Nepal and China will soon ink a bilateral military exchange mechanism on the lines of the India-Nepal security exchange framework, agencies have warned Delhi.
The decision is to be taken by the Himalayan country when India and China are engaged in a border spat in eastern Ladakh.
Indo-Nepal ties have been sliding recently, challenging the traditional relationship between the two countries. An intelligence source said that Nepal is planning to set up a mechanism — NepalChina Bilateral Consultative Group on Security Issues (BCGSI) — for military exchange programme between Nepal Army and People’s Liberation Army. “It is similar to Indo-Nepal bilateral consultative group on security issues,” said the source. Currently, China is assisting Nepal in military training, equipment and peacekeeping operations. Further, for China’s PLA to conduct jungle warfare and high altitude warfare training, Nepal is one of the preferred destinations. Nepal and China’s military cooperation started from 1988 and has been ever growing.
China has been investing heavily in Nepal in recent years, rapidly increasing infrastructure connectivity with rail and road links. Also, policymakers of Nepal had undergone a 13-day training programme of BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS) in Beijing after China “especially invited” them to attend it.
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NATHEALTH & ACHE present a gripping discussion on ‘The Evolution of COVID-19 Variants’
NATHEALTH and American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE), as part of its joint initiative, recently organised an engaging session to hear different perspective from India and US, on the evolution of Covid-19 variants and strategies to better understand their impacts. Moderated by Dr. Harsh Mahajan, President, NATHEALTH & Founder and Chief Radiologist, Mahajan Imaging and comprehensive discussion by two panel speakers Dr. David Perlin, Chief Scientific Officer and Senior Vice President of the Centre for Discovery and Innovation and Prof. K. Srinath Reddy, President, Public Health Foundation of India (PHFl), the session centred around the variants of coronavirus, its impact and ways to tackle it.
It provided an enhanced and well-rounded understanding to the topic at hand. In addition to discussing the current science on Covid 19 variants in U.S and globally, the panel also assessed the mutations embedded in the virus variants, examined the public health implications of covid 19 variants in India and globally and also focused on the way forward.
Molley lowe, Director of content strategy for the American college of healthcare executive (ACHE), welcomed everyone to the webinar and expressed her unique pleasure of having an international audience. She introduced the distinguished panel of speakers of the day.
Dr. Mahajan initiated the session by explaining the need for global collaboration to fight back the pandemic. He said “Researchers and epidemiologists around the world have been predicting various models for the potential spread of Covid-19 pandemic which has devastated world in the last 18 months. Facing a big challenge of continuous mutations of corona virus which make it difficult to predict how the pandemic would unfold in future. Various models give different pictures about loss of lives in upcoming months. Rates of infection and deaths are declining in US, in the last 2 months we have seen devastating surges of the virus in India and other countries.”
He further reinforced the need to have a global collaboration to contain and finally end the current pandemic. He added “while the future of pandemic and its projections remain uncertain, vaccination rates are increasing. Yet there are inequities in vaccination across the globe. Hence, it would be useful to know the most likely outcomes, the best and worst case scenarios to guide local and national decisions those can lead us towards the end of pandemic.”
Next, Dr. David Perlin was invited. He talked about some of the science behind the evolution of generation of SARs COV variants of concerns and what are the concerns we should be worrying about. He addressed questions like what should we know about variants transmission, their health effects and impacts on potential therapies and vaccines? He further explained the process of how any airborne virus like corona attacks the respiratory and immune system. He said “the key to viral infections is binding of the virus to its receptor. We know that when the infected host cell responds to form neutralising antibodies that are directed against the receptor binding domain, so that virus is no longer able to interact with its host cell.”
He additionally explained “In terms of virus variants, we recognise that RNA viruses like SARs CoV2 rapidly generate mutations compared to lower rate of mutations in humans. RNA viruses replicate a million to 10 times to 10 million times more rapidly than humans. Each mutation has potential to change viral properties for the next generation of viruses. The antibodies generated against the receptor binding domains can have one of the 3 possibilities: 1. Leave virus unchanged; 2. Decrease or loss of virus functions leading virus to disappear and 3. Gain of virus functions making it more transmissible and infectious. We are worried about the 3rd possibility. If there’s an increased interaction of the virus with its host, the antibodies don’t bind as readily leading to consequences like mutations can enhance the infection rates, reduce the potential effectiveness of vaccines and natural antibodies or may facilitate reinfection.”
He concluded by saying “virus evolution has been an important component of Covid-19 pandemic; variants of concerns (VOC) like delta are more transmissible, some variants may impede antibody development but can be controlled by existing vaccines and lastly the best way to control VOCs is by broad vaccination.”
The moderator then welcomed Prof. K. Srinath Reddy for his comments on public health implications of Covid-19 variants in India and globally. Prof. Reddy began by appreciating Dr. Perlin’s excellent exhibition of the science of Virology and immunology as it pertains to SARS COVID-19 virus and its variants. In his part, he tried to deal mostly with the public health perspective with a little throwback to evolutionary biology as an additional perspective.
He said “Indeed when variants do come up, one of the biggest questions we ask ourselves particularly when we are looking at the implications it has for public health response is, is it more infectious than the wild virus or any other relevant virulent while any other variant that preceded it, is it more virulent, is it more capable of vaccine evasion or escape and also is it less responsive to therapeutic interventions? While we are trying to answer that, we also have to understand how so many variants are arising in the different parts of the world and of course transmitting themselves with great ease to the other parts of the world.”
He added “We are generally tended to look at the viruses and variants in a very linear fashion but viruses are complex adaptive systems. Joshua Lederberg called the father of microbial genetics wrote a seminal paper in science in 2000, in which he said it is our wits against their genes. So we have to try and overcome their inevitable attempt.” To sum up his talk, he said “our response in terms of public health has to be to protect ourselves from easy entry of virus into our body, to obstruct the virus in terms of its transmission by not allowing super spreader events, vaccinate fast and wide and develop new vaccines with innovations which can match the new virus variants.”
The session was wonderfully wrapped up by addressing some pertinent questions raised by the audience.
Innovation is spurred when there is a challenge: Vikram Khurana
In an exclusive conversation with NewsX for its special series NewsX India A-List, Vikram Khurana, Chairman of the Toronto Business Development Centre spoke about how they supported India’s fight with the Covid-19 pandemic, their Start-up Visa Programme and more.
As India is fighting the biggest enemy the world has seen so far, the global community is doing its part vehemently. The Toronto Business Development Centre (TBDC) supported India’s fight with the Covid-19 pandemic by providing 5000 ventilators and other medical supplies. In an exclusive conversation with NewsX for its special series NewsX India A-List, Vikram Khurana, Chairman of the Toronto Business Development Centre spoke about their beneficial initiative and shared his insights with us.
Talking about the initiative, Khurana said, “These ventilators have been donated kindly by the province of Ontario and the province of Saskatchewan. The ventilators are made to survive on their own. The pandemic has highlighted the importance of global relations among the nations. The virus doesn’t recognise any borders; it is evident that it moves freely, in the air. We cannot build any borders around this pandemic unless we’re able to build walls in the air.”
He explained about the organisation that facilitated the supply of ventilators in collaboration with Air Canada. TBDC is the oldest business incubator in Canada that support entrepreneurs with all their needs. While talking about giving rise to 9 Unicorns, Khurana said, “Our current focus is on India. We think that there is a great amount of innovation and start-ups coming from India.”
He also threw light on their Start-up Visa Programme, which is extremely helpful for young and new entrepreneurs. Khurana continued, “While there is a great discussion on brain drain, there is not as much discussion on business expansion. Start-ups that grow internationally become multi-national. To facilitate this, Canada started the Start-up Visa in 2013. It essentially allows entrepreneurs to move with their families, be closer to their markets, and access technology and sources easily. Currently, about 2500 entrepreneurs from all over the world migrate to Canada under this program.”
“Innovation does not go to sleep, and innovation is spurred when there is a challenge,” he said when asked about some innovations he saw during the pandemic by Indians. Khurana pointed out that one of the most considerable collateral damage of Covid-19 has been on seniors citizens. Khurana applauded several start-ups helping to solve the problem faced by senior citizens and start-ups to find vaccine sites by diverting and balancing traffic among those vaccine sites. He mentioned the fact that most of the time, entrepreneurs executed these initiatives without concern of making money which is a very noble way of entrepreneurs giving back to society.
Khurana talked about the collaboration with Air Canada that made this initiative a success. “Many people of the crew were Indians living in Canada for a while and have roots in India like Captain Rash Pal who piloted the aircraft that carried those ventilators along with many other supplies with great pride. Every member of the team took great pride and went above and beyond to make this happen,” he said.
Talking about the world being caught flat-footed by the virus, Khurana said, “There are a lot of lessons learned on the fly”. He concluded the conversation by talking about having a front window view of great ideas coming from all around and the dominance of AI, data modelling, and machine learning in the area of innovation.
Self-executing crypto contracts: The advent of smart law
Relying on a distributed consensus model, smart contracts have the DNA of blockchains and run on platforms similar to cryptocurrencies. These technology-enabled innovations in law are being watched closely as they make contracts more reliable, simultaneously making it difficult to evade execution.
Smart contracts enable the execution of trustworthy transactions and agreements between anonymous parties and without the need for a legal system. Smart Contracts will bring in changes, not as fast as some predict, but will surely change the way we are used to working, as per Kai Schiller, author of the German blog blockchainwelt.de.
You would have heard of blockchains. In our last two articles, we spoke about Non-fungible Tokens and Ransomware attacks, this one is the third in the series concerning blockchains. Apart from cryptocurrencies and NFTs, there is a much more serious and beneficial application of this technology, namely smart contracts.
SMART CONTRACTS VS (TRADITIONAL) CONTRACTS
We are aware as to what entails a traditional legal contract — a document that details an agreement that parties execute with an expectation of being legally binding with a structure that includes offer, acceptance, consideration, and date with the parties signature. The endgame is Judicial Enforcement. Whereas, smart contracts bypass and ignore the legal mode and judicial enforcement is not their endgame. In contrast, smart contracts are computer programs filled with clauses “if/then” laying out every eventuality and obligation. These computer programs, once created and formally accepted by both parties, can be self-enforcing, running in the cloud. Continuous monitoring of key performance metrics determines when one of the “if/then” clauses suddenly switches from false to true, triggering automatic enforcement. Through auto-enforcement, smart contracts can add efficiencies for many kinds of agreements. This includes rental, intellectual property, financing, shipping, and manufacturing contracts.
First proposed in the 1990s by Nick Szabo, the concept of smart contract entails contract clauses written in computer programs. These are to be automatically executed as and when predefined conditions are met. Smart contracts are stored, replicated, and updated in distributed blockchains with logic consisting of transaction status. The integration of blockchain technology with smart contracts has made the dream of a “peer-to-peer market” come true.
For an enforceable legally binding contract, the common law requires four elements to be present: (a) offer; (b) acceptance; (c) consideration and (d) intentions to create legal relations. The law takes a wider approach and will enforce any promise in whatever form it is in, if the above criteria are met and if there are no vitiating factors such as misrepresentation or duress to taint the contract. Practically a contract concludes upon the agreement of a future contractual performance, which then generates rights and obligations for all parties.
The lingering question of whether smart contracts carry the same legal validity as traditional contracts warrant a definitive and authoritative answer, instead, it instigated a never-ending debate amongst academics and practitioners.
Imagine a self-executing contract that digitally enforces, verifies, and facilitates the performance or negotiation of a contract. Blockchain technology and its distributed nature are used to foster transaction credibility between contracting parties without the necessity of third parties as exhibited in regular contracts.
There are several steps involved in a blockchain-based smart beginning with agreement identification, defining setting conditions, scripting the business logic, encryption with blockchain, execution and processing on event triggers, and finally updating the network status.
Thus contractual performance obligations are memorialised in code using a strict and formal programming language, then they are executed by members of a blockchain-based network. Once a smart contract is triggered via a transaction by one of the parties, the smart contract itself acts as the parties’ agent that is deputised to assist the parties with their arrangement.
The code of the smart contract is stored on each miner’s computer and each smart contract is assigned a blockchain-based address. Parties can initiate a smart contract by sending digitally signed “transactions” to the smart contract’s address. The transactional record is stored on the blockchain, the saved record then triggers the smart contract’s execution. Owing to the consensus-based distributed architecture the smart contract’s code is run by all miners supporting the network simultaneously. The transaction in this case is a record that includes the variables necessary for the code to run, along with a digital signature of the sending party.
ERROR IN CODE — RISK EXPOSURE:
Smart contracts also suffer from material shortcomings. Any vulnerability or even an error in the code may bring consequences. And one such example is when the DAO raised more than $150 million, an individual discovered a loophole in the code and diverted almost $70 million worth of ether and it was observed that the hacker did not maliciously hack the code, but rather used the terms of the existing smart contracts to accomplish something others later found objectionable, i.e. the diversion of their money. Thus, it is evident that the systemic risks exposed by the DAO hack have fuelled the argument that raises several concerns about the functionality of smart contracts. Broadly speaking — the hack reveals that the foundational characteristics which make smart contracts attractive ought to be questioned.
RELATION WITH CRYPTOCURRENCY
Centralised form of transactions may have a single point of failure that has been solved by using blockchain technology, which provides a peer-to-peer transaction without the need of a third party. The Bitcoin decentralised cryptocurrency, released in 2009, has generated great interest in blockchain technology applications. The blockchain technology that used to be applied only for bitcoin peer-to-peer transactions has been also usable for other purposes, such as smart contracts.
In the last few years, there has been significant development in technology related to blockchain-based smart contracts that have been accumulating over the years. It ranges from various platforms that facilitate blockchain-based smart contracts, applications that utilise smart contracts and tools in developing blockchain-based smart contract applications.
While a cryptocurrency is used as a secure medium of exchange due to the use of strong cryptography for ensuring verifiability of asset transfer, control of unit creation and even evasion of regulations as well as oversight by governments across the world, smart contracts are self-executing contracts that utilise blockchain technology to digitally enforce, verify, or facilitate the performance or negotiation of a contract.
COSTS AND ADVANTAGES
Smart contracts provides for many benefits as compared to the traditional contracts: (a) Speed as smart contracts use software code that automates tasks that are typically accomplished manually; (b) Enhanced Accuracy as due to automated transactions the probability of manual error is reduced; (c) Cost-Effective as less human intervention, fewer intermediaries and thus less cost: (d)Auto-enforcement as Smart contracts are unique in their enforceability since these clauses are embedded in the applicable software itself; (e) Reducing risks. Smart contracts cannot be arbitrarily altered once they are issued due to the immutability of blockchains. All the transactions stored and replicated are traceable and auditable.
Despite the advantages mentioned hereinabove, the enforceability of more subjective obligations such as ensuring commercially reasonable efforts is affected by the inherently digital nature of smart contracts.
SMART CONTRACT AND ONLINE DISPUTE RESOLUTION
The dispute arising out of smart contract demand for non-judicial remedy systems that are cross-jurisdictional, extra-legal, and efficient hence the smart Developers and Entrepreneurs are swiftly moving to create solutions for resolving smart contract disputes and accordingly reliance over online dispute resolution systems in the blockchain. Generally, Online Dispute Resolution models have been online arbitration, AI-powered resolutions, and crowd-sourced dispute resolution. It is no surprise, especially given this history of resorting to extra-legal resolutions, that developers have turned to online arbitration for resolving blockchain disputes.
Relying on a distributed consensus model, smart contracts have the DNA of Blockchains and run on platforms similar to cryptocurrencies. These technology-enabled innovations in law are being watched closely as they make contracts more reliable simultaneously making it difficult to evade execution.
The ‘autonomous’ nature of these contracts does not require a third party to evaluate execution and even obviates the need to engage lawyers and experts to estimate execution in a granular fashion.
Despite obvious advantages, blockchain-based technologies have not shown great success as a business model. There are serious concerns about the non-green nature of computing needed to run the blockchains and some security issues which have cropped up despite the self-healing nature of blockchain nodes.
Ethereum has been an excellent example of a platform based on blockchains for smart contracts and the evolution of standards as well as tools for developing applications and utilities will pave the way for wider acceptance of these innovations. On the whole, the world is watching these innovations with caution filled with expectations.
Brijesh Singh, IPS, is an author and IG Maharashtra. Khushbu Jain is an advocate practising before the Supreme Court and a founding partner of law firm Ark Legal. They can be contacted on Twitter: @brijeshbsingh and @advocatekhushbu. The views expressed are personal.
Ethereum has been an excellent example of a platform based on blockchains for smart contracts and the evolution of standards as well as tools for developing applications and utilities will pave the way for wider acceptance of these innovations.
NEWS BROADCASTERS FEDERATION TO AMALGAMATE WITH ARTBI
The News Broadcasters Federation on Friday, decided to amalgamate with the Association of Regional Television Broadcasters of India (ARTBI), making NBF the largest body representing the business interests and editorial freedom of news television broadcasters in India.
“The amalgamation of ARTBI makes NBF beyond doubt the largest pan India broadcasters’ body, more than twice as large as another existing broadcasters association. With this significant scale NBF will set new news standards and highest self-regulation and editorial standards,” said Arnab Goswami, President, News Broadcasters Federation.
The decision on the proposal to amalgamate ARTBI was ratified at the NBF Governing Board meeting on Friday, June 18, 2021. The amalgamation is the first-ever coming together of two industry bodies in the news broadcasting sector, under a single umbrella to help news broadcasters be independent and successful. The amalgamation is crucial as it would help regional news channels and their digital platforms to understand and comply with regulatory requirements.
The huge step aims to strengthen the industry by building the Federation more democratic, diverse, and united in spirit, in the best interest of the news broadcasting industry and the public at large.
“We are happy with the merger of India’s first recognized Association of Regional Television Broadcasters of India with NBF. Now the time is there for the consolidation where we must consolidate NBF and ARTBI put together so we formed the largest body and can do much better for all stakeholders involved,” said Kartikeya Sharma, Founder, Association of Regional Television Broadcasters of India
10% of Haryana’s police force infected by Covid-19 virus, 47 cops succumbbed
Amid the harrowing second wave of the Covid-19, the state government of Haryana continues to put its best to tackle the disease and to some extent, the efforts have proved fruitful as the state is witnessing a multifold decrease in new cases and death toll. Police personnel along with medical staff and sanitation workers are leaving no stone unturned to deal with the pandemic. But amid the battle against the Covid-19 outbreak, the disease has affected the police personnel adversely. There are nearly 60 thousand employees in the police department— including junior and senior officials. The virus has hit more than 10 per cent of the total staff of the department which is a matter of serious concern.
The statistics made available by the department revealed that as many as 6540 police personnel tested positive so far which is more than 10 percent of the total staff.
47 police personnel have lost their lives while performing their duties on the frontlines amid the second wave of the pandemic. Apart from this, 102 candidates are still Covid-19 positive and under treatment in different hospitals. Understanding the pain of families of deceased, the state government already had declared to provide financial assistance of Rs 30 lakh to them and same is under process.
“The state government is committed to helping out the families of those police personnel who lost their life battling with corona,” said Manohar Lal, the Chief Minister of Haryana. The police department brought us laurels by performing their duties its full accountability in fight with corona, he added.
LADAKH’S CORONAVIRUS DEATH TOLL CROSSES 200
According to the health officials of UT of Ladakh, the daily Covid-19 positive cases have dropped to 348 in Leh and 134 in Kargil, and 77 more patients have recovered from the illness during the last 24 hours.
These details were given by the officials on Friday while media reported that the death toll has crossed 200. Nevertheless, the fatality rates, sources said, have dropped.
Leh town and the adjacent villages are trying to come to terms with the second wave of the pandemic as it has badly impacted not only daily life but also the economy of the region.
During summers, Leh and adjacent areas of UT of Ladakh used to witness a lot of foreign tourists and due to the Covid-19 restrictions— though lifted now, to some extent— the economic activities are very subdued.
The officials said that the industry will hopefully see some tourist trickle in July and August, though the local tour operators are very apprehensive about the bookings.
The total number of positive cases recorded till Friday in Leh according to official figures is 16,254 and 3,450, in Kargil district respectively.
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