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Pakistan Leases Gwadar port to a State-run Chinese firm for 40 years

Pakistan has leased the operations of its strategic Gwadar port to a State-run Chinese firm, the China Overseas Port Holding Company (COPHC) for a period of 40 years. COPHC is slated to carry out all the developmental work on the port situated in the Balochistan province of Pakistan. COPHC took over the operations of the port in 2013. Previously, the control of the Gwadar port was with Singapore’s PSA (Port of Singapore Authority) International.

As per the contract, 91% share of revenue collection from gross revenue of terminal and marine operations as well as 85% share from gross revenue of free zone operation will go to the COPHC. The provinces will not be given any share in the revenue collection.

Gwadar Port is a warm-water, deep-sea port situated on the Arabian Sea at Gwadar in Balochistan province of Pakistan. It is located at the mouth of the Persian Gulf just outside the strategically important Strait of Hormuz. It features as the southern Pakistan hub of the $57 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) plan. It is considered as a vital link between the Chinese One Belt, One Road initiative and the Maritime Silk Road project.

Advantages for China

Gwadar offers China a shortest route to oil-rich West Asia and Africa. China can use the port to transport fuel into north-western China, by transporting oil and gas from the port through pipelines to China’s Xinjiang province. Having Gwadar under its command would change the security dynamics for China. As China’s oil imports increase, it would prefer to insulate its energy transports from the troubled waters of the Straits of Malacca and the South China Sea.

Implications for India

Gwadar port offers serious strategic implications for India. Gwadar provides China a key listening post to observe the Indian naval activities around the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Aden. The Gwadar port, if fully operationalised, will wean Pakistan away from near-total dependence on Karachi, which is much closer to India and hence within the Indian military’s strike range. Lease of Gwadar port also helps China to encircle India (String of Pearls) and gain strategic advantage in the region. India has apprehensions that these ports could be used for military purpose as well.

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Defence Ministry to relook at defence blacklist guidelines

The Union Defence Ministry is planning to relook at defence blacklist guidelines for dealing with global defence firms engaged in corruption in arms deals.

Thus, under recently released new policy called ‘Guidelines of the Ministry of Defence for penalties in business dealings with entities’ the Union Defence Ministry will “re-ascertain” the list of companies banned from doing business in India.

The blacklisting policy was approved by the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) on November 7, 2016 and the policy was released by the Ministry on 21 November 2016.

Key Facts

  • The new policy has moved away from blanket banning of blacklisted firms which has adversely affected defence preparedness. Instead of ban, it imposes heavy penalties.
  • It has reduced the period of blanket ban to 5 years from 10 years. However the upper limit of the ban period has not been specified.
  • It allows doing business with a blacklisted firm for support of critical spares and maintenance in view of national security.
  • However, it will be through prior approval from the Defence Minister, i.e. the designated competent authority.

Why there is need to relook?

Many global defence firms have been banned from doing business in India because of allegations of corruption against them. However, blacklisting such firms has skewed the competition, with the Indian military not able to access many of the global products.

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Union Government puts ban on NDTV India on hold

The Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has put hold its order imposing a oneday  ban   on Hindi  channel  NDTV  India.

Earlier, the ministry had imposed oneday ban (on November 9) on NDTV India over its live coverage of the Pathankot terror attack, violating Programme/Advertising Code.

Opposition parties and media bodies have criticised arbitary punitive decision of the Union Government saying this was tantamount to an assault on media freedom.

What is the issue?

  • An Inter-ministerial Committee (IMC) had found that NDTV India channel had violated the provisions of the programme code, specifically, clause (rule) 6 (1) (p) of the code, in its live coverage of the Pathankot terrorist attack on 4 January 2016.
  • The live coverage by the channel may have given away sensitive information and could have helped the terrorists.
  • The IMC comprised of joint secretaries Home, Defence, I&B, External Affairs, Law and Justice, Health and Family Welfare, Consumer Affairs, Women and Child Development and representative of the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI).

What is Programme Code?

  • The Programme/Advertising Code of the Cable Television Network Rules, 1994 has been incorporated in the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995.
  • The code gives the Union Government the power to block the transmission and re-transmission of any channel in the country. It is binding on all cable networks.
  • It has been taken from Content code governing All India Radio (AIR) which has been framed around restrictions to free speech under 19 (2) of the Constitution.
  • For the violation of this code, 30 channels have been ordered to be banned for periods ranging from 1 day to 2 months between 2005 and November 2016.

Note: There are no content-specific laws or binding rules for the print media and nor they require licence to publish a newspaper.

What is clause 6 (1) (p) of the Programme Code?

  • The clause 6(1)(p) was introduced by an amendment to The Cable Television Network Rules in 2014 by the Union Government and it came into force in March 2015.
  • It prohibits live coverage of any anti-terrorist operation by security forces. In these cases, media coverage will be restricted to periodic briefing by an officer designated by the appropriate Government till such operation concludes.

Comment

  • There are no specific laws protecting the freedom of the media in India. But journalists and journalism thrive on broader freedom of expression guaranteed under Article 19 of Constitution.
  • Article 19 gives all citizens the right to freedom of speech and expression. However, the first constitutional amendment in 1951 put “reasonable restrictions” on use of Article 19.
  • The reasonable restrictions can be imposed on issues related to sovereignty and integrity of India, security of state, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence.

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