Archives  >  2019  >  July  >  10th

Bye Bye, Miss American Pie

1. What’s the story?

India and the US are in the middle of a full-blown tariff war. Following weeks of simmering tension, US President Donald Trump tweeted out the following statement on Tuesday: “India has long had a field day putting Tariffs on American products. No longer acceptable!” (Quick recap: A tariff is a tax paid on a particular class of imports or exports.)

Tell me more.
Strangely enough, it all began with America’s beef with Iran.

Last year, in a fit of controversy, the Trump administration had decided to impose sanctions on all eight countries importing oil from Iran. This was intended to dissuade major nations from doing business with the Middle-Eastern country. Despite this, India had worked out an extended waiver for itself. That waiver, unfortunately, ended in May 2019. Interestingly, that was also the month when Iranian Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif, landed in India for a state visit. Even though things were looking up back in May, New Delhi came out strongly in support of Iranian oil last week. “India’s bilateral relations with Iran stand on their own and are not influenced by India’s relations with any third country,” declared Minister of State for External Affairs, V Muraleedharan. (FYI, Iran is India’s third-largest oil importer.)

Imposing more and more sanctions on one another seems to be how these two countries have decided to deal with this sticky situation. In late May, Trump announced that he was revoking India’s preferential trade status (referring to GSP) for more than USD 5 billion worth of trade. [Quick recap: The US Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) is a trade initiative that helps developing countries expand their economies by letting them send some duty-free products into the US. In recent years, India has benefited from this program the most.] In response, India merrily slapped duties on numerous US imports, including a widely reported 50% tax on Harley Davidson bikes.

So, what now?
Things seemed to have cooled down a bit during the G20 summit this past month, when Modi and Trump had issued joint statements about the “bigger issue” of stabilization in the Middle East. But latest developments seem to have put us firmly back to square one. Iran is hopeful, though.

The future looks rocky. Keep your eyes on the news.

2. Who else should I be looking at?

Pandu Mandavi, that’s who. Back in 2010, this Adivasi man found himself wrongfully accused of carrying out a Maoist attack. For nine years, he lived in constant fear. He was, after all, just another casualty of a profitable, new Bastar industry. “… a lucrative industry exists in Bastar, which thrives on the detentions, arrests, surrenders and murders of Adivasis in dubious Maoist-related cases. Its chief beneficiaries are the police, but it also supplies lawyers with hefty fees and journalists with an endless stream of photo-ops.” This is his story.

3. What more?

The United Nations (UN) is not happy with India. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has issued a strongly worded report (13 months after issuing the first one) warning India about an increase in state-sanctioned human rights violation in Kashmir. 160 civilians were killed in political violence in Kashmir last year – the highest such number in a decade. 1253 people have reported being blinded by pellet guns between 2016 and 2018. The troubled state seems to be on a downward spiral, and the government’s refusal to investigate civilian deaths is not helping.

In its official response to the report, India has accused the UN of a prejudiced mindset.

4. Anything else?

The Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha feels bad for Muslim women. A few months ago, it had appealed to the Supreme Court of India, asking for “permission for Muslim women to enter and pray in mosques.” The Supreme Court, however, was having none of it. It outright dismissed the petition earlier this week, summing everything up in the following sentence: “Let a Muslim woman come and challenge it. Then we will consider.

5. Is that all?

It took Europe a couple of World Wars to form the European Union. It took Africa just about four years. In a landmark statement, African leaders have announced the creation of a 55-nation trade zone. The sheer numbers are staggering. The proposed trade zone is expected to cover 1.3 billion people, create trillions of dollars of trade, and bring about dramatic economic changes in the continent. We will keep you posted.

6. Before you leave…

The Philippines is not known for its lenient drug laws. Ironically, though, cocaine bricks keep washing up on its beaches.

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