Premium - Gist of The Hindu: February 2013
U.N. VOTE MAKES PALESTINE AN OBSERVER STATE
The Palestinian bid to become a nonmember Observer State at
the United Nations has been, as expected, approved by an overwhelming vote of
138 to nine, with 41 abstentions in the General Assembly. The vote implies
global recognition of the relevant territory as a sovereign state and is a major
step towards a two-state solution for historical Palestine. The new status
amounts to less of an achievement than full U.N. membership, which the Security
Council declined to consider in September 2011 on the grounds that the members
were unable to make a “unanimous recommendation”, but the Palestinians can now
participate in General Assembly debates. In sum, this is an important move
towards Palestinian statehood, which 132 countries have already recognised. As
for particular countries, one former colonial power, France, voted in favour,
and the other state with a previous imperial connection to the region, the
United Kingdom, abstained, as did Germany. Predictably, Israel’s biggest
supporter, the United States, opposed the resolution, reconfirming its view that
a negotiated settlement is the only way to establish a Palestinian state.
The U.N. resolution, however, could well be the first of many
momentous changes for West Asia. The Palestinian Authority can now seek
membership of several U.N. agencies and, above all, can apply to sign the Rome
Statute of the International Criminal Court, with the clear implication that
Israel may finally be held accountable for crimes committed against the civilian
population of Gaza. Secondly, differences have emerged between Washington and
major European countries over Israel-Palestine, even if some European officials
call criminal charges against Israel a “red line”.
Thirdly, it is consistent with global public opinion; even
U.S. opinion polls show majorities for a two-state formula. It also testifies to
the increasing confidence of Palestinian representatives, who have said that
continued exclusion would strengthen support for Hamas; the representatives,
moreover, now know that the region’s peoples demand justice for the Palestinians
and can no longer be ignored. The vote will be truly meaningful if it marks the
start of a new international resolve to ensure the people of Palestine are able
to exercise their right to statehood and self-determination, just as the people
of Israel have been doing for years. The first order of business has to be to
stop the Israeli stranglehold over occupied Palestinian territory, including the
monstrous policy of building settlements. As long as the international community
gives Tel Aviv a free pass on these
issues, peace and security in Israel-Palestine will always remain elusive.
COMPLACENCY HAS NO PLACE IN AIDS FIGHT
New HIV infections now show a declining trend globally. All 11 countries in
the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) South-East Asia Region showed a decline by
34 per cent in the past decade.
The overall decline in the region is cause for increased
optimism. However, complacency now could become our greatest enemy. Those most
“at risk” of HIV are disproportionately affected by the disease and are also
among the least empowered. They include youth, those who inject drugs, female
sex workers, men who have sex with men (MSM), transgender people and migrants.
Zero new HIV infections and zero AIDSrelated deaths by 2015 can be achieved
through greater efforts directed towards “at risk” populations to encourage
increased testing. HIV prevention services for these people need to be expanded
to battle the concentrated epidemic found in this region.
In India, the estimated number of new HIV infections has
declined by 56 per cent over the past decade and the total number of people
living with HIV is estimated at 24 lakh (the range is 19.3- 30.4 lakh). This is
good news but it remains essential to continue with public awareness programmes
on HIV/AIDS and that messages are regularly conveyed to remind people on the
importance to get HIV tested and to be aware of their HIV status.
ADDING GLITTER TO PAPER GOLD
Burgeoning gold imports to meet the seemingly insatiable
appetite for the precious metal by Indian consumers, though not new, have grown
to such major dimensions recently that policy-makers are forced to take note. A
check on gold imports by way of physical controls over imports or through fiscal
measures to restrain consumption (such as through a special consumption tax) are
impractical, and out of question. Policy-makers are, therefore, forced to look
at ways of harnessing this phenomenon — of unbridled gold imports and
consumption — in ways that will benefit the economy while moderating its demand
internally. There are at least two important macroeconomic dimensions to this
phenomenon of everrising gold imports even in the face of record gold prices.
One, the immediate impact is on the external economy as gold
and energy imports contribute to a widening of the trade deficit, and, hence,
the current account deficit, which was at a record high of 4.2 per cent on March
31. According to the World Gold Council, for April-June 2012, gold imports stood
at 181.3 tonnes.
The macro-economic problems associated with running such a
high current account deficit have been highlighted several times before by many
official reports, including those of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). Needless
to add, the twin deficits, the high fiscal is the other one, are a major threat
to economic stability. Two, the lure for gold among consumers has a direct
impact on the quantum of financial savings by households.