1. India’s plans for a base in Seychelles on despite protest

The 12 sq km Assomption Island in the outer Seychelles region in the Indian Ocean has become the focal point of a number of Seychellois protesters who are opposing the setting up of an Indian military base on environmental grounds.

Implicit in the official’s response is that despite the protests, since the Assomption Island agreement is between two governments, the development of the island as a military site will continue. While the January 27 agreement between Barry Faure, Seychelles secretary of state for foreign affairs, and S. Jaishankar, India’s then foreign secretary, makes it clear that the Indian military will be on Assomption only at the Seychelles’ request, such a “facility” will offer strategic advantage to India’s growing ambition, specially in the backdrop of growing Chinese interest in the region as well as ability to combat sea piracy in one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.

  • Assomption is just 40 km to the southwest from the Aldabra atoll, which is located 1,150 km southwest of Mahe, the capital of the Seychelles
  • The protests are being led by the “Save the Aldabra Island Group” (SAIG), where the former Seychelles tourism minister, Alain St. Ange, is a key figure.
  • While India will build, maintain, and operate the base, its ownership rights will vest with the Seychelles. India will also at its own cost train the Seychellois military personnel and also conduct joint military exercises.


2. Maritime security, N-deal to top agenda of Macron’s India talks

Maritime security and nuclear cooperation will be the staple items on the table when French President Emanuel Macron holds discussions with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to India this weekend.

  • While the “Quad” comprising India, Japan, Australia and the US is pitched as the new political counterpoint to China in the Indo-Pacific space, India and France have found much to be close about in the Indian Ocean.

India and France are also hoping to get an agreement between NPCIL (Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited) and EDF (of France) on 6 nuclear reactors that could lead to greater indigenisation of components and services for the reactors.

  • During Macron’s visit, both countries are expected to sign agreements that will allow India logistics access to French military bases in the Indian Ocean. By itself, this could become a force multiplier for India, especially since New Delhi, despite clear interests in the Indian Ocean, has been a laggard in securing its interests. France remains the largest resident power in the Indian Ocean with the largest amount of real estate, including about 11 million sq km of exclusive economic zone particularly in the Mozambique channel with over 10 islands as part of French overseas territories. For France’s military bases in Djibouti, Abu Dhabi and Reunion Islands, India regards it as an attractive strategic partner here.

Carnegie India, in a recent report on India-France cooperation in the Indian Ocean, said India should support France’s full membership of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) while France could help India enter the Indian Ocean Commission.

3. After govt’s red card, Tibetans shift Dalai Lama event from Delhi to Dharamshala

Three days after a note by Cabinet Secretary PK Sinha directing senior political leaders and government functionaries not to participate in Tibet-related activities became public, the Tibetan government-in-exile has shifted a high-profile event planned to commemorate Dalai Lama’s 60th year in exile. The event will now happen in Dharamshala, not Delhi.

  • China sees Tibet as an integral part of itself and does not recognize the Tibetan government in exile. Ngodup Dhongchung, representative of the Dalai Lama in Delhi, confirmed that the event has been rescheduled.
  • Privately, three senior Tibetan figures said that there is a sense of hurt in the community.
  • Mr. Narendra Modi is reported to have had only one meeting with Tibetan leader, on the eve of Chinese president Xi Jinping’s visit in 2014, which did not go well. From the government, the National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and the former Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar are understood to have had a few meetings each with the Dalai Lama in close to four years.

India has actually supported the cause of Tibet. Proponents of the second theory point to the Dalai Lama being allowed to visit Arunachal Pradesh, parts of which China considers part of its territory, in 2017. The head of the Tibetan government in exile, Lobsang Sangay, was also present at Modi’s swearing-in ceremony in 2014.

4. Threat of new malware looms over cyberspace

A new threat looms large on the horizon of cyberspace. After Mirai and Reaper, cybersecurity agencies have detected a new malware called Saposhi, which is capable of taking over electronic devices and turning them into ‘bots’, which can then be used for any purpose, including a Distributed Denial of Service attack which, with enough firepower, can cripple entire industries.

  • In October last year, the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT), a Central government body that deals with cyberattacks, had issued an alert about Reaper, a highly evolved malware capable of not only hacking devices like Wi-Fi routers and security cameras, but also hiding its own presence in the bot — a device taken over by a malware. Malwares like Saposhi, Reaper and Mirai are primarily aimed at DDoS attacks, in which the malware first creates a network of bots — called a botnet — and then uses the botnet to ping a single server at the same time. As the number of pings are far beyond the server’s capacity, the server crashes and denies service to its consumers.
  • In July 2016, small and medium internet service providers in Maharashtra fell prey to a DDoS attack, which caused disruption in the services of several Internet Service Providers (ISP) in the State.

Another malware, Mirai, using a botnet of 5 lakh devices, had caused the servers of Dyn, a leading domain name service provider, to crash, affecting services of popular websites like Twitter, Netflix and Reddit.

5. South Korean envoys in Pyongyang, meet Kim

The most senior South Koreans to travel to North Korea for more than a decade met leader Kim Jong Un on March 5. The delegation, representing the South’s President Moon Jae-in, is pushing for talks between the nuclear-armed regime and the United States, after Kim sent his sister Kim Yo Jong to the Winter Games in the South. Kim Yo Jong’s trip was the first visit to the South by a member of the North’s ruling dynasty since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, and her appearance at the Games’ opening ceremony-where athletes from the two Koreas marched together-made global headlines.

  • It is a challenging task-in defiance of UN sanctions, the isolated and impoverished North last year staged its most powerful nuclear test and test-fired several missiles, some of them capable of reaching the US mainland.
  • It was the first ministerial-level South Korean visit to the North since December 2007, when Seoul’s then-intelligence chief travelled to Pyongyang.

6. 41 Bill listed for consideration in second leg

Agenda for the second leg of the Budget Session include 9 Bills for consideration and passing, 32 Bills listed for introduction, consideration and passing.

9 Bills for consideration and passing include:

  • The finance bill 2018 to amend various taxation laws
  • The Fugitive economic Offenders Bill,2018 to provide a deterrent for economic offenders who evade the process of Indian law by remaining outside the jurisdiction of Indian Courts
  • The Chit Funds (Amendment) Bill,2018 to regulate the development of the chit fund industry.

32 Bills listed for introduction, consideration and passing include:

  • The Financial Resolution and Deposit Insurance(FRDI) bill, 2017
  • The New Delhi International Arbitration Centre Bill,2018 to establish an autonomous institutions to make India an arbitrary hub.
  • The prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill,2013,requires investigating agencies to get prior sanction of the appropriate authority in govt. to investigate officials including retired officials,
  • The Code on Wages ,2017 provides that the central govt. may notify a national minimum wage for the country.

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