Daily Current Affairs for 22th Jan 2024

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Consecration of the Ram temple

Why in the news?

The consecration of the Ram temple in Ayodhya will be held on 22 January 2024with Prime Minister Narendra Modi attending the rituals, following which the shrine will be opened for the public a day later.

How day will proceed?

  • Ram Mandir Inauguration ceremony LIVE updates: Ram Mandir decorated with flowers ahead of Pran Pratistha ceremony of Lod Ram Lalla in Ayodhya (PTI) The “ Pran Pratishtha” ceremony will begin at 12.20 p.m. and is expected to end by 1 p.m. Mr. Modi will then address a gathering of more than 7,000 people, including seers and prominent personalities, at the venue.
  • While about 8,000 people are in the long list of invitees, the select list features 506 A-listers, including prominent politicians, leading industrialists, top film stars, sportspersons, diplomats, judges and high priests.
  • To commemorate the occasion, the Centre has given half-a-day off to all the Government employees which includes Public Sector Banks.
  • Several States have also followed suit and declared a public holiday. 
  • The consecration ceremony is coming days after the 51-inch idol of Ram Lalla was placed in the ‘Garbha griha’ of the Ram Mandir on 18 January.
  • Crafted by the skilled hands of sculptor Arun Yogiraj from Mysuru, the 51-inch-tall idol, captures the image of a five-year-old Lord Ram standing gracefully on a lotus, all meticulously carved from a single block of stone.

Background story:

  • The consecration ceremony is being held after the first phase of the temple’s construction, made possible by a Supreme Court judgment in 2019 on the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title suit.
  • The Hindu litigants argued that the Babri Mosque was constructed at the site of a temple marking the birthplace of Lord Ram. In 1992, the 16th century mosque was demolished by “kar sevaks”.



India –Bangladesh ties

Why in the news?

Relation of two South-East Asian countries

  • India considers Bangladesh a critical ally in the region. New Delhi will look to advance its interests with the Awami League government, in line with its ‘Act East’ policy to counter China’s expanding influence in the Indo-Pacific and build a friendly and stable neighbourhood.
  • The foreign policy alignment between the two nations promises increased collaboration in traditional and new areas, and provides an opportunity for the two countries to address unresolved conflicts.

Building the ‘model’ partnership

  • India’s relationship with Bangladesh is anchored in common history, heritage, culture and geographical proximity, the foundation of which was laid in the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War.
  • India provided critical military and material support to assist Bangladesh in its fight for independence from Pakistan. 
  • This became a primary factor in shaping the newly independent nation’s policy, as acknowledged by ‘Bangabandhu’ Sheikh Mujibur Rahman: “Friendship with India is a cornerstone of the foreign policy of Bangladesh.”
  • Despite this, relations soured within a few years as military regimes took control. There was a rise in anti-India sentiment in the mid-1970s over issues ranging from boundary disputes and insurgency to the sharing of water.
  • The instability continued for a few decades until Sheikh Hasina stormed to power in 1996 and scripted a new chapter in bilateral ties with a treaty on the sharing of Ganga waters. She returned for a second term in 2009, and bilateral relations between the two governments further improved following a slew of measures.
  • There have been a few ups and downs, but India and Bangladesh have built cooperation in trade, energy, infrastructure, connectivity, defence, security and science over the past 15 years. 
  • Ms. Hasina visited India in 2010, followed by then PM Manmohan Singh’s historic tour to Dhaka in 2011. India announced duty-free access to several Bangladesh products and a Framework for Cooperation pact cemented their trade partnership.
  • Addressing India’s security concerns about insurgency and extremism, she ordered a crackdown on anti-India groups, shut down terror camps and handed over “most-wanted” terrorists and criminals to India. Her government also enforced stricter border controls to check the influx of illegal migrants.

 Relationship gained momentum

  • The relationship gained momentum after the NDA came to power in 2014. 
  • India and Bangladesh gradually expanded their partnership to strengthen cooperation in trade, development and water-sharing. The two countries successfully resolved long-pending issues, like the land boundary agreement (LBA) in 2015 and a maritime dispute over territorial waters.
  • During Sheikh Hasina’s visit to India in September 2022, India and Bangladesh inked an agreement on the sharing of the waters of the common border river Kushiyara — the first such pact since the Ganga Waters Treaty of 1996. PM Modi termed the period a ‘Shonali Adhyaya’ or golden chapter in diplomacy.

Accelerating economic cooperation

  • Bilateral trade between India and Bangladesh has grown steadily over the last decade. Bangladesh has emerged as India’s largest trade partner in South Asia, with bilateral trade reaching $18 billion in 2021-2022 from $10.8 billion in 2020-21, though there was a dip in 2022-23 when the trade dropped to $14.2 billion due to the COVID pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war.
  • Reflective of the growing trust between the two nations, Bangladesh started using rupees in its trade transactions with India last year to reduce dependence on the U.S. dollar and strengthen regional currency.
  • India is also the second biggest trade partner of Bangladesh, with exports amounting to $2 billion in Indian markets.
  • Political stability, however, is imperative for bilateral trade; this was evident in the pre-election season in Bangladesh when exports declined by over 13% between April and October and imports saw a dip of 2.3%.
  • With the continuation of the previous regime in Bangladesh, New Delhi and Dhaka are poised to take forward discussions on a free trade agreement to enhance their economic partnership and boost investments.
  • In 2022, both nations successfully concluded a joint feasibility study on a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA). The agreement, typically designed to reduce or eliminate customs duties on traded goods and simplify trade norms, is anticipated to open up broader social and economic opportunities, ultimately raising living standards in both countries.
  • The CEPA gains additional significance as Bangladesh is set to lose its Least Developed Country (LDC) status after 2026, thereby losing its duty-free and quota-free market access in India.
  • Dhaka will be eager to finalise a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with New Delhi, yet pursue the China-backed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). This dual approach raises concerns for India, as the dynamics of regional economic partnerships continue to evolve.
  • The two countries are members of various regional trade agreements such as the Asia Pacific Trade Agreement (APTA), the SAARC Preferential Trade Agreement (SAPTA) and the Agreement on South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) which govern the tariff regimes for trade. Bangladesh is also part of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) which has its headquarters in Dhaka. The group is a multilateral regional organisation established to improve cooperation between littoral and adjacent countries in the Bay of Bengal region. 
  • As for informal trade, more border haats are likely to come up as the two countries have emphasised the potential of weekly markets and expressed willingness to set up over 15 new haats on the border.
  • India will play a crucial role as Ms. Hasina works to get Bangladesh’s sputtering economy back to achieve the country’s vision of attaining upper middle-income status by 2031.

Regional connectivity for a stronger South Asia

  • Bangladesh, as India’s immediate neighbour in the East, plays a crucial role in its strategic plans. Sharing 54 rivers and a 4,096-km border, the India-Bangladesh border is the longest land boundary India has with any of its neighbours. 
  • The two countries have revived old railway links and taken up several new multifaceted projects under the leadership of PM Hasina in the past decade to expand bilateral and sub-regional connectivity, aligning perfectly with India’s vision to develop the Northeast and foster integration across South and Southeast Asia.
  • As a “major development partner” of Bangladesh, India is funding several infrastructure and connectivity projects. Since 2010, India has extended Lines of Credits worth over $7 billion.
  • PM Modi and Sheikh Hasina made history last year when they inaugurated the Akhaura-Agartala rail link that connects Bangladesh and the northeast through Tripura. The link has given India access to Chattogram and Mongla posts in Bangladesh for the movement of cargo. It is likely to boost small-scale industries and develop Assam and Tripura. The Khulna-Mongla Port rail link is another project constructed with financial assistance from India.
  • As for passenger trains, there are three routes operational at present. The Maitree Express connecting Kolkata with Dhaka was started in 2008 after a hiatus of over 40 years. Later, the Kolkata-Khulna Bandhan Express and New Jalpaiguri-Dhaka Mitali Express were added to the network. A cross-border bus service operates from Shillong, Agartala and Kolkata to Dhaka.
  • India is also collaborating with Bangladesh to upgrade the India-Bangladesh Protocol (IBP) route and the Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade (PIWT&T) for transport of cargo. The BIMSTEC Master Plan for Transport Connectivity focuses on connecting major transport projects in India, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Thailand, thereby establishing a shipping network.
  • The Hasina government has also expressed its eagerness to partner in the ongoing India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral project — a 1,400-km highway that will link India with Southeast Asia by land.
  • In the energy sector, Bangladesh imports nearly 2,000 megawatts of electricity from India. The joint venture of the Maitree Super Thermal Power Project in Rampalbegan began commercial production last year. India also extended financial assistance for the construction of the India-Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline for the supply of diesel from Siliguri to Parbatipur.
  • India’s attention will primarily be directed towards the Matarbari Port, located about 100 km from Tripura, which Bangladesh is building with Japanese assistance. The port, pitched as a “game changer,” will establish a crucial industrial corridor linking Dhaka and the northeast part of India.

Unresolved disputes

  • Teesta dispute : The issue revolves around the sharing of Teesta’s waters, with Bangladesh seeking an equitable distribution.Back in 2011, during PM Manmohan Singh’s visit to Dhaka, objections from West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee derailed a budding deal. China later stepped in with a river management proposal, seizing an opportunity in the absence of an Indian agreement.
  •  Rohingya issue : New Delhi and Dhaka hold differing stances on this humanitarian crisis. The Hasina government aims for peaceful repatriation to Myanmar, but its talks with the military junta have been unsuccessful so far. Bangladesh seeks India’s cooperation to influence Myanmar, but the current Modi government, maintaining ties with the junta, asserts that it will deport Rohingyas from its mainland. 
  • Cross-border terrorism, infiltration, and human trafficking are additional threats to internal security. Around 60% of the border is fenced and a large section of the border runs through rivers, fishponds, farming lands, villages… Thus, guarding the border zones is not simple due to improper roads and difficult terrains. Consequently, it becomes easier for illegal groups to misappropriate these porous stretches.


  • The rise of majoritarian forces adds another layer to the complex landscape. While violence against Muslims has increased in India in the past few years, PM Hasina has stood at the forefront to condemn the attacks and express displeasure over comments by Indian leaders on “illegal” immigrants.

Way forward

  • Political stability in Bangladesh holds immense significance for India. Concerns loom over the possibility of political unrest in the country, fuelled by allegations of an unfair election, mounting international pressure, with potential ripple-effects across the border.
  • The strained relations between Bangladesh and the U.S. pose another formidable challenge for India, especially amid China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific region. The U.S. has been vocal in its criticism of the Awami League government, exerting pressure on Sheikh Hasina over “democratic backsliding”.
  • In 2021, the Biden administration slapped sanctions on a Bangladeshi anti-crime and anti-terrorism task force, citing human rights violations, and escalated tensions by announcing a policy to restrict visas for Bangladeshis it believed to be responsible for undermining the democratic election process in the country, leading to a backlash.
  • There seemed to be a temporary improvement in the relationship during the G20 summit in New Delhi last year, but recent events suggest that tensions have re-emerged. The U.S. has rejected the election outcome as unfair, which further complicates the diplomatic situation for India.
  • Adding to India’s concerns is the deepening relationship between Bangladesh and China under Ms. Hasina, marked by substantial Chinese investments in infrastructure in recent years. China built 12 highways, 21 bridges and 27 power and energy projects in Bangladesh over the past few years, as per Chinese Ambassador to Bangladesh.
  • Beijing’s efforts to strengthen ties with Dhaka have raised eyebrows in India. For China, Bangladesh is a crucial foothold in the Bay of Bengal region and a critical node in its flagship Belt and Road Initiative.
  • With ties with India dwindling, Sri Lanka remaining wrapped in a debt crisis, and Myanmar facing political instability, Bangladesh is China’s best option to break out of its ‘East Asia mould’ and strengthen its maritime presence in the Indian Ocean.
  • However, the Bangladesh PM has maintained that her government is “very much careful” about its partnership with China. Affirming India’s strategic importance, Ms. Hasina has reassured New Delhi that its development partnership with Beijing will not undermine the historical bond it shares with India.
  • Navigating these complex geopolitical dynamics will undoubtedly be a critical aspect of India’s foreign policy in the region, but there will be a sense of comfort with a pro-India Sheikh Hasina at the helm of affairs in Bangladesh



Invitation to Taliban representative for Republic Day event

Why in news?

  • The acting Afghan ambassador and former member of the Haqqani network, Badruddin Haqqani, has been invited by the Indian Embassy in the UAE to the Republic Day reception on January 26.
  • Some have criticised India for allegedly endorsing the Taliban government, which has been charged with committing terror strikes against Indian interests in the past.

Clarification of the government:

  • Official sources have made it clear that the invitation was a “routine” matter and that India’s position on the Taliban has not changed.
  • All foreign missions acknowledged by the UAE government received the invitation, with the exception of Pakistan, with whom India has no diplomatic ties.
  • They pointed out that the invitation had been addressed to the ambassador of the Embassy of the “Islamic Republic of Afghanistan,” which was the previous administration headed by Ashraf Ghani, rather than the Islamic Emirate, which is the designation that the Taliban favoured.

Who is Badruddin Haqqani?

  • Badruddin Haqqani was appointed as Charge d’Affaires in October 2023 and accredited by the UAE government.
  • He is one of the sons of Jalaluddin Haqqani and the brother of Sirajuddin Haqqani, the Interior Minister of Afghanistan.
  • The decision to invite Haqqani aligns with India’s commitment to diplomatic norms and its practice of engaging with representatives of accredited missions.
  • This approach is maintained while adhering to India’s stance of not recognising the Taliban regime and following international diplomatic protocols.

India Taliban relation

  • June 2022, within a year of the Taliban coming back to power, India reopened its embassy in Kabul. India sent a team of “technical experts” to manage the mission.
  • However, last November, the Afghanistan embassy in New Delhi closed down, as the diplomats chosen by the previous Afghan government, ousted by the Taliban two years ago, couldn’t get visa extensions from their Indian hosts, according to the outgoing ambassador.
  • Although India doesn’t formally recognise the Taliban as Afghanistan’s government, it has engaged in talks with them.
  •  Experts say that India is avoiding alienating the group to keep their presence in Afghanistan intact since the Taliban’s return to power.
  • India has engaged with Taliban officials in various capacities, including the reopening of its embassy in Kabul with a team of “technical experts.” However, the country has stopped short of formal recognition, echoing the broader international approach towards the Taliban-led administration in Afghanistan.



Simultaneous elections

Why in news?

  • The High-Level Committee constituted by the Government under the Chairmanship of Shri Ram Nath Kovind former President of India to examine the issue relating to holding of simultaneous elections in the country and make recommendations thereon held its third meeting in New Delhi.
  • Shri Ghulam Nabi Azad, former Leader of Opposition, Rajya Sabha, Shri Arjun Ram Meghwal, Minister of State (Independent Charge) Ministry of Law and Justice, Shri N. K. Singh, former Chairman, 15th Finance Commission, Dr. Subhash C. Kashyap, former Secretary General, Lok Sabha, and Shri Sanjay Kothari, former Chief Vigilance Commissioner attended the meeting.

Citizen responses on poll:

  • On 5th January a public notice was issued in 105 leading newspapers across the country inviting suggestions from citizens for making appropriate changes in the existing legal – administrative framework to enable simultaneous elections in the country by 15th January through email and responding on the website of the Committee.
  • Altogether 20,972 responses were received out of which 81% affirmed the idea of simultaneous election. Besides, suggestions were also invited from 46 political parties. 
  • Till date, suggestions have been received from 17 political parties.  Suggestions by the Election Commission of India were also noted by the Committee.
  •  Additionally, the Chairman of the HLC on Simultaneous Elections, Shri Ram Nath Kovind has initiated consultations with eminent jurists, former Chief Justices of the Supreme Court and High Courts, former Chief Election Commissioners of India, heads of Bar Council of India, FICCI, ASSOCHAM and CII.
  • It has been decided to hold the next meeting of the HLC on 27th of January.

What is simultaneous election?

  • The idea is about structuring the Indian election cycle in a manner so that elections to the Lok Sabha and the State Assemblies are synchronised together so that the election to both can be held within a given span of time.
  • While this concept had been practiced until 1967, it gradually fell out of sync due to the frequent dissolution of Assemblies and Lok Sabhas before their terms ended.
  • Currently, only a few states (Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Odisha, and Sikkim) hold elections along with the Lok Sabha polls.

Members of the committee:

  • The committee has former President of India Ram Nath Kovind as chairman and seven other members which includes Home Minister Amit Shah, Senior Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, Ghulam Nabi Azad, NK Singh, Subhash C. Kashyap, Harish Salve and Sanjay Kothari.

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