international - 2014 JANUARY

January 1

The United Nations mission to Iraq says violence claimed the lives of 7,818 civilians in 2013, the highest annual death toll in years. Over eight months of escalated violence has sparked fears that the country may be returning to the widespread bloodshed of 2004-2007 that saw tens of thousands killed each year.

Bill de Blasio has been elected as the Mayor of New York. He takes over from Michael Bloomberg.

Bill de Blasio

Latvia has joined the eurozone, becoming the 18th member of the group of EU states which uses the euro as its currency.
China has agreed to lend Pakistan $6.5 billion to help build nuclear power stations including a 2,200-megawatt plant in Karachi, as Beijing increases its involvement in the cash-strapped country.

January 2

China's first aircraft carrier, Liaoning, successfully completed a series of trials during a 37-day training mission in the disputed South China Sea and has returned to port.
* Last month’s drills off the Coast of Hainan Island marked the first time China has sent a carrier into the South China Sea. According to regional military officers and analysts, this manoeuvre was also China’s first attempt to emulate the U.S’ style of deploying a strike group of ships to escort carriers.
* US and China had blamed each other when a Chinese naval ship accompanying the carrier had a near collision with a US naval ship.
Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, President of Maldives, has sought Indian investment in sectors such as transport, tourism, fisheries and energy to enhance bilateral economic cooperation. Addressing members of three industry chambers - Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM), he said that the strategic location of Maldives in the Indian Ocean makes it an ideal investment destination.
Pakistan announced its plan to set up seven functional nuclear plants of 1100 MW each by 2030. The government is set to install 325 MW Chashma-4 plant. Pakistan took this decision to combat the problem of shortage of power supply in the country.
On January 2, 2014 India and Saudi Arabia inked a “landmark” agreement for protection of the rights of domestic Indian workers in the Gulf Kingdom. The pact was signed between the Indian Overseas Minister Vayalar Ravi and Saudi Arabia Labour Minister Adel bin Mohammed Fakeih.

January 3

Israel has successfully tested its upgraded Arrow ballistic missile interceptor for the second time. With this, Israel hopes to beef up security against threats seen from Iran, Syria and Lebanon’s Hezbollah guerrillas.
India extends deadline on polio vaccination certificate till February 14, 2014, a deadline after which it would be mandatory for all travellers from Pakistan to carry polio vaccination certificates.
Madagascar’s former finance minister, Hery Rajaonarimampianina, has won the presidential election, officials in the Indian Ocean nation have announced.

January 4

Indian High Commissioner TCA Raghavan met Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi, and discussed issues of mutual interest, bilateral relations and the geopolitical situation of the region.

January 5

US Secretary of State John Kerry held fresh talks with Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas in a bid to mend the Israel-Palestinian ties which deteriorated after the two sides indulged in a fresh verbal spat, making a peace deal difficult.
United States Embassy in Beirut issued a warning for Americans in Lebanon to avoid hotels, western-style shopping malls, grocery stores and social events.
Awami League secured majority in the 10th Parliamentary election of the country by winning 105 seats out of the 147 seats. The 18-party BNP-led Opposition alliance boycotted the election as its demand for a neutral non-partisan polls-time government went unheeded.

January 6

Malaysia has introduced visa on arrival (VoA) facility at all its major airports for Indians who are travelling to this South Asian country from Singapore or Thailand, holding valid visas for the respective country.

The Supreme Court of Nepal has given voters to cast negative votes in elections and has asked the government and the election commission to frame laws to implement the ‘None of the Above’ (NOTA) option. This makes Nepal the 15th country to ensure negative voting in elections.

Bangladesh’s ruling Awami League has won, with a two-third majority, the general election which was boycotteed by the main opposition party.

Laimdota Straujuma
Laimdota Straujuma became Latvia’s first woman prime minister after the country’s president tasked her with forming a new government. Straujuma replaces Valdis Dombrovskis.

January 7

Expressing strong concern over the just concluded general election, which it alleged was neither credible nor fair, the US has called for fresh polls in Bangladesh.
Malaysia’s Home ministry has forbidden the fast-food restaurants of the country from hiring foreign workers. This decision is likely to affect thousands of Indians who come to Malaysia seeking work as waiters and cooks.

January 8

Suspending a 13-year ban, China has allowed the sale of foreign video game consoles in the country. But the Chinese government has imposed a rider that foreign consoles will have to be manufactured in the country.
* The government did not specify how long the suspension will last. With this, China has opened its doors to major console manufacturers like Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft.

January 9

US president Barack Obama has invited German Chancellor Angela Merkel to Washington hoping to solve a diplomatic crisis instigated by revelations of NSA tapping her phone calls.

Russia, an ally of Syrian president Assad, has blocked a UN Security Council statement that would have expressed outrage at deadly airstrikes by the government troops and condemned the use of missiles and “barrel bombs” in towns. Russia had blocked a similar statement on December 19.

The al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabaab militants have issued a directive banning companies from providing internet services in Somalia. They have given firms 15 days to shut down mobile internet and fibre optic services.

January 10

The US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki described China’s moves to restrict fishing in contested waters of the South China Sea “provocative and potentially dangerous acts.” The disputed area of South China Sea is claimed by Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and China. .
The White House has stated that it has increased its assistance to Iraq to fight al-Qaeda-linked global terrorist groups who have captured the oil-rich country’s two major cities in the western province of Al-Anbar.

South Sudan President Salva Kiir and rebel-leader Riek Machar have been asked by The United States to sign a ceasefire deal and immediately end hostilities which have taken the lives of hundreds of people.
* Responding to an appeal from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Germany has agreed to join global efforts to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles by disposing residues of the most toxic materials.

January 11

In a bid to negotiate a ceasefire and end battles that have killed thousands, UN leader Ban Ki-moon and the UN Security Council are persuading South Sudan President Salva Kiir to release political detainees.
* Begum Khaleda Zia, opposition leader of Bangladesh, has been allowed by the government authorities to leave her home after a virtual house arrest of two weeks.

January 12

In accordance with a deal struck By the US and South Korea, the latter has agreed to pay 920 billion won in 2014 towards the cost of the U.S. military presence in the country, a rise of 5.8 percent from a year ago. Washington has decided to send more tanks and soldiers to South Korea next month.
Accenture has been chosen to replace CGI Federal as the lead contractor for the Obamacare enrollment website. The website failed to work when it was launched in October, 2013.

January 13

Under a six-month landmark nuclear deal,Iran will get USD 4.2 billion of its blocked funds in phases. US President Barack Obama cautioned that any congressional legislation that imposes fresh sanctions on Tehran will only pose a threat to the peace efforts.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has charged Indian drug maker Ranbaxy of Food Drug & Cosmetic Act. US FDA has claimed that Ranbaxy is not maintaining its Toansa plant in line with the required standards.
Malaysian Government has announced the introduction of high-tech biometric ID cards for foreign workers to check the influx of illegal foreign workers. The cards will be introduced by the end of December 2014.

January 14

Five days after nearly 300,000 people were told not to drink, wash or cook with water, owing to a chemical spill that tainted the water supply, Governor Earl Ray Tomblin of West Virginia announced that the ban on tap water for parts of West Virginia was lifted.
Energy –related carbon dioxide pollution grew by 2% last year after declining several years in a row, a US government report announced. The increase in emission is largely due to increased coal consumption.
As part of its austerity measures, the Chinese government has directed its armed forces to choose cars manufactured by domestic companies while procuring military vehicles.
A government appointed committee will start public hearing from next month into
Singapore’s worst riots in 40 years in which 400 South Asian workers were allegedly involved, most of them Indians.

January 15

The European Parliament has revised the carbon dioxide emission norms for commercial vans aiming to slash emissions by 28 percent from 2020. Under the new rules maximum amount of CO2 that can be emitted by a light commercial vehicle is 147 grammes per kilometer, down from the 203 grammes per kilometrer set in 2007.
The US handed over to India three stolen antique sculptures, valued at over 1.5 million dollars. The antique pieces were seized by the US federal agents as they were being illegally traded within America,
India and South Korea signed nine pacts aimed at strengthening their bilateral ties that have witnessing progress over the past four years. During a meeting with South Korean President Park Geun-hye, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh signed pacts in the areas of defence engagement, industry, taxation, cyber security, science and technology.
* South Korea Capital: Seoul.
* Currency: South Korean Won.

January 16

Sri Lanka and India have agreed to release all fishermen detained for poaching. The decision was taken after a delegation led by Srilankan Fisheries Minister Rajitha Senaratne met Indian Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar and External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid to discuss the issue. India has also offered assistance to Srilanka in developing its fisheries industry.
With 10 nominations each, American Hustle and Gravity are the front runners for 2014 Oscar, while 12 years a Slave follows with nine.
* Sandra Bullock, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence all received nods.
* 12 Years A Slave received nine nominations, including for Lupita Nyong'o, Michael Fassbender and Chiwetel Ejiofor.

January 17

The Australian Government Prime Minister Tony abbott’s said that it had apologized unreservedly to the Indonesian Government after its navy “inadvertently” breached Indonesian waters on several occasions. However, Canberra vowed to pursue Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s hardline policy to prevent asylum-seeker boats from reaching the Australian coast.
The White House has released a summary of the implementation deal of the six-month interim nuclear agreement with Iran. This move is believed to be an attempt to counter domestic opponents of the pact.
* The summary of “technical understanding” includes a timetable for inspections of Iranian nuclear facilities by UN atomic watchdog IAEA officials.

US President Barack Obama has discussed with British Prime Minister David Cameron a number of issues including the Syrian crisis and the regional situation pertaining to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Obama also briefed the latter on a review of NSA intelligence activities.

Obama, David Cameron

* The President expressed support for the Prime Minister who has been holding tripartite discussions with of Afghanistan and Pakistan to take concrete steps toward peace and stability.
In a bid to enhance cultural understanding between India and Korea, Prasar Bharati signed an agreement with Korea International Broadcasting Foundation for cooperation in areas related to exchange of programmes, personnel and technical assistance.
* The decision was taken after a South Korean delegation led by President Park Geun-Hye,Korean had a meeting with Prasar Bharati CEO Jawhar Sircar.

January 18

India and the UAE have signed an MoU to enhance cooperation in renewable energy, especially solar and wind power. The deal was signed by India’s Minister of New and Renewable Energy Farooq Abdullah and Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, minister of state and the UAE’s special envoy for energy and climate change on behalf of their respective countries.
South Korean President Park Geun-Hye has ordered the military to beef up border security to protect the country against potential provocations by North Korea.
Park’s orders came after the North’s surprise offer for an end to “all acts of provoking and slandering” from Jan 30. Pyongyang had also called for steps to ease tensions around the disputed Yellow Sea border, the scene of naval clashes in the past and renewed its request to South Korea to scrap joint military drills with the US.
Mahinda Samarasinghe, Srilanka’s Plantation Minister and human rights envoy, said that the country was ready to face another resolution in the UN rights body over alleged war crimes during the decades-long civil war against the rebel Tamil Tigers.
* Two previous resolutions, backed by India, were adopted in the council.

January 19

Aiming to promote greater acceptance of homosexuals who face widespread discrimination in Bangladesh, the Muslim-majority nation’s gay community has launched its first magazine "Rupabaan".
Ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi and 25 others, including liberal activists and journalists, will be tried for "insulting the judiciary." The Islamist leader is facing three other cases. Attorney General Hisham Barakat has referred Morsi and 25 others to a criminal court for ‘insulting the judiciary’.
The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD) announced approximately 41 million dollar in concessional loans for renewable energy projects in developing countries.

January 20

The new law makers of Nepal’s second Constituent Assembly were administered oath by senior-most member Surya Bahadur Thapa.
* A total 575 lawmakers elected directly under the first past the post system and selected as per the proportional representative electoral system took the oath from Thapa, a former prime minister.
Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary-General of United Nation withdrew the invitation for Iran to join the peace conference on Syrian crisis. This action was taken following Tehran’s refusal to support the political transition deal, which is the basis of the conference. US has also suggested to that it could support Iran’s participation if it explicitly declared support for the action plan.

January 21

The Philippines said it has banned imports of poultry and related products from China after it confirmed an outbreak of the HN52 strain of bird flu in the northern province of Hebei. The ban is only temporary.
* In 2013, China 46 people had died in china due to avian influenza.
The University of Cumbria's Institute for Leadership and Sustainability (IFLAS) has become the first public university in the world to accept Bitcoin for the payment of tuition fees.
* Bitcoin is an online currency and payment system that already enables the international transmission of funds per day at an amount greater than Western Union.
* Thousands of merchants now accept Bitcoin worldwide. The university uses the system Bitpay to process any payments.
Facebook Inc., Google Inc. and other Internet companies will be able to publicly disclose details about orders compelling them to give the government e-mails and other Internet data about their users.
* The US Justice Department announced an agreement with the companies allowing them to publish, for the first time, information about how many orders they receive under the so-called Prism programme, as well as national security letters.
* Under the Prism programme, exposed in documents leaked by former government contractor Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency (NSA) gets court warrants to compel Internet companies to turn over online content created by their users.
* Google, Microsoft Corp. , Yahoo! Inc., Facebook and LinkedIn Corp. filed motions seeking permission to publish details about the government orders.

January 22

Energy-starved Pakistan is looking at buying electricity from India, with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif approving such a deal. A senior Pakistani official said the Cabinet approved the signing of a MoU during its meeting.
* The issue of electricity trade had come up for discussion during the meeting between Commerce Minister Anand Sharma and Chief Minister of Punjab Shahbaz Sharif during his visit to India.
India and Japan signed the Memorandum for strengthening cooperation in tourism. The Memorandum will facilitate travel and tourist visits and strengthen the tourism partnership between the two countries.
The main objectives of the Memorandum are:
* To expand bilateral cooperation in the tourism sector.
* To exchange information and data related to tourism.
* To encourage cooperation between Tour Operators and tourism stakeholders including Hotel owners.
* To establish exchange programmes for cooperation in Human Resource Development
* To exchange visits of Tour Operators/ Media/ Opinion Makers for promotion of two way tourism.
* To exchange experience in the areas of promotion, marketing, destination development and management.

January 23

The Government of South Sudan and rebels have signed Ceasefire Agreement to end war. The ceasefire deal between the two sides on cessation of hostilities and question of the detainees took place in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian Capital. The deal has asked to end fighting within 24 hours.
* These agreements are the ingredients to create an environment for achieving a total peace in my country, said Taban Deng, head of the rebel delegation.
USA allowed the Sikh military men to wear turbans, head scarfs and other religious clothing with their uniforms, but advocacy groups said the new policy fell short of what they were seeking. “The military departments will accommodate individual expressions of sincerely held beliefs of service members” unless it might affect military readiness or unit cohesion, the updated policy on religious accommodation said.
The parliament of Morocco has unanimously amended an article of the penal code that allowed rapists of underage girls to avoid prosecution by marrying their victims. The move follows intensive lobbying by activists for better protection of young rape victims. The amendment has been welcomed by rights groups.

January 24

South Sudanese rebels accused the army of attacking their positions, claims the military denied, hours before a ceasefire deal agreed by the government and rebels comes into effect.
* Rebel spokesman Lul Ruai Koang said “simultaneous attacks have been launched” by the army on rebel positions in the northern oil state of Unity, and in the volatile eastern Jonglei region.
Secretary of State John Kerry dismissed as “a myth” suggestions that the United States was withdrawing from world affairs. I am perplexed by claims I occasionally hear that somehow America is disengaging from the world-this myth that America is pulling back, or giving up, or standing down. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth, Kerry told the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

January 25

French First Lady Valerie Trierweiler will make her first public appearance since it emerged President Francois Hollande was cheating on her with an actress, with a trip to India next week for charity work. She will be shown around the city by French actress Charlotte Valandrey, who is involved in the cause of promoting organ donations and transplants.
A Chinese court sentenced prominent human rights activist Xu Zhiyong to four years in prison after he campaigned for political transparency and the right for poor children to be educated. The US has condemned his conviction.
* Xu Zhiyong’s jailing will send a stark warning to activists that the Chinese Communist Party will crush any challenge to its rule, especially from those who seek to organise campaigns.

January 26

Russia and China will conduct their first ever naval war games in the Mediterranean Sea.
* The joint naval drill, involves Russia’s heavy nuclear missile cruiser Peter the Great and Chinese frigate Yancheng.
* The main purpose of the drill is to enhance the interoperability of Russian and Chinese combat ships for joint operation in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that a permanent agreement between the P5+1 countries and Iran would not succeed, reiterating the hard line stance that the Israeli government has towards Iran’s ongoing diplomacy campaign.
* Netanyahu made the comments during the weekly cabinet meeting, upon returning from the World Economic Forum in Davos which was also attended by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, a news agency reported.
Nobel Prize winning Indian-origin author VS Naipaul and Pakistani teenage campaigner Malala Yousafzai have been named among Britain’s 500 most influential people.
* The first-ever Influential 500 list, compiled by specialist publisher Debrett’s and The Sunday Times newspaper, includes personalities in 25 areas chosen by experts in their field.

January 27

National Constituent Assembly of Tunisia passed the new Constitution. Assembly speaker Mustapha Ben Jaafar, Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki and outgoing Prime Minister Ali Larayedh signed the document in the assembly.
Main features of the new Constitution
* The new Constitution is a written one and it makes Tunisia a democracy with a civil state instead of Islamic state.
* It recognizes the protection of citizen rights, including protection from torture, the right to due process, and freedom of worship.
* It guarantees equality between men and women before the law and the state commits itself to protecting women's rights.
* It guarantees "freedom of belief and conscience," which would permit atheism and the practice of non-Abrahamic religions frowned upon in other Islamic countries.
* It also bans incitement to violence and declaring a Muslim an apostate — a fallen Muslim — which leaves them open to death threats.
* The constitution enshrines the freedom of religion but Islam remains as a state religion.
India and Japan inked MoUs to strengthen cooperation in tourism and power generation. The signed memorandum for strengthening cooperation in the field of tourism, enhancing energy efficiency in telecom towers and power generation in the country. Both leaders decided to enhance security, defence and economic cooperation between the two countries.

January 28

Mykola Azarov
Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov and his cabinet have resigned. The news coincided with an extraordinary session of parliament to end the country’s political crisis in which anti-protest laws were also stripped.

* Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych later accepted his resignation and that of his cabinet. Mykola Azarov had offered to step down as prime minister to create "social and political compromise".

General Peter Cosgrove has been confirmed as Australia’s 26th governor general, with Tony Abbott declaring that Cosgrove would deliver national leadership “beyond politics”. The prime minister confirmed Cosgrove’s long-mooted appointment as the Queen’s next representative in Australia at a press conference in Canberra.

Tony Abbott

January 29

South Korea has approved a $7 billion project to build two nuclear plants. The move is likely to boost the country’s nuclear industry which has been struggling after Japan's Fukushima disaster.
* This decision comes only two weeks after Asia's fourth-largest economy announced that it would reduce its dependence on nuclear power to 29 percent of total power supply by 2035, down from a planned 41 percent by 2030.
Two Socialist lawmakers of Norway have nominated whistleblower Edward Snowden for the Nobel Peace Prize in a letter to the Norwegian Nobel Committee. According to them Snowden has made the world more peaceful by revealing the extreme level of surveillance by nations against other nations and of citizens.

January 30

India signed a Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) with Fiji for the prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income.
* After signing the agreement, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram said that the Agreement will provide tax stability to the residents of India and Fiji and facilitate mutual economic cooperation as well as stimulate the flow of investment, technology and services between India and Fiji.
India and The Netherlands have signed an MoU for exchange of knowledge and experience in the fields of sports management, competition infrastructure set-up, coaching, training systems and training of referees for various sporting disciplines.
* The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed by the Sports Minister Jitendra Singh and Health, Welfare and Sport Minister of Kingdom of the Netherlands, Ms Edith I Schippers, who is currently on a visit to India heading a Netherlands delegation.
The Union Minister of Steel, Shri Beni Prasad Verma led a delegation to New Zealand to strengthen bilateral relations in areas of mining. He met with Mr. Simon Bridges, Minister of Energy & Resources, Government of New Zealand in Wellington.
* Shri Verma said that the delegation was looking forward to the Government of New Zealand for allocating mineral assets to Indian public sector companies on a Government to Government basis.

January 31

Following reports that Beijing is mulling another defence zone in the South China Sea, the US warned China against any move to declare a new Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ).
* Last year China unilaterally declared an ADIZ in the disputed East China Sea, inviting sharp criticism from the US and Europe.
* China claims a large portion of the South China Sea which is contested by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei.