5, December 2016

1.Sixth Ministerial Conference of the Heart of Asia Istanbul Process on Afghanistan

Source: PIB

Conference of Heart of Asia

The sixth edition of ‘Heart of Asia- Istanbul Process of Aghanistan‘ conference, an annual regional gathering of Asian and other countries was held in Amritsar, Punjab (India).

  • Amritsar, a city blessed with simplicity, beauty and spirituality, and abode to the Golden Temple, the holiest shrines of Sikhs.
  • It is a place made sacred by Sikh Gurus who meditated here. It embodies peace and humanism, and is open to all people and religions. Its streets and parks tell stories of great valour and immense sacrifice.

Key Facts

  • The delegates from nearly 40 countries and leading groupings like EU participated in conference. Indian delegation was led by Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.
  • The theme of this edition of the conference was “Addressing Challenges, Achieving Prosperity”.

The three big issues of the conference were

  • Countering  terrorism  to create stability in Afghanistan,
  • Providing Afghanistan connectivity to strengthen economic activities and
  • The  development  which is essential for its progress.

Amritsar Declaration

  • Terrorism: It is the biggest threat to peace and security. It needs to be ended in all forms of terrorism and all support financial and safe havens providing sanctuary to it.
  • Expressed concern over violence caused in Afghanistan and region by terrorists groups like Al Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Toiba, Daesh (ISIS) and Jaish-e-Mohammed. It also mentions Haqqani Network.
  • Drug menace: There is urgency to respond to the nexus between drug menace and its financial support for terrorist entities in Afghanistan.
  • CCIT: Early finalisation of the draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism (CCIT).
  • Early meeting of experts must be held to discuss a draft regional counter terrorism framework strategy, recently prepared by Afghanistan for its early finalisation.
  • Connectivity: Reiterated strong support from Heart of Asia countries for use of Afghanistan’s location to enhance wider and regional economic cooperation.
  • Specific initiatives for regional connectivity including Iran-India-Afghanistan trilateral agreement on developing Chabahar were acknowledged
  • OBOR: Welcomes the MOU on Jointly Building the Silk Road Economic Belt (OBOR) and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road between China and Afghanistan.
  • International community and ANDSF: Welcomed agreements between the international community and Afghanistan for continued financial support to the Afghanistan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF) until 2020.

About Heart of Asia

  • HoA conference is a part of the Istanbul Process established 2011 which provides a platform to discuss an agenda of regional cooperation with Afghanistan at its centre.
  • It was seeks to provide a platform to discuss regional issues, particularly encouraging security, political, and economic cooperation among Afghanistan and its neighbours.

Its three main elements are

(i) Political Consultation involving Afghanistan and its near and extended neighbours.

(ii) Achieving sustained incremental approach to implementation of Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) identified in the Istanbul Process document.

(iii) Seeks to contribute and bring greater coherence to work of various regional processes and organisations, particularly as they relate to Afghanistan.

14 participating countries: Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Azerbaijan and Turkey.

These countries engage in result-oriented cooperation for a peaceful and stable Afghanistan and, by extension, a secure and prosperous region as a whole.

Supporting countries: Australia, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Iraq, Japan, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden, UK and US.

Supporting Organisations: UN, NATO, SAARC, SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organisation) and OIC (Organisation of Islamic Cooperation).

  1. CERT-In warns micro-ATMs against malware attacks

Source: Indian Express

The premier cyber security agency CERT-In has cautioned bankers, customers and traders against skimming and malware attacks on micro ATMs and Point of Sale (POS) terminals.

The move comes as usage of POS and micro-ATMs counters have witnessed a sharp surge post demonetisation. It has asked to adopt high-end encryption to plug possible breaches.

In this regard, CERT-In has issued two specific advisories for micro-Automated Teller Machines and POS terminals.

Potential  threats?

  • Skimming: It is the theft of classified credit/debit card data. Using this method, a hacker (thief) can obtain the victim’s card number using a small electronic device near the card acceptance slot and store hundreds of card details at a time.
  • Social engineering attack: It can be engineered at these banking and POS facilities, by gaining trust of the card owner as the fraudster poses as a member of staff.

What the CERT-In advisory says?

  • Micro-ATMs security features must be strong and updated in order to check attempts by hackers who stealthily plan to steal private customer and bank data.
  • Point to Point Encryption (P2PE) should be used to minimise this risk as it will encrypt the card data and keep it encrypted to the maximum extent throughout its life.
  • Banks and micro ATM operators must use some counter-measures to thwart cyberattacks.
  • Micro ATM must not transmit any confidential data unencrypted on the network. It must automatically log out the operator and lock itself after a period of inactivity.
  • Operators must keep all micro ATM software, application, anti-virus regularly updated and educate the customer about basic functionalities and security best practises.
  • Customers must render due diligence of securing their PIN and not sharing vital details with strangers.

Micro ATM: It work with minimal power and connect to central banking servers through a GPRS network. It enables the un-banked rural population to access banking services in their villages or towns. It offers facilities of deposit, withdrawal, balance enquiry, issuance of mini-statement and funds transfer.

CERT-In (Indian Computer Emergency Response Team): It is the nodal agency that deals with cyber security threats like hacking and phishing.

It is government organisation under Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology. It aims to strengthen security-related defence of the Indian Internet domain.

  1. National survey to measure nutrition levels of children

Source: Indian Express

A total of 1,20,000 children in the age group of 0-19 years are being surveyed across the country through systematic random sampling as part of the exercise.

UNICEF(United Nations Children’s Fund is a United Nations (UN)) – Headquatered in New York

UNICEF is fully committed to working with the Government of India to ensure that each child born in this country gets the best start in life, thrives and develops to his or her full potential.

UNICEF India recognizes that the health, hygiene, nutrition, education, protection and social development of children are all connected. Targeting efforts for them at all stages of their growth – infant and mother, child and adolescent – and on a range of traditional programme fronts will see that inroads are made to ensure children not only survive, but thrive too.

  • The UNICEF has teamed up with the Indian government to conduct the first ever national survey to measure nutrition levels of children in the country. As per the survey, data is being collected to quantify deficiencies of micro nutrients, vitamin and mineral as well as worm infestation among children.
  • According to UNICEF, the findings of the exercise will start trickling in early next year. A total of 1,20,000 children in the age group of 0-19 years are being surveyed across the country through systematic random sampling as part of the exercise.

All the states of the country are expected to be covered by the end of 2017.

National Nutrition Survey

  • In terms of nutritional aspect, there is just one intervention from the Government of India in order to fight anaemia, which is by providing folic acid and iron supplements. But anaemia is caused not merely because of iron deficiency, but also due to a whole bunch of nutritional deficiencies like Vitamin A, folic acid, zinc and even protein deficiency.
  • Apart from this, there is a whole spectrum of infection as well as worm infestation.
  • The reason why there is no intervention for these multiple deficiencies is that do not know where the population stands in terms of mineral and vitamin requirements

UNICEF said indicators for over-nutrition (which causes obesity and diabetes) are also being calculated through body composition and fat distribution as part of the study. Importantly, association between lack of nourishment and its impact on school readiness, cognitive development and educational outcomes will also be determined, it said.

A committee comprising of national experts and chaired by the Health Ministry will decide the specific indicators to be included in the fact sheet as well as the cut-offs to be used to define deficiency.

  1. Sagarmala could deepen India’s trade and investment ties with China

Source: The Hindu

Krishnapatnam port as a pivot for promoting India-China trade and investment ties.

Sagarmala initiative and Beijing’s Maritime Silk Road (MSR).

India’s decision to rapidly develop ports, especially along the east coast, and China’s renewed focus on an expansion of its harbours are resulting in an unintended fusion of the Sagarmala initiative and Beijing’s Maritime Silk Road (MSR).


  • The ports of Krishnapatnam and Machilipatnam in Andhra Pradesh as well as the Colachel Port in Tamil Nadu are among the new hubs of coastal development, linked with the Sagarmala initiative — Prime Minister project of having a string of world class ports, enmeshed with well-connected industrial clusters in the hinterland.


  • In a way, Sagarmala follows the same model pursued by China, where the coastal centres of the Shenzhen, Shanghai and Guangzhou became engines for opening up a vast hinterland.
  • The conference was co-hosted by the Indian Consulate General in Guangzhou and the local branch of the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT).

India Business Council (CIBC)

where Chinese entrepreneurs keen to leave a footprint in India probed for distilled practical information, ended with the establishment of a Liaison Office of the China India Business Council (CIBC).

  • The organisation, though formed in 1985 to promote Sino-Indian business ties, had gone into deep hibernation. But Chinese officials of Hunan Province, of which Changsha is the capital, are now upbeat that the new Liaison office can help revive the apex CIBC.
  • Unlike India, China is now at the cusp of a second cycle of port-led growth as part of the MSR.
  • An inter-ministerial document on the ‘Belt and Road’ initiative, which includes both the land and maritime wings of a massive connectivity plan spanning Asia, Europe and Africa, earmarks some of the lesser-known ports for major expansion.
  • Apart from Shanghai, Tianjin, Shenzhen and Guangzhou, the document lists Zhanjiang, Qingdao, Yantai and Dalian, as among the shore-based gateways that are set for a facelift.
  • The Chinese list docks well with some of the harbours, including Krishnapatnam’s, which fall within the Sagarmala blueprint.
  • The Maersk shipping line has direct connectivity with four ports in China — Shanghai, Qingdao, Zhanjiang, and Nansha. These four ports are directly connected to Krishnapatnam port on a weekly basis.
  • Though not on the coastline, its integration with a nation-wide rail and road network positions Changsha prominently as one of the pivots of both the MSR, as well as the New Silk Road land corridor.

The city has high speed rail connectivity with the ports of Guangzhou, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Hong Kong. It is also the starting point of trains heading out to Duisburg in Germany—a distance of around 11,000 km — along the Eurasian land corridor.

Cultural ties between Sino-India:

  • Officials in Changsha are also keen to revive cultural ties, with Buddhism—the shared heritage of India and China—as the foundation.
  • It has been planned to develop the Buddhist circuit with India to add a strong cultural dimension to the growing ties.
  • Reviving cultural linkages should be a very creative exercise in Hunan, Buddhism is uniquely combined with elements of Confucius thought and Taoism.

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