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North Korea Map, Pixabay

India violated the UN Security Council sanctions on North Korea last year, sometimes even going against its own government orders, by importing metals worth $2.2 million and exporting jewellery valued at more than $578,000, according the UN panel monitoring the sanctions. Some of the imports and exports continued even after the Indian government issued a notification banning them in March last year.

The panel of experts established by the Council said in a recent report that it found that between January and September last year India had imported iron and steel valued at $1.4 million, iron and steel products worth $234,000, copper worth $233,000 and $526,000 of zinc, ignoring the sanctions.

India also exported jewellery worth $578,994, which included diamonds valued at $514,823, between January and June.

Representational Image, Pixabay

“All exports (from North Korea) after 4 September 2017 violated paragraph 8 of resolution 2371 (2017), while those before 4 September 2017 violated paragraph 26 of resolution 2321 (2016),” the report said.

Those resolutions demand that countries prohibit the import of iron and iron ore from North Korea.

A 2013 resolution expressly banned export of precious and semi-precious stones to North Korea.

In contrast to its dealings with North Korea, India has in other cases strongly supported strict implementation of Council sanctions and in some cases called for more stringent actions, especially relating to terrorism, and criticised countries opposing those restrictions.

The iron imports continued even after March last year when India’s Directorate General of Foreign Trade imposed restrictions on importing iron and iron ore from North Korea, even as it said the sanctions lacked clarity, according to a note from India’s UN Mission to the sanctions panel last July.

“Pending clarity on this issue, national implementation of the measures contained in UNSC resolutions 2270 (2016) and 2321 (2016) relating to iron and iron-ore was nevertheless carried out by Government of India through a notification issued by the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) on 21 March 2017,” it said.

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The identities of those who imported from North Korea or exported to it were not included in the report and it is not known if the Indian government took action against those who made the imports in violation of its orders in March or if an investigation is under way.

A UN source familiar with its sanctions monitoring told IANS that India had not provided details about the importers and exporters and the report relied on trade data compiled by the UN and proprietary information from organisations that gather commercial information on trade.

New Delhi reiterated its commitment to implement the sanctions in a report India’s UN Mission sent last month to Karel Van Oosterom, the Netherlands Permanent Representative who chairs the Council’s North Korea Sanctions Committee.

Indian authorities “will ensure that the relevant provisions” of the Council sanctions will be “implemented in letter and spirit,” the report declared.

It said that an order issued on March 5 by the External Affairs Ministry would implement the sanctions relating to North Korea and a notification was issued on March 7 by the DGFT to regulate trade with North Korea to conform to the sanctions.

Big spurts in imports were noticed in August and September just as efforts were under way in the Security Council to tighten sanctions after Pyongyang carried out missile tests, a UN source familiar with the sanctions process told IANS.

Suddenly the iron and steel imports rose from $69,577 in July to $281,000 in August and $487,000 in September, and iron and steel products import went up to $21,000 in September, the source pointed out.

In case of copper, there was again a spurt, from $13,990 in June to $47,000 in August and $152,000 in September.

The sanctions panel’s report to the Council referred to an earlier explanation sent in July by India about the violations that it blamed on a lack of clarity about the sanctions.

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That communication from India’s UN Mission asserted that “there was no clarity regarding the scope of the measures related to iron and iron ore since there was no elaboration/explanation of the word ‘iron’ and ‘iron ore’.”

It also asked for “clarity” regarding the items banned, including luxury goods.

A UN official told IANS that sanctions monitors had given India details on how various countries had dealt with the definitions of materials in the sanctions as well as the World Customs Organisation’s codes identifying the products.

India could have more credibly invoked a clause that permits some imports “exclusively for livelihood purposes” that was used, for example, by Russia, the official said.

The July communication said that in March last year, India had tightened the ban on trade with North Korea.

The notification of the ban from the DGFT (Notification No. 41/2015-2020; 21 March 2017) mentioned the Council resolutions and specifically mentioned import of iron ore and export of luxury items (which included jewelry and diamonds).

As regards the assertion in the report about the bans requiring “due legal process for incorporating them in domestic law,” an official pointed out that the UN Charter takes precedence and requires compliance. (IANS)


Photo by Wikimedia Commons

An international team of astronomers has identified 366 new exoplanets

An international team of astronomers has identified 366 new exoplanets, using data from the NASA Kepler Space Telescope's K2 mission.

The findings, described in a paper published in the Astronomical Journal, showed a planetary system that comprises a star and at least two gas giant planets, each roughly the size of Saturn and located unusually close to one another.

The discovery is significant because it's rare to find gas giants -- like Saturn in the solar system -- as close to their host star as they were in this case.

The researchers cannot yet explain why it occurred there, but it makes the finding especially useful because it could help scientists form a more accurate understanding of the parameters for how planets and planetary systems develop.

"The discovery of each new world provides a unique glimpse into the physics that play a role in planet formation," said lead author Jon Zink, a UCLA postdoctoral scholar.

The findings could be a significant step toward helping astronomers understand which types of stars are most likely to have planets orbiting them and what that indicates about the building blocks needed for successful planet formation, acoording to the study.

"We need to look at a wide range of stars, not just ones like our sun, to understand that," Zink said.

The term "exoplanets" is used to describe planets outside of the solar system. The number of exoplanets that have been identified by astronomers numbers fewer than 5,000 in all, so the identification of hundreds of new ones is a significant advance.

Kepler's original mission came to an unexpected end in 2013 when a mechanical failure left the spacecraft unable to precisely point at the patch of sky it had been observing for years.

But astronomers repurposed the telescope for a new mission known as K2, whose objective is to identify exoplanets near distant stars. Data from K2 is helping scientists understand how stars' location in the galaxy influences what kind of planets are able to form around them. (IANS/JB)


In the Indian atomic energy sector, the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE)

By Venkatachari Jagannathan

Officials of the Indian space sector, both serving and retired, are of the view that the space sector's organisational structure is expected to mirror that of India's atomic energy sector.

They also said that senior officials of the Indian space agency should address the employees on what is happening in the sector and how it will pan out so that uncertainty and confusion are addressed.

In the Indian atomic energy sector, the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) is at the top, the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) is the sectoral regulator while the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL), the Bharatiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam Ltd (both power companies), the Uranium Corporation of India Ltd, the Electronics Corporation of India Ltd, and IREL (India) Ltd are public sector units (PSU).

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The Bhabha Atomic Energy Centre (BARC), Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR) are the premier research and development (R&D) organizations and there are several DAE-aided organizations.

While the DAE is headed by a Secretary (normally from the R&D units) who is also the head of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), the R&D centres and PSUs are headed by different persons.

Similarly, the government that has started the space sector reforms seems to be replicating the atomic energy model, several officials told IANS.

"The Central government's moves in the space sector seems to replicate the atomic energy model," an official told IANS.

Currently, the Department of Space (DOS) is at the top and below that, comes the private sector space regulator Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Centre (IN-SPACe), the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) with various R&D-cum-production (rockets, satellites and others) units.

The sector has two PSUs - Antrix Corporation Ltd and NewSpace India Ltd.

Unlike the atomic energy sector, the Secretary of the DOS and Chairman of the Space Commission is also the Chairman of the ISRO.

As part of the space sector reform measures, the government has set up IN-SPACe as a regulator for the private sector players.

"Ultimately there will be only one sectoral regulator. There cannot be two regulators - one for the private sector and other for the public sector. Who will be the regulator if there is a company that is floated in public-private partnership," an official asked.

"It is good that there is a separate sectoral regulator outside of the DOS and the ISRO," an official said.

The recently-formed PSU NewSpace India has been mandated to build, own satellites, rockets and also provide space based services and transfer ISRO-developed technologies to others.

ISRO Chairman and Secretary DOS K.Sivan has been saying that ISRO will focus on high end research.

As a result, the positions of Secretary, DOS and Chairman, ISRO may not be held by the same person.

"Looking forward, there are possibilities of the government coming out with a voluntary retirement scheme for ISRO officials and merging its various production centres with NewSpace to synergise its operations," a former senior official of ISRO told IANS.

"But there is one issue in this proposition. For ISRO, the production centres are also its R&D centre. Both production and R&D are interwoven. One has to see how both will be separated to be housed under ISRO and NewSpace India."

Meanwhile, the minds of ISRO officials are filled with uncertainty and confusion about their future which is linked to that of their organization.

ISRO Staff Association General Secretary G.R.Pramod had told IANS that there is "uncertainty all around about the future of about 17,300 employees of ISRO".

"The ISRO top management that includes the Chairman and the Heads of various centres should come out openly and address the employee concerns at the earliest," an official added.

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The micro-blogging platform already covers explicit instances of abusive behaviour

Twitter has announced to ban sharing of private media, such as photos and videos, without permission from the individuals that are shown in those images.

The micro-blogging platform already covers explicit instances of abusive behaviour under its policies, the expansion of the policy will allow the platform to take action on media that is shared without any explicit abusive content, provided it's posted without the consent of the person depicted.

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"Sharing personal media, such as images or videos, can potentially violate a person's privacy, and may lead to emotional or physical harm," Twitter said in a blog post late on Tuesday.

"The misuse of private media can affect everyone, but can have a disproportionate effect on women, activists, dissidents, and members of minority communities. When we receive a report that a Tweet contains unauthorised private media, we will now take action in line with our range of enforcement options," the company informed.

Under the existing policy, publishing other people's private information, such as phone numbers, addresses, and IDs, is already not allowed on Twitter.

This includes threatening to expose private information or incentivising others to do so.

"There are growing concerns about the misuse of media and information that is not available elsewhere online as a tool to harass, intimidate, and reveal the identities of individuals," Twitter said.

When Twitter is notified by individuals depicted, or by an authorised representative, that they did not consent to having their private image or video shared, it removes it.

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