deputy Executive Director
• Indian-origin Anita Bhatia has been the Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women) for Resource Management, Sustainability and Partnerships.
• A veteran in strategic partnerships, resource mobilisation and management, she was appointed by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in the global body’s agency focussed on women empowerment and gender equality.
• She has had a distinguished career at the World Bank Group, serving in various senior leadership and management positions, both at the headquarters and in the field.
• Veteran Indian diplomat and a gender equality champion Lakshmi Puri had previously served as the Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations and Deputy Executive Director of UN Women.
• The key appointment comes less than a week after Guterres appointed Indian Army officer Lieutenant General Shailesh Tinaikar as his new Force Commander of the UN Mission in South Sudan.
10. World No Tobacco Day (WNTD)
• Every year, on 31 May, the World Health Organization (WHO) and global partners celebrate World No Tobacco Day (WNTD).
• The annual campaign is an opportunity to raise awareness on the harmful and deadly effects of tobacco use and second-hand smoke exposure, and to discourage the use of tobacco in any form.
• The focus of World No Tobacco Day 2019 is on “tobacco and lung health.”
• The focus of World No Tobacco Day 2019 is on “tobacco and lung health.” The campaign will increase awareness on:
• the negative impact that tobacco has on people’s lung health, from cancer to chronic respiratory disease,
• the fundamental role lungs play for the health and well-being of all people.
• The campaign also serves as a call to action, advocating for effective policies to reduce tobacco consumption and engaging stakeholders across multiple sectors in the fight for tobacco control. World No Tobacco Day 2019 will focus on the multiple ways that exposure to tobacco affects the health of people’s lungs worldwide.
• The World No Tobacco Day 2019 campaign will raise awareness on the:
• risks posed by tobacco smoking and second-hand smoke exposure;
• awareness on the particular dangers of tobacco smoking to lung health;
• magnitude of death and illness globally from lung diseases caused by tobacco, including chronic respiratory diseases and lung cancer;
• emerging evidence on the link between tobacco smoking and tuberculosis deaths;
• implications of second-hand exposure for lung health of people across age groups;
• importance of lung health to achieving overall health and well-being;
• feasible actions and measures that key audiences, including the public and governments, can take to reduce the risks to lung health posed by tobacco.
11. Nigeria’s Muhammadu Buhari sworn in for the second term as president
• Abuja, Nigeria – Muhammadu Buhari has been sworn in for a second term as Nigeria’s president, following a campaign that focused on tackling security threats and rooting out corruption.
• The 76-year-old leader was sworn in on Wednesday amid tight security in the Nigerian capital Abuja. He did not make a speech during the low-profile event attended by members of the diplomatic community.
• Buhari, a former military ruler, won 56 percent of the votes to defeat his main challenger, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) in the February election, which had been beset by a host of security and logistic issues that delayed the vote by a week.
• Following the announcement of the election results, Abubakar filed a petition against the outcome, a process that is ongoing in Nigeria’s appellate court.
• Buhari will face a number of challenges during his second term as he tries to fulfil his election promises, including dealing with security threats and managing a sluggish economy and a high unemployment rate.
12. RBI to observe financial literacy week from June 5-9
• The Reserve Bank of India will observe Financial Literacy Week across the country from 3rd to 7th of this month. The theme this year is – ‘Farmers and how they benefit by being a part of the formal banking system’. In a release, the apex bank said, posters and leaflets will be used to spread awareness and spread the message of financial literacy among the farming community.
• The RBI has advised banks to display the posters and content in their rural bank branches, Financial Literacy Centres, ATMs and websites. It will also undertake a mass media campaign this month on Doordarshan and All India Radio to disseminate essential financial awareness messages to farmers.
• The financial literacy week will focus on four broad themes—know your customer (KYC), Exercising Credit Discipline, Grievance Redressal and Going Digital (UPI and *99#).
• The main objective of observing the financial literacy week is to emphasize the importance of financial literacy.
• During the week, the RBI has advised banks to conduct select activities that include, conducting special camps by Financial Literacy Centres; displaying posters on these four themes in the local language by all bank branches in a prominent place inside the branch premises; display of these messages on the respective websites of banks; conducting financial literacy camp by rural bank branches; and hosting an online quiz for the general public on the four broad themes to generate interest/awareness about financial literacy.
13. India removes restriction on air space usage
• The Indian Air Force (IAF) has removed all temporary restrictions on all air routes in the Indian airspace. The IAF made the announcement on Twitter. The IAF had imposed restrictions following air strikes on a terror camp at Balakot in Pakistan on 27th February.
• India had imposed restrictions which did not allow any aircraft flying over Pakistan airspace to use entry or exit points into India.
• Since February 27, flights on these sectors were taking longer routes leading to an increase in flying time by up to three hours.
4. Kasturirangan committee submits new draft education policy to HRD Ministry
• Former ISRO chief Dr. Kasturirangan led Committee submitted the draft National Educational Policy (NEP) to HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank in New Delhi yesterday.
• The policy draft recommends incorporation of Indian knowledge systems in the curriculum, constituting a National Education Commission and curbing arbitrary fees hikes by private schools.
• The expert panel also proposed massive transformation in Teacher Education by moving all teacher preparation and education programmes into large multidisciplinary universities or colleges. It added that the topics will include Indian contribution to mathematics, astronomy, philosophy, psychology, yoga, architecture, medicine, as well as governance, polity, society, and conservation course on Indian knowledge systems.
• The existing NEP was framed in 1986 and revised in 1992.
15. First session of 17th Lok Sabha from June 17, Budget on July 5
• The first session of the 17th Lok Sabha will commence on 17th of this month. The Rajya Sabha will have its sitting from 20th onwards. Briefing reporters after the Cabinet meeting in New Delhi last evening, Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javdekar said, the session will continue till 26th of next month.
• The election for the Speaker of the Lower House will be held on 19th of June. The President will address the Joint sitting of both the Houses of Parliament on the 20th. The Economic Survey will be tabled on 4th of July and the Union Budget will be presented on the 5th of July.
16. Govt approves extension of PM-KISAN scheme to all farmer; clears pension for farmers, traders
• The newly-sworn in NDA government at the Centre has taken four major decisions related to farmers’ and traders welfare in the first meeting of the Union Cabinet.
• It has approved the extension of Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN) to all the farmers in the country. Earlier the benefit of the scheme was applicable to farmers having two hectares of land.
• Briefing reporters after the Cabinet meeting in New Delhi last evening, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said, nearly 14 crore 50 lakh farmers will be now covered under the revised scheme. The Minister said, total burden on the exchequer will be over 87,000 crore rupees for the year 2019-20. He said, over three crore farmers have been benefited so far. Six thousand rupees per year is being given in three instalments to the farmers, under the scheme.
• In another major decision, the Centre approved the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Pension Yojana under which small and marginal farmers will get a minimum fixed pension of 3,000 rupees per month on attaining the age of 60 years. The beneficiaries should be in the age group of 18 to 40 years. Mr Tomar said, the central government will also contribute an equal amount to the pension fund. He said, the scheme aims to initially cover 5 crore farmers in the first 3 years.
• The Cabinet cleared a pension scheme for small traders. Briefing reporters in New Delhi last evening, Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javdekar said, the scheme is meant to provide universal social security to all shopkeepers, retail traders and self-employed persons. They will be given a minimum monthly pension of 3 thousand rupees on attaining the age of 60 years. Altogether 3 crore retail traders and shopkeepers will be benefited under this scheme.
• The government approved a special scheme for controlling foot and mouth diseases of animals. Mr Javdekar said, altogether 13,343 crore rupees is to be allocated to eradicate the disease in five years.
• In a series of tweets after the Cabinet meeting, the Prime Minister said, path-breaking decisions were taken in the first cabinet meeting of the new Central government. The BJP had promised these measures in its election manifesto. He said, hardworking farmers and industrious traders, will benefit greatly due to these decisions.
• The decisions will enhance the dignity and empowerment of the people of the country.
• Union Home Minister Amit Shah termed the scheme as a landmark decision. He said, farmers and poor have always been a priority for the NDA government. He said as promised, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has extended the PM-Kisan scheme to all farmers. Mr Shah took oath as a Union Minister on Thursday.
17. ICC announces content partnerships with Facebook, YouTube, Twitter for World Cup
• ICC will provide cricket fans greater access to the content from World Cup event, the teams and the stars than ever before. ICC has entered into content partnerships with global social media platforms Facebook, YouTube and Twitter to cater to the huge interest from fans in this event. Fans can enjoy recaps, reports, live scores and s, behind-the-scenes and other content across the ICC’s digital channels.
• The ICC said that it’s website and mobile App will provide a host of content so that fans can connect and engage with the event anytime, anywhere. Content will be available in four languages – English, Hindi, Bengali and Urdu. The ICC’s Digital Insiders will bring unique daily behind-the-scenes access content.
• A new dedicated tournament website <www.cricketworldcup.com> has been created with in-game clips, fastest live scores, previews, live blogs, press conferences and in-depth reports from all matches. The ICC has also launched a channel on TikTok which will provide the audience with offbeat short-form videos, with focus on user-generated content. Additionally, all post-match press conferences will be streamed live on ICC’s Facebook and YouTube channels.
• The ICC is also introducing a special feature to fans to keep track of their team’s preparations ahead of every match. ‘At the Nets’ will provide snippets into teams’ training sessions across all ICC digital and social media platforms.