External Affairs Minister Current Affairs - 2019

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Fact Box: Sushma Swaraj

Former Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, passed away after suffering a cardiac arrest in New Delhi. She was 67, She had started her political career under Janata Party and was elected to the Haryana assembly in 1977 and became a state minister at age 25.

About Sushma Swaraj

She was born on 14 February 1953 at Ambala Cantonment, Haryana. Her father Hardev Sharma was a prominent Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh member. She was lawyer by profession and had practiced in the Supreme Court. She had started her political career as active member of Jayaprakash Narayan’s anti-Emergency movement and later she became a member of Bhartiya Janata Party. She was a seven-time Member of Parliament and a three-time MLA (representing Ambala Cantonment assembly seat from 1977 to 1982 and had won for first time at age of 25).

Many firsts to her credit: (i) Youngest Cabinet Minister (age) in Haryana Government in 1977, (ii) first woman Chief Minister of Delhi in 1998 (iii) first woman spokesperson for any national political party in the country and (iv)India’s first full-time woman Foreign Minister.

Important offices held: She was External Affairs Minister (from 2014 to 2019), leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha (from 2009 to 2014), Minister for Information and Broadcasting in Atal Bihari Vajpayee Government (2000-2003), Minister of Health and Family Welfare ( anuary 2003 to May 2004), Minister of Parliamentary Affairs (January 2003 to May 2004) and 5th Chief Minister of Delhi (from October 1998 to December 1998).

Tenure as External Affairs Minister: She was second Indian woman to become External Affairs Minister, after former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi ( However, it was not full-time portfolio).

Contributions: She had played key role in resolving the Doklam standoff with China in 2017 and in India approaching International Court of Justice (ICJ) challenging Pakistan military court’s death sentence to Kulbhushan Jadhav. Through her extensive use of Twitter, she had earned reputation of easily-accessible External Affairs Minister. She took personal interest in resolving minor issues like issuance of visa to the needy and helped Indian diaspora in distress through her social media outreach.

Tariff War: India levies retaliatory tariffs on 28 US products

In a tit-for-tat trade battle between the United States (US) and India, latter imposed higher tariffs on 28 American goods including almonds, apples and walnut in retaliation to US tariffs.

Key Highlights

Among targeted US products imported, the custom duty on walnut is increased from 30% to 120%, and on chickpeas, masur dal and Bengal gram (chana) has been raised from 30% to 70%.

India is expected to get about $220 million of additional revenue from the new tarriffs on items imported from the US. Just minutes before the tariffs came into force, the government dropped only one item called artemia, a type of shrimp from the tariff list.

About India-US Trade War

Background: Initially the retaliatory tariff by India, were triggered by US announcing higher duties on Indian steel and aluminium in 2018 but were deferred multiple times in view of possible trade dialogue between the two countries.

Current Scenario: Lately, India had decided to levy higher tariffs following America’s withdrawal of $5.6 billion trade concessions given to India by US under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) programme in June 2019 which benefitted Indian Exports. This move comes ahead of meetings between Donald Trump, President of United States and Prime Minister Narendra Modi at upcoming G20 summit on June 28-29 in Osaka, Japan.

Concern: The strain in trade relation between two economies (India-US) comes at a time when the global economic growth rate is projected to slow down as trade tensions among other major economies (like between US and China) weighs on business confidence and investments. The International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) World Economic Outlook (WEO, a biannual survey that is partly updated twice a year) in April 2019 forecasted a downfall in global growth to 3.3% for 2019, down from the 3.5% in January 2019.

Way Ahead: Also, by the end of June 2019 US Secretary of State (SoS) Mike Pompeo will be visiting India for bilateral talks with his Indian counterpart S. Jaishankar External Affairs Minister. Ahead of meet Mike stated that US was open to discussions on the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP).