The Trump administration is likely to unveil its South Asia policy in the coming weeks, said MaryKay L. Carlson, U.S. Charge D’Affaires to India.
Ms. Carlson said the South Asia policy was currently under review by the U.S. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster.
The review is likely to include the United States’ position on its relations with India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, though Ms. Carlson refused to elaborate.
Under the Trump administration, the U.S.-India ties had ‘catapulted’ to a faster growth trajectory and was positive.
U.S. House of Representatives passed a Bill worth about $ 621.5 billion that will enable increased cooperation with India in the defence sector.
The House adopted an amendment to the National Defence Authorisation Act 2018, which now needs to get the U.S. President’s assent. The Bill was passed with a majority of 344-81.
Ms. Carlson said this was indicative of “bipartisan support [for India] across our government and every aspect whether it is the legislative branch, the executive branch, and among the American people with India”.
To a query on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit to Israel, Ms. Carlson said the visit “exceeded expectations, certainly on the U.S. side.”
Monsoon session of parliament to start with focus on China and Kashmir
The Opposition will demand discussions on both the border stand-off with China and the deteriorating situation in Kashmir in the monsoon session of Parliament, though its floor leaders were called for an official briefing.
Opposition leaders said their attendance at the meeting should not be interpreted as acquiescence in what the government has done so far on these two critical issues concerning national security.
While the Opposition intends to flag several other subjects for discussion — including farmers’ distress, the economic fallout of demonetisation, and the implementation of GST — China and Kashmir will continue to be on the table.
Mr. Sharma also said that Opposition leaders were yet to receive a satisfactory explanation on why the Amarnath yatris killed in a terror attack recently were allowed to travel after 7 p.m., when security cover is withdrawn.
Flagging the subjects of farmers’ distress and of the misuse of governors by the Modi government, he said his party also wants a discussion on mob lynching.
Maharashtra to elect the sarpanchs directly
Despite growing protests from rival political parties against its move to facilitate direct election of sarpanches, the BJP-led State government will issue an ordinance for amending the Maharashtra Gram Panchayat Act, 1958.
The proposal to issue the ordinance was forwarded to the Governor by State government on Saturday, citing ‘urgency’ in view of elections to 7,000 gram sabhas.
On July 3, the State cabinet cleared a proposal to amend the Maharashtra Gram Panchayat Act, 1958 to pave way for direct elections of sarpanches to gram sabhas.
The decision came under attack by the Opposition, who alleged it was an attempt by the BJP to wrest ‘extra-constitutional’ power in the the third tier of government.
Senior officials said the ordinance route was taken as the Election Commission of India’s (ECI) model code of conduct may come into force by July 31 for the September elections.
The EC will also have to increase the number of electronic voting machines (EVM) to facilitate direct election of sarpanches. Officials said the government cannot wait for an approval from the Assembly.
As many as 20 sections of the Act have been amended to allow direct election of sarpanches by votes cas by villagers, instead of a college of gram sabha members.
The amendments, which were to be tabled in the next Assembly session, will also provide constitutional protection to the sarpanch against impeachment.
Now, a no-confidence motion cannot be moved against the sarpanch without the approval of two-thirds of the members. It also requires to be passed by a three-fourths majority. Earlier, a motion could be moved if one-third of members supported it.
Once passed, the motion will need final ratification by the gram sabha. If rejected, it cannot be tabled for two years. The deputy sarpanch will continue to be elected by gram panchayat members.
The RDD’s proposal was moved under the 73rd Amendment to the Constitution of India, made in the 1990s.
Back then, the 11th schedule of the amendment had empowered State governments to enact laws to give powers and authority to the panchayats to enable them as local governments.
U.S. National Defence Authorisation Act wants increase in ties with India
The U.S. National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA) 2018 passed by the House of Representatives has mandated the Secretaries of Defense and State to come up with a strategy for advancing defence cooperation between India and the U.S. in six months.
The legislation that appropriates funds for defence will have to be passed by the Senate before it moves for the President’s signature.
Last year’s NDAA had designated India as a “major defence partner”, and also had a similar provision for preparing a strategy, but the findings of the review has not been published yet.
The term, ‘major defence partner’ remains undefined, but senior officials have explained that after the designation, India’s request for arms and technology is treated with a presumption of approval now, as opposed to a presumption of denial that existed earlier.
The Bill passed by the House supports the massive hike in defence spending proposed by President Donald Trump, focussing on missile defence, adding more troops and ships, a 2.4% salary increase for soldiers.
The Bill, however, has several provisions that the Trump administration is not keen on. After the Senate passes its version of the Bill, both will have to be reconciled.
U.S. imposes tougher conditions for reimbursement of defence funding to Pakistan
The U.S. House of Representatives has voted for three legislative amendments to impose tougher conditions for reimbursement of defence funding to Pakistan, making it conditional to Islamabad showing satisfactory progress in the fight against terrorism.
The terms are related to Pakistan’s support to terror outfits, about which several top U.S. officials have repeatedly expressed concerns.
All the amendments to the $651-billion National Defence Authorisation Act 2018 were adopted by the Lower House of Congress on Friday.
It specifies that the support authorised for Pakistan would not be eligible for a national security waiver unless the Secretary of Defense certifies that Pakistan continues to conduct military operations against the Haqqani Network in North Waziristan.
::Business and Economy::
Database of insurance agents and intermediaries to be create by IRDAI
Insurance regulator IRDAI will be creating a database of insurance agents and intermediaries, similar to what it did for Point of Salespersons, primarily as a check against duplication.
The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India, like many other agencies and for different purposes, has decided to use the Aadhaar number to achieve the objective.
The database creation began with the point of salespersons guidelines that sought to check duplication of POS enrolled by insurers and insurance intermediaries..
That would include broker qualified persons, specified persons of corporate agents, authorised verifiers for web aggregators with Aadhaar number as the identifying field, he said.
This is to be done through a portal, development of which is to be entrusted to the Insurance Information Bureau.
::Science and Tech::
Scientists found a galaxy 10 thousand million light years away
Scientists have discovered a very distant galaxy, some 10 thousand million light years away, which is about 1,000 times brighter than the Milky Way.
It is the brightest of the submillimetre galaxies, which have a very strong emission in the far infra red, researchers said. The research was published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.
Scientists led by Anastasio Diaz-Sanches from Polytechnic University of Cartagena (UPCT) in Spain used gravitational lensing that acts as a sort of magnifier, changing the size and intensity of the apparent image of the original object.
To find this galaxy, a search of the whole sky was carried out, combining the data bases of the satellites WISE and Planck in order to identify the brightest submillimetre galaxies.
The galaxy is notable for having a high rate of star formation. It is forming stars at a rate of 1,000 solar masses per year, compared to the Milky Way which is forming stars at a rate of some twice a solar mass per year.
The galaxy is so bright that its light is gravitationally amplified, this allowed scientists to look into its internal properties.