Category: International Relations

US ‘destroyed’ New Start Treaty: Moscow

Why in News?

  • Russia has accused US for destroying weapons control agreements, after the US said Russia was not complying with their last remaining arms pact, the New START treaty.

New START Treaty:

  • The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) pact limits the number of deployed nuclear warheads, missiles and bombers and is due to expire in 2021 unless renewed.
  • The treaty limits the US and Russia to a maximum of 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700 deployed missiles and bombers, well below Cold War caps.
  • It was signed in 2010 by former US President Barack Obama and then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.
  • It is one of the key controls on the superpower deployment of nuclear weapons.

Background of US-Russia Nuclear Relations

  • The US formally QUIT the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF)
  • The agreement obliged the two countries to eliminate all ground-based missiles of ranges between 500 and 5,500 km.

When did nuclear disarmament begin?

  • In 1985, the two countries entered into arms control negotiations on three tracks.
  • The first dealt with strategic weapons with ranges of over 5,500 km, leading to the START agreement in 1991.
  • It limited both sides to 1,600 strategic delivery vehicles and 6,000 warheads.
  • A second track dealt with intermediate-range missiles and this led to the INF Treaty in 1987.
  • A third track, Nuclear, and Space Talks was intended to address Soviet concerns regarding the U.S.’s Strategic Defence Initiative (SDI) but this did not yield any outcome.
  • Success of INF
  • The INF Treaty was hailed as a great disarmament pact even though no nuclear warheads were dismantled.
  • As it is a bilateral agreement, it did not restrict other countries.
  • By 1991, the INF was implemented. USSR destroyed 1,846 and the US destroyed 846 Pershing and cruise missiles. 
  • Associated production facilities were also closed down.
  • INF Treaty was the first pact to include intensive verification measures, including on-site inspections.

How has the nuclear behavior been?

  • With the end of the Cold War and the break-up of the USSR in end-1991, former Soviet allies were joining NATO and becoming EU members.
  • The U.S. was investing in missile defense and conventional global precision strike capabilities to expand its technological lead.
  • In 2001, the U.S. announced its unilateral withdrawal from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM Treaty).
  • The US also blamed Russia for not complying with the ‘zero-yield’ standard imposed by the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). This may indicate the beginning of a new nuclear arms race.

Implications of the New Start

  • The 2011 New START lapsed in 2021. It may meet the fate of the INF Treaty.
  • The 2018 NPR envisaged the development of new nuclear weapons, including low-yield weapons.
  • China is preparing to operate its test site year-round with its goals for its nuclear force.
  • CTBT requires ratification by U.S., China, and Iran, Israel and Egypt and adherence by India, Pakistan and North Korea. It is unlikely to ever enter into force.

Conclusion:

  • A new nuclear arms race could just be the beginning. It may be more complicated because of multiple countries being involved.
  • Technological changes are bringing cyber and space domains into contention. It raises the risks of escalation.

The quest for hope in Myanmar

Why in News?

  • Two years have passed since the military coup in Myanmar in 2021.

Highlights:

  • Two years ago, in 2021 the military in Myanmar staged a coup and snatched power from the elected leaders. It derailed the limited democracy of the country, violating the 2008 constitution which the generals had given to the people.
  • For more information on the coup, read here: Myanmar Coup d’état 2021

Current Scenario in Myanmar: 

There are currently three camps in Myanmar: 

  • The military which is in power in major towns.
  • The opposition called the National Unity Government (NUG) and its partners in the countryside.
  • The ethnic groups on the geographic periphery. These groups are further divided into pro-military, pro-NUG, or neutral groups.
  • Frequent clashes occur in several parts of Myanmar and there is widespread insecurity. The air force bombs the citizens, whereas people’s militias kill government soldiers and policemen.
  • The possibility to hold dialogue is ruled out as there is no will for compromise and reconciliation between the military and the NUG. Both of them have termed each other as “terrorists”.
  • Aung San Suu Kyi is serving a 33-year-long prison sentence in solitary confinement. 

Economic situation:

  • There is a sharp decline in the GDP of the country.
  • Poverty, unemployment, and inflation have surged.
  • Furthermore, the currency is witnessing a free fall.

Global Response:

  • According to western countries, it is a direct cause of a repressive and power-hungry army suppressing the citizens and depriving them of their democratic rights. They condemned the act of the military at the United Nations (UN), imposed sanctions against the junta, and provide material assistance to the opposition.
  • The UN Security Council adopted Resolution 2669 on 21st December 2022, expressing deep concern about the situation and urging the release of all political prisoners. There were abstentions only by China, Russia, and India. Despite this rare unity, the UN has failed to move the military.
  • ASEAN with UN support is keen to play the role of mediator in Myanmar, but the Myanmar government refuses to cooperate with ASEAN. ASEAN’s ‘Five-Point Consensus’ formula as a way out was accepted by Myanmar in April 2021, but it was refused later.
  • It should also be noted that ASEAN itself is suffering from internal disturbances and the new chair (Indonesia) realizes its limitations in handling the issue.
  • China and Russia are strengthening their cooperation with the Myanmar government. Due to western sanctions on Russia, it has found a willing partner in Myanmar’s generals who need Russian arms, training, and political support. China also has extensive interest in the region ranging from economic to strategic domains.

India’s Stand:

  • India desires a stable and prosperous Myanmar where democracy flourishes. However, its policy of dealing with the government of the day forces it to carry out business with the generals, discomforting the NUG.
  • India also has security and economic interests. For instance, it needs assistance to tackle the Indian insurgent groups sheltered in Myanmar; handling its mega infrastructure projects requires the authorities’ cooperation; etc. Moreover, it aims to regulate China’s influence in Myanmar.
  • India is in a dilemma, as India’s Myanmar experts offer contradictory advice:
  • One group wants India to work with the present-day government.
  • However, the other group advocates cooperating with the NUG and the ethnic groups. It also wants India to play the role of mediator.
  • India has limited options and it believes that as the root cause of the political problem lies on Myanmar’s soil, it should be solved by the leadership of Myanmar.

Conclusion:

  • The elections in Myanmar are due in August 2023. The possibility of holding free and fair elections is grim because of the various challenges like the opposition’s plan to disrupt it, the credibility of the elections itself, and the response of the military to the elections.

General Assembly divided over UN reforms

Why in News?

  • The UN General Assembly President Csaba Kőrösi during his visit to India highlighted the importance of reforms in the United Nations.

Highlights:

  • The UN General Assembly President Csaba Kőrösi during his visit to India said that the reform of the UN Security Council was a member-driven process that would require the members of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) to collaborate and pass a resolution demanding the reforms.
  • The process to urge the UN Security Council (UNSC) or P5 to accept a proposal coming from the UN General Assembly for reform starts with the passage of a resolution in the UNGA. 
  • However, such a resolution has not yet been passed so far as the UNGA has always been very much divided. 
  • According to the UNGA President, among the 193 countries in the UNGA, there are five negotiating groups and they have been neutralising each other’s demands.
  • The UNGA President also claimed that the permanent members (P5) were “historically not enthusiastic” about reforms of the UN system and has argued that the role of the UNGA is as important as the P5 members of the UNSC in ensuring reform of the UN system.
  • He added that the system of veto in the UNSC was 77 years old and has become an instrument to block the work of the global body with respect to various issues.
  • The UNGA President in October 2022, tried to revive the process of introducing reforms by appointing two negotiators for the programme of reform to look after the Intergovernmental Negotiations (IGN) as co-chairs.
  • The appointed negotiators included two Permanent Representatives namely Tareq M.A.M. Albanai of Kuwait and Michal Mlynar of Slovakia. 
  • The IGN is the team that takes care of the issue of UN reform. 

India’s stand on UN reforms:

  • India has shown dissatisfaction over the delay in implementing reforms of the UNSC.
  • The External Affairs Minister of India during the recently held Voice of the Global South Summit had described the UN as a “frozen 1945-invented mechanism” and had held that a few of the global powers were singularly focused on advancing their own interests rather than focusing on the well-being of the international community.

India’s role:

  • The UNGA President said that India has been playing a crucial role and has contributed a lot to improve the UN systems’ response mechanism.
  • He further highlighted India’s role in stabilising the global order which has been affected by the COVID pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war.
  • He also said that India has become very active in all the negotiating channels that are currently underway in the UN.

India could lead the G20 Agenda in a unique way

Why in News?

  • The G20, or Group of 20, has emerged as the primary venue for international economic and financial cooperation. India assumed the presidency of the powerful grouping G20 on 1 December 2022, symbolising the motto and showcasing its philosophies of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam”, or “One Earth, One Family, One Future”.

What One Earth, One Family, One Future suggests?

  • India committed to making India’s year of chairmanship one that will focus on “healing our ‘One Earth’, creating harmony within our ‘One Family’, and giving hope for our ‘One Future’ and LiFE (Lifestyle for Environment).

What is Troika?

  • The troika means previous, current, and incoming presidency which comprise Indonesia, India, and Brazil, respectively.
  • The troika is leading the global agenda at G20 in the current turbulent economic times.
  • Beyond being a forum for policy discussions, the G20 plays the role of reconciling the irreconcilable.
  • The number of talks and years the group has been together has resulted in a mixed bag of success.

How India should set up a global agenda: Proposed principles

  • Democratising the process of setting the agenda: While setting up the global agenda, it is critical to bring together all the partner nations to understand their priorities. It will ensure diversity, equity, inclusivity, sustainability, transparency, and long-term commitment. This can also help ensure that the domestic policies are aligned and support global priorities.
  • Strike a balance between the needs of developing and developed countries: Since India has a greater responsibility to shoulder, it should not work and seem biased. Similarly, developed nations should instead exercise greater caution with their rich resource pools. To create a win-win scenario rather than a zero-sum game, we must think in terms of multilateralism.
  • Critical to focus on determined priorities: It is critical to prevent the G20 from suffering as other multilateral forums such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) do from an over-expansion of its mandate. While being ambitious in their approach, it is crucial to set defined, limited long-term priorities.
  • Set concrete, measurable, and tangible goals: Measurable outcomes with short, medium, and long-term objectives are crucial. Financial considerations must be made in addition to ensuring inclusivity, sustainability, and accountability.
  • Prevent reinventing the wheels: To encourage faster mutual growth, it is necessary to prevent duplication of efforts. It is important to prevent duplication of existing international institutions, fragmentation of financial resources, and the weakening of the coordinating role of the existing multilateral organisations. The ‘cooperative and collaborative frameworks are key to successful outcomes.
  • Prejudice-free dialogues are required to promote solidarity: Prejudices on international platforms can pose a threat to global security. Dialogue as an antidote is a force for conflict prevention, management, and resolution.
  • Mutual safeguarding is necessary: Mutual safeguarding from disguised elements of neo-colonialism and hegemony is essential for cutting through the socio-cultural and geopolitical barriers between the Global South and the Global North.
  • The principle of Antyodaya (rise of the last person): The global lens must capture every aspect of a community through inclusive dialogues, from the most marginalised to the most privileged. It is crucial to set the vertical and horizontal plans on a global and national level with the ‘last person standing in line’ in mind.

India’s current global Image:

  • India for global governance: While India’s successes are being assessed and unprecedented hopes are being expressed about our future, the country’s trust in the global governance architecture is evident through several examples from the recent past, like the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines in India as well as remarkable vaccine diplomacy initiative ‘Vaccine Maitri’.
  • Fastest growing economy: With one of the world’s largest and fastest-growing economies, the country has earned its stripes during tough external and internal times.
  • India among the tops in global climate change performance index: Similarly, India has been ranked among the top five countries under the global Climate Change Performance Index. Moreover, it has taken the lead in spearheading the transition towards cleaner energy sources.
  • Social capitalism nature of economy: With its social capitalism, India has earned a geopolitical sweet spot in the world.

Conclusion:

  • India can lead the G20 agenda in a unique way the global community has never witnessed. Keeping the essential principles in mind when developing agendas, action-oriented plans, and decisions through collaborative efforts have the potential to yield revolutionary and positive results. The vision of shaping a new paradigm of human-centric globalisation is promising, provided the Global North and South communities provide equal support.

Key takeaways form the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting

Why in News? 

  • The World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting 2023, held in the Swiss town of Davos, ended Friday a conference that started in a world possibly fundamentally altered, but whose processes and outcomes remained pretty much business as usual.
  • The theme this year was ‘Cooperation in a Fragmented World’.

World Economic Forum (WEF):

  • Headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, WEF is an international not-for-profit organization, focused on bringing the public and private sectors together to address the global political, social, and economic issues.  
  • It was founded in 1971 by Swiss-German economist and Professor Klaus Schwab in a bid to promote the global cooperation on these most pressing problems. 
  • The first meeting of WEF was held more than five decades ago in Davos, which has been the home of the annual gathering almost ever since, also becoming the shorthand for the event.

key takeaways from WEF on the economy:

  • Positive outlook for economy: Most business leaders were upbeat about the economy, with US and the European Union (EU) seemingly beyond the risk of a recession now. China ending its zero Covid curbs and opening shop again added to the positive outlook.
  • Caution from central banks: Central banks of the major economies cautioned that concerns still remained, and said they would keep interest rates high to ensure inflation is under check. For example, Stay the course is my mantra, European Central Bank President quoted. The US Federal Reserve Vice Chair Lael Brainard was quoted as reminding investors that “inflation remains high, and policy will need to be sufficiently restrictive for some time.
  • Potential impact on energy prices: Many also pointed out that China opening up could mean a rise in its energy consumption, thereby driving up energy prices.
  • Concerns for developing economies: As the richer nations look to focus inwards, protecting their own workers, energy sufficiency, supply lines, etc., concerns were raised that this policy direction would hit developing economies.

Climate change and green energy discussions at World Economic Forum

  • The need for green energy and financing: Everyone agreed upon the need for green energy and the need for more money to flight climate change.
  • GAEA initiative to unlock $3 trillion financing: According to the WEF’s website, The World Economic Forum, supported by more than 45 partners launched the Giving to Amplify Earth Action (GAEA), a global initiative to fund and grow new and existing public, private and philanthropic partnerships (PPPPs) to help unlock the $3 trillion of financing needed each year to reach net zero, reverse nature loss and restore biodiversity by 2050.
  • International Concerns and Reactions: The EU raised concerns over a US green energy law that benefits products, such as electric vehicles, made in America.
  • New Initiatives and Partnerships: The Press Trust of India (PTI) reported that more than 50 high-impact initiatives were launched at the event. 1.Maharashtra Institution for Transformation (MITRA) signed a partnership with the forum on urban transformation to give the state government strategic and technical direction. 2. A thematic centre on healthcare and life sciences is to be set up in Telangana. 3. The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness and Innovations (CEPI) aims to develop new vaccines for future pandemics.

Ukraine demands more military and financial aid:

  • Military Aid and Financial Aid for Reconstruction: Ukraine kept up its demand for more military aid to fight its war against Russia, and more financial aid to rebuild after the war, saying the reconstruction fund commitments should start coming in now and not after the war ends.
  • President Zelenskyy’s Address and Criticism of US and Germany: While Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy gave a video address. In his address, Zelenskyy made an indirect criticism of the US and Germany dithering over sending tanks to his country.

Criticism and defence of the Davos Event:

  • Spectacle of Rich and Powerful Talking about Poverty and Climate: The jarring spectacle of the Davos event where the uber-rich and powerful fly in on private jets to talk about poverty alleviation and climate action came in for criticism yet again.
  • Opportunity for Decision-Makers to Meet and Interact: However, others pointed out that despite its flaws, the conference is an opportunity for many decision-makers to meet and interact with each other.
  • The Economist’s View on the Importance of Communication and Conversation: As the Economist editor-in-chief Zanny Minton Beddoes put it, while the talks at Davos can be described as “highly-caffeinated speed dating”, more conversation and communication is better than less contact and less communication.

Conclusion:

  • The World Economic Forum highlighted the pressing need for green energy and financing to combat climate change. Though the event remained focused on business as usual, we can see that the WEF provided an opportunity for decision-makers to meet and interact, and more than 50 high-impact initiatives were launched at the event.

UNSC sanctions committee blacklists Lashkar’s Makki

Why in News?

  • The UN Security Council’s (UNSC) ISIL and Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee has placed a key fundraiser and planner of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorist outfit named Abdul Rehman Makki, on its sanctions list.

UNSC’s 1267 Sanctions Committee:

  • This Committee was set up based on resolution 1267 passed in 1999.
  • The Committee oversees the implementation of the sanctions measures under resolutions 1267, 1989 (2011) and 2253 (2015) concerning ISIL (Da’esh), Al-Qaida, and associated individuals, groups, undertakings and entities.
  • Hence it is also called ISIL and Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee. 
  • The Committee comprises all 15 members of the Security Council and makes its decision by consensus. i.e. it consists of both the permanent as well as non-permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).
  • The Committee designates individuals and entities who meet the listing criteria set out in the relevant resolutions.

Sanctions imposed on individuals who are designated as terrorists by UNSC

  • Assets Freeze: All states are mandated to freeze the funds, and financial and economic assets of designated individuals and entities.
  •  Travel Ban: All states are mandated to prevent the entry or transit of these designated individuals through their territories.
  • Arms Embargo: All states are mandated to prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale and transfer of arms and other materials such as spare parts, technical advice, and training related to military activities to designated individuals.

Background of the issue:

  • Abdul Rahman Makki is the brother-in-law of LeT chief Hafiz Saeed who is also convicted as the mastermind of the Mumbai 26/11 attacks.
  • Makki is wanted for a number of cases of terrorism and terror financing in India and has been designated a wanted terrorist by the government.
  • The proposal to list Makki under the UNSC sanctions regime was issued to UNSC’s 1267 Committee members under a “no-objection procedure” on June 1st (2022) with a deadline of 16th June.
  • However, China waited until the last day to raise objections to the listing and placed a “technical hold” on the proposal.
  • Abdul Rehman Makki has now been placed under the sanctions list by the UNSC’s 1267 Sanctions Committee as China withdrew its “technical hold” that it had imposed in June 2022.

China’s technical hold:

  • During its tenure at the UNSC, India has proposed the designation of five terriers under the sanctions list by the ISIL and Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee.
  • The list of such terrorists includes Abdul Rehman Makki (LeT), Abdul Rauf Asghar (Jaish-e-Mohammed), Sajid Mir (LeT), Shahid Mahmood (LeT), and Talha Saeed (LeT). 
  • However, China has imposed a “technical hold” on all the proposals to list all these five individuals under the sanctions list, while all the other 14 members of the UNSC supported the listing.
  • India had regarded China’s decision to place a “technical hold” as “regrettable” and “extremely unfortunate”. 
  • India also accused China of following double standards in its claims of combating terrorism.

Views of the UNSC’s 1267 Sanctions Committee:

  • The Committee has said that the main reason for placing Abdul Rehman Makki under the blacklist was his and other LET/JuD operatives’ involvement in fundraising, recruiting and radicalising youth to violence and planning attacks in India, especially in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K).
  • The committee also considered Makki’s involvement in terror attacks such as the Red Fort attack (December 22, 2000), the Rampur attack (January 1, 2008), the 26/11 Mumbai attacks and the attack in Gurez (August 7, 2018) to add him to the list of globally sanctioned individuals.
  • The Committee also added that Makki was the head of political affairs for the LeT and is also a member of JuD’s Markazi (central) team and Daawati (proselytization) teams.
  • The JuD or Jamaat-ul-Dawa is the parent body of the LeT.

Analysis of the listing:

  • India has welcomed the designation of Abdur Rehman Makki as a sanctioned terrorist by the UNSC.
  • Experts believe that China’s move to allow the listing is a win for India.
  • Further, this is the first ever instance where a listing proposal by India (co-sponsored) has been allowed to go through and it is also the first time a terrorist has been listed mainly for his involvement in the attacks in India, especially in Kashmir.

Way forward for India:

  • Pakistan has still not held several terrorists accountable for their involvement in major attacks such as the IC-814 Kandahar hijacking (1999), the Mumbai attacks (26/11), Pathankot (2016) and Pulwama (2019) attacks.
  • Hence, it is important for India to persevere in its task of keeping the spotlight on such terrorists in order to prosecute them.
  • Experts opine that the designation of Makki under the blacklist is the result of behind-the-scenes negotiations between India-China at a time when their relationship is going through a turbulent phase due to the LAC standoff. 
  • The listing of the four other terrorists proposed by India will be a test of diplomacy and the relationship between India and China.

Leading financiers who pledged Net Zero are still backing fossil fuel expansion

Why in News?

  • The world’s largest banks and asset owners (members of GFANZ) that have pledged Net Zero actions are continuing to fund the expansion of the coal, oil and fossil gas industries.

About GFANZ:

  • The Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ) is a global coalition of leading financial institutions that claim to be committed to accelerating the decarbonisation of the economy.
  • It was launched in 2021 by the UN Special Envoy on Climate Action and Finance and COP26 along with UNFCCC Race to Zero Campaign. It has over 550 members.

About Race to Zero Campaign:

  • Race to Zero is the UN-backed global campaign rallying non-State actors – including companies, cities, regions, financial, educational, and healthcare institutions – to take rigorous and immediate action to halve global emissions by 2030 and deliver a healthier, fairer zero-carbon world in time.

What is a Long-Term Low Emissions Development Strategy?

  • The LT-LEDS are qualitative in nature and are a requirement emanating from the 2015 Paris Agreement.
  • Under the Paris agreement, countries must explain how they will transition their economies beyond achieving near-term Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) targets and work towards the larger climate objective of cutting emissions by 45% by 2030 and achieve net zero around 2050.
  • The Strategy is based on four key considerations that underpin India’s long-term low-carbon development strategy.
  • India has contributed little to global warming, its historical contribution to cumulative global GreenHouse Gases emissions being minuscule despite having a share of ~17% of the world’s population
  • India has significant energy needs for development
  • India is committed to pursuing low-carbon strategies for development and is actively pursuing them, as per national circumstances
  • India needs to build climate resilience
  • The LT-LEDS is also informed by the vision of LiFE, Lifestyle for the Environment.
  • LiFE calls for a world-wide paradigm shift from mindless and destructive consumption to mindful and deliberate utilization.

What is net-zero?

  • Net-zero, which is also referred to as carbon-neutrality, does not mean that a country would bring down its emissions to zero. 
  • Rather, net-zero is a state in which a country’s emissions are compensated by absorption and removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.
  • Absorption of the emissions can be increased by creating more carbon sinks such as forests, while removal of gases from the atmosphere requires futuristic technologies such as carbon capture and storage.

Background of the Issue:

  • A very active campaign has been going on for the last two years to get every country to sign on to a net-zero goal for 2050. It is being argued that global carbon neutrality by 2050 is the only way to achieve the Paris Agreement target of keeping the planet’s temperature from rising beyond 2°C compared to pre-industrial times.
  • The net-zero formulation does not assign any emission reduction targets on any country.

Net-zero and the Paris agreement:

  • The net-zero goal does not figure in the 2015 Paris Agreement, the new global architecture to fight climate change.
  • The Paris Agreement only requires every signatory to take the best climate action it can.
  • Countries need to set five- or ten-year climate targets for themselves, and demonstrably show they have achieved them.
  • The other requirement is that targets for every subsequent time-frame should be more ambitious than the previous one.

Other countries commitment to net- zero:

  • Several other countries, including the UK and France, have already enacted laws promising to achieve a net-zero emission scenario by the middle of the century. Even China has promised to go net-zero by 2060.
  • The European Union is working a similar Europe-wide law, while many other countries including Canada, South Korea, Japan and Germany have expressed their intention to commit themselves to a net-zero future.

Challenges unique to India:

  • Over the next two to three decades, India’s emissions are likely to grow at the fastest pace in the world, as it presses for higher growth to pull hundreds of millions of people out of poverty.
  • No amount of afforestation or reforestation would be able to compensate for the increased emissions.
  • Most of the carbon removal technologies right now are either unreliable or very expensive.

India’s global superpower ambition and an opportunity to lead the world

Why in News?

  • In September 2014, in his first meeting with President Barack Obama, Prime Minister Narendra Modi talked about making the US a principal partner in the realization of India’s rise as a responsible, influential world power. This was in a way the first time that any Indian prime minister had talked about the country’s ambition to grow into a responsible, influential world power.

India in World politics:

  • India is not new to playing a proactive role in world politics: Right from Independence, India’s leadership had actively pursued an agenda that favoured the interests of developing or less developed countries.
  • India took a form stand against the domination of developed countries: Whether it was the GATT negotiations or the Non-Proliferation Treaty, India took a principled stand and stood up to the policy domination of the developed world.
  • India as a protector of developing world: India’s role as the protector of the interests of the developing world during WTO negotiations has been significant.
  • For instance: Murasoli Maran, as the Minister of Commerce in the Vajpayee government, played a very critical role in preventing developed countries from pushing through their trade and commercial agendas. The UPA government continued that approach, inviting opprobrium and occasional isolation from the interested players. However, that didn’t deter India from opposing agendas that were seen as against the interests of not only its people but also the larger developing world.
  • India added moral dimension to the developing world but seen as obstructionist: India’s significant contribution in all these fora was that it added a moral dimension to the developed world’s monetary vision. However, India, in the process, acquired the image of being a nay-sayer and obstructionist.

India’s smart shift in its approach:

  • Stated playing proactive role: While standing up for the developing world and zealously upholding its strategic autonomy, India started playing a proactive role in finding solutions.
  • Paris climate summit provided a major opportunity: The Paris Climate Summit in 2015 provided the first major opportunity for India to highlight its new priorities. It played a pivotal role in clinching the climate deal while ensuring that the interests of the developing world are not compromised.
  • India’s stand in the words of PM Modi: PM PM Modi cogently articulated this stand on the eve of the Summit: “Justice demands that, with what little carbon we can safely burn, developing countries are allowed to grow. The lifestyles of a few must not crowd out opportunities for the many still on the first steps of the development ladder.” India’s efforts resulted in developed countries agreeing to the principle of “common and differentiated responsibility”.
  • India successfully convinced developed countries for INDCs: India also convinced developed countries to agree to the formulation of not externally imposed targets but “intended nationally determined contributions” or INDCs.
  • India emerged as a powerful player during Covid pandemic response through “Vaccine Maitri”: India’s arrival on the global stage as an important player was further augmented by its constructive response during the Covid pandemic. Besides undertaking the massive exercise of vaccinating its billion-plus citizens, India came to the rescue of more than 90 countries by ensuring a timely supply of vaccines through its “Vaccine Maitri” programme.
  • Commendable economic recovery in post-Covid world: India’s growing importance is conspicuous in many areas. Its post-Covid economic recovery has been commendable, with the World Bank even revising its projections for 2022 GDP growth from 6.5 per cent to 6.9 per cent. The IMF estimated it to be at 6.8 per cent while the rest of the world was projected to grow at 4.9 per cent.

India in a new year:

  • Stronger ties with African nations: The India Africa Forum Summit (IAFS), started in 2008 as a triennial event by then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, met for the third time in 2015 in Delhi. PM Modi took a special interest in cultivating stronger ties with African nations which led to the highest-ever participation in the Summit. It is important to revive the process.
  • India’s crucial role in Russia-Ukraine war: At the Bali G20 Summit, India played a crucial role in ensuring that both Russia and its critics like the US had their say on the Russia-Ukraine war in a dignified way without being interrupted. On its part, India conveyed to the Russian leadership that it was not a time for war. The new year will bring an opportunity before India to play a role in ending the war.
  • Opportunity to set new agenda for global public good: As G20 chair, India has the opportunity to set a new agenda before the world’s most powerful block of nations. In the past, it always worked for the judicious sharing of global public goods. It is time now to undertake similar efforts for global digital and genetic goods.

Way ahead:

  • India must continue to act as voice of global south: While striving to achieve its ambition, India must not lose sight of the principles that it always championed. It must continue to act as the voice of the Global South.
  • Focus on neighbourhood must increase: India’s diplomatic, strategic and political investments in its neighbourhood and Asia, Africa and Latin America must increase.
  • Attention in ASEAN IOR must grow: With SAARC failing and BIMSTEC remaining a non-starter, India’s attention to the ASEAN and Indian Ocean neighbourhood must grow. India’s Act East policy needs more teeth.
  • India must bring moralist dimensions in new tech developments: India always upheld moralism in global politics. In climate talks, too, the Indian side is resorting to traditional wisdom to achieve global good. India must bring that moralist dimension to new technological developments.
  • India must lead to regulate technologies for humanity’s future: The advent of artificial intelligence and genetic manipulation technologies is going to throw the world into turmoil. If not regulated globally on time, these technologies are going to play havoc with humanity’s future.

Focus on Africa, the heart of the Global South

Why in News?

  • India is willing to be remembered as the voice of the Global South, during its G20 presidency. 
  • It should be noted that the heart of Global South is Africa with the majority of the 54 countries being either developing or least developed. 
  • It is thus important to grasp the mood and changes in Africa, especially in its external partnerships. 

Washington Summit:

  • The second U.S.-Africa summit was organized in Washington from 13 to 15 December 2022. The summit was attended by the leaders of 49 countries and the chair of the African Union (AU). 
  • U.S. President Joe Biden discussed several aspects of political, security, and economic cooperation. Other deliberations were held on issues like the ways to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 and future pandemics, climate crisis, food security, and diasporic ties. 
  • It was declared during the summit that African voices, leadership, and innovation are crucial to addressing the global challenge and realizing the vision of a free, open, prosperous, and secure world. 
  • The U.S. President stressed that the US is “all in on Africa and all in with Africa”.

Important decisions taken during the summit are: 

  • The U.S. declared its support for the AU to join the G20 as a permanent member. 
  • It was further highlighted by the U.S. that it “fully supports” reforming the UN Security Council (UNSC) to include permanent representation for Africa. 
  • It has also been promised that the president and the vice president of the U.S. would visit Africa shortly. It should be noted that no U.S. president visited Africa since 2015.
  • The U.S. has also announced new investments comprising:
  • $21 billion to the International Monetary Fund for providing the necessary funding to low-and middle-income countries
  • $10 million for a pilot programme to boost the security capacity in Africa 
  • The U.S. administration is planning to invest $55 billion in Africa over the next three years.
  • It is analyzed that the first assurance would be implementable once both the U.S. and India overcome the likely resistance from the ASEAN and European Union. However, UNSC reform is still a distant future.

China Challenge:

  • China became the largest trading partner and the fourth largest investor in the African continent, ahead of the U.S., due to its consistent diplomacy and extensive economic engagement. 
  • The U.S.-Africa trade stood at $44.9 billion in 2021, whereas China-Africa trade exchanges were somewhere near $254 billion. Moreover, the U.S. investment stock in Sub-Saharan Africa was $30.31 billion in contrast to China’s total investment of $43.4 billion in 2020.
  • The Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) was set up in October 2000. 
  • The FOCAC is composed of ministers/leaders from both Africa and China who meet once in three years. The Chinese president participates either in person or digitally. 
  • China has established a full-fledged inter-ministerial mechanism to ensure the timely implementation of FOCAC decisions. 
  • The last meeting of the forum was held in Dakar in 2021, where support was extended for the Chinese agenda of the One-China Principle, the Global Development Initiative, the Belt and Road Initiative, and the vision of “a community with a shared future.”
  • Moreover, for years, the Chinese foreign minister begins his annual series of foreign visits by travelling to Africa. 
  • Just before the Washington summit, the U.S. Deputy Commerce Secretary highlighted that the U.S. had fallen behind China in terms of trade with Africa. 
  • African leaders have reiterated multiple times that they don’t want to choose and are willing to work with the U.S., China, and all other partners.

India-Africa Relations:

  • India has worked hard in the last two decades to strengthen its political and economic partnership with Africa at the continental, regional and bilateral levels. 
  • A special momentum was created by organizing high-level exchanges and forging cooperation initiatives during the period of 2015-19.
  • However several factors like COVID-19, the economic downturn, the war in Ukraine, and the border conflict with China have resulted in a slowdown. 
  • The G20 presidency is a unique opportunity for India to ensure that the AU becomes a permanent member of this grouping and to reflect Africa’s Agenda 2063 for development. 
  • Additionally, India and the U.S. should collaborate in Africa. 
  • The fourth India-Africa Forum Summit should also be organized in early 2024 as the third summit was held long back in 2015.

India’s Foreign Policy

Why in News?

  • 2022 was a challenging year for geopolitics and diplomacy, particularly in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.
  • Given its historical ties with Russia and its strategic alliances with the United States and Europe, India’s choices become increasingly challenging.
  • The Indian government also continues to take criticism over its China policy and the stand-off at the Line of Actual Control.

India’s stand on the Ukraine war:

  • India called for “a peaceful resolution of the situation through sustained diplomatic efforts for long-term peace and stability in the region and beyond”.
  • India’s position is largely rooted in neutrality and has adapted itself to the post-2014 status quo on Ukraine.
  • India also refused to accept western sanctions and increased its military and oil trade with Russia, and sought rupee-based payment mechanisms to facilitate them.
  • Guided by its national interests, India chose to abstain several resolutions at the UNSC, UNGA, IAEA, Human Rights Commission and other multilateral platforms seeking to censure Russia for the invasion and humanitarian crisis.

India’s ties with its neighbours:

  • As part of ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy, India has extended multi-pronged assistance to Sri Lanka over the last 12 months to help the country tide over its worst economic and humanitarian crisis.
  • India also entered regional trade and energy agreements with Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal that could see a South Asian energy grid emerge. 
  • India has also strengthened ties with Central Asian countries on connectivity. 
  • India is also engaging with Taliban by providing humanitarian assistance, exploring a joint counterterrorism effort with other partners.
  • The government also kept channels open with Myanmar Junta by sending the foreign secretary to Nay Pyi Taw. 
  • In December 2022, India also abstained on a UNSC vote calling for Myanmar to end violence and release political prisoners.

Progress on LAC stand-off:

  • India-China tensions at the Line of Actual Control remained high. A crisis in the Indo-China border began in April 2020, with PLA transgressions in Ladakh, in the western sector of the boundary.
  • Indian and Chinese troops faced off at the Yangtse area near Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh in the eastern sector of the Indo-China border on December 09, 2022.
  • India is due to host Mr. Xi twice in 2023, at the G-20 and SCO summits, which could create opportunities for talks to end the stand-off.

Other highlights:

  • India assumed the presidency of the G20 grouping on December 1,2022. The 18th G20 summit will be held in India in 2023. 
  • At the G-20, India is expected to highlight climate change transitions, “women-led” development and multilateral reform, among other key issues
  • India also took over as chair of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and it will host the next summit as the chairman of the organisation in 2023.
  • In 2022, India signed trade agreements with the UAE and Australia.

Global Minimum Tax on big businesses

Why in News?

  • Members of the EU last week agreed in principle to implement a global minimum tax of 15% on big businesses.

Global Minimum Corporate Tax:

  • Major economies are aiming to discourage multinational companies from shifting profits – and tax revenues – to low-tax countries regardless of where their sales are made.
  • Increasingly, income from intangible sources such as drug patents, software, and royalties on intellectual property has migrated to these jurisdictions.
  • This has allowed companies to avoid paying higher taxes in their traditional home countries.

What is the recent EU agreement?

  • EU members have agreed to implement a minimum tax rate of 15% on big businesses in accordance with Pillar 2 of the global tax agreement framed by the OECD last year.
  • Under the OECD’s plan, governments will be equipped to impose additional taxes in case companies are found to be paying taxes that are considered too low.
  • This is to ensure that big businesses with global operations do not benefit by domiciling themselves in tax havens in order to save on taxes.

Need for a global minimum tax:

  • Corporate tax rates across the world have been dropping over the last few decades as a result of competition between governments to spur economic growth through greater private investments.
  • Large multinational companies have traditionally paid taxes in their home countries even though they did most of their business in foreign countries.
  • The OECD plan tries to give more taxing rights to the governments of countries where large businesses conduct a substantial amount of their business.
  • As a result, large US tech companies may have to pay more taxes to the governments of developing countries.

History of such taxes:

  • Global corporate tax rates have fallen from over 40% in the 1980s to under 25% in 2020.
  • The global tax competition was kick-started by former US President Ronald Reagan and former British PM Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s.
  • The OECD’s tax plan tries to put an end to this “race to the bottom” which has made it harder for governments to shore up the revenues required to fund their rising spending budgets.
  • The minimum tax proposal is particularly relevant at a time when the fiscal state of governments across the world has deteriorated as seen in the worsening of public debt metrics.

Response to the EU move:

  • Some governments, particularly those of traditional tax havens, are likely to disagree and stall the implementation of the OECD’s tax plan.
  • High tax jurisdictions like the EU are more likely to fully adopt the minimum tax plan as it saves them from having to compete against low tax jurisdictions.
  • Low tax jurisdictions, on the other hand, are likely to resist the OECD’s plan unless they are compensated sufficiently in other ways.

Way forward:

  • Supporters of the OECD’s tax plan believe that it will end the global “race to the bottom” and help governments collect the revenues required for social spending.
  • The plan will also help counter rising global inequality by making it tougher for large businesses to pay low taxes by availing the services of tax havens.
  • Critics of the OECD’s proposal, however, see the global minimum tax as a threat.
  • They argue that without tax competition between governments, the world would be taxed a lot more than it is today, thus adversely affecting global economic growth.
  • In other words, these critics believe that it is the threat of tax competition that keeps a check on governments that would otherwise tax their citizens heavily to fund profligate spending programs.

India-China Clash: Why China has opened new front?

Why in News?

  • There has been yet another transgression by Chinese troops across the Line of Actual Control (LAC) between India and China. That it culminated in violence, that it took place this time in the Eastern Sector of their boundary dispute, or that it should take place in the middle of winter should surprise no one.
  •  If there is one lesson that can be drawn from India’s experiences with Chinese transgressions over the last decade or so, it is that the Chinese seem to set the pace on the nature and timing of these transgressions.

 Army’s statement about the clash:

  • On December 9, 2022, People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops contacted the LAC in the Tawang sector, which was contested by own troops in a firm and resolute manner.
  • This face-off led to minor injuries to a few personnel from both sides,” “Both sides immediately disengaged from the area.”

Events of Chinese transgressions: Need to understand the nature and timing

  • Depsang in Ladakh, 2013: Chinese troops came across the LAC, pitched tents and refused to move for several weeks until New Delhi threatened to cancel the planned visit of Premier Li Keqiang to India. This might have been a diplomatic victory for the Indian government but it also highlighted the inability of the Indian military to bring an end to the standoff or the unwillingness of the government to let the military take the lead in responding.
  • Chumar in Ladakh, Sept, 2014 in the middle of the Xi Jinping’s first visit to India: Chinese intruded at Chumar, also in Ladakh, in the middle of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s first state visit to India. This was in keeping with a reasonably long tradition of Chinese transgressions during important visits but it was also notable for confronting Indian troops in an area where they enjoyed a degree of military advantage.
  • Doklam in 2017: China provoked India with infrastructure development in a third country in Bhutan’s Doklam territory. This was a case of China trying to browbeat an Indian treaty ally.
  • Transgression across multiple locations in 2020 and Galwan valley clash: The Chinese PLA took advantage of Covid-19 and a lack of Indian military alertness to transgress across multiple locations on the LAC in eastern Ladakh. On June 15, 2020 episode when 20 Indian soldiers were killed and several others were injured in violent clashes with the PLA troops in Ladakh’s Galwan Valley.

Why China has opened new front in Tawang?

  • Status quo along the boundary are no longer going to be limited to the Western Sector: China has traditionally been active in areas close to Ladakh given the significance of the Xinjiang-Tibet region in its domestic narrative. However, with its sights on an ageing Dalai Lama, and the issue of his succession, Beijing will want to bring into focus its claims on Tawang, and the rest of Arunachal Pradesh.
  • Huge investment in infrastructure in eastern sector: China has invested in infrastructure in the Eastern Sector over many years. This includes rail, road, and air connectivity, better telecommunications, as well as improved capacity to station and supply troops and artillery.
  • Centrality of the boundary issue in the India-China relationship: External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar has repeatedly asserted that it is no longer possible to separate the boundary question from the overall relationship and that peace and tranquillity on the LAC is the key to restoring relations. However, China is likely to keep up the pressure on the ground along the LAC, even as they continue to suggest that the two countries look beyond the differences, much like Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s comments during his March 2022 visit when he claimed that the two sides need to “inject more positive energy” into the relationship.

India’s preparedness and learnings from the incident:

  • Indian Army anticipated such kind of transgression in eastern sector: The Indian Army had for long anticipated that the PLA would activate the eastern sector of the LAC, and to that extent, it is evident that steps were taken to beef up military preparedness in the region.
  • Light on what gaps to address: What the incident has effectively achieved though is the lighting up of one more section of the LAC at a time the issues in Ladakh have not yet been settled, from the point of view of India.
  • China appears not want to disengage: After 16 rounds of talks, a disengagement has taken place in eastern Ladakh, but it has not restored the status quo that prevailed in April 2020. China, for its part, appears reluctant to hold any further rounds of talks on the leftover problems in Ladakh, including its play in Depsang and Demchok areas.
  • China is only increasing the economic gap between itself and India: China has only increased the economic gap between itself and India and in the intervening years, not only built up more infrastructure in its border provinces but also tried to integrate these regions much more closely with neighbouring economies such as Pakistan and Nepal through grand projects such as the Belt and Road Initiative and pressuring Thimphu to open formal diplomatic ties with Beijing.

Way ahead:

  • India’s relationship with China has been teetering from bad to worse over the last 32 months since the standoff in Ladakh began, and it seems unlikely to improve unless Beijing’s calculus vis a vis India and the region undergoes a drastic change.
  • While Delhi’s G20 leadership may bring opportunities for engagement with Beijing, what is required first is a clear vision and a grand strategy to deal with the China challenge, instead of reacting to each crisis as it emerges.

Understanding the principal contradiction, keeping China at the Centre

Why in News?

  • If principal contradictions must determine strategic priorities, New Delhi should decide what its principal contradiction is. China is contemporary India’s principal strategic contradiction. Every other challenge, be it Pakistan, internal insurgencies, and difficulties in relations with its neighbours, fall in the category of secondary contradictions.

What is principal contradiction?

  • The concept of a principal contradiction is one that poses the most intense challenge to an individual/organisation, and has the power to shape its future choices and consequent outcomes useful method of optimising and prioritising strategic decision-making.

Principal contradiction with China:

  • Straightforward question over the decisions taken by the policymakers: Major decisions in New Delhi’s strategic decision matrix should pass the China test, which amounts to asking and answering a rather straightforward question: “does x or y decision / development / relationship help deal with the China challenge, or not?”
  • China test a tool for policy making: A perspicacious ‘China test’ can help prioritise strategic decision making in the longer run, at least as an analytical tool with potential policy utility.

Elements of ‘China test’:

  • From an operational point of view, the ‘China test’ consists of three distinct elements.
  • Assessment of Indian decisions: an assessment of how a certain Indian decision or a specific regional development square with Chinese regional strategy or interests.
  • Assessment if the decisions need Modifications: An assessment of whether India’s decision or a certain regional development would require India to make modifications at the level of secondary contradictions.
  • Assessment if it requires a major policy change: An assessment of whether this would require any major policy changes internally. Let me highlight the utility of the ‘China test’ using a few examples.

Analysis of India-U.S. relations applying the China test:

  • Relations are more of Interest driven: New Delhi has had a complicated relationship with Washington which is increasingly getting normalised and interests-driven. Despite its withdrawal from the region, Washington is seeking to re-engage southern Asia (Pakistan, South Asia in general, the Indo-Pacific, and perhaps even the Taliban).
  • India’s growing proximity to the U.S: It appears that one of the lessons New Delhi learnt from the standoff with China along the Line of Actual Control in 2020 was that it was perhaps a consequence of India’s growing proximity to the U.S.
  • lack of/lukewarm India-U.S. strategic engagement in the region may help China: Given that Beijing seeks to dominate the region, it is clearly not in its interest to see an American reengagement of the region or growing India-U.S. proximity. If so, the lack of/lukewarm India-U.S. strategic engagement in the region is precisely what would help Beijing’s long-term objectives.

Analysis of India-Russia relations applying the China test:

  • Relations in the wake of Ukraine war: India-Russia relations in the wake of the Ukraine war are among the most debated bilateral relationships in the world today.
  • Question arises by applying the China test: India-Russia relations in the face of western pressure on India to decouple from Moscow. “Does continuing its relationship with Moscow help New Delhi better deal with the China challenge?”
  • What the U.S. and its allies offer India to condemn Russia: The U.S. and its allies would like India to stop engaging with Moscow and condemn its aggression against Ukraine which India has refused to do so far. In return, there is on offer greater accommodation of Indian interests including perhaps diplomatic and political support against Chinese aggression.
  • The challenge of growing proximity between Moscow and Beijing: There is also the growing proximity between Moscow and Beijing which reduces the robustness of India-Russia relations. So, does the China test require New Delhi to continue to engage with Moscow against all these odds?

What could be the consequences If India chooses to accept the US offer and deviate from strong India-Russia ties?

  • Sino-Russian cooperation is likely to strengthen: In the absence of an India-Russia relationship, the extent of Sino-Russian cooperation is likely to strengthen, and India will be cut out of the continental space to its north and west.
  • China may replace India as a Natural beneficiary of energy at discounted price and thereby support to Pakistan: New Delhi continues to get discounted energy, cheaper defence equipment If India decides to break away from Russia, many of these could come to a grinding halt, and the natural beneficiary of such an eventuality will, undoubtedly, be China. This could also push Moscow towards Pakistan with or without some nudging from Beijing.
  • India a trusted partner for Russia: It is also important to note that Moscow is not keen to have China dominate the strategic space around it and has been keen to balance the growing influence of China in Central Asia with partners such as New Delhi. New Delhi’s turn away from Moscow will ensure that China gets a free hand in Central Asia too. In one sense, therefore, the China piece best explains the enigma called India-Russia relations.

What the China test suggests?

  • Avoiding the short-term temptation and look a bigger picture: New Delhi should not give into the short-term temptation of not being on the wrong side of China given its long-term implications. While the fears of such a relationship irking China may not be entirely unjustified, they invariably play into the Chinese strategy of boxing India in the region.
  • Break away from Russia may likely to play in Chinese strategy for Boxing India: If indeed New Delhi was to completely break away from Russia (as India’s U.S. and western partners have asked India to), Such a decision is most likely to play into China’s hands. India-Russia relations are on the wane, there is a strong rationale for New Delhi to continue its relationship with Moscow which is China.
  • China test require India to pacify its relationship with Pakistan: The question to ask here is “does making (relative) peace with Pakistan help India better deal with China?”. For China, the best-case scenario is an India vigorously preoccupied with Pakistan which ensures that India is not focused on the growing threat from China, thereby providing Beijing with the opportunity to displace traditional Indian primacy in South Asia. So, for India, a course-correction on Pakistan, even if it is only post facto, is a strategically sensible one.
  • Focus should on China, more than the Pakistan: What India should actively seek is not a balance of power in South Asia with Pakistan but balancing Chinese power in Southern Asia. Hence, India’s objective in South Asia should be to seek a pacification of conflicts with Pakistan, so that it can focus on China.

Conclusion:

  • For New Delhi, the message from the China test is a rather straightforward one that the smart balancing China in Southern Asia and beyond must form a key element in India’s grand strategic planning and decision making.

India’s shifted Diplomatic Energy from SAARC to BIMSTEC

Why in News?

  • December 8 is commemorated as SAARC Charter Day. It was on this day, 37 years ago, that the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), an intergovernmental organization, was established.

What is SAARC?

  • Establishment: The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was established with the signing of the SAARC Charter in Dhaka on 8 December 1985.
  • Members: It is an intergovernmental organization, was established by Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka Afghanistan acceded to SAARC later.
  • Secretariat: The Secretariat of the Association was set up in Kathmandu on 17 January 1987.
  • Objectives: The objectives 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.

What SAARC has achieved?

  • SAARC has failed abjectly in accomplishing most of its objectives.
  • South Asia continues to be an extremely poor and least integrated region in the world.
  • The intraregional trade and investment in South Asia are very low when compared to other regions such as the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and Sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Pakistan has adopted an obstructionist attitude within SAARC by repeatedly blocking several vital initiatives such as the motor vehicles agreement, aimed at bolstering regional connectivity.
  • Deepening hostility between India and Pakistan has made matters worse. Since 2014, no SAARC summit has taken place leaving the organisation rudderless, and practically dead.

But why to bother about SAARC?

  • South Asia is important for India’s national interest: Because South Asia, that is India’s neighbourhood, is important for India’s national interests. This is best captured in the current government’s ‘neighbourhood first’ policy.
  • SAARC, a pan south Asia reach: SAARC is the only intergovernmental organisation with a pan-South Asia reach. India can judiciously employ it to serve its interests in the entire region.
  • Weakened SAARC means heightened instability: A weakened SAARC also means heightened instability in other promising regional institutions such as the South Asian University (SAU), which is critical to buttressing India’s soft power in the region.

Bilateralism or regionalism, which one is best for India?

  • Bilateralism can complement, not substitute regional efforts: A new narrative is that in South Asia, India can successfully use the instrument of bilateralism over regionalism to pursue its interests. While bilateralism is undoubtedly important, it can at best complement, not substitute, regional or multilateral efforts.
  • Regionalism in East Asia and Africa: Regionalism has brought immense success in other parts such as East Asia and Africa. Regionalism can deliver prosperity in the South Asian region too, especially because multilateralism is weakening.
  • Concept of new regional economic order: Looking at ASEAN’s spectacular success in regional integration, international lawyers Julien Chaisse and Pasha L. Hsieh have developed the concept of a new regional economic order, a process through which developing countries search for a trade-development model, based on incrementalism and flexibility; this is different from the neoliberal model laid down by the Washington Consensus.

What is BIMSTEC?

  • Regional organization of seven members lying in or adjacent to BOB: The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) is a regional organization comprising seven Member States lying in the littoral and adjacent areas of the Bay of Bengal constituting a contiguous regional unity.
  • Establishment: This sub-regional organization came into being on 6 June 1997 through the Bangkok Declaration.
  • Act as a bridge between South and South East Asia: The regional group constitutes a bridge between South and South East Asia and represents a reinforcement of relations among these countries.
  • Provides Inter regional cooperation platforms: BIMSTEC has also established a platform for intra-regional cooperation between SAARC and ASEAN members.
  • BIMSTEC comprises five South Asian nations (Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, India and Sri Lanka) and two ASEAN countries (Myanmar and Thailand).
  • Pakistan is NOT a BIMSTEC member.

Importance of BIMSTEC for India:

  • India shifted its diplomatic energy from SAARC to BIMSTEC: In recent years, India seems to have moved its diplomatic energy away from SAARC to BIMSTEC. This resulted in BIMSTEC, after 25 years, finally adopting its Charter earlier this year.
  • BIMSTEC is better than SAAC charter: The BIMSTEC Charter is significantly better than the SAARC Charter. For instance, unlike the SAARC Charter, Article 6 of the BIMSTEC Charter talks about the ‘Admission of new members’ to the group. This paves the way for the admission of countries such as the Maldives.
  • However no flexible formula like ‘ASEAN Minus X’: Notwithstanding the improvements, the BIMSTEC Charter, to boost economic integration, does not contain the flexible participation scheme of the kind present in the ASEAN Charter. This flexible scheme, also known as the ‘ASEAN Minus X’ formula, allows two or more ASEAN members to initiate negotiations for economic commitments. Thus, no country enjoys veto power to thwart economic integration between willing countries.
  • Obstructionist attitude of Pakistan within SAARC: Given the experience of SAARC, where Pakistan routinely vetoes several regional integration initiatives, it is surprising that BIMSTEC does not contain such a flexible participation scheme. A flexible ‘BIMSTEC Minus X’ formula might have allowed India and Bangladesh or India and Thailand to conduct their ongoing bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations under the broader BIMSTEC umbrella. This would have eventually strengthened BIMSTEC by enabling the gradual and incremental expansion of these binding commitments to other members. India should press for this amendment in the BIMSTEC Charter.

Some steps to take:

  • BIMSTEC should not end up as another SAARC: For this, its member countries should raise the stakes. A high-quality FTA offering deep economic integration, something that Prime Minister Narendra Modi also advocated at the last BIMSTEC ministerial meeting would be an ideal step.
  • India should try make the organizations flexible to ensure peace and prosperity in the region: Likewise, India should explore legal ways to move successful SAARC institutions such as SAU to BIMSTEC. These steps will give stronger roots to BIMSTEC and enable erecting a new South Asian regional order based on incrementalism and flexibility, ushering in prosperity and peace in the region.

Conclusion:

  • Since South Asia cannot repudiate regionalism, reviving SAARC by infusing political energy into it and updating its dated Charter will be an ideal way forward. However, in the current scenario, this is too idealistic. So, the next best scenario is to look at other regional instruments such as the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral, Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC).

Price cap on Russia’s Oil and India’s contextual response

Why in News?

  • Recently, G7 proposal to impose a price cap on Russian oil came into effect. The proposal, which took months to fructify, seeks to achieve a delicate balance how to starve the Russian state of oil revenues so as to financially cripple its war against Ukraine, but without causing supply disruptions in the global oil market which would cause prices to spiral. The move, however, risks fracturing the global crude oil market.

What is Price cap on Russian oil?

  • The $60 per barrel and denial of infrastructure services to Russian oil: The $60 per barrel cap is intended to cut Russia’s oil revenues while keeping Russian crude on the market by denying insurance, maritime services, and finance provided by the Western allies for tanker cargoes priced above a fixed dollar-per-barrel cap.
  • Aim to hurt Russia’s oil revenue and create a pressure: The US-proposed cap aims to hurt Moscow’s finances while avoiding a sharp oil price spike if Russia’s oil is suddenly taken off the global market.
  • Impact on shipping: Without insurance, tanker owners may be reluctant to take on Russian oil and face obstacles in delivering it.

Russian response to the price cap

  • Russia refused to abide by the measure: Russia has said it will not observe a cap and will halt deliveries to countries that do.
  • Retaliate by shutting off the shipments: It could retaliate by shutting off shipments in hopes of profiting from a sharply higher global oil price on whatever it can sell around the sanctions.
  • Russia said price cap will not hurt financing the war: Russia recently said that the cap would not hurt the financing of its “special military operation” in Ukraine.
  • Others buyers may bypass the restrictions putting countries interests first: Buyers in China and India might not go along with the cap, while Russia or China could try to set up their own insurance providers to replace those barred by US, UK and Europe. It is also possible that these countries will find creative ways to bypass the restrictions imposed by the G7.

How impacts global oil supply chain?

  • Russian oil can now only be shipped using G7 countries infrastructure: Broadly speaking, Russian oil can now be shipped across the world using the infrastructure of the G7 countries tankers, insurers, etc only if it is sold at a price of $60 per barrel or less.
  • Higher price for buying oil from Russia: This makes buying oil from Russia at a higher price in the week prior to this announcement, Urals crude was trading in the mid-$60s range  a difficult proposition as most of the companies that offer shipping and insurance services are located in these G7 nations.
  • Countries wish to buy are at disadvantage but still not higher than brent crude oil: While Russia has refused to abide by this measure, and the cap will place countries that do opt for buying oil from Russia at a price higher than $60 at a disadvantage, it will still be at a considerable discount compared to Brent crude oil which is currently trading at around $81 per barrel.
  • Countries that continued trade despite of objections: So far, despite objections from western nations, countries like India and China have continued to trade with Russia.

India’s response and the bilateral trade with Russia:

  • India’s bilateral trade with Russia has surged to an all-time high: In fact, as reported in this paper, India’s bilateral trade with Russia has surged to an all-time high in the first five months of the year (April-August).
  • India putting its interests first and taking advantage of discounted price: Putting its interests first, India has raised its oil imports from Russia, taking advantage of the discounts being offered the country which used to import less than 1 per cent of its import requirement from Russia, now imports around a fifth from it.
  • As India is an oil importer, the trade at discounted price will give some relief in current account deficit and economic stability: After all, for an oil importer like India, which meets an overwhelming share of its requirements through imports, lower crude oil prices will moderate the price pressures in the economy and bring relief to the current account deficit, easing risks to macroeconomic stability.
  • India rejected the so-called moral duty: India has rejected any “moral” duty to join the price cap coalition.

Conclusion:

  • Attempts to use trade as a weapon will only distort the global market and hurt energy-poor consumers not responsible for the war. India’s response so far to the West’s retaliation against Russia for the war in Ukraine has been guided by its sovereign interests. This must continue to be the guiding principle.

North East as Gateway to Indo-Pacific Strategy

Why in News?

  • India’s ‘Look East’ and ‘Act East’ policies have moved into the phase of Indo-Pacific policy and strategy. But what we in the national capital interpret as the ‘Indo-Pacific’ is different from the perceptions of this policy in North-eastern and eastern India.

What is Indo-pacific?

  • The Indo-Pacific is geographic region interpreted differently by different countries.
  • For India, the geography of the Indo-Pacific stretches from the eastern coast of Africa to Oceania whereas, for US, it extends up to the west coast of India which is also the geographic boundary of the US Indo-Pacific command.

Importance of North-East:

  • Security of India: The Northeast which comprises seven ‘sisters’ or States and one ‘brother’, Sikkim, has been witnessing transformation as it heads towards better security conditions and development
  • Geography and Biodiversity: North-eastern Indian States are blessed with a wide range of physiographic and ecoclimatic conditions and the geographical ‘gateway’ for much of India’s endemic flora and fauna.
  • Siliguri corridor only connecting link: North-East is home to 3.8% of the national population and occupies about 8% of India’s total geographical area. Siliguri corridor, a narrow strip of land in West Bengal, popularly known as “chicken’s neck” connects this region to the rest of mainland India.

Present condition of north east

  • Improved security: Security conditions have improved significantly since 2017. However, the core issues behind the insurgency have remained unresolved.
  • Serious non-traditional threats: A notable contrast in security assessments of the authorities and others came to the fore. The official perspective was that the pernicious phenomena of smuggling, drug trafficking, transnational border crime, insurgent activity, and the influx of refugees (from Myanmar) represented serious non-traditional threats.
  • Chinese hand in nefarious activities: China was viewed as a ‘constant player’ behind these nefarious activities. This has necessitated vigilance and strict action by the Assam Rifles and other security agencies.
  • Sensitive border management: The insensitive handling of those engaged in lawful exchanges with the neighbouring countries. A balanced view indicates that considerable scope exists for more effective and people-sensitive border management in the future.

Development as priority in North East

  • Rising road infrastructure: The Northeast is on the right path to concentrate on economic development. More is awaited through improvement in roads linking north-eastern towns and job creation for thousands of graduates produced by local universities.
  • Hub of medical tourism: Manipur needs to be promoted as the hub of medical tourism for other Indian States and neighbours such as Myanmar.
  • Investment needs to increase: The State’s research and development facilities to leverage the region’s biodiversity should be expanded. Accelerated development requires increased investment by Indian corporates and foreign investors as well as better management.
  • Blueprint for economic development: Strategic and business community to contribute to crafting a concrete blueprint for leveraging opportunities relating to commerce, connectivity, and human capital development.

Cultural diplomacy from North east

  • Showcasing the culture of north east: An ambitious endeavour by 75 artists from nine countries highlighted the region’s ‘unity in diversity’ through music, dance, drama, and cuisine.
  • Education, tourism and trade: Clearly, expanding the reach of cultural diplomacy and people-to-people cooperation through greater educational exchanges, tourism, and trade is desirable.
  • Regional cooperation through cultural exchange: Harsh Vardhan Shringla, former Foreign Secretary, aptly stressed that the “shared culture, history and mutual social threads that tie the region with India also an important component towards fostering regional cooperation”.

Cultural dimension to Indo-Pacific:

  • Geo-cultural dimension: At Kolkata, intellectuals and performers in the cultural domain from India, the U.S., Japan, Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh reflected on the Indo-Pacific construct’s cultural dimensions. Moving beyond geopolitics and geo-economics, neighbors should focus on “the geo-cultural dimension” of the Indo-Pacific.
  • Expanding people to people cooperation: Diplomats from the region agree on the importance of expanded people-related cooperation which would lead to wider acceptance of the Indo-Pacific and consolidation of the Quad.

Conclusion:

  • While implementing India’s Indo-Pacific strategy, voices from Northeast and eastern India must be heard. Thus, beyond ‘Look East’ and ‘Act East’ lies ‘Think and Relate East’, especially within our own country.

Iran starts works on new nuclear plant

Why in News?

  • Iran has recently begun construction on a new nuclear power plant in the country’s southwest, amid tensions with the U.S. over sweeping sanctions imposed after Washington pulled out of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear deal with world powers.

What was the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)?

  • The deal is also known as 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal.
  • The JCPOA was the result of prolonged negotiations from 2013 and 2015 between Iran and P5+1 (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States + Germany).
  • Under the deal, Iran agreed to significantly cut its stores of centrifuges, enriched uranium and heavy-water, all key components for nuclear weapons.
  • Iran also agreed to implement a protocol that would allow inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to access its nuclear sites to ensure Iran would not be able to develop nuclear weapons in secret.
  • While the West agreed to lift sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear proliferation, other sanctions addressing alleged abuses of human rights and Iran’s ballistic missile programme remained in place.
  • The US committed to lifting sanctions on oil exports, but continued to restrict financial transactions, which have deterred international trade with Iran.
  • Nonetheless, Iran’s economy, after suffering years of recessions, currency depreciation, and inflation, stabilized significantly after the deal took effect, and its exports skyrocketed.
  • After US abandoned the deal in 2018 and reinstated banking and oil sanctions, Iran ramped up its nuclear programme in earnest, returning to approximately 97% of its pre-2015 nuclear capabilities.

What Happened After the US Pulled Out of the Deal?

  • In April 2020, the US announced its intention to snap back sanctions. However, the other partners objected to the move, stating that since the US was no longer part of the deal, it could not unilaterally reimpose sanctions.
  • Initially following the withdrawal, several countries continued to import Iranian oil under waivers granted by the Trump administration. A year later, the US ended the waivers to much international criticism and, by doing so, significantly curbed Iran’s oil exports.
  • The other powers, in an attempt to keep the deal alive, launched a barter system known as Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX) to facilitate transactions with Iran outside the US banking system. However, INSTEX only covered food and medicine, which were already exempt from US sanctions.
  • In January 2020, after the US assassinated the top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, Iran announced that it would no longer limit its uranium enrichment.
  • In September 2022, Iran and International Atomic Energy Agency officials held a round of talks to discuss the possibility of Iran’s agreement to reallow inspectors back to Iran for oversight over reactors.
  • The U.S. and Iran have also exchanged their stands indirectly via the European Union for a “final draft” on rejoining the JCPOA.

What is the significance of JCPOA for India?

  • Enhance Regional Connectivity:
  • Removing sanctions may revive India’s interest in the Chabahar port, Bandar Abbas port, and other plans for regional connectivity.
  • This would further help India to neutralize the Chinese presence in Gwadar port, Pakistan.
  • Apart from Chabahar, India’s interest in the International North-South Transit Corridor (INSTC), which runs through Iran, and will improve connectivity with five Central Asian republics, may also get a boost.
  • Energy Security:
  • Due to the pressure linked to the US Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), India has to bring down oil imports to zero.
  • Restoration of ties between the US and Iran will help India to procure cheap Iranian oil and aid in energy security.

Foreign Policy: India as a Pole in Itself

Why in News?

  • The ongoing war in Ukraine on the one hand and the confrontation between Russia and the United States and the West, on the other have increased the frequency/regularity of the question, whose side is India on, after all? Is India with Russia or with the U.S./the West in this war?

What is the issue of India taking the either side?

  • India doesn’t support the either camp: When great powers seek India’s support during geopolitical contestations, such as the one over Ukraine, they end up facing a stubborn India that is reluctant to toe the line.
  • India is not a satellite state: The inherent reason behind Indian reluctance, however, is not stubbornness but a sense of self which views itself as a pole in the international system, and not as a satellite state or a camp follower.
  • India has a different position than two poles: India refuses to take sides because it views itself as a side whose interests are not accounted for by other camps or poles.
  • India projects the multipolar world order: New Delhi’s constant exhortations of a multipolar world are also very much in tune with this thinking about itself as a pole in a multipolar world.

India’s history of not taking the side (non-alignment):

  • Historically different civilization: The origins of this thought can be found in the character of the country’s long struggle for independence; the pre- and post-Independence articulations of leaders such as Jawaharlal Nehru, Gandhiji, and Bal Gangadhar Tilak among others on international politics; the (not uncontested) primacy India inherited as the legatee state of the British empire in South Asia; India’s larger than life civilizational sense of self.
  • Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) experiment: NAM have contributed to India’s desire for a unique foreign policy identity and a voice in the comity of nations. For much of its modern independent history, India’s foreign policy has been a unique experiment.
  • Independent foreign policy: Historically, India’s view of itself as a pole is evident in the manner in which it used to pursue non-alignment for several decades after Independence. Some vestiges of this continue to inform India’s foreign policy to this day.
  • Non-alignment is not a neutrality: It is also important to point out that India’s non-alignment is often misunderstood given that a number of foreign commentators and practitioners interpret it as neutrality. For India, however, non-alignment is not neutrality, but the ability to take a position on a given issue on a case-by-case basis.

How India asserts itself as a different pole in international affairs?

  • No domination in south Asia: India has a different view of itself as a pole. It has not actively sought to dominate the South Asian regional subsystem even when it could.
  • No alliance like NATO: Its balancing behaviour has been subpar, it has refused to build alliances in the classical sense of the term, or sought camp followers or allegiances. As a matter of fact, even its occasional balancing behaviour (for instance, the 1971 India-Soviet Treaty during the Bangladesh war) was contingent on emergencies.
  • South Asia is not a Strategic periphery: It does believe it has a strategic periphery in South Asia where it has a natural claim to primacy.
  • Doesn’t allow interference in south Asia: It discourages interference by other powers in that space.
  • India speaks for global south: India often tends to speak for ‘underprivileged collectives’, physical (South Asia) or otherwise (NAM, developing nations, global south, etc. in varying degrees); and it welcomes the rule of law and regional order.

What should world learn from India’s position as a pole in itself?

  • India as unique player in international system: India’s recent or past statements on issues of global importance be it Ukraine or Iraq, or the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s aerial campaign in Serbia, or bringing climate change to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) indicate that it tends to take positions that not just suit its interests but are also informed by its sense of being a unique player on the global stage.
  • India as partner not cheerleader: Western powers must, therefore, treat India as a partner rather than as a cheerleader. They should mainstream India into global institutions such as the UNSC, and consult India rather than dictate to India which side to take.

Conclusion:

  • As India becomes the chair of the G20 and the SCO in 2022, it will further seek to assert itself as a major pole in the international system, and dissuade demands to follow one camp or another. Therefore, those wishing to work with India on the global stage must learn to deal with the ‘India pole’.

The case of India-UK Free Trade Agreement

Why in News?

  • To achieve the export target of $2 trillion by 2030, India is going the whole hog on free trade agreements (FTAs). India is negotiating FTAs with countries such as the European Union, Canada, the U.K., and Israel.

Importance of FTA:

  • FTA include multiple trade aspects: FTAs cover a wide array of topics such as tariff reduction impacting the entire manufacturing and the agricultural sector; rules on services trade; digital issues such as data localization; intellectual property rights that may have an impact on the accessibility of drugs; and investment promotion, facilitation, and protection.
  • Great impact on economy and society: Consequently, an FTA has a far-reaching impact on the economy and society. Given this, one legitimately expects transparency and greater scrutiny of the FTA process both during and after the negotiations.

What are the problems with Indian FTA negotiations?

  • Lack of transparency in negotiations: India negotiates most FTAs behind closed doors with very little information about the objectives and processes followed and negligible scrutiny.
  • No robust framework for FTA negotiations: This is not the case in other countries with whom India is negotiating such an FTA. In the U.K., for example, there are several robust mechanisms that foster a certain degree of transparency in the FTA negotiations. Furthermore, there are institutional apparatuses that enable the scrutiny of the actions of the executive, during and after the signing of the FTA.

Case study of FTA framework in U.K:

  • Detailed information on FTA’s: Department of International Trade (DFIT), U.K., publishes a policy paper laying down the strategic objectives behind negotiating an FTA and why it is important for the U.K. to have an FTA with a particular country. This policy paper is fairly detailed listing the specific advantages of signing an FTA such as the economic gains expected, distributional impacts, the environmental impact, and the labour and human rights dimensions of the FTA.
  • Inputs from stakeholders: The policy paper that the DFIT publishes also contains the inputs and responses received by various stakeholders such as businesses, non-governmental organizations, and others. Furthermore, the policy paper also explains the government view on specific suggestions
  • FTA scrutiny by parliament: In the U.K., the strategic objectives identified by the government for signing an FTA are scrutinized by the U.K. Parliament. This job is performed by the International Agreements Committee (IAC) of the British Parliament. The IAC hears expert witnesses on the FTA, critically examines the government’s strategic objectives for each FTA under negotiation, and offers key recommendations wherever it finds gaps in the government’s approach. The U.K. government then responds to these recommendations.
  • Parliament has to ratify the FTA: In the U.K, under the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act, 2010, the executive has to lay down a treaty before the British Parliament for 21 sitting days with an explanatory memorandum before ratifying it. This allows Parliament to be apprised of the treaty the executive is going to ratify.

The contrast case of India’s FTA:

  • No publicly produced document in India: In India, no such document is produced publicly that makes a case for signing an FTA and assessing its impact on the environment and society at large. The Commerce Ministry the nodal body dealing with FTAs on its website provides the bare minimum information about FTA negotiations.
  • No record of discussion with the stakeholders: Seemingly, the Commerce Ministry also undertakes stakeholder consultations and inter-ministerial meetings but there is no public record of these discussions and the government’s response to the concerns of stakeholders.
  • No parliamentary scrutiny: In India, there is no mechanism for such parliamentary scrutiny of the executive’s actions during the FTA negotiations. India’s parliamentary system allows for department-related parliamentary committees that discuss various topics of importance and offer recommendations. However, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Commerce (PSCC) rarely scrutinises the Indian government’s objectives behind negotiating and signing an FTA.
  • No role for parliament to ratify the FTA: In India, there is no mechanism for any role of Parliament in the ratification of treaties including FTAs. Entering into treaties and matters incidental to it such as negotiations, signing and ratification are within the constitutional competence of Parliament. But, Parliament in the last seven-plus decades has not exercised its power on this issue, thus giving the executive unfettered freedom in negotiating, signing, and ratifying treaties including FTAs.

Recommendations for Improving the India’s FTA framework:

  • Publicise the objectives of FTA: India should take a leaf out of the U.K. book and develop a law on entering treaties including FTAs. This law should have the following parts. The executive should make a clear economic case outlining its strategic objectives publicly for entering into negotiations for a treaty such as an FTA.
  • Mandatory consultation with all stakeholders: The executive should be under an obligation to consult all stakeholders, respond to their concerns and make this information publicly available.
  • Dedicated parliamentary committee to scrutinize the FTA: The Indian Parliament should constitute a committee on the lines of the U.K.’s IAC that will scrutinise the strategic objectives behind entering into an FTA.
  • Mechanism to ratify the FTA by parliament: The executive should place the FTA on the floor of Parliament for a certain duration, allowing Parliament to debate it, before ratifying it.

Conclusion:

  • While the executive’s constitutional prerogative of entering into an FTA or international treaties, in general, is indisputable, this power should be exercised in a manner that makes the executive answerable. After all, an integral facet of democracy is to hold the executive to account for its actions. It should be no different for negotiating international treaties including FTAs.

India’s Net Zero Strategy

Why in News?

  • Recently, India submitted its Long-Term Low Emission Development Strategy to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at ongoing 27th Conference of Parties (COP 27) in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.

What is a Long-Term Low Emissions Development Strategy?

  • The LT-LEDS are qualitative in nature and are a requirement emanating from the 2015 Paris Agreement.
  • Under the Paris agreement, countries must explain how they will transition their economies beyond achieving near-term Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) targets and work towards the larger climate objective of cutting emissions by 45% by 2030 and achieve net zero around 2050.
  • The Strategy is based on four key considerations that underpin India’s long-term low-carbon development strategy.
  • India has contributed little to global warming, its historical contribution to cumulative global Greenhouse Gases emissions being minuscule despite having a share of ~17% of the world’s population
  • India has significant energy needs for development
  • India is committed to pursuing low-carbon strategies for development and is actively pursuing them, as per national circumstances
  • India needs to build climate resilience
  • The LT-LEDS is also informed by the vision of LiFE, Lifestyle for the Environment.
  • LiFE calls for a world-wide paradigm shift from mindless and destructive consumption to mindful and deliberate utilization.

What is net-zero?

  • Net-zero, which is also referred to as carbon-neutrality, does not mean that a country would bring down its emissions to zero. 
  • Rather, net-zero is a state in which a country’s emissions are compensated by absorption and removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.
  • Absorption of the emissions can be increased by creating more carbon sinks such as forests, while removal of gases from the atmosphere requires futuristic technologies such as carbon capture and storage.

Background of the Issue:

  • A very active campaign has been going on for the last two years to get every country to sign on to a net-zero goal for 2050. It is being argued that global carbon neutrality by 2050 is the only way to achieve the Paris Agreement target of keeping the planet’s temperature from rising beyond 2°C compared to pre-industrial times.
  • The net-zero formulation does not assign any emission reduction targets on any country.

Net-zero and the Paris agreement:

  • The net-zero goal does not figure in the 2015 Paris Agreement, the new global architecture to fight climate change. 
  • The Paris Agreement only requires every signatory to take the best climate action it can.
  • Countries need to set five- or ten-year climate targets for themselves, and demonstrably show they have achieved them. The other requirement is that targets for every subsequent time-frame should be more ambitious than the previous one.

Other countries commitment to net- zero:

  • Several other countries, including the UK and France, have already enacted laws promising to achieve a net-zero emission scenario by the middle of the century. Even China has promised to go net-zero by 2060.
  • The European Union is working a similar Europe-wide law, while many other countries including Canada, South Korea, Japan and Germany have expressed their intention to commit themselves to a net-zero future.

Challenges unique to India:

  • Over the next two to three decades, India’s emissions are likely to grow at the fastest pace in the world, as it presses for higher growth to pull hundreds of millions of people out of poverty.
  • No amount of afforestation or reforestation would be able to compensate for the increased emissions. 
  • Most of the carbon removal technologies right now are either unreliable or very expensive.

India abstains UNGA resolution

Why in News?

  • India abstained from the UNGA resolution calling for reparation to be paid to Ukraine by Russia.

About the News:

  • Reparations are the act or process of making amends for a wrong through compensatory funding or other means.
  • India has doubted whether a reparation process through a vote in the General Assembly would contribute to efforts at a resolution of the conflict and cautioned against precedents being set through such resolutions. 
  • Moreover, the legal validity of such a process by a General Assembly resolution remains unclear.

India’s position on Ukraine:

  • India’s position adds to a string of abstentions at the United Nations and multilateral groups since the start of Russian military operations in Ukraine on February 24, even as the continuing Russian military advances in Ukraine have seen more and more countries vote for resolutions that criticise Moscow.

About UNGA:

  • The General Assembly is the main deliberative, policymaking and representative organ of the UN.
  • All 193 Member States of the UN are represented in the General Assembly, making it the only UN body with universal representation.
  • The President of the General Assembly is elected each year by assembly to serve a one-year term of office.
  • The presidency rotates annually between the five geographic groups: African, Asia-Pacific, Eastern European, Latin American and Caribbean, and Western European and other States.

How are the decisions taken?

  • Decisions on important questions, such as those on peace and security, admission of new members and budgetary matters, require a two-thirds majority of the General Assembly.
  • Decisions on other questions are by simple majority.
  • The Assembly has no binding votes or veto powers like the UN Security Council.

According to the Charter of the United Nations, the General Assembly may:

  • Consider and approve the United Nations budget and establish the financial assessments of Member States.
  • Elect the non-permanent members of the Security Council and the members of other United Nations councils and organs and, on the recommendation of the Security Council, appoint the Secretary-General.
  • Consider and make recommendations on the general principles of cooperation for maintaining international peace and security, including disarmament.
  • Discuss any question relating to international peace and security and, except where a dispute or situation is currently being discussed by the Security Council, make recommendations on it.

What’s the concern now?

  • The Indian decision to abstain from the voting was not siding with anyone; it was in its own national interest, say few.
  • However, these decisions have been condoned by most Indian commentators as an attempt to make the best of a bad hand.
  • As our largest arms supplier, Russia has been a dependable ally, they say; it has shielded India at the UN over Kashmir, not to mention Bangladesh, back in 1971.
  • Moreover, to vote against Russia will push it further into China’s arms, multiplying that country’s security threat to India.

Why should India rethink its policy on Russia?

  • The above arguments have been out of date since the end of the Cold War three decades ago, and Vladimir Putin’s rise 20 years ago.
  • More dangerously still, they reveal a fatalism towards India’s own national security interests that will only damage us further as time goes by.
  • Yes, Russia is our largest arms provider and our supplies will be hit if we vote against it. But no, Russia is not a reliable arms provider; it has not been one since Putin came to power.
  • Arms supplies are frequently long-delayed, and Putin had used the delays to up the prices, sometimes even double them. By contrast, the French deliveries of the Rafael jets have been comparatively speedy.
  • Far from helping us, Putin has turned a blind eye to China’s many acts of aggression against India.
  • It was Russia that kept us out of Afghan peace negotiations in the very recent past.
  • Russia did little to help us when China raised Kashmir at the UNSC in 2019 and 2020. 
  • It was the US and European countries that helped then – going against their own human rights principles.

The significance of the Bali G-20 summit

Why in News?

  • Seventeenth G20 summit will be held in Bali.

Highlight:

  • The leaders of G-20 countries will gather at the Nusa Dua resort of Bali for the 17th summit. However, the Russian President will not participate in the summit and Russia will be represented by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
  • The summit will focus on post-pandemic recovery and tackling food and energy security that have been severely impacted by the Russian war in Ukraine.

G-20:

  • G-20 was established in 1999 as an acceptable medium between the elitist G-7
    (G-8 earlier) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). 
  • It was perceived to be a more unified group and over the years it has become a more representative and egalitarian organization. It has played a crucial role in the global economy, particularly after the global financial crisis and the banking collapse of 2008.
  • G-20 countries comprise 85% of the global GDP, 75% of global trade, and 66% of the global population.
  • It should also be noted that in the coming year the “Troika” of G-20 will be made up of emerging economies for the first time with India, Indonesia, and Brazil. This indicates a shift towards Global South in the global economic agenda.

Agenda of the Seventeenth G-20 summit:

  • The motto for the 17th G-20 summit is: Recover Together, Recover Stronger.
  • The representatives of the member countries will engage in discussions over three sessions:
  • Food and Energy Security
  • Health Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment
  • Digital Transformation
  • Moreover, Indonesian President Mr. Joko Widodo will lead the guests to Taman Hutan Raya (Indonesian Mangrove), that were restored through a 30-year project covering around 700 acres. 
  • This is the first G-20 summit after the Russia-Ukraine conflict and consequent western sanctions. Efforts will be made to build a global consensus on the issue.
  • This summit is significant for India as Indonesia will hand over the Presidency of G-20 for the upcoming year to India. India will assume Presidency on 1 December 2022. 
  • Indian Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi will also spell out the agenda for the upcoming India’s G-20 presidency. It is speculated that India will focus on the Global South and the problems it is facing due to geopolitical tensions like food and fuel shortages.
  • Furthermore, this would be the second time that Chinese President Xi Jinping will travel abroad after the pandemic.

Attendees of the summit:

  • The leaders of Argentina, Australia, Canada, China, the European Union, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the U.K., and the U.S. will attend the summit in Bali, Indonesia.
  • Spain is a permanent invitee. The special invitees of the summit are leaders of Cambodia, Fiji, the Netherlands, Rwanda, Senegal, Singapore, Suriname, and UAE. The Ukrainian President will attend the summit virtually.
  • Additionally, heads of several international organizations like the UN, the IMF, ASEAN, and the African Union will attend the 2022 summit. 
  • The President of Russia and leaders of Mexico and Brazil (due to the transition in leadership) will not attend the summit.

US Removes India from its Currency Monitoring List

Why in News?

  • The United States’ Department of Treasury has removed India from its Currency Monitoring List. India had been on the list for the last two years for alleged manipulation of Rupee.

What is Currency Manipulation?

  • Currency manipulation refers to actions taken by governments to change the value of their currencies relative to other currencies in order to bring about some desirable objective.
  • It is a designation applied by the US Department of the Treasury, to countries that engage in what is called “unfair currency practices” that give them a trade advantage.
  • The typical claim – often doubtful – is that countries manipulate their currencies in order to make their exports effectively cheaper on the world market and in turn make imports more expensive.

Why do countries manipulate their currencies?

  • In general, countries prefer their currency to be weak because it makes them more competitive on the international trade front.
  • A lower currency makes a country’s exports more attractive because they are cheaper on the international market.
  • For example, a weak Rupee makes Indian exports less expensive for offshore buyers.
  • Secondly, by boosting exports, a country can use a lower currency to shrink its trade deficit.
  • Finally, a weaker currency alleviates pressure on a country’s sovereign debt obligations.
  • After issuing offshore debt, a country will make payments, and as these payments are denominated in the offshore currency, a weak local currency effectively decreases these debt payments.

US treasury’s criteria for currency monitoring:

  • To be labelled a manipulator by the U.S. Treasury:
  • Countries must at least have a $20 billion-plus bilateral trade surplus with the US
  • foreign currency intervention exceeding 2% of GDP and a global current account surplus exceeding 2% of GDP

Which are the countries under this list?

  • China, Japan, Korea, Germany, Malaysia, Singapore, and Taiwan are the seven economies that are a part of the current Currency Monitoring List.
  • China’s failure to publish foreign exchange intervention and broader lack of transparency around key features of its exchange rate mechanism.

G20 Presidency: India can be voice for developing world

Why in News?

  • Government of India launched the logo, website and theme for India’s presidency of the G20, setting the tone for the country’s G20 presidency, beginning December 1. Modi’s clarion call was “One Earth, One Family, One Future”, aptly underscored by the phrase “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam”.

What is G-20?

  • Formed in 1999, the G20 is an international forum of the governments and central bank governors from 20 major economies.
  • It brings together 19 of the world’s major economies and the European Union.
  • Its members account for more than 80% of global GDP, 75% of trade and 60% of population
  • To tackle the problems or address issues that plague the world, the heads of governments of the G20 nations periodically participate in summits.
  • India has been a member of the G20 since its inception in 1999.

Do you know the aims and objective of G20?

  • The Group was formed with the aim of studying, reviewing, and promoting high-level discussion of policy issues pertaining to the promotion of international financial stability.
  • The forum aims to pre-empt the balance of payments problems and turmoil on financial markets by improved coordination of monetary, fiscal, and financial policies.
  • It seeks to address issues that go beyond the responsibilities of any one organization.
  • Its members account for more than 80% of global GDP, 75% of trade and 60% of population.

Current Global scenario and India’s G20 Presidency

  • War between Russia and west: It must nonetheless countenance a complex geopolitical moment, with tensions between G7 nations and Russia over the war in Ukraine, and growing friction between the US and China.
  • India’s efforts to be a meditator: PM Modi’s recent advice to President Putin that “now is not the time for war” is anchored in the ethos of peace and non-violence, the legacy of Buddha and Gandhi.
  • Energy crisis: The developmental agenda must receive first billing. Differences over energy diversification and the emerging challenges in trade and technology will need reconciliation.
  • Economic crisis: Stagflation in the US, China and Europe threatens to affect the global economic outlook. Policy coherence in macroeconomics and trade is an important imperative.
  • Supply chain disruptions: At the “Global Supply Chain Resilience” meeting in October 2021, Modi advocated cooperation on three critical aspects trusted source, transparency and time frame to improve global supply chains. At the SCO Summit this year, he cited the disruption of supply chains due to the Ukraine crisis and spoke of the unprecedented energy and food crises.

What India can show to the world?

  • Growing economy and rising stature: India’s G20 presidency coincides with its growing confidence, matched by its rising stature and high economic growth rate.
  • India’s digital infrastructure: India’s commitment to digital transformation will be a key element in forging an accessible and inclusive digital public architecture. The country’s exemplary success with the Unified Payments Interface (UPI), Direct Benefits Transfer and Aadhaar authentication in welfare schemes has growing relevance to the developing world.
  • Efforts for TRIPS waiver on vaccine: The use of the CoWIN platform enhanced vaccine accessibility and equity. India has made a strong pitch for a TRIPS waiver to ensure equitable access to vaccine production.
  • Vaccine assistance to the world: India’s commitment to advancing South-South cooperation is well acknowledged. At the height of the pandemic, India provided 250 million vaccine doses to 101 countries, apart from other medical assistance.
  • SAGAR and Blue Economy: India’s global initiatives in recent years such as SAGAR (Security and Growth for All in The Region), “blue economy”, “clean oceans”, and disaster-resilient infrastructure have the potential to gain traction in the G20.
  • India as true climate leader: PM Modi’s “Panchamrit” announcements at COP26 — net zero by 2070, non-fossil energy capacity to 500 GW by 2030, 50 per cent of energy requirement through renewables by 2030, reduction of carbon emission by 1 billion tonnes by 2030, and reduction of carbon intensity in the Indian economy to less than 45 per cent by 2030 — established India as a climate leader.

What should be India’s Priority as President of G20?

  • Open application programming interface: As economies everywhere move rapidly towards digitalization, it is important to develop a consensus on an open source, open application programming interface (API) and an interoperable framework for public digital platforms on which the private sector can freely innovate. This would help maximize the impact of the digital transformation for the global public good, including new data, measurement tools, indicators of economic growth and the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  • Promotion of LiFE philosophy: At the COP26 in Glasgow, Modi proposed Mission LiFE, which places individual behavior at the centre of the global climate action narrative. The Mission intends to establish and nurture a global network of individuals known as Pro-Planet People (P3), committed to adopting and promoting environmentally friendly lifestyles. This is based on the idea that responsible individual behavior can undo the damage wrought upon nature.
  • Focus on climate financing: At COP27 as well as during its G20 presidency, India will have to focus attention on climate finance, especially a new quantified goal beyond the existing annual $100 billion pledge by Advanced Economies (AEs) to assist developing nations in climate change adaptation and mitigation from 2020 to 2025. The delayed pledge is expected to be fulfilled in 2023 during India’s presidency and from there on, the G20 needs to raise the bar.
  • Clean energy partnership: The G20 presidency will provide India with an opportunity to give impetus to several of its initiatives for clean energy partnerships especially in solar, wind and hydrogen with the EU, Japan and the US. It will provide a platform to give a fillip to the idea of, “One Sun, One World, One Grid”, first mooted by Modi at the International Solar Alliance (ISA) in 2018.
  • Achieving the Net Zero target: India has the scale and capacity to set a shining example of rapid and decarbonized economic growth to help realize the G20’s global net zero ambitions. A viable international framework for development and international trade in GH2, together with green ammonia and green shipping, is the key. Reliable supplies of critical minerals and technological collaborations for energy storage, including a global battery coalition, could provide answers.
  • Nuclear energy as an alternative: Given the nascent support today for civilian nuclear energy in Europe due to energy market volatility, the G20 could work toward an expanded and robust civilian nuclear energy cooperation framework, including for small modular reactors.
  • Reforming the multilateralism: Multilateral institutions are perceived today as unrepresentative, ineffective, or worse still, both. The call for a new multilateralism and reassessment of the Global Financial Order to ensure adequate credit enhancement and blended finance for sustainable green transitions reflects a popular global sentiment.

Conclusion:

  • India’s presidency should represent the widest and most vulnerable constituencies, especially in South Asia. This can truly advance intra-South Asian economic integration, which is so essential for India’s rise.

India’s Role in Russia-Ukraine War

Why in News?

  • As external affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar arrives in Russia this week for a bilateral visit, there is growing international interest in the potential Indian diplomatic contribution to ending the tragic war in Ukraine which is now in the ninth month and has shaken the world to its core.

The story of Ukraine’s war and India’s Strategy so far:

  • India’s balanced approach: India has reasons to be satisfied that there is a better appreciation of its position on Ukraine in the Western public discourse. In the last few months, the Western media and think tanks had been relentless in their criticism of the Indian approach to the crisis as lacking moral and strategic clarity in the face of Russia’s unprovoked aggression.

 

  • India didn’t criticize Russian nor endorse Russian aggression: Through the last nine months, Delhi was reluctant to explicitly criticize Russian aggression against Ukraine and insisted on a dialogue between the warring parties. At the same time, India refused to endorse Russian aggression, underlined the importance of respecting the United Nations Charter, emphasized the inviolability of territorial sovereignty, warned against the use of nuclear weapons, and sought to draw at tension to the economic impact of the war on the “Global South”.
  • America showed sensitivity to India’s position: In the Biden administration there was a measure of understanding of where Delhi was coming from and India’s long-standing equities in the relationship with Russia and the constraints it imposed on India. Official Washington never let the heat of the Ukraine crisis in Europe undermine the longer-term American imperative of engaging India to stabilize the Indo-Pacific. The same can’t be said about Europe, but then the continent was right in the middle of the gravest conflict since the Second World War. The European trauma from a shattered peace is real.
  • India’s role in grain shipment and nuclear power station: Recent reports in the US media recount the Indian diplomatic contribution at a few critical moments in the nine-month-long war-in helping overcome issues over the grain shipment deal from Ukraine and in reducing the growing risks of the war targeting the nuclear power station at Zaporizhzhia in eastern Ukraine.

Can India take on a larger diplomatic role?

  • India’s role is limited: Good relations with Moscow and Washington do put South Block in an interesting position. But India is not the only channel of communication between the US and Russia. Nor are Washington and Moscow totally reliant on third parties.

Efforts to end war by west and Russia

  • Communications between the defence ministers: The defence ministers of the two countries have frequently talked to each other reminding each other of their redlines in the war. Meanwhile, the onset of winter will increasingly limit the possibilities for military operations in Ukraine and would give a chance to both sides to pause, regroup and rethink their strategy and tactics.

 

  • Putin’s strategy: Putin’s current focus on destroying the Ukrainian cities and the occasional threat to use nuclear weapons underline Russia’s weakness in the Ukraine war rather than strength. From a military perspective, there is no easy way for Russia to secure a “victory” in this war.
  • Limitations of Putin: Putin might have no option but to consider an honorable draw that will save his political face and secure some territorial gains in Ukraine. Can the same be said about the other Vladimir? (The Russians and Ukrainians both claim Vladimir or Volodymyr the Great of the 10th century as the founder of their nations).
  • Ukraine’s strategy: Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy has led the country’s fight against Russian aggression with impressive determination. Unlike the Russian troops, the Ukrainian forces are trying to save their nation against aggression and have inflicted significant military defeats on the Russians.
  • Limitations of Ukraine: There is a question, can Zelenskyy succeed in liberating all territories occupied by Russia, including Crimea which Russia took by force in 2014? Zelenskyy might like to fight on until he realizes that goal, but there are second thoughts in the Western coalition that is backing him.
  • Western effort of sanctions on Russia: The West had bet that the massive sanctions it imposed after Moscow launched its war against Ukraine would bring the Russian economy to its knees. But Russia is still standing and the costs of the sanctions are beginning to have major effects on Western societies.
  • Rising energy cost and Ineffectiveness of sanctions: As the economic and energy costs of the war mount, there is growing political support in Europe for a quick resolution of the conflict. In the US, which has emerged as the main supporter of Ukraine, there are both Republicans and Democrats who are questioning the current American “blank cheque” for Ukraine. If the Republicans do well as they are expected to in this week’s midterm elections to the US Congress, the internal polarization could sharpen and cast a shadow over American foreign policy, including the Ukraine strategy.
  • USA is repairing its strategy: Although these developments need not be fatal to US strategy, Washington is beginning to recalibrate. In important private advice to Kyiv last week, Washington called for greater flexibility in Zelenskyy’s approach to negotiations with Putin.

 

Conclusion:

  • Ending the war in Ukraine is very crucial as global economy especially western, facing energy and inflation crisis. India has a limited impact as mediator in ending the war in Ukraine. West and Russia need to realise their futile pursuit of complete victory is hurting them more. Sooner the war ends better for world.

Labour Ministry launches ‘Donate a Pension’ Scheme

Why in News?

  • The Union Labour and Employment Ministry has launched the “donate a pension” scheme.

Donate a Pension’ Scheme:

  • This scheme allows any citizen to pay the premium amount on behalf of an unorganized Worker under the Pradhan Mantri Shram Yogi Maan-Dhan
  • Maan-Dhan scheme is a government scheme meant for old age protection and social security of unorganized workers.

Eligibility Criteria and Benefits:

  • The scheme was launched in 2019, allows unorganized sector workers between 18 and 40 years who earn up to ₹15,000 a month to enroll by paying a premium amount between ₹55 and ₹200, depending on the age, that would be matched by the government.
  • On reaching the age of 60, the beneficiaries would get a ₹3,000 monthly pension.

Features of the Scheme:

  • The scheme allows a citizen to “donate the premium contribution of their immediate support staff such as domestic workers, drivers, helpers, caregivers, nurses in their household or establishment.
  • The donor can pay the contribution for a minimum of one year, with the amount ranging from ₹660 to ₹2,400 a year depending on the age of the beneficiary, by paying through maandhan.in or visiting a Common Service Centre.

The Complexities for Implementing a No-Fly Zone

Why in News?

  • The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Secretary General stated that the organisation would not designate the Ukrainian airspace as a ‘No Fly Zone’ which he said would lead to a full-fledged war in Europe, involving many more countries and resulting in greater human suffering.

What is a No-Fly Zone ?

  • In simple terms, a No-Fly Zone refers to a particular airspace wherein aircraft, excluding those permitted by an enforcement agency, are barred from flying.
  • Articles under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter dealing with Action with Respect to Threats to the Peace, Breaches of the Peace, and Acts of Aggression’ are invoked to Authorise a potential no-fly zone.
  • Article 39 dictates the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to determine the probable existence of any threat to peace or an act of aggression.
  • It suggests further measures, if required, are to be carded out in accordance to Article 41 and 42 to restore international peace and security.
  • No fly zones have been implemented without UN mandate too.

Cases of Implementation:

  • In 1991 after the first Gulf War, U.S. and its coalition partners imposed two no fly zones over Iraq to prevent Saddam Hussain born attacking ethnic groups.
  • In non-combat situations, No fly zones can be imposed permanently and Temporarily over Sensitive installations or for high profile events like Olympics.

What is the Feasibility of ‘No fly zone over Ukraine?

  • No-fly zone declarations are essentially a compromise in situations demanding a response to ongoing violence, but full military intervention is politically untenable.
  • NATO has previously imposed No-Fly Zones in non-member states like Libya and Bosnia. With Russia it fears a full-fledged war in Europe.
  • It has been demanding that NATO scale back to the pre-1997 arrangements. Both Russia and Ukraine are not members of NATO.
  • Due to this the idea of imposing a no fly zone’ over Ukraine has been rejected outright.
  • If implemented, it means NATO deploying aircraft and assets which would result in a direct confrontation with Russia.

What are the Broad Contours in a No-Fly Zone?

  • The UNSC had banned all flights in the Libyan airspace post adoption of Resolution 1973 in 2011 in response to the Libyan Civil War.
  • Member slates were asked to deny permission to any Libyan registered aircraft to use the territory without requisite approval.
  • Further, the member states could bar any entity from flying if they found reasonable Grounds to believe the aircraft is ferrying lethal or non-lethal military equipment.
  • Member states were permitted to allow flights whose sole purpose was humanitarian, such as delivery of medical supplies and food, chauffer humanitarian workers and related assistance, or evacuating foreign nationals from the territory.

Doubts over Defence Supplies to India

Why in News?

  • With tensions escalating between Russia and the West over the Ukraine crisis, India, which has major defence cooperation with Moscow and Kyiv, faces uncertainty over timely deliveries of the S-400.

 S-400:

  • The S-400 is known as Russia’s most advanced long-range surface-to-air missile defence system, capable of destroying hostile strategic bombers, jets, missiles and drones at a range of 380-km.
  • US reservations against S-400 purchase
  • The US has made it clear that the delivery of the five S-400 systems is considered a “significant transaction”.
  • Such deals are considered under its Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) of 2017.
  • It could trigger sanctions against Indian officials and the Government.

About CAATSA:

  • The CAATSA is designed to ensure that no country is able to increase military engagement with Iran, North Korea and Russia without facing deterrent punitive action from the US.
  • The sanctions are unilateral, and not part of any United Nations decision, and therefore no country is bound to accept them.
  • Section 231 says the President shall impose no fewer than five different sanctions on any Government that enters into a significant defence or intelligence deal with Russia.
  • Section 235 lists 12 options, including stopping credit lines from US and international banks such as the IMF, blocking sales of licensed goods and technology, banning banks, manufacturers and suppliers, property transactions and even financial and visa sanctions on specific officials.
  • However, the law also empowers the President to waiver sanctions or delay them if the waiver is in the US’s “vital national security interests”.

Has the US used CAATSA before for S-400 sales?

  • The US has already placed sanctions on China and Turkey for purchase of the S-400.
  • The sanctions included denial of export licences, ban on foreign exchange transactions, blocking of all property and interests in property within the US jurisdiction and a visa ban.
  • Types of sanctions laid
  • In 2020, the US sanctioned its NATO partner Turkey, which it had warned about CAATSA sanctions for years, besides cancelling a deal to sell Ankara F-35 jets.
  • The sanctions on Turkey’s main defence procurement agency, also included a ban on licences and loans, and blocking of credit and visas to related officials.
  • Likely impacts after India’s purchase:
  • The Biden administration has no firm indication on where it leans on India’s case.
  • However, several senators (US parliamentarians) have called upon the Biden administration to consider a special waiver for India.
  • This is on account of India’s importance as a defence partner, and as a strategic partner on US concerns over China and in the Quad.
  • Other US leaders thinks that giving a waiver to India would be the wrong signal for others seeking to go ahead with similar deals.

India’s Dependence on Russia:

  • While Russia has been a traditional military supplier sharing platforms and technologies that others would not, the cooperation has further deepened in recent years.
  • The defence trade between the two countries has crossed $15 billion since 2018.
  • Even today, over 60% of Indian military inventory is of Russian origin, especially with respect to fighter jets, tanks, helicopters and submarines among others, while several deals are in the pipeline.

Why is the S-400 deal so Important to India?

  • Security paradigm: S-400 is very important for India’s national security considerations due to the threats from China, Pakistan and now Afghanistan.
  • Air defence capability: The system will also offset the air defence capability gaps due to the IAF’s dwindling fighter squadron strength.
  • Russian legacy: Integrating the S-400 will be much easier as India has a large number of legacy Russian air defence systems.
  • Strategic autonomy: For both political as well as operational reasons, the deal is at a point of no return.

Conclusion:

  • The Deal is a way for the Government to assert its strategic autonomy.
  • India had Earlier agreed to stop buying Iranian oil over the threat of sanctions in 2019, a move that caused India both financial and reputational damage.

Not giving in to the US’s Unilateral Sanctions would be one way to restore some of that.

Russia and Ukraine Issue

Why in News?

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin recently said that Moscow is ready for security talks with the U.S. and NATO, as the Russian military announced a partial troop withdrawal from drills near Ukraine.

What is the Conflict all about?

  • Tensions between Ukraine and Russia, both former Soviet states, escalated in late 2013 over a landmark political and trade deal with the European Union. After the pro-Russian then-President, Viktor Yanukovych, suspended the talks, weeks of protests in Kiev erupted into violence.
  • Then, in March 2014, Russia annexed Crimea, an autonomous peninsula in southern Ukraine with strong Russian loyalties, on the pretext that it was defending its interests and those of Russian-speaking citizens.
  • Shortly afterwards, pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions declared their independence from Kiev, prompting months of heavy fighting. Despite Kiev and Moscow signing a peace deal in Minsk in 2015, brokered by France and Germany, there have been repeated ceasefire violations.

Need for International Attention:

  • Fourteen thousand people have died in the battle between Kiev and pro-Russia rebels in the east of the country. Out of these, 3,393 deaths were of civilians, according to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’s October 2021 report.

What is the International response?

  • The European Union and US have imposed a series of measures in response to Russia’s actions in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, including economic sanctions targeting individuals, entities and specific sectors of the Russian Economy.

What is Russia’s Response?

  • Moscow sees the growing support for Ukraine from NATO — in terms of weaponry, training and personnel — as a threat to its own security.
  • It has also accused Ukraine of boosting its own troop numbers in preparation for an attempt to retake the Donbas region, an allegation Ukraine has denied.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin has called for specific legal agreements that would rule out any further NATO expansion eastwards towards Russia’s borders, saying the West has not lived up to its previous verbal assurances.

About Minsk Agreements:

  • Minsk I: Ukraine and the Russian-backed separatists agreed a 12-point ceasefire deal in the capital of Belarus in September 2014.
  • Its provisions included prisoner exchanges, deliveries of humanitarian aid and the withdrawal of heavy weapons.
  • The agreement quickly broke down, with violations by both sides.
  • Minsk II: In 2015, an open conflict was averted after the ‘Minsk II’ peace agreement was signed, under the mediation of France and Germany.
  • It was designed to end the fighting in the rebel regions and hand over the border to Ukraine’s national troops.

Missile Tests by North Korea are a Provocation

Why in News?

  • The top diplomats of Japan, South Korea and the United States declared their unity against North Korea after a series of ballistic missile launches by Pyongyang.

About the News:

  • North Korea has never test-fired this many missiles in a calendar month before and last week threatened to abandon a nearly five-year-long self-imposed moratorium on testing long-range and nuclear weapons, blaming S. “hostile” policy for forcing its hand.
  • With peace talks with Washington stalled, North Korea has doubled down on leader Kim Jong-un’s vow to modernise the armed forces, flexing Pyongyang’s military muscles despite biting international sanctions.
  • North Korea is continuing its missile program despite several UN Security Council resolutions and the international community’s calls for diplomacy and denuclearization.
  • After a day of meetings in Honolulu, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong, and Japanese Foreign Minister Hayashi Yoshimasa condemned the series of seven launches as “destabilising” in a joint Statement.
  • The three diplomats reiterated their commitment to the denuclearisation of the entire Korean Peninsula, and readiness to resume talks with Pyongyang, which has not responded to overtures from the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden in the past year.

Origin of Divide in Korean Peninsula:

  • The present-day conflict between the US and North Korea can be traced from the Cold War between the USSR and US.
  • After the defeat of Japan in World War II, the Allied forces at the Yalta Conference (1945),agreed to establish a “four-power trusteeship over Korea”.
  • The fear of the spread of communism (state ownership over economic resources of a country) and the mutual distrust between the USSR and the US led to the failure of the trusteeship plan.
  • Before a concrete plan could be formulated, the USSR invaded Korea.
  • This led to a condition where the north of Korea was under the USSR and the south under the rest of the allies, mainly the US.
  • The Korean peninsula was divided into two regions by the 38th parallel.
  • In 1948 the United Nations proposed free elections across all of Korea.
  • The USSR rejected this plan and the northern part was declared as Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea).
  • The election took place in the American protectorate resulting in the establishment of the Republic of Korea (South Korea).
  • Both North Korea and South Korea tried to enhance their reach, territorially and ideologically, which gave birth to the Korean conflict.

About the Korean War:

  • On 25th June 1950, North Korea, backed by the USSR, launched an attack on South Korea and occupied most of the country.
  • In response, the United Nations force led by the US retaliated.
  • In 1951 the US forces led by Douglas MacArthur crossed the 38th parallel and triggered the entry of China in support of North Korea.
  • To prevent further escalation, peace talks began later in 1951.
  • India was actively involved in negotiating peace in the Korean peninsula by engaging all the major stakeholders – US, USSR and China.
  • In 1952, the Indian resolution on Korea was adopted at the United Nations (UN).
  • On 27th July 1953, the Korean Armistice Agreement was signed between the UN Command, the Korean People’s Army and the Chinese People’s Volunteer It led to an official ceasefire without a Peace treaty. Thus, the war officially never ended.
  • This also led to the establishment of the Korean Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) – a strip of land running across the Korean Peninsula to serve as a buffer zone between North Korea and South Korea.
  • In December 1991, North and South Korea signed a pact agreeing to refrain from aggression.

About the US-North Korea Conflict:

  • During the Cold War era, (allegedly with the support of Russia and China) North Korea accelerated its nuclear programme and developed nuclear capabilities.
  • During the same time, the US extended its Nuclear Umbrella (guarantee of support during a nuclear attack) to its allies e South Korea and Japan.
  • North Korea withdrew from the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 2003 and afterwards, under present leader Kim Jong-un, it increased nuclear missile testing.
  • North Korea is barred from testing ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons under international law.
  • In response to this, the US started deploying THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defence) in South Korea in March 2017.
  • The territorial conflict which started between North and South Korea has transformed into a tussle between the US and North Korea.
  • Following the failure of diplomatic efforts to improve relations with North Korea, the US has Imposed Sanctions.

What is India’s Stand?

  • India has consistently voiced its opposition to North Korean nuclear and missile However, it has maintained a neutral stance regarding sanctions.

Iran Nuclear deal Talks to Resume in Vienna, says EU

Why in News?

  • Iran nuclear deal talks will resume in Vienna, Diplomats said recently, after negotiators in recent weeks have cited Progress in seeking to revive the 2015 Landmark Accord.

About the News:

  • Parties to the deal have been negotiating in Vienna since last year with indirect U.S. participation. Talks were most recently halted at the end of last month, and the negotiators returned to their Capitals for Consultations.
  • The 8th round of the Vienna Talks attended by China, France, Germany, Russia, United Kingdom, Iran and the United States resume tomorrow in Vienna.
  • After months of stalemate, progress has been made in recent weeks to revive the 2015 agreement that was supposed to prevent Iran from acquiring an atomic bomb, a goal it has always denied pursuing.

About the Iran Nuclear Deal:

  • Also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
  • The JCPOA was the result of prolonged negotiations from 2013 and 2015 between Iran and P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union, or the EU).
  • Under the deal, Tehran agreed to significantly cut its stores of centrifuges, enriched uranium and heavy-water, all key components for nuclear weapons.

What’s the Concern Now?

  • Trump pulled the U.S. out of the accord in 2018. Besides, he opted for a “maximum pressure” campaign by imposing sanctions and other tough actions.
  • Iran responded by intensifying its enrichment of uranium and building of centrifuges, while maintaining its insistence that its nuclear development was for civilian and not military purposes.
  • Again, In January 2020, following the drone strike on Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commander Gen. Qasem Soleiman, Iran announced that it would no longer observe the JCPOA’s restraints.
  • The collapse of the JCPOA drags Iran towards nuclear brinkmanship, like North Korea, which has created major geopolitical instability in the region and beyond.

Significance of the Deal for India:

  • Removing sanctions may revive India’s interest in the Chabahar port, Bandar Abbas port, and other plans for Regional Connectivity.
  • This would further help India to neutralize the Chinese presence in Gwadar port, Pakistan.
  • Restoration of ties between the US and Iran will help India to procure cheap Iranian oil and aid in Energy Security.

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