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India expresses concern over fighting in Yemen

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United Nations: India has expressed concern over the serious economic impact of the fighting in Yemen on global trade and urged the warring groups to get to the negotiating table.

Yemen Conflict. Photo Credit: http://www.newsweek.com
Yemen Conflict. Photo Credit: http://www.newsweek.com

Addressing a Security Council debate on the Middle East, Permanent Representative Asoke Kumar Mukerji said, “With major shipping lines passing through the strait of Bab-el-Mandeb the situation in Yemen has a considerable impact on the cost of shipping and in turn the regional and global trade.”

Besides creating a humanitarian crisis, the Yemeni conflicts “impose serious economic costs for the region and the whole world,” he said. “We, therefore, urge all parties in Yemen to return to the negotiating table forthwith.”

Rebel Houthis have been fighting the government of President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, which is backed by a Saudi-led coalition of Gulf States.

Yemen is located strategically on the maritime cross-roads linking the rest of Asia to the energy-exporting Middle East and beyond to Europe.

In February, the Houthis drove Hadi into exile, but after sustained aerial bombardment by the Saudi coalition, supporters of the exiled president took back the crucial port city of Aden last week.

Mukerji condemned the attacks on UN peacekeepers by terrorists in the Middle East and called for prosecuting them. “Only such action endorsed by the Council will deter such groups in other parts of the world from committing acts of terror,” he said.

He reiterated India’s endorsement of the agreement between Iran and the five Security Council permanent members along with Germany. “India has maintained that diplomatic dialogue is the only effective way to resolve issues,” he added.

About “the activities of proscribed outfits, radicalized and extremist groups” in the Middle East, especially Iraq and Syria, Mukerji said, “We believe the consolidation of political processes and solutions while building durable state institutions will be the effective way of addressing such extremism and radicalism in the region.”

Mukerji reaffirmed India’s support for “a sovereign, independent, viable and a united State of Palestine within secure and recognized borders side-by-side and at peace with Israel with East Jerusalem as its capital.” This puts at rest media speculations that India was cooling off in its support of Palestinian nationhood.

As India and Israel draw closer with a visit to Israel by Narendra Modi — the first-ever by an Indian Prime Minister — slated for this year, Mukerji took a measured approach to conflict between Palestinians and Israel. In contrast, many nonaligned countries had harsh words for Israel.

Calling for a return to the peace process, Mukerji said, “We are particularly worried that since last year there has been a downward trend in the Peace Process despite efforts for serious negotiations between the parties which remained inconclusive. Unilateral actions by the parties unfortunately are moving them further apart.”

(IANS)

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How telecom has become driver of economic change in India

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The country's hyper-competitive telecom sector has led the revolution from the front.
The country's hyper-competitive telecom sector has led the revolution from the front. Wikimedia Commons
  • India has done well to stay ahead of the curve in the technological revolution
  • The sectoral change in productivity has been the highest in the telecommunications sector since the reforms of 1991
  • India has managed to provide the cheapest telephony services around the world

For the most part of human history, the change was glacial in pace. It was quite safe to assume that the world at the time of your death would look pretty much similar to the one at the time of your birth. That is no longer the case, and the pace of change seems to be growing exponentially. Futurist Ray Kurzweil put it succinctly when he wrote in 2001: “We won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century – it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today’s rate).” Since the time of his writing, a lot has changed, especially with the advent of the internet.

India has done well to stay ahead of the curve in the technological revolution. The country’s hyper-competitive telecom sector has led the revolution from the front. In fact, according to Reserve Bank of India data, the sectoral change in productivity has been the highest in the telecommunications sector since the reforms of 1991, growing by over 10 percent. On the other hand, no other sector has had a productivity growth of above five percent during the same period. It is no wonder that it has also been one of the fastest-growing sectors of the Indian economy, growing at over seven percent in the last decade itself.

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Such an unprecedented pace of growth has been brought about the precise levels of change that Kurzweil was so enthusiastic about. Today’s smartphones have the power of computers that took an entire room in the 1990s, and the telecom sector has had to keep up with a provision of commensurate internet speeds and services. Meanwhile, India has managed to provide the cheapest telephony services around the world, which has hit rock bottom after the entry of Reliance Jio. This has ensured access to those even at the bottom of the pyramid.

A rise in internet penetration has distinct positive effects on economic growth of a country.
A rise in internet penetration has distinct positive effects on economic growth of a country. Wikimedia Commons

Even though consumers have come to be accustomed to fast-paced changes within the telecom sector, the entry of Jio altered the face of the industry like never before by changing the very basis of competition. Data became the focal point of competition for an industry that derived over 75 percent of its revenue from voice. It was quite obvious that there would be immediate economic effects due to it. Now that we’re nearing a year of Jio’s paid operations, during which time it has even become profitable, we saw it fit to quantify its socio-economic impact on the country. Three broad takeaways need to be highlighted.

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First, the most evident effect has been the rise in affordability of calling and data services. Voice services have become practically costless while data prices have dropped from an average of Rs 152 per GB to lower than Rs 10 per GB. Such a drastic reduction in data prices has not only brought the internet within the reach of a larger proportion of the Indian population but has also allowed newer segments of society to use and experience it for the first time. Since the monthly saving of an average internet user came out to be Rs 142 per month (taking a conservative estimate that the consumer is still using 1 GB of data each month) and there are about 350 million mobile internet users in the country (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India data), the yearly financial savings for the entire country comes out to be Rs 60,000 crore.

To put things in perspective, this amount is more than four times the entire GDP of Bhutan. Therefore, mere savings by the consumer on data has been at astonishing proportions.

Today's smartphones have the power of computers that took an entire room in the 1990s, and the telecom sector has had to keep up with a provision of commensurate internet speeds and services. Wikimedia Commons
Today’s smartphones have the power of computers that took an entire room in the 1990s, and the telecom sector has had to keep up with a provision of commensurate internet speeds and services. Wikimedia Commons

Now, this data has been used for services that have brought to life a thriving app economy within the country. So, the second level of impact has been in the redressal of a variety of consumer needs — ranging from education, health and entertainment to banking. For instance, students in remote areas can now access online courseware and small businesses can access newer markets. Information asymmetry has been considerably reduced.

Third, a rise in internet penetration has distinct positive effects on economic growth of a country. These effects arise not merely from the creation of an internet economy, but also due to the synergy effects it generates. Information becomes more accessible and communication a lot easier. Businesses find it easier to operate and access consumers. Labour working in cities has to make less frequent trips home and becomes more productive as a result. Education and health services become available in inaccessible locations. Multiple avenues open up for knowledge and skill enhancement.

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An econometric analysis for the Indian economy showed that the 15 percent increase in internet penetration due to Jio and the spill-over effects it creates will raise the per capita levels of the country’s GDP by 5.85 percent, provided all else remains constant.

Thus, India’s telecom sector will continue to drive the economy forward, at least in the short run, and hopefully catapult India into 20,000 years of progress within this century, as Kurzweil postulated. The best approach for the state would be to ensure the environment of unfettered competition within the industry. Maybe other sectors of the economy ought to take a leaf out of the telecom growth story. The Indian banking sector comes to mind. However, that is a topic for another day. (IANS)

(Amit Kapoor is Chair, Institute for Competitiveness, India. He can be contacted at Amit. Kapoor@competitiveness.in and tweets @kautiliya. Chirag Yadav, a senior researcher at the institute, has contributed to the article.)