1. India and Bangladesh reopens Chilahati-Haldibari railway link after 55 years
India and Bangladesh reopened the 55 years old Chilahati-Haldibari rail link between the two nations. The inauguration took place during a virtual bilateral summit between PM Modi and PM Sheikh Hasina on December 17, 2020. The link was cut off during the India and Pakistan war in 1965 but it will be reopened again to enhance connectivity and transport between India and Bangladesh. The reopening is also the result of the commitment from both sides to reviving and operationalizing the pre-1965 six-railway links between the two nations. The distance between West Bengal’s Haldibari station till the international border is 4.5kms. While from Chilahati in Bangladesh till the zero point is approx. 7.5 kms.
- The inauguration of the railway link will help in enhancing connectivity to West Bengal and Assam from Bangladesh.
- It will enhance the railway network accessibility and will also give a boost to the economic development and bilateral trade in the region.
Currently, the railway link will be facilitating the movement of goods cargo and the passenger movement will start as soon as the required infrastructure on both sides is in place.
- The 75 kms track will help in connecting the country with the Siliguri corridor which is also known as the ‘Chicken’s Neck’. It connects India with the North-Eastern states.
Five out of six rail links become operational:
With the inauguration of Chilahati-Haldibari railway link, five out of six railway links will become operational between India and Bangladesh. The other four are:
Improving railway connectivity between India and Bangladesh:
To make the railway connectivity between the two nations more efficient, India in July 2020, in a virtual ceremony had handed over 10 broad gauge locomotives to Bangladesh. India and Bangladesh have also been stepping up their rail cooperation to mitigate the impact of the ongoing pandemic. Railways as an environment-friendly and cost-effective solution have helped in transporting the essential commodities across the border.
The Chilahati-Haldibari railway link was cut off during the India-Pakistan war in 1965 to disrupt the connectivity. The wail link was a significant part of the broad gauge main route from Kolkata to Siliguri but the way of 1965 cut off all the railway links between the two nations.
2. Prime Minister Narendra Modi to attend G7 summit in 2021
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has accepted British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s invitation to attend the G7 Summit in 2021, which will be hosted by the United Kingdom. UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab personally handed over a letter from the UK PM to PM Narendra Modi inviting the Prime Minister to the G7 Summit. Dominic Raab is currently on a visit to India and he had called upon the Prime Minister. He previously met External Affairs Minister Dr. S Jaishankar and Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal. The Prime Minister thanked Raab and accepted the invitation. This was confirmed by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) in a statement on Wednesday. The Prime Minister also tweeted saying that he had an excellent meeting with the UK Secretary of State Dominic Raab, during which they discussed the vast potential of the India-UK partnership in the post-COVID, post-BREXIT world. UK PM Boris Johnson’s office had earlier announced that they had extended invitation to Indian, South Korean and Australian leaders to take part in the G7 Summit in order to work with like-minded democracies to advance shared interests and tackle common challenges.
PM Modi- UK Foreign Secretary Meeting : Key Highlights
PM Modi while recalling the recent telephone conversation between him and the British PM also stressed on the importance of the India-UK partnership in the post-Covid world. He further called for an ambitious and outcome-oriented 360-degree roadmap to tap into the full potential of the bilateral relationship, which will cover defence and security, trade and investment, education, energy, migration and mobility, climate change and health. Modi also conveyed his keenness to welcome the British PM as the Chief Guest of India’s 72nd Republic Day celebrations in New Delhi in January 2021. Johnson will be just the second British leader ever to attend India’s Republic Day parade in New Delhi as a guest of honour, after John Major in 1993. The UK Foreign Secretary further conveyed Johnson’s greetings to Modi and thanked the Indian Prime Minister for participating in the recently concluded Climate Ambition Summit, which was co-hosted by the UK. Dominic Raab during his meeting with PM Modi also stressed the importance that the British government attaches to elevating relations with India, based on shared values and interests and the potential to address common global challenges together.
India and the UK’s efforts to boost their bilateral relationship comes at a time when there has been a downward slide in Britain’s relationship with China. The UK and China’s relations have slid to their most confrontational levels mainly because of the national security law China imposed on Hong Kong and UK’s decision to ban Huawei’s 5G network services.
3. India’s Economic Diplomacy website launched
he External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar launched the Ministry’s Economic Diplomacy website on December 16, 2020. The website aims to showcase India’s economic strengths as well as sectoral and state-wise strengths. Jaishankar said that the website will serve as a two-way funnel connecting our national and state businesses globally to enhance exports, explore employment opportunities and at the same time attracting foreign industry and business to India.
- The website includes information on global mineral resources and governments, opportunities for agricultural exports and employment abroad for Indian nationals and businesses.
- It has also highlighted the economic and policy profiles of the states and union territories along with the plethora of economic engagement opportunities that they offer in extensive detail.
- The website will connect interested investors to relevant agencies in India such as the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) for agricultural exports in India, the Indian trade portal for trade with India and Invest India for investment in India.
- The website also aims to connect businesses seeking to conduct trade and investment overseas with Indian missions and posts and alert them to the relevant guidelines.
- Indian missions and posts abroad can also access periodically updated business-related information on India aimed at important stakeholders in the overseas Indian community as well as potential foreign investors.
The External Affairs Minister stated that the Economic Diplomacy website highlights the opportunities for our agriculture exports abroad in line with PM Narendra Modi’s vision of doubling farmers’ income by 2022. He further stated that the Ministry of External Affairs, through its missions, plays an increasingly important role in providing inputs to the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), Commerce Ministry and Agriculture Ministry for diversifying markets and enhancing the income of our farmers through exports. While concluding his address, the External Affairs Minister said that in pursuit of the Prime Minister’s call for an Atmanirbhar Bharat, the Ministry of External Affairs has been working in collaboration with the Commerce Ministry, Tourism Ministry and the other Ministries to promote the three Ts- Trade, Tourism and Technology into India. He added saying that since the states and UTs play an integral role in inviting foreign investment on their own, a separate division on the website has been dedicated to state-specific policies, resources, sectoral strengths and links to investment and trade agencies of each state and union territory. M Angamuthu, APEDA Chairman said that APEDA will be a great beneficiary of the initiative. He further continued by saying that the role of the External Affairs Ministry in promoting India’s agriculture exports is tremendous and we are working as a team to increase agri-export around USD 60 billion. He added saying that they intend to promote organic products and that India has a great scope in terms of medicines, spices, essentials oils, nutraceuticals and millets.
Through a specific focus on the Indian government’s ease of doing business initiatives, policy reforms and incentives aimed at attracting foreign investment, the website positions a multidimensional and dynamic ‘Brand India’ to the global business community.
4. ISRO launches Communication Satellite CMS-01
The Indian Space Research Organisation launched the Communication Satellite CMS-01 onboard the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle- PSLV-C50. The satellite was scheduled to launch from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Siharikota, Andhra Pradesh.The communication satellite launch was held from the second launch pad of Satish Dhawan Space Centre and was scheduled at 15.41 hrs IST subject to weather conditions. The 25- hour countdown for the launch mission started at 14.41 hrs on December 16 and as per the ISRO scientists, the countdown process has been progressing very smoothly.This was the 52nd flight for the PSLV rocket and for the Indian Space Research Organisation, the launch of Communication Satellite CMS-01 was the 77th launch mission from home.
Launch of the Communication Satellite:
The versatile rocket PSLV is all set to inject India’s new communication satellite CMS-01 in the geo-synchronous transfer orbit, in a launch mission that will last a little more than 21 minutes from the time it is ignited. As the communication satellites are heavier, the PSLV rocket carrying them requires an extra thrust for taking them to the geo-synchronous transfer orbit. The role to provide the extra thrust will be played by the six strap-on motors that will be fitted with the rocket.
Communication Satellite CMS-01:
India’s 42nd Communication Satellite will have the transponders for providing service using the Extended-C Band. This will be extremely useful in covering not only mainland India but will also cover its far-flung island territories of Lakshadweep and Andaman and Nicobar for communication purposes. Satellite’s mission life will be of 7 years.
5. India ranks 131 in UN’s Human Development Index
According to the report released by UNDP- United Nations Development Programme, India has been ranked at 131 among 189 countries in Human Development Index 2020. The index is a measure of a nation’s health, standards of living, and education. The 2020 Human Index Report states that the life expectancy of Indian citizens at birth in 2019 was 69.7 years, while the life expectancy of Bangladeshi citizens was 72.6 years and Pakistan has 67.3 years. Apart from India, Bhutan has been ranked at 129, Bangladesh is at 133, Nepal is ranked 142, and Pakistan at 154 among the countries with medium human development. The Human Development Index has been topped by Norway, followed by Ireland, Switzerland, Hongkong, and Iceland.
Why India is in the medium human development category?
The Human Development Index value of India for 2019 was 0.645 which put the country in the medium human development category. India has ranked 131 out of 189 countries while it ranked 130 in 2018 in the development index. Shoko Noda, the UNDP Resident Representative, stated that the drop in India’s ranking from 130 to 131 doesn’t mean that India didn’t do well, it means that other countries did better. He added that India can also help other countries too and appreciated its commitment to reduce carbon emissions.
What does the report say about India’s low rank in HDI?
As per the report published by the United Nations Development Programme, India’s gross national income- GNP per capita fell to USD 6,681 in 2019 from USD 6,829 in 2018 on PPP- Purchasing Power Parity basis. The report further added that the evidence from Colombia to India indicates that the ownership of land and financial security helps in improving women’s security. It also reduces the risk of gender-based violence and clearly indicates that owning land can empower women. The report highlights that the indigenous children in India, Cambodia, and Thailand have shown more malnutrition-related issues such as wasting and stunting. In India, different responses in the behaviour of parents, as well as some form of disinvestment in the health and education of girls, is one of the major reasons for higher malnutrition among girls than boys as a consequence of shocks that are likely to be linked to the climate change.