International Current Affairs 2017

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China unveils World’s First Train that runs on Virtual Tracks

China has unveiled world’s first train that runs on a virtual track making use of sensor technology instead of metal rails.

Salient Highlights

The new trains are non-polluting as they are battery powered.

The train is capable of reaching a top speed of 70 kmph and can travel a distance of 25 km by just charging for 10 minutes.

The train which is only about 32 metres long can carry up to 307 passengers.

The new trains are fitted with sensors which are capable of detecting the dimensions of the road permitting it to follow the routes without the need for metal rails. So it can run without the presence of tracks. The new trains will make use of rubber wheels on a plastic core and can be automatically guided without rails. This new technology has been copyrighted by the Chinese rail corporation.

The train will be rolled out for public use in 2018. It will be launched in the Chinese city of Zhuzhou in a bid to help to deal with traffic in the area.

The new train is expected to have a lifespan of around 25 years.

The cost of the new train is only a fifth of the price of a traditional subway system.

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India and Portugal inks Agreement to Promote Cooperation in The Field of Archives

India and Portugal have signed a protocol of cooperation in the field of archives. The agreement has been signed between the National Archives of India and the Ministry of Culture of the Portuguese Republic in Lisbon, Portugal.

Salient Highlights

As a part of the Cooperation, the Torre do Tombo (National Archives of Portugal) has handed over digital copies of 62 volumes of the collection known as ‘Moncoes do Reino’ (Monsoon correspondence) to the National Archives of India. These volumes were originally part of over 456 volumes which is the largest of all record collections in the Goa State Archives. The collection consists of direct correspondence from Lisbon to Goa and covers the period from 1568 to 1914. These volumes serve as the most important primary source for the study of the Portuguese expansion in Asia and their trade rivalries with the Arabs and European powers as well as their relations with neighbouring Kings in South Asia and East Asia.

In 1777, 62 volumes out of the 456 comprising over 12,000 documents, belonging to the period from 1605 to 1651 were shifted from Goa to Lisbon. At Lisbon, these volumes were subsequently got printed under the title ‘Documentos Remetidos da India’(Documents sent from India) by the Academy of Science at Lisbon between 1880 and 1893. Since then the original volumes had remained in Lisbon.

After a gap of 240 years, Director General of Books, Archives and Libraries has handed over a set of digital images of the missing volumes of the Moncoes do Reino series to India.

Background

From 1505 to 1961, some territories of India remained under Portuguese State of India (Estado da India) or Portuguese India (Índia Portuguesa). The Indian empire of Portuguese was mainly confined in isolated colonies in both East and West Coast of India and was part of Portuguese possessions in Asia, East Africa and Pacific.

Earlier, during the visit of Prime Minister of Portugal to India as the chief Guest of 2017 Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in January, India and Portugal had signed sixmemorandam of understandings (MoUs) including in defence cooperation.

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India ratifies UN TIR Convention in a bid to Counter China’s OBOR

India has become the 71st nation to join the United Nations TIR (Transports Internationaux Routiers) Convention. India’s decision to join the convention is part of its multi-modal transport strategy that aims at integrating Indian economy with global and regional production networks through better connectivity.

In March 2017, Union Cabinet had approved India’s accession to the Customs Convention on International Transport of Goods under TIR Convention. The UN has confirmed that the TIR Convention will enter into force in India in 6 months.

TIR

The Customs Convention on International Transport of Goods under Cover of TIR Carnets, 1975 (TIR Convention) is an international customs transit system under the auspices of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) with the widest geographical coverage. It is more than a transport convention. At present, there are 70 parties to the convention including the European Union.

The TIR is managed and developed by International Road Transport Union (IRU) which is the world road transport organisation. The TIR procedure facilitates movement of goods under customs control across international borders without the payment of the duties and taxes. It provides a robust guarantee mechanism facilitating the higher growth of Intra-regional trade.

Significance

Accession to TIR will help India in implementing the World Trade Organization’s Trade Facilitation Agreement which it has already entered into this year.

With China’s ambitious ‘One Belt One Road’ (OBOR) project, India has no other option other than to join TIR if it wants to be counted as a serious rising power. China is already a TIR member.

Accession to TIR will ensure enhanced security in the supply chain as it allows only approved transporters and vehicles to operate under the terms of the Convention.

The Indian traders will get access to fast, reliable and hassle-free international system for movement of goods by road or multi-modal means.

It will improve India’s cross-border road transport. On the eastern front, it will help in integrating with Myanmar, Thailand, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal. On the western front, it will help in transporting cargo along the International North-South Transport Corridor via Chabahar port in Iran. Further, it will give access to landlocked Afghanistan and the energy-rich Eurasian region.

It can help in implementing the Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal (BBIN) Motor Vehicles Agreement by addressing policy incompatibility issues among the BBIN nations.

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