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

India joins Quad to slam Russia on nuclear threat in Ukraine

India on Friday joined its partners in the Quad – Australia, Japan, and the United States – to denounce Russia’s threat of using nuclear weapons against Ukraine. External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar hosted the Japanese and Australian Foreign Ministers Yoshimasa Hayashi and Penny Wong, as well as the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, in New Delhi early on Friday. They discussed the responses of the four nations to Russia’s “special military operations” in Ukraine and the “immense human suffering” caused by it.  The Quad Foreign Ministers met just a day after a war of words between the western nations and Russia over the conflict in Ukraine marred a G20 conclave in New Delhi itself.

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Turkey rakes up ‘Kashmir’ at UNHRC; India slams Turkish govt for making unsolicited remarks

Turkish govt rakes up the Kashmir issue at the UNHRC. India, in turn, slams the statements and asks Turkey to refrain from making unsolicited comments on its internal matters. It comes within a month of ‘Operation Dost,’ where India provided assistance to the quake-hit Turkey.

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China says border should be kept ‘in a proper place,’ calls for resuming direct flights with India

Visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang, in talks with External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, called on India to look at relations “in the context of once-in-a-century changes in the world” and to put the border issue “in the proper place,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Friday. In Thursday’s talks in New Delhi, Mr. Jaishankar flagged the “abnormal” state of ties and reiterated India’s position that restoration of peace on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) was required for a return to normalcy. The Chinese side, meanwhile, has sought to delink the boundary from the rest of ties, even while putting forward what the Indian military has seen as unacceptable demands in the long-running continuing negotiations that have dragged on for close to three years, to complete the disengagement process along the LAC.

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Iran claims to have unearthed massive lithium deposit: What the discovery could mean

Iranian officials claimed to have found a deposit containing 8.5 million metric tons of lithium ore in the country’s Hamedan Province. Lithium is a crucial raw material for the production of batteries used in all kinds of electronic devices, from mobile phones to EVs. According to Ebrahimali Molabeigi, who leads MIMT’s exploration department, the discovery was made in the western province of Hamedan, and more such lithium ore deposits are expected to be discovered soon, PressTV reported. If true, this discovery would be a major boost for Iran, whose economy has suffered under US sanctions and embargoes for decades. Given lithium’s salience in making batteries, any transition away from fossil fuels is expected to rely heavily on lithium. This is Iran’s first lithium find.

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Iran to fine cash-strapped Pak? Sharif govt risks losing $18 billion over gas pipeline delay

Pakistan may lose a whopping $18 billion even as the country faces a severe financial crisis. Reports say that the Shehbaz Sharif govt has been asked to ‘eliminate obstacles’ in the way of the Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline in order to avoid a possible fine of $18 billion dollar. The deal between the two countries states that the project must be completed by 2024. The headache for Shehbaz Sharif comes at a time when the country is facing a severe economic crisis and seeks a much-needed IMF bailout to avert a default.

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Pakistan Central Bank hikes interest rate to record high level amid inflation

The State Bank of Pakistan has increased the interest rate by a massive 300 basis points (bps), taking it to a record-high level of 20 percent, in accordance with the conditions set by the International Monetary Fund, The News International reported. The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC), which was constituted as a statutory committee under the State Bank of Pakistan Act has taken the decision to raise the policy rate to its highest level since October 1996 in an attempt to “anchor inflation expectations as it is critical and warrants a strong policy response,” as per the news report. Pakistan’s Central Bank increased the interest rate by 300 bps taking the total increase to 1,050 bs since January 2022 to counter rising inflation.

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Pakistan faces default, raises interest to 20% with Moody’s downgrade, 40% inflation, melting rupee

As Pakistan’s economic circumstances continue to decline, the country has come the closest to defaulting since 1998-99; its central bank raised the rate by 300 basis points, inflation reached 40%, and currency tumbled. ThePrint Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta lifts the layers from the crisis in episode 1184 of ‘Cut the Clutter.’

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Ocean treaty: Historic agreement reached after a decade of talks

Nations have reached a historic agreement to protect the world’s oceans following ten years of negotiations. The High Seas Treaty aims to place 30% of the seas into protected areas by 2030, to safeguard and recuperate marine nature. The agreement was reached on Saturday evening, after 38 hours of talks, at UN headquarters in New York. The negotiations had been held up for years over disagreements on funding and fishing rights. The last international agreement on ocean protection was signed 40 years ago in 1982 – the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. That agreement established an area called the high seas – international waters where all countries have a right to fish, ship, and do research – but only 1.2% of these waters are protected. Marine life living outside of these protected areas has been at risk from climate change, overfishing, and shipping traffic.

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2) India

India’s per capita income has doubled since 2014-15

India’s per capita income in nominal terms doubled to Rs 1,72,000 since 2014-15 when the Narendra Modi-led NDA came to power, but uneven income distribution remains a challenge. As per the National Statistical Office (NSO), the annual per capita (net national income) at current prices is estimated at Rs 1,72,000 in 2022-23, up from Rs 86,647 in 2014-15, suggesting an increase of about 99 percent. In real terms (constant prices), the per capita income has increased by about 35 percent from Rs 72,805 in 2014-15 to Rs 98,118 in 2022-23. Former director of the premier economic research institute NIPFP Pinaki Chakraborty said as per the World Development Indicator database, the average growth of India’s per-capita income in real terms for the period from 2014 to 2019 was 5.6 percent per annum.

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Indian Navy successfully test-fires BrahMos missile

The Indian Navy on Sunday successfully test-fired in the Arabian Sea the ship-launched version of the BrahMos supersonic missile. The missile that was tested had the indigenous “seeker and booster’, officials said. “The Indian Navy carried out a successful precision strike in the Arabian Sea by ship-launched BrahMos missile with DRDO-designed indigenous seeker and booster, reinforcing our commitment towards Aatmanirbharta (self-reliance) in defence,” said a senior military official. BrahMos Aerospace Pvt Ltd, an India-Russian joint venture, produces supersonic cruise missiles that can be launched from submarines, ships, aircraft, or land platforms.

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India’s Russian oil imports hit a record high in February; now more than Iraq, Saudi put together

India’s imports of crude oil from Russia soared to a record 1.6 million barrels per day in February and are now higher than combined imports from traditional suppliers Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Russia continued to be the single largest supplier of crude oil, which is converted into petrol and diesel at refineries, for a fifth straight month by supplying more than one-third of all oil India imported, according to energy cargo tracker Vortexa. Refiners continue to snap up plentiful Russian cargoes available at a discount to other grades. From a market share of less than 1% in India’s import basket before the start of the Russia-Ukraine conflict in February 2022, Russia’s share of India’s imports rose to 1.62 million barrels per day in February, taking a 35% share.

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India is the destination for businesses: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, in her remarks during an interaction at the Raisina Dialogue Saturday, mentioned, “There are several ministers who are part of the G20 who have been speaking of friendshoring. India, today, is the destination for businesses.” She added, “We have the right combination of things that matter for a growing economy — a middle class, captive market with purchasing power, tech-driven public investment and products. Digital infrastructure exists.”

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3) Economy

India expected to attain 7% growth in FY23; global uncertainties, runaway inflation to weigh on outlook

India released the estimate of GDP data for the Oct-Dec 2022 quarter. The economy grew at 4.4% year over year, close to what we had estimated (4.5% YoY). Although it is a weak quarter of this fiscal, the government significantly revised the past three years’ data increasing the base for this year’s growth estimates. GDP growth for FY 2021-22 was revised up by 0.4 percentage points from 8.7% to 9.1%. The upward revision primarily happened because of the stronger than previously estimated growth in manufacturing and construction activities.

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4) Markets, Banking, and Finance

Explainer: What is YouTube pump-and-dump scheme that turned Sebi red-faced

Markets regulator Sebi has recently barred noted Bollywood actor Arshad Warsi, his wife, Maria Goretti, and a few others from the securities market for alleged involvement in the pump-and-dump scheme through Youtube channels. While market participants hailed the regulator for enforcing tough penalties, the actor, on his part, has denied any wrongdoing. As the name suggests, the pump-and-dump scheme involves “pumping up” the share price, which is driving it higher by spreading misleading information through social media channels or various other media. Once the elevated share-price levels are reached, vested interests “dump” the shares by booking profits, making retail investors gullible and vulnerable to losing the invested money. Sebi terms such schemes as fraudulent and unfair trade practices, which can hamper the sanctity of Indian capital markets.

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5) Business

Adani group gets $1.87 billion investment from US boutique firm GQG

U.S. boutique investment firm GQG Partners has bought shares worth $1.87 billion in four Adani group companies, marking the first major investment in the Indian conglomerate since a short-sellers critical report sparked a stock rout. The group’s seven listed companies had lost some $135 billion in market value since Jan. 24, when Hindenburg Research accused it of improper use of offshore tax havens and stock manipulation—allegations the billionaire Gautam Adani-led group has denied but led it to call off a $2.5 billion share sale. U.S-based, Australia-listed GQG has, through block deals, bought shares worth Rs 154.46 billion in three Adani group companies, including the conglomerate’s flagship firm Adani Enterprises, a regulatory filing showed. It also bought shares in Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone, Adani Green Energy, and Adani Transmission.

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South Korea’s Hyundai and Kia cost India billions of dollars in the trade deficit, says Piyush Goyal

Union Commerce and industries minister Piyush Goyal has said that Korean auto majors, like Hyundai and Kia, cost India billions of dollars in trade deficit by misusing the free-trade agreement between the two countries. Speaking at the Asia Economic Dialogue, Goyal said that the free trade agreement allows these companies to import indiscriminately. “The Korean auto industry, specifically Hyundai and Kia, are clearly two of the laggards. They have enjoyed the benefits of our free-trade agreement with Korea and Japan and continue to import indiscriminately,” Goyal said. He added that the small investment of half a billion or a billion dollars had cost India dearly in terms of billions of dollars of trade deficit they have caused us directly with Korea or other countries.

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Explained | On regulating the online sale of drugs in India

In early February, the Ministry of Health pulled up at least twenty companies, including Tata-1mg, Flipkart, Apollo, PharmEasy, Amazon, and Reliance Netmeds, by issuing them a show cause notice, for selling medicines online. This happened after the All India Organisation of Chemists and Druggists (AIOCD), a powerful lobby of over 12 lakh pharmacists, threatened to launch a country-wide agitation if the government didn’t act. Health Minister Dr. Mansukh Mandaviya, in close-door meetings with senior officials of the Ministry, has made clear the pitfalls of selling medicines virtually. The Minister went so far as to say that e-pharmacies should be closed down.

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Swiggy hives off cloud kitchen biz as costs bite

Food delivery platform Swiggy on Thursday said it has sold off its cloud kitchen business, Swiggy Access, to Kitchens@, in a share-swap deal. The move is part of the cost rationalization measures undertaken by the company, which had earlier laid off 380 employees, with the market turning tough in terms of raising fresh venture funding. “The growth rate for food delivery has slowed down versus our projections (along with many peer companies globally). This meant we needed to revisit our overall indirect costs to hit our profitability goals,” Sriharsha Majety, co-founder and CEO of Swiggy, said in an email to employees. He said the company was taking a harder look at some of its business verticals and shut down its meat vertical.

For details, visit here.

6) Technology

CCI fumes, accuses Google of ‘digital feudalism’

The Competition Commission of India (CCI) on Thursday strongly defended its October 2022 order against Google and reiterated that the tech giant’s practices in India are a “perfect case of abuse of dominance.” Starting its submissions before the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT), the antitrust regulator also pointed out that the company had complied with the European Commission’s directions after it was fined for breaching antitrust rules. The CCI, in its order dated October 20, 2022, had imposed a `1,337-crore monetary penalty on Google for abusing its dominant position with respect to its Play Store policies, apart from issuing a cease-and-desist order. In its public statements and arguments before the Supreme Court and NCLAT, Google had contended that complying with the CCI’s order would inflate the costs for app developers in the country, increase the prices of Android phones in the country and lead to user exclusion. It also cited that the Android Operating System (OS) has propelled the mobile market in India and alleged that the CCI relied on statements of the European anti-trust regulator and passed them off as its own.

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7) Politics

NDPP-BJP ease to victory in Nagaland, claim 35 seats; CM Neiphiu Rio wins too

The ruling NDPP-BJP eased to victory in the 2023 Nagaland election Thursday, with chief minister Neiphiu Rio’s Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party winning 22 seats and the Bharatiya Janata Party claiming 12 to cross the majority mark of 31 in the 60-member House. ‘The NDPP leads in three others. The opposition is far too fragmented to worry the ruling coalition.

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8) Sports

WPL 2023, GG vs. MI Highlights: All-round Mumbai Indians hammer Gujarat Giants by 143 runs

The opening game of the inaugural Women’s Premier League turned out not so different from the first-ever IPL game, except Mumbai Indians defeated Gujarat Giants by a much larger victory than Kolkata Knight Riders’ 82-run win over Royal Challengers Bangalore in the summer of 2008. Harmanpreet Kaur and the company have effectively sent out a warning to rival sides of the threat that they possess and have asserted themselves as genuine title contenders from the word go. Gujarat Giants, meanwhile, will be sweating over skipper Mooney’s fitness as they UP Warriorz in less than 24 hours!

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Tennis legend Sania Mirza ends her career at the place where it began

With “happy tears,” Indian tennis legend Sania Mirza on Sunday ended her path-breaking journey as a player at the place where it all began. By playing in exhibition matches featuring Rohan Bopanna, Yuvraj Singh, and her ‘best friend’ Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Ivan Dodig, Cara Black, and Marion Bartoli, Sania finally said goodbye to her illustrious career at the Lal Bahadur Tennis Stadium, the venue where she signaled her arrival on the big stage with a historic WTA singles title triumph nearly two decades ago.

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9) Opinion

Why has India’s plan to utilise its share of Indus waters from three eastern rivers hit a roadblock

The Indus Waters Treaty has been in the news for some time. But even as India is currently locked in a dispute with Pakistan over two of its hydroelectric projects – Kishanganga and Ratle – on the western rivers of the Indus river basin, it plans to utilize the waters of the eastern rivers that are flowing to Pakistan, have hit a roadblock.

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Why Nepal’s Prachanda returned to Deuba camp & whether India has won this round

In this edition of #GlobalPrint, ThePrint’s senior consulting editor Jyoti Malhotra talks about the political game of dice unfolding in Nepal and why Prachanda, the Maoist leader, has returned to the Sher Bahadur Deuba camp and what this means for India’s sphere of influence in the region.

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10) Weekly special

Why Rajiv Jain invested in the Adani Group Of Companies? | Exclusive Interview

Rajiv Jain of GQG Partners, in an exclusive interview with ET Now, says cheap valuations, mid-teens growth expectation, earnings predictability, less risk, and no meaningful substance in the short seller reports led him to buy a stake in four out of the ten listed Adani Group companies. GQG Partners, which manages more than $92 billion in client assets globally, invested close to Rs 15,400 crore in four Adani Group companies – Adani Enterprises, Adani Ports, Adani Transmission, and Adani Green Energy. This happened at a time when the sentiments were quite negative, owing to the Hindenburg Research Report.

For details, visit here.

With that, we come to the end of our Weekly Current Affairs March 2023 -Week 1. 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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