China's latest provocation
India is keeping its fingers crossed over the latest Chinese move wherein Beijing has begun mapping of South China Sea, triggering fears that China is going to step up its oil exploration to reinforce its territorial claims, diplomatic sources said in New Delhi on April 9. India has invested over $5 billion dollars for oil exploration works in South China Sea.
State-owned Global Times, in a report published on March 27, 2012, quoted Zhang Yunling, Director of the Institute for International Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, as saying that geographical surveys of the South China Sea was first step in a string of strategic benefits that China can reap in near future. “The majority of the disputed waters used to be beyond our reach because we seldom put our claims into action. By drawing a map, the country can reinforce its jurisdiction claim in the South China Sea, and further actions may follow, such as exploiting resources near the Nansha Islands,” Zhang said.
According to a report released by the National Administration of Surveying, Mapping and Geoinformation (NASMG) on March 25, 2012, a work group jointly set up by 13 government agencies will continue geographical surveying of the South China Sea and draw a map of the sea or its islands to “declare China's stance” on territorial issues.
Apart from India, other regional powers like Japan and Vietnam too have reasons to be worried over China’s latest provocation. Similar mapping work will also be carried out on the Diaoyu Islands (a major area of dispute between China and Japan) and other important areas in the East China Sea “when the time is right”, the NASMG report added. The 13 government agencies include the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Public Security and the Ministry of Commerce.
Sources said that through the mapping, the Chinese government’s objective is to clarify the specific locations of the so-called “nine-dashed line” or “U-shape line” by setting their longitudes and latitudes. They may also survey the locations of islands and reefs currently on record, which have changed due to tides over the past decades.
For the record sake, senior Chinese officials have made statements downplaying the threats to peace in the region arising out of the Chinese move, but what is interesting is that even in these official statements, meant to calm the neighbours’ nerves, these officials have stated that “a spat is inevitable”. The following published statement of Zhuang Guotu, Director of Southeast Asian Studies at Xiamen University, is a case in point: “A spat is inevitable but tensions are unlikely to escalate as maintaining cooperation despite disputes has been a basic consensus that China and relevant countries hold.”
SSC moots single common screening text
Staff Selection Commission (SSC) Chairman N.K. Raghupathy has stated that in order to deal with the huge number of applications being received by the SSC in the past 3-4 years, the Commission has mooted a proposal for a single Common Screening Test for different levels.
The aim is to limit the ratio of second stage applications to vacancies. Presently this ratio is 260:1, Raghupathy said while speaking at a day-long workshop on objective type multiple choice questions in statistics here. He said that despite the large volume, the time taken by SSC to complete recruitment process is 12-13 months, compared to European nations’ 18-20 months.
Raghupathy said the number of applications received by SSC in the past 3-4 years had gone up substantially. The Commission handled 61.78 lakh applications in 2010-11 compared to 19.64 lakh in 2009-10 and 10.27 lakh in 2008-09. In 2011-12 it had received 91 lakh applications as on March 22, 2012.
The SSC Chairman, while enlisting the steps taken by the Commission to increase its efficacy and provide better services, made a pointed mention to the introduction of online applications since February 2010, which he said had benefitted the candidates as well as the government. It is estimated that each candidate registering online saves Rs.25 in postal and other costs and the Commission’s precious time as application processing is not required and data entry costs just Rs.4 to 5 per application. This has helped in reducing the duration of recruitment cycle too. Approximately 35 lakh applicants have registered online since its introduction and the percentage of online registration has been showing steady increase and touched 50 per cent or above in recent examinations.
Another important achievement highlighted by Raghupathy was the SSC’s administration of skill tests on computer with no cost to the candidates and introduction of Computer Proficiency Test for certain posts. It is estimated that almost 75 per cent of candidates selected by the Commission in 2010-11 have proficiency or working knowledge of computers.
V Narayanasamy, Minister of State in the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions and PMO, said it was appreciable that no complaints were received so far about SSC selections. (FOC)
BRICS bats for Iran, Syria
PM cautions against “political disruptions”
The 4th BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) summit, hosted for the first time by India, issued a Delhi Declaration on April 5, recognising Iran’s right to peaceful uses of nuclear energy and underlining the need to “respect” Syria independence while dealing with that West Asian country through an inclusive political process.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh gave a broad idea of his government’s stand on the ongoing Iran crisis by urging the members of the grouping to ensure that “political disruptions” are avoided. Singh’s statement is aimed at cautioning the United States-led international community from precipitating the Iran crisis that can disrupt oil supplies in a big way and send the already soaring oil prices sky-rocketing.
“We must avoid political disruptions that create volatilities in global energy markets and affect trade flows,” the Prime Minister said in an obvious reference to Iran. The Prime Minister also said BRICS has agreed to examine in “greater detail” a proposal to set up a South-South Development bank, funded and managed by BRICS and other developing countries. Singh also said that policy coordination is a must to revive economic growth and urged fellow BRICS members to speak in one voice on key issues such as UNSC reforms.
Apart from the Indian Prime Minister, the 4th BRICS summit was attended by Presidents Dilma Roussef (Brazil), Dmitry Medvedev (Russia), Hu Jintao (China) and Jacob Zuma (South Africa).
On Iran, the Delhi Declaration stressed that the situation cannot be allowed to escalate into conflict, the disastrous consequences of which will be in no one’s interest. “We are concerned about the situation that is emerging around Iran’s nuclear issue. We recognise Iran’s right to peaceful uses of nuclear energy consistent with its international obligations, and support resolution of the issues involved through political and diplomatic means and dialogue between the parties concerned, including between the IAEA and Iran and in accordance with the provisions of the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions,” the BRICS leaders said unanimously.
On Syria, the Delhi Declaration called for an immediate end to all violence and violations of human rights in that country. “Global interests would best be served by dealing with the crisis through peaceful means that encourage broad national dialogues that reflect the legitimate aspirations of all sections of Syrian society and respect Syrian independence, territorial integrity and sovereignty,” it said, adding that the BRICS’ objective is to facilitate a Syrian-led inclusive political process.
On the issue of terrorism, the BRICS leaders noted that there can be no justification, whatsoever, for any act of terrorism in any form or manifestation and emphasized the need for an early finalisation of the draft of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism in the UN General Assembly. The grouping also batted for a comprehensive reform of the UN, including its Security Council, with a view to making it more effective, efficient and representative so that it can deal with today’s global challenges more successfully.