India and Neighborhood : news and updates


Maritime Policy of India Need a Long Term Vision

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Synopsis: Maritime policy of India lacks a long-term vision to counter China’s expansionist designs in the Indo-Pacific. There have been a lot of issues with previous maritime policies, resulting in a huge gap between India & China’s current maritime capabilities.

Introduction 
  • Today, China has not only overtaken the US Navy in numbers, but it is also the world’s top ship-producing nation. It has the largest merchant navy, coast-guard and fishing fleet/maritime militia in the world.
  • An economically strong, expansionist, and militaristic China is a concern. Because it will use the Maritime Silk Route initiative to expand its sphere of influence and ensure dominance in the Indo-Pacific.
  • The PLA Navy’s crucial role in this endeavor relies on its formidable maritime/industrial capabilities.
  • On the other hand, the maritime sector in India is characterized by inefficiency & long -term vision.
Gap b/w India & China’s maritime capabilities

China laid down its first indigenous aircraft carrier in 2015 and commissioned it in 2018. Work on India’s first indigenous aircraft-carrier commenced in 2009 and, in 2021, the ship awaits completion.

Evolution of India’s maritime policy and issues involved
  • Sagarmala: India launched its first “maritime modernization” plan -“Sagarmala”, in 2003, almost simultaneously with China. The plan was announced with the stated objective of ensuring that all major ports would be connected to the Golden Highway Quadrilateral through a network of expressways. It will facilitate country-wide goods traffic to-and-from ports. It was abandoned within months, following the declaration of the general election.
  • National Maritime Development Plan (NMDP): Then in 2005, Sagarmala was replaced with the National Maritime Development Plan (NMDP). This plan remained confined to modernization of port infrastructure and enhancement of rail-road connectivity to these ports.
    • Seven years after its commencement, the Lok Sabha was informed that only 82 of the 276 projects had been completed. While 30 had been dropped and 66 were still in the planning stage.
  • Maritime Agenda 2020: In 2011, the government decided to abandon the NMDP-2005. It was replaced with a new 10-year plan titled Maritime Agenda 2010-2020 (MA-2020). While the Sagarmala-2003 and NMDP-2005 were focused mainly on port modernization and enhancing rail-road connectivity, MA-2020 had a much broader scope. It envisaged an outlay of Rs 5 lakh crore to achieve huge leaps in shipping tonnage, shipbuilding, and coastal trade, apart from ports, cargo handling, and other capacities. But, MA 2020 suffered from two problems:
    1. Firstly, it had set extremely unrealistic targets; aiming to increase in just 7-8 years shipbuilding capacity by five times. It will enhance cargo throughput in Indian ports by four times.
    2. Secondly, it showed clear signs of confusion regarding its objective. It cited as “a roadmap to guide this ministry” in one place, while at other places it cited itself as “more an agenda for consideration, rather than agenda for action”.
    3. Thus, MA-2020 also failed to achieve anything of substance before it was overtaken by the next plan.
  • Revival of Sagarmala: The next government that came to power in 2014 followed the earlier practice, and having terminated MA-2020, revived the Sagarmala project.
    • Like all its predecessors, Sagarmala-2015 also focusses on modernizing ports and enhancing connectivity.
    • This version of Sagarmala was better as it had a structured, progress-monitoring framework.
    • However, data from the Ministry of Shipping’s Sagarmala Project Tracker, updated until September 2019, shows a project completion rate no better than past trends.
    • While the plan aimed to create 40 lakh direct jobs and 60 lakh indirect jobs, in 2019, the government admitted that only 10,000 jobs had been created.
Maritime policy of India - upscProblems with India’s maritime sector 
  • Excessive focus on port connectivity: The exclusive focus of successive governments on port development has led to gross neglect of other critical components of India’s maritime capability.
    • These include merchant shipping, shipbuilding, ship repair, seabed exploration, and fisheries, etc. All of these have implications for India’s maritime security as well as its “blue economy”.
  • Initiating programs with inappropriate aims, choosing unrealistic targets
  • Abandoning/renaming projects and not ensuring faithful implementation
  • Major ports are overloaded and inefficient
  • Dying shipbuilding industry: India’s contribution to commercial shipbuilding globally is less than 1% today, which is far lower than the 3.5% achieved in 2007-12. Only 20 of the country’s 25 shipyards — big and small, private or state-owned — are functional.
  • Inadequate merchant fleet: India’s imports of crude oil, LPG, food, coal and fertilizer supplies, which constitute the country’s commercial security, are all carried on foreign-owned shipping vessels for an estimated freight bill of $52 billion in value annually.
  • Seabed exploitation yet to take off
  • Backward fishing industry

What needs to be done?

India should evolve a National Strategy for the maritime sector for the next 50 years. This maritime policy should receive Parliament’s approval to ensure its survival through changes of government.

Conclusion
The naval power is going to play a decisive role in the India-China rivalry. But this can only happen with the backing of a strong maritime sector.

Also read: Maritime security and connectivity in Indo-Pacific

Source: The Indian Express

Posted in 9 PM Daily Articles, CURRENT AFFAIRS, PUBLICTagged

Lessons and Challenges for India after a Year of Galwan Clash

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Synopsis: Ladakh crisis has highlighted that India needs to focus on its land borders. Also, it should use its limited resources for military modernisation instead of focusing on maritime ambitions in the Indo-Pacific.

Background:
  • It has been one year since the Line of Actual Control (LAC) witnessed violent clashes in Galwan valley in Ladakh.
  • Although both India and China gave gallantry awards to the fallen soldiers, the details about the incident have not been made public so far.
How the government response can be measured?
  1. Firstly, lack of political accountability.
    • No official briefing about the situation in Ladakh has taken place in the last 13 months.
    • The Government’s political strategy was basically based on denial.
  2. Secondly, the official excuse given was operational security, but the actual reason was to avoid political embarrassment for the government.
    • There is no record of the Cabinet Committee on Security being convened to discuss the border situation, and that is why the PM being held responsible in the view of the public for the setback.
  3. Thirdly, it highlighted the failure of diplomacy and foreign policy.
    • The crisis in Ladakh erupted months after the second informal summit with the Chinese President at Mamallapuram, Tamil Nadu.
What is the current scenario in Ladakh?
  1. Firstly, the current situation is not militarily certain in Ladakh.
    • There has been continued deployment of 50,000-60,000 soldiers.
  2. Secondly, China still holds a strategic advantage.
    • The Chinese are present on the Indian side of the LAC in Gogra, Hot Springs and Demchok especially Depsang Plains.
  3. Thirdly, the Indian Army is holding weak position in negotiation during the talks with the PLA.
  4. Fourthly, China has become a bigger security threat for India than Pakistan.
  5. Lastly, the Ladakh crisis has also exposed India’s military weakness, especially in case of two front war.
What are the major implications of Ladakh crisis?
  • India opened back-channel talks with Pakistan which led ceasefire on the Line of Control.
  • The Ladakh crisis has also led the Government to relook external partnerships. For instance, as per U.S. military officials, it has provided intelligence and logistics support to the Indian forces in Ladakh.
  • India has recognized China as a larger neighbour with better force and better technology.
  • The crisis has reduced the military importance of the Quad, as India refused to do joint naval patrolling with the U.S. in the South China Sea.
What are the major challenges present in front of India?
  • Firstly, it is difficult for India to counter Chinese influence in South Asia due to the mishandling of second wave of Covid-19.
  • Secondly, the Chinese challenge to India is much economic than geopolitical.
    • For instance, after the border crisis and restrictions on Chinese companies, China displaced the U.S. to become the biggest trade partner in 2020-21.
    • India is dependent on China for medical equipment to fight the pandemic.
  • Thirdly, Chinese incursions have shown that deterrence has failed. Further, India has learnt that it can no longer have simultaneous competition and cooperation with Beijing.
  • Lastly, it will be difficult for India to take sides in a new Cold War between the U.S. and China and protecting its strategic sovereignty.

India needs to reset its foreign policy choices as they will have a significant impact on the future of global geopolitics.

Source: The Hindu

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Pakistan Passes Bill to let Jadhav Appeal

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What is the News?

Pakistan’s Parliament has passed the International Court of Justice (Review and Reconsideration) Bill of 2020.

About the International Court of Justice (Review and Reconsideration) Bill of 2020:
  • The bill provides the right of appeal to death-row prisoner Kulbhushan Jadhav against the death sentence.
  • The bill was passed after the International Court of Justice(ICJ) in its verdict had asked Pakistan to provide a credible review opportunity to Jadhav.
What was the issue?
  • Kulbhushan Jadhav is an Indian National. He was arrested in 2016 by Pakistan on charges of spying and sentenced to death in 2017.
  • India has rejected the charges leveled against the navy officer. Further, it said that he was kidnapped by Pakistani operatives from the Iranian port of Chabahar where he was running a business.
  • He was sentenced to death by the Pakistani Military Court.
  • Hence, India approached the ICJ against Pakistan for denial of consular access to Jadhav and challenging the death sentence.
  • In 2019, the ICJ had ruled that Pakistan must undertake an effective review and reconsideration of the conviction and sentence of Jadhav and also to grant consular access to India without further delay.
What would have happened if Pakistan had not passed this bill?
  • If Pakistan had not passed this bill, India would have gone to the UNSC and could have moved contempt proceedings against Pakistan in the ICJ.
Are decisions of the ICJ binding?
  • Judgments delivered by the ICJ in disputes between States are binding upon the parties concerned.
    • Moreover, the judgements are final and without appeal. If there is a dispute about the meaning of a judgment, the only possibility is for one of the parties to make a request to the Court for an interpretation.
  • As regards advisory opinions, it is usually for the United Nations organs and specialized agencies requesting them to give effect to them or not.

Source: PIB

 

Posted in Daily Factly articles, daily news, Daily News Updates, Factly: IR, PUBLICTagged

Dismal Healthcare systems in South Asia needs attention

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Synopsis:

The second wave of pandemic highlighted the lacunas in the healthcare systems in South Asia. The situation now demands the replacement of short term measures with a well-thought-out vision and political commitment for long-term healing.

Background:

The pandemic managed to penetrate across the countries due to the dismal state of health infrastructure and reluctance to enhance public health care spending. For example,

  • India recorded 4,529 deaths from COVID-19 on 18th May 2021. It is the highest daily death toll recorded in the world, beating 4468 deaths recorded by the US in January 2021.
  • The virus has consolidated itself in other South Asian countries as well.
    • Sri Lanka added 78,218 cases in May.
    • Pakistan crossed over 200 daily deaths in April, its highest since the pandemic started.
    • Bangladesh detected the highly contagious Delta variant of Covid-19
  • The consolidation of the virus has been attributed to the dismal state of healthcare systems in South Asian countries.

Read Also :-What are the issues facing Indian Economy?

Dismal State of Healthcare systems in South Asia:
  • Funding: The Indian government spends around 1.4 % of its GDP on public healthcare. There is a lack of prudent expenditure towards public health in other south Asian nations as well.
  • Doctor to Population Ratio: In India, there are only 0.08 doctors per 1000 population in the public health sector. But the WHO standard is 1 per 1000 population. Pakistan and Bangladesh also have less than one doctor per 1000 population.
  • Bed Availability: India has only half a bed available for every 1,000 people. Similarly, Bangladesh and Pakistan have a bed to patient ratio of 0.8 and 0.6 respectively.
  • Out of Pocket Expenditure: The ideal out-of-pocket expenditure should not surpass 15% to 20% of the total health expenditure. However it is 62.67%, 73.87% and 56.24% for India, Bangladesh and Pakistan respectively.
Other factors behind the spread of the virus in South Asia:
  • First, superspreader events in India gave a lucrative opportunity for the spreading of the virus
  • Second, the citizens violated the Covid protocols by disregarding social distancing, not wearing masks etc.
  • Third, the logistical mismanagement in the countries delayed the accessibility of vaccines and other life-saving drugs.
  • Fourth, the increase in health expenditure remained well below the desired levels. For instance, Pakistan’s defence budget was increased by 12% in 2020-21 to reach $7.85 billion. On the other hand, the spending on health remained around $151 million.  

Read Also :-Revitalizing Coal Bed Methane in India

Way forward:
  • The South Asian countries can learn from the Bhutan Model. There has been only 1 death and 1724 cases of Covid-19 in the country. 
    • Its success is owed to a well-funded and prepared public health system with stringent measures, responsible citizenship, and an accountable government.
  • There is a need to enhance public expenditure, especially towards rural healthcare. In Rural India, the poor health care system enhanced the hardships of people –
    • Patients were treated on the hospital floor for lack of beds, 
    • Some had to walk hundreds of miles just to reach a hospital and 
    • Many were compelled to resort to homemade concoctions and local quacks
  • The South Asian nations can also take lessons from the Southeast Asian countries including Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia etc. 
    • They prioritised investments in healthcare systems while broadening equitable access through universal health coverage schemes.

Read Also :-Lessons for the health sector

Source: The Hindu

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Improper Comments on Bangladesh will impact India Bangladesh ties

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Synopsis: India Bangladesh ties are highly sensitive and based on Mutual trust and respect. Disregarding any nation by words or action by Indian leaders will be detrimental to the consolidation of bilateral ties.

Background

  • Recently, the Indian Home minister made derogatory statements with reference to Bangladesh.
    • The home minister described illegal Bangladeshi immigrants as vermin. He even mentioned that he would push them into the Bay of Bengal.
  • Such actions of political figures in India will have potential ramification in consolidating bilateral ties with Bangladesh
Issues and Challenges in India-Bangladesh ties
  • There are inevitable bilateral problems between India and Bangladesh of long duration. For example,
    • A perennially favourable balance of trade for India
    • Drought and flood in the 54 transboundary rivers flowing from India to Bangladesh
    • The smuggling of goods and vulnerable human beings across the approximately 4,100-kilometre land border.
    • Presence of militant Islamist groups such as Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami, that have linkages and support from outside Bangladesh.
Significance of Bangladesh to India
  • The Bangladeshi government under Sheikh Hasina has been so supportive to India. For instance,
    • She has maintained vigilant supervision over Muslim fundamentalist terrorists as well as on Northeast militant movements sheltering in Bangladesh.
    • She has improved connectivity between India and its Northeast by land, river and the use of Bangladeshi ports.
  • Indian investments in Bangladesh have been encouraged. Moreover, around 100,000 Indian nationals now live and work in Bangladesh.
Suggestions to improve India Bangladesh ties:
  • First, India should view the developments in Bangladesh with gratification. For example,
    • Bangladesh will shift from ‘least developed’ to ‘developing country’ status by 2026.
    • Bangladesh has made steady progress in human development indicators
  • Second, responsible individuals from both countries must be actively discouraged from words and actions detrimental to the consolidation of the existing friendship.

Source: The Hindu

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“China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Trilateral Dialogue”

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What is the News?

The Fourth China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Trilateral Dialogue will be held virtually this year. The foreign ministers of each country will attend the meet.

About China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Trilateral Dialogue:
  • The China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Trilateral Dialogue mechanism was set up in 2017 at the initiative of China.
  • Purpose: The dialogue is aimed at reinforcing trilateral cooperation between three countries in politics, economics and security.
Focus of the Fourth Trilateral Dialogue:
  • The Fourth Trilateral dialogue will discuss topics related to the current peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan, security cooperation and counterterrorism measures.
  • It would also address new uncertainties in China in the wake of the unilateral withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces at a critical stage of the reconciliation process.
    • The US has already withdrawn 30-40% of troops from Afghanistan. The complete withdrawal will take place by September 2021.
Afghanistan on this Trilateral Dialogue:
  • Afghanistan has appreciated China’s offer to facilitate Afghan peace talks in the future.
  • However, it has called on India and China to work together for the Afghanistan peace process despite their other bilateral problems.

Note: China also convenes a quadrilateral dialogue with the Foreign Ministers of Afghanistan, Nepal and Pakistan. The recent such meet was held in August 2020.

Source: The Hindu

 

Posted in Daily Factly articles, daily news, Daily News Updates, Factly: IR, PUBLICTagged

China’s shift from “one-child policy” to “three-child policy”

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What is the News?

China has announced that it will allow couples to have up to three children after census data showed a steep decline in birth rates.

About China’s One-Child Policy:
  • China’s One-Child Policy was announced in 1980 by then-leader Deng Xiaoping.
  • The policy was adopted out of fear that unchecked population growth would lead to economic and environmental catastrophe. It was also a response to concerns about food shortages.
  • The policy was implemented through several means. Such as, incentivising families financially to have one child, making contraceptives widely available and imposing sanctions against those who violated the policy.
  • However, the policy was also a source of discontent as:
    • The state used brutal tactics such as forced abortions and sterilisations.
    • Controversial for violating human rights
    • Being unfair to poorer Chinese since the richer ones could afford to pay economic sanctions if they violated the policy.
Was the One Child Policy successful?
  • The policy has been blamed for making China’s population aged faster than other countries, impacting the country’s growth potential.
  • It is also suggested that because of the one-child policy, China would be unable to reap the full benefits of its economic growth and will need other ways to support it.
China’s Two-Child Policy:
  • In 2016, China relaxed its One Child Policy. It allowed two children per couple. However, the policy change did little to change the rapid fall in population growth.
  • According to Census 2020, around 12 million babies were born in 2020. This is a significant decrease from the 18 million in 2016 and also the lowest number of births recorded since the 1960s.
  • Hence, this was the reason why China has now relaxed its two-child policy and has allowed couples to have up to three children.

China's birthrate

Will the Three-child policy increase childbirth?

The experts have said that relaxing limits on reproductive rights alone cannot go a long way in averting an unwanted demographic shift. They have said that the reasons for fewer children being born in China are:

  • Rising costs of living, education and supporting ageing parents.
  • Country’s pervasive culture of long working hours.
  • Culture Shift with many couples believing that one child is enough and some expressing no interest in having children.

Source: The Hindu

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India’s Nepal policy needs to change for ensuring long-lasting friendship

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Synopsis: There is widespread disbelief against India in Nepal. But that needs to be addressed by winning back the people’s trust. This will strengthen India’s Nepal policy

Background
  • As of now, Nepal’s parliament has been dissolved once again and dates for fresh elections are announced. The current dissolution has been challenged in the court by five political parties.
  • It has to be remembered that the earlier dissolution of parliament was overruled by the Supreme Court as Unconstitutional.
  • In this context, we will discuss the prevailing Nepali’s scepticism about India and India’s Nepal policy measures to ensure long-lasting friendship between the two countries.
Prevailing Nepali’s scepticism on India
  • So far, India’s credentials have always been under Nepali’s suspect. Currently, political and public opinion in Nepal is convinced that Mr Oli is now India’s favourite.
  • Further, there are rumours spreading in Nepal that Mr Oli will promote the return of Nepal to its Hindu Rashtra status under the monarchy and keep the Chinese at distance.
  • Some rumours even claim that India is working to bring back the monarchy to Nepal.
  • The Indian government has maintained silence on the current political developments in Nepal. It now needs to assess the political situation in Nepal to serve the interests of India best.
Suggestions to improve India’s Nepal policy
  • First, the monarchy in Nepal has always been against the interest of India. The monarchy has always tried to distance Nepal from India. It has further promoted a nationalism that takes hostility to India as its main driver.
    • So, to win the Nepali’s people trust and also for its own interest, India should declare its unconditional support to Nepal’s republican democracy.
  • Second, India should remain fully engaged with Nepal at all levels and across the political spectrum. Through engagement, India should advocate policies rather than persons.
    • The absence of India’s engagement will provide space for China’s intervention. Further, India should avoid advocating support for individuals as it will create false apprehension over India’s credential.
  • Third, India’s engagement with Nepal must find an important place for Nepali citizens, especially the Madhesi population.
    • Currently, through a presidential ordinance, the Nepal government had reversed a constitutional provision that denied citizenship to children born of Nepali mothers who had foreign husbands. The Madhesi population became a direct target of this.
    • Though this provision stands removed, it might be reintroduced after the political uncertainty is over. India should proactively support the demands of Madhesi population.
  • Finally, India needs to facilitate the people-to-people links including long-standing religious and cultural links, between our two countries.
    • The future of India’s Nepal policy lies in leveraging people-to-people links. No other country other than India has such an advantage.

Source: The Indian Express

Posted in 9 PM Daily Articles, daily news, Daily News Updates, PUBLICTagged

Continuing Political Turmoil in Nepal and Opportunity for India

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Synopsis:  Present Constitutional crisis in Nepal is an opportunity for India to engage with Nepal’s political leadership. It can help them to establish a stable democratic rule in Nepal.

Background
  • Recently, Nepal’s President had dissolved the House of Representatives (lower house) late at the suggestion of Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli.
  • The decision to dissolve the house is viewed as a partisan move that disregards the Constitutional morality of Nepal.
Recent developments leading to Political turmoil in Nepal
  • Oli (CPN(UML)), came to power with the support of Maoist Centre and enjoyed a near-absolute majority in the lower house.
  • In May 2018, the two allies merged to cement their alliance and created the Nepal Communist Party (NCP).
  • However, very soon there were disputes related to the power-sharing arrangement, worked out with Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’.
  • Mr. Oli (CPN(UML)) was reluctant to run the NCP along with Prachanda as a co-chair and soon ‘one person one post’ policy demand surfaced openly.
  • Amid rumours that Prachanda and Mr. Nepal (senior UML leader) were planning to move a no-confidence-motion against him, Oli got the President to approve dissolution of the House on December 20, paving the way for elections.
  • On March 7, the Supreme Court also overturned the UML-Maoist merger of May 2018 and ruled it invalid. This verdict allowed Mr. Oli to be in power.
  • Again, Mr. Oli was sworn in by President Bhandari on May 14 as Prime Minister. Article 76(3) permits the leader of the largest party to be sworn in and give 30 days to demonstrate majority.
  • But the Nepal lower house again stands dissolved after Mr. Oli failed to seek another vote of confidence.
  • Opposition leaders have challenged the House dissolution in the Supreme Court but its outcome is uncertain.
How Domestic politics of Nepal is affecting India- Nepal ties?
  • To distract the happenings in Nepal’s domestic politics, Oli raised the issue of Kalapani dispute with India.
  • India issued new maps following the division of the State of Jammu and Kashmir into Union Territories, Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.
  • Though the new Indian map did not affect the India-Nepal boundary in any material way, Mr. Oli used this opportunity to raise anti-India sentiment among Nepali citizens.
  • He raised the demand for restoring an additional 335 sq. km around Kalapani area.
  • Further, in May 2020 when Defence Minister Rajnath Singh inaugurated the 75 km road through Kalapani that linked to the Kailash-Mansarovar pilgrimage route.
  • Oli to raise nationalist sentiment, got a new map of Nepal endorsed by the House and adopting a constitutional amendment to sanctify Nepal’s new territory.
  • This has strained India-Nepal relations in the last few months.

India has traditionally supported constitutionalism and multi-party democracy in Nepal. India needs to remain actively engaged with all the political actors, and avoid being perceived as partisan to ensure democratic rule in Nepal.

Source: The Hindu

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India’s Act East Policy : Issues and Challenges – Explained, Pointwise

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Introduction

After the end of the Cold War, the majority of countries made changes to their economic and strategic policies. It was to align themselves to the changing geopolitical realities. India also realized the importance of Southeast Asia in 1992, so it launched a ‘Look East Policy’. The policy aimed at better integration with the region and other US allies after the end of the Cold War era. This policy was upgraded to ‘Act East Policy’ in 2014 for cultivating extensive economic and strategic relations with the nations of Southeast Asia.

The policy has helped in encouraging cooperation on various projects like kaladan multi-modal project, Trilateral Highway, etc. However, there are many factors that are acting as hurdles in smooth cooperation.

The fragile nature of the relationship was recently highlighted by an unpleasant tweet by the Delhi CM over the threat of a new Covid-19 variant from Singapore. The tweet received criticism from both the Singapore Government and the Civil Society. The situation now presents an opportunity for India to introspect on the concerning factors that act against the success of Act East policy and take some remedial steps.         

About India’s Act East Policy
  • It was launched at the 12th ASEAN-India Summit in 2014 held in Myanmar. The policy is based on 4 C’s – Culture, Commerce, Connectivity, and Capacity Building. 
  • It is an effort of India to cultivate extensive economic and strategic relations with the nations of Southeast Asia and further strengthen its relationship with Indo-Pacific.
  • India’s focus under Act East remains on 
    • Enhancing economic relations with ASEAN
    • Ensuring greater infrastructural connectivity and foreign direct investment  
    • Augmenting regional development in northeastern India 
  • It is the successor of 1992 Look East Policy.
Comparing Look East with Act East
  • First, the scope of Act East policy is wider. It focuses on boosting economic co-operation, building infrastructure for greater connectivity, improving strategic & security ties.
    • On the other hand, Look East mainly focused on boosting economic cooperation.
  • Second, the Act East policy was launched to tackle the changing Geo-political scenario. The aim was curtailing Chinese dominance in the South China Sea and its rising influence over the Indian Ocean Region.
    • However, Look East mainly aimed to boost trade and investment relations with Southeast Asian countries. The fall of the USSR has induced India to look for alternate options for sustaining its economic growth.
  • Third, heavy focus is being given to the development of the North East region under Act East policy. This factor was neglected in India’s plans of forging deeper ties with East Asia under the Look East policy.
  • Fourth, Act East Policy focuses more on historical, cultural, linguistic, and religious ties through more people-to-people exchanges. This factor was also absent under the Look East policy.
Progress made under the Act East Policy
  1. Engagement with ASEAN: ASEAN-India engagement has become deeper and has scaled new heights. India is now the 4th largest trading partner of ASEAN. Southeast Asian countries favor India’s increased involvement to counter China’s expansionist policies in the region. India has allocated $1 billion for promoting connectivity at the India-ASEAN Summit.
  2. Cooperation on Regional Initiatives: India is steering a number of sub-regional programmes and projects such as the BBIN corridor, Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway, Kaladan multimodal project etc.
  3. North-East development: The Act East Policy focuses mainly on the Northeast region. The Government of Japan has decided to invest around Rs 13,000 Crore in several ongoing, as well as new projects in different states of India’s North-Eastern region.
    • India-Japan Act East Forum was established in 2017. It will identify specific projects for economic modernization of India’s North-East region 
  4. Security Engagement: Defence cooperation has increased with East Asian countries. In 2014, India and Vietnam signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that opened up a line of credit for Vietnam to purchase defense equipment from India. 
    • Since 2015, India has carried out joint maritime-law enforcement patrols and military exercises with ASEAN countries. 
    • Similarly, the first summit of QUAD grouping took place in 2021.
  5. Far East involvement: Recently, India has reached out to Far East economies especially Russia. India has announced to extend a $1 billion line of credit towards the development of the Russian Far East. This is important as it is an energy-rich region and would help India’s economic growth.
Factors inhibiting the success of Act East Policy
  1. First, there has been a growth in China’s influence combined with growing China-India tensions. Both China’s direct influence and that of ethnic Chinese in the region are on the rise. Further the civil society is impressed with the way China has handled the pandemic and provided aid to the region.
    • On the other hand, Sino-India relations are undergoing severe stress as seen in the 2020 Galwan valley clash.   
  2. Second, there is disappointment in the region with India’s economic policies. Important economic agreements signed between India and East Asian countries are rather scarce. So far, India has only signed a memorandum of cooperation on oceans and fisheries with South Korea. 
    • Further India was the only country to withdraw from the recent Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) deal.
  3. Third, there is rising concern in the region with India’s approach towards its minorities, especially Muslims and Christians.
    • Growing concern about Hindu majoritarianism in India has impacted civil society attitudes in countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore. 
    • India deployed the soft power of “Buddhist diplomacy” but that too has not gained much traction as inter-religious tensions in the region grow. 
Suggestions to improve the relations
  1. The government should complete the tasks promised in the Delhi Declaration 2018. This includes:
    • the digital connectivity projects in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Vietnam 
    • the Trilateral Highway (TH) and 
    • the Trilateral Motor Vehicle Agreement (MVA)
  2. There must be empowering of states by the government to play a better role under the Act East Policy. For instance, a Northeast branch of NITI Aayog can be set up to bridge the gaps between the Centre and States while implementing the Act East.
  3. The government should also focus on regional groupings like BIMSTEC which is a natural connector of South and Southeast Asia. 
    • Countries must enhance the negotiation process to conclude BIMSTEC MVA, BIMSTEC coastal shipping agreement, and BIMSTEC TFA (Trade Facilitation Agreement).
  4. The development cooperation projects for the Act East should be put in fast-track by avoiding cumbersome documentation and bureaucratic procedures. For this, EXIM Bank of India should open its branches in all South, Southeast and East Asian countries.
    • Further, coordination between Prime Minister’s Office, Ministry of Finance, and Ministry of External Affairs needs to be enhanced for timely implementation.
  5. The government should reap the low-hanging fruits in India- Southeast Asia countries. 
    • For instance, international flights can be started from Imphal to other countries for boosting medical tourism. Imphal’s Shija Hospital has already become a favourite destination of Myanmar people for health check-ups.
  6. The country should expand the outreach of Act East policy by adding neighbouring countries like Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. This would enable better development of India’s Eastern and Northeastern states.
Conclusion

India must take a fresh look at its Act East policy and the impacts of unsatisfactory economic performance and sectarian politics at home. The country must revamp its policy in such a way that its soft power enhances in the Southeast Asian region. This would produce multiplier effects in achieving the intended objectives of Act East policy.

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The U.S exit from Afghanistan and Its Implications on South Asia

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Synopsis: The U.S withdrawal from Afghanistan will impact the peace and security in south Asia.

Background
  • The Afghanistan peace process was set to be discussed in the Istanbul conference hosted by the United Nations. However, it remains suspended due to the reluctance of the Taliban.
  • Further, the US under President Joe Biden, is insistent on withdrawing the troops on September 11, even without any power-sharing deal between the rival parties.
  • The US withdrawing its forces from Afghanistan will have many consequences on Afghanistan’s neighborhood and in Afghanistan. (India, China, Pakistan)
What are the impacts of the US withdrawing its forces from Afghanistan?
  1. First, Impact on Afghanistan. Violence in Afghanistan will increase. Since the announcement of an exit date, Afghanistan continues to witness deadly attacks across its provinces. For instance, multiple blasts outside a girl’s school in Kabul recently.
  2. Second, Impact on Pakistan.
    • One, The US’s unconditional support towards Pakistan will end. The U.S. military in Afghanistan for almost two decades was reliant on Pakistan for operational and other support. Pakistan smartly used this factor against India. However, With the US withdrawing its forces from Afghanistan, this dependency will disappear.
    • Two, Pakistan will be facing unconstrained refugee flows and terror attacks inside its territory if there is another cycle of violence in Afghanistan.
  3. Third, impact on China. America’s military presence in Afghanistan has suppressed many terrorist groups that threaten China directly or indirectly in Central Asia. It would now leave Beijing vulnerable to its spillover effects, particularly in the restive Xinjiang province.
  4. Fourth, Impact on India. India had underlined the need for “a genuine double peace” (within and around Afghanistan). Thus, India supports an “Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled” peace process. Similarly, there is worry in India that a Taliban-dominated regime in Afghanistan might allow Pakistan to dictate Afghanistan’s India policy.

Source: The Hindu

Posted in 9 PM Daily Articles, daily news, Daily News Updates, PUBLICTagged

China completes Tibet highway

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What is the News?

China has completed building a highway in a remote part of southeastern Tibet Autonomous Region(TAR). It includes a 2 km mountain tunnel.

About the Highway:
  • Firstly, the Highway passes through the world’s deepest canyon, the Yarlung Zangbo Grand Canyon in Tibet. The canyon is located along the Brahmaputra river(known as Yarlung Zangbo in Tibet).
  • Secondly, the highway connects the Chinese city of Nyingchi with Medog County in Tibet. It will reduce the travel time between the two by around eight hours.
  • Thirdly, Significance: The highway is part of China’s ambitious plans to build roads and tunnels along the length of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with India. It is connecting far-flung areas to inland cities and airports.
Concerns for India:
  • Firstly, the Highway enables greater access to remote areas along the disputed border with Arunachal Pradesh in India.
  • Secondly, the highway will play a key role in the surveying of and planning for the mega Yarlung Zangbo hydro-power project. China is planning to build this project at the Yarlung Zangbo Grand Canyon.
Other Projects of China along Border Areas:

 Railway Line:

  • China has begun work on a strategically significant railway line that will link Sichuan province with Nyingchi in Tibet. It also lies close to the Arunachal Pradesh border.
Civilian settlements:
  • In 2017, the Chinese Government launched a plan to build “moderately well-off villages” with Civilian settlements in the border areas.
  • These villages will be located close to the border areas, some of which lie in disputed territories claimed by India and Bhutan.
    • Example: In 2020, satellite images showed a new village called Pangda being built by China. This village is located in the area claimed by Bhutan.

Source: The Hindu

 

Posted in Daily Factly articles, daily news, Daily News Updates, Factly: IR, PUBLICTagged

Future of India – Pakistan Trade Relations

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Synopsis:

The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of Pakistan put forward a proposal to import sugar, cotton, and cotton yarn from India. Although the proposal was rejected by Pakistan’s government, it is definitely an indication of improving the future course of India-Pakistan trade relations.

Background:
  • The two countries are undergoing restrictive trade since 2019. The Pulwama Terror attack in Kashmir and cross-border airstrikes in 2019 induced India to impose trade restrictions. It withdrew the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status of Pakistan and imposed a customs duty hike of 200% on imports.
  • Similarly, Pakistan imposed a complete ban on trade when India revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • The Pakistani ECC’s recent proposal of importing Indian goods shows a softness in attitude. Thus, it would help in improving the future course of trade relations. 
Factors indicating future improvement in India-Pakistan Trade Relations:
  • First, the past precedent shows that trade restrictions are lifted after some time for mutual benefit. 
    • For instance, the protocol on resumption of trade was invoked in 1974 after a suspension of nine years due to the 1965 war. The trade was started for essential items like agricultural commodities and expanded over the years.
  • Second, Pakistan deviated from the complete ban within a month of suspension. It lifted the ban on the import of medicines and raw materials from India. The aim was to avert any crises and ensure that there is no shortage of essential drugs.
    • Similarly, now its own Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) is suggesting to import sugar, cotton, and cotton yarn from India.
  • Third, Indian trade data shows that despite a ban from Pakistan’s side, the trade has been ongoing. During 2020-21 (April-February), the recorded bilateral trade was $280 million. Out of this, India exported goods worth $278 million and imported goods worth $2 million.
    • The biggest component of export (77%) were vaccines and pharmaceutical products. After this, the second position was occupied by sugar at 15%. 
  • Fourth, there exists a significant cost of refraining from the trade. A healthy trade allows both countries to stabilize domestic prices and take care of seasonal shortages in the home country.
    • Further, a severe restriction allows the trader to shift to informal channels of trade that reduce the potential tax revenue of the government. 
Way Forward:
  • The countries should cooperate on creating a positive list for trade as the first step towards normalisation.
  • Business organisations on both sides can create a strong lobby. This could be used to build momentum in opening channels and influence the shaping of the India-Pakistan trade policy.

Source:The Hindu

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China-India Relations and India’s Weakening Geo-Political Position

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Synopsis: The unsettled border crisis at LAC, India’s weakening global status, unfriendly Pakistan will only escalate issues in India-China relations.

Background

  • Last year, ingression by the Chinese army led to a standoff between India and China at the LAC (Line of Actual control).
  • The seven hotspots were Depsang plains, Galwan, Gogra, Hot Springs, North bank of Pangong Tso, Kailash range and Demchok.
  • At Galwan valley, a violent clash broke out that resulted in the death of 20 Indian soldiers.
  • Sooner, the situation at Galwan was resolved by the two sides through disengagement from the face-off sites.
  • After that, India and China agreed to disengage from the Kailash range and north bank of Pangong Tso.
  • Further, it was stated by the Indian defense minister that, both sides will address and resolve all other remaining issues sooner than later. However, China refused to even discuss the remaining issues.
Concerns over growing tensions between India and China
  1. First, peace achieved on the border is both unstable and unsustainable.
    • Hopes for Peace is defied as there are massive deployments on each side after the disengagement.
    • Similarly, the Kailash range has seen neither de-escalation nor de-induction so far.
    • Also, India’s aim of restoring the status quo ante as of April 2020 remains unfulfilled.
    • By resorting to deal with issues on individual basis, India had lost the opportunity to simultaneously resolve all the flashpoints in Ladakh.
  2. Second, geopolitical concerns over the border crisis have been enlarged by the devastation caused by the mismanagement of COVID-19.
    • Very recently, India was seen as a better alternative to Beijing’s vaccine diplomacy, particularly in South Asia.
    • Even the QUAD pledge to deliver a billion doses of COVID-19 vaccine throughout the Indo-Pacific by the end of 2022 was focused on India’s capabilities to produce Vaccines.
    • India also made commitments to poor countries to supply vaccines through GAVI’s COVAX scheme.
    • However, India backtracked on its existing contractual commitments to supply vaccines to its friendly neighbors due to intense public criticism over the shortage of vaccines for its own population.
    • This has created doubts on India’s reliability as a partner and its ability to act as a counter to China.
    • Further, a weaker India will make India more dependent on the United States to deal with China. This would further strain India-China ties.
  3. Third, the Possibility of Two front collusion at Indian borders.
    • India sought peace with Pakistan to avoid a two-front collusive threat after the Ladakh crisis.
    • However, American military withdrawal from Afghanistan and a win for the Taliban, and the backing of assertive china might make ground for Pakistan to attack India.
  4. Fourth, the recent disagreement over Chinese supplies to India also reflects the poor state of bilateral ties.
    • Beijing’s efforts have been largely confined to private companies. And further, to donations from the Red Cross and Red Crescent societies. It is unlike other countries which have pledged government help to India.
    • While the Chinese media ambiguously frames it as Chinese aid, India maintains that these are largely commercial contracts between private companies.
    • The pandemic provided an opportunity for the two Asian giants to work together. But the chance has been lost as both governments have focused on point scoring.

Source: The Hindu

 

[Answered] “Despite of differences at various levels, India-China relations are critical to realise Asian century.” Discuss.

Posted in 9 PM Daily Articles, daily news, Daily News Updates, PUBLICTagged

Taliban captures “Dahla dam” in Afghanistan

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What is the News?

Taliban has captured Afghanistan’s second-biggest dam named Dahla Dam.

About Dahla Dam:
  • Firstly, Dahla dam is also known as Arghandab Dam. It is located in the Kandahar Province in Afghanistan.
  • Secondly, the dam was built by the United States nearly 70 years ago (1952).
  • Thirdly, the dam is built on the Arghandab River. It provides irrigation to farmers via a network of canals as well as drinking water for the provincial capital.
Dams built by India in Afghanistan:
  • Shahtoot Dam: It is a proposed dam to be built by India in the Kabul river basin in Afghanistan.
  • Salma Dam: It is a dam located on the Hari River in Herat Province in Afghanistan. Since this dam is constructed by the Government of India, the Afghan cabinet has renamed the Salma Dam as the Afghan-India Friendship Dam.

Source: The Hindu


 

[Answered] Discuss the strategic significance of Afghanistan for India. Also, discuss various implications of the recent Afghanistan deal for India.

Posted in Daily Factly articles, Factly: IR, PUBLICTagged

ASEAN’s Initiative to End Political Crisis in Myanmar

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Synopsis:  ASEAN’s initiative is trying to resolve the political crisis in Myanmar through peaceful mediation. It is a shining example of how regional grouping can be helpful in diffusing crises in its member countries.

Background
  • People in Myanmar organized a civil disobedience movement against the military. They demanded the release of their elected leaders and the return of freedoms and democracy.
  • However, the people’s movement was controlled using brute military power. 750 were killed, thousands injured, and over 2,500 detained.
  • The opposition is demanding the rejection of the 2008 constitution. Also, adoption of a new Federal Democracy Charter, and announcement of the ‘national unity government’ with representation from the majority Bamar and ethnic minority communities. But the army didn’t accept their demands too.
  • Further, the army set aside the results of the 2020 elections and promised for new elections in a year or two and a disciplined democracy.
How the international community responded to the derailment of Democracy in Myanmar?

The international community was divided on their response. There was no united action taken by the international community to settle the crisis in Myanmar. For instance,

  • The U.S., the U.K., and the European Union advocated strong sanctions against the military regime.
  • Whereas, China and Russia were determined to protect Myanmar’s army from excessive censure and opposition as greater instability would affect their interests.
  • Asian powers, mainly India and Japan, preferred to support reconciliation.

However, the ASEAN, regional grouping of Southeast Asian nations has taken a bold initiative to settle the crisis.

ASEAN’s Mediation Process
  • Myanmar is a member of the ASEAN grouping. Though ASEAN is built on the values of non-interference in the internal affairs of its member states, ASEAN decided to mediate with Myanmar for the region’s larger good.
  • After that, the ASEAN member countries organized the Jakarta Summit to discuss Myanmar’s governance crisis along with Myanmar’s army general.
  • The Jakarta Summit ended with two major outcomes.
    1. One, the Five-Point Consensus with the acceptance of Myanmar’s military general on the following demands
      • Immediate cessation of violence
      • Supply of humanitarian assistance and Constructive dialogue.
      • ASEAN’s mediation through the visit by a special envoy of ASEAN’s chair and the ASEAN secretary general.
    2. Two, however, the Myanmar military had reservations on the following two elements
      • One, repatriation of Rohingya’s from Bangladesh.
      • Two, the release of all political prisoners including foreigners. This makes clear that leaders will be released only when the situation normalizes.

ASEAN’s initiative to resolve its issues peacefully has been largely appreciated by the international community. India too welcomed the ASEAN initiative. Myanmar’s leaders should work for a lasting reconciliation, deriving inspiration from Lord Buddha’s ‘Middle Path’.

Source: The Hindu

Posted in 9 PM Daily Articles, Daily Quiz, PUBLIC, Question BankTagged

Lessons learnt from the Ladakh crisis

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Synopsis: A critical evaluation of the Ladakh crisis, may help India to achieve advantageous position against China at LAC in long term.

Background
  • Even after a year of Ladakh crisis, the stand-off between Indian and Chinese troops in eastern Ladakh shows no signs of resolution. Disengagement has been stalled and China continues to reinforce its troops.
  • Even in the future, the relationship between the two countries is set to remain vulnerable to destabilizing disruptions.
  • In this context, it’s important for our military and political leaders to learn the right lessons from Ladakh. It will ensure that India is rightly prepared to meet the challenge of Chinese coercion in the future.
What lessons did we learn from Ladakh crisis?

According to a recent study published by the Lowy Institute, the Ladakh crisis offers India three key lessons in managing the strategic competition with China.

  • First, India’s military strategy doctrine based on denial has been more successful than the retaliation strategy. For example, India’s occupation of the Kailash Range provided it a strategic advantage in case of further advance of Chinese.
    • Focus on denial strategy will enhance the Indian military capacity to thwart future land grabs across the LAC.
    • Further, improved denial capabilities will allow India to reduce the resource drain of the increased militarization of the LAC.
  • Second, the threat of political costs will work more in India’s favor rather than the material threat of material costs.
    • Because, China’s military spending is three to four times larger than India’s. Any material cost incurred, will not disrupt its existing priorities.
    • However, China will not be interested in destabilizing its political relationship with India owing to its pre-occupation in many territorial disputes.
  • Third, India should persist with its strategies to secure the Indian Ocean even if threats at LAC increases.
    • Because the future of the Indian Ocean Region is more consequential and more uncertain than the Himalayan frontier.
    • The Ladakh crisis has highlighted the need for increased militarisation at the LAC. However, pursuing the strategy of increased militarisation at the LAC will delay India’s plan for military modernization and maritime expansion in the Indian Ocean.
    • India needs to make tough-minded strategic trade-offs. India needs to prioritize military modernization over increasing militarisation at the LAC.
    • However, rebalancing India’s strategic priorities is politically challenging. Here, the chief of Defence staff should step in to issue firm strategic guidance to the military services.

Source: The Hindu


 

Significance of Lessons from the First COVID Wave

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Significance of India Pakistan Agreement on Consular Access

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Synopsis: India Pakistan Agreement on Consular Access is inactive. Hundreds of Indian fishermen have been suffering in Pakistan’s prisons for years with no end in sight.

Background:

An Indian fisherman named Ramesh Taba Sosa is the recent victim of an inhuman and crooked system involving India and Pakistan. Sosa died in a prison hospital in Malir Jail, Karachi, Pakistan and his mortal remains have not been returned yet.

  • There is no guarantee when his family in Nanavada, in Gujarat, will be able to conduct his last rites.
  • Sosa was arrested in May 2019 when his fishing boat entered Pakistani waters. His sentence in the Pakistani prison ended on July 3, 2019, but neither he was sent back home nor he was given consular access till his death. This is an issue of basic human rights.
  • In 2008, India and Pakistan signed the Agreement on Consular Access. Section 4 of the agreement states that the governments of both nations would provide consular access. This has to be provided within three months to citizens of another country, under arrest, detention, or imprisonment in the other country.
  • Section 5 of the agreement provides that within one month of confirmation of the national status and completion of sentences both governments should release and return people.
What are the impacts of not implementing an agreement on consular access?
  • More than 300 Indian fishermen are in Pakistan’s custody in Malir jail. The nationality of a person cannot be confirmed without consular access, which is not easily available. There are several instances in which both countries did not confirm nationality for as long as 18 months.
  •  In very rare cases, it had happened that a prisoner repatriated the day he completed the prison sentence.
  • Other similar cases:
    • A fisherman named Vaaga Chauhan died in Pakistani custody in December 2015. His mortal remains reached his village in April 2016.
    • Latif Qasim Sama accidentally crossed over to Pakistan in 2018. He was arrested and his sentence ended in April 2019. Latif didn’t get consular access. Ismail Sama returned from a Pakistan jail after 13 years for the same mistake.
    • Fishermen from the Saurashtra region of Gujarat often get arrested when they accidentally cross over into Pakistani waters.
    • Dharam Singh from Kashmir had unknowingly crossed over in 2003. He spent 18 years in a Pakistani prison. He was later punished by 14 years of imprisonment. This ended in December last year but he reached home this month.
Further steps to take:
  • In 2007, India and Pakistan set up a joint judicial committee on prisoners including four retired judges from both sides. The committee used to assemble twice a year to meet prisoners. It facilitated many repatriations.
  • However, the last meeting was held in 2013 after which it was stopped. In 2018, efforts were made to restart it, but Pakistan is yet to appoint judges or call for a meeting.
  • The revival of the committee should happen at the earliest. Delay is costing lots of lives. Source: click here
Posted in 9 PM Daily Articles, daily news, Daily News Updates, PUBLICTagged

“Project DANTAK” Completes 60 years in Bhutan

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What is the News? Project DANTAK is commemorating its Diamond Jubilee i.e 60 years in Bhutan.

 About Project DANTAK
  • Project DANTAK was established in 1961 under the leadership of the Third King of Bhutan and then Indian Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru.
  • Objective: It was established with the objective of developing roads, telecommunication networks and other such landmark infrastructure-related projects in Bhutan.
  • Nodal Agency: Border Roads Organisation(BRO)
Key Achievements of the Project:
  • Firstly, Project DANTAK completed the road connecting Samdrup Jongkhar to Trashigang in 1968. In the same year, Thimphu was connected to Phuentsholing.
  • Secondly, Some other notable projects executed by the project include the construction of Paro Airport, Yonphula Airfield, Thimphu – Trashigang Highway, Telecommunication & Hydro Power Infrastructure, Sherubtse College, Kanglung and India House Estate.
  • Thirdly, the medical and education facilities established by DANTAK in far-flung areas were often the first in those locations
  • Further, the project also established food outlets along the road. The famous Takthi Canteen midway between Phuentsholing and Thimphu is a compulsory stop for travellers.

Source: PIB

Posted in Daily Factly articles, daily news, Daily News Updates, Factly: IR, PUBLICTagged

India – China Bilateral Relationship Demands a Minimalist Approach

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SynopsisIndia and China should adopt a minimalist approach in their future negotiations. This would give better and realistic results rather than an idealist and unfulfilled expectation.

Background:
  • A track 2 dialogue held recently between India and China Relationship In dialogue, a consensus was aimed at the adoption of a minimalist approach.
    • This approach focuses on low-hanging fruits that are easier to grab, rather than aiming for a full-scale solution.
  • This approach is emphasized because high expectations have failed to deliver credible results in the past. 
High Expectations and Unwanted Results:
  • In the 1950s, both countries idealized the restoration of pan-Asian civilizational partnership. However, this notion didn’t exist in reality and the two sides were confronting each other in the 1962 war.
  • Two informal summits took place in 2018 (Wuhan) and 2019 (Mamallapuram) aimed at everlasting peace between the countries. However, barely after two years, a grave border confrontation took place in eastern Ladakh. 

Therefore, the countries must focus on modest goals to improve the relations. The 3 areas that deserve priority in this regard are 1) border dispute, 2)trade, and 3) the role of other countries and multilateral platforms in bilateral relations. 

Current Situation of Border Dispute:
  • The border clash at Galwan Valley, Eastern Ladakh is going on for ten months.
  • It is the worst violence since 1967 and the de-escalation effort has reached an apparent stalemate.
  • There is no clarity over the withdrawal of armies along the north and south bank of Pangong lake, Eastern Ladakh. Further, there was no release of the joint statement post 11th round of talks between Corps Commanders on April 9.
  • Thus, it appears that China is in no mood for a final settlement of the boundary question.
Equation on the trade front:
  • There were talks of decoupling Chinese trade post the Galwan valley stand-off. However, the latest trade data shows a different picture.
  • The figure stood at $87.6 billion where Chinese exports amounted to $66.7, making it India’s largest trading partner. Similarly, Chinese company Vivo sponsored India’s biggest cricket tournament.
  • The reliance is so high that complete decoupling is not possible in the near future.

Role of other countries and multilateral platforms in bilateral relations:

  • The track 2 dialogue made it clear that India and China’s Relationship through its relations with the U.S. The country criticized the creation of small circles like QUAD group to undermine its national interest.
  • India too has shown discontent over its exclusion from China-led small circles in South Asia and multilateral efforts on Afghanistan.
Way Forward:
  • The countries must curtail the mistrust between them. On boundary questions, they can at least bring clarity on most sensitive hotspots and do coordinate patrolling over them.
  • They should cooperate in areas that don’t have security implications. This includes infrastructure development, clean energy, etc.
  • A robust policy framework should be drawn for security-sensitive areas like 5G operations. This would protect India from every other malicious country, not solely from China.
  • The countries must leverage shared platforms to discuss their respective concerns pertaining to 3rd countries or any multilateral platform. These platforms are also useful for reviving and strengthening bilateral relations.
    • For instance, BRICS can be used for reviving bilateral cooperation in Afghanistan or developing vaccine initiatives as done by Quad.

Thus, both countries should focus on modest goals that may be more rewarding than misplaced expectations.

Source: The Hindu 

Posted in 9 PM Daily Articles, PUBLICTagged

Backchannel Diplomacy Between India and Pakistan

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Synopsis: The recent developments in India and Pakistan relation suggest that there is 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 travelled to Delhi for a Track-II consultation with nine former Indian High Commissioners.

Source: The Hindu

Posted in 9 PM Daily Articles, PUBLICTagged

Need of Peace Between India and Pakistan

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

Introduction 

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.

Source: click here

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Ambiguities Over the Status of Rohingyas in India

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Synopsis:

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

Background:
  • 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 the 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:
  • An 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-refoulment: 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.

 

Source: Indian Express 

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Why Pakistan Reverses its Decision on Trade with India?

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Synopsis: Pakistan recently took back its decision to allow trade with India. It is an evaluation of Pakistan’s reversal of trade decision with India.

Background
  • Recently, the decision by Pakistan to allow for the import of cotton and sugar from India has been withdrawn within a fortnight.
  • It has been stated that restoration of J&K’s special status will be the precondition for opening up trade with India.
  • However, Pakistan’s textile industry has not welcomed the decision. Because, for them, importing cotton yarn from India is an immediate need, else, it would impact their export potential.
Evaluation of Pakistan’s Decision
  • First, Pakistan’s decision to import only three items from India, namely cotton, yarn and sugar was based on Pakistan’s immediate economic needs. It is not a political confidence-building measure to normalise relations with India. This is clear by the following observations.
    1. Cotton-related products (raw and value-added) earn close to half of the country’s foreign exchange.
    2. According to the latest Pakistan Economic Survey, 2019-20 cotton and sugarcane production were declining.
    3. The Cotton industry estimates that in 2021, there would be a 50% decline (2020-21) in cotton production mainly due to supply chain disruption and decreasing yield in cotton areas.
    4. This means that Pakistan’s cotton export would reduce, creating a domino effect on Pakistan’s garment industry.
    5. So, to balance the loss in output, Pakistan decided to import cotton from India which is more practical and the most economic for Pakistan.
  • Second, the crisis in Pakistan’s sugar industry due to a shortage of sugar for local consumption and increasing cost. Market manipulation and hoarding further resulted in the increased sugar price.
    1. The sugar crisis was an outcome of Pakistan’s sugar policy that primarily focused on exports over local distribution.
    2. Again, in this case, importing sugar from India would not only be cheaper for the consumer market in Pakistan, but it will also help Pakistan’s exports.
  • Third, the U-turn to overrule the decision to open trade with India highlights the supremacy of politics over economy and trade.
    • Not only in Pakistan, but this situation is also true to the whole of South Asia. This is the reason for very low intra-South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) trade.
  • Fourth, the emphasis on Jammu and Kashmir by Pakistan to start bilateral relations goes against any further developments in India-Pak relation. It also hints at Pakistan’s precondition of revoking India’s decision on Jammu and Kashmir to future engagements with India.

In conclusion, Pakistan has to move away from the politicization of all problems. Else it is only Pakistan that will suffer in the long run. So, it is only friendly India-Pakistan relations will benefit both.

Source: The Hindu

Posted in 9 PM Daily Articles, PUBLICTagged

India’s Initiatives in Seychelles

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What is the News?

Indian Prime Minister will gift a Fast Patrol Vessel named PS Zoroaster to Seychelles during the virtual event.

India’s Assistance to Seychelles:

Fast Patrol Vessel PS Zoroaster:

  • Fast Patrol Vessel(FPV) PS Zoroaster will be built by Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineering.
  • Purpose: It is useful for multi-purpose operations such as patrolling, anti-smuggling, anti-poaching, and search and rescue(SAR).
  • Significance: This is the fourth Fast Patrol Vessel that India has gifted to Seychelles. Other gifted vessels by India include PS Topaz (2005), PS Constant (2014), Patrol Boat Hermes (2016).
Solar Power Plant:
  • India will also hand over a 1 MW Solar Power Plant at Romainville Island of Seychelles.
  • The plant is a part of the ‘Solar photovoltaic Democratization Project’. India is implementing this project in Seychelles under grant assistance.
  • The solar plant project will generate around 14 lakh units of power annually. Further, It will meet the electricity consumption demand of around 400 Seychellois houses around the year.
Magistrate Court:
  • Also, India and Seychelles will jointly inaugurate the new Magistrates’ Court Building in Victoria, Seychelles.
  • This Court Building is India’s first major civil infrastructure project in Seychelles, built with grant assistance.

Note: Interesting to know, India is contributing over 50% of Seychelles’ maritime and air assets and around 70% of capacity development in terms of training, exercise, and human resource expertise.

Source: The Hindu

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Ways to Restore Democracy in Myanmar

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Synopsis: Myanmar’s military is unwilling to give power to the democratically elected government. It is time for the regional countries to put pressure to end the military rule in Myanmar.

Introduction: 

Myanmar celebrated its Armed Forces Day on March 27. But violence broke out during the celebration. It led to the killing of more than 100 protesters. After the military coup in February,  this once again brought back the demand for Rule of Law in Myanmar.

India and Myanmar:

India maintains a cordial relationship with Myanmar. An Indian representative was sent to attend the Armed forces Day. Along with India, 7 other countries sent representatives to attend the Armed forces’ day celebrations in Naypyidaw. This includes China, Pakistan, Russia, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand.

When the military conducted parades, the police and soldiers in other parts of Myanmar used lethal force against unarmed people. This resulted in the killing of more than 100 unarmed protesters.

India condemned the “use of violence”. Further, India also asked Myanmar for the “restoration of democracy”.

Difference between past and present protests:

The history of Independent Myanmar is a swing between democratic and military rule. Earlier the military rule relied on swift actions to curb protesters in 1988 and 2007.

According to independent agencies, the military has so far killed more than 570 civilians, including 46 children, since the coup. But the protests are increasing day by day and not reducing like the past ones. This is due to the following reasons,

  1. The military rule at present followed after a decade of partial democracy. The people enjoyed their freedoms under the elected government for a decade. So, people are opposing military rule at present.
  2.  The challenge with the banking system. Apart from street protests, the banks in Myanmar are also on the brink of collapse. Most of the bank staff are on strike against military rule. This resulted in a shortage of cash and inflation of essential goods.
  3. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic was also intensified by the protests of the Industrial Workers.
  4. Support of armed insurgent groups for protesters. The insurgent groups oppose the military as they are they take strict measures to control the insurgents. So, the insurgent groups provide support to the protesters.
Suggestions to bring back normalcy:

India and China initially remained silent on the Coup. However, now their stand is changing as unstable Myanmar is not in the interest of any country.

So far, the military Generals are unwilling to give up power. Therefore, the only way is through the involvement of India, China, and other countries in ASEAN to put pressure on the military to restore democracy in Myanmar.

Source: The Hindu

Refugee Problem in India – Explained, Pointwise

 

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Suggestions to Improve India-Pakistan Relations

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Synopsis: India and Pakistan have to improve their engagement further if they want to improve bilateral ties.

Introduction:

India and Pakistan have improved their engagement in recent times. For example,

  1. India and Pakistan issued a joint statement to strictly observe all the agreements on a ceasefire along the LoC and other sectors
  2. Permanent Indus Commission meeting on the Indus Water treaty,
  3. Resuming trade with India. Under this, Pakistan allows the import of sugar and cotton from India. However, later retracted from this stand.
  4.  Issuing of sporting visas and other measures like official speech on regional rapprochement, etc.

The U-turn of Pakistan:

Despite the development, the External Affairs Ministers of both sides did not meet and greet each other at the Heart of Asia conference held last week. Further, Last week reversed few earlier developments as well. Such as,

  1. Pakistan’s foreign minister was the one who led the charge of Cabinet Ministers. He and his colleagues opposed the move of Pakistan’s Economic Coordination Committee to reopen imports of Indian cotton and sugar.
  2. He was of the opinion that the move would violate Pakistan’s commitments to Kashmir.
  3. Further, the Pakistan Army General also stressed the need for Geo-economics.
  4. Following these developments, the Pakistan cabinet rejected the import proposal of Cotton last week. 
  5. Apart from that, the Pakistan cabinet also announced that they will not normalize India Pakistan ties until the revocation of steps of August 2019. (on Jammu and Kashmir and Article 370).

The U-turn in India Pakistan relations is not a new one. India did not comment on the unworkable demand on Article 370.

Suggestions:

Pakistan has to explore options for more ties with India. This can be achieved by steps such as,

  1. Restoration of High Commissioners in each other’s capitals.
  2. Opening up of cross border LoC trade that was suspended for security reasons in 2019
  3. Valuable commitments from Pakistan on issues such as cross-border terrorism, etc.

Both India and Pakistan have to capitalise on the nascent re-engagement. But the only solution is to improve their engagement further.

Source: The Hindu

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Examining UNHRC Resolution against Sri Lanka

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Synopsis: The UNHRC (United Nations Human Rights Council) resolution against Sri Lanka is a victory for victims of abuses. It will help them obtain information, accountability, and justice.

Background
  • Recently, the UNHRC adopted the resolution titled ‘Promotion of Reconciliation Accountability and Human Rights in Sri Lanka.
  • The resolution accused Sri Lanka of war crimes. It promises to bring responsible personnels to the international courts along with imposing targeted sanctions on them.
  • The resolution decided to create capacity at the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). It will collect, preserve and consolidate evidence.
  • Evidences can be not only on war crimes but also on other gross violations of human rights and serious violations of humanitarian law.
  • India along with several other Muslim countries abstained from voting. Whereas, China and Pakistan voted against the resolution.

What are the Main Factors that led to the adoption of the UNHRC resolution against Sri Lanka?

There are mainly three factors responsible for this, they are

  1. First, the work of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the Special Rapporteurs and procedures gave strong support to the resolution. For example, the Report of the High Commissioner on “Promoting Accountability and Reconciliation in Sri Lanka” made the resolution inevitable.
  2. Second, in addition to the work of OHCHR, the Tamil groups were active, nationally and globally. The effort by Tamil diaspora throughout the world mounted pressure on Human rights watchdogs.
  3. Third, the most important reason for the adoption of resolution was mainly due to the abstinence of Muslim countries. Despite efforts from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and China, and Rajapaksas personal calls to OIC members, the majority of Muslim countries abstained.
  4. Fourth, the efforts by international civil society to stand up for a global cause. They are very active members of the Human Rights Council.
What led to the resolution?
  1. In 2014 Sri Lanka faced a hostile Human rights Council. It led to the Resolution of the Human Rights Council in 2015 (resolution 30/1) that was co-sponsored by Sri Lanka.
  2. Co-sponsorship means that Sri Lanka will accept international standards while keeping control of the national process. i.e., the legislation to be enacted and the personnel to be appointed.
  3. After that, As per the 2015 resolution, Sri Lanka accepted international best practices. An office for missing persons, an office for reparations, a truth commission and a judicial process for those guilty of serious crimes established.
  4. Thus, the resolution 30/1 became a great success. After that, Sri Lanka was not on the international punitive agendas. It became eligible to GSP plus incentives from the EU, and UN peacekeeping missions.
  5. But, Sri Lanka withdrew from the resolution arbitrarily. This allowed the Human Rights Council to create a new mechanism to collect and preserve evidence. This process is now independent of the Srilankan government.
How this resolution is viewed by different stakeholders?
  • For Sinhalese, they see it as an attack by western countries on Sri Lanka for its closeness to China. They see this as a process of Imperialism and neocolonialism in the 21st century.
  • But for members of the minorities, victim groups, and civil society activists see this resolution as a check on the surveillance state.

Source: The Hindu

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A friendly India Pakistan Relation is Much Needed

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Synopsis: The positive signs in the India-Pakistan relation are again turning negative. Pakistan recently took an u-turn after the announcement to open trade with India.

Background:
  • Recently, Pakistan reversed a two-year-old decision to suspend all trades with India. Followingly, Pakistan allowed for the import of cotton and sugar from India.
  • However, the decision to allow the import of cotton and sugar from India has been withdrawn within a fortnight.
  • It has been stated that restoration of J&K’s special status will be the precondition for opening up trade with India.
Why Pakistan was ready to resume trade with India?

Because of the following reasons, the government of Pakistan was ready to resume trade with India,

  1. First, the economy of Pakistan is very weak, and it has been sustained by IMF loans.
  2. Second, the action by Financial Action Task Force over possible blacklisting on terror financing is affecting the ordinary citizens.
  3. Third, the Pandemic has also impacted the financial health of the country.
  4. Fourth, a steep fall in the cotton yield has kept the prices of the commodity high. This has caused a crisis in the country’s main manufacturing and export industry.
What is the way forward?

India needs the cooperation of Pakistan to maintain peace on the western front. Especially after the standoff with China at the LAC in eastern Ladakh.

To maintain friendly relation, India needs to be supportive of Pakistan by helping them to overcome the financial crisis by

  • Lifting the 200 percent tariffs on Pakistani imports imposed after the Pulwama attack.
  • Restoring the hugely popular cross-LoC trade and bus service. This will also help to strengthen the peace across the border.

Source: Indian Express

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Afghan Peace Process and India’s stake in it

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Synopsis: India should actively involve in the Afghan Peace Process and use its influence to guarantee peace in Afghanistan.

Introduction:

India’s position in the Afghan Peace process has evolved over the years. There is a subtle shift in New Delhi’s approach towards the Afghan crisis. For example,

  • In the 1990s and 2000s, India constantly opposed any dealings with the Taliban. 
  • In 2018 during the time when Russia hosted Afghan and Taliban talks, India had sent a diplomatic delegation to Moscow.
  • During the 9th Heart of Asia Conference in Tajikistan, the External Affairs Minister said that India supports talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
How the countries participating in the Afghan peace process?
  1. Firstly, the new Afghan peace process by the Joe Biden administration of the US includes two important proposals:
    • Establishment of a single transition government between the warring parties.
    • UN-led multilateral conference of ambassadors from India, China, Iran, Pakistan, Russia, and the US. India has supported this UN-led process.  
  2. Secondly, the U.S. has signed a deal with the Taliban. Under this, the American troops are scheduled to pull back from Afghanistan by May 1.
  3. Thirdly, the Participation of Other countries in Afghan peace process:
    • China had communicated with the Taliban long ago.
    • Russia has hosted several rounds of talks with the Taliban.
    • European powers have also shown interest in funding talks.
  4. Fourthly, the participation of India: The inaugural session of Intra-Afghan peace talks occurred in Doha in September 2020. The External Affairs Minister was present at the inaugural session. This is in conformity with the long-held Indian position on the Afghan peace process. That is, any peace process should be Afghan-led, Afghan-owned, and Afghan-controlled.
Why India needs to improve its participation in the Afghan peace process?

India’s economic, strategic and security ties could be disturbed if the Taliban takes over. Recently, India has improved its relations with Afghanistan in the following ways. 

  1. India has built deep ties with the Afghan people and the government by investing in multiple projects. These projects deal with education, power generation, irrigation, and other infrastructure development, etc. 
  2. India has sent Afghanistan its first batch of vaccines in February.
  3. Recently, India had signed an agreement to build the Shahtoot dam near Kabul.

So, India has to be more flexible and adapt to the new strategic reality. 

Suggestions to improve India’s participation:
  • India needs to figure out how to help Afghanistan to end the violence without total submission of power to the Taliban. 
  • India joining the peace process could strengthen the hands of the Afghan government. As the government is negotiating from a position of weakness.
  • Apart from that, India should use its regional influence to deepen ties with both the U.S. and Russia to achieve double peace. (Both inside Afghanistan and in the region.)

Source: The Hindu

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“India-Pakistan Relations” – Pakistan to Resume Trade with India

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News: In a significant development in India-Pakistan relations, Pakistan allows the import of sugar and cotton from India. As per the Pakistan Commerce Ministry, the decision is driven by the rising prices of sugar in Pakistan.

Introduction
  1. The Pakistan government cancelled trade with India in Aug 2019, after the introduction of amendments to Article 370 in India.
  2. Initially, India did not ban trade with Pakistan. However, after the Pulwama attack, it suspended cross-LoC trade and withdrew the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to Pakistan.
  3. The Most Favoured Nation is a treatment accorded to a trade partner. Although it seems like a special status, it actually means the country will get equal treatment to other trading partners. It ensures non-discriminatory trade between two countries.
  4. India granted MFN status to Pakistan in 1996, just a year after the formation of the WTO. On the other hand, Pakistan did not award MFN status to India.

Read MoreIndia revoked MFN status to Pakistan

What are the reasons?

The Pakistan ministry cites the following reasons for its decision:

  1. The prices of sugar in India is very less compared to Pakistan and other countries.
  2. In Pakistan, the demand for Indian cotton is high among Pakistani Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). It is because of rising exports and decreasing crop in Pakistan.
Significance
  • It is one of the positive developments in India-Pakistan relations. Recently India and Pakistan agreed to observe the 2003 Ceasefire agreement along the Line of Control (LoC).
  • If bilateral relation normalizes, India would be able to pressurize Pakistan on cross border activities in Kashmir and also 2 front challenge would be manageable.

Read MoreCritically analyse the repercussions of India-Pakistan face-off on bilateral trade between both nations

Source: The Hindu

Posted in Daily Factly articles, Factly: IR, PUBLICTagged

Pending Issues in India Bangladesh relations

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Synopsis: India Bangladesh relations are not achieving the full potential at present due to some minor issues.

Introduction:

Recently, the Indian PM visited Bangladesh to take part in their golden Jubilee celebrations of Independence. India also awarded Gandhi Peace Price 2020 to Bangladesh’s founding president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Both India and Bangladesh maintains a cordial relationship between them.

Significant events in the recent visit:

Apart from attending the Independence Day celebrations, PMs of both the countries utilized this as an opportunity to build bilateral relations. This includes events such as,

  1. Indian Prime Minister visited the Bangabandhu (Mujib) memorial at his hometown in Tungipara.
  2. Both, the Indian PM and his Bangladesh counterpart paid homage to the nation’s founders. Further, they paid homage to the millions massacred by the Pakistani military regime in 1971 and the people who died fighting Bangladesh freedom. This includes nearly 4,000 Indian soldiers
  3. Bangladesh PM mentioned India’s role in the creation of Bangladesh. Further, She also thanked India for its aid and protection to her when her family members (Including Mujib) were assassinated.
  4. Apart from that, the Indian PM wrote an editorial of the hope. In that, he outlined the Shonali Adhyaya (Golden Chapter) in South Asia if the Bangabandhu not get killed.
Recent Initiatives to boost India Bangladesh relations:

Both India Bangladesh took many proactive steps to improve relations. The recent steps include,

  1. Virtual meet during Pandemic: In 2020, both the countries involved in plans to improve the connectivity and infrastructure projects. Apart from that, they also signed MoUs on sports, education and disaster management.
  2. Created a sense of trust in the relationship: Bangladesh shut down anti-India terror camps operating in Bangladesh. Further, the Bangladesh government also hand over nearly two dozen criminals on India’s “most wanted” list. This improved the trust in the relationship.
  3. The signing of the Land Boundary Agreement in 2015: This is a historical foot in India Bangladesh relationship. India completely accepted the international tribunal verdict favoured Bangladesh. Further, India also went ahead and passed the Act for faster resolution of the boundary dispute. This resulted in the solving of the 40-year-old maritime dispute.
Present challenges in India Bangladesh relations:

India Bangladesh relations at present faces few challenges. This includes,

  1. Water sharing agreements are not yet signed. This includes the water-sharing arrangement between both the countries on the Teesta river and the other six rivers.
  2. The killing of Bangladeshi civilians on the Indian Border by Indian security forces also poses a challenge.
  3. There is still a misunderstanding about the sensitivities of people in India and Bangladesh. For example, During the recent visit of the Indian PM, he highlighted the need for Citizenship Amendment Act and also addressed the minority Matua Hindus. This was misunderstood by other sections of people in Bangladesh. This resulted in violent protests and the killing of at least 11 members in Bangladesh.

So the government of India and Bangladesh need to understand the sensitivities of relations. This is more important than the celebration of success. As it would improve a better India Bangladesh relations.

Source: The Hindu

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Refugee Problem in India – Explained, Pointwise

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Introduction

The Refugee Problem in India is again in the limelight after the February 2021 coup in Myanmar. Numerous people are coming to India from Myanmar to save their lives. However, the Indian government is reluctant to allow this influx considering the challenges posed by refugees.

India’s stance towards refugees had remained accommodative in the past. It has welcomed them from diverse countries subject to national interest and resource availability. 

Humanitarian spirit, national security and legal framework can tackle the current refugee problem. 

About the recent Refugee Problem
  • Myanmar witnessed refugee influx after the coup in the country and subsequent military rule. Some democratic groups started protesting against the coup. It resulted in the military crackdown on the dissenters. 
  • So, Many people in Myanmar and the security forces who oppose the coup, start fleeing the country and entering India.
  • Against this backdrop, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) directed Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh to check illegal influx from Myanmar into India.
    1. It has also called for sealing the border with Myanmar so as to curtail the influx.
    2. The ministry clarified that state governments have no powers to grant ‘refugee’ status to any foreigner.
    3. Intelligence inputs suggest 733 Myanmar nationals have made it into Mizoram.
International conventions and forums for Refugees 
United Nations Refugee Convention,1951:
  1. The 1951 Refugee Convention or Geneva Convention is a United Nations multilateral treaty for the protection of refugees.
  2. The convention defines a refugee as a person who fled their homes and countries. Especially due to a well-founded fear of persecution of his/her race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.
  3. The Convention also mentions people who do not qualify as refugees, such as war criminals.
  4. The Convention builds on Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948. The article recognizes the right of persons to seek asylum from persecution in other countries.
  5. non-refoulement: The cornerstone of the 1951 Refugee Convention is the principle of non-refoulement. According to this principle, a refugee should not be deported to a country where he or she faces serious threats to his or her life or freedom.
  6. The 1967 protocol of the convention allowed even the non-Europeans to get refugee status. Thereby making the convention more comprehensive.
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
  1. It was created in 1950, during the aftermath of the Second World War, to help millions of Europeans who had fled or lost their homes.
  2. It is a global organization for saving lives, protecting rights and building a better future. The organisation covers refugees, forcibly displaced communities and stateless people
Global Refugee Forum (GRF)
  1. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN Refugee Agency, and the government of Switzerland together host the GRF. 
  2. It aims to debate and discuss the response of the world’s countries to the global refugee situation.
Refugee Problem in India
  • India does not have a separate statute for refugees. Until now India is dealing with refugees on a case-by-case basis.
  • India is not a signatory to the 1951 Convention on Refugees or the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees. 
    • However, India is a signatory to a number of United Nations and World Conventions on Human Rights. Such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). It affirms basic rights for all persons – citizens and non-citizens in the same manner.
  • India has been generous to refugees and asylum-seekers. The two largest Refugee Influx in India are including some 62,000 Sri Lankans and some 100,000 Tibetans are directly assisted by the Government of India.
  • In late 2011, the Rohingya started to arrive in India’s Northeast following stepped-up persecution by the Myanmarese armed forces.
  • According to the Home Ministry, there are roughly 14,000 Rohingya refugees in India who are registered with the UNHCR. Apart from that, there are estimates of around 40,000 Rohingya living in India illegally.

Read about the legal Provisions for Refugees in India

Factors behind Refugee Problem in India
Direct causes for Refugee Problem
  • Prevent persecution: Refugees often face a grave threat of persecution in their native countries that induce them to migrate towards safe havens like India.
  • Accommodative approach: Despite being a non-signatory to the 1951 refugee convention, India has welcomed refugees since 1947. This includes Tibetans, Bangladeshis, Afghanis etc.
  • Diversity: The multi-religious, multicultural and multi-ethnic diversity of India creates social bonds with numerous foreign citizens. For instance, it was the Tamilian Bond that induced Sri Lankan Tamils to look towards India for migration during the civil war. Similarly, the kinship between Myanmar people and Manipur people is attracting the Myanmar refugees towards India. 
Indirect causes for Refugee Problem
  • Open Borders: This is not a direct factor but it facilitates movement towards India. Many people from Myanmar were able to enter India due to the open border.
  • A deficiency of Personnel: The government’s order to curb the refugee influx from Myanmar was not implemented effectively. As the Assam Rifles wasn’t able to effectively monitor the border with just three battalions.
  • Favourable Agreements: The majority of refugees from Myanmar are holding their position around the Free Movement Regime. It is a region of 16 km on either side, where there is unrestricted  access as per a pact between the two countries.
  • Unstable Neighbourhood countries: India’s neighbourhood countries are facing one or other problems since their formation. For example, the Civil war was now followed by Human Rights Violation in Sri Lanka. Similarly, the Bangladesh liberation war later followed by military rule, etc.
Arguments in favour of permitting Refugee Influx
  • Humanitarian Rights: India has an implicit obligation under UDHR to protect the human rights of non-citizens as well. Thus, the refugees facing persecution threat should be allowed into India.
  • Prevent Civil War: The armed rebel groups have threatened Myanmar’s military with retaliation if the atrocities do not stop. If India returns back the Myanmarese, then more hatred will be generated that might trigger a civil war in future.
  • Responsible Regional Power: The country aspires to be regional and global power that itself calls for adopting an accommodative stance towards refugees.
  • Champion of Democracy: The world’s largest democracy has a responsibility of protecting the rights of people who put their lives in danger for upholding democracy. This was seen recently in Myanmar.
Arguments against permitting Refugee Influx

Refugee Influx poses many challenges to India’s internal security. This include,

  1. Social consequences of permitting refugees:
    • Refugees might create an identity crisis with the indigenous people. For example, Bangladeshi refugees in Assam and Arunachal threaten to overtake the indigenous population of the region.
    • Difficult to identify and deport them back to their country after a few years. For example, the Rohingya refugees entered through the North-East. But later they spread to all other states.
  2. Economic consequence of permitting refugees:
    • Increased financial responsibility of the state. According to the UNHCR report in 2014, there were more than 200,000 refugees in India. India at present does not have the financial capacity to satisfy all their basic needs.
    • Decreases domestic wage level and replaces the native people. Since illegal immigrants and refugees require food and shelter, they also work at very low wages in their settling areas. 
  3. Political consequence of permitting refugees:
    • Issue of terrorism: These refugees, since not accepted by governments, are vulnerable to join terror outfits for work and revenue.

Suggestions to solve the Refugee Problem

  • Firstly, India should put forward its constructive arguments in the upcoming UNSC meeting related to the Myanmar coup. A proposal to impose global sanctions on Myanmar can be considered here.
  • Further, there is a need to formulate a comprehensive refugee policy that would provide greater clarity in differentiating between a refugee/illegal migrant.
    • A National Immigration Commission can be appointed to frame a National Migration Policy and a National Refugee Policy for India.
  • Thirdly, the government has to strengthen the Foreigners Act 1946 and also sign bilateral agreements with neighbourhood countries regarding deportation.
  • Fourthly, the states must cooperate with the centre on the refugee problem. As law and order is a state list while international relations come under the Union list.
  • Fifthly, the states should follow the MHA guidelines of 2018 to identify illegal immigrants. The MHA recommendations include,
    • Restrictions of Illegal Migrants specific locations as per provisions of law
    • Capturing their biographic and biometric particulars
    • Cancellation of fake Indian documents
    • Initiating legal proceedings including deportation proceedings as per provisions of law
Conclusion

The people demanding refuge are in a vulnerable situation and see a last ray of hope in an inclusive and tolerant country. Considering this, there should be an intake of refugees but not at the cost of the native population. So, It is high time for India to define a clear-cut refugee policy. 

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The Issues of UNHRC Resolution against Sri Lanka and India’s Stand – Explained, Pointwise

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Introduction

Recently the United Nations Human Rights Council(UNHRC) adopted a resolution against Human Rights violations in Sri Lanka. However, this is not the first resolution about Human Rights violations in Sri Lanka. The UNHRC earlier had adopted the 30/1 resolution in 2015. The then Sri Lankan government accepted the resolution and started working on it.

But since the swearing-in of the new government in Sri Lanka, Human Rights went on downhill. This led to the recent resolution. United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet is appointed to collect evidence of war crimes.

Though the UNHRC resolution is not legally binding, its implications are numerous. In this article, we will discuss the details of the UNHRC resolution and its implications on Sri Lanka.

Reasons behind UNHRC Resolution against Sri Lanka

A Civil War broke out in Sri Lanka in 1983. The Sinhalese-dominated Sri Lankan government tried to control the insurgent group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). While the LTTE aimed to establish a separate state for the Tamil Minority people in Northern Sri Lanka.

The civil war lasted for 26-year and ended in 2009 with the defeat of LTTE. Both the Sri Lankan Government and the Tamil rebels committed atrocities in the war. According to some estimates, at least 1,00,000 people died during the civil war.

The domestic and international human rights groups including the UNHRC report highlighted the Human Rights violation by the Sri Lankan government even after the war, such as,

  • The government is using state forces for murdering, torturing, forcing critics to disappear.
  • The 18th Amendment to the Constitution in 2010 provided dictatorship powers to the Sri Lankan President. The powers include,
    • Re-elections any number of times,
    • President can appoint/dismiss members of Independent commissions and Judiciary, etc
The 30/1 resolution and the aftermath

To curb the HR violations in Sri Lanka UNHRC adopted the 30/1 resolution or the consensus resolution in 2015. The resolution aimed to establish reconciliation, accountability, and human rights in Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan government accepted the resolution under the new President and took the following steps, like,

  1. Establishing a credible judicial process. Under this, the Sri Lankan government allowed participation of Commonwealth and other foreign judges, etc. This was to ensure proper adjudication of Human Rights Violations. (This is in line with the 30/1 resolution)
  2. Enactment of 19th Amendment to Nullify the powers provided to President under 18th Amendment.

But the new government in 2020, changed the progression. Recently under the new Presidency, the government withdrew its commitments under the resolution 30/1. Further, the new Sri Lankan government also stated that the resolution was not in conformity with the Constitution of Sri Lanka.

About the recent resolution on Human Rights Violation

A UN High Commissioner’s report highlighted Human Rights Violations in Sri Lanka. Its findings include

  1. Increasing militarization in Sri Lanka
  2. Intensified surveillance against rights defenders and NGOs,
  3. Interference with trials in certain symbolic cases from the past, etc.

Recently the UNHRC conducted its 46th session. During this, the UNHRC adopted a resolution titled “Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka”. The resolution mentioned certain important points. Such as,

  • The human rights situation in Sri Lanka deteriorated under the current administration.
  • Further, the resolution also mentions that the rights defenders and ethnic and religious minorities are facing problems in Sri Lanka.

The resolution was adopted after the 22 states of the 47-member Council Voted in Favour. However, 11 countries including Bangladesh, China, and Pakistan voted against the resolution. On the other hand, 14 countries, including India, Indonesia, Japan, and Nepal abstained.

Impact of the UNHRC resolution

The UNHRC resolution is not a legally binding one. So there is no legal obligation on Sri Lanka to follow the resolution. But the resolution has a great moral significance. This includes,

  1. Deterioration of Country’s image in front of Global community. The resolution signals to other global countries that the government of Sri Lanka is not a credible member in fulfilling its obligations.
  2. Sanctions by individual countries: The countries that voted in favour of the resolution may impose any sanctions or withdraw any benefits provided to Sri Lanka.
    For example, The European Union supported the resolution can withdraw the Generalized Scheme of Preferences (GSP) given to Sri Lanka.
  3. Justice in the future: Post-resolution, the UNHCR collects, consolidates, and preserves evidence of Human Rights violations. It also allows the development of strategies to ensure future accountability. Apart from that, the UNHCR can also make recommendations to the international community on preventing any future Human Rights violations.
Other examples of UNHRC resolutions

The UNHRC aims to promote and protect human rights around the globe. Apart from that, they usually adopt a resolution to condemn, investigate alleged human rights violations in countries. The previous few resolutions include,

  1. In 2018, the UNHRC resolution demanded the prosecution of Myanmar generals for committing genocide against the Rohingya Muslims.
  2. Various times the UNHRC undertook resolutions to condemn the Human Rights violation by Israel in Palestine. For example in the recent 46th session also there were four resolutions related to Israel.
India’s Stand on Human Rights Violations in Sri Lanka

India never supported the Human Rights Violations in Sri Lanka. But at the same time, India wants the solution to the issue to be internal and not the forced one like the 30/1 resolution. For example, India in 2012 supported a  credible investigation into human rights violations.

Sri Lanka requested India’s support in the recent UNHRC resolution. But, India abstains from the recent UNHRC resolution against Sri Lanka. India’s stand include,

  1. India has emphasised meaningful decentralization to meet Tamil aspirations. Also, India demanded the unity and integrity of Sri Lanka.
  2. India’s concerns in Sri Lanka have been different from the rest of the international community. India is well-informed by a sense of the long-term well-being of the Tamils. Hence, India stresses devolution rather than accountability.
  3. India has its own limitations in expressing disappointment over Sri Lanka’s stand on Human Rights violations. Increasing Chinese presence in the Sri Lankan region is one of such reasons.
  4. India always supported the implementation of the 13th Amendment of 1987. The 13th Amendment is the outcome of the Indo-Lanka Accord of July 1987. This takes a middle stand on the Sri Lankan civil war. Under this amendment, the creation of Provincial Councils was encouraged. The council maintains the power-sharing arrangement between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE. To date, the 13th amendment was the only constitutional provision on the settlement of the long-pending Tamil question.
Conclusion

The recent UNHRC resolutions provide moral sanctions on Sri Lanka. Since the moral sanctions are internal and vary from person to person, the implementation lies completely with the President of Sri Lanka only. But, International pressure can change Human Rights Violations in any country. So, neutral governance of countries and International pressure during violations are necessary to eliminate the human rights violation in the world.

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India’s stand on Human Rights violation in Sri Lanka

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Synopsis: India maintained balance between the diplomatic relations with Sri Lanka and its support to Tamil minority people in the country.

Introduction 

The previous government in Sri Lanka had made some commitments to the UNHRC. The commitments include constructive engagement with the international community on the Human Rights violation in Sri Lanka. Further, the government also committed to provide a consensual resolution to the problem of the Tamil people. But the current government of Sri Lanka withdrew from the commitments.

So, the 46th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council(UNHRC) adopted a resolution titled “Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka”.

But, India abstains from the UNHRC resolution against Sri Lanka. This is done to indicate the following things.

  1. India attempted to preserve its diplomatic space. Further, India wants to contain persistent Chinese influence in Sri Lanka.
  2. At the same time, India is also maintaining its support for the Tamil minority to achieve equality, justice, dignity and peace.
The Present Status of the Human Rights violation in Sri Lanka:

The UN High Commissioner’s report has raised certain concerns on the following issues in Sri Lanka. They are, 

  1. Increasing militarization in Sri Lanka
  2. Intensified surveillance against rights defenders and NGOs,
  3. Interference with trials in certain symbolic cases from the past
  4. The dangerous anti-minority rhetoric among other sections of people.
What has been India’s stance on the Human Rights violation?
  • India has never supported externally mandated investigative mechanisms. India voted in favour of a credible investigation into human rights violation in 2012. But India mentioned the importance of Sri Lanka’s acceptance to solve the human rights dispute.
  • India has emphasised meaningful decentralization to meet Tamil aspirations. Also, India demanded the unity and integrity of Sri Lanka. 
  • India’s concerns in Sri Lanka have been different from the rest of the international community. India is well-informed by a sense of the long-term well-being of the Tamils. Hence, India stresses devolution rather than accountability.
  • India has its own limitations in expressing disappointment over Sri Lanka’s stand on Human Rights violation. Reasons such as the Chinese presence in the Sri Lankan region can be one of them.
Conclusion:
  • India did not change its position on tactical neutrality on the Human rights violation in Sri Lanka. When practicality and principle needed an equal measure, the Centre has chosen non-participation as an easy way out. This is a welcome move.

Source: Click here

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Brief Analysis of India- Bangladesh Bilateral Relations

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Synopsis: An evaluation of India- Bangladesh bilateral relation from the past to the present.

Background
  • India played an important role in Bangladesh’s independence. India provided political, diplomatic, military and humanitarian support during Bangladesh’s Liberation War.
  • For example, India lost 3,900 Indian soldiers and provided accommodation to an estimated 10 million Bangladeshi refugees.
  • Following Bangladesh’s Independence, India- Bangladesh bilateral relations have had many high and lows.
  • For example, during President Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (1st Bangladesh President) India- Bangladesh relations were in full swing.
  • However, after his assassination on August 15, 1975, the relation between India-Bangladesh hit a bottom. Between 1982-1991 a military-led government by General H.M. Ershad ruled the country.
  • But since the last decade India- Bangladesh relation has boosted up. Both countries have moved beyond historical and cultural ties. Cooperation is increasing in areas of trade, connectivity, energy, and defence.
What are the positive developments in India- Bangladesh relation?
  • First, finding peaceful solutions to settle Land boundary issues. For example, Both countries ratified the historic Land Boundary Agreement in 2015.
  • Second, the government of Bangladesh was cooperative in eradicating anti-India insurgency elements from its borders. This has allowed India to make a massive redeployment of resources in other contentious borders. (LAC, LoC)
  • Third, increasing trade relations. For example, Bangladesh is India’s biggest trading partner in South Asia. (FY 2018-19- Export- $9.21 billion, Import- $1.04 billion). Bangladesh enjoys duty-free access to multiple Bangladeshi products.
  • Fourth, deepening cooperation in developmental activities. For example, India has extended three lines of credit to Bangladesh in recent years ($8 billion) for the construction of roads, railways, bridges, and ports.
  • Fifth, increasing cooperation in Medical tourism. For example, Bangladesh accounts for more than 35% of India’s international medical patients and contributes more than 50% of India’s revenue from medical tourism.
  • Sixth, cooperation in connectivity has increased many folds. For example,
      • A direct bus service between Kolkata and Agartala running through Bangladesh.
      • Three passenger and freight railway services running between the two countries.
      • Recently, the Maitri Setu bridge was constructed. It connects Sabroom in India with Ramgarh in Bangladesh.
      • Improved Connectivity to landlocked Assam, Meghalaya and Tripura states. Bangladesh allows the shipment of goods from its Mongla and Chittagong seaports carried by road, rail, and water ways to Assam, Meghalaya and Tripura.
What are the issues in India- Bangla relations?
  • First, water security is one of the major issue hampering India- Bangladesh relation. For example, the unresolved Teesta water sharing issue.
  • Second, increasing border killings against illegal Bangladeshi cattle traders. For example, the year 2020 saw the highest number of border shootings by the Border Security Force.
  • Third, the implementation of the National Register of Citizens has offended the religious sentiments of Bangladeshis. Also, many of the illegal Muslim immigrants belong to Bangladesh.
  • Fourth, India’s neighbours are increasingly tilting towards China due to its attractiveness of massive trade, infrastructural and defence investments. Despite, India’s ‘Neighbourhood First Policy’ approach, India is losing its influence in the south Asian region. For example, Bhutan’s withdrawal from the BBIN (Bhutan-Bangladesh-India-Nepal) motor vehicles’ agreement.
  • Fifth, poor project implementation due to Red tapism in India is hampering developmental activities in Bangladesh. For example, only 51% of the first $800 million lines of credit has been utilised. While the amount from the next two lines of credit worth $6.5 billion has not been mobilised yet.

India and Bangladesh need to continue working on the three Cs (cooperation, collaboration, and consolidation) to materilaise the recent gains.

Source: The Hindu

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India-Bangladesh relations – Explained, Pointwise

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Introduction

Today is the 50th Anniversary of Bangladesh’s independence and also the 50th Anniversary of India-Bangladesh relations. The Indian Prime Minister has gone to Dhaka to take part in the golden jubilee celebrations of Bangladesh’s independence. This is the second time that the incumbent Indian PM has visited Bangladesh.

India played a great role in the emergence of independent Bangladesh.  Further, India was also the first state to recognize Bangladesh (along with Bhutan) as a separate nation. The signing of the historic Land Boundary Agreement in 2015 made India-Bangladesh relations even stronger. Yet, there are certain friction points in bilateral relationships.

About Bangladesh since Independence

During Bangladesh Independence: India provided shelter to nearly 10 million Bangladeshi refugees. Further, India also helped East Pakistan(present Bangladesh) militarily to attain Independence. The very first Independent government of Bangladesh was formed and administered from Theatre Road in Kolkata (by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s close political associates).

Bangladesh Post-Independence: Bangladesh passed through different regimes after Independence. So, India-Bangladesh relations also oscillated.

  • An assassination of Bangladesh’s founding president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman occurred on August 15, 1975. This was followed by Military rule in Bangladesh.
    • General Ziaur Rahman became President but also got assassinated in 1981
    • Between 1982-1991 General H.M. Ershad ruled the country.
  • Bangladesh returned to parliamentary democracy in 1991
India-Bangladesh relations so far
  1. Land Boundary Agreement in 2015: Both the countries have achieved a remarkable feat under this Agreement. India and Bangladesh swapped the disputed islands. This allowed the inhabitants to choose their country of residence. The inhabitants were incorporated as citizens of either India or Bangladesh.
  2. Economic cooperation: 
    • Bangladesh is India’s biggest trading partner in South Asia. India exported $9.21 billion worth of goods and services in 2018-19. And, it has also imported $1.04 billion worth of goods and services.
    • India offered duty-free access to multiple Bangladeshi products.
  3. Infrastructure Cooperation:
    • India since 2014 provided 3 Line of Credit(LOCs) amounting to $8 billion to Bangladesh for the construction of roads, railways, bridges, and ports. But due to slow project implementation from Bangladesh, only 51% has been utilised by it.
    • World Bank refused to fund the construction of the Padma bridge. But India provided LOCs for the construction of it.
  4. Connectivity: 
    • Three passenger and freight railway services are currently in operation between India and Bangladesh. At present, two more routes are also restored by both governments. The recent Chilahati-Haldibari rail link is also a significant step.
    • Kolkata-Dhaka-Agartala Bus Service also launched in 2015. This reduced the distance between Kolkata and Agartala from 1,650 km(through chicken’s neck or Siliguri corridor) to just 500 km.
    • Recently, the Indian Prime Minister also inaugurated the ‘Maitri Setu’ bridge. It is a 1.9 km long bridge that connects Sabroom in India with Ramgarh in Bangladesh.
    • Border Haats organized in the border districts also enhance trade and people to people connectivity in India-Bangladesh relations.
  5. Energy cooperation: India at present provides a power supply of 600MW from Palatana Power Plant in Tripura. In return, Bangladesh agreed to provide a 10 GBPS internet connection to India’s North Eastern States.
  6. Tourism sector: Bangladeshis make up a large portion of tourists in India. In 2017, they outnumbered all the tourists arriving from Western Europe.
  7. Medical Cooperation:
    • Bangladesh has received 9 million doses of Covishield vaccines from India so far.
    • Apart from that, Bangladesh also accounts for more than 35% of India’s international medical patients. Bangladesh alone contributes to more than 50% of India’s revenue from medical tourism.
  8. Other cooperation: India-Bangladesh signed MOUs in the field of health, medicine, joint-research. Further, they both agreed to exchange knowledge between health professionals of both countries.
Challenges in India-Bangladesh relations

Despite having a wide collaboration, India-Bangladesh relations also have certain challenges. Such as,

  1. The Teesta river water dispute: The Teesta river originates in Sikkim and flows through West Bengal and Bangladesh. In Bangladesh, the river merges with the Jamuna(the Brahmaputra in India). In 1983, an ad-hoc water sharing agreement allocated 39% of Teesta water to India and 36% to Bangladesh. The remaining 25% remain unallocated.

    The 2011 interim deal aims to share the Teesta river water between India and Bangladesh about 42.5 per cent and 37.5 per cent respectively. But, the state of West Bengal object to this and demands and never signed the deal(Water is a state subject in India).
  2. The Issue of Drug Trafficking: A 2007 International Narcotics Control Board mentions Bangladesh as a prime transit point of trafficking heroin from South Asia to Europe. The INCB data also mentions trafficking through India as one of the common methods of drug trafficking.
  3. The issue of Illegal migrants: During Bangladesh independence alone, among the 10 million refugees only 6.8 million left India. The Rest stayed in parts of West Bengal and Assam.
    India enacted the Illegal Migrants Determined by Tribunals(IMDT) Act in 1983. The Act describes procedures to detect illegal migrants from Bangladesh staying in Assam. It placed the onus of proving a person illegal migrant on the complaining person. This facilitated large scale illegal migration into India.
    To avoid this Supreme Court in 2005, Sarbananda Sonowal v. Union of India case struck down the Act.
  4. Armed Dacoity in border districts, fake money transfer, cattle smuggling is also a cause of concern for India. Further, the Trafficking of Illegal migrants and involving them in terrorist activities, prostitution in India is also a challenge in India-Bangladesh relations.
  5. Smuggling and drug trafficking led to killings of Bangladeshi violators by India’s Border Security Force. This issue was raised by Bangladesh a few times. But the issue is not yet resolved.
  6. Apart from that, Bangladesh is also opposing India’s proposed the Tapaimukh Dam on the Barak River in Manipur and the Interlinking of the rivers project by India.
Suggestions to Improve India-Bangladesh relations
  1. The early resolution of Teesta is the better way to boost India-Bangladesh relations. The government has to form a tripartite committee containing members from India, Bangladesh and the State of West Bengal to determine the amount of water sharing. At present West Bengal not take place in Joint River Commission meetings.
  2. The government has to ensure the deportation of illegal migrants. Further, the government should not extend voting rights, nationality to illegal migrants.
  3. The governments should involve joint forces to reduce border issues. Such as illegal trading, trafficking, cattle smuggling, etc. This will yield better results in curbing crime and increase better civil-military relations.
  4. India needs to strengthen regional groups like SAARC, BIMSTEC etc. This will give full impetus to India’s Neighbourhood First policy.

India’s one prime interest is developing North-East India, better connectivity to South-East Asian Countries and exploring the Indo-Pacific region. To reach that, better India-Bangladesh relations is a significant step.

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Lessons from the Bangladesh’s Growth story

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Synopsis: India and other South Asian countries can learn from the growth story of Bangladesh.

Background
  • March 2021 marks 50 years of diplomatic relations between Bangladesh and India and 50 years of Bangladesh independence.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to visit Dhaka as the guest of honour in Bangladesh’s 50th Independence Day celebration.
Growth Story of Bangladesh
  • Bangladesh’s GDP growth in 2019 was 8.4% (2 times that of India). It was one of the few countries that maintained a positive growth rate during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Its GDP per capita is around $2,000 which is almost equal to India.
  • Further, in the next 5 years, Bangladesh will move from the least developed country status to developing country status.
The Vietnam Growth Model
  • Economic reforms (Doi moi) in 1986, enabled Vietnam to achieve rapid economic growth and industrialisation.
  • Growth story of Vietnam started with the manufacturing of textiles and garments and later diversified to mobiles and electronics. Also, it has largely benefitted from China’s supply chain.
  • It also remains the biggest beneficiary of the China+1 strategy leading to rising investment from Asian countries like Japan and Thailand.
  • Further, the signing of the smart trade agreements such as ASEAN FTA and free trade agreements with the US and with India, Japan, and China through ASEAN has immensely benefitted the country.
  • It provided a scope for Vietnam to skill-up its population for labor-intensive manufacturing at a large scale. Thereby, it brought down costs and increased exports.
What aided the success of Bangladesh?
  1. Focus on the intensive manufacturing sector: Bangladesh has followed the same strategy as Vietnam. Its GDP growth is directly connected with the growth in the textiles and garments industry. It accounts for 80 percent of the country’s exports.
  2. Signing of beneficial Free trade agreements: It also got benefitted from preferential trade treatments with the European Union, Canada, Australia, and Japan with negligible or zero tax. With India too, Dhaka has a zero-export duty on key products like ready-made garments.
  3. Liberalised FDI regime: it has helped to attract more investments. For example, Bangladesh allows 100 percent equity in local companies and no limits on repatriation of profits in most sectors.
  4. Innovative microfinance models: For example, successful and pioneering microfinance organisations like Grameen and BRAC have aided small businesses in the country. It also helped in empowering women by supporting them with financial independence and encouraging them to work outside the home. Consequently, Bangladesh’s workforce in its textiles sector is almost all women (95%).
  5. Effective public health schemes: For example, government schemes like Pushti Apas (Nutrition Sisters) and community health clinics. It has helped Bangladesh to perform better in development indices such as infant mortality, sanitation, hunger, and gender equality better than India.

What India can learn from Bangladesh’s successful development trajectory?

Some of the key lessons that could be learned from Bangladesh are,

  • Increasing women in the workforce,
  • Liberalising internal and external trade,
  • Making micro lending accessible,
  • Building special economic zones with adequate infrastructure, connectivity and environment friendly design.
  • Supporting Domestic entrepreneurs

Source: Indian Express

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The Issue of Cross Border Electricity Trade in South Asia

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Synopsis: India should plan a stable institutional model for governing electricity trade across borders. It should avoid imposing restrictive rules which is against the free market economy.

Background
  • Currently, Guidelines for Import/Export (Cross Border) of Electricity-2018 govern the trade of electricity across its borders.
  • In 2014, India through the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) framework, liberalized its electricity trade.
  • China entered the market in the south Asian region to take advantage of it.
  • India countered by taking back the free market advantages. Further, it imposed strong restrictions that prevented regional Private entities and joint ventures from participating.
  • After long years of protest by Nepal and Bhutan, new guidelines in 2018 (Guidelines for Import/Export (Cross Border) of Electricity-2018) were formulated.
  • The new rules allow private sector participation but exclude Chinese investments. Through the new electricity rules, India attempts to balance China’s growing influence in the region.
  • The new rules have clear limits on who can buy from and sell into India.
  • However, it has the potential to disturb the electricity markets of Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Nepal.
What are the important provisions?
  • First, According to the new rules, Power plants owned by a company based in the country, not having a bilateral agreement with India on power sector cooperation, cannot participate.
  • Second, the rules place the same security restrictions on tripartite trade.
  • Third, the rules establish a surveillance procedure to detect changes in the ownership patterns of entities trading with India.
What are the issues involved?
  • First, the institutional structure that governs the trade of electricity across its borders is India-centric.
    • India is in a Geographical advantage as it is placed in the middle of south Asian countries. Moreover, India at present is the fourth-largest global energy consumer. It puts India in a dominant position.
    • However, India’s monopolistic tendency in power will attract displeasure from its neighbours as their economic growth will hurt.
    • Also, the prospect of an independent regional body governing electricity trade is unlikely in the near future.
  • Second, lack of impartial institutions for planning, investments, and conflict resolution regarding electricity trade will impact India’s vision of One Sun One World One Grid (OSOWOG).
    • The OSOWOG aims to connect West Asia, Southeast Asia, and Africa. An impartial institution is important for making it functional.
    • However, the South Asian lesson, contained in these latest rules tells us that political realities will hamper the vision of borderless trade.

India should plan for an attractive institutional model by setting standards that profit investors and utilities. India needs to create a rule-based regional institution that can counter Chinese offerings in other theatres.

Source; The Hindu

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“Permanent Indus Commission” Meeting held after 2 Years

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What is the News?

The PIC (Permanent Indus Commission) of India and Pakistan meet held after two years in New Delhi. PIC aims to resolve outstanding issues under the Indus Water Treaty.

About PIC (Permanent Indus Commission)

Indus Water Treaty signed between India and Pakistan in 1960. The Commission was created to implement and manage the goals of the 1960 Treaty.

Also, PIC needs to meet regularly at least once a year, alternately in India and Pakistan. It requires the appointment of one commissioner each from both India and Pakistan.

Click Here to Read About Permanent Indus Water Commission

About 116th PIC meeting

Pakistan’s Objections on India’s two Hydropower Projects: Pakistan raised objections to the design of two hydropower projects on the Chenab river namely:

  • Pakal Dul Hydro Electric Project(1,000 MW): India is building the project on river Marusudar, a tributary of the Chenab. The project is located in Kishtwar district of J&K.
  • Lower Kalnai Hydro Electric Project: India is developing it on the River Chenab.

Sharing of Flood Forecasting Data under Indus Water Treaty:

  • Firstly, India and Pakistan have also discussed sharing flood data with the view of the forthcoming flood season.
  • Secondly, in 1989, India and Pakistan signed an agreement to share the data. Under the agreement, India is required to share hydrological flood data with Pakistan during the flood season.

Note: Since 2019, India has cleared several hydropower projects on the Indus River. These are,

  • Darbuk Shyok, Shankoo, Nimu Chilling, Rongdo, Ratan Nag are in Leh
  • Mangdum Sangra, Kargil Hunderman and Tamasha are Kargil.

Click Here to Read about Indus Water Treaty

 Source: Indian Express

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India abstains in the “UNHRC resolution against Sri Lanka”

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What is the News?

India has abstained from a crucial vote on Sri Lanka’s human rights record at the United Nations Human Rights Council(UNHRC).

About UNHRC Resolution on Sri Lanka:
  • Firstly, the 46th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council(UNHRC) adopted a resolution titled “Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka”.
  • Secondly, the resolution said that the human rights situation in Sri Lanka has deteriorated under the current administration. Further, the resolution also mentions that the rights defenders and ethnic and religious minorities are facing problems.
  • Further, the UNHRC resolution provides the UNHRC chief mandate to collect and preserve evidence of crimes related to Sri Lanka’s civil war. The Civil War ended in 2009 with the defeat of Tamil Tiger rebels.
Was the Resolution adopted or rejected?
  • The UNHRC resolution was adopted after 22 states of the 47-member Council voted in its favor.
  • However, 11 countries including Bangladesh, China, and Pakistan voted against the resolution. On the other hand, 14 countries, including India, Indonesia, Japan, and Nepal abstained.
Sri Lanka’s Reaction:
  • Sri Lanka rejected the UNHRC resolution. It said that the resolution cannot be implemented without the consent and acceptance of the country concerned.
About UNHRC
  • The UNHRC is a United Nations body established in 2006. It replaced the former United Nations Commission on Human Rights.
  • Read more about UNHRC

Source: The Hindu

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Speculation about the disengagement agreement is baseless

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Synopsis: The allegations against India’s disengagement agreement at Pangong Tso is baseless. Rather, we need to appreciate the efforts of India’s negotiators for ensuring a successful border disengagement

Introduction:

After the India-China disengagement agreement both agree to withdraw from the Pangong Lake area. The disengagement agreement ended the nine-month-long military stand-off between both countries. But, there are few speculations over the gain and loss for India.

What are the speculations against the disengagement agreement?

There are many speculations around the India-China disengagement agreement. They are,

  1. Mutual withdrawal amounts to the creation of a buffer zone on Indian territory. It is perceived as a loss of Indian territory.
  2. The withdrawal amounts to the surrender of Indian territory. Especially the Finger 4 Region in Pangong Tso.
  3. Some questioned the rationality of withdrawing from the Kailash range on the South Bank of Pangong Tso. India had an advantageous position there while signing the disengagement agreement.
  4. There was also criticism over the inadequate budgetary allocation for the defence sector.
  5. There was also speculation about the lack of priority towards national security. The persons who support this mentions India’s “two-front situation”.
Why these allegations are baseless?
  1. India has accorded top priority to national security by increasing Military modernization, indigenization and defence exports. For example,
    • Building of strategic Darbuk-Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldi (DSDBO) Road, Atal Rohtang Tunnel, etc.
    • India implemented the defence reforms recommended by the Naresh Chandra Committee. The implementation includes,
      • The creation of the Department of Military Affairs (DMA),
      • The appointment of the Chief of Defence Staff,
      • Ongoing efforts to build integrated Theatre Commands.
  2. There is also a false assumption like patrolling by both sides will result in a buffer zone prevailing entirely in India. This is incorrect. India has neither accepted the unilateral definition of China’s so-called Line of Actual Control (LAC) of 1959 nor its subsequent amendments.
    • India still accepts the modified “Colombo Conference Proposals” mooted by six non-aligned countries after the 1962 war,
    • Further, India still conceives the whole of Aksai Chin as an integral part of India’s territory.
  3. The allegations that India has surrendered some parts of Indian territory is not correct. India has not surrendered any land in Galwan, Pangong Tso or Depsang since the border crisis broke out.
    • More importantly, the disengagement agreement resulted in ceasing the Chinese patrolling areas between Fingers 4 and 8 for the first time in several decades.
    • Also, China agreed to relocate its forces to the east of Finger 8. Thus, it is pulling back from its claimed “customary boundary line”.
    • This is in line with India’s consistent demand to restore the status quo ante. Further, It has provided an advantage to India on the South Bank.
  4. Questioning the rationality of withdrawing from the Kailash range on the South Bank of Pangong is illogical. Because, if India’s objective is to achieve status quo ante, India too would logically be required to revert to its pre-April 2020 status.

So the Disengagement agreement at Pangong Tso was a significant step. This agreement will act as a basis for resolving the remaining issues along the LAC.

Our military and External Affairs Ministry negotiators need to be appreciated for their efforts. Bilateral differences are best negotiated from a position of strength as has been done at Pangong.

Source: The Hindu

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116th meeting of the “Permanent Indus Commission(PIC)”

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What is the News?

India and Pakistan will hold the 116th meeting of the Permanent Indus Commission(PIC) in New Delhi. They will discuss water sharing issues and address each other’s concerns with the Indus Water Treaty.

About Permanent Indus Commission(PIC):
  • The Permanent Indus Commission is a bilateral commission of officials from India and Pakistan. It is created to implement and manage the goals of the Indus Water Treaty, 1960.
  • Meeting: The Commission according to the treaty must meet regularly at least once a year. The PIC will hold the meeting alternately in India and Pakistan.
  • Functions of the Permanent Indus Commission:
    1. To establish and promote cooperative arrangements for the Treaty implementation;
    2. Furnishing or exchange of information or data provided in the Treaty;
    3. Promote cooperation between the Parties in the development of the waters of the Indus system
    4. Examine and resolve any question in the agreement that arises between the parties.
  • Last Meeting: The last meeting of the PIC was held in Pakistan in 2018. The Commission had to meet in 2020, but it got cancelled in view of the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

Key Focus of the 116th Permanent Indus Commission(PIC) meeting:

  • India’s Projects on Indus River: The PIC will discuss Pakistan’s objections about two Indian projects:
    1. Pakal Dul Hydro Electric Project(1,000 MW): India is building the project on river Marusudar, a tributary of the Chenab. The project is located in Kishtwar district of J&K.
    2. Lower Kalnai Hydro Electric Project: India is developing it on the River Chenab.
  • Further, routine issues such as flood data exchange mechanisms are also expected to be discussed during the meeting.
About Indus Water Treaty:
  • Firstly, the Indus Water Treaty,1960 is a water-distribution treaty between India and Pakistan.
  • Secondly, according to the treaty, waters of the eastern rivers — Sutlej, Beas and Ravi had been allocated to India for unrestricted use. Similarly, the western rivers — the Indus, Jhelum and Chenab were allocated to Pakistan.
  • Thirdly, India has been given the right to generate hydroelectricity through a run of the river projects on the western rivers subject to specific criteria for design and operation.
  • And lastly, Pakistan also has the right to raise concerns on the design of Indian hydroelectric projects on western rivers.

Source: Indian Express

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Refugees from Myanmar and India’s internal Security challenge

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Synopsis:

Mizoram and the Indian government are taking a different stand on the current issue of refugees from Myanmar.

Introduction:

After the coup in Myanmar, at least, 1,000 people from the adjoining Chin state of Myanmar crossed the border and are currently at Mizoram. Since the Chins are ethnically related to the Mizos, the Mizoram government favours providing refuge to the Chins.

But the (Ministry of Home Affairs) MHA has issued a few directives to the States and UTs for taking measures against the influx. Further, The MHA directives advised Mizoram that India is not a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention of 1951 and its 1967 Protocol. 

Mizoram, at present, is facing a dilemma between acting on humanitarian grounds or on India’s refugee policy.

Challenges in India-Myanmar Border management:

  1. Most of the borders are without fence: India-Myanmar border is not like India’s border with Pakistan and Bangladesh. The majority of the border areas are not fenced. The Assam Rifles at the India-Myanmar border is facing challenges in maintaining strict vigil.
  2. Close people to people ties: There are more than 250 villages with almost 3,00,000 populations living within 10 km of the India-Myanmar border. In 2018, both Indian and Myanmar agreed to streamline the movement of people within 16 km of the border.

Previous such Refugee problem in Myanmar:

  • Myanmar in the past faced also Extremism, counter-insurgency, and sectarian violence. All these act as a push-factor and made Myanmar people flee into India as refugees. For example, In 2017, More than 1,200 Buddhists and Christians from Myanmar’s Arakan State fled as a refugee to Mizoram.
  • Thousands of Chins are living in Mizoram for more than 40 years now as a refugee. Similarly, in Manipur, the villages of the Kuki-Zomi have often had people crossing Myanmar border and staying in India for some time.

Mizoram’s stand on refugee:

  •  Mizoram’s government issued a standard operating procedure (SOP) to Deputy Commissioners of border districts. In that, they mentioned facilitating the entry of refugees and migrants.
  • Further, the Mizoram government mentioned giving medical care, relief and rehabilitation, and security to the refugees.

Indian government stand on Mizoram:

  • The central government expressed displeasure to the Mizoram government. However, the Mizoram government revoked the SOPs later.
  • The North East Division of the MHA issued a letter to chief secretaries of India-Myanmar border states and Director General of Assam Rifles. In that, the MHA directed few important suggestions like,
  1. Not to allow refugees from Myanmar and take appropriate action as per law.
  2. The state governments have no powers to grant ‘refugee’ status to any foreigner.

Mizoram’s response to Central government:

The Mizoram government mentions that they share close ethnic ties with the people of Myanmar. Further, they also clarified a few important things to the central government. Such as they don’t want to provide full-time citizenship or employment to the refugees. Instead, they want to provide refugee status until Myanmar returns to normalcy.

Source: The Hindu

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India sealed “India-Myanmar border” entry points

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What is the News?

India has sealed all entry points along the India-Myanmar border. Further, India is closely monitoring border areas to prevent any Myanmar nationals from entering the country.

Why India sealed the entry points of the India-Myanmar border?

  • After the coup in Myanmar, widespread civil disobedience movements(CDM) are taking place all over Myanmar.
  • The Military-ruled Myanmar is following stringent methods to curb the protests like shooting the public, night raids on protesters home, etc.
  • Due to this, the Myanmar nationals including many policemen have crossed into India and sought refuge. Hence, to stop this illegal migration, the India-Myanmar border has been closed.
  • However, the border between India and Myanmar is unfenced. Moreover, given its rough terrain, it cannot be blocked completely.

India-Myanmar Border

  • Myanmar is also known as Burma is in South East Asia. It shares its borders with Thailand, Laos, Bangladesh, China, and India.
  • India-Myanmar shares a 1,643-km-long border with Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, and Mizoram
  • India – Myanmar have a free movement regime(FMR). It allows people in border villages to trade and moves freely up to 16 kilometers inside each other’s territory.
  • The free movement regime(FMR) has been suspended since March 2020 due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Since the suspension, there is an increase in smuggling across the border due to the livelihood of people disrupted due to the pandemic.

Source: The Hindu

Posted in Daily Factly articles, Factly: IR, PUBLICTagged

Use of Non Violence in Myanmar Protests

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Synopsis: The February 2021 coup in Myanmar  Protests removed the democratically elected government. Since then people have adopted the non-violent approach of Gandhi for pressuring the military junta.

Background:
  • The democratically elected leaders in Myanmar’s protects were removed by the military on 1st February 2021 on allegations of election fraud.
  • Subsequently, the military came to power and the main leaders including Aung San Suu Kyi got house arrest. This induced the masses to start non-violent protests in Myanmar.
About Non-Violence and its usage:
  • It means positive action and not a state of passiveness. It involves working towards one’s goal using non-violent means.
  • Mahatma Gandhi used a spinning wheel as a symbol for his idea of non-violence. The spinning wheel presented two messages:
    1. An instrument to protest against India’s growing industrialism.
    2. A symbol to show resistance to the British-made clothes that had replaced Indian handmade clothes.
  • Martin Luther King turned to the symbol of the “American Dream” to portray his version of non-violence. The objective was to obtain social justice and equity for every member of American society. 
Myanmar and tool of Non-Violence:
  1. The method was used in 1990 by Suu Kyi against the atrocities of the military government. Her efforts earned her a Nobel Peace Prize in 1991.
  2. The Buddhist Spirituality gave the moral strength that automatically took her towards Gandhian Non Violence. Later on, the masses were also attracted towards the noble method.
  3. The masses understood the Buddhist teachings under which each individual has the potential to change his circumstances. This was different from Despotic belief under which an individual is considered as faceless and helpless who can be manipulated at will.
  4. The same enthusiasm is now being witnessed in the current protests wherein masses are adopting new symbols of non-violence. This includes the 3 finger salute adopted by activists in Thailand against the totalitarian regime.
Significance of Non-Violent Protests:
  1. It is a laudable method to display the collective strength of the masses i.e. the power of the powerless.
  2. It displays a belief in the method of non-violence that might not deliver immediate results but is definitely the ethical path.
  3. Likewise, it is a peaceful way of questioning the legitimacy of the military government and demanding democracy.
  4. It further places a question on the democratic nature of countries that are criticizing the struggle for democracy in Myanmar.
Way Ahead:
  • A greater number of people in Myanmar protects should engage in politics with ethical conduct. This would be in line with the Gandhian philosophy of associating politics with ethics that helps in delivering optimum outcomes.
  • The future of Myanmar is not up to the military, it is up to those who follow the example of Gandhi in the streets of Yangon and Mandalay. 

SourceThe Hindu

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India-Bangladesh meeting under “Joint Rivers Commission framework”

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What is the News?

India-Bangladesh Water Resources Secretary-level meeting held under the Joint Rivers Commission framework. The meeting took place in New Delhi.

What are the key takeaways from the meeting?
  • India and Bangladesh share 54 common rivers. It directly impacts the livelihood of people in the two countries.
  • Hence, both the countries agreed to expand cooperation on water resources-related issues. It includes a framework for sharing river waters.
  • Therefore, a Joint Technical Working Group will get set up to provide inputs on the cooperation.
About Joint Rivers Commission Framework
  • Firstly, Joint River Commission is a bilateral working group between India and Bangladesh. The Indo-Bangla Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Peace, signed in 1972, constituted it.
  • Secondly, its purpose is to maintain communication for maximising benefits from common river systems.
  • Thirdly, it is headed by the commission is headed by the Water Resources Ministers of both countries.
Teesta Water Dispute:
  • Teesta River is a tributary of the Brahmaputra (known as Jamuna in Bangladesh). It flows through India and Bangladesh.
  • Origin: The river rises in the eastern Himalayas. It further flows through the Indian states of Sikkim and West Bengal to Bangladesh. It then enters the Bay of Bengal.
  • The Teesta water dispute is the most contentious issue between India and Bangladesh.
    • However, the Teesta river water sharing agreement has not gotten signed yet, due to opposition from West Bengal. (River is a State subject)

Source: Indian Express

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Afghan Peace Process and India – Explained, Pointwise

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Introduction

The Afghan peace process aims at ending the ongoing civil war between the Taliban and the Afghanistan government. The US administration has proposed a new peace plan to the Afghan government and the Taliban. This Peace Plan might be helpful to curtail violence and bring lasting peace to Afghanistan. 

Background of the Afghan peace process
  • The U.S. and Taliban signed an agreement for “Bringing Peace to Afghanistan” on February 29, 2020, at Doha. (also called Doha agreement).
  • Features of Doha Agreement
    • Troops Withdrawal: The US and NATO will withdraw their troops from Afghanistan. All the troops will be out of Afghanistan within 14 months.
    • Taliban: Taliban will not allow any of its members to use the soil of Afghanistan to threaten the security of the United States and its allies.
    • Prisoners: Exchange of prisoners between the Afghan government and the Taliban will be done to build trust.
    • Sanctions Removal: As per the Doha agreement, US and UN sanctions on the Taliban leaders will be removed.
Need of a new Afghan peace process
  • The Taliban had warned that if the US does not abide by the Doha agreement deadline (May 1, 2021), the Taliban will step up fighting.
  • On the other hand, the Afghan Army lacks the capacity to control the Taliban without US support.
  • Further, the Taliban and the Afghan government started peace talks in Doha last year, but no solution has reached. 

Hence, a new plan was desired to break the deadlock and prevent the complete takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban.

About the new Afghan peace plan of Biden administration

The Biden administration is pursuing actively in establish a peace plan between the Afghan government and the Taliban. Few important points of such peace process are,

  1. UN Summit: United Nations will convene a meeting of the foreign ministers from China, Russia, Pakistan, Iran, India, and the United States. It will develop a “unified approach” to peace in Afghanistan.
  2. Withdrawal of Troops: The peace plan has kept open the possibility that the 2500-odd US troops in Afghanistan might stay on for a while. 
    • Under the Doha agreement with the Taliban, the US had promised to withdraw all troops by May 1 this year.
  3. Turkey to Organise a meeting: The United States has asked Turkey to convene a meeting of the Afghan government and the Taliban to finalise a peace settlement.
  4. Taliban to Reduce Violence: The US has asked the Taliban to accept an immediate agreement to reduce violence for 90 days. This will provide the space for the peace initiative.
  5. Inclusive Interim Government: the US has asked the Afghan Government and Taliban to move towards a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire and form an interim unity government.
Challenges to Afghan Peace Process
  1. Afghan administration has consistently been critical of the U.S.’s direct outreach to the Taliban. They perceive it as an act undermining the legitimacy of the Afghan Government.
  2. The Afghan President reiterated that the transfer of power will be done only through elections. But the Taliban wants a power transfer before participating in polls.
  3. Taliban is aware of the lower potential of Afghan forces. So they are leveraging it for demanding arbitrary privileges.
  4. The fragmentation of Taliban forces is another obstacle in peace. It is possible that some of them may continue to engage in violence and impacting the Afghan peace process.
  5. Similarly, it would be difficult for the US to hold the withdrawal process. As a lot of financial stress of the Afghan government is borne by the US. According to the US Department of Defence, the total military expenditure in Afghanistan (from October 2001 until September 2019) was $778bn.
  6. The US is of the view that Pakistan is strategically more important to the U.S. than Afghanistan. 
    • Instead of pressuring Pakistan to refrain its support to the Taliban, the US is seeking Afghan government support for a power-sharing arrangement with the Taliban.
Why is the Afghan peace process is important for India?
  • Security: A stable Afghanistan is crucial for regional and domestic security and stability for India. 
  • Connectivity: The most important role of Afghanistan is always considered as India’s gateway to Central Asia. It implies continental outreach. 
    • For instance, Connectivity with Afghanistan and Central Asia is the primary reason for India’s engagement with Iran to develop Chabahar port.
  • Strengthening regional foothold with the diversification of engagements: Increasing strategic engagements with Afghanistan is beneficial for India in widening the engagement with other countries in the region. 
    • For example, India’s relations with Iran at present are dominated by oil. By engaging with Afghan and Iran India can diversify its trade interests.
  • Energy ambitions: Peaceful Afghan is essential to address the energy needs of India. This is evident by Afghanistan’s essential position in the TAPI (Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India) pipeline.
  • Trade: Afghanistan can help India export its products to Europe and help in gaining foreign exchange. The railway line from Chabahar to Zahedan in Afghanistan envisages connecting New Delhi with Iran, Afghanistan, Central Asia and Europe.
What are the challenges in front of India?
  • India refused to recognise the Taliban regime of 1996-2001. Instead, India supported the ‘Northern Alliance’ in fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan.
    • The ‘Northern Alliance’ was a united military front that came to formation in late 1996 after the Taliban took over Kabul. They fought a war with the Taliban in 2001 and ended the Taliban’s rule over Afghanistan. 
  • India has long held the position of dealing only with the elected government in Kabul. India supports an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned, and Afghan-controlled peace process.
  • There has been a high degree of mistrust on Taliban since the Hijack of an Air India flight to Kandahar in 1999. Further Taliban’s proximity to Pakistan has also hampered the Indo-Taliban relations.
  • The Doha Agreement is silent on other terrorist groups. Such as anti-India terrorist groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed.
  • Further, supporting the Taliban will be a betrayal for the people of Afghanistan. The Taliban can go back to medieval practice and establish an Islamic republic based on Sharia. This will result in denying the hard-earned rights of the Afghan peoples.
India’s policy towards the Afghan Peace process
  • Peace and reconciliation: India is encouraging an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned broad-based, and inclusive process of peace and reconciliation.
  • Strengthening democratic institutions in Afghanistan: India has focused on strengthening democratic institutions through various efforts like inaugurating the new Afghan Parliament. India also announced an additional USD 1 billion assistance for capability building in spheres such as education, health, agriculture, skill development, etc.
  • Soft power: India is focusing on soft power methods (that involve winning hearts and minds) to strengthen cultural and political relations with Afghanistan. India’s contribution to the development of cricket in Afghanistan is such an example.
  • No military intervention: India is not in favor of using the military in Afghanistan. It was reflected in the recent rejection of the USA proposal to India to intervene militarily. India is in favor of no boots in Afghanistan.
Suggestions to improve Afghan peace process
  • Considering the advances made by the Taliban and the continuance of civil war for more than a decade, the Afghan President has to take support from regional powers including India. This will strengthen the Afghan government’s bargaining power in negotiation.
  • The world leaders should take a robust step against terrorism by adopting the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (proposed by India at the UN in 1996).
  • India must step up to assist materially to those who want to defend the Afghan republic. This will mark the arrival of India as the superpower and as an arbiter in settling international disputes.
Conclusion

The objective of the Afghan peace process should be to bring about a just and durable peace through political negotiations. The world leaders must cooperate to ensure an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled peace process. Because that only will bring lasting peace in the region and strengthen regional security.

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Issue of Refugees in India – Explained, Pointwise

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Introduction

A Mizoram based, Zo Reunification Organisation (ZORO) petitioned the Prime Minister to impose sanctions on current military-ruled Myanmar. It is also demanding to shelter the refugees from Myanmar on Humanitarian grounds.

However, recently, the Ministry of Home Affairs communicated to four Northeast states bordering Myanmar to maintain strict vigil and not allow anyone to enter India illegally. The Ministry of Home Affairs(MHA) also mentioned criteria to accept refugees in an absolutely essential situation, on humanitarian grounds. In this article, we will explain the issue of refugees in India.

About the recent Refugee issue with Myanmar

After the coup in Myanmar, widespread civil disobedience movements(CDM) are taking place all over Myanmar. The Military ruled Myanmar is following stringent methods to curb the protests like shooting the public, night raid on protesters home, etc. Myanmar shares a 1,643-km-long border with Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram.

So, Many people in Myanmar and the security forces who support the CDM started fleeing the country. The majority of these people entered India through the international borders in Mizoram and Manipur. Earlier Myanmar also wrote letters to Mizoram and asked the Indian government to return the 8 Cops who fled the country for various reasons.

The Mizo people of Mizoram and the Kuki-Zomi communities in Manipur maintain close kinship with the people of Myanmar. Mizoram Chief Minister earlier announced that his government would provide shelter and other relief to the Myanmar refugees.

But recently the MHA has issued few directives to the State Governments and UTs. In that, the MHA mentioned that the state governments have no powers to grant ‘refugee’ status to any foreigner. Further, the ministry also pointed out that India is not a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention of 1951 and its 1967 Protocol. So the MHA wants the state governments to perform strict surveillance on borders.

Few important terminologies:

Who is a refugee?

A refugee is a person who fled his country due to the risk of serious human rights violations and persecution there. These refugees have a right to international protection under the UN Refugee Convention and its protocol.

Who is an asylum-seeker?

An asylum seeker is someone who claims to be a refugee but whose claim hasn’t been evaluated. An asylum seeker will turn into a refugee if the claim is evaluated and justified.

Refugee Status Determination (RSD) is a legal process used by governments or UNHCR(UN High Commission for Refugees) to determine the refugee status of an asylum seeker under international, national or regional law.

Who is a migrant?

Migrants are persons moving to another country not due to direct threat or persecution but due to improving their lives. Migrants can return home if they wish(But refugees and asylum seekers cannot).

Legal Framework for Refugees in India
  1. Article 51 of the Indian constitution: This provision states that the state shall endeavour to foster respect for international law and treaty obligations in the dealings of organized people with one another.
  2. As per the Citizenship Act of 1955, an illegal immigrant can be of two types.
    • Foreign national enters into India with valid travel documents but stays beyond their validity, or
    • Foreign national entered India without any valid travel documents.
  3. As per, the Foreigners Act, 1946, the central government have the right to deport any foreign national.
  4. Apart from that, India is also not a signatory to the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention and the 1967 UN refugee Protocol.
  5. Further, India does not have any national law on refugees.
  6. While law and order is a State subject, international relations and international borders are under the Union government. This has resulted in, both the Centre and the State government agencies, dealing with the refugee problem in India.
  7. In 2011, the Union government circulated a Standard Operating Procedure to deal with foreign nationals who claim to be refugees.
  8. The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 aims to provide citizenship to those who sheltered in India for religious persecution or fear of persecution in their home countries. But the Act only covers the Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
  9. So, India at present, does not have any separate law to govern refugees. The refugee matters at present dealt with on a case by case basis.
Challenges with the refugees
  1. Social consequences of permitting refugees: By permitting refugees India might face many social consequences. Such as,
    • Refugees might create an identity crisis with the indigenous people. For example, the refugees from Bangladesh currently in Assam and Arunachal threatens to overtake the indigenous population of the region.
    • Difficult to identify and deport them back to their country after a few years. For example, the illegal migrants from Bangladesh and Rohingya refugees entered through North-East. But later they spread to all other states, like Haryana, Kerala, Telangana and UTs like Jammu and Kashmir, Delhi, etc. Identifying them among more than a billion Indians is a great challenge.
  2. Economic consequence of permitting refugees:
    • Increased financial responsibility of the state. According to the UNHCR report in 2014, there were more than 200,000 refugees in India. There are millions of illegal immigrants in India. India at present does not have the financial capacity to satisfy all their basic needs.
    • Decreases wage level and replace the native people. Since illegal immigrants and refugees require food and shelter, they also work at very low wages in their settling areas.  It impacts the lives of locals, as they don’t get adequate jobs.
  3. Political consequence of permitting refugees:
    • Issue of illegal voting: The illegal migrants to avail the benefits, procure illegal national identity cards such as voter id. By procuring that, they also vote in elections and influence the outcome.
    • Issue of terrorism: These refugees, since not accepted by governments, are vulnerable to join Pakistani based terror outfits for work and revenue.
Suggestions
  1. India should encourage the State governments to carry out the NRC (National Register of Citizens) and identify the number of refugees and illegal immigrants.
  2. The Central Government should appoint a National Immigration Commission to frame a National Migration Policy and a National Refugee Policy for India.
  3. The government have to strengthen the Foreigners Act 1946 and also sign bilateral agreements with neighbourhood countries regarding deportation.
  4. Further, the state governments have to follow the MHA guidelines of 2018 to identify illegal immigrants. The recommendations are,
    • Restrictions of Illegal Migrants specific locations as per provisions of law
    • Capturing their biographic and biometric particulars
    • Cancellation of fake Indian documents
    • Initiating legal proceedings including deportation proceedings as per provisions of law
  5. Strengthening the borders: India also needs to strengthen the border areas as the borders are porous and the neighbourhood countries are facing political vulnerabilities constantly. India can improve border surveillance, exploring the options of border fencing and smart walls, etc.

India is facing the issue of illegal immigrants right since independence. It is high time for India to define a clear-cut refugee policy. This will not only prevent the state governments from taking a different stand from that of the centre. But also prevent India from the large influx of illegal immigrants.

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MHA directive on “Influx of Illegal Immigrants From Myanmar”

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What is the News?

Ministry of Home Affairs(MHA) has written to states, sharing international boundaries with Myanmar. Chief Secretaries of these states (Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, and Arunachal Pradesh) are asked to take appropriate action to check illegal influx from Myanmar into India.

Why was this directive issued?

  • Myanmar’s military has seized full control of the country’s government. After that, it ordered a crackdown on protesters.
  • Due to this situation in Myanmar, several Myanmar citizens are illegally entering India.

What are the other directives MHA has issued?

  • The State governments had no powers to grant refugee status to any foreigner.
  • India is not a signatory to the United Nations Refugee Convention of 1951 and its 1967 Protocol.
  • The directive also recalled the guidelines addressed to all States in 2017. In the guidelines, instructions were issued to sensitize all law enforcement and intelligence agencies for taking prompt steps in identifying the illegal migrants. So that, they can initiate the deportation processes expeditiously and without delay.
  • Further, another set of guidelines were sent to States in 2018. The guideline provides for the appropriate steps for identifying illegal migrants, such as:
    • Restrictions of Illegal Migrants specific locations as per provisions of law
    • Capturing their biographic and biometric particulars
    • Cancellation of fake Indian documents and
    • Initiating legal proceedings including deportation proceedings as per provisions of law.

About United Nations Refugee Convention,1951:

  • The 1951 Refugee Convention also known as Geneva Convention. It is a United Nations multilateral treaty for the protection of refugees
  • Who is a refugee? The convention defines a refugee as a person who fled their homes and countries due to a well-founded fear of persecution because of his/her race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion is a refugee.
  • The Convention also sets out which people do not qualify as refugees, such as war criminals.
  • Non-Refoulement: The cornerstone of the 1951 Refugee Convention is the principle of non-refoulement. According to this principle, a refugee should not be returned to a country where he or she faces serious threats to his or her life or freedom.

Source: The Hindu

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India’s new policy of proactive diplomacy 

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Synopsis:  India’s new policy of proactive diplomacy and strong ground posturing is working well.

Introduction 

Things are getting better for India in the neighborhood. China has withdrawn its troops in eastern Ladakh across the Line of Actual Control (LAC). Also, Pakistan has initiated a ceasefire across the Line of Control (LoC). The new U.S. administration has also been issuing positive statements.

How proactive diplomacy helped India?
  1. Under the new strategy of proactive diplomacy, the Indian forces actively engage their enemy on the ground. Whereas military leadership actively engages in negotiations with their counterparts at the same time. 
  2. Due to it, China was forced to review its ground strategy for the second time. Mobilization of Indian forces led to the withdrawal of Chinese equipment and troops from Doklam also, in 2017.
  3. The DGMOs of India and Pakistan recently agreed to strictly implement the 2003 ceasefire agreement. This decision must be a step towards peace after multiple ceasefire violations. 
  4. This decision of Pakistan came even after the announcement by Imran Khan of no engagement with India until the status quo was restored in Jammu and Kashmir.
  5. It is also because Pakistan is under pressure due to its dangerous economic condition and a repayment crisis. China looks unhappy about the uncertainty over the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Pakistan must be under pressure from India, the new U.S. administration as well as China.

However, India is well aware of Pakistan’s tendency to spread terror and violence in India. That is why India has repeated that counter-terror operations will not be reduced.

Favourable approach of the US towards India

There are signals that the Biden administration will adopt a complex approach with China. 

  • China also wants to take a chance by cooperating with US, for its own economic and strategic interest. China would also want Pakistan to adopt the same approach.
  • Contrary to earlier beliefs, the Biden administration seems to be largely siding with India in its South Asia policy.
  • A US state department official recently said that they are concerned by China’s pattern of ongoing attempts to threaten its neighbours. And also, they are going to stand by their friends and allies. 
  • In another statement, the U.S. State Department said it welcomes the steps taken to return Jammu and Kashmir to full economic and political normalcy consistent with India’s democratic values. India should seize this opportune moment. 

Source: click here

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“China’s 5-year plan” and India’s Concerns

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What is the News?

China formally approves the outline of its 14th 5-year plan (2021-25). Some proposed projects in China’s 5-year plan are the cause of concern for India.

What are the key Concerns for India in China’s 5-year plan?

 Dam on Lower Reaches of Brahmaputra River:

  • China’s 5-year plan approves the construction of a dam and hydropower plant on the lower reaches of the Yarlung Zangbo river (Brahmaputra River). It will be located in Tibet close to the border with Arunachal Pradesh. This is the first project in the lower reaches of the river.
    • The lower reaches refer to the sections of the Brahmaputra river in Tibet before it flows into India.
  • The proposed dam is located near the Great Bend of the Brahmaputra River. It may impact the ecologically sensitive canyon located near Arunachal Pradesh.

Earlier Dams:

  • Earlier, four dams have been approved on the upper and middle reaches of the Brahmaputra River. On these dams, India has already expressed concerns.
  • However, the impact of these dams on downstream flows is not clear. India is currently studying it as with an estimated 35% of its basin in India, the Brahmaputra river is not entirely dependent on upstream flows.

Sichuan-Tibet railway line near the India border:

  • China’s 5-year plan proposes to construct a Railway line. This railway line is a strategic infrastructure project for China as it aims to connect Sichuan to Tibet.
  • Concerns for India:
    • Nepal: This railway line is called an advance preparatory work for building a railway line from Tibet to Gyirong along the Tibet-Nepal border. This is part of an already agreed plan to build a cross-border railway link connecting China and Nepal.
    • Near the Border: The railway line lies just across from Arunachal Pradesh. It will become the second major rail link from China’s hinterland to Tibet.

Source: The Hindu

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PM to inaugurate “Maitri Setu Bridge”

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What is the News?

The Prime Minister will inaugurate the ‘Maitri Setu’ bridge between India and Bangladesh.

About Maitri Setu:
  • Constructed by: National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd.
  • Maitri Setu is a bridge between India and Bangladesh. It is a 1.9 km long bridge over the Feni River. This bridge will connect Sabroom in India with Ramgarh in Bangladesh.
  • The name ‘Maitri Setu’ symbolizes growing bilateral relations and friendly ties between India and Bangladesh.
  • Significance: With the inauguration of this bridge, Tripura will become the ‘Gateway of North East’. It will have access to Chittagong Port of Bangladesh which is just 80 km from the Sabroom.
About Feni River:
  • Feni River is a river in southeastern Bangladesh. It is a trans-boundary river with an ongoing dispute about water rights.
  • Origin: The Feni River originates in South Tripura district and flows through Sabroom town and then enters Bangladesh.

Source: TOI

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China’s plans for new dams on Brahmaputra River- Explained, Pointwise

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Introduction

The Chinese government’s new five-year plan(2021-2025) is about to approve the construction of dams in the lower stretch of the Brahmaputra River (Yarlung Zangbo in China). It is a matter of serious concern for the lower riparian states namely India and Bangladesh. The move is expected to give China an edge in International diplomacy as it would gain substantial bargaining power post dam construction. 

About the China’s plan for dams 
  1. China’s draft five-year plan (2021-25) and long-range objectives till 2035 mention the building of hydropower bases on the lower reaches of the Brahmaputra river
    • The lower reaches refer to the sections of the river in Tibet before it flows into India.
  2. The dam proposal is among the priority energy projects undertaken by the Chinese government in the next five years. Other projects under the draft five-year plan include “clean energy bases” in the upper and lower reaches of the Jinsha River. (the upper course of the Yangtze River in western China).
  3. It would be the first time that the lower stretch will witness such development of dams, marking a radical change in river water exploitation.
  4. China had earlier built dams on upper stretches of the river including Zangmu Dam in 2015. Three more dams at Dagu, Jiacha and Jeixu are currently under construction
Why is China developing dams on the Brahmaputra?
  1. The construction would help the country develop clean energy and curb the rising pollution levels. This would improve citizens’ health and augment water security.
  2. The dam would also allow it to fulfill its international climate commitments under multilateral agreements like the Paris Agreement
  3. China’s location of the upper riparian state would allow it to control water flow towards the lower riparian states (India and Brahmaputra). This will give greater bargaining power to China in international relations. 
  4. Further, the project in the lower stretch is part of the country’s significant planned investments in infrastructure for serving national interests
About Brahmaputra river
  1. It is one of the longest rivers in the world that flows from Tibet to India (Arunachal Pradesh, Assam) and further into Bangladesh. The river finally drains out in the Bay of Bengal.
  2. The river flows for about 1,625 kilometres in Tibet, parallel to the main range of the Himalayas. After that, it enters India in Arunachal Pradesh where it is called Siang
  3. The Siang flows down the Himalayas, enters the Assam valley. Here two other major tributaries, Dibang and Lohit will join the Siang river. The culmination of all finally becomes the Brahmaputra.
Importance of Brahmaputra to India
  1. The river Brahmaputra and its tributaries carry more than 30 percent of the total water resource potential of India. 
  2. The residents of 22 districts in the Indian state of Assam rely on the Brahmaputra and its tributaries for their livelihood. The river system supports the subsistence agriculture of 66 million people. 
  3. The river is also extremely important for the transportation of people and materials.
  4. This region is home to several species of flora and fauna that are unique to this part of the world. For example, The Kaziranga National Park houses 15 mammalian species that are listed as threatened in the IUCN conservation list.
Rules or statutes governing Brahmaputra water sharing
  1. There is a lack of a cooperative framework for managing river systems in South Asia. There are no binding agreements between India and China on Brahmaputra water sharing.
  2. India and China signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in 2002 for the sharing of hydrological data.
    • Under this China agreed to share information about the discharge of water at three stations from June 1 to October 15 each year. This would improve planning and flood control in India during the monsoon region.
  3. The two countries have even signed an MoU in 2013 regarding the sharing of water flow data. 
  4. A unilateral stoppage in data sharing was seen from the Chinese side during the 2017 Doklam Standoff but data sharing resumed in 2018.
Impacts of China’s Dams on India
  1. China could use dams as a water weapon during the war and in peacetime. By building dams China can disrupt the lower riparian states by following ways,
    • First, China could alter the water level in lower riparian states by changing the storage/ discharge capacity of the dam.
    • Second, China’s large run-off from river dams can be easily converted into storage dams in the future. This can deprive water to India in dry seasons or flood it with water during the monsoon.
    • The Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) has also highlighted this vulnerability. 
  2. The ecological character of the river in lower courses gets deteriorated. This is proved by the Siang river (Brahmaputra’s name in Arunachal). After the reduction in water level, the river turned black with pollutants. This impacted the drinking water availability for the locals.
  3. It may also negatively impact the food security and livelihood of people residing across the river. Experts have pointed out that dam construction could cause the river to lose its silt and lead to a reduction in agriculture productivity.
  4. Dam construction by upper riparian states enhances the disaster’s magnitude in lower riparian states. For instance, a US government-funded study showed that a series of new dams built by China on the Mekong River had worsened the drought  conditions in downstream countries.
  5. Further Himalayan region is highly sensitive to construction. Due to this, the probability of disasters will get enhanced if big dams are created by China. This was proved by the recent Uttarakhand floods and the 2015 Nepal earthquake.
  6. It could open a new front of conflict along the Arunachal Pradesh region as Brahmaputra enters India through this stretch. Managing this would be a complex task for India as it is already struggling to counter China along the eastern ladakh region.
  7. China may decide to stop the flow of the river as a means of retaliation to make India submit to China’s demands.
Challenges in bilateral Cooperation on dam construction
  1. Rising mistrust between the countries: The mistrust reached a new peak especially after the nine-month-long military stand-off along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). Further, China was reluctant to share the correct information with India under the 2002 MoU.
    Further, China in the past has rejected the claim of building Zangmu Dam on the Brahmaputra till 2010. But in 2010 China not only admitted the construction of the Zangmu Dam but also completed it in a much rapid phase.
  2. The growing closeness of Indo-U.S relations and enhanced resentment of Sino- U.S relations can act as a barrier in concluding a favorable water-sharing agreement.
  3. Emerging risks like climate change, extreme events, landslides, forest fires, and many other environmental threats pose new governance challenges.
  4. China tries to encircle India using its neighbors. It charges approximately $125,000 for the data it provides to India. On the other hand, it sends similar data to Bangladesh for free.
Suggestions for India
  • The construction of a multi-purpose reservoir in Arunachal Pradesh to offset the impact of the Chinese Dam should be done promptly. The proposed 9.2 BCM ‘Upper Siang’ project on the Siang river in Arunachal Pradesh will be able to take the excess load of water discharge. Further, it can even store water in case of any deficit.
  • As water is a state subject, the riparian states in India should be encouraged to use Brahmaputra’s water in a rational way to minimize future shortages.
  • The focus of integrated river basin management should be based on hydrological boundaries and not on administrative state boundaries.
  • India needs to restrengthen its relationship with Bangladesh. India needs to finalise the Teesta river agreement and restore its image as a responsible upper riparian. By doing that, Bangladesh may also cooperate with India against China.
  • The country should engage in bilateral talks and enter into a water-sharing agreement with China similar to the Indus Water Treaty between India and Pakistan. The new China-India water-sharing agreement should include provisions like,
    • The treaty should regulate the amount of water to be released, preserve the quality of the water and the aquatic life. 
    • It should have a mechanism for water-sharing during times of droughts and abnormal weather. 
    • If necessary, the international community should also be involved.
Conclusion

We need a new integrated river basin management. This should address all the emerging challenges of water security and sustainability. Further, it should go beyond mere political cooperation of State government and involving the local people. Instead, it should focus on India’s water needs and its management.

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China Approves Dam Building on “Brahmaputra River”

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What is the news?

Chinese Government approves dam-building on Brahmaputra river under its draft of the New Five year plan (2021-2025).

What does the five-year plan provide?
  • The New Five-year plan approves the dams to be built on the lower reaches of the Brahmaputra river. The river is also known as Yarlung Zangbo in Tibet.
    • The lower reaches refer to the sections of the Brahmaputra river in Tibet before it flows into India.
  • The plan also calls for building a hydropower base on the lower reaches of the Brahmaputra river. Clean energy bases in the upper and lower reaches of the Jinsha River are also under the proposal (the upper course of the Yangtze River in western China).
About Brahmaputra River:
  1. Brahmaputra River also called Yarlung Tsangpo in Tibet, Siang/ Dihang River in Arunachal Pradesh. It is a trans-boundary river that flows through Tibet, India, and Bangladesh.
  2. Origin: The river rises in the Chemayungdung Glacier in the Kailash Range in Tibet. It descends rapidly from Tibet forming a Grand Canyon and then flows eastward and reaches Namche Barwa. It then takes a U-turn and enters India in Arunachal Pradesh and known as dihang.
  3. Important Tributaries of River Brahmaputra:
    • Major left bank tributaries: Burhi Dihing, Dhansari (South), Kailang, Lohit, Dibang
    • Major right bank tributaries: Subansiri, Kameng, Manas, Sankosh, Teesta.
  4. Perennial River: the Brahmaputra is a perennial river. It has several peculiar characteristics due to its geography and prevailing climatic conditions.
    • Perennial Rivers can be defined as the river with the continuous flow throughout the year, such as the rivers Ganges and Brahmaputra.
  5. Significance: Most rivers on the Indian subcontinent have female names. But this river has a rare male name that literally translates as ‘Son of Brahma’. The river is also revered by Hindus, Jains, and Buddhists.
  6. Biodiversity: The rich rainforests of this basin is home to many species of flora and fauna. It hosts National Parks like the Kaziranga, Manas, and Kanchanjunga.
  7. Importance of Brahmaputra River for India:
    • The Brahmaputra River and its tributaries carry more than 30% of the total water resource potential of India.
    • The Brahmaputra River is also extremely important for livelihood and for transportation of people and materials in North East India.

Source: The Hindu

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40 Scholars awarded under “India Science and Research Fellowship(ISRF) 2021”

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What is the news?

40 scholars from 6 countries have been awarded under the India Science Research Fellowship(ISRF) Program 2021.

About India Science Research Fellowship(ISRF) Program 2021:

  • Launched by: the Department of Science and Technology(DST), Government of India in 2015.
  • Purpose: Awarded scientists and researchers from neighboring countries are provided an opportunity to carry out their research in Indian Institutes and Universities. They will get benefits of using state-of-the-art facilities in these places.
  • Countries Covered: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Thailand.
  • Significance: The fellowship is a platform that establishes research cooperation with neighbouring countries of India. This is one of the important mandates of DST’s International Science and Technology Cooperation.

Source: PIB

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Sri Lanka approved the “West Container Terminal” proposal

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What is the News?

The Sri Lankan Cabinet has approved a proposal to develop Colombo Port’s West Container Terminal(WCT) under a joint venture with India and Japan.

Note: This proposal comes after Sri Lanka had pulled out of the 2019 tripartite agreement with India and Japan to develop the East Container Terminal(ECT).

About the West Container Terminal(WCT) Project:

  • Location: The West Container Terminal(WCT) is strategically located next to a Chinese-run Colombo International Container Terminal(CICT).
  • Model: The terminal will be developed on a Build, Operate and Transfer(BOT) model for a period of 35 years.
  • Investors: For the project, Sri Lanka has asked India and Japan to nominate the investors. But neither India nor Japan has officially commented on the offer.
    • Earlier, India had approved Adani Ports to invest in the ECT project. However, Japan is yet to name an investor.
  • Stakes in WCT: India and Japan will have an 85% stake in the West Container Terminal. It is similar to the terms set for the Colombo International Container Terminal(CICT) where China holds an 85% stake.
    • Moreover, India and Japan stake in the WCT is better than the earlier deal on the ECT – where they had a 49% stake.

Source: The Hindu

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Ceasefire Agreements Between India and Pakistan

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Synopsis: Recently India and Pakistan issued a joint statement to strictly observe the ceasefire agreements along the LoC and other sectors. This has significant implications for peaceful border management along LoC (J&K) and other sectors.

Background

  • There were around 5130 ceasefire violations in 2020 registered on either side of the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K).
  • In the backdrop of this hostile climate, the two Director General of Military Operations (DGMOs) from both Pakistan and India had issued a joint statement on February 24-25, to begin the ceasefire.
  • This statement is viewed as a path-breaking initiative from a conflict management point of view. It can be attributed to the success of high-level contacts through back-channel process.
  • It can be understood that both countries have realised that an unsettled border helps no one.

Ceasefire agreements between India and Pakistan:

There are several agreements signed between India and Pakistan to resolve the border dispute. They are,

  1. The Karachi agreement of 1949
    • This agreement ended the first war between newly formed India and Pakistan.
    • It was the first ceasefire agreement between the two countries. It was supervised by the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan. This agreement created a boundary line in Kashmir called the Ceasefire Line or CFL.
    • Accordingly, the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) was mandated to monitor the ceasefire along the CFL.
  2. The Tashkent Agreement of 1965
    • The India-Pakistan war of 1965 also ended in a ceasefire. But, the CFL was unaltered in this agreement also. So similar to the Karachi agreement the status quo was maintained in border areas even after signing the Tashkent agreement.
  3. The Simla Agreement of 1972
    • This agreement was signed after the Bangladesh liberation war of 1971.
    • But unlike 1965, the status quo was changed under the Simla Agreement.
    • The Suchetgarh Agreement of 1972 delineated the ‘line of control’ in Jammu and Kashmir. So the Simla agreement converted the ceasefire line into a Line of Control (LoC).
    • Further, Under this agreement both the countries agreed to resolve the disputes bilaterally
    • This was considered as a smart move by India because of two reasons,
      1. It changed the nomenclature and the physical alignment of the India-Pakistan dividing line in Kashmir.
      2. It also made the UNMOGIP presence in Kashmir irrelevant. As the UN was not even a party to the Simla Agreement.
  4. Ceasefire Agreement of 2003
    • This agreement came after four years of Kargil and two years after the Indian Parliament got attacked.
    • Pakistan PM announced the Ceasefire on LoC on November 26, 2003.
    • It is not a formalised document.

Recent developments:

  1. The recent announcement by the DGMOs is also seen as the reiteration of the ceasefire agreement of Simla. As the 2003 agreement not formalised.
  2. Further, the announcement is also considered as one of the most significant military measures by India and Pakistan in over 18 years. The reasons were, 
    • The recent announcement mentions a specific date to begin the ceasefire. (midnight of February 24-25).
    • It will help India to avoid a two-front situation i.e., Pakistan and China on both sides of Indian borders. Dealing with a two-front situation is neither easy nor practical for India for reasons like,
        • The Indian Army had to redeploy forces from the western border with Pakistan to the northern border with China to deal with the situation. It poses serious material challenges.
        • By agreeing to February 2021 ceasefire, India has defused the western challenge from Pakistan first. Now the army can focus more on the Northern borders with China.

Way forward:

  1. The rules enshrined in the Simla Agreement has to be rewritten or both the countries have to formalise the 2003 ceasefire agreement. Experiences from conflict zones around the world show that an unwritten ceasefire tends to break down easily and trigger tensions.
  2. To create stability in bilateral relations Both countries need to progress in other domains also.

 

Ceasefire between India and Pakistan: Prospects of strengthening bilateral relations

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Regional stability in South-Asia depends on India, Pakistan and China

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Synopsis: If China, Pakistan and India can remain humble, then there is hope for better regional development and stability.

Introduction   

Recently India and Pakistan have announced the strict observance of all ceasefire agreements along the Line of Control(LoC). On the other hand, India has also seen a de-escalation along the Line of Actual Control with China.

Lessons from these announcements:

  1. India has shown that China’s military and economic domination can be resisted.
  2. India showed that Pakistan’s ceasefire violations cannot yield any result on the ground.
  3. On the other hand, Pakistan also learned a few significant things.
    • The abrogation of Article 370 did not result in a cycle of violence in the Kashmir Valley that Pakistan wanted to exploit.
    • Pakistan at present remained on the FATF grey list. So, Pakistan’s state funding of terrorism has burdened Pakistan itself.

Challenges in regional stability:

  1. There are a few things that can disrupt the de-escalation between India and China.
    • There is a possibility that some fringe group might try to disrupt the de-escalation.
    • Chinese intentions behind de-escalation are still remaining unknown. There is also not enough trust between both the countries among each other.
  2. Similarly, The ceasefire declaration by Pakistan also cannot be trusted. Considering the past instability in Pakistan’s actions.
  3. The Issue of Kashmir, now seen by the world as a trilateral dispute. As the LAC with India-China and LoC with India-Pakistan was disputed. If it is true then India will need significant resources to deal with China and Pakistan at the same time.

Suggestions to improve the regional stability:

  1. India has to realise that the aggressive use of foreign policy for domestic political gains has serious effects on India’s international stand. For example, assuring India will retake Pakistan occupied Kashmir for gaining votes in elections will harm bilateral relations and India’s international credibility.
  2. Pakistan should open up to the South Asian region instead of depending on China. As it will help Pakistan to realise its full economic potential. Further, It will provide access to the Central Asian region to the South Asian countries. Pakistan can get a large revenue as they are the transit of goods and services.
  3. China has to maintain stable relations in their deals. China has to avoid things such as non-adherence to the principles, frequent violation in the region, etc.

Conclusion

  • The pandemic offers an opportunity for greater economic cooperation between the three countries.
  • Political establishments of India, Pakistan and China have to rethink their geostrategic interests. Also, they need to analyse what they can offer to their citizens from peaceful relations. Then only regional stability is feasible in South Asia.

Ceasefire between India and Pakistan: Prospects of strengthening bilateral relations

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Pakistan Remains on FATF’s Grey list

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Synopsis: Pakistan avoided the blacklist in the recent FATF meeting. However, it has to do more, to come out of the grey list of FATF.

Introduction: 

The recent Financial Action Task Force (FATF) meeting has once again decided to keep Pakistan in their grey list of countries under “increased monitoring”.

Further, the FATF ruled out the option of placing Pakistan on blacklist like Iran and North Korea. It is because Pakistan made some progress on its commitments to FATF. Further, the FATF also provided a 3-month time limit to Pakistan for fulfilling its remaining commitments.

Pakistan’s progress under FATF grey list:

  1. Pakistan was removed from the Financial Action Task Force lists in 2015. But in 2018, it was again put on the list. Pakistan was provided with a 27-point action list to fulfill, to come out of the FATF grey list.
  2. FATF President Marcus Pleyer acknowledged Pakistan’s “significant progress”. However, He further mentioned that Pakistan fulfilled 3 points on the list only partially. Notably, 3 of them in the area of curbing terror financing. The FATF mentions the few important areas of non-compliance such as,
    • Demonstrating terror-funding prosecution is accurate, effective, and dissuasive
    • Implementing financial sanctions against all terrorists designated by the UN Security Council. This includes LeT founder Hafiz Saeed, JeM chief Masood Azhar and those who belong to al-Qaeda.

India’s relations with Pakistan

Since 2016, political, trade, cultural ties between Pakistan and India are minimal. But recently the recent decision of Directors General of Military Operations (DGMO’s)  to strictly observe the ceasefire agreement, is a great first step.

The move indicates more dialogues are possible between both countries. But the success of dialogues also depends upon Pakistan’s compliance with other points in the 27 point action list. Such as

    • Successfully prosecuting terrorists and terror financiers.
    • Addressing cross-border terror that emanates from Pakistan.

Conclusion

India Pakistan relations may progress by fulfilling Pakistan’s commitment to the FATF action list. Because these actions also address India’s main grievance with Pakistan on State-sponsored terrorism.

 

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Ceasefire between India and Pakistan: Prospects of strengthening bilateral relations

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Synopsis: India and Pakistan have agreed to ceasefire along the Line of Control. But the further strengthening of relations will depend upon the security improvement in the region.  

Background 

  • Recently, India and Pakistan agreed to a “strict observance” of all agreements and cease-fire along the Line of Control. This statement was delivered by Director Generals of Military Operations of India and Pakistan.  
  • It has become possible due to a strong leadership in India that In South Asia there is a chance of building “security community”.  
  • security community is defined as a region where countries have agreed not to use violence to settle their conflicts.  

Why this agreement is important?  

  • This development is an important confidence-building measure. It is very important because the number of reported violations of the cease-fire across the LoC increased dramatically in the last year.  
  • Due to firing impacts collateral damage takes place on the both sides. The most vulnerable sections is the one, living close to the LoC and other sectors.  
  • They will be the immediate beneficiaries if the statement is implemented in letter and spirit.  

Now there is a hope that this move will be the first step towards a gradual normalisation of diplomatic relations. Relations deteriorated since the abrogation of Article 370 in August 2019. 

What are the positive signals for good bilateral relations of India and Pakistan? 

  1. Pakistan’s leadership and its army has now start to understand the futility of a confrontationist course with India.  
  1. Also, it is in interest of India to strengthen this understanding of India by offering incentives to Pakistan that include the promise of a robust engagement. 
  1. India has also proved that its Neighbourhood First slogan is not an empty one. Under vaccine maitri initiative, India is providing free vaccine to its neighbours 
  1. There is a possibility of signing Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement with Bangladesh  
  1. If bilateral relations improve, we would witness a SAARC summit in Islamabad with participation of India in it.  

What are the challenges? 

  • However, strengthening connectivity and collaboration between India and Pakistan totally depends upon the security commitments.  
  • The big question now is, If Pakistan would avoid any interference in the Jammu and Kashmir. It would be the test of Pakistan’s strategic commitment to rebuilding bilateral relations.  

Issue of ceasefire violation between India and Pakistan – Explained Pointwise

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Issue of ceasefire violation between India and Pakistan – Explained Pointwise

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Recently India and Pakistan issued a joint statement to strictly observe all the agreements on a ceasefire along the LoC and other sectors. The joint statement aims to address each other’s core differences and concerns in the border areas. But controlling the ceasefire violations is not an easy task to achieve considering past issues and challenges.

What are the recent developments?

According to the report submitted in Parliament in 2020 alone, there were 5133 instances of Ceasefire Violations. Apart from that, there were also 46 fatalities in 2020. The number of ceasefire violations increased gradually every year that resulted in the loss of life and resources on both sides. This can be understood better by the image given below.

Source: The Indian Express

So, both the countries were forced to solve and restrict the ceasefire violations. Accordingly, the Director Generals of Military Operations (DGMOs) of both India and Pakistan held talks to establish peace in the region. As a result of that, both the countries recently issued a joint statement.

In the statement, they agreed to observe all the ceasefire agreements along the LoC and all other sectors from midnight of February 24/25.

How India Pakistan Border is demarcated and guarded?

India and Pakistan share 3323 km of Borders. The border runs through 4 states of India (Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab, Rajasthan, and Gujarat). Similarly, the border runs through 3 states of Pakistan. The entire border is divided into three parts.

  1. International Border (IB): The IB stretches for approximately 2,400 km from Gujarat to the north banks of Chenab (in Akhnoor in Jammu). IB is generally recognised by both the countries without much dispute. This Line was drawn by Sir Cyril Radcliffe during the partition. This section is running across Punjab, Rajasthan, and Gujarat States and guarded by the Border Security Force (BSF) of India.
  2. Few sections of IB (201 km) where the line connects with Jammu and Kashmir are called Working Boundary (WB) by Pakistan. This WB has Pakistani Punjab on the other side. Pakistan calls this a Working Boundary because this boundary is subjected to one-way dispute (Pakistani Punjab is recognised by India).
  3. Line of Control (LoC): It is a 740 km long boundary line. It is a De facto boundary between the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and the Indian side of Kashmir. The LOC runs from parts of Jammu to NJ 9842 in the Siachin glacier. This is an imaginary line that came into existence after the 1948 Pakistan aggression.  At present, it is governed by the 1972 Shimla agreement.
  4.  Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL): It is the 110 km long line that divides the current position of disputed regions in Siachin Glacier. It extends from Point NJ 9842 to Indiracol.

Except for IB, all the remaining regions (IB, LoC, AGPL) are guarded by the Indian Army.

Ceasefire agreements between India and Pakistan:

There are several agreements signed between India and Pakistan to resolve the border dispute. They are,

  1. Karachi Agreement 1949
    • This agreement was signed after the India Pakistan war of 1947 and supervised by the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan.
    • The agreement established a Ceasefire line along the disputed regions of Kashmir.
    • The ceasefire line are monitored by United Nations observers from United Nations.
    • Both the countries agreed to establish a buffer zone of 500 yards on both sides of the Ceasefire line.
  2. Shimla Agreement 1972
    • This agreement was signed after the Bangladesh liberation war of 1971.
    • Under this agreement both the countries agreed to resolve the disputes bilaterally.
    • The agreement converted the ceasefire line into a Line of Control (LoC).
      (Thereby, the role of the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan to monitor the ceasefire line lost its relevance. But Pakistan still disputes that.)
    • There is no mention of the buffer zone in this agreement.
  3. Ceasefire Agreement 2003
    • This agreement came after four years of Kargil and two years after the Indian Parliament got attacked.
    • Pakistan PM announced the Ceasefire on LoC on November 26, 2003. Later the IB was also included in the ceasefire. So, it is not a formalised document. But it has certain important points such as,
      • Creating a buffer Zone within 500 yards of LoC and 150 yards of IB.
      • Proper fencing on LoC can be done by countries.
      • No firing will be done by both the countries on LoC.
      • Both countries cannot indulge in altering the ceasefire unilaterally irrespective of mutual differences and legal interpretations of the agreement.
Why there are ceasefire violations?

A study conducted by the US Institute of Peace mentions the Ceasefire line as “A Line on Fire”. The Institute further held the reasons for ceasefire violation on India Pakistan border by both sides of the army. They are,

  1. The factor of testing the new boys: It is an attempt on one side to assess the new battalions posted on the other side. For example,  after a new BSF battalion posted in a region of Jammu and Kashmir, the study observed 45 days of consecutive ceasefire violation by the Pakistani troops.
  2. To show the potential of new boys: In few instances, the new battalion indulges in ceasefire violation to prove to the opposite side that they have better-fighting capability.
  3. The emotional state of soldiers: The ceasefire violations occur whenever there is happiness or a sad state of the emotional capacity of soldiers. For example, ceasefire violations increased after a defeat of the Pakistani cricket team by the Indian cricket team. Similarly, it got increased after India successfully conducted a missile test.
  4.  Defense constructions: Ceasefire violations also occurred due to the defense constructions in border areas.
  5. No proper definition of LoC: As the Shimla Agreement, Karachi Agreement not defined the LoC properly, and the 2003 agreement is not yet finalised there is an ambiguity in the demarcated areas. That triggers the Ceasefire in the majority of the cases.
Potential of Ceasefire violations:

Ceasefire violations have the potential to alter fundamental political dispute between both countries. The reasons are,

  1. Ceasefire violations can alter political and diplomatic ties. Many ceasefire violations on the border can change the stand of both the governments.
  2. They can escalate any ongoing crisis. This is feasible especially when the ceasefire violation occurs in the aftermath of terror incidents.
  3. They can aid the infiltration by terrorists. The ceasefire has a positive correlation with the number of terrorists entering India.

So by reducing the ceasefire violations one can expect a reduced terror attack, increased bilateral relations etc.

Suggestions to control the ceasefire violations:
  1. The best solution for both countries is to Formalize the 2003 agreement. This will not only reduce the violations but also create stability in border areas.
  2. Until formalizing the ceasefire agreement both countries can agree to standard operating procedures (SOPs). The SOPs must include the provisions such as,
    • Frequent communications between both sides of security forces to intimate their activities.
    • Managing the night movement of both the armies smoothly.
    • Restricting and intimating the accidental firings.
    • Knowledge sharing between both the countries on inadvertent crosses (unidentified passes on both sides).

The recent step taken by both the countries to respect all the agreements is a welcome move. But Pakistan has to prove their credential on the ground. If Pakistan does that then the recent move has the potential to turn the current bilateral relations between both the countries.

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India and Pakistan agrees to observe “2003 Ceasefire agreement”

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What is the news?

India and Pakistan have issued a joint statement to strictly observe the 2003 Ceasefire agreement along the Line of Control(LoC).

About India-Pakistan 2003 Ceasefire agreement:

  • The 2003 ceasefire was a landmark agreement between India and Pakistan.
  • The agreement came soon after both the countries had almost gone to war following the 2001 terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament.
  • The 2003 ceasefire agreement resulted in 3 years of peace till 2006 on the border.
  • The ceasefire facilitated the opening of the routes between India and Pakistan. It paved the way for bus and truck services linking Kashmir regions for the first time in six decades. Moreover, it encouraged cross-LoC contacts, exchanges, travel, and trade.
  • The ceasefire also enabled India to complete the construction of a fence near the LoC. This project began a couple of decades earlier but had to suspend due to Pakistan’s artillery fire.

Source: The Hindu

[Answered] “Increasing drug menace across northern states in India need strict laws and coordination among various states.” Comment.

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Why India-China Border disputes are unresolved?

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Synopsis: India and China signed several bilateral agreements for border disputes resolution. However, it has not been to ensure permanent peace at the border.

Background

  • The year 2020 witnessed increased India – China border tensions in the Ladakh region, especially the Galwan valley. The incident involved an armed conflict in which soldiers from both sides died. 
  • It happened despite signing numerous agreements in the past for settling border disputes.
    Efforts of bilateral issues resolution between India and China

The agreements were aimed at restoring peace and promoting confidence-building measures (CBMs).

YearAgreement/ Protocol 
1993Agreement on the Maintenance of Peace and Tranquillity along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the India-China Border Areas
1996Agreement on Confidence-Building Measures in the Military Field Along the LAC
2005Protocol for the Implementation of Confidence Building Measures in the Military Field Along the LAC
2012Agreement on the Establishment of a Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs
2013Agreement on Border Defence Cooperation
  • Key Features of the agreements:
    • Refrain from use of force against each other
    • Peaceful settlement of disputes should be undertaken
    • Mutual ascertainment of LAC and deployment of minimum armed personnel around it.
    • Prior notification should be given for conducting military exercises and flying combat aircraft within 10 km of LAC
    • Practising self-restraint in case of face to face military contacts 
    • Stipulating the channels that should be used for communication and border personnel meetings in case of emergencies.
  • The agreements between India and China were inspired by the success of Russia – China engagements.

How China- Russia resolved bilateral disputes?

  1. The relations between China and Russia marked by military confrontation along the border in the 1960s. However, the disputes were duly tackled by new leaders like Mikhail Gorbachev. He promoted CBMs (confidence-building measures) for dispute resolution.
  2. Both countries developed a strategic partnership based on equality and mutual trust.
  3. In 1990, an Agreement on the Guidelines of Mutual Reduction of Forces and Confidence-building in the Military Field along the border was signed.
  4. In May 1991, an Agreement on the Eastern Sector of National Boundaries was concluded by the two countries. This resolved  98% of outstanding boundary issues.

What were the reasons for the success of the China-Russia agreements?

  1. Unilateral concessions were made by the bigger power (Russia). 
  2. The collapse of the Soviet Union brought the two countries closer against the common enemy (US).
  3. They identified common interests that helped them build broad and institutionalized relationships.  

Why are border disputes still persistent between India and China, despite agreements?

  • First, As per China, Tibet never had the sovereign rights to conclude agreements. Therefore, recognition of the McMahon line (Line of actual control) by India based on Tibet’s past agreement undermined China’s sovereignty.
  • Second, China’s approach of following a forward policy in the western region often leads to clashes along the border. The recent one is the Galwan valley clash of 2020.
  • Third, being the bigger power, China has never shown its will for unilateral and asymmetric concessions.
  • Fourth, the agreements signed between the countries were not nurtured in an environment of equality and mutual trust.
  • Fifth, the countries have failed to publish a joint declaration on LAC. This is necessary for promoting CBMs between the countries.

Way Forward:

  • China needs to change its traditional stance of assertiveness along the border which would help in better implementation of bilateral agreements. 
  • Further interaction in other spheres like trade and commerce should be carried out despite border tensions as done by both countries till now. 

Read Also:-

[Answered] “China-India relations transcend the bilateral dimension and assume global and strategic significance.” Discuss.

Posted in 9 PM Daily Articles, PUBLICTagged

Sri Lanka looking for Indian Support ahead “46th Session of UNHRC”

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What is the News?

46th session of the UNHRC (United Nations Human Rights Council) will start next week. Sri Lanka has officially sought India’s support for its nation’s rights and accountability record.

About past UNHRC resolution

  • In 2015, UNHRC had adopted a resolution on accountability for the alleged human rights violations during the Sri Lankan civil war.
  • The resolution was adopted against the accusation of killing at least 40,000 ethnic Tamil civilians by the Sri Lankan army. This 37-year guerrilla war ended in May 2009.
  • The resolution had called upon Sri Lanka to establish a credible judicial process. This process requires the participation of the Commonwealth and other foreign judges, defence lawyers and authorised prosecutors and investigators to look into the alleged rights abuses.
  • However, the current Sri Lankan government has officially withdrawn from the resolution.

Present Status:

  • During the 46th UNHRC session in Geneva, Sri Lanka’s record in human rights and related accountability will be probed.
  • It is expected that a tougher resolution will be passed. This resolution may call for action against Sri Lanka.

United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC)

  • The UNHRC is a United Nations body established in 2006. It replaced the former United Nations Commission on Human Rights.
  • Aim: To promote and protect human rights around the globe. Apart from that, the UNHRC also investigates alleged human rights violations in countries.
  • Members: The council has 47 members elected for a 3-year term.
  • Meeting: The members meet around three times a year to debate human rights issues.
  • Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland.
  • Resolutions: The UNHRC resolutions are not legally binding but carry moral significance.

Click Here to Read more about UNHRC

 Source: The Hindu

Posted in Daily Factly articles, daily news, Daily News Updates, Factly: IR, PUBLICTagged ,

PM suggested “Special Visa Scheme” for medical staff in South Asia

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What is the News?

During an address to 9 neighboring countries, PM suggested Special Visa Scheme. The address was part of a workshop on “COVID-19 management: exchange of good practices in tackling pandemic and the way forward”.

Participation: The countries that participated in the workshop include: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Mauritius, Nepal, Pakistan, Seychelles, and Sri Lanka.

Key Takeaways from the address:

  • Special Visa Scheme: PM suggested considering a special visa scheme for doctors and nurses. It will help them to travel quickly within the region during health emergencies at the request of the receiving country.
  • Regional Air Ambulance: The Civil Aviation Ministries from the neighboring countries can coordinate a regional Air Ambulance agreement for medical contingencies.
  • Data on COVID-19 vaccines: The countries could come together to create a regional platform for collating, compiling, and studying data about the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines among our populations.

Source: The Hindu

Posted in Daily Factly articles, daily news, Daily News Updates, Factly: IR, PUBLICTagged ,

Evaluating India- China Disengagement agreement on Pongong Tso

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Synopsis: India-China disengagement process on the border is ongoing. There is a need for the cost-benefit analysis of this disengagement process.

Background:

  • Recently, both India and China have announced the start of disengagement between the two armies in Ladakh.
  • The current disengagement is limited to two places on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh:
    • One, the north bank of Pangong lake
    • Two, Kailash range to the south of Pangong.
  • However, the disengagement in other regions is yet to be taken. The other three sites of contention on the Ladakh border are Depsang, Gogra-Hot Springs, and Demchok.

Why the disengagement from the north bank of Pangong lake prioritized?

  1. First, nearly a quarter of all the Chinese transgressions on the LAC between 2014 and 2019 have taken place on the north bank of Pangong lake.
  2. Second, the north bank of Pan gong lake is a famous tourist spot. For example, the Hindi film 3 idiots were shot here.
  3. Third, the decision seems to be a political priority. There are habitations close to the north bank and any Chinese ingression can be easily sighted from here. Any report of Chinese encroachment will bring embarrassment to the center.

Is the disengagement from the Kailash range a good move?

  1. Kailash range was the only place where the Indian military had leverage against the Chinese army. The Chinese army was insisting on disengagement from this area first.
  2. Initially, India was pushing for a simultaneous resolution of all the flashpoints on the Ladakh border. However, It did not happen.
  3. Disengagement seems to be the right step. However, giving away the only leverage (Kailash range) that India had, along the LAC, needs to be debated.

What is the significance of Depsang plains?

Depsang plains situated in the Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO) sector. It is a strategically important place for India because of the following reasons;

  1. One, its proximity to the Darbuk-Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldie (DSDBO) road, the DBO airstrip, and the Karakoram Pass.
  2. Two, it poses threats to Indian control over the Siachen glacier.
  3. Three, it is the only area on the Indian landmass where China and Pakistan can plan a collusive military attack on India.
  4. Fourth, also, a former northern army commander identified this area as tough to defend in case of a Chinese military attack.

Thus, Depsang plains are strategically significant. India needs to find a holistic solution to Depsang issue.

How effective is the solution of creating a buffer zone?

The creation of Buffer zones has been effective to date in controlling the India-Chinese clashes around the LAC. But there are some issues,

  1. First, it denies India, access to the areas up to PP14, which it patrolled earlier.
  2. Second, there are worries that such buffer zones would lie majorly on the Indian side of the LAC. Thus converting Indian-controlled territory into a neutral zone.
  3. Third, no petrol zones are not announced publicly yet, in all the contentious border areas along LAC. For example, Kailash range. Any violation may result in a Galwan like clash.

Thus, buffer zones can only provide a temporary solution. They are no alternatives to the mutual delineation and a final settlement of the Sino-Indian boundary.

Suggestions for India

  • The  Centre for Policy Research produced a Non-alignment 2.0 strategy in 2012. It advocates for taking a prompt quid pro quo military operation in Chinese territory in case of escalation.
  • However, this strategy may result in a military confrontation. Considering India’s economic crisis, India won’t pursue a quid pro quo strategy.
  • Rather, India should enhance the deployment of troops along the LAC. It will prevent PLA ingression from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh.

The government has made a choice to seek restoration of peace and tranquillity on the LAC instead of a reversion to the status quo as of April 2020. Any strategic consequences of that choice should be managed by the government in the future.

Posted in 9 PM Daily Articles, PUBLICTagged ,

Need for a balanced approach on ‘Bilateral Investment Treaty’ for India

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Synopsis: Sri Lanka’s revoked the East Container Terminal (ECT) agreement without any valid reasonHowever, Indian investors can’t oppose this decision under International Law, due to India’s withdrawal from Bilateral Investment treaties (BIT). This calls for adopting a balanced approach towards BITs. 

Background: 

  • An agreement to jointly develop ECT at Colombo port was signed between Sri Lanka, Japan and India in 2019. 
  • In February 2021, the Sri Laken government pulled out from the agreement.  
  • This hampered the interest of Indian investors as they can’t approach international tribunal for protecting their interest under India-Sri Lanka BIT. 

Read more – Sri Lanka Writes Off Strategic Colombo Port Deal With India & Japan|ForumIAS Blog 

India-Sri Lanka Bilateral Investment Treaty: 

  • It governs the treatment of foreign investment between two countries on the basis of International Law. India-Sri Lanka Bilateral Investment Treaty was signed in 1997. 
  • It has a provision of Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS)It allows individual foreign investors to sue host states in international tribunals if treaty obligations are violated. 
  • It calls for giving Fair and Equitable Treatment (FET) to foreign investments in the host state under Article 3(2). 
    • A core component of FET is the protection of legitimate expectations of investors. 
    • In International Thunderbird Gaming Corporation v Mexico Case, the concept of legitimate expectations got clarified. 
  • It is a situation in which the act of the host state creates a reasonable expectation in the mind of the investor to act in line with such expectation. Failure to fulfil such expectations would cause damage to investors. 
  • India- Sri Lanka BIT also has a survival clause under Article 15(2)It protects investors interest for 15 years ithe treaty is unilaterally withdrawn by either party. 
  • India withdrew from the treaty in 2017 due to a high number of ISDS cases filed against it. But survival clause assures protection to Indian and Sri Lanka investors till 2032. 

Why can’t Indian investors sue the Sri Lankan Government for revoking 2019 agreement? 

  • Although the act of Sri Lanka to withdraw from 2019 agreement is a clear breach of the principle of legitimate expectation. But the Indian investors can’t appeal for protection. 
  • Survival clause gave protection to investments made before India’s withdrawal from the treaty in 2017 and not to investments after that. It is due to this cut-off date that investors of 2019 ECT agreement can’t do much regarding Sri Lanka’s withdrawal from the agreement. 

 Way Forward: 

  • India must understand the reciprocal nature of BITs. The withdrawal will save it from ISDS claims but would also hamper the interest of Indian investors abroad. 
  • Decisions of withdrawal need to be taken with greater caution in a post-Covid world where the probability of taking arbitrary actions by foreign governments is quite high. 
  • The need is to adopt a balanced approach towards BITs that doesn’t subject India to multiple ISDS claims nor harm the interests of Indian investors in foreign countries. 
Posted in 9 PM Daily Articles, PUBLICTagged ,

‘Disengagement activities’ for reducing Sino-India tensions

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Synopsis: India and China have simultaneously begun disengagement activities around the Pangong Tso region in eastern Ladakh. It is a laudable step for reducing tension between the two countries.

Background:

  • The two countries were undergoing severe tensions since May 2020. It is when the Chinese army entered 8 km inside Eastern Ladakh.
  • This Chinese encroachment along east of finger 8 along the LAC (Line of Actual Control) led to unprecedented clashes. The most severe was the Galwan valley clash that caused casualties at both ends.
  • Almost 10 months after the first clash, China agreed to enter into a conciliatory agreement.

About the agreement:

  • It calls for a systematic and coordinated withdrawal along the northern and southern banks of Pangong Tso region.
  • China has to pull back its troops at Siriraj, east of Finger 8 and dismantle infrastructure created after April 2020.
  • India has to return to its Dhan Singh Thapa Post near Finger 3.
  • A temporary moratorium on patrolling activities has been imposed along the northern bank of Pangong Tso.

Reasons behind China’s altered stance:

  • First, good diplomacy was shown by the Indian government that didn’t surrender to Chinese demands.
  • Second, a strategic advantage was gained by Indian army at Kailash heights in the southern bank which enhanced its bargaining power. 
  • Third, China realized that a long stand-off will only hamper bilateral relations and would give little gain.
  • Fourth, the growing closeness of India-US and their greater engagement in the QUAD group, might have pressurized China to alter its stance.
    • Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) is an informal group of the US, Japan, India and Australia. The group aims to maintain a rules based order in the Indo-Pacific region.  

Way Forward:

  • The agreement must be implemented in letter and spirit to re-instill the lost trust between the countries.
  • The focus should be on doing robust verification and monitoring in order to ensure its effective implementation.
  • The success of this disengagement agreement will also open gates for negotiation on other friction points like Hot Springs and Depsang plains.
Posted in 9 PM Daily Articles, PUBLICTagged ,

Disengagement agreement at Pangong Tso Lake – Explained

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Recently, a military disengagement agreement signed between India and China. This is the first major breakthrough to resolve the nine-month-long military stand-off along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh. Both the Chinese and Indian troops present on the south and north of Pangong Tso lake already started a “synchronized and organized disengagement”.

Background:

  • Line of Actual Control is the disputed boundary between India and China. LAC is divided into three sectors: western, middle, and eastern.
  • Both countries disagree on the actual location of the LAC. India claims that the LAC is 3,488 km long. But the Chinese believe it is around 2,000 km only.
  • LAC mostly passes on the land, but in Pangong Tso lake, LAC passes through the water as well.
  • The contested area of the lake is divided into 8 Fingers.
  • Chinese contested that the LAC is at finger 4. But, India’s perceived LAC (Line of Actual Control) is at finger 8. This led to frequent disputes in the area. 
  • Previously India patrolled on foot up to Finger 8. But there is no motorable road access from India’s side to the areas east of Finger 4.
  • China on the other hand already built a road on their side and dominated up to Finger 4.

  • The recent (in May 2020) standoff on North and South bank of the lake is one such dispute.
  • During the stand-off, Chinese troops marched to the ridgeline of finger 3 and 4. Indian forces were forced to stay within finger 3. 
  •  But, in August 2020, India obtained some strategic advantages in the region by occupying certain peaks in the Kailash ranges. After that, Indian troops started positioning in Magar Hill, MukhpariGurung Hill, etc. This pressurized China to enter into a negotiation.  
  • Later, India and China finally reached to an agreement on disengagement at Pangong Lake.
  • The agreement was reached in the 9th corps commander meeting held on 24th January 2021.

What are the important points of agreement?

  1. The agreement calls for disengagement along the Pangong Tso region. It includes the pulling of tanks and troops from both sides.
  2. The troops will return to pre standoff position in a gradual manner on the north and south banks of the lake. 
  3. In the north bank, China will pull back to finger 8 and India will get back to its Dhan Singh Thapa post near finger 3. 
  4. The area between finger 3 and 8 will become a no patrolling zone for a temporary period.
  5. All the construction done after April 2020 will be removed by both sides
  6. Negotiation of the agreement through military and diplomatic discussions will take place to decide the patrolling on the area between finger 3 and 8.

What are the reasons leading to the present agreement?

First, India’s strategic advantage and ability to remain strong. China started the standoff in March and soon captured Finger 4 area. Chinese thought that they were in an advantageous position both militarily and strategically as compared to India (As the move coincides with COVID pandemic). China never expected such prolonged opposition from India. But India achieved this, which resulted into the agreement.

Second, there is also a climatic reason for it. The icy-cold winter in Ladakh with temperature as low as minus 20 degrees Celsius forced China for an agreement. Chinese forces are not habituated to such extreme temperature. For example, 10,000 troops from the Western Theatre Command (WTC) had moved to lower locations due to fatigue and other complications in January. 

Third, sensible diplomacy of India. India handled the pressure from China very well. For example, handling the Chinese provoking tactics, India did not turn out aggressive at any point of dispute. All these along with India’s diplomatic will to ban Chinese apps forced China to engage in talks.

Fourth, International Pressure on China. China’s image in the international arena got deteriorated due to various reasons like

    • China’s opaque way of handling COVID outbreak
    • The way China forces its maritime neighbours in the South China Sea.

All these forces along with the standoff deteriorated China’s image. With the nations recovering from COVID pandemic, China wanted to create a positive image (as Chinese manufactured goods need markets). So China agreed to disengagement.

Fifth, New Biden-Harris alliance in the US promised greater stability in the South China Sea region. China cannot afford a conflict on its two fronts (East – South China Sea dispute, West – India – China standoff). So China agreed to return to pre-stand off position.

Concerns with the disengagement agreement: 

First, there is a lack of trust amongst the countries. This restricts them from the attainment of lasting peace in the region. 

Second, Ambiguity with respect to China’s intent. Even the US warned India to remain vigilant in disengagement.

Third, there is still a higher probability of escalation of violence in the region. For example, clashes in Galwan Valley started when the troops were pulling back in June last year.

Fourth, Pangong Tso is just one point of friction.  Focus on other areas is also required. Else the efficacy of this disengagement is also at risk. The other areas include,  

    1. Gogra Post at Patrolling Point 17A (PP17A)  
    2. Hot Springs area near PP15 
    3. PP14 in Galwan Valley 
    4. Depsang Plains, which is close to India’s strategic Daulat Beg Oldie base

According to the present agreement, the discussion on Gogra Post and Hot Springs area will take place 48 hours after the disengagement at Pangong Tso Lake will complete.

Fifth, there is also an accusation on India for getting into agreement despite being in a dominant position. They are,

  1. Prior to the standoff, Finger 4 belonged to Indian territory. But in the agreement, India agreed to move to Finger 3 and not to stay on Finger 4.
  2. Indian troops, after capturing Kailash ranges are now moving back.

But one has to realize following points,

  1. China moving back to Finger 8 after capturing Finger 4. 
  2. Focus on long term solution instead of the short term needs.
  3. Falling behind itself is like a defeat to China considering its military potential. 
  4. The area between finger 3 to finger 8 is currently under negotiation. 

Suggestions to improve the disengagement:

First, The immediate focus should be on the disengagement and gradual withdrawal in the entire region along with the proper implementation of Pangong Tso disengagement agreement. 

Second, Both countries can reach a diplomatic solution like the creation of buffer zones or demilitarized zone in disputed areas. As the next step of the solution, they can also create further improvements. Such as Neither side will deploy/patrol/develop infrastructure in the buffer zone or permitting joint patrolling of troops.

Third, Both the countries should sign an agreement to resolve the conflict in the long run by,

  1. Accepting and respecting the LAC by both the parties.
  2. Neither party should attempt to change the status quo unilaterally.
  3. Both parties should adhere to all the agreements.

Despite the Chinese agreement India always has to remain cautious of earlier Chinese aggressions such as non-adherence to the principles, frequent violation in the region, creating infrastructure in disputed areas, etc. Once the disengagement is done India will have to keep the momentum and move ahead to resolve all the boundary conflicts. That is the only solution beneficial for both the countries.

Posted in 7 PM, PUBLICTagged , , ,

Reasons behind India-China disengagement agreement along LAC

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Source- Indian Express 

Syllabus: GS 2 –  India and its Neighbourhood- Relations.

Synopsis: The Sino- Indian disengagement agreement in Pangong Tso region is the first step towards ending hostilities along LAC (Line of Actual Control). Focus should now be on other areas of friction like Kailash heights and Depsang plateau to bring lasting peace.

Background:

  • India and China have finally agreed to enter into a disengagement agreement along Pangong Tso region. This agreement has been reached after nine months of hostility.
  • The agreement was reached in the 9th corps commander meeting that was held on 24th January 2021.
  • It was mutual understanding and changing world scenarios that helped in this agreement.   

What are the possible reasons behind this disengagement agreement?

Experts are of the view that the Chinese aggression was a response to the rising strategic confidence of India in the region, since 2015. A lesson was to be taught to India and the vulnerable situation during the pandemic, gave Chinese just the right opportunity to execute its move. The following changing world scenarios are behind this agreement: 

  1. The new Biden-Harris alliance in the US promised greater stability in the South China Sea. Now, Chinese won’t like to further deteriorate its global image. They might be trying to deliver the message of cooperation.
  2. On the part of India, the sensible diplomacy coupled with strategic advantage obtained at Kailash heights improved its bargaining power. It assured that China sits on the negotiation table and cooperate.
  3. The discipline showed by India in the economic and trade domain also refrained China from using its media warfare doctrine. It induced China to engage in constant talks.
    • Media Warfare Doctrine-It is a doctrine that involves action to deny, exploit, corrupt or destroy the enemy’s information and its functions.

Suggestions:

  • The disengagement terms should be respected so that agreement leads to conflict resolution and not a postponement. It was seen in the earlier Doklam and Nathula stand-off, after reaching disengagement.
  • Trust needs to be established between frontline commanders else there is a possibility of escalation due to new friction, as seen in Galwan valley in July 2020.
  • Talks on other areas of friction are ongoing at Depsang plateau and Kailash heights. The present agreement should be used as a step towards lasting peace.
    • China has an upper hand in the Depsang plateau and India commands an edge over Kailash heights.

Future engagement must be guided by showing mutual respect towards each other’s territorial sovereignty and integrity.

Posted in 9 PM Daily Articles, PUBLICTagged ,

Disengagement agreement in Pangong Tso region

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Source: The Indian Express

Syllabus: GS 2 –  India and its Neighborhood- Relations. 

Synopsis: Both India and China have agreed to withdraw troops from Pangong Tso region. Both the countries will return to the position of April 2020 (before the stand-off took place). 

Introduction: 

As per the agreement reached by the 9th corps commanders meeting on 24th January, both Indian and Chinese troops began systematic disengagement on the northern and southern banks of Pangong Tso located in eastern Ladakh. 

Background: 

pongong tso

Source: Indian Express  

  • The North and South banks of Pangong Tso are one of the most sensitive points. These points mark the onset of the standoff that began in May 2020. 
  • During the stand-off, Chinese troops marched to the ridge line of finger 3 and 4. Whereas, India’s perceived LAC (Line of Actual Control) was at finger 8. 
  • In August 2020, India obtained some strategic advantage in the region by occupying certain peaks. After that, Indian troops start positioning in Magar Hill, MukhpariGurung Hill, etc. It pressurized China to enter into a negotiation.  
  • Recently, India and China finally reached an agreement on disengagement at Pangong Lake.  

About the agreement: 

  1. The agreement calls for disengagement along the Pangong Tso region. It includes the pulling of tanks and troops from both sides.
  2. The forward deployment will return to pre standoff status quo in a gradual manner, along north and south banks. 
  3. In the north bank, China will pull back to finger 8 and India will get back to its Dhan Singh Thapa post near finger 3. 
  4. The area between finger 3 and 8 will become a no patrolling zone for a temporary period. 
  5. Any construction done post-April 2020 is to be removed by both sides.

Significance: 

  • The agreement is expected to restore the pre-standoff position and sustain peace in the region. 
  • It would be an initial step. Based on that, future negotiations will take place.  

Concerns in negotiation: 

  • There is a lack of trust between both India and China. It will prevent the attainment of lasting peace in the region. 
  • The probability of escalation of violence by China still persists. For example, Both the countries involved in the Galwan Valley clash after a pull-back of their troops in June 2020.   
  • Pangong Tso is just one point of friction. Focus on other areas is also required. Else the efficacy of this disengagement would also be questionable. The other areas that require focus, are:  
    • Gogra Post at Patrolling Point 17A (PP17A)  
    • Hot Springs area near PP15 
    • PP14 in Galwan Valley 
    • Depsang Plains, which is close to India’s strategic Daulat Beg Oldie base

Way forward: 

  • The focus should now be on the disengagement and gradual withdrawal in the entire region, not only the Pangong Tso region 
  • The unresolved issues must be solved based on 3 principles: 
    1. Mutual acceptance and respect of LAC 
    2. No unilateral alteration of LAC 
    3. Mutual adherence of bilateral agreements 
Posted in 9 PM Daily Articles, PUBLICTagged ,

India, Afghanistan agreement to build “Shahtoot Dam” in Kabul

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What is the News?

India and Afghanistan have signed an agreement to build the Shahtoot Dam in the Afghan capital.

Shahtoot Dam:

  • It is a proposed dam in the Kabul river basin. It is one of the five river basins in Afghanistan.
  • Purpose:
    • The dam will provide drinking, irrigation, and Environmental water for Kabul province.
    • It will also provide water for irrigation to nearby areas, rehabilitate the existing irrigation and drainage network. Moreover, it will help in flood protection and management efforts.
  • Significance: This is the second major dam being built by India in Afghanistan, after the India – Afghanistan Friendship Dam [Salma Dam] which was inaugurated in 2016.

Source: TOI

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Why China should be seen as a partner by India?

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Source: The Hindu

Gs2: India and its Neighborhood- Relations.

Synopsis: India should acknowledge the rise of superpower China and prepare to complement its role in reviving the rule-based global order. It should start looking at China as a partner, instead of a rival.

Background

  • Recently, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said that both India and China remained committed to a multipolar world. They should also recognize that a “multipolar Asia” was one of its essential constituents.
  • India should also come out of the developing country’s mindset and make more clear choices. 
  • India’s major concerns are related to China and the new US administration looks at China as a ‘strategic competitor’ rather than a ‘strategic rival’.
  • On the security issues, India should not compromise on its strategic autonomy for the US or any other country. It should look for the options of cooperation with China also.
  • In this context, we will discuss how coping with china in the areas where India too has interest could become a win-win situation for both the Asian giants.

How effectively India utilizes its principle of Strategic autonomy?

India pursues its strategic autonomy more effectively than ever in the historical past. For example,

  • India has a “special and privileged strategic partnership” with Russia and a “comprehensive global strategic partnership” with the US.
  • However, India has been cautious in the relationship with the U.S.-led Quadrilateral Security Dialogue. 
  • India’s strategic autonomy is also reflected in India’s participation. It is involved in both the Shanghai Cooperation Organization led by china against western interests and in the US-led Quad, against China.

Why China should be seen as a partner, competitor rather than as rival?

  1. Firstly, in the financial sphere, China will soon become the world’s largest economy. For the first time, the Fortune Global 500 list contains more companies based in China, including Hong Kong, in comparison to the U.S.
  2. Secondly, Also, there is a possibility that the Chinese renminbi becomes a global reserve currency or e-yuan becomes the currency of digital payment. For example, the BRI countries are using the renminbi in financial transactions with China.
  3. Third, despite US sanctions, the EU created its own cross-border clearing mechanism for trade with China. All these developments signify the rise of China over the U.S.
  4. Fourth, Apart from this, China is now the second-biggest financial contributor to the UN. Also, it has published more high-impact research papers than the U.S.
  5. Fifth, it has also enhanced its ‘soft power’ similar to the levels achieved by the U.S.
  6. Also, China’s engagement with Eurasian landmass has made sure that the ASEAN countries will not easily move out of the BRI infrastructure, digital, finance and trade linkages.

What needs to be done?

  1. Similar to the EU, India needs to see china as a partner, competitor, and economic rival depending on the areas of interest.
  2. In this context, India needs to push the Quad members for assisting the infrastructure development of the BRI. However, it should be in line with the strategic concerns of the region.
  3. India and other Quad members can contribute to the development of scientific, technological capacity, and digital economy of BRI countries. It is more fruitful compared to developing an alternative development model.
  4. Similarly, India needs to take steps to reform the global governance to accommodate multiple views of different stakeholders. For example, with respect to digital data, India has recently expressed that there must be reciprocity in data sharing.
  5. Moreover, ASEAN countries are willing that India rejoin RCEP to balance China. Other countries are also admitting the bigger role that India can play in the near future.

Thus, as mentioned above also, India should also act as an emerging superpower. The Asian giants, India and China can have complementary roles, share prosperity and at the same time be independent of each other and of the West.

Posted in 9 PM Daily Articles, PUBLICTagged ,

India’s strategy for Myanmar

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Source: The Hindu

Gs2: India and its Neighborhood- Relations.

Synopsis: India’s Policy towards Myanmar should be a balance of India’s interest and India’s norms.

Background

  • The recent military coup in Myanmar has once again created uncertainty regarding the future of Myanmar’s democracy.
  • The U. S and the west have reacted strongly. The US threatened Myanmar about sanctions.
  • Myanmar lies between two powerful states (India and China) competing for power and influence. Thus, Myanmar will always have geopolitical importance.
  • Given the high stakes in Myanmar, India needs to craft well-thought-out strategic choices regarding the situation.

What are the issues facing countries in supporting Aung San Suu Kyi?

  • The image of Aung San Suu Kyi declined globally due to her support towards the ill-treatment of Rohingyas. Yet, there is no other alternative for international communities other than Aung San Suu Kyi in Myanmar.
  • The increasing global support for Aung San Suu Kyi will diminish the possibilities for justice to the Rohingyas in the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

How the coup will impact China?

The coup in Myanmar was more in the interest of the armed forces of Myanmar. However, it might affect China both negatively and positively.

  • In the short run, the Coup is against the Economic interests of other countries including India and China. Also, for China, the coup has destabilised its larger regional economic plans in Myanmar.
  • However, in the long run, Myanmar will be forced to seek China’s support if, the US imposes economic sanctions on Myanmar.
  • It is likely that China will be ready to offer them support in return for increasing the Chinese footprint in the country. This will make China the biggest beneficiary of the recent Military Coup in Myanmar.

What is the dilemma faced by India?

Till now, the existence of dual power centers in Myanmar suited India’s interest very well. However, the coup has put India in a dilemma on how to respond to the military coup in Myanmar.

  1. Myanmar’s military has been instrumental in controlling the insurgent groups in India’s northeast. They provided India with coordinated action and intelligence sharing.
  2. The issue of Rohingya Muslims is equally important. The military rule in Myanmar will offer support for increasing prosecution for Rohingyas. This could potentially lead to a rise of extremism within the community. This will be definitely against India’s interests in the longer run.
  3. If India’s national interest is given priority then, India would cooperate with Myanmar’s military. However, open support for the Military by India will lead to strong criticism by the West and especially America.
  4. On the other hand, India cannot actively oppose Myanmar’s military. Because Suu Kyi has also supported strong ties with China. It was Myanmar’s military that has been more supportive of India.

Recently, the Ministry of External Affairs has voiced its opinion for upholding the rule of law and the democratic process in Myanmar. However, considering the regional geopolitics India’s Myanmar policy will be based on interests rather than norms.

What is the way forward?

  • India must strive to push for political reconciliation in the country while maintaining relations with the government in power in Myanmar.
  • In the meantime, India needs to focus on improving trade, connectivity, and security links between the two sides.

Read more about India-Myanmar relations

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Sri Lanka settles “Currency Swap Facility” with India

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What is the News?
The Central Bank of Sri Lanka(CBSL) has settled a $400 million currency swap facility from the Reserve Bank (RBI) of India.

What is a Currency Swap Facility?

  • The term swap means exchange. Under this agreement, two contracting countries loan each other a specified amount in local currencies.
  • The parties agree to swap back this amount at a specified date. It uses the same exchange rate as agreed initially.
  • This facility uses the local currencies of the countries under agreement. Thus, it eliminates the need for the currency of any other country like US Dollars.

Benefits of Currency Swap facility:

  • The swap operations carry no exchange rate or other market risks. The transaction terms are set in advance.
  • It reduces the need of maintaining foreign exchange reserves for bilateral trade. Thus, it promotes bilateral trade.
  • Hence, it ensures financial stability (protecting the health of the banking system).

Examples of Currency Swap Arrangement:

  • India-Japan Currency Swap:
    • In 2018, India and Japan had signed a bilateral currency swap agreement.
    • Under this, RBI will get a certain amount of yen or dollars and the Bank of Japan will get an equivalent amount in Indian rupees on a decided swap rate.
    • After a specified period, both the countries will repay the amount at the same swap rate.
  • SAARC Currency Swap Framework 2019-22:
    • It came into operation in 2012. In 2019, the RBI revised the framework from 2019-2022. Under this, RBI will continue to offer swap arrangement within the overall corpus of USD 2 billion.
    • The currency swap facility will be available to all SAARC member countries subject to their signing the bilateral swap agreements.
    • Based on the terms and conditions of the framework, the RBI would enter into bilateral swap agreements with SAARC central banks who want to avail swap facility.
    • The drawls can be made in US Dollars, Euro, or Indian Rupee. The framework also provides certain concessions for swap drawals in Indian Rupee.

Source: The Hindu

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Chinese energy projects near Tamil Nadu cleared by Sri Lanka

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What is the News?

The Sri Lankan Government has cleared a Chinese project to set up hybrid wind and solar energy projects on three Sri Lankan islands.

Note: This development comes after Sri Lanka had recently decided to pull out of the East Container Terminal(ECT) deal with India and Japan.

About the Project:

  1. China’s hybrid renewable energy systems project is to be constructed on the three Islands namely Delft, Nainativu, and Analativu.
  2. These islands are managed by the Sri Lankan Navy.
  3. It will be implemented as a joint venture between the Sri Lankan government and Etechwin, a subsidiary of the Chinese wind turbine manufacturer Gold wind.
  4. Funding: Asian Development Bank will fund the project.

Concerns of India:

  1. These three Islands are located off the northern Jaffna peninsula which is 45 km from Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu.
  2. The delft island is in northern Sri Lanka and is one of the closest points to India.
  3. Kachchatheevu is the tiny island that India ceded to Sri Lanka in 1974. It is located Between Delft Island and Rameshwaram.
  4. The waters around these islands are an area of contest and rivalry between Tamil Nadu and Jaffna fishers. The matter has been on the bilateral agenda for decades.

Previous Instances:

  • In 2018, India had voiced concern over China’s $300 million housing project for war-affected areas. It accused the Sri Lankan Government of holding an opaque bidding process. The project was eventually dropped.

Source: The Hindu

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Sri Lanka has pushed India and Japan out from the Colombo Terminal Project

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Synopsis – Sri Lankan government has been forced to revoke a 2019 deal with India and Japan. The deal was to build the East Container Terminal (ECT) at Colombo Port. They cancelled the deal after facing intense resistance from trade unions across the region.

Background-
  • Sri Lanka, Japan and India signed an agreement [MoC] to jointly develop the East Container Terminal at the Colombo Port in 2019.
  • The MoC stated that the Sri Lanka will own 51 per cent stake. India and Japan will jointly own the remaining 49 per cent.
  • However, Sri Lanka unilaterally made a decision on an existing tripartite agreement.
Significance of the ECT Project for India –
  • First, the involvement of India and Japan is being seen as a big development.  It was also seen as a counter to the growing influence of China.
  • Second, Important trading link- The Colombo Port is an important port for trans-shipment of goods coming to India.
  • Third, it is seen as a collaboration between two Indo-Pacific partners [India-Japan]. It could prove to be better funding and development in the South Asia region.

What made Sri Lanka break the tripartite agreement on ECT project?

  • First, pressure from Colombo port trade unions –The government of Sri Lanka was under intense pressure. Because the trade unions opposed port’s privatization and demanded cancellation of the 2019 agreement.
  • Second, China’s involvement – there were reports the Chinese had played a role in inducing port unions to protest against India’s interest.

However, Sri Lanka has approved another proposal to develop the West Container Terminal [WCT] of the Colombo port with Japan and India. India has not commented on the proposal.

Way forward-
  • The Sri Lankan government should be cautious that no international government or financial institution would like to make major investments if they cancel the deal due to pressure.

Source- The Hindu

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Lessons from the past for way forward in Myanmar

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Source: The Hindu

Gs2: Effect of Policies and Politics of Developed and Developing Countries on India’s interests, Indian Diaspora.

Synopsis: The international community needs to plan according to the ground realities of Myanmar before making any effort to restore Democracy.

Background:

  • Following the recent military coup in Myanmar, many countries have voiced their concern to restore the Democracy in Myanmar.
  • However, it is important to understand the present situation from experiences. It will save the efforts of the international community to restore democracy, from failing.

What are the Lessons from past Military coups of Myanmar?

Firstly, the Myanmar military lacks any apathy towards its civilians. It is evident from past examples. For instance, during the 2008, Cyclone Nargis disaster, it refused to allow foreign aid from other countries to support relief works.

    • Moreover, instead of Prioritizing the Disaster relief work, it announced a pre-scheduled referendum on the military-scripted constitution to make use of the situation.

Second, imposing Economic sanctions against Myanmar will not bring any major political change.  It will do more harm to Myanmar’s Poor people. For example, During the western sanctions before 2010, the military was able to economically withstand sanctions by striking deals with Asian countries.

Third, the Military has been emboldened by the absence of punishment for crimes against humanity. For example, ex-Myanmar military general Than Shwe was able to escape without punishment.  He was on the watch list of the international community for perpetuating a crime of human rights abuses during his rule from 1992 to 2011. Brutality against Rohingyas is also an example.

Fourth, Myanmar’s military will try to exploit the ethnic and religious divide among its citizen. So, engagement of the international community with domestic stakeholders, including ethnic minorities, especially from the north is highly critical.

Suggestions 

  • The international community has to make use of China’s multi-layered influence on Myanmar. China has been working on Myanmar-related issues since 2013.
  • Before 2015, many mechanisms were planned by Western and Asian countries for coordinating strategies on Myanmar. These initiatives were discontinued after the restoration of democracy in Myanmar. International communities need to revive and bring this mechanism under a common platform.
  • International communities should make efforts to punish those individuals responsible for committing crimes against humanity.
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Sri Lanka Writes Off Strategic Colombo Port Deal With India & Japan

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Source: click here

Syllabus: GS 2

Synopsis: Sri Lanka’s has pulled out of a 2019 Colombo Port deal with India and Japan. The agreement was for developing the strategic East Container Terminal (ECT) at the Colombo Port.

Introduction

India and Sri Lanka signed a Memorandum of Understanding(MoU) for cooperation on economic projects in 2019. A container terminal at the Colombo Port was one of the projects under MoU.

However, Sri Lanka has pulled out from the deal after opposition from trade unions.

What was the agreement?

  • The ECT deal was important as between 60 and 70 percent of transshipment that takes place through it is India-linked.
  • As per the agreement, India and Japan would have 49 percent ownership of the ECT. Whereas Sri Lanka would have a 51% stake.
  • A 40-year loan at an interest rate of 0.1% from Japan was expected to fund the development of the ECT.

What went wrong?

  1. India-Sri Lanka relations are cordial in general. But India’s involvement in the civil wars of Sri Lanka still affects India’s interest there.
  2. Colombo Port Trade Union has strongly opposed the 49% stake of India and Japan. They are demanding 100% ownership of Sri Lanka of the ports,
  3. Big projects by India have always faced opposition in Sri Lanka. Due to this, India brought Japan in at least two of the projects listed in the MoU.
  4. But the relationship between Japan and Sri Lanka has also changed over the years, because of Colombo’s closeness to China. Therefore, including Japan in the project didn’t prove to be fruitful.
  5. The protests ended after the announcement of the Sri Lanka government. Now, the ECT would be developed and operated as a “wholly-owned container terminal of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA).

What happens now?

India has asked Colombo not to take a unilateral decision on an existing tripartite agreement. Japan has called the decision regrettable.

As a compensation offer, Sri Lanka has given a proposal to India and Japan for the development of the west terminal in partnership.

  • Sri Lanka assures that the West terminal is commercially better than the east terminal. The developers could hold up to 85 percent stake instead of 49 percent stake in the West terminal.
  • The unions agreed to this proposal to invite India and Japan to participate in the development and operation of the west terminal.
  • However, India has not yet responded to the offer.
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India- Myanmar relations after Coup

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Synopsis: India has a deep security relationship with the Myanmar military. It is not in India’s interest to intervene in Myanmar’s politics.

Introduction

Military rule has returned to Myanmar after a coup. Aung San Suu Kyi along with the political leadership has been detained by the Military.

Similar events took place in Myanmar 30 years ago. However, India’s reaction is going to be very different from its stand of 1989-90.

Read more about modern Myanmar history and other details

Why is India’s reaction going to be different this time?

India gave a statement of deep concern over the developments in Myanmar. However, its reaction is going to be different from the past because of the following reasons:

  • Firstly, India’s security relationship with the Myanmar military has become extremely close. Myanmar military assists India in securing the North East borders from insurgent groups.
    • In a recent visit to Myanmar, Indian counterparts met with both State Councillor Suu Kyi and Gen. Min Aung Hlaing. It signifies the equal importance of both for India.
  • Secondly, the image of Ms. Suu Kyi as a democratic icon and Nobel peace laureate has been damaged. It is the result of her failure in stopping the Army’s pogrom against Rohingya. Moreover, she defended the Army’s action.
  • Third, India has initiated numerous infrastructure and development projects with Myanmar. India sees this as the “gateway to the East” and ASEAN countries. For example, the India Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway and the Kaladan multi-modal transit transport network.
  • Fifthly, India wants to resolve the issue of Rohingya refugees that fled to Bangladesh and some still live in India.
  • Sixthly, there was a public uproar for India in 1990, to take a strong stand against Myanmar in the past. This is not the case in the present scenario.

India enjoyed a balanced relationship with both civil and military till now. But after this coup, India’s capacity to play both sides and maintain a relationship on both sides is now diminished.

Also read Coup in Myanmar and India-Myanmar bilateral relations explained

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Coup in Myanmar and India-Myanmar bilateral relations – Explained

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In a military coup in Myanmar, a state of emergency has been imposed for one year. The coup resulted in establishing military rule again in Myanmar. The military has detained democratically elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other politicians of the country. This action is condemned by the majority of countries around the world.

Myanmar’s elected democratic government was about to swear in and convened the Parliamentary session on February 1. The coup occurred to stop the convening of Parliamentary session. Also, the Military owned TV (Myawaddy TV) has announced that the Military will remain in power for one year. This event has raised questions on the survival of democracy in Myanmar.

Reason behind the Coup

Myanmar conducted elections democratically in November 2020. Aung San Suu Kyi led Party won 396 out of 476 seats (combined lower and upper houses of Parliament) and won the elections. The military reserves 25% of seats as per their 2008 Constitution.

The military (“Tatmadaw” in Mayanmar) alleged, there was large scale “irregularities” in the general elections. But the United Elections Commission (UEC) of Myanmar said that no such irregularities have occurred during the elections.

The new parliament fixed February 1 for convening the session and swearing ceremony. To prevent the parliamentary session, the military staged the coup in the early morning of February 1 and detained the political leaders.

Apart from that, the military also declared a one-year state of Emergency. The military also threatened to revoke the 2008 Constitution, “If one does not follow the law”.

The military had revoked two previous constitutions in Myanmar. Now, there is a possibility of revoking the present constitution. In fact, the 2008 Constitution was also the military-drafted one.

Read more about modern Myanmar history and other details

What is the stand of various countries on the coup?

Ministry of External Affairs of India mentioned that India will “always been steadfast in its support to the process of democratic transition” in Myanmar.

UN Secretary-General has condemned the coup in strong words.

The US warned Myanmar’s military officials against a coup attempt. It has threatened to “take action” if the military proceeded with the coup.

The Australian government calls for the release of detained leaders.

China, on the other hand, asks all the sides in Myanmar to resolve the dispute on its own.

Why Myanmar is important for India?

First, Myanmar’s role in tackling insurgency in Northeast: Myanmar shares a 1643 Km long boundary with India’s North Eastern State. Insurgent groups such as ISCN-K, ISCN-IM have operational bases inside Myanmar. The democratically elected government cooperated with India in controlling the insurgent activities especially, the Naga insurgency.

Second, Myanmar’s role in India’s “Neighborhood First” policy and “Act East” Policy: Myanmar is strategically located between India and Southeast Asian countries. Due to that, Myanmar is important for India’s connectivity with other South-East Asian countries.

Third, Reduction of illegal migrants coming to India: During the recent Rohingya issue, 14000 registered and 40000 unregistered refugees came to India. A stable Myanmar can prevent this fleeing of refugees.

Fourth, Myanmar is the gateway to the development of North-Eastern India: The success of infrastructure, developmental projects in the North-Eastern part of India directly depend on the co-operation with Myanmar. For Example, the Development of India-Myanmar-Thailand(IMT) trilateral highway, Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport (KMMTT) corridor, etc rely on Myanmar.

Present areas of Co-operation between India and Myanmar:

First, Co-operation in the field of Economy: The bilateral trade among both the countries remained in and around $2 bn. The trade will improve once there is a stable government in place.

Second, Co-operation in the field of Infrastructure and Development projects: In 2013 India provided a 500 million $ LOC (Line of Credit) for the developmental projects in Myanmar. Apart from that IMT trilateral highway and Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport (KMMTT) are also under implementation.

  • India-Myanmar-Thailand(IMT) trilateral highway:  The Highway connects Moreh in the Indian state of Manipur to the Mae Sot in Thailand. This route is interconnected via Mandalay in Myanmar.
  • Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport (KMMTT) :
      • The Project is aimed at connecting the eastern Indian seaport of Kolkata with the Sittwe seaport in Myanmar.
      • In Myanmar, it will then link Sittwe seaport to Paletwa in Chin State via the Kaladan riverboat route. Then from Paletwa by road to Mizoram state in Northeast India.
      • India constructed Sittwe Port as a deepwater port in 2016 at Sittwe.
      • Significance: The project will reduce the distance from Kolkata to Sittwe by approximately 1328 km.  In other words, the project will reduce the need to transport goods through the narrow Siliguri corridor also known as Chicken’s Neck.

Third, Defence cooperation: Both the countries conduct a joint military exercise named India – Myanmar Bilateral Military Exercise (IMBEX). Above all, both the armies jointly carried out Operation Sunrise twice. Under Operation Sunrise, the India-Myanmar armies jointly target the militant groups that operates in the border states.

Fourth, In the field of education and research: India developed Myanmar Institute of Information and Technology in Mandalay. Apart from that, an Advanced Center for Agricultural Research and Education (ACARE) has been set up with the collaboration of ICAR for conducting research on pulses and oilseeds.

Fifth, Other areas of co-operation. This includes India’s renovation of the 11th Century Ananda Temple in Myanmar (it was damaged due to earthquake). Apart from that India also provides Humanitarian and Disaster Relief to Myanmar during emergencies.

Suggestions:

First, India can aid the democratically elected government if there was a request from Myanmar. Myanmar is India’s strategic partner like Nepal, Bangladesh. India can help Myanmar like that of erstwhile Bangladesh in 1971.

Second, India has to strengthen the existing cooperation. India currently has an active co-operation with Myanmar in areas of security, counter-terrorism, trade and investment, energy co-operation. India has to encourage more active co-operation in these fields.

Third, India can formalise border trade with Myanmar. Currently, India’s Border trade with Myanmar is at a very low level. By formalising border trade like that of Border Haats in India-Bangladesh and providing enough support, we can improve people to people tie. It will also provide peace in long run.

Fourth, India can assist Myanmar in the implementation of the Kofi Annan Advisory Commission report on Rohingya Refugee issues. The commission has recommended investing in infrastructure projects. The recent Indian government move in developing the Sittwe port in Myanmar’s Rakhine state is one such move.

Read also India- Myanmar relations after Coup

Myanmar is not only strategically located but also in a strategic position to fulfill India’s ambition on developing North-East, connection with South-East Asia, etc. So, it is high time for India to help the Myanmar government to be a stable and democratic one.

https://blog.forumias.com/current-affairs-for-upsc-prelims/

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India-Sri Lanka Maritime dispute – Explained

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Recently four fishermen from Tamil Nadu died while fishing in Palk Bay.  The cause of death is still not clear. But the Indian government has registered its strong protest with India-Sri Lanka.

The arrest and death of fishermen by the Sri-Lankan government is a frequent issue. A press note mentions, “between January 2015 to January 2018 alone, 185 Indian boats got seized, 188 Indian fishermen have been killed and 82 Indian fishermen are missing”

The Fishermen conflict is one of the main challenges in maintaining good bilateral relations between India-Sri Lanka.

What are the reasons for fisheries-related conflicts?

First, the maritime boundary line between both countries is not a well-defined one. For example, in the Palk Bay region, the distance between both countries is very less. It varies from 16Km to 45 km. Therefore, the application of 12 nautical mile criteria is difficult here.

According to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS) 12 nautical miles from the baseline of a country, is considered as its territorial water.

 

Second, The issues of Katchatheevu island: India, and Sri Lanka have signed two agreements (1974,1976) to demarcate the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) between them. But fishermen of Tamil Nadu are not accepting the agreements. Because of reasons, such as

    • According to the fishermen community, “their consultation was not considered during the signing of the agreement and Katchatheevu is a sovereign territory of India”.
    • Prior to the agreements, the fishermen of Tamil Nadu used the island for sorting their fishes, drying the nets, etc. They also used the dry net to catch fishes again while returning.
    • After the agreement, the island was included in the Sri Lankan side of the maritime boundary. This reduced the fishing area of Tamil Nadu fishermen.

All these factors led to the frequent border crossing of Indian Fishermen. The Sri Lankan Navy usually arrest them or destroy their fishing nets.

Third, Fishing method of the Fishermen of Tamil Nadu: TN Fishermen uses mechanized trawlers for performing bottom trawling method of fishing. But according to the Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Act of Sri Lanka, the practise of bottom trawling is an offence.

What is bottom trawling?

  • It is an ecologically destructive fishing practice. It involves trawlers dragging weighted nets along the sea-floor.
  • The major problem in bottom trawling is Bycatch (captures juvenile fish and other non-targeted fish species). This will cause great depletion of aquatic resources and affecting marine conservation efforts.

What are the challenges in resolving this dispute?

First, the non-agreement on terms between both the countries. In 2016 India and Sri Lanka agreed to set up a Joint Working Group (JWG) to find a permanent solution for fishermen issue. But the two rounds of talks did not provide any result. Because

    • India demanded a three-year grace period to move away from the bottom-trawling method to an effective, alternative method of fishing.
    • But the Sri Lankan side demanded an immediate end to bottom trawling practices.

Second,  arrest and seizure on a larger scale makes negotiations hard. The Indian fishermen do not have the financial capability and technology to involve in multi-day fishing. So they do fishing in nearby locations like Palk Bay, Gulf of Mannar. This lead to larger arrests and seizures. As a result, the conflict deepened, and hard to negotiate.

What are the other Challenges in India-Sri Lanka relations?

First, The increase of Chinese investment – China has extended billions of loans to the Sri Lankan government for infrastructure projects. Apart from that China has also got a 99-year lease for strategic Hambantota port.

However, with the recent ‘India first policy’ of Sri Lanka, the relations have started improving.

Second, The unresolved Tamil Eelam issue- Though the civil war ended in Sri Lanka, rehabilitation of Sri Lankan Tamil people is not yet complete. There are still Sri Lankan refugees present in India. There is also a close cultural association among the Tamil-speaking community in India and Sri Lanka. So, a few sections of Tamil community in Tamil Nadu are also in favour of autonomy to Northern and Eastern Sri Lanka.

Third, The issue of the trade imbalance- Indian exports to Sri Lanka was worth US$ 4.16billion in 2018. But the export from Sri Lanka to India is US$ 767 million. Sri Lanka wants to reduce this imbalance. So the Sri Lankan government is demanding greater access to Indian markets. 

Way forward:

First, Indian fishermen need to phase out the bottom trawling practices at the earliest.  It will not only improve the bilateral relationship but also prevent ecological destruction. The government can provide incentives and involve in persuasive techniques for fishermen to achieve the objective.

Second, the Government has to fast-track the Blue Revolution Scheme. The Scheme allocates Rs 1,500 crore over a period of time for the conversion of bottom trawling boats into deep-sea liners. Fishermen will use the deep-sea liners for deep-sea fishing.

What is deep-sea fishing?

Deep-sea fishing is the practice of catching fish that live in the deep parts of the sea/ocean. In this practice, the boats are designed in such a way that fishermen will get access to the deeper parts of the ocean and fish species. Also, there are no ecological damages associated with deep-sea fishing like that of bottom trawling.

This is practised worldwide, especially in the coastal areas.

Third, regarding the Katchatheevu island, both countries can work upon any of the two solutions. Such as

    • India can get back the island on “lease in perpetuity”(lease forever)
    • Both countries can permit licensed fishermen to fish within designated areas. For example, permitting both country fishermen within 5 nautical miles of IMBL.

Fourth, Both India and Sri Lanka can also work upon starting ferry services. This will improve the people to people connection and reduce the conflict in the long run.

Mutual recognition of each other’s concerns is the key to resolving the fishermen issue. Apart from that, India and Sri Lanka have to see the fisherman issue as a holistic one including Katchatheevu island. This will not only help in solving the fisherman dispute alone but also a good start for the new generation of  India -Sri Lanka relations.

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MEA’s Eight broad principles to resolve conflict with China

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Source: Indian Express

Gs2: India and its Neighborhood- Relations.

Background: Recently, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar participated in the 13th All-India Conference of China Studies organized by the Institute of Chinese Studies.

What were the observations made by the External Affairs Minister in the 13th All-India Conference of China Studies?

In the conference, he made the following observations;

  1. First, he admitted that the military conflict in eastern Ladakh brought the India-China relationship under “exceptional stress”.
  2. Second, he expressed concern over the fact that till now India has not received any credible explanation for the change in China’s stance or reasons for increasing troops in border areas.
  3. Third, he also criticized China that the developments in eastern Ladakh show disregard” for commitments about minimizing troop levels. It doesn’t show any willingness for peace and tranquillity.
  4. Fourth, He also raised concerns about the increasing construction of border infrastructure by the Chinese side.

The Minister stated that the decisions or choices they make need to be well thought as they will have an impact on the entire world. He proposed eight broad principles to resolve the strained ties between India and China.

What are the eight broad principles and “mutuals” proposed by External Affairs Minister?

The eight broad principles outlined by the External Affairs Minister to take bilateral ties forward are,

  • Strict adherence to all agreements on border management.
  • Fully respecting the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
  • Making peace and tranquillity along with the frontier the basis for overall ties.
  • Recognizing that a multipolar Asia is an essential constituent of a multipolar world.
  • Managing differences effectively.

Along with this, he mentioned three mutual commitments that need to follow. He described them as determining factors for the ties. They are

  • The Mutual respect
  • Mutual sensitivity
  • Mutual interests

By giving the eight broad principles MEA made clear India’s approach in dealing with China. He also said that the development of ties can only be based on “mutuality”, whether it is the immediate concerns or more distant prospects.

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Naku La Pass in Sikkim

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Why in News?
Indian and Chinese Soldiers have clashed at the Balwan area in Naku La Pass in Sikkim.

Naku La Pass:

  • Naku La sector is a pass at a height of more than 5,000 meters above Mean Sea Level(MSL) in the state of Sikkim.
  • It is located ahead of Muguthang or Cho Lhamu (source of River Teesta).
  • The other passes located in the state of Sikkim are Nathu La Pass and Jelep La Pass.
  • While Nathu La pass is located on the east side of Sikkim, Naku La pass is located on the northern border of Sikkim.

Source: The Hindu 

 

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Reasons of increasing Palk Bay fishing conflict

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Source: The Hindu

Gs2: India and its Neighborhood- Relations.

Synopsis: The recent death of 4 fishermen resurfaces the unresolved issue of fisheries conflict between India-Sri Lanka at Palk Bay.

Background:

  • Recently four fishermen from Tamil Nadu died while fishing in Palk Bay.
  • Tamil Nadu has accused Sri Lankan Navy of that. But, the Sri Lankan navy maintains that they died when their trawler collided with a naval vessel while trying to avoid arrest.
  • The timing of the incident signifies the sensitivity of this issue. As recently, after a three-year gap, India-Sri Lanka have resumed their discussion on fisheries through a Joint working Group (JWG).
  • In JWG, India demanded the early release of fishermen and the boats in Sri Lankan custody. On the other hand, Sri Lanka demanded to curb illegal fishing by Indian fishermen, which has adversely affected the livelihood of its fishermen.
  • India has registered its strong protest against these deaths.

Why the conflict has not been resolved yet?

There are many reasons for the continuance of the conflict. They are,

  • Failure in implementing joint working group resolutions : Earlier both the sides agreed for  no violence or loss of life while handling the fishermen. A hotline was established between the respective Coast Guards for that.  However, the proposed hotline has not been operationalized yet.
  • Alternate solutions failed: The plan to replace Tamil Nadu fishermen trawlers with deep sea fishing vessels has not been successful.
  • Failure of Direct talks: Attempts to negotiate a settlement through direct talks between fishermen from both sides have also failed.
  • Inability to find a common ground: Sri Lanka favors an immediate ban on unsustainable fishing practices such as bottom trawling.  While Tamil Nadu fishermen want a lengthy phase-out period for the same.
  • Insensitivity of Tamil Nadu Political leaders. Political leaders in Tamil Nadu fail to acknowledge that incursion into Sri Lankan waters by  the State’s fishermen contribute immensely to the problem.

A comprehensive solution to end this conflict is to ban unauthorized fishing. It should be followed by the facilitation of sustainable use of resources by fishermen from both sides

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Taiwan-China conflict and India’s stand on it

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Recently Taiwan reported a large scale incursion in its air defence zone by Nuclear-capable Chinese bombers and fighter jets. In response, the U.S. sent an aircraft carrier strike group in the South China Sea. The US claims this as an effort to support freedom of navigation in the region.

The China-Taiwan conflict has larger regional implications. At its worst, this issue has a potential of igniting a war between the US and China. This conflict will also have implications for India.

What is the core conflict between China and Taiwan?

In China,  after World War II, two political parties were formed

    1. The Kuomintang (KMT) or the Republic of China (Nationalist)
    2. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) (Communist)

Civil War broke out between two political parties in China. During the civil war, the Communist Party led by Mao Zedong won. The KMT under the leadership of  Chiang Kai-shek fled to Taiwan in 1949.

The Communist Party and its leaders began ruling the Chinese Mainland as the People’s Republic of China (PRC). KMT started ruling Taiwan as the Republic of China (RoC). Both PRC and ROC disagreed on the issue that who is the legitimate governing body of China.

The PRC always maintained that it is the legitimate governing body of China. Along with that the PRC also maintain Taiwan as an inalienable part of mainland China and consider Taiwan as a breakaway province. To prove that the People’s Republic of China introduced “One country Two systems approach” and “One China Policy”.

Taiwan:

Source: Wikipedia

    • It is an island on the southern coast of China. 
    • The maritime boundary of Taiwan includes China (officially the PRC) on the west, Japan on the Northeast, and the Philippines on the south.
    • It is the 5th largest economy in Asia and a global leader in Integrated Circuit Chip manufacturing.
    • Taiwan is the most populated state and largest economy that is not a member of the UN (United Nations) and WHO (World Health Organization).
    • However, Taiwan is a member of WTO (World Trade Organization) and Asia-Pacific Economic Corporation (APEC) under the name of “Chinese Taipei”.
What is One Country Two system Policy?

It is a policy proposed by Deng Xiaoping.  Initially, the policy aimed to restore the relationship between the Chinese mainland and Taiwan. But later expanded to include other historical Chinese territories as well (e.g. Macau and Hong Kong).  It is also called the One-China Principle.

In general, the regions accepting this policy have to acclaim that there is only one China (PRC). China (PRC) will control defence and foreign Affairs of these regions. In return, the region can have economic and administrative autonomy (I.e., they can follow the capitalist economy).

But this policy has not been accepted by Taiwan.  It has put forward the following conditions in front of China:

    • The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has to be renamed the Republic of China (ROC).
    • The Chinese mainland (The communist region) has to conduct democratic elections.

Conditions were not accepted by the People’s Republic of China.

What is One China Policy?

This is a policy to force Taiwan to sign a ‘one country two system’ policy.

Under this policy, any country willing to establish diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China must acknowledge that there is only “One China”. Apart from that the accepting country also has to cut down all formal ties (informal ties can be maintained) with Taiwan. Moreover, it can’t recognize Taiwan as an independent country.

At present Countries such as Egypt, Iran, Iraq have recognized the PRC and accepted the One China Policy. However, Countries such as the USA, India, Saudi Arabia maintain an informal relationship with Taiwan.

The countries such as Nicaragua, Honduras, Paraguay have rejected the One China Policy and have diplomatic relations with the Republic of China.

Major developments on conflict:

First, Sunflower Student Movement 2014: In 2010, the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA)  was signed between ROC and PRC to boost Taiwan’s economy.  This is followed by the Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement (CSSTA). But this was opposed by students resulting in the Sunflower Movement.

Second, There is a diplomatic shift in the policy of the US and Taiwan. In recent years US engaged with Taiwan and supporting Taiwan’s membership to WHO (World Health organisation).

Third, In a recent referendum, Taiwan people rejected the proposal to rename the country’s Olympic team as Taiwan. The people voted for the team’s name to be continued as Chinese Taipei.

India’s changing position on One China Policy (OCP)?

First, In the 1950s, India was one of the first Asian countries to recognize the People’s Republic of China and its OCP. Thus, no diplomatic relations could be established with Taiwan.

Second, The Look East policy started strengthening the engagement of India with East Asian countries, including Taiwan. In 1995 India and Taiwan established complementary representative offices.

Third, India-Taiwan relations improved gradually and since 2010 India has refused to endorse the “one-China” policy. At the same time, India is not having any formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

India’s relationship with Taiwan:

India’s relationship with Taiwan is based on the co-operation of the two countries.

First, In the field of the economy: Both countries signed a Bilateral Investment Agreement in 2018. Apart from that both the countries also signed the “Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement” and “Customs Mutual Assistance Agreement” in 2011 to boost economic ties.

As a result of these initiatives,  Bilateral trade improved from  $934 million in 1995 to USD 7.5 billion in 2019

Second, Science and Technology co-operation: Taiwan is a technological giant. India and Taiwan signed an MoU for cooperation in the field of agricultural and food science; new material for sustainable energy and storage devices, health care, etc.

Taiwanese tech giant Foxconn committed a 5bn$ investment in Maharashtra.

Third, In the field of education both the countries signed a mutual degree recognition agreement (2010) in higher education. At present there are 7 Taiwan Education Centers (TEC) has been set up in various universities in India.

Fourth, Apart from that Taiwan and India also involve in Cultural engagement like screening  Taiwan films in film festivals of India, etc.

Way forward:

India can engage more actively with Taiwan for reasons like,
First, Taiwan is a technological giant and India’s present challenges can be solved to a greater extent by engaging with Taiwan.

    • For example: India can achieve Make in India, ”“Digital India,” “Skill India,” and “Startup India” initiatives with active engagement with Taiwan

Second, closer Economic and Political ties with Taiwan may be the counter China-Pakistan Nexus. India can better leverage China’s territorial claims on Aksai Chin and engagement in Gilgit Baltistan by maintaining closer relations with Taiwan.

Despite there is an ongoing tussle between China and Taiwan, India being Non-aligned with any one of them. India continuing a mutual relationship with Taiwan without harming the relationship with China. It is high time for China to respect the same

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Vaccine Diplomacy | Myanmar, Mauritius and Seychelles receive Covishield

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Why in News?

India has sent shipments of Covishield vaccines to Myanmar, Mauritius, and Seychelles under its ‘Vaccine Maitri’ (vaccine diplomacy) drive.

  • Vaccine diplomacy: It is the branch of global health diplomacy in which a nation uses the development or delivery of vaccines to strengthen ties with other nations.

Read MoreSignificance of Vaccine Diplomacy

India’s Vaccine Diplomacy:

  • Bhutan, Maldives, Bangladesh, and Nepal have already received their Covishield vaccines from India.
  • In the cases of Sri Lanka and Afghanistan, India is awaiting confirmation of necessary regulatory clearances.
  • India has also carried out capacity building and training workshops for neighbouring countries.
  • However, the only exception to India’s vaccine diplomacy is Pakistan which has not been named as a neighbouring country for vaccine delivery.

Source: Indian Express

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 Vaccine diplomacy 

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Synopsis: India’s Vaccine diplomacy will raise India’s Stature at the global arena. 

Background: 

  • Till now, India has supplied Covid19 vaccines to Maldives, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Nepal, Myanmar and Seychelles. The initial supplies of Covid19 vaccines have been sent free of cost. 
  • It is expected that India will be distributing vaccines to other countries including Sri Lanka and Afghanistan. 
  • By supplying vaccines at quick interval, India has delivered on the commitments it made to these countries. 

What is the significance of Vaccine diplomacy? 

First, it will lead to new kind of diplomacy based on the common good and common interests of the South Asian people. 

Second, India’s prevailing good reputation over manufacturing medicines will only increase in the south Asian region. This will increase the scope of Medical tourism in India. 

Third, Sale of Covid19 vaccines will be economically beneficial. For example, Countries such as Myanmar and Bangladesh have started negotiating for commercial agreements with manufacturers for more quantities. 

What is the way forward? 

India should refrain from entering into contest with China for supply of vaccines to its Neighbours. Because,  

  • First, Vaccines are a global common good. 
  • Second, the demand for anti-COVID 19 immunization across the world is increasing. it is the responsibility of all countries with the capability to manufacture the vaccine to make it available equitably to all 
  • Third, Immunization is in every country’s interest, as it is crucial to restore the movement of people and goods across nations, to build a global immunity prior to COVID19 situation. 
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Why Chinese forces are weakening?

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Syllabus Topic – International Relations – India and its neighborhood 

Synopsis: In the beginning of this year, Chinese President Xi Jinping instructed his armed forces to be “combat-ready to act at any second”. However, in reality Chinese forces are facing too many inside challenges.  

Why China is becoming aggressive? 

First, Policies of new US President Joe Biden favours freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea and Taiwan straits. By this aggression, China wants to show its confidence and military preparedness in response to new U.S. policies. 

Secondly, China is preparing for possible military conflicts due to its aggression in South China Sea, Taiwan and Ladakh. 

Thirdly, after a series of setbacks in Ladakh, China’s Western Theatre Command (WTC) has realised that it is still not well prepared. It suffered a high number of casualties in the June 15 Galwan valley clash. Moreover, the Indian Army also captured the strategic mountainous heights at Rezang La and other passes. 

Reasons for poor performance of Western Theatre Command (WTC) in Ladakh  

As mentioned above, Chinese WTC forces were outperformed by Indian troops in Ladakh. It brought many weaknesses of WTC in light, i.e. 

  • Chinese troops have not faced any combat for the last 41 years. They crumbled when faced with strong opposition by Indian forces. 
  • Chinese forces are facing promotion related issues. It has negatively affected their morale.  
  • For example; many senior officers are not getting promotions due to doubt over their loyalty to Mr Xi.  
  • Chinese soldiers are not able to face the extreme high-altitude climate.  
  • Recently, 10,000 troops from the WTC were moved to lower locations due to fatigue and other complications. 

Issues facing Chinese forces 

  • Firstly, Promotions in Chinese army are based on the loyalty to Chinese President Xi.  
  • Secondly, most of the recruitment are forced due to the policy of compulsory military service. Personnel forced into military lack of motivation to fight a war.  
  • Third, the Chinese army is more of a political force and lack professionalism.  
  • Fourth, the concept of Joint Theatre Command has been introduced to promote to deal with regional threats. This idea is not feasible due to lack of coordination between different Chinese forces. 

Chinese forces have shown too much aggression everywhere recently, but in reality, it is suffering from many issues from inside. 

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New transition in India-Nepal relations 

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Synopsis: Recent Joint Commission Meeting in Delhi was a positive development for bilateral relations of India and Nepal. 

Introduction  

The Minister for Foreign Affairs of Nepal, Pradeep Kumar Gyawali visited New Delhi for the sixth meeting of the India-Nepal Joint Commission. 

What was discussed in the meeting? 

In this joint meeting discussions on the following project and assistance took place. It will strengthen India-Nepal relations: –  

    • India assured an early delivery of vaccines to Nepal, in its fight against the pandemic. 
    • Cross-border rail connectivity projects, including a possible Raxaul-Kathmandu wide-scale railway line, were discussed. 
    • Further easing of cross-border movement of people and goods through ICPs was discussed.  
      • Integrated Check Posts (ICPs) at Birgunj and Biratnagar were inaugurated recently. These ICPs have helped in the smooth association of people and trade. 
      • These ICPs will ease trade and transit for Nepal, since it is dependent on India’s seaports for majority of trade.   
    • Nepal has shown support for India’s permanent membership of an expanded UN Security Council (UNSC) to redirect the changed balance of power.  

However, India declined Nepal’s request of including boundary issues in the commission meeting. India suggested finding a fresh mechanism for that purpose. 

What are the possible reasons behind this positive development? 

    • India is not getting involved in any internal political conflict of Nepal and willing for deeper engagement with all sections. It has sent a positive signal in Nepal.  
    • After a brief period of friction, PM Oli is himself trying to reach India now. This policy change is also a result of China’s hyper-interventionism in Nepal’s politics.     

Way forward 

With the increasing demand for restoring the monarchy, Nepal cannot afford to enter another round of political volatility. India has always played a positive role in Nepal, a good India-Nepal bilateral relation in this regard is mutually beneficial 

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 Vaccine Maitri: India Vaccine diplomacy exercise  

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Why in News?  

India will officially start its vaccine diplomacy with the name “Vaccine Maitri” under  its  Neighborhood First policy. 

    • Vaccine Diplomacy: It is the use of vaccines to increase a country’s diplomatic relationship with  other countries. 

 Key Features of Vaccine Maitri 

Vaccine Maitri

  • India will supply Made-in-India Covid-19 vaccines to its neighboring and key partner countries Under its Neighborhood First policy. 
  • Bhutan and Maldives will be the first to get the vaccines followed by Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and Seychelles.  
  • Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Mauritius will also get doses once they give necessary regulatory approvals. 
  • Pakistan has not been named as a neighboring country which will get the vaccine.  
  • Vaccine will be Supplied to the partner countries in a phased manner, keeping in mind the demand. 

Earlier Diplomacy measures by India: 

  • India had earlier supplied Hydroxychloroquine, Remdesivir and Paracetamol tablets as well as diagnostic kits, ventilators, masks, gloves and other medical supplies to a large number of countries during the pandemic. 
  • Under the Partnerships for Accelerating Clinical Trials(PACT) programme, India has also provided training to several neighbouring countries to enhance and strengthen their clinical capabilities  

 Additional Facts: 

  • PACT programme: It has been launched for supporting COVID-19 vaccine development activities in partnering countries.  
    • The initiative is being implemented by Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council(BIRAC) and Clinical Development Services Agency(CDSA) under the aegis of the National Biopharma Mission and Ind-CEPI Mission of DBT. 
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Kalapani territorial dispute between India and Nepal resurfaced

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Synopsis:

Kalapani territory is one of the major disputed border areas between India and Nepal. But the dispute is not yet resolved by mutual terms and usually resurface time and again. In this article, you can read about the details of the dispute and the steps that India should take.

Introduction: Present development

Nepal has raised the Kalapani boundary dispute during the recent Joint commission meeting with India.

Dispute intensified in November 2019, when India published a revised political map after the reorganization of J&K, depicting Kalapani as the region of India.

Nepal immediately issued an objection to the map. Nepal government released a map mentioning Kalapani -Lipulekh- Limpiyadhura as a territory of the Darchula district of Sudurpashchim province of Nepal.

About Kalapani territory

Kalapani is the eastern most region of the Pithoragarh district of Uttarakhand, administered by India.

It is located at the China-Nepal-India tri-junction and is a strategically important area. So Kalapani was regarded as an ‘observation zone’ for troops. For example, by stationing Indian troops at Kalapani, India can observe the movement of the Chinese troops and push them back if required.

Apart from that, Kalapani serves as an important pass for the Kailash Mansarovar route.

Since 1962, Kalapani has been guarded by the Indian security forces. But According to Nepal, King Mahendra with the helping tendency offered Kalapani to India temporarily for security purposes during the 1962 India-China war.

This debate intensified in the 1990s after Nepal restored its democracy.

What is Kalapani Dispute? Historical aspects and conflicting claims by both the countries

The key reason for the Kalapani dispute is the disagreement between India and Nepal over the origin of River Kali, flowing through Kalapani region.

British India signed the Treaty of Sugauli with the Kingdom of Nepal after the Anglo-Nepalese War in 1816. In this treaty, they demarcated the Kali River as Nepal’s western boundary with British India.

But the source of Kali has become a main cause of contention.

River Kali is known as ‘Kali’ at the upper reaches, ‘Mahakali’ at the middle portion and ‘Sarjoo’ or ‘Gogra’ at  the lower areas. This aggravates the confusion about where it belongs

The two contrasting views:

Nepal’s stand:

Nepal was of the view that the river which flows to the west of Kalapani is the main River Kali. They also believe that River Kali was originating at either Limpiyadhura or the nearby Lipulekh pass, which are both within the Nepalese territory.

India’s stand:

  • India believes that the River Kali originated from a smaller rivulet named Pankhagad. It was lying on the southern portion of Kalapani. Hence it is the true border, and the territory  was lying in India.
  • The revenue and administrative records of the nineteenth century showed Kalapani as a part of India.
Other territorial disputes between India and Nepal

The disagreements between India and Nepal are not limited to Kalapani but also the other areas like Lipulekh, Limpiyadhura, and Susta;

Susta region:

    • It is a fertile area consist of alluvial soil located in the Terai regions West Champaran district, Bihar  of India.
    • Susta region is located on the banks of the Gandak river. The Gandak river is also called as the     Narayani river in Nepal.
    • During the 1816 Treaty of Sugauli, the west side of the Gandak river belongs to Nepal and the Eastern part of the river belongs to India.
    • But due to frequent change of course by the Gandak river, the Susta region at present belongs to the Eastern part (I.e., belongs to India). This is not accepted by Nepal.

Lipulekh and Limpiyadhura region:

    • Both Lipulekh and Limpayadhura (Limpiya pass) located on the Nepal-Tibet border
    • Lipulekh Pass connects the Indian state of Uttarakhand with the Tibetan Autonomous Region of China. Lipulekh is the shortest route to reach Taklakot, a Tibetan township of China.
    • Nepal claims that the Indian army has encroached on both regions during the 1962 territorial offering of King Mahendra.
Solutions:

First, In the 1980s, both countries set up a Joint Technical Level Boundary Working Group. It succeeded in the demarcation of all territories except Kalapani and Susta. Both governments have to create such a joint       working group to resolve the dispute.

Second, establishing a permanent mechanism to reduce the disputes further so that  the disasters caused by the rivers and floods in the regions of India-Nepal can be mitigated effectively.

Third, India has to convey to Nepal’s leadership about the friendly environment that 6 to 8 million Nepali   citizens living in India and the benefits of open borders enjoyed by citizens of both countries.

Fourth, Mutual respect is the key: The Nepal government has to broaden the view and has to stop the territorial nationalism and pulling out the China card whenever they negotiate with India.

Way forward:

The India-Nepal relationship is a unique relationship, built by friendship and cooperation with cultural and civilizational links. The border dispute is one of the important issues to solve to take ahead India and Nepal relations to another level. But to be successful forgetting the mistakes and claims of past along with a fresh start is key to both the countries.

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New opportunities for India in Afghanistan

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Synopsis: Change of power in the US has provided India with an opportunity to re-engage with Afghanistan. 

Introduction  

  • The National Security Advisor(NSA) Ajit Doval paid a 2-day visit to Kabul. It was the first trip to Afghanistan, by a top Indian official, since the start of Doha Talks between Taliban and Afghan republic representatives. 
  • Both sides discussed efforts for building regional consensus on supporting peace in Afghanistan and counter-terrorism cooperation. 

What has been the course of events in Afghanistan? 

  • The US has agreed to withdraw all its troops from Afghanistan after an agreement with the Taliban. 
  • Although the dialogues between the Taliban and the Kabul delegation were still ongoing, President Ashraf Ghani is suspicious of Taliban’s intentions. It is due to Taliban’s refusal of a ceasefire and a high level of violence. 

Now the Presidency in the US is changed. It will be tough foreign policy tasks for the Biden Administration, to take onward the Afghan process started under the Trump government.  

Why are India’s stakes in the Afghanistan Peace process? 

The main concern of India is linked to Pakistan’s involvement in the process;

  • First, Pakistan has been key to bring the Taliban to the talks table.  Thus, at present, it has an upper hand compared to India.
  • Second, Pakistan’s intelligence agency has friendly relations with the Taliban and the Haqqani network. 

What Opportunities does India have to increase its presence? 

The Change of power in the US has provided an opportunity to both India and the Afghan government, to raise apprehensions about the Afghan process to Washington. 

  • Firstly, Kabul will pressure for the conditions for talks that the Taliban must agree to a ceasefire. Afghan Foreign Minister is looking for India’s help in this.
  • Secondly, the new administration in the US is expected to be more sensitive to the concerns of other participants in Afghanistan. For example, concerns of women and rights groups about the return of the Taliban. 
  • Thirdly, External Affairs Minister of India said that Delhi might increase “military assistance” to Afghanistan. 

Way forward 

  • Now is the right time for India to increase its presence in the Afghan peace process. India should rethink the “temporary” closure of the Indian consulates in Afghanistan.

 

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Importance of Reviving SAARC

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Synopsis- SAARC has become dysfunctional and not able to meet since las 6 yearsReviving SAARC is crucial for countering common challenges in the region, amid COVID pandemic. 

Introduction 

  • The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is the regional intergovernmental organization and geopolitical union of nations in South Asia founded in 1985 with 7 member nations. 
  • The group was established to promote regional economic growth through active collaboration. But in past years there has been deadlock type condition especially due to India-Pakistan conflict.  
  • In 2016, the Summit schedule in Pakistan got canceled in the backdrop of the terrorist attack in Pathankot and Uri. Since then, no SAARC meeting has been held.  

 Why SAARC failed? 

The last physical SAARC summit was held in 2014 and subsequently, summits could not be held after that. The reasons for a dysfunctional SAARC are; 

  • First, India-Pakistan bilateral relationsEnmity between India and Pakistan is one of the main reasons why SAARC is not prospering. This long-standing conflict has impacted other meeting of SAARC as well, making it easier for member countries, as well as international agencies, to deal with South Asia as a fragmented group. 
  • Secondthe novel coronavirus pandemic and China’s aggressions at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) put a new spotlight and shadows for SAARC meeting. 

India’s position on not attending SAARC is particularly confusing. It has been attending SCO meeting even after clashes with China and engaged with Nepal even after boundary related issues.    

Why reviving SAARC can be helpful in countering the common challenges? 

  1. Pandemic Challenges.  
    • First, South Asia’s experience of the pandemic has been very unique. The COVID-19 has provided a window for introspection and for scaling up preparedness for inevitable pandemics in the future. 
    • Second, a Collaborative approach is also necessary for the distribution and further trials needs for the vaccine as well as developing cold storage chain.  
    • Third, the pandemic’s impact on South Asian economies– The economic consequences of COVID -19 on South Asia are proving to be even greater than the health Challenges in the region. 
  1. China’s Factor in SAARC– Amid India- China border tensions, as part of its global expansionism, China is chipping away at India’s interests in South Asia, a unified South Asian platform remains India’s most potent countermeasure. 
    • China expanding footprints in South Asia by investments in trade, tourism, BRI, and other programs should be given attention. All SAARC members except Bhutan, are Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) partners of China will be hard placed to help individually. 
    • Only a matter of time before china, it may hold a meeting of all SAARC countries except minus India and Bhutan for they are all part of the BRI, and even that they will be invited to join RCEP, which India declined. 

Way forward 

  • To make SAARC more effective the organization must be reformed and member countries must reach a consensus regarding the changes required.  
  • The tragedy of Covid-19 provided an opportunity for India to demonstrate its compassionate face to secure a region at peace with itself 
  • In dealing with the challenge from China too, both at India’s borders and in its neighborhood, a unified South Asian platform remains India’s most potent countermeasure. 

 

 

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Diplomatic practices

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Synopsis: India is unwilling to interfere in the political turmoil of Kathmandu and Beijing on the other hand is making efforts to preserve the unity of ruling party in Nepal. Stances of both the countries are very different from their traditional foreign policies.

Introduction

Interventions in the happenings of neighbouring countries have been a permanent feature of Indian and Chinese foreign policy.

  • China’s intervention in Nepal is a part of its interventionist strategy across Asia and beyond.
  • Big nations like China and India always interfere in other nations but ward off possible threats to their own sovereignty. For example, India countered intensely the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s comments on the farmers’ distress.

On what factors does India’s national sovereignty depend upon?

The national sovereignty has always depended on the ability of the nation to secure it by its widespread national power. Big nations tend to intervene more, and the smaller ones find ways to manage this through the politics of balancing against their large neighbours.

  • First, India has to carefully manage the unavoidable and active interaction between the domestic political processes of India and its neighbours.
      • Active and direct intervention in the domestic politics of neighbours must be a sensible exemption rather than the rule in India’s regional diplomacy.
  • Second, the bitter past of partition leave the domestic political connotations of Bangladesh, India and Pakistan knotted together and complicate their relations as distinct sovereign bodies.
  • Third, the concept of national sovereignty and effectiveness of third-party intervention is limited by circumstance. Outside mediations in the domestic politics of neighbours are rarely successful and yield unplanned penalties.

What are the steps to be taken?

It is extremely hard for even the most powerful nations to make the smallest states agree to do what is right on issues such as democratic governance, minority rights and federalism.

  • India can only encourage and not force Colombo and Kathmandu to respect the rights of Tamils and Madhesis but given the complex web of linkages across South Asian borders, Delhi can’t avoid dealing with these challenging issues either.
  • India should try to be a dependable partner and reliable friend and should be committed to strengthening bilateral ties “on the basis of mutual trust, mutual interest, mutual respect and mutual sensitivity” as promised by the minister of external affairs to the political leaders in Sri Lanka.

Way forward

  • Delhi’s constant quest of this agenda could help India in managing the multifarious dynamic with its neighbours a little better.
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India’s counter-coercive strategy against China

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Synopsis: India has done quite well in countering Chinese moves in eastern Ladakh with its coercive strategy. 

Introduction 

There is an opportunity for middle powers like India to redefine their position in the world order as decline and rise of Chinese and American powers continue.  

  • Alexander L. George, an American political scientist, is best known for his work on coercive diplomacy. The happenings in eastern Ladakh can be understood with reference to four variations of coercive diplomacy: 
      • A gradual turning of the screw. 
      • A try-and-see. 
      • A tacit ultimatum. 
      • A full-fledged ultimatum. 

How the four variations of coercive diplomacy were used in the border standoff? 

      • China attempted to alter the existing status quo in eastern Ladakh, this resembled gradually turning the screw and then waiting to see India’s reaction. 
      • India adopted a try and see approach. India wanted to engage in mild forms of coercion that involved the building up of forces to achieve parity on the ground.  
  • IAF was displaying its capabilities in Ladakh indicating that India wanted PLA to restore the status quo without any threats.  

After India failed to compel the PLA to withdraw by mid-july, it had two options according to Alexander George’s escalatory ladder: 

      • First, India could have issued an indirect or tacit ultimatum that would involve an unspoken and firmly controlled tactical action, by this means signifying resolve and intent. 
      • Second, it could issue a full-fledged ultimatum followed by multi-dimensional military action that could lead to a limited conflict. 

What approach did India took to handle china? 

At the operational and strategic level, the Chinese did not expect the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force to mobilise and get into their operational roles at high altitude with effortlessness.  

      • Indian Army lowered the psychological high ground gained by Chinese by occupying key heights overlooking Chinese PLA. 
      • At the strategic level, India’s political establishment did not push the panic button and synergised politico-diplomatic-military approach was adopted.  

Conclusion  

  • India has militarily recovered well, diplomatically played ruthlessly and strategically postured skilfully in spite of the restrictions of the ongoing pandemic. However, it is too early to predict the course of events; it can only be fair to say that India has done well in countering Chinese coercion in Ladakh with its own brand of counter-coercion. 
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Approach of India and China on Nepal’s political crisis

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Synopsis: Beijing and New Delhi are adopting different approach towards China after Nepal’s prime minister decided to dissolve Parliament. 

Background: 

The Supreme Court has given Mr. Oli some time to explain his actions. It is yet to decide on putting a stay on the election process. 

  • Ever since Nepal adopted its new Constitution in 2015, there have been quite a few instances where politics has reached a tipping point.
      • One of the examples is, Mr. Dahal’s walk out of a coalition government with Mr. Oli in 2016.

What is China’s stance? 

  • Beijing’s sent a senior delegation of the Communist Party of China to Kathmandu shortly after Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli’s decision to dissolve Parliament. It indicates that China is prepared to interfere in Nepal’s politics. 
  • Chinese delegation met political leaders of Nepal with a definite task of trying to reverse the split in the party and convince Mr. Oli and his rivals to patch up.
  • This move of Chinese government flickered protests in Kathmandu. Though China is at a risk of losing popular goodwill in Nepal due to this move, it is equally surprising that both groups in Nepal were willing to meet the Chinese delegation.

What is India’s stance? 

It is evident that India is not playing its traditional leading role in Nepal but it is also not facing hatred for spoiling the situation. 

Read Also : Current affairs for upsc
  • India has a historical understanding of the main players in Nepali politics; thus, it has chosen to be more logical and controlled.  
  • Mr. Oli and Mr. Dahal, both reached out to India and are engaging with the government about the happenings in Nepal. 
      • Mr Oli reached out to India months after the map controversy. 
      • Mr. Dahal has been a close Indian confederate during this period.

The present positive situation gives New Delhi a little more space to consider its moves, to bring instability. Stability in Nepal’s polity is crucial for their better relations with India in the long term as their prosperity is closely interlinked.

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India and its Neighbourhood-Relations

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India and its Neighbourhood-Relations:-

Synopsis: The two-front challenge long ignored by India has become a reality, therefore there is an urgent need to develop both the doctrine and the capability to deal this threat. 

Why India didn’t perceive the two-front challenge as a real possibility for long? 

The collusive China-Pakistan military threat (i.e., China-Pakistan military are working in cooperation to contain India on the northern borders) on Indian borders is known as the two-front challenge. 

  • BeforeGalwan Issue too, Indian military was firmly believed that the two-front challenge as a real possibility, but the political class and the country’s strategic community called this threat as an issue, over-hyped by the military to justify the demand for additional resources and funds.  
  • As per them, China has never intervened militarily in any India-Pakistan conflict and the presence of strong economic, diplomatic, and political ties between India and China will prevent the rise of conflict between the two countries. 
  • As a result, Indian strategic thinking was overwhelmingly focused on Pakistan, as a real threat on the border.

Why, the two front challenge is seen as a reality now? 

Present developments are enough evidences to perceive that the two front threat has become a real concern for India now. 

  • The most recent Chinese intrusions in Ladakh, the violent clashes between the Indian Army and the People’s Liberation Army, and the deadlock in negotiations have now made the Chinese military threat more apparent and real.
  • On the other hand, the situation along theLine of Control (LoC) with Pakistan has been steadily deteriorating. For example, between 2017 and 2019, there has been a four-fold increase in ceasefire violations. 
  • Also, according to Some media reports, Pakistan had moved 20,000 troops intoGilgit-Baltistan, matching the Chinese deployments in Eastern Ladakh which signifies that the China-Pakistan military are working in cooperation to contain India. 
  • Apart from this, the Military cooperation between the two countries have strengthened. For example,
  • China accounting for 73% of the total arms import of Pakistan between 2015-2019.
  • Shaheen IX Pakistan-China joint exercise to improve combat capacity of both air forces and to enhance interoperability between them. 

What type of capabilities that India should built up to counter it? 

  • First, India needs to develop both the doctrine and the capability to deal with this contingency. 
  • For Doctrine development,a close interaction with the political leadership is required as any doctrine without a political aim and guidance cannot stand the test when executed. 
  • Moreover, a detailed assessment of China and Pakistan’s war-fighting strategies needs to be done to strike the right balance in our approach to contain the two-front situation. 
  • On the other hand, India needs to build its capability with more focus on future technologies such as robotics, artificial intelligence, cyber, electronic warfare, etc. 
  • A financial solution for allocation of quantum of resources required by air force and military should also be developed so that in the times of need India can engage both the states.  
  • Second, we need to improve relations with our neighbors through Diplomacy to contain the two-front challenge. 
  • On the eastern front, India’s new Maritime strategies such as the QUAD and the Indo-Pacific might not be helpful in easing the Sino-Pakistan pressure on the continental sphere. So, it’s crucial for India to focus on gaining the trust of our neighbors. 
  • On western front, India should strengthen its relationship with key powers in West Asia, including Iran to ensure energy security, increase maritime cooperation and enhance goodwill in the extended neighborhood.  
  • On the northern front, India must ensure that its relationship with Russia is not compromised for good India-United States relations as Russia could play a key role in defusing the severity of a regional gang up against India. 
  • Third, a well-planned empathetic political outreach to Kashmiraimed at addressing the issues facing the people of Kashmir would be helpful in easing the pressure from either front. 
  • It will be helpful in potential reconciliation with Pakistan’s to persuade it to put an end to terrorist infiltration into Kashmir. 
  • Politically, India should do well to reduce the effect of a collusive Sino-Pakistan containment strategy aimed at India.
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India sends flood support to Vietnam under Mission Sagar III

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Source: PIB

News: Indian Naval Ship Kiltan arrived at Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam as part of Mission Sagar-III.  

Facts: 

  • What is Mission Sagar? It was launched by the Indian government as a part of India’s Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) assistance to Friendly Foreign Countries during the ongoing pandemic. 
Various phases of Mission Sagar:
  • Mission Sagar-I: It was undertaken in May-June 2020, wherein India reached out to Maldives, Mauritius, Seychelles, Madagascar and Comoros, and provided food aid and medicines. 
  • Mission Sagar-II: As part of Mission Sagar-II, Indian Naval Ship Airavat has delivered food aid to Sudan, South Sudan, Djibouti and Eritrea. 
  • Mission Sagar-III: As part of Mission Sagar-III, Indian Navy Ship Kiltan delivered 15 Tonnes Of Aid To Vietnam For Flood Relief. 

Significance: These deployments are also in consonance with the Prime Minister’s vision of Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR). 

Additional Facts: 

  • Security and Growth of All in the Region(SAGAR) in the Indian Ocean(SAGAR): The term was coined by the Indian Prime Minister in 2015. 

Key Elements of SAGAR: 

  • Enhancing capacities to safeguard land and maritime territories and interests. 
  • Deepening economic and security cooperation in the littoral. 
  • Promoting collective action to deal with natural disasters and maritime threats like piracy, terrorism and emergent non-state actors. 
  • Working towards sustainable regional development through enhanced collaboration. 
  • Engaging with countries beyond our shores with the aim of building greater trust and promoting respect for maritime rules, norms and peaceful resolution of disputes. 
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India – Nepal relations- Present challenges and solutions

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India – Nepal relations– Present challenges and solutions 

Sources: Pax Indica, The DiplomatRSTV Big Picture 

This article on India Nepal relations – present challenges and solutions, has been developed based on The Hindu editorial Nepal in turmoil”. 

India and Nepal share a unique relationship, both of them share friendship and cooperation underpinned by linguistic, cultural and civilizational links, along with a wide range of commercial and economic ties, and above they are linked with extensive people-to-people contacts. 

Historical relationship between India – Nepal: 

Firstly, the bedrock of the India-Nepal relationship was the India-Nepal treaty of Peace and Friendship of 1950. Under this treaty, Nepal became the only country whose nationals required no passports to cross into India. 

Few important information of India-Nepal treaty of Peace and Friendship 1950: 

    • India-Nepal Treaty was signed after Nepal feared the Chinese threat as the Chinese occupied TibetThe treaty has an explicit reference to threats from third countries, which both countries would tackle by cooperation. 
    • The treaty extended rights to residence, employment and purchase of property to each other’s citizens reciprocally – in other words, it extended ‘national treatment’ by each country to the other’s citizens. 

 Secondly, Buddha’s birthplace is in Nepal and also Nepal is the only other Hindu majority country in the world. So cultural and religious visits between India-Nepal is so strong. 

Thirdly, the Ministry of External Affairs termed India-Nepal relations as Roti-Beti ka Rishta (Relationship of food and marriage) as the open border enabled kinship, familial ties in the terai region. There are six million to eight million Nepalis who live and work in India, according to Indian home ministry estimates. 

Fourthly, the 1996 trade treaty resulted in the phenomenal growth of bilateral trade, which witnessed a sevenfold increase in a decade (Nepal’s exports to India increased eleven times and Indian exports to Nepal increased six times).  

Fifthly, the 2009 revised trade treaty has retained the positive features of the 1996 treaty and further enhanced bilateral trade between India-Nepal. 

Sixthly, Defence and Humanitarian relations were provided greatly by India, as Nepal is landlocked and geographically prone to disasters being situated in the Himalayan region.  

Read also:-Current Affairs 2020-2021

What are the challenges in India-Nepal relations? 

India-Nepal relations often swung between two extremes much quickly. There are few underlying reasons for it. 

Firstly, the Constitutional question on Madhesi’s: In general, Madhesi’s section of People lives throughout the southern part of the Terai region and has much closer ties with IndiaThe challenges in this regard are, 

    • The political rights of Madhesi’s section of people were diluted in their new Constitution promulgated in 2015 which led to wider protests and blockade in Nepal led to the blocking of oil and other essential supplies. 
    • Nepal government accused India of supporting Madhesi’s and stated India is interfering in the internal matters of Nepal. Nepal raised the issue in a “trade blockade” at the UN in October 2015. But Madesi’s protest was a spontaneous movement and it had nothing to do with India. 
    • One of the foremost scholarsProfessor S.D. Muni points out major challenges with the Nepal government as, 
      • India’s fears that a Constitution drafted under assertive Maoist leadership may not be compatible with the democratic profile of Nepal. 
      • India’s also fears that the Maoists were inclined to and capable of changing Nepal’s domestic power equations. 

The recent decision of Nepal Prime Minister dissolving the lower house has created  a new political crisis altogether.  

Secondly, China’s closeness with Nepal and the Influence of China in India-Nepal relations is a cause of concern.  

    • Nepal is a landlocked state that has relied much on India for major supplies, transit and transport. India-Nepal Blockade changed the perception completely.  
    • The Nepal earthquake in 2015 was the perfect time for China to make massive investments in infrastructure like Tibet Railway, many highway projects, access to Chinese ports etc. By the end of 2016, China became the major assistance provider of Nepal. 
    • Hydel co-operation, Fuel and Humanitarian assistance from China has increased many folds. For example, China pledged to provide 1.4 million liters of fuel and planned to construct 750 MW WestSeti Dam project.  
    • Nepal also supports China’s Belt and Road Initiative and the China-Nepal relations so far is stable to some extent. 

Thirdly, the boundary dispute between India-Nepal: About 1850 km boundary line between India-Nepal faces two major boundary disputes.  

    1. Kalapani dispute: Kalapani is the disputed territory in the Uttarakhand state of India. The British government has set the origin of River Kali as the western border of Nepal. But the origin of the river Kali is disputed between India-Nepal. While India uses the newer British survey, Nepal wants the area to be demarcated based on the older British survey.
      New map of Nepal was notified in June 2020 with Kalapani in Nepal (Source) 
    2. Susta Dispute: Susta is another disputed territory located in the Terai regions of India. (Source) 

Fourthlythe challenges relating to the open border. The border is notoriously porous. Being provided special status to Nepal, India’s internal security faced many challenges such as 

    • The Pakistani militants using Nepalese territory as a hideout and base for infiltration into India. The Ministry of Home Affairs in its Annual Report 1999–2000 highlighted this Pakistani involvement in Nepal and its security implications in India. 
    • The Nepalese Maoists have extended support and cooperation to the Indian Maoists and carving out a Compact Revolutionary Zone, a ‘Revolutionary Corridor’ spreading from Nepal through Bihar and up to Andhra Pradesh. 
    • Apart from these the open borders have also created challenges such as pumping fake Indian currency notes, human trafficking especially young girls and women, cattle smuggling, etc. 

Thus, India’s external and internal challenges converge, and make ties with Nepal of extreme importance and swung between extremes. 

What are the solutions to improve India-Nepal relations?

Firstly, focus based approach is necessary not only in India-Nepal relations but also for other countries in the region by giving more focus towards Neighbourhood first policy 

    • India should leverage the strategic influence, faster and effective implementation of infrastructure and development projects in Nepal.
      For Ex. Finalising the projects such as Pancheshwar multipurpose project and faster completion of cross-border rail projects such as Jayanagar-BijalpurBardibasJogbani-Biratnagar. 
    • In 2018 Indian PM asked to shift focus on 5T’s (Tradition, Trade, Tourism, Technology and Transport) to boost the relations. 

Secondly, India can focus on “aid diplomacy to reduce the trust deficit and also has to continue with post-earthquake reconstruction assistance. Later deepening co-operation in areas like trade, water resources, energy co-operation, etc. 

Thirdly, regarding China’s influence, Experts believe that Nepal’s nearest ports will always be in India and the Gangetic plain will remain its largest market. This is because,  

    • The economic feasibility of Chinese trans-Himalayan trade and the infrastructure projects are low, especially when the Himalayan state Bhutan supports India and Nepal is the only other Himalayan state. 
    • Though China provides access to Nepal for its seaports, they are situated more than 3,000 km away. 

All this can sum up by the words of geostrategistBrahma Chellany. He said, “China can replace India as Nepal’s main provider of essential supplies only by moving the Himalayas southward. But the ability of the Chinese in project implementation and financial assistance cannot be under estimated. 

Fourthly, establishing a permeant mechanism to reduce the disasters caused by floods in the regions of India-Nepal. 

Fifthly, Mutual respect is the key: The Nepal government has to move away from narrow terms and shift focus towards broadening and inclusion of demands from all sections of society in the ConstitutionNepal also has to stop the rhetoric on territorial nationalism and pulling out China card whenever they negotiate with India. 

Way forward:  

India-Nepal relations have all the potential to move ahead and become mutually reliable commercial and economic ties, and extensive people-to-people ties only when India and Nepal forget the avoid past mistakes and move ahead to become sustainable. 

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Reasons behind Nepal’s political crisis and India’s stance

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Context: PM Oli’s decision to opt for fresh elections by dissolving the lower house has created a new political crisis in Nepal.

What is the current crisis in Nepal?

  • Nepal Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s move to dissolve the Lower House of Parliament, in order to counter the discord within the ruling party and a challenge to his leadership, has precipitated a constitutional crisis.
  • The President Bidya Devi Bhandari has signed off on the cabinet recommendation to dissolve the Nepalese Parliament and called for fresh elections in April-May, next year.
  • Reactions:
    • The decision has triggered pro-democracy protests.
    • The local newspapers have described the move as “treachery” and “coup de grace on Parliamentary democracy”.
    • Several petitions challenging the move have been filed in the Supreme Court.
    • The Nepalese constitution doesn’t have a clear provision regarding house dissolution. Thus, the street protests and anger against the move doubtless creates pressure on the judicial proceedings.

An adverse decision on the dissolution of Parliament by the Supreme Court and given the loss of credibility in the Constitutional office would create a constitutional chaos further chaos is expected in the days to come.

Why did the prime minister take such a decision?

  • Reluctance to share power: Even after winning the elections of 2015 in coalition, PM Oli was reluctant to share powers with coalition leaders.
  • Fundamental differences: It was a historic opportunity for the NCP, especially for the prime minister, to navigate the young democracy out of its many crises. But the merger did not dissolve the fundamental differences between the NCP’s two groups.
    • For instance, for several years, Oli had demanded that the Maoists under Pushpa Kamal Dahal be held accountable for war crimes, including the killings of CPN-UML cadres.
  • Misplaced objectives: The prime objectives at the formation of the new constitution were to address the concerns of Madhesi groups and strengthen Nepal’s institutions. But the focus was on the consolidation of power, gathering support by adopting anti India postures and cosying up to China.

What should be India’s stance in such a situation?

  • Nepal is organically linked to India’s anti-colonial struggle with leaders such as BP Koirala having spent years in prison with Jagjivan Ram and Rajendra Prasad.
  • India has rebooted its diplomatic outreach with a series of high-profile visits to Kathmandu. This has resulted in the resumption of air travel and fast-tracking of the railway line between Kathmandu to Raxaul in Bihar.
  • A fresh popular cry for democracy presents an opportunity for India to showcase its historical partnership in Nepal’s transition to democracy.
  • Ties with Nepal are critical to India for strategic influence in the Himalayas.
  • Thus, India should adopt a strategy of detached pragmatism rather than proactive involvement, given the crisis period in Nepal.
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India and Bangladesh

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Context: Recent inauguration of an 11-km rail link between West Bengal and Bangladesh marks the slow but steady effort by Delhi and Dhaka to overcome the negative consequences of the Partition of the subcontinent.

How economic dissociation started in the Indian subcontinent?

  • The political Partition in 1947, which created Pakistan, did not immediately lead to economic dissociation.
  • After the 1965 war, dissociation begun when the borders between India and Pakistan closed down.
  • It made increasingly hard for the movement of goods and people.
  • The subcontinent turned inward in its economic orientation.
  • Countries in the region de-emphasized transborder connectivity.
  • Political difficulties in both capitals also prevented Delhi and Dhaka from restoring the lost connectivity, even after they recognized its economic importance.

How India-Bangladesh relations evolved amidst dissociation in the subcontinent?

  • Over the last decade, political ties between India and Bangladesh have improved due to systematic effort which helped in restoring the natural connectivity between West Bengal, Bangladesh and India’s Northeast.
  • The recent joint statement issued after Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Sheikh Hasina met virtually outlines a list of initiatives to deepen cooperation.
  • Bilateral Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement outlines a host of areas for cooperation, from strengthening river water transport to managing a transboundary elephant corridor and from trade liberalisation to the setting up of a CEO forum.
  • Both countries are also raising their ambitions for regional connectivity with Nepal, Bhutan, and Myanmar and Thailand.

What are the immediate concerns?

  • India has not demonstrated the same sensitivity to the tragedy of the post-Partition movement of people across borders.
  • There is political impact of people’s movement on ethnic and religious balances in the east.

What should India do?

  • India need to be careful in addressing the challenges posed by migration as India prepares to implement the Citizenship Amendment Act.
  • Insensitivity towards illegal migration and migrants will derail ties between India and its most important regional partner, Bangladesh.
  • Avoid making migration a political issue during elections in West Bengal because it can threaten bilateral relations.

India should not let crude electoral calculations undermine the historic transformation underway in the eastern subcontinent.

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India and Bangladesh PM jointly inaugurates Chilahati-Haldibari rail link

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Source: Click here

News: India and Bangladesh Prime Minister has jointly inaugurated a railway link between Haldibari in India and Chilahati in Bangladesh during the virtual bilateral summit.

Facts:

Chilahati in Bangladesh

  • Haldibari-Chilahati rail link: This rail link was part of the Broad Gauge main route from Kolkata to Siliguri.However, the war of 1965 effectively cut off all the railway links.
  • Significance: This rail link is expected to enhance the connectivity to Assam and West Bengal from Bangladesh.
  • Other rail which are operational? The other rail links which are operational between India and Bangladesh are — Petrapole (India) – Benapole (Bangladesh); Gede (India) – Darshana (Bangladesh); Singhabad (India)-Rohanpur (Bangladesh); and Radhikapur (India)–Birol (Bangladesh).
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India’s digital strike

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Context- The government of India has blocked 43 new Chinese app which are prejudicial to sovereignty and Integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order.

Why Indian Government ban these apps?
  1. Defence and security concern– These apps are involved in activities against India’s sovereignty, integrity, defense, security and law and order.
  2. Data Privacy Issue – The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) banned apps on reports of stealing and transmitting user’s data in an unauthorized manner to servers which have locations outside India.
  • Strong move by the government that sends out a strong message that Indian data cannot be compromised.

Benefits- 

  1. Opportunity for Indian– The recent ban on Chinese app is a good opportunity for Indian entrepreneurs to quickly rise to fill market gaps.-
  • This opportunity has also opened up the job market under the segment which will eventually have an added boost to the Indian economy.
  1. The ban may be useful for India to use its vast market for Internet services as leverage in its attempts to keep China in check at the border.
What are the concerns related to Chinese apps ban?

There are issues with the government gag against Chinese apps-

  1. This can trigger an unconventional battle between the two countries in the larger technology realm.
  2. Create negative image– This creates a big uncertainty for the foreign investors, and often results in reduces outflow of foreign investment.
What is the way forward?
  • Need for A Data Protection Law: Data privacy and security remains to be major challenges emanating from the ongoing digital revolution. Thus, a data protection law is long overdue.
  •  India must stick to a rules-based approach in regulating the Internet.

Global governance

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India-Maldives bilateral relations

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Context- The upcoming visit of Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla to the Maldives and significance of Maldives ‘India out’ campaign.

What are the significances of India-Maldives bilateral relationships?

  1. India’s Neighborhood First Policy: India announced a financial assistance package of $1.4 billion for the Maldives in the form of budgetary support, currency swap agreements and concessional lines of credit to fulfill socio-economic development programmes.
  2. Connectivity: The two nations emphasized connectivity through the establishment of enabling infrastructure that would promote the exchange of goods and services, information, ideas, culture and people.
  • Direct Cargo Ferry Service– It will be run between India and Maldives.
  1. Bilateral relations– Maldivian students attend educational institutions in India and patients come to India for healthcare, aided by a liberal visa-free regime extended by India.
  2. Air Travel Bubble between India and Maldives– Tourism is the mainstay of Maldivian economy. The travel bubble will facilitate movement of people for employment, tourism and medical emergencies.
  • Maldives is the first neighboring country of India with which an air bubble is being operationalized.
  1. Quotas for Supply of Essential Commodities – Given the geographical limitations imposed on the Maldives, India has exempted the nation from export curbs on essential commodities.
  2. Financial Aid – At the peak of the continuing COVID-19 disruption, a financial aid of 250 million USD will be provided to Maldives by India.

History-

  • Operation Cactus– In 1988, in response to a request from the Maldives, India activated Operation Cactus to deploy its military and ensure regime continuity in Male.
  • Disaster management– The Government of India has provided large-scale assistance to the Maldives in the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and during the 2014 Male water crisis.

What is ‘India out’ campaign?

Main-ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)’s Parliamentary Group leader the Yameen camp has launched an ‘India Out’ campaign instigated against India-Maldives relations aims to create unrest in the country to divert attention from the many corruption allegations raised against the higher ups of the opposition.

  • Maldivian protesters recently converted their demand for early release of Mr. Yameen, sentenced to five years of imprisonment in a money laundering case, pending appeal.

Concern for India-

  • India should be concerned about the protests as well as the occasional rumblings within the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), apparently between President Solih and Speaker and former President Nasheed may pose serious challenge, especially after Mr. Nasheed sought the removal of certain Ministers- accusing them of corruption.
  • Nasheed has also been pushing for a parliamentary system. There is concern within the government that his moves might undermine the President, who is trying to work with the coalition partners.
  • The Maldives has maintained a close relationship with China, especially in financial terms, under its previous government.

Way forward-

India’s increasing geostrategic concerns in the shared seas, taking forward the multifaceted cooperation to the next stage quickly could also be at the focus of Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla’s visit.

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China occupied Kashmir

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 Forgotten fact of China Occupied Kashmir

Context- The history of china occupied Kashmir and the significance of Sino-Pakistan agreement of 1963.

What is China’s dual politics in Kashmir?

  • In August 2019, following the dilution of Article 370 and removal of special status for Jammu and Kashmir, China said it was “seriously concerned about the current situation in Jammu Kashmir”.
  • However, China refrained from voicing its opposition to Pakistan’s announced move to accord “provisional provincial status” to Gilgit-Baltistan in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).

China did not issue a statement on Pakistan’s move to change the status of Gilgit-Baltistan, a disputed region where China is also carrying out projects under its China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) plan, which India has opposed.

What is 1963’s Sino-Pakistan Agreement? 

Sino-Pakistan Boundary Agreement of 1963, Pakistan illegally ceded 5,180 sq. km in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir to China.

  • The agreement is not recognized as legal by India, which also claims sovereignty over part of the land.

Significance of the agreement-

  • Pakistan compromised India’s traditional frontier along the Kun Lun range to the north-west of the Karakoram Pass.
  • And also enabled China to extrapolate a claim line eastwards along the Karakoram Range in Ladakh.
  • This collusion allowed China to claim the whole of Aksai Chin in which it had no historical presence.

What is the history of China occupied Kashmir? 

Changing the frontiers –  China exploited the ‘Great Game’ between British India and Russia in the late 19th century and pitched its territorial claims far beyond the traditional frontiers of Xinjiang.

  • In 1869 – After Mir of Hunza defeat in 1869 at the hands of the joint forces of the Maharaja of Kashmir and the British, the Chinese tried to co-opt him in their scheme while giving him refuge.
  • By 1890– China had started asserting its presence in the valleys between the Kun Lun and the main Karakoram Range.
  • By 1891– Chinese had quietly moved south of the Kun Lun range to consolidate their presence at Shahidullahand then they moved further south to Suget, and thereafter, showed up at the Karakoram pass.
  • In 1936 – The Mir of Hunza was asked by the British to abandon his rights, but the Shaksgam valley and the Aghil range remained with the Mir of Hunza. This remained the traditional frontier of British India until independence, inherited by India following J&K’s accession in 1947.
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