Category: India and its Neighbour

INDIA AND CHINA MARKS 70 YEARS OF DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS

Why in News?

  • India and China mark the 1st April 2020 as the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between them starting from 1950 till now.

Important Events in the Past Decade:

  • 2010:
    • The 60thanniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and India.
    • In December, the two countries issued a Joint Communique.
    • 2011
    • It was the ‘China-India Exchange Year’.
    • Both sides held a series of people-to-people and cultural exchange activities.
    • Both of them signed a memorandum on joint compilation for the ‘Encyclopaedia of India-China Cultural Contacts’.
  • 2012
    • It was the ‘Year of China-India Friendship and Cooperation’.
    • The head of the governments met each other on the side-lines of the 4th BRICS Summit and the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.
  • 2015
    • The two sides met on the side-lines of the 7thBRICS Summit in Ufa, Russia and the Leaders’ Meetings on East Asia Cooperation in Malaysia.
    • China decided to open the Nathu La Pass (Sikkim) to Indian official pilgrims to Xizang.
    • India celebrated the India Tourism Year in China.
    • 2018
    • Chinese President held an informal meeting with Indian Prime Minister in Wuhan which set up a new model of exchanges between two leaders.
    • Indian Prime Minister visited China to attend the SCO Summit in Qingdao.
    • The two leaders met again on the side-lines of the 10th BRICS Summit and the G20 Summit in Buenos Aires.
  • 2019
    • The second informal meeting was held in Mamallapuram, Chennai which reaffirmed the Wuhan consensus.
    • Both nations agreed to build a closer partnership for development, enhance the in-depth strategic communication, and promote mutually beneficial cooperation in various fields and advance exchanges and mutual learning between the two civilizations.Both sides met on the side-lines of the SCO Summit in Bishkek and the 11th BRICS Summit.
    • 2020
      • It marks the year of the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and India.
      • It is also China-India Year of Cultural and People-to-People Exchanges, where the two sides agreed to hold 70 celebratory activities to demonstrate the historic connection between the two civilizations as well as their growing bilateral relationship.

    Facts and Figures on China-India Cooperation:

    Political and Diplomatic Relations:

    • The Communist Party of China (CPC) has maintained friendly exchanges with 9 major Indian political parties including the BJP, Congress and left-wing parties for a long time.
    • 20 Inter-parliamentary friendship groups have been set up by China and India.
    • There are 50 dialogue mechanisms between China and India for exchanging views on various topics of bilateral, regional and global concern.

    Economy and Trade:

    • Since the beginning of the 21st century, trade between China and India has grown from less than $3 billion to nearly $100 billion, an increase of about 32 times.
    • In 2019, the trade volume between China and India was $92.68 billion.
    • With a combined market of over 2.7 billion people and a GDP of 20% of the world’s total, China and India enjoy huge potential and broad prospects for economic and trade cooperation.

    Science and Technology:

    • Both nations have held Joint Research workshops on Science and Technology Innovation.
    • Indian companies have set up IT corridors in China, which help promote China-India cooperation in information technology and high technology.

    Defence:

    • ‘Hand-in-Hand’ joint anti-terrorist exercises to enhance mutual understanding and trust, exchange training experiences and jointly improve anti-terrorism capabilities.
    • China-India defence and security consultation to strengthen exchanges and cooperation in the Defence Field.

    People-to-People Exchanges:

    • Both nations have held meetings of China-India High-Level People-to-People and Cultural Exchanges Mechanism. The two sides have made new progress on exchanges and cooperation in the fields of art, publishing, media, film and television, museum, sports, youth, tourism, locality, traditional medicine, yoga, education and think tanks.
    • Sessions of China-India High Level Media Forum and China-India Think Tank Forum were held to strengthen exchanges and cooperation in the field of media and think tanks.
    • The two countries have established pairs of sister cities and provinces. For example, sister provinces and cities between Fujian Province and Tamil Nadu State, Quanzhou City and Chennai City.
    • The number of Indian pilgrims to Xizang Autonomous Region of China has surged from several hundred in the 1980s to more than 20,000 in 2019.

    Way Forward:

    • Today’s achievements of India-China relations embodied the great efforts of several generations.
    • Both nations need to master the four keys of:
      • Leading:It means to reach consensus and guide the direction of the development of bilateral relations under the guidance of leaders from both nations.
      • Transmitting: It means to transmit the leaders’ consensus to all levels and translate it into tangible cooperation and outcomes.
      • Shaping:It means to go beyond the mode of managing differences, shape bilateral relations actively and accumulate positive momentum.
      • Integrating:It means to strengthen exchanges and cooperation, promote convergence of interests and achieve common development.
    • At this moment, it is particularly important to revisit the original aspiration of establishing diplomatic relations 70 years ago and carry forward the spirit of good neighbourliness and friendship, unity and cooperation.

USA-TALIBAN PEACE DEAL

Why in News?

  • The United States has signed a historic deal with Taliban insurgents that could pave the way for ending the 18-year-war in Afghanistan.
  • The deal was signed in Doha (Qatar) and thus termed as Doha Agreement.

Background Info:

Post 2001 Scenario:

  • The war in Afghanistan was launched by the US in 2001 after the 9/11 attack. The US-led coalition aimed to overthrow the Taliban.
  • However, the war in Afghanistan got derailed as the U.S. shifted focus and resources towards Iraq from 2003 onwards.
  • The end objective of a stable and peaceful Afghanistan began to recede as the Taliban launched their insurgency in 2005 after they had recovered, regrouped and refinanced themselves from their sanctuary in Pakistan. Since then, the insurgency has gathered momentum and also exposed the U.S.A’s policy weaknesses.

2. Efforts of Barack Obama:

  • After taking over in 2009, President Barack Obama authorised a surge in U.S. troop presence with the objective to gain a decisive victory over the insurgency. He simultaneously announced the drawdown of forces would commence in 2011, and by 2014 the Afghan security forces would take charge of all combat operations.
  • However, this only encouraged the Taliban insurgency and exposed the shortcomings of the Afghan army and the police forces, in terms of numbers, training and equipment to deal with the post 2014 situation.
  • In 2014, the U.S. announced the withdrawal of the bulk of soldiers but a few thousand U.S. soldiers were to stay behind to “advise, train and assist” the Afghan security forces under Operation Resolute Support.

 

3. Strategy of Donald Trump:

  • In 2017, the U.S. President Donald Trump laid out a strategy for “Afghanistan and South Asia”.
  • His policy was different from those of his predecessors as it stated that American involvement in Afghanistan was “not for nation building” but was limited to “killing terrorists.”
  • He called this policy “Principled Realism” – with a shift from a time-based approach to one based on conditions. This policy was based on two pillars:
    • Military Involvement:The additional troops which would serve two roles: counterterrorism missions and training the Afghan forces.
    • Political Involvement:A negotiated political settlement with the Taliban, if the situation moves in that direction.
  • Since October 2018, Taliban representatives and US officials have been meeting to chalk out a peace treaty.

Highlights of the Deal:

  • Comprehensive Ceasefire between the Afghan Government and Taliban.
  • Timeline for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Afghanistan will be carried out, provided the Taliban adhere to their security guarantees and ceasefire.
  • The prevention of the use of Afghanistan by any group or individual against the security of the United States and its allies.
  • The facilitation of an intra-Afghan dialogue.
  • In turn, the Taliban has demanded the release of fighters from Afghan-run jails.
  • The agreement also set out a course for the next 14 months.

India’s Stand about this Deal:

  • India has been always supportive of the inclusive peace process, specifically Afghan-owned, Afghan-led and Afghan-controlled.
  • The participation of the Afghan government’s delegation during the Doha agreement as well as the upcoming intra-Afghan peace negotiations would be following the path desired by India.
  • The deal has reiterated India’s commitment to Afghanistan’s pursuit of “sustainable peace and reconciliation”. Thus, India has accepted the Doha Agreement (2020).

Possible Issues for India:

1. Security of India:

  • The deal mentions about prevention of the use of Afghanistan by any group against the security of the United States and its allies. However, it is unclear whether India, which is not a U.S. ally, is included in this clause, and whether Pakistan-backed groups that threaten India, would still operate in Afghanistan.

2. Benefit for Pakistan:

  • The deal also promises to take Taliban leaders off the UN Security Council’s sanctions list, which could considerably bring down the number of terrorists harboured by Pakistan. This might benefit Pakistan during the June 2020 FATF Plenary.

3. Threat of Sidelining of Intra-Afghan Dialogue:

  • The U.S. has committed to clear five bases and withdrawal of troops and it intends to submit to the Taliban-led government. Thus, priority to future Taliban led government may sideline the “Intra-Afghan” dialogue and India’s support for the election process for leadership in Afghanistan.

INDIA INVITED FOR US-TALIBAN TALKS IN QATAR

Why in News?

  • India has been invited to witness the ceremony to seal the peace deal between the U.S. and Taliban in Qatari capital Doha.

Highlights:

  • The deal would allow for the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan. The US has lost over 2,400 soldiers in Afghanistan since late 2001.
  • India has reiterated that a peace negotiation should be Afghan owned, Afghan led and Afghan controlled, and participation from the Afghan government in the ceremony will indicate that the U.S.-Taliban deal will ultimately take an inclusive turn.
  • This issue is already part of the draft peace agreement and Kabul is expected to deal with this soon after the U.S.-Taliban deal is signed.
  • It is understood that the same six-member delegation will represent the Government of President Ghani in the ceremony and begin the intra-Afghan negotiation thereafter.
  • India has been a key stakeholder in the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan. Major powers such as the US, Russia and Iran have been reaching out to the Taliban as part of efforts to push the stalled Afghan peace process.

Peace Deal:

  • The Peace deal will allow for the withdrawal of the US forces from Afghanistan.
  • There are more than 12,000 US troops in Afghanistan. A report stated that 2,448 Americans have died in combat there since the invasion in October 2001.
  • India has been invited by the Qatar government for the signing ceremony India has been a key stakeholder in the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan.
  • This will be the first time India will officially attend an event involving the Taliban.
  • Countries including the US, Russia, and Iran have been reaching out to the Taliban as part of efforts to push the stalled Afghan peace process.
  • In November 2018, India had sent two former diplomats in non-official capacity to a conference on the Afghan peace process in Moscow, Russia.
  • The peace deal conference was organized by Russia. It was attended by a high-level Taliban delegation, representatives of Afghanistan and from several other countries, including the US, Pakistan, and China.
  • India has also been maintaining that care should be taken to ensure that any such process does not lead to any “ungoverned spaces” where terrorists and their proxies can relocate.

 

 

INDIA – MYANMAR TIES

Context:

  • Recently, India and Myanmar exchanged 10 agreements in fields ranging from infrastructure, energy, communication and health. The agreements and Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) were signed and exchanged after talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Myanmar President U Win Myint.

Key Facts:

  • The focus of many agreements was on development projects under India’s assistance, particularly in the conflict-torn Rakhine state.
  • The agreements included an MoU on ‘Cooperation for Prevention of Trafficking in Persons; Rescue, Recovery, Repatriation and Reintegration of Victims of Trafficking’.
  • An agreement regarding Indian Grant Assistance for Implementation of Quick Impact Projects (QIP) under Mekong-Ganga Cooperation mechanism was also signed between the two sides.
  • India will carry out more development projects in the Rakhine province of Myanmar, which is considered the homeland of the Rohingya community.

India – Myanmar

  • India shares a land border of over 1600 kms with Myanmar as well as a maritime boundary in the Bay of Bengal.
  • Four north-eastern states, viz., Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram, have a boundary with Myanmar.
  • Both countries share a heritage of religious, linguistic and ethnic ties.
  • Myanmar is the only ASEAN country adjoining India and, therefore, a gateway to SouthEast Asia.
  • Myanmar is the only country that sits at the intersection of India’s “Neighborhood First” policy and “Act East” policy.
  • India is the fifth largest trading partner of Myanmar and the current bilateral trade stands at US $ 1.7 billion.

Trade and Economy

  • A bilateral Trade Agreement was signed in 1970. Bilateral trade has been growing steadily.
  • India is the fifth largest trading partner of Myanmar and the current bilateral trade stands at US $ 1.7 billion.
  • Agriculture sector dominates the trade, particularly the supply of beans & pulses to India and timber.
  • India’s major exports to Myanmar include sugar, pharmaceuticals.
  • India is presently the eleventh largest investor in Myanmar.
  • Most of India’s investments have been in the oil & natural gas sector.

Transport

  • Myanmar is potentially an important partner in the energy sector as future offshore gas finds can be piped to India.
  • India is building the Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport, to link Kolkata to Sittwe in Myanmar and then from Myanmar’s Kaladan river to India’s north-east.
  • India, Myanmar, and Thailand are building the Asian Trilateral Highway, which will connect India to ASEAN.
  • As part of its policy for the Indian Ocean called Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR), central to which is “port-led development,” India developed the Sittwe port in Myanmar’s Rakhine state

Development Cooperation

  • India has extended around $2 billion as soft loans.
  • India is extending assistance for border area development in Chin State and the Naga Self-Administered Zone by financing infrastructure.
  • India is also providing assistance in setting up institutions for higher learning and research, namely Myanmar Institute of Information Technology, Advanced Centre for Agricultural Research and Education, etc.
  • India helped in the setting up of infrastructure and socio-economic projects jointly with Myanmar in the Rakhine state to upgrade the livelihood of the people.

Defence Cooperation

  • India-Myanmar Bilateral Army Exercise (IMBAX) is aimed at building and promoting closer relations with armies.
  • Myanmar is a key partner in the fight to end insurgency in India’s northeast.

Culture

  • India and Myanmar share cultural ties in terms of Buddhist heritage and shared history of colonialism.
  • Building on this shared heritage, India is undertaking some key initiatives in the restoration of the Ananda Temple in Bagan and the repair and conservation of a large number of damaged pagodas.

Disaster Relief

  • India has responded promptly and effectively in rendering assistance following natural calamities in Myanmar like Cyclone Mora (2017), Komen (2015), earthquake in Shan State (2010).
  • India also offered to provide support in capacity building in disaster risk mitigation as well as in strengthening Myanmar’s National Disaster Response Mechanism.

Indian Diaspora

  • There are varying estimates of 1.5-2 million people of Indian origin living and working in various parts of Myanmar, since the times of colonial British rule.

Multilateral Partnership

  • Myanmar is also a key component of India’s strategy to bridge South and South-East Asia through BIMSTEC.
  • Myanmar’s membership of ASEAN, BIMSTEC and Mekong Ganga Cooperation has introduced a regional/sub-regional dimension to bilateral relations.
  • Myanmar has been added to SAARC as an observer, which it formally acquired in 2008.

The Chinese Mileage:

  • China has been instrumental in shielding Myanmar from international sanctions at the United Nations, in the Rohingya issue.
  • China is also Myanmar’s biggest trading partner and one of its largest sources of inward investment. China is making its presence in Myanmar through the construction of the Kyaukpyu port, as a part of its Belt and Road Initiative.
  • China’s increased presence in Myanmar could mean constraints on India that wishes to deepen cooperation with Myanmar.
  • With Myanmar seemingly drawing closer to China under pressure from the West, Beijing could attempt to keep the country under its influence like it does in the case of Cambodia and Laos.
  • Chinese influence in the region might result in a huge setback for India whose investment in Myanmar is comparatively less.

Way Forward:

  • Because of geopolitical considerations, India will need to perform a balancing act between Muslim-majority Bangladesh and Buddhist-majority Myanmar as far as the Rohingya issue is concerned.
  • The quicker the Rohingya issue is resolved, the easier it will be for India to manage its relations with Myanmar and Bangladesh, focusing instead more on bilateral and subregional economic cooperation.
  • Myanmar is an emerging consumer market of 60 million people who have demands for products ranging from personal care to beverages to smart phones. India should leverage these export opportunities.
  • “Pauk Phaw”, which literally means ‘born together’, a historical relation between China and Myanmar, is a case for concern for India.

US – TALIBAN PEACE PACT & INDIA

Context:

  • The US administration and the Taliban negotiators have agreed to finalise a peace pact on February 29 if a seven-day cooling-off period was passed off peacefully. The reduction in violence is seen as a test of the Taliban’s control of their ranks and their commitment to peace.This peace deal would be the first step towards US’s withdrawal from the Afghan soil.

The Peace deal and Afghan’s future:

  • The peace deal is expected to kick off two processes — a phased withdrawal of US troops and an ‘intra-Afghan’ dialogue.
  • The first test will be a “significant reduction in violence” across Afghanistan.
  • “Intra-Afghan negotiations will start soon thereafter, and will build on this fundamental step to deliver a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire and the future political roadmap for Afghanistan.
  • The only way to achieve a sustainable peace in Afghanistan is by bringing together the main political actors – the Afghan government and the Taliban on the same page.
  • However, many security analysts have criticised the US-Taliban talks as it would legitimise the Taliban.

The Taliban and Afghanistan’s Troubled Peace:

  • Taliban is an Islamic fundamentalist terror outfit originating in Afghanistan, waging war in the country in the form of an insurgency.
  • Taliban emerged in the aftermath of the Afghan Civil War in 1994 and had established dominance in Afghanistan until they were ousted in 2001 after the American invasion.
  • The Taliban has been condemned internationally for brutal treatment of many Afghans especially women.
  • The UN has accused Taliban of starving the Afghan population by denying them UN food supplies and burning vast areas of fertile land.
  • In areas they controlled the Taliban issued edicts which forbade women from being educated and girls were forced to leave schools and colleges.
  • Taliban has also been accused of sheltering terrorists that were involved in the 9/11 terror attacks and have claimed responsibility for multiple terror attacks within the country as well as outside.
  • Post 9/11 the group has focused more on pushing forward their political and ideological goals by expanding links to other terror outfits like Al-Qaeda and more recently ISIS.

US withdrawal and impact on India:

  • India has an investment of over 3 billion dollars in Afghanistan.
  • India’s interest is to secure the investments it has made in Afghanistan in the past two decades, and the security of its diplomats, personnel and missions.
  • India is helping the Afghan state in the rehabilitation process. This has taken away the large number of Afghan youth from the path of terrorism.
  • India wants an Afghan led, controlled, owned process in which all stakeholders have a role to play.India’s position has always been that it does not have any direct conversation with the Taliban.
  • However, in 2018, India sent two retired diplomats, at the non-official level to join negotiations with Taliban at Moscow.
  • India stresses on the legitimate democratically elected government in Afghanistan.
  • India is seen as a stabilizing force by Afghanistan which can keep a check on Pakistan.
  • In addition, India is concerned about the ungoverned spaces in that country, which could become grounds for terror groups to flourish.
  • Of particular concern would be the prospect that Pakistan could use any such spaces to move its anti-India terror infrastructure, groups like LeT and JeM from Pakistan.

The Pakistan Factor:

  • Pakistan has been pressured by the US to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table and prima facie, it has delivered.
  • Pakistan tends to utilize the space to project its influence over the Afghan political space and inturn use it as a leverage to come out of the FATF’s grey list.
  • However, once when the Taliban enters a power sharing agreement with the Afghan government as part of the US Peace Process, Pakistan may lose its control over the Talibans.
  • Pakistan has been providing continuous support to the destabilising elements in Afghanistan, despite the US aid withdrawal. The status-quo is about to change with the Afghan peace deal progress.

Way Forward:

  • Making truce only with the Taliban is however a short-sighted policy, an overall dialogue needs to take place among all the stakeholders in Afghanistan to ensure sustainable peace,
  • The other countries need to keep their respective interests aside, to build peace in the region.
  • The US needs to make its policy on terror in Afghanistan clear, post the afghan withdrawal.
  • India and Central Asian Republics can come forward in the rebuilding process to ensure peace in the region.

TAMILS OF SRI LANKA

Context:

  • During the Sri Lankan Prime Minister Rajapaksa’s visit to India, Indian Prime Minister used the occasion to raise India’s concerns about the incomplete process of reconciliation and the devolution of powers to Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority.

India – Sri Lanka Relations:

  • The relationship between India and Sri Lanka is more than 2,500 years old.
  • Both countries have a legacy of intellectual, cultural, religious and linguistic interaction.
  • In recent years, the relationship has been marked by close contacts at all levels.
  • The progress in implementation of developmental assistance projects for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and disadvantaged sections of the population in Sri Lanka has been the core issue between the two countries.
  • The nearly three-decade long armed conflict between Sri Lankan forces and the LTTE came to an end in May 2009.
  • During the course of the conflict, India supported the right of the Government of Sri Lanka to act against rebel forces.
  • At the same time, it conveyed its deep concern at the plight of the civilian population, emphasizing that their rights and welfare should not get enmeshed in hostilities against the LTTE.
  • India’s consistent position is in favour of a negotiated political settlement, which is acceptable to all communities within the framework of a united Sri Lanka and which is consistent with democracy, pluralism and respect for humTamils and Sinhalese are the two major ethnic groups in Sri Lanka.

What are the causes of the Sri Lankan Civil War?

  • Sinhalese eternal conflict with Tamils for power had been gathering strength since before its independence.
  • Under the Colonial rule, many Tamils attended English language schools which were the passport to higher education and better employment.
  • And the Tamil-dominated Northern Province had comparatively better facilities in terms of education and employment.
  • Post-independence Sinhalese nationalism sought to curb the Tamil presence in education and civil administration.
  • In 1949 Indian Tamil plantation workers disenfranchised, the start of a wave of Sinhalese nationalism which alienated the Tamil people in the region.
  • The passing of the infamous “Sinhalese Only Bill” in 1956 was another attempt in the same lines.
  • The constitutional provisions in the 1972 Constitution favoring the Sinhalese language and Buddhist religion, along with their educational policies convinced many Tamils that they had been perceived as a marginal community.
  • As a result of open discrimination, in 1976 Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was formed to fight for Tamil rights and in 1983 Civil war started.

What is the relation between LTTE and India’s involvement in the Civil War?

  • The LTTE was founded in 1976 by Velupillai Prabhakaran with the goal of creating an independent Tamil Eelam out of Sri Lanka.
  • From clashes with the Sri Lankan military, the LTTE in the early 80s launched a full scale nationalist insurgency in the north and east of the country, carrying out a string of major terrorist attacks against both military and civilian targets.
  • India’s relationship with the LTTE was complex — from providing support to the guerrillas initially to sending the Indian Peacekeeping Force (IPKF) to Sri Lanka from 1987 to 1990.
  • The LTTE pioneered suicide bombing as a weapon of terror, and in 1991, an LTTE suicide bomber killed Rajiv Gandhi in an attack on Indian soil.
  • Among the other high-profile assassinations carried out by the Tamil Tigers was that of the Sri Lankan President Ranasinghe Premadasa in 1993.
  • The LTTE, which used women and children in combat, controlled, at its peak, over three-quarters of Sri Lanka’s northern and eastern provinces.
  • The organisation was finally crushed in a ruthless military offensive by the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa in 2009.
  • The LTTE was designated as a terrorist organisation by 32 countries, including, besides India, the United States, Canada, and the European Union.
  • The US designated the LTTE as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation (FTO) in 1997.
  • India first banned the LTTE after the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi; the ban was last extended for five years in 2014.

What is the role of India in the Sri Lankan Civil War?

  • The bilateral relations between India and Sri Lanka deteriorated in 1980’s with the rise of the Tamil militant separatism in Sri Lanka.
  • In 1987 with the objective of improving ties, the Indo-Sri Lankan Accord was signed between India and Sri Lanka.
  • It proposed a political solution to Sri Lanka’s conflict by establishing a provincial council system and devolution of power for nine provinces in Sri Lanka – The Thirteenth Amendment (13A) to the Constitution of Sri Lanka
  • India also deployed Indian Peace Keeping Force in Sri Lanka intended to perform a peacekeeping – Operation Pawan.
  • The effect of which ultimately resulted in the assassination of PM Rajiv Gandhi.
  • After two years of constant military engagement, the IPKF was withdrawn as it failed to defeat LTTE.
  • Finally, in 2009, 25 years of violence ended when the Sri Lankan government seized the last area controlled by Tamil Tiger rebels.
  • India at that point agreed to reconstruct the war-torn areas and started many rehabilitation programs.
  • However, the pro-LTTE governments in Tamil Nadu influenced the decisions of the Central Government which posed a roadblock in humanitarian assistance in Sri Lanka.
  • Also, the relationship started deteriorating when India voted against Sri Lanka in 2009, 2012 and 2013 at the US-sponsored UNHRC resolution to investigate alleged human rights violations by the state against the Tamil rebels.

 What is 13A and how does it affect the socio-political landscape of Sri Lanka?

  • In 1987, Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Sri Lankan President J.R. Jayewardene signed the Indo Sri Lanka Peace Accord to resolve the civil war.
  • Under the terms of the agreement, Colombo had to devolve power to the provinces – including northern provinces, while LTTE had to surrender the arms.
  • But LITE was not a party to this agreement. Initially, they accepted it but then later said that they would continue their struggle.
  • Before this peace accord, enactment of the sixth amendment of the Sri Lankan Constitution in August 1983 had classified all separatist movements as unconstitutional. In the Indo-Sri Lankan Peace accord the Sri Lankan Government made a number of concessions to Tamil demands, which included
    • Devolution of power to the provinces.
    • Merger (subject to later referendum) of the northern and eastern provinces.
    • Official status for the Tamil language.
  • The Thirteenth Amendment (13A) to the Constitution of Sri Lanka:
    • The provisions for setting up of a Provincial Council for each Province;
    • Establishment of a High Court for each Province;
    • Making Tamil an official language and English the link language.
    • Provincial councils are to directly elected for five 5 year terms.
    • The leader of the council majority serves as the province’s Chief Minister with a board of ministers; a provincial governor is appointed by the president.
  • Thus, the 13thamendment, sought to grant regional autonomy as a political solution.
  • However, even after several years of decimation of the LTTE, the ethnic reconciliation remains a distant dream in Sri Lanka.
    • Indian government has reiterated several times that Sri Lanka needs to complete the process of devolution of power to provinces by implementing its constitution’s 13th Amendment. However, the political will of the Sri Lankan governments have kept the issues of Tamils at bay.

BHUTAN ENDS FREE ENTRY FOR INDIAN TOURISTS

Why in News?

  • The Government of Bhutan has decided to levy a daily RS.1,200 ($17) fee for regional tourists from India, the Maldives and Bangladesh, beginning July 2020.

Highlights:

  • The fee, called a Sustainable Development Fee (SDF), is meant to help the government deal with burgeoning numbers in tourist traffic, which it is seeking to regulate through a new tourism policy.
  • The decision was passed by the National Assembly as a ‘Tourism Levy and Exemption Bill of Bhutan’, 2020.
  • The SDF is considerably lower than the $65 charged to other foreign tourists, who are also charged a compulsory flat “cover charge” of $250 per day.
  • Indians mainly travel to the more developed western region of Bhutan. In a move to promote tourism in Bhutan’s eastern region as well, the government has decided to drop SDF charges for tourists visiting 11 of 20 total districts that fall in the east from Trongsa to Trashigang.
  • Regional tour operators, especially from West Bengal have expressed concerns that the SDF will have dampening effect on numbers, and impact the heavy rush during the October.
  • India’s hesitation also comes as the new SDF, while a seemingly small amount compared to the fees charged to other nationalities, could be seen as a way of making Indian tourists feel unwelcome.
  • In the past year, Bhutanese newspapers have often complained about Indian tourists who don’t pay heed to local customs and picnickers who litter the country’s pristine Environment.
  • In 2018, of the 2,74,000 tourists visiting Bhutan, the council estimated that about 2,00,000 were from the region, of which about 1,80,000 were from India.

INDIA AND MALDIVES SIGN FOUR MOUS

Why in News?

  • India and Maldives signed five memorandum of understanding (MoUs) on February 02, 2020.
  • The objective of this MoU is to establish the Addu tourism zone on the five islands of Addu Atoll in the Maldives. It will cost Twenty-Four Million Ninety Thousand Dollars.

Addu Tourism Zone:

  • Addu is one of the most beautiful sites of Maldives’26 coral atolls. It comprises more than two dozens of Maldives’ 1192 islands.
  • Addu is also an important site for tourism because it represents the southernmost point of South Asia. About 10% of actual Maldives residents are living here with unique culture and dialect.
  • India is expanding its tourism and infrastructure development limits through off-shore development works. Addu Tourism Zone will increase India’s capacity for infrastructure building. Addu Tourism Zone will bring national and international tourists and diplomats that will boost India’s and Maldives’ tourism sector.
  • Indian citizens are second among people coming to the Maldives to visit from all over the world. According to the official figures released by Maldives Tourism Minister Ali Waheed, 82,140 Indian tourists went to visit the Maldives in the first six months of 2019.

India-Maldives Relations:

  • India-Maldives relations refer to a long time bilateral relations between both countries.
  • This relationship has been friendly and close in strategic, economic and military cooperation. Almost all the Prime Ministers of India have visited Maldives during their tenure.
  • India and Maldives began bilateral relations soon after the independence of Maldives from British rule in 1965. India was one of the first countries to recognize the Maldives as an Independent Nation.
  • India established its Diplomatic Mission in Male in 1972, the capital of Maldives.

 

 

MAHABALIPURAM’S CHINA CONNECTION

Why in News?

  • Mahabalipuram or Mamallapuram where PM Modi will meet China’s President Xi Jinping on October 11 & 12 in an informal Wuhan-style summit, had ancient links with Buddhism and China through the maritime outreach of the Pallava dynasty.

The Pallavas:

  • The name Mamallapuram derives from Mamallan, or “great warrior”, a title by which the Pallava King Narasimhavarman I (630-668 AD) was known.
  • It was during his reign that Hiuen Tsang, the Chinese Buddhist monk-traveller, visited the Pallava capital at Kanchipuram.
  • Narasimhavarman II (c.700-728 AD) aka Rajasimhan built on the work of earlier Pallava kings to consolidate maritime mercantile links with Southeast Asia.
  • The Descent of the Ganga/Arjuna’s Penance, a rock carving commissioned by Narasimhavarman I, with its depiction of the Bhagirathi flowing from the Himalayas, may serve as a reminder of the geography of India-China relations, and their shared resources.
  • Tamil-Chinese links continued after the Pallavas, flourishing under the Cholas as the Coromandel coast became the entrepot between China and the Middle East.

Overseas Mission:

  • He sent a mission to the Tang court in 720 with a request that would seem unusual in the context of India-China relations today.
  • The emissaries of the Pallava king sought the permission of Emperor Xuangzong to fight back Arab and Tibetan intrusions in South Asia.
  • Pleased with the Indian king’s offer to form a coalition against the Arabs and Tibetans, the Chinese emperor bestowed the title of ‘huaide jun’ (the Army that Cherishes Virtue) to Narayansimha II’s troops.
  • The offer of help by the Pallava ruler, Sen noted, may have had more to do with furthering trade and for the prestige of association with the Chinese emperor, rather than any real prospect of helping him to fight off enemies in the faraway north.

Continuing Connections:

  • In later centuries, the Coromandel coast retained its importance for trade between China and the west.
  • In the 17th and 18th centuries, it was a staging post for the Dutch, French and British for control of the seas between South Asia and SE Asia, as the Europeans fought to protect their trade routes with China and other countries in the region.
  • The ancient port city of Pondicherry, 80 km south of Mahabalipuram, was a French colony famous for its Chinese exports known as “Coromandel goods”, including crepe de chine.
  • Today the UT, with its French legacy, Tamil residents, Bengali and international devotees of Sri Aurobindo, is among the most diverse and cosmopolitan of cities in South India.

LIST OF MOUS/AGREEMENTS EXCHANGED BETWEEN BANGLADESH AND INDIA

Why in News?

  • India and Bangladesh have entered into agreements during the official visit of Prime Minister of Bangladesh to India.

List of MoUs:

  • Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) on the use of Chattogram and Mongla Ports for Movement of goods to and from India
  • MoU on withdrawal of 1.82 cusecs of water from Feni river by India for drinking water supply, scheme for Sabroom town, Tripura
  • The two leaders directed the Technical Level Committee of the Joint Rivers Commission to expeditiously exchange updated data and information and prepare the draft framework of Interim Sharing Agreements for the six rivers — Manu, Muhuri, Khowai, Gumti, Dharla and Dudhkumar and to firm up the draft framework of interim sharing agreement of Feni river.
  • Agreement concerning the implementation of GoI Line of Credits (LOC) extended to Bangladesh
  • MoU between the University of Hyderabad and University of Dhaka
  • Cultural Exchange Programme- Renewal
  • MoU on Co-operation in Youth Affairs
  • MoU on providing Coastal Surveillance System

Impact:

  • They have decided to expand connectivity network corridors boosting Delhi’s Indo-Pacific strategy, with Dhaka emerging as a key pillar in that vision.
  • Tripura will be a major beneficiary of the seven Indo-Bangladesh agreements signed during Bangladesh Prime Minister’s visit.
  • It will become the first Northeast state to have direct access to international sea trade routes, once the agreements are implemented.
  • The Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) is in the process of setting up a jetty for inland waterways connectivity with Bangladesh.
  • This new route would put Tripura in direct access to Ashuganj port, which is 60 km from the international border.
  • Both leaders underlined the immense potential of movement of cargo using the inland water and coastal shipping trade.
  • Towards this, they welcomed the decision to operationalize the Dhulian-Gadagari-Rajshahi-Daulatdia-Aricha Route (to and fro) and include Daudkandi-Sonamura Route (to and fro) under Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade.
  • The Indian ports will attract enhanced cargo and also the overall transportation cost to Bangladesh will get reduced.

DELHI-DHAKA TIES BEST EVER NOW: BANGLADESH MINISTER

Why in News?

  • Bangladesh and India are currently enjoying “best ever” relations, Foreign Minister of Bangladesh Dr.K. Abdul Momen said during an interaction with the media in Dhaka.

Highlights:

  • The observations form the backdrop to the October 3-6, 2019 visit of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina that will include a summit-level meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
  • Sheikh Hasina is also expected to participate in the India Economic Forum.
  • Bangladesh has recently been in the spotlight after the final list of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam was published on 31st August 2019.
  • The exercise excluded more than 1.9 million individuals.
  • However, India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar had assured Bangladesh that the future of the NRC-excluded Bengali-speaking people in Assam is an internal issue of India.
  • Subsequently, however, Home Minister Amit Shah had said the people excluded from the NRC will not find space in India.
  • Bangladesh has steadfastly refused to be drawn into the debate.

India-Bangladesh:

  • The relations between Bangladesh and India, the South Asian neighbours have been friendly, although sometimes there are border disputes.
  • The historic land boundary agreement was signed on 6 June 2015 which opened a new era in the relations and further stopped all irritants in ties.
  • They are common members of SAARC, BIMSTEC, IORA and the Commonwealth.
  • The two countries share many cultural ties. In particular, Bangladesh and the East Indian state of West Bengal are Bengali-speaking.

PAKISTAN OPENS AIRSPACE; HOW THIS WILL IMPACT INDIAN AIRLINES?

  • Context: Pakistan opened its airspace for the first time since February 26. The country had imposed restrictions on its airspace in response to the non-military counter-terrorism airstrike by the Indian Air Force against terror camps in Balakot.
  • A NOTAM, or Notice to Airmen, was last issued by the Pakistani Civil Aviation Authority closing the airspace.
  • This was cancelled early on 16th July, effective around 1 am Indian Standard Time (IST). According to flight tracking portal Flightradar24, several inbound Air India flights from Europe were using routes passing through the Pakistan airspace to return to Delhi.

Impact Of Such Move By Pakistan:

  • The move is expected to result in the reduction of flight times by around 70-80 minutes for flights that earlier used Pakistan’s airspace for transit.
  • Indian carriers lost crores of rupees due to the restrictions that had resulted in longer flight times and higher fuel burns. Initially, Pakistan had completely closed its airspace. However, it later relaxed the restrictions on overflying the country partially. Out of the total 11 air routes in Pakistan’s territory, it has opened up two since March. One of these is westbound waypoint over Arabian Sea towards Karachi, Hingol, Gwadar, and the other one is eastbound over Karachi, Badin into Gujarat, India towards Ahmedabad.

Routes affected by Pakistan Restrictions on Airspace:

  • The closure of routes affected hundreds of east-west flights flying over the subcontinent but westbound flights from airports in northern India such as Delhi, Lucknow, Amritsar etc have been worst affected.
  • Due to the closure of routes that allowed westbound flights from airports in north India to enter Pakistani airspace — instead of taking a detour to Gujarat or Maharashtra and then turning right for Europe, North America or West Asia — most flights had seen their durations rise by at least 70-80 minutes. Air India’s flights from Delhi to Chicago had a planned stoppage in Europe for refuelling. Further, IndiGo’s flight from Delhi to Istanbul, which was to be the first non-stop flight on route by an Indian carrier was forced to make a refuelling stop at Doha. Similarly, SpiceJet, which was only Indian airline flying the Delhi-Kabul route had cancelled the flight.

INDIA BUILDS 250 HOMES IN MYANMAR TO ASSIST ROHINGYA

Why in News?

  • Two years after more than 700,000 Rohingya fled to camps in Bangladesh alleging ethnic cleansing by Myanmar forces, the Indian government says it is stepping up efforts to help them return to their villages.
  • Recently, India’s Ambassador to Myanmar, Saurabh Kumar handed over 250 completed pre-fabricated homes to the Myanmar government for use by the refugees when they return.

Part of 2017 pact:

  • The project is part of an agreement signed by the two governments in 2017, under which the government had committed to spending $25 million over five years.
  • The houses, measuring 40 square metres each, are designed to survive quakes and cyclonic storms. The 250 houses, built in three clusters, are in the Shwe Zar, Kyein Chaung Taung and Nan Thar Taung areas that saw some of the worst cases of violence, including mass murder, gang-rape of women and children and burning of thousands of homes.
  • They have cost about ₹10 crore.
  • However, there are no signs yet that the Rohingya will return at any specific date.

A Look at other developments:

  • The Myanmar government has also handed over a list of 21 other projects that it wants India to fund as part of the agreement, including the construction of small villages, culverts and school buildings. It is important to note that hundreds of thousands of Rohingya, mostly Muslim, fled the violence that started after a local militant group ARSA attacked several Myanmar police posts in August 2017, killing about 12, and also Hindus in nearby Rakhine villages. In attacks on the Muslim Rohingya, termed ‘retaliatory’ by Myanmar’s Junta and the majority Buddhist community, thousands were killed. Nearly a million Rohingya, including about 400 Hindu families, are now living in precarious conditions.

International Concern:

  • The government in NayPyiTaw still refuses to recognise the Rohingya as citizens and will not prosecute military personnel and civilians for the killings, which the United Nations officials said bore the hallmarks of genocide.
  • In such a situation, several international refugee relief and human rights agencies have counselled against forcing the refugees to return to Myanmar.
  • Making the situation worse are monsoon rains and flooding at the camps in Bangladesh that have already affected about 45,000 people since April 2019, even as international funding for the camps dwindles.
  • Despite the desperate situation for them, there are no signs yet that the Rohingya refugees will return at any specific date, and officials could not confirm when they would actually occupy the houses being built by India and also by Japan, China and ASEAN countries for them.

Modi voted ‘World’s Most Powerful Leader 2019

  • PM Narendra Modi was voted the ‘World’s Most Powerful Person 2019’ in the reader’s poll conducted by UK-based British Herald magazine.
  • PM Modi received 30.9% of total votes to beat US President Donald Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
  • PM Modi will feature on the cover page of the July 15 edition of the magazine.

MALDIVES AND INDIA

  • Maldives is an Island nation located in the Indian Ocean.
  • It owes significance as it is a member of Indian Ocean Rim Association since 2018.
  • Maldives has recently become a hotspot for the ongoing power struggle between India and China to establish supremacy over the Indian Ocean region.
  • The present regime of Maldives under President Ibrahim Mohammed Solih is more inclined towards India than China. Prime Minister Modi’s first visit to the island nation soon after his re-election reflects the importance that India holds for the country.
  • Both India and Maldives share the issues on religious radicalization, terrorism, energy crisis, blue economy, tourism, maritime security etc. India has signed agreements on various sectors in Modi’s recent visit to the nation.
  • Cooperation in the field of Hydrography
  • Health sector
  • Establishment of passenger cargo service by sea between the two Nations
  • Customs capacity building
  • Sharing of White shipping information

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU THANKS NARENDRA MODI FOR VOTE AGAINST PALESTINIAN GROUP

Why in News:

  • India backed Israel at UN forum against Hamas-linked NGO

Background:

  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has thanked his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi for voting in favour of a decision introduced by the Jewish state that objected to granting consultative status to a Palestinian group at the UN’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).
  • In a rare move, India voted in favour of Israel in ECOSOC to deny the Palestinian non- governmental organisation ‘Shahed’ the observer status, after Israel said the organisation did not disclose its ties with Hamas.

First-Ever Move:

  • It is the first time that India has voted on a resolution at the UN that is being perceived as pro-Israel.
  • India’s position on the Middle East Peace Process has been consistent.
  • India supports a negotiated solution resulting in a sovereign, independent, viable and united State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, living within secure and recognised borders, side by side at peace with Israel as endorsed in the Quartet Roadmap and relevant UNSC Resolutions.

Ecosoc Vote:

  • The ECOSOC vote, which took place at the UN, saw countries such as the U.S., France, Germany, India, Japan, the U.K., South Korea and Canada polling in favour of Israel, while China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and others voted against it.
  • The proposal made by the Palestinian NGO ‘Shahed’ to obtain observer status in the UN was rejected by a 28-14 vote.
  • Palestinian Islamist group Hamas has been described as a terrorist organisation by many European countries.

PAKISTAN FACES FATF BLACKLIST

Why in News:

  • Pakistan was placed on FATF’s grey list for terror financing.

Background: / What is FATA?

  • The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is an inter-governmental body established in 1989 by the Ministers of its Member jurisdictions.
  • The objectives of the FATF are to set standards and promote effective implementation of measures for combating money laundering, terrorist financing and other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system.
  • The FATF is a “policy-making body” which works to generate the necessary political will to
    bring about national legislative and regulatory reforms in these areas.
  • In collaboration with other international stakeholders, the FATF works to identify national-level vulnerabilities with the aim of protecting the international financial system from misuse.
  • The FATF’s decision making body, the FATF Plenary, meets three times per year.

What is the Recent Decision on Pakistan?

  • The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) Plenary on decided to put Pakistan back on the “grey list”. By this Pakistan will subject to direct monitoring and intense scrutiny by the International Co-operation Review Group (ICRG) on terror financing, pending further review in June 2018. The FATF decision was by consensus, after days of closed-door discussions within the 37-member group.
  • US piloted a resolution against Pakistan to put it in the global terror finance watch list.

What is the reason behind this move?

  • The move was pushed by four nominating countries: The United States, United Kingdom, Germany and France.
  • In mid-January, they had written to the FATF stating that even though Pakistan had an anti-money laundering/anti-terror funding regime in place, effectiveness of the implementation was inadequate.
  • Some countries said Pakistan’s actions only followed recent FATF pressure, and it would
    be counter-productive to let it off the hook just when the pressure was yielding results.
  • Earlier this week, Pakistan had claimed victory in the ongoing FATF meeting, as a preliminary discussion in the ICRG failed to build a consensus on putting it again on the watch list, after China, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and GCC countries objected to Pakistan’s nomination.
  • The U.S. worked hard to bring Saudi Arabia around, Germany worked on the GCC, while India was able to speak to Russia.
  • China may have been incentivised to help because it had become Vice-Chair of the FATF committee, and would like to play a responsible role at the international grouping.

What are the implications of getting under the watch list?

  • International financial institutions and banks will now find it difficult to conduct business in Pakistan.
  • The list would make it harder for foreign investors and companies to rise funds overseas.
  • It would also make it more expensive to get and repay loans from international lenders like the IMF and the World Bank.
  • Under a “Compliance Document,” Pakistan required to furnish to the ICRG regarding it’s a full action plan to crack down on terror groups banned by the UNSC that operate on its soil.
  • The terror groups include the Jaish-e-Mohammed, the Lashkar-e-Taiba and affiliated groups.

INDIA, MALDIVES SIGN SIX KEY AGREEMENTS

Why in News:

  • India and maldives signed six key agreements.

More in News:

  • Prime Minister of India H.E. Shri Narendra Modi, is on a State Visit to the Maldives from 8 to 9 June 2019, at the invitation of the President of the Republic of Maldives H.E. Mr Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.
  • This is PM Modi’s first overseas visit after taking oath of office for a second term, on 30 May 2019. The visit is an important symbolic gesture reflective of the special relationship that exists between the two countries.

MOU’s signed:

  • The two sides signed the following MoUs/Technical Agreements during the visit:
  • MoU for Cooperation in the Field of Hydrography .
  • MoU on Cooperation in the field of Health .
  • MoU for the Establishment of Passenger and Cargo Services by Sea .
  • MoU for Cooperation in Customs Capacity Building between the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs of India and the Maldives Customs Service .
  • MoU between National Centre for Good Governance, Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances and Maldives Civil Service Commission on Training and Capacity Building Programme for Maldivian Civil Servants .
  • Technical Agreement on Sharing White Shipping Information between the Indian Navy and the Maldives National Defence Force.

LOW TACTICS: ON INDIAN EMBASSY’S IFTAR PARTY IN ISLAMABAD

Why in News:

  • India has issued a public statement of protest over the harassment of guests attending an Iftar party hosted by the Indian High Commission in Islamabad.

Details:

  • Guests were allegedly intimidated and stopped by Pakistani security force personnel from attending the event. Last winter, for example, Pakistan authorities refused to give clearances for gas connections for heating in the Indian High Commission’s residential complex in Islamabad, despite the biting cold.
  • While Indian authorities reportedly blocked construction workers from entering the Pakistani residential complex in New Delhi to undertake urgent repair work.
  • This cycle of undiplomatic behaviour simply vitiates an atmosphere already fraught with tensions, and must end.
  • Post-elections, the Indian Air Force has removed airspace restrictions, and Pakistan has begun to open airspace routes to and from India that it had closed after the Pulwama attack. Such positive steps need to be augmented. Earlier, Pakistan granted former External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj permission to fly over its territory, and India made a similar concession to Pakistan’s Foreign Minister. India and Pakistan have extremely serious issues to resolve. The harassment of diplomats and their guests is a diversion from the issues at hand.
  • With a new government assuming charge in India, and a possible meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, it is likely that both sides will try to turn the page in bilateral ties.

BEING RESPONSIVE: ON THE JAMMU & KASHMIR REPORT

Why in News:

  • The government’s decision  to  shut  down  communication  with  UN  Special Rapporteurs seeking to question India on alleged human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir may appear extreme, but is in line with its reaction to such international reports over the last few years.

Background:

  • In a letter dated April 23, India’s permanent mission to the UN in Geneva wrote to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights rejecting any reference to the UN’s original June 2018 report on J&K as well as Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, and refused to respond to questions about deaths of 69 civilians between 2016 and 2018 in violence in the Valley.
  • In its objections, the government said the report was “false and motivated”, that its conclusions and recommendations were violative of India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and accused the Special Rapporteurs preparing the report of “individual prejudices” against India.

What is the Issue:

  • The report from the UN body came at the same time a report from two NGOs in the State on the alleged cases of torture was released in Srinagar, which was endorsed by a former UN Special Rapporteur.
  • In addition, the Special Rapporteurs had listed 13 cases of concern from 2018 alone, in which four children were among eight civilians killed by members of the security forces.
  • The current Special Rapporteurs on Extrajudicial Executions, Torture, and Right to Health had referred to a June 2018 report of the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR) and written to the government in March 2019, asking about steps taken by New Delhi to address the alleged human rights violations listed in the report.
  • Rejecting all the claims, the Indian Permanent Mission to the UNin Geneva replied to the OHCHR saying that India does not intend to engage further with the mandate-holders on the issue – whom it accused of individual prejudice.
  • UN officials say that India is already in contravention of several Conventions it has committed to, including a Standing Invitation signed in 2011 to all special rapporteurs to visit India.
  • According to the UN records, more than 20 such visit requests, including to Jammu and Kashmir, are pending at present.
  • UN sources also said that between 2016-2018, the OHCHR Special Rapporteurs had sent as many as 58 communications, and had received no response other than the April 23 letter on Jammu and Kashmir.

Reports from NGO:

The UN submission on Jammu and Kashmir coincided with the release of an extensive 560- page report on Monday, prepared by the J&K based Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) and the J&K Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS).

The report, entitled ‘Torture: Indian State’s Instrument of Control in J&K’, documented 432 cases of suspected human rights violations and brutality by security forces of which only 27 had been investigated by the State Human Rights Commission.

The report claimed that nearly “70% of torture victims in Jammu and Kashmir were civilians (not militants) and 11% died during or as a result of torture”.

The cases included incidents of electrocution, ‘water-boarding’ and sexual torture, which the government has repeatedly denied.

MORAL AMBIGUITY ON THE ROHINGYA

Why in News:

  • India must break its silence on the gross human rights violations by Myanmar

Details:

  • India’s abstention from voting on a UN Human Rights Council draft resolution, on the “situation of human rights in Myanmar” needs closer examination.
  • Co-sponsored by the European Union (EU) and Bangladesh, the resolution “expresses grave concern at continuing reports of serious human rights violations and abuses in Myanmar”, particularly in Rakhine, Kachin and Shan States, and calls for a full inquiry into these by the Council’s own mechanism and the International Criminal Court (ICC)
  • What is deeply unfortunate is India’s continued diplomatic and moral passivity on the
    Rohingya crisis.
  • Despite the Myanmar Army facing charges of serious war crimes, including genocide — according to a UN Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) and several other international human rights organisations — India refuses to take a strong moral stand for the sake of maintaining cordial bilateral relations with Naypyidaw.
  • There was no reference by India to the excessive and arbitrary force used by security forces on Rohingya civilians in response to the “extremist violence”.
  • India is one of Myanmar’s top arms suppliers, and weapons sales includes military aircraft, artillery, naval vessels and reconnaissance equipment, armoured vehicles, anti-submarine torpedoes and missiles. Whether Myanmar is using some of its India-supplied weapons to maim non-combatant civilians in Rakhine State and other ethnic regions is a question that New Delhi has not asked so far.

Through Dhaka’s lens

  • India has so far refused to exert any pressure on Myanmar, instead choosing to balance ties with Dhaka and Naypyidaw by sending humanitarian aid to both. But India’s soft, backfoot approach is being increasingly seen by Bangladesh, which is hosting nearly a million Rohingya refugees, to be tilted in Myanmar’s favour.
  • It is clear that if India continues to tacitly favour Myanmar at international forums, its much- valued bilateral ties with Bangladesh may suffer greatly.
  • India has deported (or refouled) more than a dozen Rohingya refugees from its own territory back to Myanmar, in violation of international and domestic legal norms.
  • Using the geo-economic leverage that it enjoys with Myanmar, India could compel Myanmar to bring the alleged perpetrators of war crimes to book or at least get a guarantee that such conduct would not be repeated in the future
  • For now, India is happy to be in a stable, but morally tenuous, friends-with-benefit relationship with Myanmar. The victims continue to be the stateless Rohingya.

United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC)

  • It is an inter-governmental body within the United Nations system
  • It is responsible for promotion and protection of human rights around the globe and for addressing situations of human rights violations and make recommendations on them.
  • It was created by UNGA on 15 March 2006 by adopting resolution 60/251 to promote human rights globally.
  • It had replaced former UN Commission on Human Rights. It is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.

TEN YEARS ON: ON END OF SRI LANKA CIVIL WAR

Why in news

  • Sri Lanka completes 10 years since the brutal and decisive war against Tamil militants

Details:

  • It must be acknowledged that the country has not achieved  much   tangible  progress  towards  ethnic reconciliation, accountability for war-time excesses and constitutional reform that includes a political solution The pervasive grievances of the Tamil minority remain.
  • Some progress has been made in resettlement and rehabilitation, but complaints abound. Preliminary steps were taken towards forging a new Constitution, but the process seems to be at a standstill.
  • The creation of an ‘Office on Missing Persons’ has not inspired enough confidence.
  • There is no mechanism to secure justice for those massacred in the closing stages of the war.
  • The year 2015 brought to power a new regime, a fresh promise of democratic governance, and the infusion of a spirit of political and constitutional reform

The Easter Sunday bombings

  • However, a month ago everything changed. The Easter Sunday bombings have taken the country back to the time when terrorism was the dominant theme.
  • There is no real ‘underlying cause’ to address; no group or organisation to talk to; and no
  • tangible political grievances to redress.
  • The serial blasts, executed by fanatical elements apparently inspired by the Islamic State, may be a flashpoint for a fresh round of inter-ethnic and inter-religious tension.
  • Anti-terrorism laws and emergency regulations are back in full measure
  • The biggest adverse fallout is that a new dimension has been given to inter-ethnic suspicions that may deepen distrust among communities.
  • When tensions persist among communities, nothing can make up for the absence of reconciliation and trust among all sections. Never has Sri Lanka needed a shared sense of nationhood among all its peoples more than it does now.

From recent evidences, South Asia, a fertile ground for ISIS:

  • It’s evident from its actions that the ISIS leadership has seen South Asia as a fertile ground for the organisation.
  • The history of jihadist insurgency, high Muslim population and growing tensions between communities may all have prompted the group to focus on the region in its quest for expansion. Despite large-scale military setbacks at the core, ISIS still remains a global terrorist force.
  • In Afghanistan, ISIS members and sympathisers have already set up a Wilayat called the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Khorasan Province in the eastern Nangarhar province. The group has carried out several suicide attacks, mainly targeting Shias in the already troubled country. It’s from Khorasan that ISIS is handling its South Asia operations, including in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
  • ISIS hasn’t carried out any major terror attack in India, nor does the group have any
  • organisational presence in the country. But it has lured dozens of Indians into its fold.

INDIA’S ENGAGEMENTS IN THE INDIAN OCEAN

Why in News:

  • China’s engagement in the India Ocean Region poses new challenges for India.
  • It is high time that India makes strategic partnerships, going beyond the current defensive mindset.

Background:

What are the recent exercises by India?

  • A series of bilateral exercises with regional navies were conducted in the Indian Ocean.
  • In April, 2019 in their biggest and most complex exercise, Indian and Australian warships held drills in the Bay of Bengal.
  • This was followed by a much-publicised anti-submarine exercise with the U.S. Navy near Diego Garcia.
  • Very recently, the Indian Navy held a joint exercise ‘Varuna’ with the French Navy off the
    coast of Goa and Karwar.
  • Alongside, two Indian warships participated in a ‘group sail’ with warships from Japan, the

What is the Geo-political drive?

  • China – The trigger for India’s increased engagement at sea is the rapid expansion of
  • China’s naval footprint in the Indian Ocean.
  • China has commercial investments in Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
  • Beyond this, it has also established a military outpost in Djibouti, a key link in its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
  • Reports also suggest that People’s Liberation Army (PLA) was planning an expansion of its
    logistics base for non-peacekeeping missions.
  • This raises the possibility of an operational overlap with the Indian Navy’s areas of interest. It is anticipated that Djibouti could be a future where China would control key nodes covering important shipping lanes in Indian Ocean.
  • This would in turn allow the PLA’s Navy (PLAN) to dominate the security dynamic.
  • South Asia – South Asian navies too have been making their presence felt in the seas of the Indian subcontinent.
  • Sri Lanka has expanded engagement with Pacific powers which includes the Royal Australian Navy and the U.S. Navy.
  • With China’s assistance, Pakistan is becoming an increasingly potent actor in the northern Indian Ocean, a key region of Indian interest.
  • Beijing has also been instrumental in strengthening the navies of Bangladesh and Myanmar.
  • In these circumstances, India has had little option but to intensify its own naval engagements in South Asia.

What seems to be China’s strategy?

  • Submarine – China’s expanding submarine engagements in Indian Ocean indicate its strategic ambitions in India’s neighbourhood.
  • Reportedly, PLAN has been studying the operating environment in the Indian Ocean.
  • This comes in the context of a larger endeavour to develop capabilities for sustained operations in the Indian Ocean Region.
  • As a result, the Indian Navy’s recent bilateral exercises have focussed on under-sea surveillance and anti-submarine warfare.
  • Less sightings – Despite the above developments, notably, Chinese submarine sightings are said to have decreased in recent times.
  • With the Wuhan summit, it is believed that India and China are on a collaborative path.

  • Also, India is silent on China’s continuing aggression in the South China Sea. Indian warships were sent for the Chinese fleet review in Qingdao.
  • All these largely suggest a conciliatory stance.
  • China’s strategy – Nevertheless, reduced visibility of Chinese submarines does not necessarily prove absence.
  • Chinese submarines are quieter, craftier and stealthier than earlier.
  • As suspected, PLAN could be on a quest to master undersea ‘quieting’ technologies.

  • South Asia focus – China has been downplaying its strategic interests in South Asia.
  • It is concerned that too much talk about its growing naval power could prove detrimental to the cause of promoting the BRI.
  • The concerns raised at the recent BRI summit, on Chinese ‘debt traps’ has led Beijing to
  • revise some of its infrastructure projects.
  • India’s refusal to participate in the BRI may have also prompted China to rethink its economic and military strategies in Indian Ocean.

How is China’s engagement in African region?

  • China hasn’t indicated any change of plan in West Asia and the east coast of Africa. Most of China’s energy and resource shipments originate there.
  • Chinese investments in port infrastructure in Kenya, Sudan, Tanzania and Mozambique have grown at a steady pace.
  • In response, India has moved to deepen its own regional engagement, seeking naval logistical access to French bases in Reunion and Djibouti.
    How significant are partnerships now?
  • Despite the bilateral and trilateral naval engagements, India hasn’t succeeded in leveraging
  • partnerships for strategic gains.
  • India’s political leadership is reluctant to militarise the Quadrilateral grouping or to expand naval operations in the Western Pacific.
    Consequently, the power-equation with China remains skewed in favour of China.
  • Indian Navy’s regional strategy seems to be a mere ‘risk management’ tactic, with limited approach to shape events in littoral-Asia.
  • For long, the Indian Navy has played a prominent role in the fight against non-traditional challenges in the Indian Ocean.
  • These include Indian Navy’s –

  • contribution to the counter-piracy mission off the Somalia coast
  • humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (including in cyclone-hit Mozambique)
    However, a paucity of assets and capacity has forced the Navy to seek partners willing to invest resources in joint security endeavours.
  • In all, partnerships are vital to the Indian Navy, especially in deterring Chinese undersea deployments in South Asia.

PAKISTAN AIRSPACE TO REMAIN SHUT FOR INDIAN FLIGHTS

Why in News?

  • Pakistan on May 15 decided not to lift its airspace ban for Indian flights till May 30, as Islamabad is awaiting the outcome of the Lok Sabha polls in India.

Details:

  • Pakistan fully closed its airspace after an Indian Air Force strike on a Jaish-e-Mohammed terror camp in Balakot on February 26. However, Pakistan opened its airspace for all flights except for New Delhi, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur on March 27. Owing to the flight ban on its airspace by India, Pakistan has suspended its operation for Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur which is causing a loss of millions of rupees per day. Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) used to operate four flights to Kuala Lumpur, two to Bangkok and two to New Delhi. The airlines and civil aviation authorities of both the countries are enduring massive losses. The flights between Europe to Far-East are not only facing huge financial losses, but the flight duration has also increased, while the airlines have also increased their ticket prices.

India Bombs Jaish-e-Muhammad Camp in Pakistan

  • Twelve days after the Pulwama attack, in an aerial surgical strike, the Indian Air Force (IAF) has bombed the Jaish-e-Mohammad’s (JeM) terror-training camp in Balakot in the Pakistani province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The operation was carried out by 12 Mirage-
    2000 fighter jets, after intelligence inputs that the said JeM facility is crowded with 200-325 terrorists.

India’s Statement

  • India has said that the strike was based on hard intelligence inputs about the presence of terrorists in the camp.
  • By calling it an intelligence-led operation, the government was trying to send a message to the global audience that the airstrikes were not done at some arbitrarily chosen place but were part of a well-considered action.
  • India said that strike was “non-military preemptive action” was important for two reasons: By calling it non-military, India wanted to reassure everyone that it is not an act against the Pakistani military.
  • The words “preemptive action” were to suggest that the airstrike was not an act of revenge or retribution but an act of self-defense to prevent a likely terror attack in the future.
  • International Response

    • India has received support for its air strike from several countries like Australia and France. The countries recognized India’s right to self-defense, and asked Pakistan to put an end to operations of terrorist groups established on its territory.
    • The US said that India and Pakistan should exercise restraint, and avoid escalation at any cost and avoid further military activity.
    • The British government called on India and Pakistan to pursue diplomatic solutions.
    • China has said that the two countries should keep restraint and do more to improve bilateral relations.
    • With the exception of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, there has been no global criticism of India’s statement on the strikes.

    Way Forward:

    • Pakistan has denied that the Indian strike caused any damage on the ground. This may obviate the need for retaliatory strikes, or if Pakistan responds this could escalate the situation with a military response.
    • Pakistan could also make a break from its past, and begin to shut down the terror camps on its soil, which would win friends internationally and ensure peace in the region.
    • Surgical strikes are not a one-stop solution, uprooting terrorism will require sustained efforts on by India diplomatically at the global level, which also includes the adoption of Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT).

SRI LANKA BLASTS ACCUSED WAS ON RADAR OF INDIAN AGENCIES

Why in News?

  • A key accused in the recent serial blasts in Sri Lanka, Aadhil AX, was reportedly under surveillance by Indian agencies including Gujarat’s Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS), following the arrest of two Islamic State (IS) suspects Ubed Mirza and Kasim Stimberwala. The arrested persons were allegedly in touch with Aadhil via WhatsApp.

Details:

  • .
    Both Mirza and Stimberwala were arrested by the Gujarat ATS and are in judicial custody in Surat. They have been charge-sheeted by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), which accused them of plotting a lone wolf attack in Ahmedabad. Mirza is a lawyer while Stimberwala is a medical technician. As per the charge sheet filed by the NIA, Mirza, in 2017, had a WhatsApp chat with Aadhil, who is believed to be the same person involved in the Sri Lanka serial blasts, in which more than 250 people were killed.
  • The charge sheet also mentions the messages and chats between Mirza and Aadhil through social media.
  • National Counter Terrorism Center (NCTC)

    • After the 26/11 attacks, Government felt the need to setup a separate body to deal with terrorism. NCTC is modelled on the American NCTC and Britain’s Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre. NCTC will derive its powers from the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967
    • The basic idea is to prevent confusion regarding intelligence inputs and also ensure that none of the police forces from the states enter into a blame game regarding intelligence sharing as one got to see during the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai.

    What will NCTC do?

    • It will have the power to conduct searches and arrests in any part of India. will collect, collate and disseminate data on terrorism. will also maintain a data base on terrorist and their associates including their families.
    • In short, NCTC will serve as a single and effective point of control and coordination of all counter terrorism measures.
    • • Multi-Agency Centre (MAC)
    • • It is platform to share varied intelligence inputs coming from various agencies like the
    • • Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI),
    • • Economic Intelligence Agency,
    • • Enforcement Directorate etc. –
    • • Earlier this MAC was under Intelligence Bureau under Home Ministry.
    • • But in future, the MAC will be placed under the NCTC.
    • How is it different from US and UK model?

      • USA’s NCTC which deals only with strategic planning and integration of intelligence without any operational involvement
      • UK ‘s Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, which too plays a purely coordinating role.
      • But the Indian NCTC will have not only intelligence functions but also powers to conduct operations, raids and arrests in any part of India.

      What is the problem with NCTC?

      • NCTC was to start working from March 2012, but it couldnot be launched due to opposition from a group of Non-Congress chief ministers who say that NCTC is against the federal structure of the country. Power to Arrest without informing State Government
      • Non-Congress chief ministers allege that the NCTC has been empowered to search and arrest people without informing the state government, police or anti-terror squad in the loop. Take this scenario for example. A suspected terrorist is holed up in a state. The officials of the NCTC would have the right to enter into that state and pick him or her up without informing the state machinery and deal with him under their laws.
      • The role of the state becomes redundant with such powers and states would have no say or role to play in the fight against terrorism. This would have a bearing on the rights and privileges of the states as enshrined in the Constitution.
      • To curb this fear, Home Ministry had altered the rules. Now, the senior most police officers in all states – the Director Generals of Police and the chiefs of anti-terror squads of all states

        will be members of the Standing Council of the NCTC. They will be informed before the NCTC conducts an operation in their state.

      • And Home Ministry had also assured the State Governments that NCTC will now be able to carry out anti-terror operations only in the rarest of rare cases.

      Overlapping with NIA:

      • National Investigating Agency (NIA) was established after the 26/11 attacks.
      • So, the establishment of a new NCTC would only add to the bureaucratic tangle in intelligence sharing and counter terrorist action.
      • However, Chindu had assured that NIA is merely a predecessor of NCTC. (so once NCTC comes into operation, the NIA will function under it or will be submerged into NCTC)

      Present Status of NCTC:

      • After Pranab become President, Chindu became Finance Minister and thus Shinde became the Home Minister. But Shinde, in his first public speech, did not mention National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) or National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID).
      • That means, Home Ministry has put the idea in back-burner for now.

INDIA, AUSTRALIA TO ADOPT CLASSIFIED COMMUNICATIONS

Why in News:

  • Australian Navy is, at present, “hanging off” COMCASA — India’s secure communications
    agreement with the U.S. — Australia

Background:

  • India moving to classified communications environment that one would see, for instance, in the Combined Task Force 150, 151 and 152 operations, where there’s a bunch of like- minded countries that have a communications system that is operating at the classified level, to be able to allow them to talk together.

Relation between India and Australia:

  • The establishment of India-Australia Joint Ministerial Commission (JMC) in 1989 encouraged dialogue at a government and business level on multiple issues of trade and investment.
  • India-Australia CEO Forum is a significant mechanism through which business leaders from both nations engage in mutually fruitful dialogue to enhance bilateral trade and investment relationship. The Forum consists of heads of Indian and Australian business from multiple sectors like energy and resources, agri-business, financial sector, telecommunications, IT, education and pharmaceuticals. The last meeting of the Forum was held in New Delhi on 29th August 2017.
  • The city of Canberra, Australia hosted the seventh India-Australia Economic Policy Dialogue during 16-18 July 2017.
  • India s main exports to Australia are passenger motor vehicle and machinery, pearls, gems and jewellery, medicaments (including veterinary) and refined petroleum products.
  • India s major imports from Australia are coal, non-monetary gold, copper, wool, fertilizers, wheat, vegetables and education-related services.
  • In 2016, India s trade in goods and services with Australia was about US$ 15.6 billion. In 2016, India s export to Australia was about US$4.6 billion.
  • In 2016, India s import from Australia was about US$11 billion.
  • The two countries are also involved in the RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership) negotiations.
  • Indian companies have invested in Australian mining sector successfully.
  • India is the fifth largest export market for Australia and tenth largest trading partner overall.

ISLAMIC STATE CLAIMS ‘PROVINCE’ IN INDIA FOR FIRST TIME AFTER CLASH IN KASHMIR

Why in News:

  • Islamic State (IS) has claimed for the first time that it has established a province in India, after a clash between militants and security forces in the Kashmir region killed a militant with alleged ties to the group.

Details:

  • The IS group was driven from its self-styled “caliphate” in Iraq and Syria, where at one point
    it controlled thousands of miles of territory.
  • IS’s Amaq News Agency announced the new province, that it called “Wilayah of Hind”, also claimed IS inflicted casualties on Indian army soldiers in the town of Amshipora in the Shopian district of Kashmir. It includes taking responsibility for the Easter Sunday bombing in Sri Lanka that killed at least 253 people.
  • The IS statement corresponds with a police statement that a militant called Ishfaq Ahmad Sofi was killed in an encounter in Shopian. Sofi had been involved in several militant groups in Kashmir for more than a decade before pledging allegiance to Islamic State,
  • He was suspected of several grenade attacks on security forces in the region, police.
  • Islamic State:

  • The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), alternatively called the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is a jihadist organisation controlling parts of Iraq and Syria, with claims to be a worldwide caliphate.
  • It started out in 1999 as the Jama’at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad.
  • This organisation had sprung up during the insurgency in Iraq following the 2003 invasion of Iraq by US-led forces.
  • By 2015, it held large swathes of area in western Iraq and eastern Syria, and had over 30000 fighters. The organisation, also called, Islamic State (IS), as a caliphate, claims to have political, religious and military authority of all Muslims in the world. Almost all the Muslim countries reject this. Wherever they have control, a strict interpretation of Sharia law is observed, along with massacres and brutalities for anyone who opposes them.
  • It is accused of gross human rights violation and ethnic cleansing by the UN and Amnesty International. The IS’s stated objectives are to eliminate obstacles to restoring God’s rule on earth and to defend the Umma (Muslim community) against non-believers.
  • Western forces have been involved in an ongoing war with the IS. In 2017, the US military reported that the terrorist organisation now holds less than 2% of the territory it had once captured. The IS is known for its videos of beheadings and executions.
  • The organisation was founded by a Jordanian named Abu Musab al-Zarqawi under its previous name.
  • Today, the head of the ISIS is Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Many terrorist organisations in different countries have declared their allegiance to ISIS. It is also sometimes referred to as Daesh.

Navy joins exercises in South China Sea

Why in news

  •       Navy ships INS Kolkata and Shakti carried out Group Sail with the naval ships of Japan, the Philippines and the U.S. in the South China Sea (SCS)

Details:

  •       The ships undertook various exercises en route which included formation manoeuvring, under way replenishment runs, cross-deck flying and exchange of sea riders,”

Committed to safety

  •       The group sail exercise showcased India’s commitment to operating with like-minded nations to ensure safe maritime environment through enhanced interoperability
  •       China, which claims a major part of the SCS, has disputes with most of its maritime neighbours. Six ships, including a frigate and helicopter carrier JMSDF Izumo from Japan, a Philippines frigate and an Arleigh Burke class destroyer from the U.S. Navy took part in the six-day exercise

Importance of South China Sea

  •       The South China Sea is a busy international waterway, one of the main arteries of global trade worth more than $5 trillion and is growing year on year.
  •       It is a rich source of hydrocarbons and natural resources

Islands in the South China Sea

  •       The islands of the South China Sea can be grouped into two island chains.
  •       The Paracels Islands: These are clustered in the northwest corner of the Sea.
  •       The Spratly Islands: These are located in the southeast corner.

South China Sea Dispute

 

  •       The South China Sea is an area of growing conflicts due to territorial claims by different countries. With respect to the Spratly Islands, different geographic features are reportedly occupied by claimants such as Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, China, and Malaysia. The Paracels Islands are claimed by China, Vietnam, and Taiwan.

BELT AND ROAD 2.0

Why in News:

  • With the second Belt and Road Forum, a paradox is now apparent at the heart of the initiative.

Details:

  • Six years after it was unveiled, China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) assumes another avatar.        In  its initial form, it was all things to all people, a catch-all for China’s international engagement. The first concerned domestic economics: exporting surplus industrial capacity and cash reserves overseas to keep China’s economy humming, its industrial output flowing, and its employment levels high.
  • The second concerned domestic politics: a signature foreign initiative to associate with Chinese President Xi Jinping. The third concerned security: stabilising Western provinces
  • and the Eurasian hinterland. And the fourth concerned strategy: leveraging China’s new- found economic heft for political objectives in Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Indian and Pacific Oceans, and creating new standards and institutions in a bid to challenge U.S. leadership. As the second Belt and Road Forum (BRF) concludes, a paradox has become apparent at the heart of its ambitious initiative. On the one hand, there has been a strong backlash. The economic viability of Chinese projects is now viewed with considerable scrutiny.
  • security concerns have begun to predominate as far afield as in the European Union, the South Pacific and Canada.

The Belt and Road Initiative

  • The Belt and Road Initiative is a Chinese foreign policy initiative promoted by president Xi Jinping in 2013. Initially the idea of Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB) and Maritime Silk Road (MSR) was put forward. Subsequently, the two projects together came to be known as ‘One Belt One Road’ (OBOR) Initiative. Later, it came to be known as Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Aim of BRI. Build a trade, investment, and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along the ancient trade routes. The Communist Party of China (CPC) has incorporated Belt and Road Initiative into the Chinese Constitution.

India and BRI

  • India has opposed the BRI and did not attend the 2017 BRI Summit held in Beijing. It cited issues of sovereignty, transparency and unilateral decision making.

LINE OF CONTROL

Context:

  • Grace full business across the Line of Control will require both infrastructural and policy- level interventions.

Lakshman Rekha:

  • In the last decade, the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir has often been re- interpreted as the line of commerce and co-operation.
  • This paradigm shift was the result of initiation of two confidence-building measures (CBMs) between India and Pakistan cross-LoC trade and cross-LoC travel.
  • It was representative of a constructive bilateral engagement process in the midst of political upheavals.
  • Stakeholders were hopeful that while cross-LoC travel would connect divided families, cross-LoC trade would foster economic ties between Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan- occupied Kashmir (PoK) that would eventually help reap the peace dividend.

Steps taken by government:

  • April 18 2019, the government of India announced the suspension from midnight of trade at the two designated points expressing concerns over ‘illegal inflows of weapons, narcotics and currency’ in the country.
  • ‘A stricter regulatory regime’ is expected for re-initiation of trade.

Important points to be known:

  • Cross-LoC trade is an intra-Jammu and Kashmir trade, in the form of barter of goods on a reciprocal basis.
  • Started on October 21, 2008, the trade has been conducted through a standard operating procedure (SOP) mutually agreed by New Delhi and Islamabad.
  • The SOP enlists the 21 categories of items to be traded on zero tariffs.
  • LoC trade takes place four days a week, wherein traders are allowed to exchange 70 trucks per day. The trade-in (import) and trade-out (export) goods have to be balanced to zero for each trading firm within a period of three months.

 

About data:

  • The total number of traders registered at the Salamabad Trade Facilitation Centre (TFC), Uri, and Chakan-da-Bagh TFC, Poonch, is approximately 600.
  • Since 2008, trade has shown an average year-on-year growth of about 19%, reaching a cumulative value of over 6,500 crores to date.
  • Furthermore, it has generated more than 1.6 lakh job days.
  • To date, more than 1 lakh trucks laden with goods have been exchanged, generating approximate freight revenue of ₹66.50 crore for transporters of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • Experts opine that these figures are indicative of the potential that this trade holds for social and economic development within Jammu and Kashmir.

Changes to be done:

  • Despite its success in generating economic benefits, the operational and policy level deficiencies render the trade vulnerable to misconceptions and malpractices.
  • Lack of clarity in the SOP towards rules of origin, items list, goods and services tax (GST)/local taxation mechanisms are some of the limitations.
  • To further symbolize, a practice of ‘trade number selling’ was prevalent at the TFCs wherein few trading firms sell their registration/token numbers to other trading firms to send the latter’s goods across the LoC out of turn in the roster system.
  • This practice has created a gap between the number of genuine traders and traders involved only in ‘trade number selling’.

Way forward:

  • Streamlining LoC trade would require both infrastructural and policy level interventions.
  • A revision in the SOP is required to highlight the trader re-registration process; we need clarity on the ‘rules of origin’ of goods; tradeable commodities need to be identified that will benefit the local economy of Jammu and Kashmir, and further eight-digit HS (harmonised system) codes must be assigned to ensure clarity on the items.
  • The SOP must also specify the modality of movement of trucks across the LoC as well as clarity on filing of GST/other local taxes.
  • A token system on a first-come-first-serve basis should be explored. This will check the misuse of trade registration number in the roster system.
  • Digitisation of the TFCs must take place to make the process of record keeping easy, transparent and accessible to various regulatory agencies.
  • The digitised TFCs should be enabled with a ‘trader notification system’ for timely reminders to achieve zero barter balance for continuation of trade.
  • In case of non-compliance, a strict ‘trader de-listing policy’ needs to be put in place wherein any trader with a negative balance in barter for more than the designated time period can be suspended from conducting trade.
  • Regular meetings must also be held between the trade facilitation officers of both sides of the LoC to ensure co-ordination of such activities and exchange of the list of suspended/banned traders.

Conclusion:

  • Infrastructure upgradation such as installation of truck scanners, functional CCTV cameras for security, and calibration of weighbridges, are essential to check the inflow of banned items, narcotics and weapons.
  • The gains made by India and Pakistan through initiation of cross-LoC trade and travel have manifested themselves in the form of recent talks of opening the Sharda Peeth corridor in PoK as another CBM.
  • An important lesson is to be learnt here, optics and rhetoric aside, is that the sustenance of a CBM requires regular policy and operational-level interventions

Good Friday Accord

why in news:

  • Journalist Lyra McKee’s gruesome murder in Londonderry last week has brought into focus the fragile Irish peace process, more than 20 years after Britain and Ireland signed the historic Good Friday

Background: / Good friday accord:

  • On 10 April 1998, a deal was reached to bring an end to Northern Ireland’s Troubles, in what became known as the Good Friday
  • The Belfast Agreement was a major political development in the Northern Ireland peace process of the 1990s and has provided Northern
  • Ireland’s divided society with a political framework to resolve its differences.
  • Northern Ireland’s present devolved system of government is based on the Agreement which has created a number of institutions between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and between the Republic of Ireland and the United
  • The Agreement is made up of two inter-related documents, both agreed in Belfaston Good Friday, 10 April 1998:
  • a multi-party agreement by most of Northern Ireland’s political parties;
  • an international agreement between the British and Irish governments (the British-Irish Agreement).
  • The Agreement was approved by voters across the island of Ireland in two referenda held on 22 May 1998. It was made between the British and Irish governments and eight political parties or groupings from Northern Ireland: the Ulster Unionist Party, the Social Democratic and Labour Party, Sinn Féin, the Alliance Party, the Progressive Unionist Party, the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition, the Ulster Democratic Party and

China Develops its own ‘Mother of All Bombs’: Report

Context:

  • China has developed a massive bomb, said to be the country’s answer to the US-built ‘Mother of All Bombs’, the most powerful non-nuclear weapon, official media reported on Friday.

Details:

  • The report said that the bomb has been dubbed as the Chinese version of the “Mother of All Bombs” due to its huge destruction potential that is claimed to be only second to nuclear weapons. The bomb was airdropped by an H-6K bomber and caused a gigantic explosion. It is said that the massive blast can easily and completely wipe out fortified ground targets such as reinforced buildings, bastions and defence shelters.
  • It can also be used to clear a landing zone for troops on helicopters to rappel down, in case the area is covered by obstacles such as forests.

India welcomes end of uncertainty in Sri Lanka

  • India welcomed the end of political uncertainty in Sri Lanka with the return of Ranil Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister.

Details:

  • This indicated the world the resilience of Sri Lankan democracy and its institutions.
  • This is a reflection of the maturity demonstrated by all political forces

Background:

  • Sri Lankan opposition leader Mahinda Rajapaksa was appointed prime minister in the month of October after President Maithripala Sirisena dismissed the incumbent in a surprise move that threatened political turmoil in the South Asian country.
  • It did not follow democratic procedure and the move has also suspended SriLankan Parliament hindering government functioning and hence constitutional crisis.
  • This was done without a floor test, showed the blatant use of executive power.

May survives leadership challenge

Context:

  • Britain’s Prime Minister, Theresa May, survived the gravest threat yet to her embattled leadership on Wednesday, winning a party confidence vote and averting a leadership battle that threatened to plunge the country into prolonged crisis.

Details:

  • While Mrs. May survived to fight another day, the future of her stalled plan to leave the European Union looked bleaker than ever.
  • She still lacks the votes in Parliament to pass it. She stands little chance of winning the concessions from Europe that she needs to break the logjam.
  • And the surprisingly strong vote against her within her own party underscores the difficulty she faces in winning approval for any plan for Britain to leave Europe, or Brexit, as the deadline for withdrawal looms.

Theresa May Faces Leadership Challenge

Context

  • British Prime Minister Theresa May faced a vote of no-confidence in her leadership of the Conservative Party on Wednesday evening after some pro-Brexit MPs in the party followed through on their warning that they would seek a new leadership of the party to attempt to extract a new deal from EU leaders.

Details

  • Ousting May would create ambiguity on Brexit deal
  • It may bring Labour government to the power, creating uncertainty

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U.S. Hearing on Religious Freedom in India Postponed Due to ‘Overwhelming Response’

Context:

  • A bipartisan hearing on religious freedom in India, scheduled for Wednesday, has been postponed due to an “overwhelming response” from stakeholders.
  • Details:

    • The meeting has been postponed to accommodate more attendees and participants
    • The 2018 USCIRF Annual Report placed India in Tier 2 which is a list of nations “in which the violations engaged in or tolerated by the government during 2017 are serious and characterized by at least one of the elements of the ‘systematic, ongoing, and egregious’ CPC [country of particular concern or a Tier 1 country] standard.”
    • India has been in this category as per the Commission since 2009. Other countries in the category for 2018 were Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Cuba, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Laos, Malaysia, and Turkey. The report says that in 2017 actors tied to Hindu extremist groups regularly harassed, intimidated, and perpetrated violence against Hindu Dalits, Muslims, Christians, and Sikhs. Anti-conversion and anti-cow slaughter laws were routinely used to discriminate against religious minorities or as a pretext for extrajudicial violence…These and similar issues have continued in 2018
    • It also says that as the world’s largest democracy, India has claim to a noble tradition of interreligious harmony, Ahimsa, tolerance and pluralism that is being threatened today,

    About United States Commission on International Religious Freedom:

    • The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is a U.S. federal government commission created by the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) of 1998.
    • USCIRF Commissioners are appointed by the President and the leadership of both political parties in the Senate and the House of Representatives.
    • USCIRF’s principal responsibilities are to review the facts and circumstances of violations of religious freedom internationally and to make policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and the Congress.
    • The Commission on International Religious Freedom issues an annual report that includes policy recommendations to the U.S. government based on the report’s evaluation of the facts and circumstances of religious freedom violations worldwide.

U.S. and India call for more joint air exercises

Context:

  • As ‘Cope India 2018’ — the 12-day joint exercise between the U.S. and Indian Air Force being held at the Kalaikunda air station in West Bengal’s Paschim Medinipur district — draws to a close, officials of both countries called for such joint exercises to be held more frequently.

Details:

  • ‘Cope India 2018’ has seen participation of More than 100 personnel of the U.S. Air Force, along with 400 personnel of the Indian Air Force.
  • The U.S. Air Force has sent a dozen F-15 whereas the IAF is participating with a fleet of 10 Sukhoi 30, six Jaguars and four Mirage 2000.
  • The joint air exercise between the two air forces is being held after 13 years
  • The exercise is to be concluded on December 14th
  • The exercise followed the Joint International Air Drill of Pakistan and China, which began at the Shaheen VII airbase in Pakistan earlier this month.

US Aid on Pakistan

  • • The US military plans to cancel $US300 million ($417m) in aid to Pakistan because of Islamabad’s lack of “decisive actions” in support of American strategy in the region. It follows the decision of US last week to stop aid to the UN Palestinian refugee agency and redefine the term Palestinian refugee, slashing their number to 10 per cent.
  • US accuse Islamabad of ignoring or even collaborating with groups that attack Afghanistan from safe havens along the border.
  • US aid to Pakistan has been a point of tension and controversy for both countries for decades.

Impact of the move:

  • If Pakistan decides to retaliate, some or all of these benefits could go away. Pakistan could stop sharing intelligence on terrorist groups with the US. It could seal off its bases. It could shut down supply routes.
  • If Pakistan shuts off this access, the alternative would likely involve using Central Asian countries north of Afghanistan and more aircraft to deliver supplies, which is far more expensive.
  • Pakistan could also end up embracing the US’s rivals, China and Russia, to compensate for Washington’s rejection.
  • And while China has already grown very close to Pakistan in recent years with its massive investment in Pakistani infrastructure, deepening that relationship would possibly permanently move Pakistan out of the US orbit of influence.

Kotri Barrage

Pakistan will allow India to inspect the Kotri barrage in the lower Indus, while New Delhi has agreed to Islamabad’s request for a special inspection of the hydroelectric projects in the Jhelum river basin, including the Kishanganga scheme.

Background:

  • The decision was taken during last week’s meeting of the Permanent Indus Commission held in Lahore, the first official engagement between India and Pakistan since after the formation of new government in Pakistan.
  • During the meeting both the sides agreed to conduct the general tours of inspection which could not be conducted since 2014.
  • The Pakistani Commissioner for Indus Waters (PCIW) will visit the Chenab basin in the last week of September 2018, followed by a tour of Indian Commissioner for Indus Water (ICIW) to the Kotri barrage in the lower Indus.

Kotri barrage:

  • Kotri Barrage  is  a  barrage  on  the  Indus  River  between  Jamshoro  and  Hyderabad  in  the Sindh province of Pakistan. The barrage was completed in 1955. Kotri Barrage is used to control water flow in the River Indus for irrigation and flood control purposes.

Chagos Island Dispute

  • India supports Mauritius’ claim on Chagos islands under UK control.
  • It is  a  part of  hearing from  representatives  of  22  countries  and  the African  Union  (AU)  in  a dispute over the contentious Chagos island between Mauritius and the United Kingdom (UK).
  • The four-day International Court of Justice hearing of ICJ began on dealing dispute between Mauritius and the UK over the atolls located at the strategic Indian Ocean.
  • The ICJ was asked by the UN General Assembly to give its advisory opinion on whether UK’s continuing possession of Chagos was in violation of international law. The General Assembly had agreed  through  a  resolution  on  June  22,  2017  to  refer  two  questions  to  the  UN’s  main judicial organ to give their advisory opinion. India was one of the 94 countries that voted in favour of the resolution.

Background:

  • The dispute dates back to 1965 when Mauritius attained freedom but UK decided to keep the the Chagos Islands which according to Mauritius was in violation of 1960 UN resolution 1514, which specifically banned the breakup of colonies before independence.
  • The UN in December 1965 asked the UK to complete the decolonisation of Mauritius and report the same to the General Assembly.
  • UK is legally bound by a ruling of the The Arbitral Tribunal, constituted in 2015, to return the archipelago to Mauritius. The UK has consistently maintained that it has no doubt about the Mauritian claim to sovereignty in the islands but will cede the archipelago to Mauritius when it is no longer required for defence purposes.
  • In June 2017 at the United Nations General Assembly, India supported the draft resolution on the same matter in favour of Mauritius.
  • Legal aspects should root themselves in the historical facts, behaviour of the nations concerned, and the consideration of the issue by relevant administrative and judicial institutions.
  • The analysis of historical facts and consideration of the legal aspects confirm that sovereignty of the Chagos archipelago has been and continues to be with Mauritius.

India’s Stand:

  • India is  going  to  stick  to  its  earlier  stand  and  stand  by  Mauritius  in  this  fight  against  UK’s colonial history and the rights of exiled islanders to return.
  • As the disputed Chagos islands, which is home to Diego Garcia the key military base of the UK and  the  US  in  the  Indian  Ocean,  saying  that  the  process  of  its  decolonisation  remains incomplete as long as the atolls continue to be under UK’s control.
  • As India,  as  a  country  that  has  gone  through  the  throes  of  decolonisation,  since  its  own independence in 1947, has always been in the forefront of the struggle against colonialism and apartheid.
  • The existence  of  foreign  bases  and  the  military  presence  of  non-littoral  states  in  the  Indian Ocean has been a matter of grave concern for India.
  • Great Power military presence has a naturally deleterious impact on the security environment of the  countries  of  the  region  as  it  introduces  new  tensions  and  conflicts  and  accentuates existing ones, thereby threatening peace and stability in our neighbourhood and in the world in general.
  • But there had been a debate within the Indian government over taking the step of presenting a legal argument,  especially  since  New  Delhi  did  not  want  the  US  to  move  out  of  the  Indian Ocean and leave a vacuum for the Chinese to fill in.

Chabahar Port

India and Iran have stuck to the agreed timeframe in its plans to hand over the operational responsibility of a part of the Chabahar port to an Indian entity in October as per an interim pact.

About:

  • As per agreement, Iran are now ready to hand over the port (Chabahar) to the Indian company.
  • In May 2016, India and Iran signed a bilateral agreement in which India would refurbish one of the berths at Shahid Beheshti port, and reconstruct a 600-meter-long container handling facility at the port
  • Under the agreement signed between India and Iran earlier, India is to equip and operate two berths in Chabahar Port Phase-I with capital investment of $85.21 million and annual revenue expenditure of $22.95 million on a 10-year lease
  • In October 2017, India’s first shipment of wheat to Afghanistan was sent through the Chabahar Port
  • The Iranian commitment to handover the port facilities in October is significant as just in July Tehran had conveyed displeasure to India regarding alleged slow investment from New Delhi into the project. As US has made the trade between the two sides uneasy, US sanctions will from November will block payment gateways.

gateways:

  • The port of Chabahar is located on the Makran coast of Sistan and Baluchistan Province, next to the Gulf of Oman and at the mouth of Strait of Hormuz in the south-eastern Iran. It is the only Iranian port with direct access to the Indian Ocean. Being close to Afghanistan and the Central Asian countries of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan etc., it has been termed the “Golden Gate” to these land-locked countries.
  • The India-Iran-Afghanistan three-way memorandum of understanding (MoU) plans have committed at least $21bn to Chabahar-Hajigak corridor including $85m for Chabahar port development by India, $150m line of credit by India to Iran, $8bn India-Iran MoU for Indian industrial investment in Chabahar Special Economic Zone.
  • The port is intended to provide an alternative for trade between India and Afghanistan. This port is 800 kilometers closer to Afghanistan than Pakistan’s Karachi port

Important of Chabahar port: / For IRAN:

  • It serves as Iran’s only oceanic port, and consists of two separate ports named Shahid Kalantari and Shahid Beheshti, each of which has five berths.
  • As 90 percent of Iran’s population is concentrated in the western part of the country, the eastern part  is  relatively  less    Iran  is  intending  to  change  that  by  the development  around  Chabahar  port,  with  a  free  trade  zone,  and  road  and  rail  links between Chabahar and Central Asia.
  • Chabahar port as the gateway to Central Asia and maintain the Bandar Abbas port, which currently handles 85% of Iran’s seaborne trade, as a hub for trade with Russia and Europe.
  • Moreover Bandar  Abbas,  which  is  located  in  the  congested  waters  of  the  Straits  of Hormuz, subject to constant US naval patrol, Chabahar is located further east and is the only Iranian port with direct access to the Indian Ocean.
  • As Iran’s desire to be seen as a significant regional player, Chabahar port initiative is to engage with all the neighbouring countries to enhance the transit potential of Chabahar.
  • Iran  became  a  key  partner  in  the  International North-South  Transport  Corridor (INSTC) along   with   Russia,   Ukraine,   Turkey,   Oman,   Syria,   India   and   the   Central   Asian
  • countries, by developing the port. Boost to Iron ore, sugar and rice exports (all top import items in  Iran)  which  have  been    Can  provide  a  link  promote  cultural  linkages between India and Iran.
  • There will  be  increase  in  significant  Indian-  Iranian  naval  cooperation,  commercial maritime  cooperation  and  joint  transportation  infrastructure  development  has  elevated the level of Indo-Iranian strategic cooperation.

For India:

  • Would provide an alternative access to trade with Afghanistan bypassing Pakistan. Also Counter the  Chinese  presence  in  the  Arabian  Sea  through  the  support  to  Pakistan  in developing Gwadar port
  • The free-trade zone around the port can be an important trade centre with West Asia.
  • Reduced Current Account Deficit: Reduced transportation costs will allow India to import crude oil, urea and dry fruits at lower prices. As the import cost of oil would reduce many folds; India  investing  fertilizer  plant  in  Iran,  could  potentially  saves  50%  of  fertilizer subsidy.
  • Because of easy access to central Asia, India’s plan to setup fertilizer plant in countries like Mongolia would be released soon.
  • Can be used to station security vessels for merchant ships off the African coast. Also helps in coordinating the humanitarian operations such as mass evacuation of refugees.
  • IPI pipeline has been so long stalled due to the Pakistan’s presence. For this Chabahar port Could help the underwater pipeline bypassing the Pakistan.

Pakistan invites Saudi

Why in news?

  • Saudi Arabia will be the third “strategic partner” of the $50 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a senior Pakistani Minister announced, soon after Prime Minister Imran Khan returned from his first foreign trip to the cash-rich kingdom.

CPEC:

  • China-Pakistan Economic Corridor(CPEC), massive bilateral project to improve infrastructure within Pakistan for better trade with China and to further integrate the countries of the region.
  • The project  was  launched  on  April  20,  2015  when  Chinese President  Xi  Jinping and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif
  • The goal of CPEC is both to transform Pakistan’s economy—by modernizing its road, rail, air, and energy transportation systems—and to connect the deep-sea Pakistani ports of Gwadar and Karachi to China’s Xinjiang province and beyond by overland routes. (Xinjiang borders the countries of Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India, and the ancient Silk Road ran through its territory.)
  • This would  reduce  the  time  and  cost  of  transporting  goods  and  energy  such  as natural gas to China by circumventing the Straits of Malacca and the South China Sea.
  • The announcement  of  joint  space  and  satellite initiatives between  Pakistan  and  China,  spurred by CPEC, followed in 2016. CPEC is part of the larger Belt and Road Initiative—to improve  connectivity,  trade,  communication,  and  cooperation  between  the  countries  of Eurasia—announced by China in 2013.
  • CPEC has  been  compared  to  the Marshall  Plan for  the  rebuilding  of  post-World  War II Europe  in  its  potential  impact  on  the  region,  and  numerous  countries  have  shown interest in participating in the initiative.

India’s Going to Be Affected When CPEC Changes World Trade:

  • The much-vaunted USD 54 billion economic corridor in Pakistan that connects the Xinjiang region in western China with the southern Pakistan port of Gwadar is gradually rolling off operations, with the Chinese cargo being loaded onto the merchant vessels docked at the port.

1. India’s Sovereignty

  • India has continuously opposed the project since it passes through the Pakistan-occupied Kashmiri territory of Gilgit-Baltistan – a claim opposed by Pakistan.
  • The 1,300-km  corridor  is  also  perceived  to  be  an  alternative  economic  road  link  for  the Kashmir Valley lying on the Indian side of the border. Most key players in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, including CM Mehbooba Mufti, have expressed optimism about the project.

2. Chinese Control Over Trade Via Sea

  • Major US ports on the East Coast depend on the Panama Canal to trade with China. Once CPEC becomes  fully  functional,  China  will  be  in  a  position  to  offer  a  ‘shorter  and  more economical’ trade route (avoiding travel through the entire Western Hemisphere) to most North and Latin American enterprises.
  • This will give China the power to dictate the terms by which the international movement of goods will take place between the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans.

3. Chinese String of Pearls

  • China has  been  increasing  its  presence  in  the  Indian  Ocean  with  the  ‘String  of  Pearls’ ambition: A term coined by the Americans and often used by Indian defence analysts to refer to a Chinese game-plan of encircling India through a network of airfields and ports.
  • With an existing presence in Chittagong port (Bangladesh), Hambantota port (Sri Lanka), Port Sudan  (Sudan),  Maldives,  Somalia  and  Seychelles,  a  control  of  Gwadar  port establishes complete dominance of the Indian ocean by the Communist nation.

4. Emergence of Pakistan as an Outsourcing Destination

  • Often referred  to  as  the  ‘Marshall  Plan’  of  China  –  named  after  a  historic  US  plan  to provide financial aid  to western Europe in the aftermath of World War 2, which  helped Europe rebuild itself – CPEC is poised to speed up Pakistan’s economic progress.
  • Development of  commercial  towns  adjoining  the  corridor  and  better  rail  and  road connectivity  enabling  the  movement  of  a  skilled  workforce  from  the  hinterlands  to  the urban centres can help Pakistan emerge as a key destination for contract-manufacturing-outsourcing  for  the  Eastern    This  is  more  probable  at  a  time  when  India  is becoming  costlier  and  Bangladesh  has  performed  poorly  on  quality  and  regulatory standards.

5. Stronger OBOR and Chinese Dominance in Trade Leadership

  • China’s one-belt-one-road (OBOR) project that focuses on the trade connectivity between China and the rest of Eurasia through a network of ports, roads and railways has been often seen as China’s plan to dominate the region politically. CPEC is one giant step in the same direction.

Trade War (USA-China) Impact on India

Timeline of trade war:

  • President Trump  placed  a  30%  tariff  on  foreign solar  panels on  January,  2018,  mainly targeting Chinese exports.
  • The USTR initiates an investigation into certain acts, policies and practices of the Chinese government relating to technology transfer, intellectual property and innovation.
  • USA explored the opportunity of putting tariffs over Chinese products and imposed the proposed tariffs  stating  it  as  a  response  to  the  unfair  trade  practices  of  China  over  the years including theft of U.S. intellectual property
  • In March, import duties of 25 per cent and 10 per cent on steel and aluminium respectively on USA import.
  • The US-China  trade  war  officially  started  with  both  nations  slapping  tariffs  worth  $34 billion on each other’s exports in June
  • China reacted listing down its plans to counter the US decision by hitting the American exports with  25  percent    The  proposed  package  targeted  over  100  US-made products, including cars, airplanes, and soybeans, the top US agricultural export to China, covering $50 billion worth of US exports
  • The problem  with  the  tactic  of  weaponizing  tariffs,  however,  is  that  this  artillery  leaves huge collateral damage in its wake and the outcome is nearly impossible to control in an integrated global economy

Impact on India causing threats: / Rupee:

  • The biggest impact could be on the rupee which is already battling historic lows against the US    The  rising  price  of  oil  threatens  to  widen  India’s  current  account  deficit, impacting India’s macroeconomic stability and weakening the rupee.
  • The US  Federal  Reserve  is  already  poised  to  end  its  quantitative  easing  policy  and  has embarked on gradual hiking of interest rates, encouraging flight of capital from debt and equity markets in emerging economies. The trade war will put the process on steroids.

Stock market:

  • Inflation in the USA may compel the US Federal Reserve to hike interest rates, and this may lead to capital outflow from emerging markets as American investors look to chasebetter returns back home and in the process, they make the Indian market into a squeeze

Trade:

  • India is obviously one of those countries with higher exposure to commodities, especially oil imports,  so  it  will  widen  the  current  account  deficit  into  a  deeper  stretch  and  this  is basically negative for rupee
  • Consequently, our petroleum products exports will become uncompetitive with rising fuel price
  • Steel and aluminium product export from India to USA will be hit due to USA tariff on it

Economy:

  • Inflation will be on the upswing with increase in oil price, even though oil price rise is not related to trade war.
  • Nonetheless increase in oil price will cause increase in price of daily food needs in India
  • Our exports plus imports of goods and services constitute around 42% of GDP. Also, we have a current account deficit dependent on external capital inflows for financing.
  • Dumping of Chinese goods may happen in future due to closing of gate in USA and this may hurt our manufacturing sector and our ambitious “Made in India” project.
  • Foreign investments may be reduced or investors will be cautious to invest in India due to trade war and this will affect job creation

Geopolitical:

  • USA trade war on the world is likely to cause a strain on the relationship between India and USA because of recent forcing of USA president towards India to reduce the import duty on Harley Davidson bikes in India
  • It may bolster India’s bargaining position with respect to USA because of USA reactionary policies towards  china,  the  china  and  Russia are getting  closer  and  also  the  growing Russia  Pakistan  bilateral  relations,  is  evident  in  first  bilateral  military  exercise  between Russia and Pakistan –DRUZBHA held recently, will isolate the USA in south Asia leaving only India as a only lynchpin against china in “Asia pivot policy”

International Institutions:

  • International institutions are also affected by this war like WTO,
  • USA threatened to withdraw from the WTO if the trade body acts against USA interests. This undermines the reputation and also destabilize the WTO position in global order.

Impact on India causing opportunities:

  • In the short to medium term, the US-China trade tussle presents some opportunities. India has a $51.08 billion trade deficit with China may benefit
  • China imposed  levies  on  US  goods  such  as  soybean  and  simultaneously  removes  them from  Indian    Beijing  has  reportedly  slashed  tariffs  on  soybean  imported  from India,  South  Korea,  Bangladesh,  Laos,  and  Sri  Lanka  from  the  current  three  percent  to zero, which may boost our soybean export to china
  • Some experts are cautiously optimistic that if Chinese exports to the US slow down as a result of the trade war, India may be able to gain some traction in textile, garments and gems and jewellery
  • It may  also  create  an  market  opportunity  for  India  in  Europe  as  USA  is  also  imposing tariffs on Europe also.

Geopolitical Implication:

  • India may  also  seek  the  opportunity to  reduce  its  own  trade  deficit  against    And, also take the relations to a new height. of late, India and China have taken conciliatory and coordinated steps on stabilizing bilateral ties.
  • While China has made  it  easier  for  India  to  export  non-Basmati  rice,  removed  import duties on anti-cancer drugs and agreed to share (hydrological) data and
  • India has also moved to allay its fears on Indo-Pacific policy, put subtle distance between Delhi and the Dalai Lama, given license to Bank of China to operate within its shores and given in to Chinese demands on renaming of Taiwan

Conclusion:

  • If anything, that history teaches us on trade war means that there is no winner but always losers
  • With recovering of global economy is in nascent stage after the 2008 sub-prime crisis, this trade war between the two large economies could derail the global economic growth and also badly hurt the developing countries
  • Moreover, there are forums like WTO to deal with trade disputes and both USA and china should deal this through WTO and negotiations not through retaliatory tariffs.

River Siang

Why in news?

  • Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, two of India’s North eastern states have been put on high alert after China reported that there has been a rise in the Tsangpo river’s water level due to heavy rainfall.
  • The state governments have been directed by the Centre to remain alert after it received thereport from the Chinese government.
  • According to the report, the Tsangpo river is swelling “with an observed discharge of 9,020 cumec.”
  • The report highlights that it is the highest level the river has reached in the last 50 years.

About the River Siang:

  • The Tsangpo, which originates in China, is called the Siang after it enters India through Upper Siang district in the north eastern state.
  • The Siang joins two other rivers – the Lohit and the Dibang – downstream to form the Brahmaputra.

Reasons behind the disputes between Sino-India relating Siang:

  • China’s Tibetan plateau, nestled in the Himalayas, is the source of Asia’s 10 major river systems, including the Yellow, Yangtze, Indus, Sutlej, Brahmaputra, Salween, and Mekong. It is no wonder many refer to Tibet as the “Water Tower of Asia.”
  • The glaciers in China’s Tibet are melting at a faster rate, and coupled with growing water scarcity and a widening north-south regional water gap, China will face increasing pressure to implement a controversial upstream water diversion plan in its western provinces. This plan will threaten India since the downstream portion of the Brahmaputra River flows through a disputed area with strong implications for national sovereignty. Both states will then increase their security postures in an already heavily militarized border region.
  • The conflicting indicators have led to an ongoing debate over the true intentions of Chinese water diversion plans for its western route. Meanwhile, China officially announced plans to build a network of up to five massive dams on the Yarlung Tsangpo River for the purpose of generating hydroelectricity—not water diversion. In Fall 2014, it completed construction of the Zangmu Dam, the first of these hydropower dams along the Yarlung Tsangpo River. Many in India believe these hyro- power dams are the first step in the process to construct the additional infrastructure needed to divert water.
  • As China’s economic growth continues its downward trajectory, popular nationalism will threaten the Chinese Communist Party’s ability to pursue a foreign policy uninfluenced by populism and public opinion. The likely net result: a likely water war between the two states.
  • The area in which China’s Yarlung Tsangpo River becomes India’s Brahamaputra River is called the Arunachal Pradesh. Both China and India claim this region. This territorial dispute is all the more sensitive because it is linked to the sovereignty of both countries. China cannot give up its claim without simultaneously weakening its claim of sovereignty over Tibet, which it took by force in 1950. For India, the Arunachal Pradesh is the site of a humiliating defeat by the Chinese in 1962.
  • The Arunachal territorial dispute became linked to a core issue—China’s claim of sovereignty over Tibet. Once China invaded and occupied Tibet in 1950, both the Johnson Line and the McMahon Line became contested borders between India and China.

Indus treaty talks to begin tomorrow

Why in news?

Officials of India and Pakistan will meet in Lahore to continue ongoing dialogue on the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT), having held the last round in March this year.

Background:

  • The 115th meeting of the Permanent Indus Commission (PIC), led by the Indus Commissioners on both side and comprising technical experts.
  • This will be the first round of official dialogue on the subject since the Imran Khan government took over this month.
  • The two-day talks are expected to focus on Indian hydropower projects at Lower Kalnai (48 MW) and Pakal Dul (1000 MW) under construction in Jammu and Kashmir in Chenab basin.
  • While Pakistan objects to the construction and calls the designs violative of the treaty, India dismisses the objection as baseless.
  • The two sides may also discuss data sharing, flood information and administrative matters.
  • In the March meeting, according to sources, Pakistan had requested India to allow tours to the Indus Basin, including to Kishenganga and Ratle hydro projects. The request has been pending since 2014 and as per norms under the PIC, the tour has to take place within five years of request.

Indus River Treaty:

  • The 1960 Indus Waters Treaty, brokered by the World Bank and signed by then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and former Pakistan President Ayub Khan, administers how the waters of the Indus River and its tributaries that flow in both the countries will be utilised.
  • The IWT covers the water distribution and sharing rights of six rivers — Beas, Ravi, Sutlej, Indus, Chenab and Jhelum.
  • The treaty specifies that waters from the three western rivers — Indus, Jhelum and Chenab – are reserved for Pakistan, while waters from eastern rivers — Ravi, Sutlej and Beas – are for reserved for India.
  • The meeting of the PIC is held alternately in India and Pakistan at least once every year as mandated by the treaty.

Delhi Dialogue

  • 10th edition of Delhi Dialogue held in New Delhi.
  • The theme of this year’s Delhi Dialogue is ‘Strengthening India-ASEAN Maritime Co-operation

Background:

  • Delhi Dialogue is a premier annual track event to discuss politico-security, economic and socio-cultural engagement between India and ASEAN.
  • Delhi Dialogue X has been organized in partnership with Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS).
  • Political leadership, policy makers, senior officials, diplomats, business leaders, think-tanks and academicians from India and ASEAN Member States will participate in the discussions.
  • Will discuss the, Role of North East in Act East, Forging Connectivity with ASEAN, Strengthening Socio-Cultural Links, and India-ASEAN Partnership and Emerging Global Order, Maritime Cooperation, A New Framework for India-ASEAN Partnership, Development Cooperation; and ASEAN-India Trade, Investment and Technology.
  • The four parallel sessions will discuss: Small and Medium Enterprises SMEs and Regional Development; e-Commerce and Digital Connectivity; Tourism Cooperation; and Building Smart Cities.

ASEAN

  • It is an regional intergovernmental organization comprising ten Southeast Asian countries that promotes intergovernmental cooperation and facilitates economic, political, security, military, educational, and sociocultural integration amongst its members.
  • ASEAN itself was created on 1967 by ASEAN Declaration. With secretariat located in Jakarta.
  • The creation of ASEAN was motivated by a common fear of communism.
  • ASEAN Plus Three was the first of attempts for further integration to improve existing ties with China, Japan, and South Korea. This was followed by the even larger East Asia Summit (EAS), which included ASEAN Plus Three as well as India, Australia, and New Zealand , that is ASEAN plus Six.
  • This group acted as a prerequisite for the planned East Asia Community which was supposedly patterned after the now-defunct European Community.

ASEAN- India Relations

  • India’s relationship with ASEAN is a key pillar of our foreign policy and the foundation of our Act East Policy.
  • India and ASEAN are observing 25 years of their Dialogue Partnership, 15 years of Summit Level interaction and 5 years of Strategic Partnership.
  • As a reflection of the interest of ASEAN and India to intensify their engagement, the ASEAN-India Partnership for Peace, Progress and Shared Prosperity, which sets out the roadmap for long-term ASEAN-India engagement, was signed.
  • The 3rd Plan Of Action-POA (2016-20) was adopted by the ASEAN-India Foreign Ministers Meeting held in August 2015.
  • Furthermore, ASEAN and India have identified priority areas for the period of 2016-2018 and are already implementing activities under it, which would contribute towards successful implementation of the 2016-2020 Plan of Action.
  • India’s partnership with ASEAN seeks to craft a response that relies on coordination, cooperation and sharing of experiences at multiple levels which includes traditional and non-traditional challenges, politico-security cooperation is a key and an emerging pillar of our relationship.

Defence:

  • The ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM) is the highest defence consultative and cooperative mechanism in ASEAN.
  • The ADMM+ brings together Defence Ministers from the 10 ASEAN nations plus Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Russia, and the United States on a biannual basis.

Financial co-operations

ASEAN-India Cooperation Fund:

At the 7th ASEAN-India Summit in 2009, India announced a contribution of US$ 50 million to the ASEAN-India Fund, to support implementation of the ASEAN-India Plans of Action, which envisage cooperation in a range of sectors in the political, economic and socio-cultural spheres for deepening and intensifying ASEAN-India cooperation.

ASEAN-India S&T Development Fund:

India announced the setting up of an ASEAN-India Science & Technology Development Fund with a US$ 1 million contribution from India to promote joint collaborative R&D research projects in Science & Technology

ASEAN-India Green Fund: India announced the setting up of an ASEAN-India Green Fund with an initial contribution of US$ 5 million from India, to support collaboration activities relating to environment and climate change.

Some of the areas identified for collaboration under the Fund are climate change, energy efficiency, clean technologies, renewable energy, biodiversity conservation and environmental education.

Science & Tech:

  • In the S&T field, we have projects such as ASEAN-India S&T Digital Library, ASEAN-India Virtual Institute for Intellectual Property, ASEAN-India Collaborative Project on S&T for Combating Malaria ASEAN-India Programme on Quality Systems in Manufacturing, ASEAN-India Collaborative R&D Project on Mari culture, Bio-mining and Bioremediation Technologies etc.
  • In Agriculture, we are cooperating with ASEAN by way of projects such as Exchange of Farmers, ASEAN-India Fellowships for Higher Agricultural Education in India and ASEAN, Exchange of Agriculture Scientists, Empowerment of Women through Cooperatives, Training Course on Organic Certification for Fruits and Vegetables etc.

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