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August 08, 2019: National Current Affairs
1. Indian envoy told to leave Pakistan, trade suspended
• The National Security Committee (NSC) on August 7, 2019 decided to downgrade diplomatic ties with India and suspend bilateral trade in response to New Delhi`s move to annex occupied Kashmir.
• The top national security body, which met for the second time in three days, also directed the armed forces to remain vigilant.
• The committee had last met on Sunday, a day before India announced revocation of Article 370, which gave occupied Kashmir an autonomous status, and legislated to bifurcate the Valley into Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir.
• The Foreign Office in its reaction to the Indian move had earlier vowed to `exercise all possible options to counter the illegal steps` A statement issued by the Prime Minister Office after the NSC meeting said that it was decided to downgrade diplomatic relations with India, suspend bilateral trade, review bilateral arrangements, take the matter to the United Nations, including the Security Council, and observe Independence Day on Aug 14 in solidarity with Kashmiris and Aug 15 (India`s independence day) as black day.
2. PM okays Indus river barrage to mitigate Sindh`s water woes
• Prime Minister Imran Khan has formally accorded approval to WAPDA to develop a water reservoir by constructing a barrage on the river Indus so as to address the long-standing water related issues in Sindh (areas downstream Kotri Barrage and cosmopolitan city of Karachi).
• The project located about 45km upstream of River`s outfall into sea, 65km south of Thatha and 130km east of Karachi city, has been named `Sindh Barrage` that is being dubbed a phenomenal mega scheme to address almost all water issues in downstream Kotri Barrage starting from sea intrusion to land erosion in delta, from adverse impact of climate change to loss of wet land habitats, mangroves and marine life, and from non-availability of freshwater for both irrigation and domestic use to mass exodus.
3. US, Pakistan remove restrictions on each other`s diplomats
• The United States on August 7, 2019 informed Pakistan that it has removed a 25-mile travel ban and other restrictions imposed last year on Pakistani diplomats and diplomatic staff stationed in the country.
• Diplomatic observers in Washington told that Islamabad also has restored the facilities that US diplomats had enjoyed in Pakistan until last year.
• The Trump administration imposed these restrictions on Pakistani diplomats in the United States on May 10, 2018 and on May 11, Islamabad imposed similar restrictions on US diplomats in Pakistan.
• The two actions had further strained an already tense relationship between the two allies. But during Prime Minister Imran Khan`s visit to Washington late last month, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said at a news briefing that Islamabad has asked Washington to remove those restrictions, which prevent Pakistani diplomats from performing their duties properly.
4. ADB approves $500 million loan to support economic reforms
• The Asian Development Bank (ADB) on August 7, 2019 has approved a $500 million policy-based loan to support the Government of Pakistan’s reforms to improve trade competitiveness and exports as a defence against external shocks and to help finance the country’s trade deficit.
• The ADB also approved $750,000 technical assistance package to support the preparation and implementation of the program. Trade and Competitiveness Program will help Pakistan to promote macroeconomic stability, improve export performance, and boost economic growth by facilitating improved trade competitiveness. Under this programme, the government has introduced important tariff and tax related policy reforms to support Pakistan’s export sector and improve its competitiveness internationally and strengthen key institutions involved in facilitating trade, including accreditation bodies Export-Import Bank of Pakistan (EXIMBP) and the National Single Window (NSW).
• The loan agreement was signed by Secretary, Economic Affairs Division Mr. Noor Ahmed and Country Director Asian Development Bank (ADB) Ms. Xiaohong Yang.
5. American diplomat denies India shared Kashmir plans
• A senior American diplomat on August 7, 2019 denied that India had shared with the United States its plan about scrapping the autonomous status of India occupied Kashmir (IOK).
• `Contrary to press reporting, the Indian government did not consult or inform the US government before moving to revoke IOK`s special constitutional status,` said a statement issued by the US Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs. The statement was attributed to Assistant Secretary for South Asia Alice Wells who is currently visiting Pakistan.
6. Turkey, US agree `joint operation centre` for Syria
• Turkey and the United States have agreed to establish a joint operation centre to manage tensions between a US-backed Kurdish militia and Turkish forces in northern Syria, Ankara said on August 7, 2019.
• The announcement came after three days of tense negotiations with US officials hoping to forestall a Turkish attack on the Kurdish YPG group, which controls large swathes of northern Syria.
• Turkey sees the YPG as a terrorist offshoot of the Kurdish PKK, which has fought a bloody insurgency inside its territory for the past35 years.
• The defence ministry said in a statement that Ankara had agreed with US officials to `implement without delay the first measures aimed at eliminating Turkey`s concerns.
7. Indian Kashmir move ultra vires, void, Maleeha briefs UNSC president
• Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United Nations Maleeha Lodhi spent a busy day briefing the Security Council president, diplomats and UN officials on the grave situation in the South Asian region, especially in the wake of India’s illegal annexation of the Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir.
• The Pakistani envoy went through a tightly laid-out schedule to apprise as many of her counterparts as possible of the breach by India of UN Security Council resolutions on Kashmir with the revocation of the territory’s special status that has spawned a regional crisis.
• Among the diplomats, she interacted with on Tuesday, was China’s UN Ambassador Jun Zhang.
• During her meeting with Joanna Wronecka of Poland, the president of the 15-member council for the month of August, Ambassador Lodhi called the Indian action “an egregious assault on the dignity of the Kashmiris,” according to informed sources.
8. Europe launches second space laser satellite
• Europe has launched the second satellite in its space laser telecommunications network. It will use optical beams to pull pictures and data from other spacecraft and then speed that information to the ground.
• EDRS-C, as it is known, was sent into orbit on August 6, 2019 by an Ariane-5 rocket from the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana. It joins the first node in the network, EDRS-A, which was put up in 2016. That spacecraft was positioned over Central Africa to service Europe. The new satellite will sit slightly to the east, where it will provide additional capacity. The European Data Relay System is a joint venture between the European Space Agency and aerospace giant Airbus. It is used predominantly by the European Union’s Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2 Earth observation spacecraft. These platforms take images of the planet’s surface.
9. Evidence of `Herculean` parrot found in NZ
• The remains of a super-sized parrot that stood more than half the height of an average human and roamed the earth 19 million years ago have been discovered in New Zealand.
• Judging by the size of the leg bones, the bird would have stood about 39 inches tall and weighed up to seven kilograms, according to a report by an international team of palaeontologists published in the latest edition of Biology Letters. `It could have flown but we`re putting our money on it being flightless,` Paul Scofield, the senior curator of natural history at Canterbury Museum, said on August 7, 2019.
• When the bones were found in 2008 no one was certain what they were, and they spent 11 years gathering dust on a shelf until the team looked at them again earlier this year. `The thought they were from a giant parrot did not enter our minds. We thought it could be some type of eagle until we went back and looked at it again,` Scofield said.
10. Macron did not invite Rouhani to G7 summit: diplomat
• Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has not been invited to this month’s G7 summit, a French diplomat said on August 7, 2019, denying a media report published as European leaders seek a way to defuse a brewing confrontation between Tehran and Washington.
• The official was responding to a report by Al-Monitor that French President Emmanuel Macron had invited Rouhani to the summit in Biarritz to meet US President Donald Trump. Rouhani rejected the proposal, according to the report.
• For months, France, Britain and Germany have worked to salvage Iran’s internationally-brokered nuclear accord, which has teetered on the brink of collapse since President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of it last year. Iran has reacted to renewed US sanctions meant to strangle its oil trade by retreating from some of its commitments to limit its nuclear activity made under the deal – known officially as the “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action”, or JCPoA – in return for a lifting of multilateral economic sanctions.