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

US downs Chinese surveillance balloon; China threatens repercussions

The US military has downed the suspected Chinese spy balloon over the Atlantic Ocean and launched a mission to recover all the equipment from its debris, drawing a strong reaction from China which on Sunday warned of repercussions over America’s use of force against its civilian unmanned airship. The Chinese side has, after verification, repeatedly informed the US side of the civilian nature of the airship and conveyed that its entry into the United States due to force majeure was totally unexpected, the statement said, noting the Chinese side has clearly asked the US side to properly handle the matter in a calm, professional and restrained manner. The Pentagon official told reporters that they took immediate steps to protect against the balloon’s collection of sensitive information mitigating its intelligence value to China. By shooting down the balloon, it addressed the surveillance threat posed to military installations and further neutralize any intelligence value it could have produced, preventing it from returning to China.

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China Warns of “Necessary Responses” As U.S. Shoots Down Spy Balloon | Chinese Spy Balloon

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Massive earthquake kills over 1,300 in Turkey, Syria; rescue ops underway

A powerful 7.8 magnitude earthquake rocked southeastern Turkey and northern Syria early Monday, toppling hundreds of buildings and killing more than 1,300 people. Hundreds were still believed to be trapped under rubble, and the toll was expected to rise as rescue workers searched mounds of wreckage in cities and towns across the area. On both sides of the border, residents jolted out of sleep by the pre-dawn quake rushed outside on a cold, rainy, and snowy winter night, as buildings were flattened and strong aftershocks continued. Turkey sits on top of major fault lines and is frequently shaken by earthquakes. Some 18,000 were killed in powerful earthquakes that hit northwest Turkey in 1999. The U.S. Geological Survey measured Monday’s quake at 7.8.

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Charting the global economy: World growth outlook turns for the better

The Federal Reserve, Bank of England, and European Central Bank all conceded that while inflation is cooling in their respective regions, more interest-rate hikes are needed to ensure price stability. Policymakers across the three central banks signaled that they’re nearing peak levels for rates, and those in the US and UK expressed optimism that they can reduce price pressures without triggering mass unemployment. The IMF sees a “turning point” for the global economy as it raised its growth outlook for the first time in a year, with resilient US spending and China’s reopening buttressing demand against a litany of risks.

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2) India

India-France-UAE form a trilateral cooperation initiative with a special focus on defence, energy & IOR

In acknowledgment of their shared desire to promote international stability and prosperity, and to further expand their defence ties with a focus on Rafales, the Foreign Ministers of France, India, and the UAE on Saturday agreed to establish a formal trilateral cooperation initiative, with the aim of expanding cooperation in various fields of mutual interest. It is in this context that a phone call between the three Ministers was held to adopt a roadmap for the implementation of this initiative. During this call, the three sides agreed that the trilateral initiative will serve as a forum to promote the design and execution of cooperation projects in the fields of energy, with a focus on solar and nuclear energy, as well as in the fight against climate change and the protection of biodiversity, particularly in the Indian Ocean region, according to an MEA statement.

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Rs 1.93 lakh cr worth of military equipment imported between 2017-18 and 2021-22: Govt data

India procured military hardware worth Rs 1.93 lakh crore in the last five years, according to details provided by the government in Lok Sabha. Minister of State for Defence Ajay Bhatt said the major defence equipment that was imported included helicopters, aircraft radars, rockets, guns, assault rifles, missiles, and ammunition. The data provided by the minister on the procurement of military hardware by the defence services pertained to the period from 2017-18 to 2021-22. Bhatt said the Defence Acquisition Procedure (DAP 2020) with a focus on ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ (self-reliant India) and ‘Make in India’ introduced major policy initiatives for boosting indigenous defence capability and reduction of reliance on imports.

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Spurt in China’s DWF vessels on high seas on the radar of Indian security set-up

India is closely monitoring a sudden spurt in China’s distant water fishing (DWF) vessels in the high seas, including Indian Ocean Region and India’s immediate neighborhood, as the vessels could be used for espionage activities, said people familiar with the matter. China’s extensive use of DWF vessels in the high seas has increasingly become an environmental hazard, especially in the Northern Indian Ocean region, they said. China’s extensive use of DWF vessels in the high seas has increasingly become an environmental hazard, especially in the Northern Indian Ocean region, they said. There has been a surge in the activities of unregistered Chinese fishing vessels near India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Iran, and Oman. More than 392 Chinese illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing incidents occurred in the Indian Ocean in 2021, compared to 379 in 2020, according to Indian officials.

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Centre seeks to attach funds linked to Abdul Rehman Makki

The Centre has sought action from the authorities designated under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) to identify and seize the bank accounts or finances linked to Lashkar chief Abdul Rehman Makki after the UN imposed sanctions on him. Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) chief of political affairs, Makki, was arrested in 2019 by the Pakistan government and sentenced to prison in 2020. He has been involved in seven cases of terrorism in India, including the Mumbai 26/11 attacks, according to a UN listing. As per section 51A of the UAPA, the central government has the power to freeze, seize or attach funds and other financial assets or economic resources held by individuals or entities listed for their role in terrorism. Makki is alleged to have been involved in raising funds, recruiting and radicalizing youth to violence, and planning attacks in India, particularly in Jammu and Kashmir.

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Russia supports India becoming UNSC permanent member: Ambassador

Russia supports India’s commitment to becoming a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), said Moscow’s Ambassador to Delhi Denis Alipov while addressing the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA)-Russian Council Dialogue. He said that Russia sees the Indian G20 presidency in the SCO as an opportunity to efficiently promote the agenda of these crucial associations, according to the news agency ANI. Last December, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar declared India’s candidature as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for the 2028-29 term.

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Pakistan’s ISI, LeT sent hand grenades for ‘lone wolf’ attack in Hyderabad: NIA

Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and outlawed terror outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) had made hand grenades available to their sympathizers and conspired with them to carry out “lone wolf” attacks and blasts in Hyderabad City, the First Information Report (FIR) of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) revealed. The FIR, registered on January 25 against three Hyderabad residents, also pointed out that the accused persons booked by the Central agency were instructed to hurl handgrandes at public gatherings and processions in order to create communal tension.

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PM Modi to inaugurate HAL chopper manufacturing unit in Tumakuru, Karnataka

In 2016, Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited’s (HAL’s) new helicopter manufacturing facility in Tumakuru, Karnataka. On Monday, Modi will dedicate the factory to the nation. “The Greenfield helicopter factory, spread across 615 acres of land, is planned with a vision to become a one-stop solution for all helicopter requirements of the country. It is India’s largest helicopter manufacturing facility and will initially produce Light Utility Helicopters (LUHs),” stated the Ministry of Defence (MoD) on Saturday. The LUH is an indigenously designed, three-tonne, single-engine, multipurpose utility helicopter.

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3) Economy

India’s economy is already 10% more energy efficient than the G20 average: IEA

India’s economy is already 10 percent more energy efficient than both the global and G20 average. India took less time to go from half to full electricity access than other major economies, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said on Monday. Just hours ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurating the three-day India Energy Week in Bengaluru to showcase India’s rising prowess as an energy transition powerhouse, the IEA said the adoption worldwide of the kinds of actions and measures targeted by LiFE (Lifestyle for Environment), including behavioral changes and sustainable consumer choices, would reduce the annual global carbon dioxide emissions by more than 2 billion tonnes in 2030. The LiFE initiative was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at COP26 in Glasgow in November 2021.

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Gravitas: India remains World’s fastest growing economy, says IMF survey

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4) Markets, Banking, and Finance

Paytm, PhonePe to launch UPI Lite for smaller epayments soon: Report

Paytm and PhonePe are likely to launch the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) Lite on their mobile applications soon, a report by the Economic Times (ET) said. On Paytm, the feature is expected to be enabled within a month. UPI Lite was introduced by the National Payment Corporation of India (NPCI) last year to facilitate small ticket transactions up to Rs 200. It is an on-device wallet feature that allows payments using UPI PIN. “Paytm is likely to go live with its UPI Lite product on its app within a month, and PhonePe is expected to enable the offering after Paytm, which is closest to being live right now,” a person aware of the matter told ET.

For details, visit here.

5) Business

Adani prepays loans worth $1.11 bn; releases pledged shares in 3 firms

Promoters of the Adani Group have prepaid loans against shares of three key companies and released pledged shares. The group said in a statement promoters have posted the amounts to prepay $1.11 billion ahead of their maturity of September 2024, following recent market volatility and marking a commitment to reduce overall promoter leverage backed by listed company shares. The three firms are Adani Green Energy, Adani Ports, and Adani Transmission. With the repayment of such an amount, shares of three listed companies would be released in due course. The companies include Adani Ports & Special Economic Zone’s 168.27 million shares, representing 12 percent of the promoters’ holdings.

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Standard Chartered stops accepting Adani dollar bonds after Citigroup, Credit Suisse

British lender Standard Chartered has stopped accepting Adani Group bonds as collateral on margin loans. This comes after similar measures were announced by Citigroup and Credit Suisse, both of which stopped giving loans on dollar bonds by Adani Group. Gautam Adani-led conglomerate is battling allegations of stock manipulation, accounting fraud, and other malpractices after US short-seller Hindenburg Research published a lengthy, damning report on the company. Some StanChart relationship managers have reportedly informed their private wealth clients in Asia’s large markets, including Singapore, that the bank would not accept these bonds as collateral, according to a report by the Economic Times. The decision is temporary and was taken on Friday, the report stated.

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Centre agrees to convert Vodafone Idea interest dues worth over Rs 16000 crore into equity

The government has agreed to convert Vodafone Idea’s accrued interest worth over Rs 16,000 crore on deferred adjusted gross revenue (AGR) dues into equity at Rs 10 a share. The move came after the government received an assurance from the promoters of the carrier that they were committed to the company and would bring in the necessary funds. The conversion — which has been hanging fire for a year — will make the government the single-largest shareholder in the loss-making telco with a likely stake of around 33%, say analysts. Vodafone Idea’s co-promoters — UK’s Vodafone Group and India’s Aditya Birla Group — currently own 47.61% and 27.38%, respectively. After the conversion, the two will own 31.8% and 18.3%, taking their combined stake to over 50%.

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Government to Convert Vodafone Idea’s AGR dues into Equity

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Bharti Airtel acquires 23 percent stake in Indus Towers held by subsidiary Nettle Infrastructure

Telecom operator Bharti Airtel has increased its direct stake in Indus Towers by acquiring 23.01 percent shares held by its completely owned subsidiary Nettle Infrastructure, a regulatory filing said on Saturday. Bharti Airtel now holds a 47.95 percent stake in Indus Towers. The telecom operator earlier directly held a 24.94 percent stake and 23.01 percent through its subsidiary Nettle Infrastructure. Bharti Airtel has acquired the 23.01 percent stake in Indus Towers from Nettle to directly own 47.95 percent of the mobile tower firm. This is pursuant to the “composite scheme of amalgamation approved by the Hon’ble National Company Law Tribunal, Chandigarh bench, vide its order dated January 25, 2023, and becoming effective from February 1, 2023”, the filing said.

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6) Technology

MeitY To Block 232 Betting & Loan Apps With China Links

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has started blocking 138 betting and 94 loan apps with alleged links to China. According to sources cited by Business Standard, MeitY is blocking these apps, alleging money laundering and posing a threat to India’s financial security. The publication noted that the government received an alert from a nodal officer of the Ministry of Home Affairs, which prompted the crackdown. Sources cited by BS noted that the blocking orders were issued on an ‘urgent and emergency’ basis. These apps were being operated from offshore entities, which were mainly Chinese. A government official was cited as saying that the action also comes as part of the Centre’s crackdown on online betting activities. The government is looking to completely remove betting from India’s online space, given the crackdown on betting apps. There is an ongoing debate on whether an online gaming app is a game of chance or a game of skill. The government is specifically targeting apps that are offering wagers on games of chance, which has led to confusion and litigation in the industry. The matters are further complicated when it comes to taxation, which has only contributed to litigation.

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Startups to benefit from expansion and extension of tax incentives

Even as the Economic Survey 2022-23 highlighted the multi-fold growth in registered startups, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, in her Budget speech, touched upon the government’s focused attention on the startup ecosystem. “We have taken a number of measures for startups, and they have borne results,” said Sitharaman. “India is now the third largest ecosystem for startups globally and ranks second in innovation quality among middle-income countries.” The FM proposed to extend the date of incorporation for income tax benefits to startups from March 31, 2023, to March 31, 2024. She further proposed to provide the benefit of carrying forward losses on change of shareholding of startups from seven years of incorporation to ten years.

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7) Politics

Talking Politics with Nistula Hebbar | Union Budget 2023-24 | All you need to know

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Congress leaders hold protest demanding probe against Adani

Congress leaders led by Khairatabad DCC president C. Rohin Reddy held a demonstration at the SBI’s state head office at Gunfoundry here on Monday as part of an ongoing nationwide campaign by the party, which is demanding a probe into the allegations against the Adani Group. Party leaders asked why Prime Minister Narendra Modi was not ready to set up a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) to investigate the allegations. “When the government can attach properties of people, why is it shying away from even initiating a probe,” Rohin Reddy said, speaking to Deccan Chronicle. “The future of SBI and LIC is at stake, as they have major investments in the Adani Group.”

For details, visit here.

8) Sports

1st time in History! Shivnarine’s son Tagenarine Chanderpaul achieves the rarest of the rare feat

West Indies cricketer Tagenarine Chanderpaul on Monday scripted history as he scored his maiden Test hundred in the first match against Zimbabwe. Tagenarine reached the three-digit mark on Day 3 of the match in Bulawayo. The 26-year-old didn’t just stop there as he went on to convert his hundred into an unbeaten double century with West Indies declaring the first innings at 447/6. With the double ton, Tagenarine joined his father, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, to become the first father-son duo with a double century in Test cricket.

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9) Opinion

How Will the Adani Group Fallout Impact India’s Economy?

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India Rising hits a Roadblock: The Short Selling Threat to the Adani Group!

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India’s Indus Water Treaty with Pakistan ignored China all along. Time to fix it now

New Delhi’s missive to Islamabad asking for modification of the 1960 Indus Water Treaty could not have come at a worse time for Pakistan, which is reeling under economic crisis and sectarian killings. The treaty was always a bone of contention between the two countries, observed more in its violation by Pakistan. The Indus River, which forms the Indus basin, has nine tributaries flowing through Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, and Tibet (now under Chinese occupation). While the 1960 treaty only considers India and Pakistan, the acts of commission and omission of China vis-à-vis the Indus Basin cannot be overlooked. After the tragic Partition, India got embroiled in land and water disputes with Pakistan over Kashmir and with China on Aksai Chin and Karakoram Ranges as also the areas adjoining Galwan and other river-flow terrains in Ladakh valley. Thus, both Ladakh and PoK become important geographies in determining the resolution of the water-sharing solutions not only between India and Pakistan but also with China.

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Understanding the Indus Waters Treaty & why India is pushing Pakistan for changes

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10) Weekly special

OpenAI’s Sam Altman Talks ChatGPT and how Artificial General Intelligence can ‘Break Capitalism’

As CEO of OpenAI, Sam Altman captains the buzziest — and most scrutinized — a startup in the fast-growing generative AI category, the subject of a recent feature story in the February issue of Forbes. After visiting OpenAI’s San Francisco offices in mid-January, Forbes spoke to the recently press-shy investor and entrepreneur about ChatGPT, artificial general intelligence, and whether his AI tools pose a threat to Google Search.

For details, visit here.

With that, we come to the end of our Weekly Current Affairs February 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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