Weekly Current Affairs

Welcome to the Endeavor Editors’ Weekly Current Affairs Choicest Blog series. Get a weekly roundup – of news from business, economy, markets, policy, and more. A quick capsule format news summary and update to keep you abreast with all the latest current affairs.

1) International News and Global Economy

South Korea, US plan nuclear drills to counter threats from North, says Seoul defence ministry

South Korea and the United States will stage tabletop exercises in Washington next week to improve operations of American nuclear assets as part of efforts to better counter North Korea’s threats, Seoul’s defence ministry said on Friday. Nuclear-armed North Korea fired an unprecedented number of missiles last year, including intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that could strike anywhere in the United States, while resuming preparations for its first nuclear test since 2017. The drills, called the Deterrence Strategy Committee Tabletop Exercise, are scheduled for 22 February at the Pentagon and will involve senior defence policymakers from both sides, the ministry said.

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North Korea fires ballistic missile after warning US, South Korea over military drills

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India’s procurement of crude oil at lowest price from Russia furthering G7 approach: US

By driving a hard bargain with Russia in procuring crude oil at the lowest price possible, India is furthering the policy of G7 nations to reduce Russian oil revenues and Washington is comfortable with New Delhi on issues relating to energy security, a top Biden administration official has said. Assistant Secretary of State for Energy Resources Geoffrey R Pyatt told PTI in an exclusive interview that there is “no contradiction at all” in India remaining one of the key global partners of the United States and the country’s increasing procurement of discounted Russian crude oil. The comments are seen as the first such clear articulation of the Biden administration’s position on India’s increasing procurement of discounted crude oil from Russia.

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Inflation surges to nearly 40 percent in crisis-hit Pakistan

Inflation in the crisis-hit Pakistan has hit another high. The yearly inflation hit a new high of nearly 40 per cent this week. The inflation surged to 38.42 per cent this week in cash-strapped Pakistan as hike in the prices of essential commodities continued to rise. Pakistan has been trying hard to contain inflation in the last few weeks, but with little success. The recent hike in inflation comes even as the Pakistan government imposed new taxes and increased petroleum prices to fulfil the demand of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) before releasing USD 1.1 billion dollars under an already agreed $ 7 billion deal. Pakistan authorities, during the outgoing week shocked the people by imposing new taxes to raise Rs 170 billion through a mini-budget bill. The unprecedented inflation has hit every household.

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Pakistan heading towards bankruptcy

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Earthquake death toll passes 45,000; many still missing in flattened apartments

More than 45,000 people have been killed in the earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria, and the toll is expected to soar, with some 264,000 apartments in Turkey destroyed and many still missing in the country’s worst modern disaster. In neighbouring Syria, already shattered by more than a decade of civil war, the bulk of fatalities have been in the northwest, an area controlled by insurgents who are at war with President Bashar al-Assad – a conflict that has complicated efforts to aid people affected by the earthquake. The sides clashed overnight for the first time since the disaster, with government forces shelling the outskirts of Atareb, a rebel-held town badly hit by the earthquake, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on Friday. Reuters could not independently verify the report. Thousands of Syrians who had sought refuge in Turkey from their country’s civil war have returned to their homes in the war zone – at least for now.

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China leaders declare ‘decisive victory’ over pandemic as Covid cases decline

China’s top leaders declared a “decisive victory” over Covid-19, saying its efforts led to more than 200 million people getting medical treatment and the country having the world’s lowest fatality rate. Nearly 800,000 severe cases received proper treatment, but leaders cautioned that while the epidemic situation continues to improve in China, the virus is still spreading globally and continues to mutate, according to state media. The meeting stressed that China will increase the vaccination rate for the elderly, and strengthen the supply and production of medical goods. The PSC, China’s most powerful leadership body, urged all localities and departments to strengthen the medical service system, according to the report from Xinhua.

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Tense US-China meeting deepens balloon row

As the rift between the US and China over the balloon saga widens, so has the divide within the global community scrutinising their high-stakes dispute. The latest testy exchange took place on Saturday, when US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met China’s foreign affairs minister Wang Yi on the sidelines of a security conference in Munich, in the first high-level meeting since the row began. Mr Blinken said they would not “stand for any violation of our sovereignty” and said “this irresponsible act must never again occur.” Mr Wang, meanwhile, called the episode a “political farce manufactured by the US” and accused them of “using all means to block and suppress China.” China continues to deny that they sent a spy balloon, even as the US continues to disclose more details of the object to back up their allegation.

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2) India

Adani-Hindenburg row: SC pitches for transparency, rejects Centre’s ‘sealed’ suggestions on panel

The Supreme Court on Friday refused to accept in sealed cover Centre’s suggestion on a panel of experts to strengthen regulatory measures for the stock market. The bench said that it would rather not accept the Centre’s suggestions in a sealed cover in a bid to ensure transparency. Observing that it wants to maintain full transparency in the interests of investors, a bench comprising Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justices P S Narasimha and J B Pardiwala said it would rather not accept the Centre’s suggestion in a sealed cover. The Centre on Monday had agreed to the Supreme Court’s proposal to set up a panel of experts to look into strengthening the regulatory mechanisms for the stock market in the wake of the recent Adani group shares crash triggered by Hindenburg Research’s fraud allegations.

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India-UAE Business Council launched to boost bilateral trade and investment

Marking the first anniversary of the India-UAE Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), the two sides have launched the UAE chapter of their joint business chamber to bolster economic ties and facilitate enhancing bilateral trade and investment. India and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) inked a CEPA on February 18 last year to boost trade ties following a virtual summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. The UAE India Business Council – UAE Chapter (UIBC-UC) was launched on Saturday by Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Trade, in the presence of Ambassador of India to the UAE, Sunjay Sudhir, Consul General of India in Dubai Aman Puri and founding members of the UBIC-UC. The two nations aim to increase bilateral trade to USD 100 billion and attract USD 75 billion in investment from the UAE to India.

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GST Council reaches broad consensus on setting up GST Appellate Tribunal; likely to be included in Finance Bill 2023

The GST Council meeting held on February 18, 2023 and discussed setting up of appellate tribunals and mechanism to curb tax evasion in pan masala and gutkha business, among other matters. Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman chaired the 49th meeting of the GST Council. The Finance Minister said, “The entire dues of GST Compensation pending to States are being cleared today. The entire pending balance of GST Compensation of ?16,982 crore for June 2022 will be cleared, though it is not available in the GST Compensation Fund as of now and will be recouped from future cess collections after being paid out from the Centre’s coffers.” She said, “In addition to this, the Centre will also clear additional compensation claims made by States where the Accountant General has certified them. These amount to ?16,524 crore.”

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State of world creates compelling case for India, Australia to work with each other, says EAM S Jaishankar

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said on Saturday that it is necessary for countries like India and Australia to work together more closely to shape the direction in which the world is going. Delivering the keynote address at Raisina @ Sydney’ Business Breakfast, Jaishankar said the state of the world creates a very compelling case for India and Australia to do more with each other. Signed on April 2, 2022, the India-Australia ECTA came into force on December 29 last year. The agreement will help boost the bilateral trade in goods and services to cross USD 70 billion in the next five years, according to economic think tank GTRI.

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12 more Cheetahs arrive at Madhya Pradesh National Park

Twelve cheetahs from South Africa arrived in Madhya Pradesh today, months after eight big cats had been ferried from Namibia. The cheetahs – seven males and five females – were released into their quarantine enclosures at the Kuno National Park by Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav. An Air Force aircraft carrying the cheetahs landed at the Gwalior Air Force base at 10 am. They were then brought to Kuno National Park in helicopters. Last year in September, eight cheetahs from Namibia were flown in to India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had released the big cats to the Kuno National Park on his birthday – September 17. The relocation of 12 cheetahs from South Africa comes three years after the idea was mooted by the Centre – the world’s first intercontinental translocation project that aims at reintroducing the big cats in the country.

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India to drive digital, green agenda at G20

India aims to become the first country in the world to industrialise without carbonising, G20 sherpa Amitabh Kant said at the ET Global Business Summit on Friday. The country’s G20 presidency, which India assumed in December 2022, will allow it to drive twin global objectives of digital transformation and to go green, thus reshaping history. India is aiming for decisive and action-oriented G20 meetings under its presidency toward this end, he said. “India takes over the G20 presidency when the world is facing several challenges. While every challenge is an opportunity, India’s priority for the G20 will be to drive digital transformation and go green,” Kant said while addressing a session at the ET GBS. “As the PM said, India’s presidency will be very action-oriented, inclusive, decisive and outcome-oriented.”

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Chandrayaan-3: India’s moon lander clears key tests successfully

The moon lander part of India’s third lunar mission Chandrayaan-3, successfully underwent the EMI-EMC (Electro-Magnetic Interference/ Electro-Magnetic Compatibility) test recently, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said on Sunday. According to ISRO, the Chandrayaan-3 lander successfully underwent EMI/EMC test during January 31-February 2 at the U.R. Rao Satellite Centre, Bengaluru. The EMI-EMC test is conducted for satellite missions to ensure the functionality of the satellite subsystems in the space environment and their compatibility with the expected electromagnetic levels.

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3) Economy

India’s economy to grow at 6% in 2023-24: Former NITI Aayog VC Rajiv Kumar

India is likely to clock 6 per cent growth rate next fiscal and the country can persevere with a high growth rate because of several reforms undertaken during the last eight years by the Narendra Modi government, former Niti Aayog Vice Chairman Rajiv Kumar said on Sunday. Kumar further said major risks going forward would emerge from a synchronized downturn in the North American and European economies. According to Kumar, there are several downside risks, especially in the context of an uncertain global situation. “These will have to be tackled through careful policy measures designed to support our export efforts and at the same time improve the flow of private investment both from domestic sources as well as from foreign sources,” he said. The Reserve Bank has projected India’s economic growth at 6.4 per cent for 2023-24, broadly in line with the estimate of the Economic Survey tabled in Parliament.

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4) Markets, Banking, and Finance

India in ‘no hurry’ for CBDC as digital rupee pilot onboards 50K users

The Indian government doesn’t want to rush its central bank digital currency (CBDC) pilot despite joining the CBDC race just a few months ago. India’s recently launched CBDC pilot has amassed 50,000 users, and 5,000 merchants since the Reserve Bank of India launched the digital rupee pilot last year, local news agency The Economic Times reported on Feb. 8. Announcing the first public milestones of India’s digital currency at a policy press conference, RBI deputy governor Rabi Sankar stressed that the government plans to proceed with CBDC testing in the smoothest way possible.

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5) Business

Air India’s record deal heralds a new dawn for country’s aviation sector, Scindia says

Tata Group-owned Air India recently placed an order for 470 aircraft from Boeing and Airbus, with an option of ordering 370 more planes, the largest aircraft order by any airline. Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia said that this deal heralds a new dawn for India’s civil aviation sector. In an interaction with ETNow, Scindia said this deal speaks of the potential for growth within civil aviation in India. The previous biggest order was a 460-plane deal by American Airlines in 2011.

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Air India Places a record order of 470 Commercial Jets

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After historic Air India order, other Indian carriers plan to order around 1,200 planes: CAPA

After Air India’s historic order of 840 planes to Airbus and Boeing, other Indian airlines too are planning to order close to 1,200 more aircraft in over two years. According to a report by the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation India (CAPA India), Indian carriers are expected to place orders for additional 1,000-1,200 aircraft, starting off with another large order from IndiGo. The CAPA report further added that almost every carrier in India is expected to order more aircraft in the next couple of years for fleet replacement as well as growth, given that the order book for most incumbent carriers could be considered conservative relative to the growth potential of the market over the next decade and beyond.

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Twitter India shuts two offices in New Delhi & Mumbai, Bloomberg News reports

Twitter Inc has closed two of its three offices in India, Bloomberg News reported on Friday. The social media company shut down offices in New Delhi and Mumbai but continues to operate its office in the southern tech hub of Bengaluru, that mostly houses engineers, the report added. Twitter, under new owner Elon Musk, fired more than 90% of just over 200 of its staff in India last year, Bloomberg had reported. Last month, the company ordered at least a dozen more job cuts in Dublin and Singapore offices as part of wider cost-cutting measures at Twitter that saw layoffs of about 3,700 employees in early November.

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Indian-American Neal Mohan to take over YouTube as CEO steps down

YouTube Chief Executive Officer Susan Wojcicki will be stepping down after nine years at the helm of the world’s largest online video platform, she said in a blog post Thursday. YouTube’s chief product officer, Neal Mohan, will be the new head of YouTube, she said. Ms Wojcicki, 54, said she will focus on “family, health, and personal projects I’m passionate about.” Wojcicki, who was previously a senior vice president for ad products at Google, became CEO of YouTube in 2014. She was among Google’s earliest employees and has been with the parent company Alphabet Inc for nearly 25 years.

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Ola to invest $920 million in Tamil Nadu on electric cars, batteries plant

Tamil Nadu government today announced that electric vehicle maker Ola Electric would invest $920 million in the state to manufacture electric cars and batteries. The state government has signed an MoU with the company for the production of four-wheeler electric vehicles and the establishment of 20 GW battery manufacturing capacity at an investment of Rs 7,614 crore. Ola will make investment through its subsidiaries Ola Electric Technologies and Ola Cell Technologies. These activities will provide employment to as many as 3,111 people, the state government said in an official statement.

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6) Technology

Saudi Arabia partners with The Sandbox for future metaverse plans

Initiatives toward metaverse development continue to be a significant focus and key interest in the Middle East, as the Leap conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, highlights key topics in the industry. On Feb. 7, a partnership ceremony was held at the conference, which acknowledged a new memorandum of understanding (MOU) between The Sandbox and the government of Saudi Arabia. While there are no further updates about the extent of the partnership, both parties have been actively pushing the boundaries of the Web3 space relative to their areas of expertise. The Sandbox has partnered with some of the biggest names both inside and outside of the Web3 space, including Snoop Dogg, Gucci, Tim, Atari, HSBC and Warner Music Group, among others.

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Indian IT firms start training employees in ChatGPT, other AI-related tech

Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) and Infosys, India’s top two IT firms by valuation, are introducing training and skilling for employees on ChatGPT and similar artificial intelligence (AI) technologies. Global IT companies such as Accenture have also included such modules on ChatGPT and similar AI technologies for their employees, the Economic Times reported (ET). The news comes at a time when AI models are expected to disrupt Indian IT firms and their access to talent, the report said. ET’s report quoted TCS as saying that the company will add generative-AI themed courses, not only to help employees become aware of the themes but also skill them to handle operations where such technology is used.

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7) Politics

Big blow to Uddhav Thackeray, EC allots ‘Shiv Sena’ name, ‘bow and arrow’ symbol to Shinde faction

In a big blow to Uddhav Thackeray, the Election Commission on Friday allotted the name ‘Shiv Sena’ and its poll symbol ‘bow and arrow’ to the group led by Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde. In a unanimous order on the six-month-old petition filed by Shinde, the three-member Commission said it had relied on the numerical strength of the party in the legislative wing, where the chief minister enjoyed the support of 40 of the 55 MLAs and 13 of the 18 Lok Sabha members. It gave a detailed reasoning on why it was forced to ignore the claims of the rival factions led by Shinde and Thackeray, respectively, over the organisational wing of the party, contending that the amendments to the Shiv Sena constitution in 2018, after the death of founder Balasaheb Thackeray, were undemocratic and paved the way to appoint people from a coterie as office bearers without any election at all.

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“Attack On India”: BJP blasts billionaire George Soros over PM remarks

Soon after billionaire investor George Soros said that Indian business tycoon Gautam Adani’s recent troubles in the stock market would spur ‘democratic revival in India’ and Prime Minister Narendra Modi will ‘have to answer questions,’ Union Minister Smriti Irani called upon Indians to unitedly respond to ‘foreign powers who try to intervene in India’s democratic processes.’ Calling Mr Soros’s remark a ‘declaration to destroy India’s democratic processes’, she said Indians have defeated such ‘foreign powers’ who tried to meddle with our internal affairs earlier as well, and will do so again. “I urge every Indian to give a fitting reply to George Soros,” she said.

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8) Sports

Women’s T20 World Cup: India look for big win against lowly Ireland to qualify for semis

A defeat against England denting their confidence, India will look to bounce back with a big win against lowly Ireland to remain in contentiaon for a semifinal berth in the Women’s T20 World Cup. After the 11-run loss to England on Saturday, their first defeat in the showpiece, India are in second spot with four points from three matches behind England (six points from three straight wins), who have qualified for the semifinals. The Harmanpreet Kaur led side will now need not only a win against Ireland in their last groyp match on Monday but also a big one to have any chanse of filling up the remaining semifinal spot from Group 2. They need to improve their net run rate from the current +0.205.

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India beat Australia by six wickets for 2-0 series lead

India beat Australia by six wickets in the second test to take a 2-0 lead in the four-match series in Delhi on Sunday. Skipper Rohit Sharma (31) and Cheteshwar Pujara, who made 31 not out, helped the hosts reach the 115-run victory target with more than two days to spare. The third test is scheduled in Indore from March 1.

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9) Opinion

Pakistan economic crisis: Why is Pakistan in deep trouble? | Impact on India | Pakistan crisis 2023

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India set to benefit as China-Australia trade war shows no sign of abating

Despite recent signs of a diplomatic thaw, nothing has changed in the policies of either China or Australia, reports the Diplomat. China and Australia’s top trade officials met for the first time since 2019. Although Chinese Commerce Minister Wang Wentao described the talks with his Australian counterpart, Don Farrell, as an important step in getting bilateral economic and trade cooperation back on track, it is unlikely that there will be any significant improvement in bilateral economic relations between the two countries, the Diplomat reported. Wang warned that trade disputes would not be resolved any time soon. Chinese officials have argued that Australia must first take steps to stem the decline in bilateral relations and create a better atmosphere for talks.

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Why Putin met Doval & how India continues to walk a fine & difficult line between US & Russia

In this edition of #GlobalPrint, ThePrint’s Senior Consulting Editor, Jyoti Malhotra, discusses India’s complex and dynamic relations with Russia as India’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval visited Moscow last week and met with Russian president Vladimir Putin on the margins of a meeting on Afghanistan organised under the aegis of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.

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10) Weekly special

Interview with IndiGo CEO Pieter Elbers

Internationalisation will be an important focus for IndiGo’s growth strategy, says IndiGo’s CEO Pieter Elbers in an interview with Jagriti Chandra. He also speaks about the exciting phase aviation in India is witnessing post-COVID-19, his philosophy about aviation and its role in bridging cultures and how aviation has allowed him to experience India’s diverse cultures, languages and clothing ever since he moved from KLM last September. He also describes how the aviation outlook in India is different from that in the Netherlands.

For details, visit here.

11) Did you know?

What is ZeroGPT? All you need to know about the ‘AI plagiarism detection’ tool

According to OpenAI, ZeroGPT detects whether text has been written by an AI programme and passed off as human-written or it was actually written by a person. ChatGPT creator OpenAI has now unveiled a tool called ZeroGPT, with which, it says, users will be able to detect whether text has been written by an artificial intelligence (AI) programme and passed off as human-written, or it was actually written by a person.

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What is a regulatory sandbox?

Regulatory sandbox refers to live testing of new products or services in a controlled regulatory environment. It acts as a “safe space” for business as the regulators may or may not permit certain relaxations for the limited purpose of testing. The sandbox allows the regulator, the innovators, the financial service providers and the customers to conduct field tests to collect evidence on the benefits and risks of new financial innovations while carefully monitoring and containing their risks.

For details, visit here.

With that, we come to the end of our Weekly Current Affairs February 2023 -Week 3. We hope you have liked it. Write your feedback in the comments below, and let us know if there is anything else you would like us to cover.

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