9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – April 13, 2021

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Backchannel Diplomacy Between India and Pakistan

Source: The Hindu

Gs2: India and its Neighborhood- Relations.

Synopsis: The recent developments in India – Pakistan relation suggest that there is an ongoing backchannel diplomacy since 2020.

Developments in India- Pakistan Relations indicating backchannel diplomacy

Important developments took place between India and Pakistan. It suggests the functioning of an ongoing backchannel talk.

  1. First, India-Pakistan agreement to follow Ceasefire reached by India-Pakistan border commanders at LoC. It indicates coordination at a diplomatic level and high-level political approval.
  2. Second, the events including the scheduling of the much-delayed Indus Water Treaty talks. Further, the granting of sports visas strengthened rumors of a backchannel process.
  3. Third, most recently, contrary to the usual stand, there were no references to Pakistan in electoral speeches by the ruling party. Further, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA)’s silence on U-turn by Pakistan on trade are the other clues.

What is the need for back-channel process in India-Pakistan Relations?

Engagement between India and Pakistan is inevitable due to the following reasons:

  1. One, for Pakistan, the weakening economic condition and the increasing pressure from the Financial Action Task Force to shut down all terrorist safe-havens.
  2. Two, for India, a stand-off with the Chinese Army at the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh and the possibility of a two-front war situation.
  3. Three, apart from this, the geopolitical issue of engaging with Afghanistan will be one of the major reasons for the engagement.

What are the past examples when India engaged with Pakistan through backchannel diplomacy?

  • One, a channel for peace talks began in 1988 during the Rajiv Gandhi period, supported by Jordanian Crown Prince Hassan. However, the death of Pakistan’s general ended the process without any solution.
  • Two, during the Kargil War, PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee employed a back-channel interlocutor to finalize a ceasefire agreement.
  • Three, more recently, in 2016, six former Pakistani High Commissioners traveled to Delhi for a Track-II consultation with nine former Indian High Commissioners.

Ambiguities Over the Status of Rohingyas in India

Source: Indian Express 

Syllabus: GS 1 – Population and associated Issues


India has shown an ambiguous stance over the status of Rohingyas. This has created some complexities, thus it desires alteration as per international law.


  • It is assumed that the Supreme Court(SC) has implicitly accepted the center’s view that Rohingya in India are illegal immigrants. 
  • The belief is based on the court’s refusal to release 300 Rohingyas from detention camps in Jammu and Delhi. The court called for their deportation under the Foreigners Act, 1946.
  • However, different countries/organizations have different stances over them.

Stand of different Stakeholders over Status of Rohingyas:

  • The UN treats Rohingya as refugees. As per the organization, the Myanmar military crackdown in Rakhine state in 2017 created the world’s biggest refugee crisis.
    • The 1951 UN convention on the status of refugees and 1967 protocol defines refugees as:
      • Persons who fled their homes and countries due to a well-founded fear of persecution. The persecution can be because of his/her race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.
  • Bangladesh gave refuge to Rohingyas in the Cox Bazaar region on humanitarian grounds. It converted the region into the biggest refugee camp in the world.
  • Myanmar believes that Rohingyas are illegal immigrants that entered their country from Bangladesh. 

Ambiguous Stance of India:

  • The Indian PM has assured Bangladeshi PM that both countries will ensure the return of Rohingya refugees to Myanmar sustainably. There are about a million refugees in Myanmar and 40000 in India.
  • Further, India allowed the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to carry out verification and provide some of them with identity cards. Approximately 14000  issued refugee identity cards.
  • However, the solicitor general has imposed allegations of terrorism and communalism on them and demanded their deportation.

How has India been able to maintain this ambiguity?

  • The country is non-signatory to the 1951 UN Convention or the 1967 Protocol.
  • Further, it doesn’t have a dedicated refugee law or policy that determines who should be given the refugee status.
    • Some people say the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 comes closest to a refugee policy. Although it discriminates between refugees on the basis of religion in offering them Indian citizenship.

It allows the government to declare any person as an illegal migrant. Despite this, the country has nearly 3 lakh refugees.

Issues with Deportation of Rohingyas:

  • Influx of Pro-Democracy Protestors: They have entered India through Manipur and Mizoram since the Feb 2021 military coup in Myanmar. If refugee status is given to them, then it would be very difficult to deport Rohingyas as both face a threat of persecution.
  • Cooperation from Myanmar: Myanmar is reluctant to admit Rohingyas under its territory. Further India has been able to send back only a few refugees in the last 4 years. 
  • Principle of non-refoulement: The desire to send back Rohingyas goes against this principle. India is bound to follow it as it is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
      • The principle states that no refugee shall be returned in any manner to any country where he or she would be at risk of persecution.
  • Differential Treatment: India offers Voluntary repatriation to Sri Lankan Tamil refugees after the end of the civil war in 2009. Further, they can seek jobs and send their children to schools. 

Thus, the need is to engage with agencies like UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) and country of origin (Myanmar). This will result in the creation of an enabling environment for voluntary repatriation in consonance with international law.

Freedom of navigation operation (FONOP) in Indian waters

Source: The Hindu

Gs2: Important International Institutions, agencies and fora – their Structure, Mandate.

Synopsis: The U.S. Navy’s FONOP in India’s EEZ highlights the difference in the Indian and American perception on international maritime law (UNCLOS).


  • Recently, the USS John Paul Jones carried out freedom of navigation operations (FONOP) in the west of the Lakshadweep Islands. It lies in India’s exclusive economic zone.
  • It was done without requesting India’s prior consent.
  • Some of India’s strategic community members described this as an unnecessary provocation by the U.S. Navy.
  • Whereas the US defended its operation by stating that it is consistent with international law (UNCLOS).

What are the ambiguities in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)?

Different interpretations of the UNCLOS gave rise to the problem. For example,

  • According to the U.S Navy, India’s requirement of prior consent for the passage of foreign warships through Indian EEZs is a violation of UNCLOS.
  • Articles 56 and 58, Part V of the Law of the Sea, entitles U.S. warships to high-seas freedoms in the 200-nautical mile EEZs of another coastal state.
  • Whereas, according to India’s Interpretation, the UNCLOS does not explicitly permit the passage of military vessels in another state’s EEZ. Military exercises in the EEZ require the consent of the coastal State.
  • This position of India is also consistent with India’s domestic law (I) the Territorial Waters, Continental Shelf, Exclusive Economic Zone, (II)Other Maritime Zones of India Act of 1976.

How India responded?

India refrained from stating its differences with the US interpretation of UNCLOS because of the following reasons,

  1. One, India understands that FONOPs give the U.S. Navy leverage in the contest with China in the South China Sea.
  2. Two, FONOPs in Indian EEZs have been relatively low compared to other countries. For example, since 2016, the U.S. Navy has carried out only three FONOPs through Indian EEZs. Whereas, U.S. warships have conducted eight FONOPs in 2019, and nine in 2020 in Chinese islands.
  3. Three, apart from conducting FONOPs in Indian EEZ the US navy also conducted FONOPs in the territorial seas of the Maldives. It is done mainly to inform China that the U.S. Navy is committed to upholding the rules-based order in the waters of opponents and partners.
  4. Four, the choice of Lakshadweep rather than Andaman Nicobar Islands to conduct FONOPs indicates that US doesn’t want to make a rift in India-U. S relation. Because maritime boundaries around the Lakshadweep are more settled than the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

What are the lessons for India?

  1. First, FONOPs normalizes military activism close to India’s island territories. It makes Indian waters vulnerable to incursions by foreign warships. It encourages other regional navies to violate India’s domestic regulations in the waters surrounding the Andaman and Nicobar Island.
  2. Second, India should also rethink its stand on freedom of navigation in the EEZs.Because, India’s domestic regulation is not in concurrence with international law (UNCLOS). For example, India’s declaration of straight baselines delineating zones around the Andaman and Nicobar Islands is a violation of UNCLOS law.

Need of Peace Between India and Pakistan

Source: click here

Syllabus: GS 2

Synopsis: Peace Between India and Pakistan is essential for the transformation of South Asia.


The Director Generals of Military Operations of India and Pakistan agreed to strictly observe ceasefire agreements between the two countries. This matched with the Pakistani PM’s statement that Pakistan’s only issue is Kashmir, and it can only be fixed through dialogue. 

  • This statement was strongly supported by General Qamar Bajwa, Pakistan’s Army Chief.
  • There is a growing realization that both the countries cannot take parts of Kashmir that the other country controls.
  • Thus, the focus should be on resolving issues that scar the whole subcontinent instead. These issues include poverty, malnutrition and an unacceptable disregard of the young. 

How will peace with Pakistan help in transforming South Asia?

The India-Pakistan hostility hurts regionalism and South Asian growth. Peace between India and Pakistan will be beneficial for all the nations constituting the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). 

  • Firstly, many reports proved that a good economic value can be derived from South Asian economic integration. The World Bank publication titled ‘A Glass Half Full’ is one of those reports.
  • Secondly, SAARC has remained a victim of India-Pakistan enmity. Even though it has formed partial alliances among its members. 

How can India make a difference to the SAARC?

Professor Selim Raihan of the University of Dhaka highlighted India’s vast ‘size imbalance’ in South Asia.

  1. Firstly, Professor Selim Raihan shared that India’s total land area is 62%, the population is 75%, and the GDP of South Asia in 2016 was 83%. 
    • Pakistan and Bangladesh have a share of only 7.6% and 5.6%, respectively in regional GDP.
  2. Secondly, this indicates that only India can take the lead in changing a grossly under-performing region like South Asia. South Asia has a GDP (PPP) of $12 trillion with a population of a tad over 1.9 billion.
    • On the other hand, the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) has a GDP (PPP) of around $9 trillion. Member states like Vietnam are growing enormously.

Way forward

  1. Firstly, India needs to think big and act big by determinedly aiming to plan a South Asian economic miracle. China did the same and even rose in 1972.
  2. Secondly, India needs to view peace with Pakistan as essential and urgent and not just a bilateral matter. It is a chance of a lifetime to drastically makeover South Asia for the better.

Talks on Iran Nuclear Deal Resumes

Source – The Hindu

Syllabus –  GS 2 – Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing  countries on India’s interests.

Synopsis – The Joint Commission of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) [Iran nuclear deal] resumed talks. The lifting of sanctions on Iran and nuclear implementation measures are on top of the agenda.


  • In 2018, former US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the nuclear deal. Further, it imposed sanctions on Iran and jeopardized the 2015 agreement to limit Iran’s uranium enrichment.
  • In response, Iran increased uranium enrichment and stockpile and expanded its research and development.

Therefore, for the revival of the 2015 agreement, diplomats from Russia, China, France, Britain, Germany, and Iran have been meeting in Vienna.

  • The aim is to reach an agreement on a road map for lifting US sanctions and recommitting Tehran to its agreements under the accord.

Changing approach of US toward IRAN-

  • The US President appointed a special envoy to Iran.
  • It ended US support for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen against the Houthis [Iran-backed militants].
  • Biden Administration also offered Iran to release $1 billion of Iranian money frozen in South Korea according to sanctions. In exchange, Iran was asked for ending its 20% uranium enrichment.

However, Iran has rejected the offer, seeking more concrete measures from the U.S.

Is there a deadline for this deal to be done?

Presidential election in IRAN – Iran will go to the polls in June to elect a new president. The current president Hassan Rouhani, seen as a moderate in Tehran, will not be able to stand again for the presidential race.

Challenges –

Rising security tension in the region could jeopardize the diplomatic efforts to revive the JCPOA.

  • Shia militias supported by Iran continue to attack US forces and bases in Iraq.
  • The Israel-Iran shadow conflict is now being fought inside Syria and on the seas. In the Red Sea, an Iranian ship was attacked.

Way forward-

  • The best chance for the US is to revive the JCPOA, and that too, before the presidential election.
  • Both Iran and the United States must work to re-establish lost faith and take measures to revive the nuclear deal. It would end the nuclear crisis in exchange for the lifting of sanctions.

Factly :-News Articles For UPSC Prelims | 13 Apr, 2021

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