With China continuing to its expansionist agenda wherever it can, the United States (US) has come up with a plan to counter the Dragon much more vigorously than before. The Trump Administration has a plan to put in place much closer defence ties with countries of the IndoPacific region such as India, Japan and Australia.
In fact, the US wants to form an alliance like North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) with these nations whose key objective will be to counter Beijing apart from working together for key strategic goals.
US Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Beigun shared the Trump Administration’s plan to form this alliance while speaking with former US ambassador to India, Richard Verma, in an online discussion organised by the US-India Strategic Partnership forum.
Sources told The Daily Guardian that this issue will also be on the agenda during 2+2 India-US talks scheduled to take place in September. External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will be holding interactions with their US counterparts. Sources say that this meeting will focus on Chinese aggression along the LAC and South China Sea, with India and the US likely to sign a big pact to enhance intelligence sharing and strengthen strategic partnership all the more. India and the US are also keeping a close eye over closer ties between China and Pakistan. The NATO type grouping with India being in it will also be a setback to Pakistan, MEA officials believe.
With Trump administration’s key minister disclosing the US plan to formalise a NATO-like alliance with India, Japan and Australia, this issue will be discussed threadbare in the upcoming meeting of top leaderships of foreign and defence ministries.
With China continuing to create problems along de facto borders with India in Ladakh, New Delhi has been reaching out to several countries to expose Beijing’s misdeeds. Australia and Japan have been on the top of the list of the nations which Indian diplomats have been interacting with. Sources say that a top-level meeting on Tuesday at the PMO also discussed Washington’s plan of having a NATO-like body with key nations in the Indo-Pacific region. The meeting which was attended by NSA Ajit Doval discussed China’s PLA troops’ behaviour along the LAC in great details, sources said.
US Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Beigun’s statement regarding Washington’s plan to form a significant grouping has come at a time when China is refusing to deescalate along the LAC in Ladakh. Such a move at this juncture can increase pressure on Beijing, an official said. Meanwhile, Stephen Beigun in a clear message to Beijing said, “Washington’s aim is to get the grouping of four countries and others in the region to work together as a bulwark against a potential challenge from China, and to create a critical mass around the shared values and interests of those parties in a manner that attracts more countries in the Indo-Pacific and even from around the world … ultimately to align in a more structured manner.”
“The Indo-Pacific region is actually lacking in strong multilateral structures. They do not have anything of the fortitude of NATO or the European Union. The strongest institutions in Asia oftentimes are not, I think, not inclusive enough and so … there is certainly an invitation there at some point to formalise a structure like this,” Biegun said.
“Remember, even NATO started with relatively modest expectations and a number of countries (initially) chose neutrality over NATO membership,” he added. The US official informed that the grouping of four countries is expected to have its meeting in New Delhi this autumn.
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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.
PUNJAB GOVT TO SEEK $210 MILLION LOAN FROM WORLD BANK
The Punjab government will seek $ 210 million loan from World Bank/Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) for the canal-based water supply project for Amritsar and Ludhiana under the Punjab Municipal Service Improvement Project (PMSIP).
The decision to seek the loan was taken on Friday by the state cabinet at a virtual meeting chaired by Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh. The cabinet authorised the Chief Minister to take any decision to meet the objectives of the project and to ensure successful & timely implementation of various activities proposed by the World Bank/AIIB.
The proposed project investment is expected to cost around US$ 300 million, of which the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) will finance 70 percent and the Punjab government 30 percent.
The Cabinet was informed that the present water supply system to the residents of Ludhiana and Amritsar towns is through deep bore tube-wells installed at different sites. However, with time, the groundwater level is depleting causing the tube-wells to need frequent replacement. Also, the discharge in the tube-wells gets reduced, as a result of which residents often complain of getting insufficient water for drinking purpose.
To overcome this problem, it has now been decided to shift to canal-based water supply in these two towns with the assistance of the World Bank/AIIB by seeking a loan of US$M 210. The work for canal-based water supply for Amritsar town has already been awarded, whereas a request for proposal for Ludhiana town is being floated. The implementation period for this project shall be three years after the award of work.
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