Category: Initiatives of regional and un Organizations

RCEP: OPPORTUNITY, FEARS IN REGIONAL TRADE DEAL

Why in News?

  • Commerce Minister is in Bangkok for the eighth RCEP ministerial meeting. The meeting is expected to work out the unresolved issues in the negotiations on the mega trade deal.

RCEP:

  • It is a trade deal that is currently under negotiation among 16 countries — the 10 member countries of ASEAN and the six countries with which the ASEAN bloc has FTA.
  • Negotiations on the details of RCEP have been on since 2013, and all participating countries aim to finalise and sign the deal by November.
  • The purpose of RCEP is to create an “integrated market” spanning all 16 countries, making it easier for products and services of each of these countries to be available across this region.ASEAN says the deal will provide “a framework aimed at lowering trade barriers and securing improved market access for goods and services for businesses in the region”.

Negotiations:

  • The negotiations are focussed on areas like trade in goods and services, investment, economic and technical cooperation, intellectual property, competition, dispute settlement, e-commerce, and small and medium enterprises.

Why is the RCEP important?

  • It is billed as the “largest” regional trading agreement ever.
  • These countries account for almost half of the world’s population, contribute over a quarter of world exports, and makeup around 30% of global GDP.
  • Of the 25 chapters in the deal, 21 have been finalised.
  • Chapters on investment, e-commerce, rules of origin, and trade remedies are yet to be settled.

How does India stand to gain?

  • Sections of the Indian industry feel that being part of RCEP would allow the country to tap into a huge market if the domestic industry becomes competitive.
  • Pharmaceuticals and cotton yarn are confident of gains, and the services industry too may have new opportunities.

Concerns:

  • Several industries feel India needs to be mindful of the amount of access it gives to its market.
  • There is fear that some domestic sectors may be hit by cheaper alternatives from other RCEP countries.
  • Apprehensions have been expressed that cheaper Chinese products would “flood” India.
  • Critics are also not confident that India would be able to take advantage of the deal, given its poor track record of extracting benefits from the FTAs with these countries.
  • India’s trade gap with these countries may widen if it signs the RCEP deal.
  • Industries like dairy and steel have demanded protection.
  • The textile industry has already raised concerns about growing competition from neighbouring countries.
  • The bigger players in steel are apprehensive of the potential impact on their businesses.
  • Makers of finished goods have argued that limiting steel supply to domestic producers through higher import duties will put them at a disadvantage.

NORTH KOREA SAYS KIM OVERSAW TESTING OF MULTIPLE ROCKET LAUNCHERS

Why in News:

  • North Korea conducted a “strike drill” for multiple launchers, firing tactical guided weapons into the East Sea in a military drill.

Details:

  • North Korea has conducted a “strike drill” for multiple launchers, firing tactical guided weapons into the East Sea in a military drill supervised by leader Kim Jong Un , the North’s state media reported.
  • The purpose of the drill was to test performance of “large-caliber long-range multiple rocket launchers and tactical guided weapons by defense units
  • While such a missile launch would be in violation of UN Security Council Resolutions, at least it would not involve long-range ballistic missiles that have been seen as a threat to the United States.
  • The new, solid fuel ballistic missiles can fly as far as 500 kilometers (311 miles), putting the entire Korean Peninsula within its range and are capable of neutralizing the advanced U.S. anti-missile defense system (THAAD) deployed in South Korea
  • North Korean leader Kim stressed the need to “increase the combat ability so as to defend the political sovereignty and economic self-sustenance”
  • North Korea had maintained a freeze in nuclear and ballistic missiles testing in place since 2017, which
  • U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly pointed out as an important achievement from his engagement with Pyongyang.
  • With North Korea never promising to completely stop all missile testing — it only promised a self-
  • imposed moratorium of testing long-range missiles such as ICBMs that can hit the U.S. homeland.

UNSC

  • The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations and is charged with the maintenance of international peace and security.
  • Its powers include the establishment of peacekeeping operations, the establishment of international sanctions, and the authorization of military action through Security Council resolutions; it is the only UN body with the authority to issue binding resolutions to member states. The Security Council consists of fifteen members. Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, and the United States—serve as the body’s five permanent members.
  • The Security Council also has 10 non-permanent members, elected on a regional basis to serve two-year terms. The body’s presidency rotates monthly among its members

Why India should be added?

  • After 2008 financial meltdown, India had been a member of G 20 to help the world tide over a difficult situation
  • IAEA and NSG considers India as ‘a state with advanced nuclear technology’ and sanctified India as a responsible member of the nuclear community.
  • However, India needs to dispel popular perception the India feels comfortable in its role as ‘a recessed power

India Push UN

  • Diplomats in Delhi and New York have begun negotiations on a new proposal to place JeM chief Masood Azhar on the ban list operated by the UNSC’s 1267 committee, the fourth such request in four consecutive years.

About:

  • The effort, that is being coordinated by France, between France’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Paris, the embassy in Delhi and the UN mission in New York, is likely to take some weeks.
  • In March, by coincidence, France will also take over the presidency of the UNSC, which comprises 5 permanent and 10 non-permanent members.
  • The most important meeting in this regard will come on Wednesday this week, when External Affairs Minister meets with Chinese Foreign Minister for the trilateral meeting of Russia-India-China (RIC) Foreign Ministers along with Russian Foreign Minister and then will meet both bilaterally.
  • It will be critical to see what role Russia plays in this effort, not just on supporting India, but on actively convincing China to withdraw its objections to the listing.
  • Beijing has vetoed each of the past three attempts to list Azhar: in 2016, 2017 and most recently in 2018.
  • China agreed to the UNSC press statement that named the JeM after considerable wrangling over the wording, particularly insisting on leaving out any direct reference to Pakistan in it and objecting to any “political statements,” diplomats aware of the negotiations in New York said.
  • At one point, talks nearly broke down with the U.S. and China at loggerheads, and the French delegation went in to forge an agreement on a carefully worded statement that would send a “strong signal” to Pakistan.
  • The extent of the disagreement was evident from the relatively much quicker response from the UNSC to a similar attack which killed 27 Iranian soldiers in Sistan Baluchistan on February 13, a day before the Pulwama attack. Despite the U.S.’s other issues with Iran, the UNSC was able to issue its statement on February 14, while the statement on Pulwama came a week later, on February 21.
  • Meanwhile Foreign Secretary is coordinating the diplomatic pressure India hopes to build on Pakistan in the upcoming weeks by meeting focused groups of Ambassadors from different regions with specific lists of expectations from each. In particular.
  • European Union is being asked to add Pakistan to its own blacklist and to conduct a serious review of the GSP+ (Generalised System of Preferences) status if it fails to crack down on the groups targeting India, particularly JeM and Lashkar-e-Taiba. At present the EU has put only one country, DPRK or North Korea on its blacklist. For the moment, however, the Azhar listing is top priority for the government, and the need to convince China to turn its vote against the Jaish leader high on the diplomatic agenda.
  • The move is aimed after recent event of UN Security Council and the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force both issuing strong press statements on the Pulwama attacks and calling on Pakistan to act against the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM),

India in OIC

  • External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj will attend the foreign ministers’ meeting to be held in Abu Dhabi, on March 1-2, at the invitation of the UAE’s Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

About:

  • This is the first time India has been invited to the OIC after 1969, when then Agriculture minister was disinvited on arriving at Morocco, after Pakistan’s President Yahya Khan lobbied against Indian participation.
  • Fifty years after being disinvited from the 1969 Conference of Islamic Countries in Rabat in Morocco at Pakistan’s behest, India will make its maiden appearance at the foreign ministers’ meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on March 1 as a “guest of honour”. Sources said that the invitation was initiated by the UAE, and it came about a month ago. After internal deliberations, they conveyed that India will attend at the Foreign minister’s level, adding that the decision to attend was taken before the Pulwama attack.
  • Sources said that New Delhi will only attend the “inaugural” session, and not be part of the negotiations of the OIC’s joint communique. We are not part of the OIC. So we are not in the drafting of the communiqué.
  • India, on its part, said that the invitation was taking forward the strong bilateral ties that UAE and India shared and it was also a welcome recognition of the presence of 185 million Muslims in India and of their contribution to its pluralistic ethos and of India’s contribution to the Islamic world.

OIC:

  • OIC states it is the collective voice of the Muslim world and works to safeguard their interests. With permanent representatives to the United Nations and the European Union, has over 50-member states.

The Long, Rough Road To OIC

  • The development marks a significant diplomatic win for India as Pakistan has been staunch opponent to India getting even an observer status, let alone become a member of the OIC.
  • Going back in time to the first ever Islamic summit in 1969, it was a call by then Pakistani president General Yahya Khan to boycott India that completely dashed India’s hopes of joining the OIC. India has, over the years, tried to reverse history and get itself a place at the OIC. The organization, too, has been critical of India’s actions when it comes to Kashmir.
  • Only last year, it had condemned the killings of Kashmiris by the armed forces in “India-occupied Kashmir” and called it a terrorist act. Former vice president and diplomat Hamid Ansari, in 2006, had made a pitch for India to become a member of the OIC, writing that while India was not a Muslim country it had a significant Muslim population and was not away from it.
  • Ahmad too recalls how, after 1990, Pakistan had used it the OIC platform to make anti-India statements. Even last year, in September, India rejected to the mention of Kashmir in Pakistan’s statement at the OIC and said that India always noted with regret the way matters internal to India were discussed at the OIC.
  • Bangladesh had made a call for reforms within the OIC so that countries like India could get observer status, a proposal which was vehemently blocked by Pakistan.
  • Now, with Sushma Swaraj finally headed to Abu Dhabi for the inaugural plenary, it is, as Ahmad noted, a remarkable breakthrough that India has now been welcomed into the Muslim mainstream.

New Services on International North South Transport Corridor

In News:

  • Container Corporation of India Ltd. (Concor), a major railway container operator in India and JSC RZD Logistics, the biggest multi-modal logistics operator over the region of the CIS and Baltic countries, signed a Memorandum of Understanding
  • The Memorandum purports to exploring opportunities of developing joint logistical projects both in India and in Russia using international transport corridors, to include, in particular, the International North South Transport Corridor.

Explained:

  • INSTC is the shortest multimodal transportation route linking the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf via Iran to Russia and Europe.
  • India could take benefit of this route. Cargo from India can be taken to the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas, and from there to Bandar-e Anzali on the Caspian Sea by land. The goods can then be shipped to the Russian port of Astrakhan and from there to therest of Europe by rail.

Green – AG

The government launched a Global Environment Facility (GEF) assisted project namely, Green – Ag. in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) during September, 2018.

About Green Ag:

  • ‘Green Ag.’ will help in transforming Indian Agriculture for global environmental benefits and the conservation of critical biodiversity and forest landscapes.
  • The aim of the project is to mainstream biodiversity, climate change and sustainable land management objectives and practices into Indian agriculture.
  • It will also support harmonization between India’s agricultural and environmental sector priorities and investments so that the achievement of national and global environmental benefits can be fully realized without compromising India’s ability to strengthen rural livelihoods and meet its food and nutrition security.
  • It started in high-conservation-value landscapes of five States including- Madhya Pradesh: Chambal Landscape, Mizoram: Dampa Landscape, Odisha: Similipal Landscape, Rajasthan: Desert National Park Landscape and Uttarakhand: Corbett.
  • Key missions that will be targeted for strengthening include the National Mission on Sustainable Agriculture; National Livestock Mission; National Food Security Mission; National Initiative on Climate-resilient Agriculture, National Mission for Horticulture and Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana.

About Global Environment Facility:

  • It was established on the eve of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit to help tackle our planet’s most pressing environmental problems.
  • It provides funding to assist developing countries in meeting the objectives of international environmental conventions.
  • It serves as “financial mechanism” to five conventions, which are Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), and Minamata Convention on Mercury.
  • Today, it is an international partnership of 183 countries, international institutions, civil society organizations and the private sector that addresses global environmental issues.

Russia Suspends participation in N-Pact

In News:

  • Russia said that it was suspending its participation in a key Cold War-era missile treaty– Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) agreement in a mirror response to a U.S. move the day before.

Explained:

What is Russia Accused of doing?

  • The Americans say they have evidence that a new Russian missile falls within the 500-5,500km (310-3,400 miles) range banned by the treaty.
  • Some US officials have said that a number of 9M729 missiles – known to Nato as SSC-8 – have already been deployed.
  • Russia said that it would “not be drawn into a costly new arms race”. Russia would only deploy intermediate- and short-range missiles in Europe or elsewhere in answer to similar moves from the U.S.
  • Russian accusations that Washington itself has been in violation of the deal for many years. The Foreign Minister said Russia had “tried everything to save the treaty” in several rounds of diplomatic talks.
  • The U.S. in December gave Moscow a 60-day deadline to dismantle missiles it said breached the agreement. But Moscow has insisted that the disputed 9M729 missile is allowed under the treaty.
  • Russia voiced concerns that Washington’s decision to withdraw from the INF could jeopardise the extension of the New START treaty. That agreement, which caps the number of nuclear warheads held by Washington and Moscow, expires in 2021.

Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF):

  • Brokered by U.S. President Ronald Reagan with last Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, the treaty ended a superpower build-up of warheads that had frightened Europeans. It banned ground-launched missiles with a range of 500 km to 5,500 km.
  • Signed by the US and the USSR in 1987, the arms control deal banned all nuclear and non-nuclear missiles with short and medium ranges, except sea-launched weapons
  • The US had been concerned by the Soviet deployment of the SS-20 missile system and responded by placing Pershing and cruise missiles in Europe – sparking widespread protests. By 1991, nearly 2,700 missiles had been destroyed
  • Both countries were allowed to inspect the other’s installations
  • In 2007, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared the treaty no longer served Russia’s interests. The move came after the US withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002

New START Treaty:

  • The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) was signed April 8, 2010 in Prague by Russia and the United States and entered into force on Feb. 5, 2011. New START replaced the 1991 START I treaty, which expired December 2009, and superseded the 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT), which terminated when New START entered into force.
  • New START continues the bipartisan process of verifiably reducing U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals begun by former Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.  New START is the first verifiable U.S.-Russian nuclear arms control treaty to take effect since START I in 1994.
  • Both Russia and the United States announced that they met New START limitations by Feb. 5, 2018

SAARC Nations Mush have Synergy

Context:

  • The conundrum of South Asian identity, involving the challenges posed by the 1947 Partition, internal politics of each country and meddling by the U.S. and China, could be resolved if the “negative discourse” on the region was driven out of the public domain and the borders were rendered irrelevant, a panel of diplomats, essayists and foreign policy experts.

Details:

  • The panel comprising former Ambassador and National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon, Pakistan’s former diplomat Husain Haqqani, Singapore-based economist Prasenjit Basu and Canadian essayist of Nepali descent Manjushree Thapa was in conversation with Suhasini Haidar, Diplomatic Affairs Editor of The Hindu at the Jaipur Literature Festival here.
  • The experts said in the JLF session on “South Asia: Walls and Bridges” that the region’s future lay in cooperation among the eight SAARC nations and strengthening of bonds with emphasis on common ethnicity, culture, traditions, languages and religions. The panel felt the focus of South Asian discourse needed to shift away from the perception of India’s dominance in the region.
  • Menon said the walls in South Asia were political, whereas the bridges could be built in every domain. The SAARC could play a meaningful role, as there were no security or financial dilemmas among the member countries, except between India and Pakistan, he said, and added that there was no need to panic on interference by countries such as China and the U.S.
  • Thapa pointed out that when Nepal looked towards India with an “emotional response” for emulating the values of secularism, institutional independence and women’s empowerment, the new trends of majoritarianism were sending across confusing signals. “The 2015 Constitution has declared Nepal [to be] a secular State. We expect India to be our role model,” she said.
  • Describing the term “South Asia” as a geographical misnomer, Mr. Basu said the usage of “Indian Subcontinent” would help depict the “geo-political strategy” of Britain to partition India on the basis of two-nation theory. He said the SAARC could be turned into an effective forum by enhancing economic relations among the member countries. “Bangladesh is doing well on the economic front and its remittances to India are the third highest,” he added.
  • Haqqani said the South Asian countries, which shared 5,000 years of commonality, should learn from the European countries which were coming together and had established an economic model based on common currency. “We lack the imagination and are unable to overcome the current barriers without realising that disagreements exist even among States in the Indian Union,” he remarked.
  • The Pakistani activist and diplomat, who has served as Ambassador to the U.S. and Sri Lanka, said the rulers in India and Pakistan must identify the “constituencies for peace” and build new bridges while trying to diminish dissimilarities. “That will help define a new South Asian identity based on common values and ideals… Each country in our region should realise that we have a common destiny.”
  • Haidar made observations about the role of SAARC in the changing geo-political scenario and stressed the need to go a step ahead of the use of “soft power” and bring the South Asian nations together to ensure regional cooperation.

About SAARC:

  • The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was established with the signing of the SAARC Charter in Dhaka on 8 December 1985. SAARC comprises of eight Member States: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The Secretariat of the Association was set up in Kathmandu on 17 January 1987.
  • The objectives of the Association as outlined in the SAARC Charter are: to promote the welfare of the peoples of South Asia and to improve their quality of life; to accelerate economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the region and to provide all individuals the opportunity to live in dignity and to realize their full potentials; to promote and strengthen collective self-reliance among the countries of South Asia; to contribute to mutual trust, understanding and appreciation of one another’s problems; to promote active collaboration and mutual assistance in the economic, social, cultural, technical and scientific fields; to strengthen cooperation with other developing countries; to strengthen cooperation among themselves in international forums on matters of common interests; and to cooperate with international and regional organizations with similar aims and purposes.
  • Decisions at all levels are to be taken on the basis of unanimity; and bilateral and contentious issues are excluded from the deliberations of the Association.

India can lead the world on Solar Grid: PM

In News:

  • At the annual Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in Varanasi on Tuesday, Prime Minister highlighted India’s potential to lead the world in sustainable development.
  • In many respects, India can now provide leadership in the world. The International Solar Alliance or ISA is one such platform. Through this medium, we want to take the world towards one world, one sun and one grid.

 

Background:

International Solar Alliance:

  • The International Solar Alliance is a common platform for cooperation among sun-rich countries lying fully or partially between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn who are seeking to massively ramp up solar energy, thereby helping to bend the global greenhouse emissions curve whilst providing clean and cheap energy.
  • Countries, bilateral and multilateral organisations, companies, industries, and stakeholders aim to reduce the cost of finance and cost of technology for the immediate deployment of competitive solar generation, storage and technologies adapted to countries’ individual needs and to mobilize billions of dollars for solar.
  • The initiative was launched at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris at the end of 2015 by the President of France and the Prime Minister of India.
  • It will not duplicate or replicate the efforts that others (like International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP), International Energy Agency (IEA), Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21), United Nations bodies, bilateral organizations etc.) are currently engaged in, but will establish networks and develop synergies with them and supplement their efforts in a sustainable and focused manner.

Key focus areas to achieve these objectives are to:

  • Promote solar technologies, new business models and investment in the solar sector to enhance prosperity
  • Formulate projects and programmes to promote solar applications
  • Develop innovative financial mechanisms to reduce cost of capital
  • Build a common knowledge e-portal
  • Facilitate capacity building for promotion and absorption of solar technologies and r&d among member countries.

Categories

Current Affairs Calendar

M T W T F S S
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728  

Quick Navigate

Social Connect