There are two aspects to the news- knowing the headline and understanding the intricacies of it. We at The Connectere focus on both. While The First Forum edition gives a brief about the headlines, The Weekly Analysis Edition is meant to educate the reader on what do various news mean and what are their intricacies. This initiative is meant to educate the reader on how to understand the important news. In the Fifteenth Edition we are covering the following news:
1. Breaking down US law to pressure China over Uyghur rights
2. Understanding the consequences of Nepal introducing the new map
3. Reliance Industries Ltd. Becomes Net debt-free company
4. The North Korea-South Korea Dispute
5. Social Media Fumes Over Suspension Of Pilot-Youtuber Gaurav Taneja, ‘Boycott AirAsia’ Trends On Twitter

(Written by Gunika Vij, Shitij Goyal, and Aashika Deb)

Breaking down US law to pressure China over Uyghur rights

The Uyghurs are from the Central Asian region. These Turkic-Muslims are one of a number of persecuted Muslim minorities in Xinjiang. In recent years, the Chinese government has installed sophisticated surveillance technology across the region with a surge in police numbers -Muslim minorities are being arbitrarily arrested and imprisoned. It’s estimated around one million Uyghurs have been detained in what China calls “vocational training centers” with growing evidence of human rights violations.

Home to 11 million Uyghurs, this region is rich in natural resources, especially oil and natural gas. Xinjiang is geographically important to China’s Belt and Road initiative – a development strategy involving infrastructure and investments in Europe, Asia, and Africa. What the international community could do to stop this inexcusable and egregious human rights abuse and mass internment of millions of Uyghurs by the Chinese government is to apply diplomatic pressure in the way of sanctions. Another option is the suspension of, or withdrawal from, existing Belt and Road agreements.

So, very recently, the US President Donald Trump has signed into law legislation that condemns the gross human rights violations of Uyghur minority groups in China, paving the way for imposing sanctions against senior Chinese officials. The Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act, 2020 is a US federal law that requires various US government bodies to report on the treatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang which means it shall hold accountable the perpetrators of human rights violations and abuses. This is a historic move in support of Uyghurs worldwide.

However, some of the bill’s requirements might limit his constitutional authority to conduct diplomacy so he regards them as advisory. Even though it is a welcome and long-awaited move, the US cannot be the sole nation acting to hold the perpetrators accountable for their crimes. As expected, the Chinese government’s reaction to this has been a sore one – the Chinese foreign ministry in Beijing slammed the law saying it “maliciously attacks” China’s policy in the Xinjiang region.

After the US and a majority of countries blamed China for the coronavirus pandemic, USA’s invitation to India and Russia to G7 as an attack on China and India-China’s border dispute, it seems like China has still a truckload of ill-luck on its side. However, as Trump signed a bill into law, he was accused by his former national security adviser of endorsing China’s construction of internment camps in its western region of Xinjiang.

According to an excerpt from John Bolton’s forthcoming, Trump had allegedly told Chinese President Xi Jinping last year that Xi should “go ahead with building the camps,” which Trump thought was “exactly the right thing to do.” It seems like even when Trump manages to do the right thing it is hard for the right reasons. This move just makes him look like a hypocrite. This long-overdue step was certainly not singly aimed at punishing human rights violations, but there might have been an added motive of digging at China with the relations between the two countries at their current low.

Understanding the consequences of Nepal introducing the new map

Nepal’s upper house of Parliament unanimously voted recently to amend the Constitution to update the country’s new political map, laying claim over three strategically key areas along the border with it – Lipulekh, Kalapani, and Limpiyadhura areas which India maintains belong to it.

Why has this dispute suddenly flared up?  Last year, New Delhi published a new map that showed Kalapani within its borders, a move protested by Kathmandu. India and Nepal share a 1,800 km open border. Nepal said it has “consistently maintained” that as per the Sugauli Treaty of 1816, “all the territories east of Kali (Mahakali) river, including Limpiyadhura, Kalapani, and Lipulekh, belong to Nepal”.

Later, speaking in the Parliament, Oli held India responsible for the spread of COVID-­19 in Nepal, a long-standing ally of India, and said the infection was “more lethal” among the people coming from the neighboring country than even China or Italy.

According to sources, there has been no official dialogue between the two countries over this matter. The India-Nepal bilateral ties came under strain after Defence Minister Rajnath Singh inaugurated an 80-km-long strategically crucial road connecting the Lipulekh pass with Dharchula in Uttarakhand on May 8. To this, Nepal reacted sharply as it passed through Nepalese territory but India rejected the claim. So, in retaliation, Nepal went ahead with reclaiming these territories because India, despite having accepted these areas as disputed, included them in its map and unilaterally built a road there.

India is quite upset with these developments. India has already termed as “untenable” the “artificial enlargement” of territorial claims by Nepal.  India believes that this enlargement is not based on historical facts or evidence, therefore not defensible. This recent development has further deepened Nepal’s boundary row with India. With the Bill becoming law, it will be mandatory for the government to use the new official map and the national emblem which has the map.

The Nepal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, meanwhile, indicated that it will clarify to India its efforts to hold a dialogue since last November, soon after India included Kalapani, Lipulekh, and Limpiyadhura in its new map published following the bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories.

Given the current cold situation between India and Nepal, India can no longer expect any support from Nepal in its on-going border dispute with China as Nepal has clearly stated that it wishes to maintain a “neutral” position.  The increasing rhetoric on territorial nationalism on both sides is not good for bilateral relations. India has, for a long time, influenced Nepal but last year China and Nepal upgraded their ties to “strategic partnership” because China considers the latter a key partner in its Belt and Road Initiative. What remains to be seen is if Nepal can balance its relations between India and China. If Delhi hardens its stance and attempts to compete for more influence in Nepal, it is likely to trigger more anti-India feelings. Nepal could benefit from the India-China rivalry but it also runs the risk of getting caught in the middle of a great Asia power struggle.

Reliance Industries Ltd. Becomes Net debt-free company

As we know it’s not easy for big conglomerates to turn debt-free but Mukesh Ambani’s RIL has done this and shown its possible for such big companies with Market capitalization of over $150 billion. Reliance Industries Ltd. founded by Dhirubhai Ambani back in 1973 is an Indian Conglomerate that has subsidiaries such as Reliance Jio, Reliance Retail, Reliance petroleum, Jiosaavn, Network 18, etc.

Mukesh Ambani in RIL’s 42nd annual general meeting in august 2019 stated that they have a very clear roadmap to make RIL zero net-debt company by 31st march 2021. He also told that the company has received strong interest from strategic and financial investors in their consumer businesses. In March 2020, the company reported a net debt of $21 billion, since then it has raised $15.2 billion in 11 deals by selling stakes in its digital services arm, Jio Platforms Ltd, and its $7 billion rights issue. All this started on 22 April 2020 when Facebook bought a 9.99% stake in RIL for RS. 43,573 crores.

If I talk about the market valuation of RIL from 2014 only, in 2014 its market cap was Rs. 3 lakh crores and now it has touched Rs. 11 lakh crores. When this coronavirus pandemic started and all the stock markets dipped, the valuation went down to Rs. 6 lakh crores but now by a whopping comeback its now Rs. 11 lakh crores. And obviously the biggest part of the company will be with the promoters i.e. Mukesh Ambani, he owns 49% of the share of the company and this recent growth in RIL made Mukesh Ambani enter World Top-10 richest list, as his net worth jumps to $64.6 billion.

Now if we talk about the advantages of being a debt-free firm, by having zero debt, companies send a signal to the outside world that they can manage their funding requirements predominantly through internally generated cash, and thus they are cash-rich firms. During an economic slowdown, many heavy-debt firm’s profits dip owing to falling sales and payment of fixed interest while companies with no debt or less debt need not worry about the same.

On the other hand, by not having an optimal or adequate amount of debt, these companies lose out to a greater extent on ‘tax shield’. The concept of tax shield is the treatment of the interest paid by a company as an admissible expense, thus reducing its tax outflow to some extent. Overall, it’s good news for our nation, as such a big company in our nation has become debt-free. Supporting Indian companies will help our nation to become self-reliant and be less dependent on foreign powers.

The North Korea-South Korea Dispute

The North Korea- South Korea dispute has been going on for more than 70 years now, with little to no hope of revival. Trouble began early this year when the deadline given by the North Korean government for denuclearization to the United States of America expired on 31 December last year. Owing to this North Korea resorted to older aggressive ways by blowing up a joint liaison office on the border with South Korea and threatening to deploy troops along the demilitarized zone.  North Korea has conducted missile tests this year, sending warning signals to Seoul and Washington. The latest crisis was triggered by anti-North defector groups that sent out propaganda leaflets via balloons across the border. Angered by the South’s refusal to crack down on them, Pyongyang has severed hotlines, demolished the liaison office, and is planning to deploy troops along the border.

There were no high hopes of a quick solution to the U.S.-North Korean rivalry — it goes back to the 1950-53 Korean war — when Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim met. Still, the summit was an opportunity to open a new direction in relations. Mr. Kim had in principle agreed to denuclearisation in return for the lifting of American sanctions. But talks stalled as the U.S. insisted on “complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization” by North Korea in return for any concession. The North Koreans were wary, particularly because of the U.S.’s history of going after dictators such as Saddam Hussein of Iraq and Muammar Gaddafi of Libya or its breaching of the Iran nuclear deal. Mr. Kim’s regime offered a staged approach. It put a freeze on nuclear tests and offered to shut its Yongbyon nuclear complex.

The U.S. and South Korea could have responded to these measures and kept the talks on track on less contentious issues, such as declaring a formal end to the Korean war — both Koreas are still technically at war — an agreement could have been achieved as a confidence-building measure. But that road was not taken. Worse, the U.S. and South Korea went ahead with their joint military exercise. Mr. Trump is now grappling with many problems at home — from the coronavirus outbreak and a sagging economy to anti-racism protests. Still, if he does not want his two summits with Mr. Kim to be mere footnotes of history, he should take measures to revive talks with North Korea and push the peninsula back to normalcy.


Social Media Fumes Over Suspension Of Pilot-Youtuber Gaurav Taneja, ‘Boycott AirAsia’ Trends On Twitter

Gaurav Taneja, an AirAsia pilot, Vlogger, a digital influencer has been suspended from the airlines after pointing out safety violations by the low-cost airliner. Taneja took to twitter and expressed that the reason for his suspension involved taking a stand for the safety of the passengers.

His tweet garnered a huge response and a day later on Monday, he posted a detailed video on YouTube titled “Reasons behind suspension from my pilot job. “The video went viral and #BoycottAirAsia started trending on twitter to support the AirAsia Captain.

The pilot’s tweets led to #BoycottAirAsiaIndia trending on Twitter with more than 50,000 tweets. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has initiated a probe into AirAsia India after Taneja accused AirAsia India, a joint venture between AirAsia Berhad (49%) and Tata Sons (51%), of violating safety protocols, which endangered lives of passengers on board.

Reasons listed by Taneja in the youtube video for his suspension:

  1. Taneja alleged that the airlines suspended him for “standing up for safe operations of an aircraft and its passengers.”
  2. His main allegation about the company is that AirAsia India does not allow the employees to take sick leaves. He said the airline management had asked him to work during his off day on 9 June as he had taken a sick leave on 7 June. “When I started protesting against this, the chief of flight safety said in an email that I report sick and fatigue frequently.” Taneja further said that he was also suggested to undergo lifestyle and medical counseling. “Sick or fatigue report is a non-punitive policy, which is documented by the regulator. This is not followed at the airline,” he added.
  3. Regarding the safety of the passengers, Taneja alleged that the airline has asked its pilot to do 98 percent of landings in the “Flap 3” mode, which allows it to save a little amount of fuel. If a pilot does not do 98 percent of landings in the “Flap 3” mode, the airline considers it a violation of its standard operating procedure. Taneja further explains that ‘Flap 3’ landing is unsafe for passengers but the airlines do not pay heed to this.
  4. If something happens during a Flap 3 landing, then the question would be asked to the pilot if he or she cares more about saving fuel or 180 passengers’ lives, Taneja said.

(Flaps are part of wings of an aircraft and they are engaged to create drag during a landing or a take-off)

Who is Gaurav Taneja?

He is not a person who grabbed attention with his suspension and the following video but he is a social media influencer with millions of followers. Apart from being an Air Asia pilot, Gaurav Taneja is also a fitness blogger and a digital influencer. Taneja posted the video on his youtube channel called ‘Flying Beast’ which has over 3.02 million subscribers.

His digital footprint is quite noticeable as his Twitter and Instagram accounts have over 253,000 and 998,000 followers, respectively. Taneja also runs another youtube channel which is a fitness channel, where he provides tips and guidance for people who like bodybuilding and gym. Taneja is married to Capt Ritu Rathee who is also an AirAsia Pilot.

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