(Premium) Gist of The Hindu: February 2013

Premium - Gist of The Hindu: February 2013



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.


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.


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.