Bad to worse: On India-Pakistan ties
# In another round of tit-for-tat manoeuvres, India, followed by Pakistan, has decided to halve the strength of diplomatic missions in each other’s capital.
# The government’s decision, conveyed in a démarche to the Pakistani Chargé d’affaires on Tuesday, follows the ill-treatment and torture of Indian personnel posted in Islamabad, in clear violation of their diplomatic rights.
Thaw in India-Pakistan ties
# Pakistan’s contention was that the two men arrested were carrying fake currency, but it is more likely the action was a response to arrests and the expulsion of two Pakistani High Commission officials accused of espionage last month, who were also taken into custody by Indian security officials.
# New Delhi also accused Pakistan High Commission officials of maintaining “links to terror organisations” as a reason for its decision.
# While expulsions of diplomats are not uncommon between countries as inimical to each other as India and Pakistan are, this is the first time such a measure has been taken since 2001.
# Then, the Parliament attack in December 2001, and the largest military mobilisation of the time along the India-Pakistan border, Operation Parakram, were the triggers.
# Eventually, after a thaw in ties, and Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s visit to Pakistan for the SAARC summit in 2004, the move was reversed and diplomats were gradually taken back to a full strength of over a 100 in each High Commission.
# The latest decision follows not one event, but a general downslide in relations in the past year.
# After the Pulwama attack last February, the Balakot air strike and the August 5 decision to amend Article 370 of the Constitution and reorganise Jammu and Kashmir, India and Pakistan have snapped all trading ties, downgraded missions — now without High Commissioners — and shut down most diplomatic activities.
# India and Pakistan have had no talks since 2015, when PM Modi visited Lahore, and the External Affairs Ministers met a few months later.
# All sporting and cultural exchanges are at an end, and visas are rarely granted, apart from the rare exception being made for the Kartarpur corridor inaugurated last year.
# From the LoC, where ceasefire violations continue to claim lives of soldiers and civilians on both sides, to practically every multilateral forum India and Pakistan are a part of, both sides are at daggers drawn.
# Even on non-contentious issues such as cooperating on the coronavirus pandemic as a part of the SAARC grouping, or collaborating against the recent locust invasion that affected the region, Islamabad and New Delhi are unable to find common cause.
# While the present seems bleak, the future does not augur well for a change, particularly as India-China tensions occupy New Delhi’s concerns and focus.
# The decision to reduce mission strengths is unlikely to impact working relations between India and Pakistan at present. It is a sign, however, that just when it seems ties between the two neighbours cannot get much worse, they do.
Expat Quota Bill Approved in Kuwait
Recently, the legal and legislative committee of Kuwait’s National Assembly has approved the draft expat (expatriate) quota bill. According to the bill, Indians should not exceed 15% of the population and if it is enacted into law, over 8 lakh Indians could be forced out of Kuwait. Kuwait is a country located in the Persian Gulf region.
China's Security Law on Hong Kong
Part of: GS-II- Economy (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)
Recently, several countries have proposed measures to protect Hong Kong residents fleeing potential political persecution from China's new National Security Law. China’s new security law criminalizes what it deems secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with a foreign country.
It has opened the Taiwan-Hong Kong Services and Exchange Office in order to help facilitate asylum for people fleeing Hong Kong. Taiwan was the first state which pledged to support Hong Kong residents seeking asylum, in May 2020.
China also claims Taiwan to be part of China and threatens to use force to take over the island. China has proposed to Taiwan that it follow the “one country, two systems” model to unite with China. But the Taiwanese reject any idea of uniting with mainland China.
United Kingdom’s Response:
It has described the security law as a clear and serious violation of the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration under which it handed back its colony to China in 1997. Under the Joint Declaration, China had promised to maintain Hong Kong’s capitalist and more open political system for 50 years under "one country, two systems".
Since the handover, Hong Kong residents have accused China of overstepping its authority. The Umbrella Movement was a series of protests in 2014 that called for more transparent elections for the city’s chief executive. In 2019 protests erupted in Hong Kong over a proposed bill to allow extradition to mainland China.
It has decided to offer British citizenship to around three million residents of Hong Kong. It is also rethinking its provisional decision to allow Huawei (China’s Company) to be involved in the development of Britain's 5G infrastructure.
Other Country’s Response
Chinese Reaction to Global Response:
New Security Law in Hong Kong
Russia - Constitutional Amendments
Part of: GS-II- IR- Russia (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)
The Russian citizens have supported a set of constitutional amendments including continuation of presidency by Vladimir Putin in a recently held referendum in the country.
The referendum also included clauses related to the reorganisation of the government, introducing a higher minimum pension and wages, a ban on gay marriage, restricting top officials from holding dual citizenship, enshrining “faith in God” as a core value and emphasising the primacy of the Constitution over international treaties and rulings.
A referendum is a direct and universal vote in which an entire electorate is invited to vote on a particular proposal and can have nationwide or local forms. It supports direct democracy.
The referendum was originally planned for April 2020 but was delayed due to the coronavirus outbreak
Clause for Continuation of Presidency Term:
Earlier, Mr. Putin had inherited a Russia that was in an economic free fall. Now Mr. Putin needs to rebuild the state and the economy and restore some of the country’s lost global clout.
India and Bhutan - Kholongchhu Hydropower Project
Part of: GS-II- India and South Asia (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)
Recently, India and Bhutan have signed concession agreement on the 600 MW Kholongchhu Hydropower Project.
India Bhutan Hydropower Projects
China Study Group (CSG)
ASEAN states warn of S. China Sea tensions
‘Abide by global law’
South China Sea Dispute
What is the argument about?
Why are they worth arguing over?
Who claims what?
The most serious trouble in recent decades has flared between Vietnam and China, and there have also been stand-offs between the Philippines and China. Some of the incidents include:
US Visa Ban Extension
GS-PAPER-2 IR India and USA
The US administration extended the 60-day ban on immigration and non-immigrant worker visas till the end of 2020.
Why: The US President Donald Trump said that the move was to protect domestic workers. They are said to have been impacted due to a contraction in the economy in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Popular work visas including the much-coveted H-1B and H-2B, and certain categories of H-4, J, and L visas shall also remain suspended.
Different categories of visas issued?
Why US suspend non-immigrant worker visas?
Since it was started in 1952, the H-1 visa scheme has undergone many changes and revisions. These were done to allow or disallow certain categories of skilled workers into the US. The changes were made depending on the economic situation of the country.
The eventual technology boom saw the arrival of the internet and low-cost computers in developing nations such as India and China. This led to a large number of graduates with a will to work at relatively low costs in the US. This turned out to be a win-win situation for both the employer and the employee.
However, there raised a concern of having low cost workers in the US at the expense of domestic workers. In 2017, after taking over as the US President, Trump had hinted that the low-cost workers were hampering the economy and undercutting jobs of citizens. The US had then hinted at reforming the “broken” H-1B visa system. Now, Trump seized the opportunity provided by the economic contraction due to Covid-19. He first banned the entry of non-immigrant workers till 23 June 2020. It is now extended till 31 December 2020.
What are the likely implications?
How does it affect the Indian IT companies?
On the occasion of the 70th Anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950, Prime Minister of India Shri Narendra Modi paid rich tribute to the bravehearts who sacrificed their lives in the pursuit of peace on the Korean Peninsula.
How the Partition of Korea happened?
What happened during Korean War?
What is the history of dictatorship in North Korea?
Why North Korea is considered a ‘hermit kingdom’?
What about North Korea’s pursuit with nuclear weapons?
Start of the current standoff?
Sudan warns against escalation in Nile dam dispute
GS-Paper-2 International issue AFRICA
Sudan has warned against escalation and urged further negotiations with Egypt and Ethiopia over the construction of a controversial dam on the Blue Nile river by Addis Ababa.
Egypt and Ethiopia have once again locked horns over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on the Blue Nile.
On Feb. 26, Ethiopia temporarily suspended its participation in the U.S.-mediated negotiations over the filling and operation of the GERD, requesting more time to deliberate on the draft agreement.
With the dam 70 percent complete and its reservoir expected to start being filled in July, the time for reaching an agreement is ticking away.
While the parties have sought international mediation from the U.S. and South Africa, that is no substitute for regional cooperation among the parties.
About Nile River:
About Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD):
Uganda President calls for urgent African summit on GERD:
Uganda President said that African presidents must hold frank discussions regarding the Nile River dilemma during this summit, and stressed the importance of ensuring equitable and sustainable usage of the river’s waters.
Kenyan president emphasized the importance of properly utilizing natural resources and sustainably addressing the needs of increasing populations.
Meanwhile, the Egyptian community in New York and New Jersey is gearing up to organize demonstrations in front of the White House, pressuring the US administration to protect Egypt’s water rights and support the negotiations.
The challenges for the fair utilisation of waters among the riparian states have only been compounded by the pressures of population growth and the effects of global warming.
Challenges Ahead that need to address:
Ethiopia and Egypt should be ready to make significant concessions to avoid a catastrophic escalation in this seemingly intractable dispute.
An agreement involving Egypt, Ethiopia and others river basin countries for equitable sharing of water.
Sustainable use of river water given the ever-increasing problem of pollution and climate change.
Consistent with the principles set out in the declaration of principles, in particular the principles of not causing significant harm to downstream countries, final testing and filling should not take place without an agreement.
These countries can take inspiration from Indus Water Treaty signed between India and Pakistan brokered by World Bank in 1960. The treaty has been functioning smoothly and has endured three wars over nearly six decades.
Read more about NILE RIVER: https://www.treehugger.com/nile-river-facts-4868689
Nepal-Bharat Maitri is a development partnership initiated by India as a high impact community development scheme.
Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC)
Division of Development Partnership Administration (DPA) in the Ministry of External Affairs is the nodal division for handling all capacity building programmes.
What happened in Nathu La in 1967?
History of the conflict
An inflection point (Killings at the LAC)
In 1988 a group of Maldivians led by Abdullah Luthufi tried to overthrow then Maldivian Government. The attempt was a failure due to the intervention of the Indian Armed Forces. The operation was code named as Operation Cactus. INS Godavari and Betwa were used by the Indian Navy in the operation
Pincer provocations? India-China-Pakistan
GS- PAPER-II India and China
India should not conflate the various threats to its security in the Kashmir-Ladakh region
Although the latest news on the Ladakh front suggests that Chinese and Indian forces have begun to disengage in select areas, this does not detract from the reality that in the past few weeks Beijing and Islamabad are making coordinated efforts to challenge India’s presence in the Kashmir-Ladakh region. There is stepped-up activity on Pakistan’s part to infiltrate terrorists into the Valley. China has undertaken provocative measures on the Ladakh front to assert control over disputed areas around the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
Divergence in VIEW POINT OF Pak and China
Changing the status quo
It is true that China is agitated about the recent vociferous revival of India’s claims on PoK but its primary concern with regard to Kashmir is to prevent any Indian move from threatening the CPEC project. It does not challenge the status quo in Kashmir. Pakistan, on the other hand, is committed to changing the status quo in Kashmir at all cost. It has been trying to do so since Partition not only through clandestine infiltration but also by engaging in conventional warfare. Therefore, while it is possible to negotiate the territorial dispute with China on a give-and-take basis this is not possible in the case of Pakistan which considers Kashmir a zero-sum game. India should, therefore, distinguish the different objectives on the part of Beijing and Islamabad and tailor its responses accordingly without conflating the two threats to its security. Lumping the two threats together because of a tactical overlap between them makes it difficult to choose policy options rationally.
KESARI reaches port Victoria in Seychelles
As part of Mission Sagar, Indian Naval Ship Kesari reached Port Victoria in Seychelles today for handing over COVID related essential medicines. Under Mission Sagar, Indian government is providing assistance to friendly foreign countries in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mission SAGAR, resonates Prime Minister Narendra Modi's vision of Security and Growth for All in the region. The operation is being progressed in close coordination with the Ministry of External Affairs and other agencies of the Government.
Global Terrorism Index
The Global Terrorism Index (GTI) is a report published annually by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP). Two third of the countries experienced a terrorist attack in 2016.
India is one among the ten most impacted countries by terrorism. Five countries account for three quarters of all deaths from terrorism: Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Nigeria and Pakistan. The major reason for terrorism in most impacted countries is internal conflict.
French forces kill al-Qaeda’s Algeria leader
Part of: GS-II- Terrorism (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)
Droukel, an explosives expert, had been sentenced to death in 2013 for terror attacks
France said its forces have killed the leader of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, in a blow to the group behind a string of deadly attacks across the troubled Sahel region.
Abdelmalek Droukdel was killed in northern Mali near the Algerian border, where the group has bases from which it has carried out attacks and abductions of Westerners in the sub-Saharan Sahel zone. “Many close associates” of the Algerian — who commanded several affiliate jihadist groups across the lawless region — were also “neutralised”, she added.
He was sentenced to death in Algeria in 2013 for his involvement in the bombings of a government building and offices of the UN’s refugee committee in Algiers that killed 26 people and wounded 177.
Droukdel’s death is a symbolic coup for the French, a military source said.
Born in 1971 in a poor neighbourhood of Algiers, Droukdel — also known as Abou Moussaab Abdelouadoud — took part in the founding in Algeria of the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC).
China’s new code aims to curb land grabs
Part of: GS-II- China (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)
It also focuses on giving greater independence to the country’s judiciary
Farmers in China have faced forced evictions and illicit land grabs for decades — sources of social unrest that the government is finally trying to address in a major shake-up of its property law. Millions of hectares of rural land were taken away from farmers in the past three decades and given to developers as China raced to urbanise, often with little or no compensation in return.
But it does not stipulate any punishments for those illegally expropriating land or the rights of individual farmers to collective land, making it harder for families to seek compensation. The wide-ranging legislative package will come into effect on January 1. Local governments have taken away land from 1,00,000 to 5,00,000 farmers every year between 2005 to 2015 in violation of national land-use laws, according to a study by Qiao Shitong, a property and urban law professor at the University of Hong Kong.
In China, land can only be owned by the state or collective organisations. Private individuals or businesses can only buy the right to use land for up to 70 years. The civil code — for the first time — clarifies what will happen once a home owner’s 70-year usage rights expire. The law affirms that land-use rights for residential homes will be automatically renewed after expiration but does not say whether owners need to pay for renewals.
VINBAX is the military exercise between armies of India and Vietnam. It is the first ever such exercise boosting defence ties between the two countries.
It is going to be held in Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh. The joint exercise has been especially designed to enable and train officers from Vietnam in United Nations Peace Keeping Operations.
India – Vietnam relations
Post-Soviet/ Contemporary Period
Protocol on Foreign Office Consultations was concluded on 11th May 2000; it was signed by the Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagarishvili and EAM Mr. Jaswant Singh and provides for “regular consultations at the level of Ministers of Foreign Affairs and other agreed levels on international, regional and bilateral issues of mutual interest”.
India and Georgia are in the process of establishing Inter-Governmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technological Cooperation which would create a framework for cooperation in diverse areas.
India’s Development Assistance
In December 1994, India had gifted medicines and relief supplies worth Rs. 0.5 million for refugees and displaced persons from Abkhazia.
India’s assistance to Georgia at present is mainly in the field of Human Resource Development.
(i) Training slots (25 on average) every year under Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC);
(ii) Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) Scholarships to pursue undergraduate and postgraduate courses in Indian Universities; and
(iii) Kendriya Hindi Sansthan scholarships to study Hindi in India. In addition, an ICCR Chair of Contemporary Indian Studies has been established at the Tbilisi State University (TSU).
Trade and Economic Relations
US-China new Cold War
Part of: GS-II- USA-CHINA Cold war (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)
The prospects of a trade war between China and the western economies ratcheted as Beijing accused the US of pushing relations towards a “new cold war”.
Issue on Hong Kong
Over the past few months, Hong Kong, a former British colony and now a special administrative region under Chinese sovereignty, has emerged on the radar of the United States. USA Is cautioned about the sustainability of Hong Kong’s autonomy under the “one country, two systems” (OCTS) model. Hong Kong, the region’s autonomy has been “diminished” in consequence of China’s interventions, though it the proposed Extradition Bill, which, when passed, will authorize the Hong Kong government to extradite people to China and put an end to Hong Kong’s 178 year-long separate legal jurisdiction and the recent National Security bill.
U.S. Interests in Hong Kong
Chinese Interests in Hong Kong
Tension related to Taiwan
The consequences of the breakdown in US-China relations is going to be very devastating for the world and for the global economy because the ability of the US and China to work together was the keystone of the whole arch of globalization and global trade.
The global economy is already expected to contract 3% this year, its deepest slump since the Great Depression, according to the International Monetary Fund.
If tensions continue to escalate, the dispute could morph into a damaging conflict that not only weakens the world's recovery from Covid-19, but also risks slowing important technological innovations.
China suggests shift in BRI approach amid debt concerns
Part of: GS-II- International issue (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)
‘We will focus on quality in the joint pursuit of the BRI’
China has hinted at a shift in how it will pursue its signature Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) amid growing concerns about debt repayments from many partner countries because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Six years ago, Chinese President Xi Jinping launched a mammoth infrastructure project straddling many countries and continents. Of the projects, the most ambitious is the $60+ billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, aimed at linking China’s Xinjiang province with the Arabian Sea.
What is it?
Why did China push for it?
How many major BRI projects are in the works?
Where does the BRI go from here?
India builds state-of-the-art training facility for Ugandan defence forces
The Indian Association Uganda (IAU), in association with the Indian Military Advisory and Training Team there, handed over a state-of-the-art military training facility to Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF). The war game centre, named ‘INDIA’, was inaugurated by Gen. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, President of the Republic of Uganda
The centre was conceptualised by the Indian Military Team and constructed by the IAU at a cost of over 1 billion Ugandan shillings or $2,65,000. It has been funded by voluntary contributions from the Ugandans of Indian origin.
US pull out of Open Skies treaty
Part of: GS-II- International Treaties and Convections (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)
The United States announced its intention to withdraw from the 35-nation Open Skies treaty allowing unarmed surveillance flights over member countries, the Trump administration's latest move to pull the country out of a major global treaty.
The Open Skies treaty, proposed by U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower in 1955, was signed in 1992 and took effect in 2002. The idea is to let member nations make surveillance flights over each other's countries to build trust. It allows each state-party to carry out short-notice, unarmed, reconnaissance flights over the others' territories to collect data on military forces and activities.
The Open Skies Treaty is part of a broad web of arms control agreements meant to ensure stability and predictability on the European continent and reduce the risk of misunderstandings that could spiral into conflict by ensuring transparency.
Note: India is not a member of this treaty.
Reason of withdrawal
Some experts worry that a U.S. exit from the treaty, which will halt Russian overflights of the United States, could prompt Moscow's withdrawal, which would end overflights of Russia by the remaining members, weakening European security at a time that Russian-backed separatists are holding parts of Ukraine and Georgia.
Mr Trump’s decision deepens doubts about whether Washington will seek to extend the 2010 New START accord, which imposes the last remaining limits on U.S. and Russian deployments of strategic nuclear arms to no more than 1,550 each. It expires in February.
Mr. Trump has repeatedly called for China to join the United States and Russia in talks on an arms control accord to replace New START. China, estimated to have about 300 nuclear weapons, has repeatedly rejected Mr. Trump's proposal.
The 35 state parties to the Open Skies treaty are: Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark (including Greenland), Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, the Russian Federation, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
The Hindu analysis: USA withdraw from essential treaties
On August 2 2019, the US formally quits the US-Russia Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. Concluded in 1987, it had obliged the two countries to eliminate all ground-based missiles of ranges between 500 and 5,500 km, an objective achieved by 1991.
What is about to change?
What happened in the 1980s?
What are the Cold War talks about?
What was the effect of INF Treaty?
What happened when US withdrew from ABM?
Is there any future for New START?
Why is the testing of low-yield weapon done?
The new Indian road to Lipu Lekh-Nepal’s protests
Part of: GS-II- International issues (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)
(Indian express Explained)
Army Chief General M M Naravane said that Nepal’s protest against a newly built Indian road in Uttarakhand, up to Lipu Lekh pass on the China border, was at “someone else's behest”. His statement has been widely taken to mean that Nepal was acting as a proxy for China, at a time when tensions have spiked sharply on the LAC between the Chinese PLA and and the Indian Army at Ladakh.
It is on the route of the annual Kailash Masarovar Yatra, which goes through Uttarakhand’s Pithoragath district. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, who inaugurated it on May 8, said the road, built by the Border Roads Organisation, was important for “strategic, religious and trade” reasons. The 80 km road goes right up to the Lipu Lekh pass on the LAC, through which Kailash Mansarovar pilgrims exit India into China to reach the mountain and lake revered as the abode of Siva. The last section of 4 km of the road up to the pass still remains to be completed.
The government has underlined that through this improved route, yatris do not need the alternative routes now available for the pilgrimage, one through the Nathu La border in Sikkim and the other via Nepal, which entailed “20 per cent land journeys on Indian roads and 80 per cent land journeys in China. The ratio has been reversed. Now pilgrims to Mansarovar will traverse 84 per cent land journeys on Indian roads and only 16 per cent in China.”
Importance of the road
The new road is also expected to provide better connectivity to Indian traders for the India-China border trade at the Lipu Lekh pass between June and September every summer. The country, being surrounded by some difficult neighbours, with a view to keeping pace, construction of roads and development of adequate infrastructure along the borders is a vital necessity
Is Nepal's objection new or sudden?
On the day the road was inaugurated, there was an outcry in Nepal. The next day the Nepal Foreign Ministry issued a statement expressing disappointment over New Delhi's “unilateral” act, against the spirit of the bilateral “understanding. Kathmandu has pointed out that it has brought up its concerns on the border issue several times, including in November 2019, when Delhi put out its new political map of India to show the bifurcation of Jammu & Kashmir.
Nepal's objection then was the inclusion of Kalapani in the map, in which it is shown as part of Uttarakhand. The area falls in the trijunction between India, China and Nepal. The publication of the map brought protesters out on the streets. The Nepal government described India’s decision as “unilateral” and claimed that it would “defend its international border”, while the Ministry of External Affairs then said that map “accurately reflects the sovereign territory of India”.
Since the 1962 war with China, India has deployed the ITBP at Kalapani, which is advantageously located at a height of over 20,000 ft and serves as an observation post for that area. Nepal calls it an encroachment by the Indian security forces. Nepal has also been unhappy about the China-India trading post at Lipu Lekh, the earliest to be established between the two countries. Shipkila in Himachal followed two years later, and Nathu La only in 2006.
Nepali youth protested in Kalapani, and there were protests in Nepal's Parliament too when India and China agreed to increase border trade through Lipu Lekh during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Beijing in 2016. Though China has said nothing about the road construction to Lipu Lekh, it has protested similar road building activity at other places on the Indian side close to the LAC, including Ladakh.
In view of all this, Kalapani and the approach to Lipu Lekh has only grown in strategic importance for India, especially as relations between the two countries have remained uneven over the last few years, and China has upped its game for influence in India’a neighbourhood.
India's tacit support to a blockade of the landlocked country during protests over the new Constitution in Nepal by the Madhesi community was an inflection point in the relationship. Despite the open border with India and the people to people contact through the hundreds of thousands of Nepali people who live and work in this country, the levels of distrust in Nepal about India have only increased.
For its part, India perceives Nepal to be tilting towards China under the leadership of Prime Minister K P Oli and his Nepal Communist Party. Responding to Nepal’s protests, India has said it is ready to discuss the matter at foreign secretary level talks between the two countries.
Getting India back to the Afghan high table
By, Vivek Katju is a former Indian Ambassador to Afghanistan
India’s foreign and security policy planners must seek to establish open connections with all its political groups, including with those perceived to be in Pakistan’s pocket.
Instead, they continued to rigidly cling to Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani even as his equities diminished with each passing month.
Cut to the quick
It took the Election commission 5 months to declare Mr. Ghani as President-elect, a result that was rejected by Mr. Ghani’s main rival, Abdullah Abdullah.
It led to two simultaneous swearing-ins; both Mr. Ghani and Mr. Abdullah took oath as President. It is true that the international community ultimately supported Mr. Ghani but qualified it with an insistence that he enters into a real power-sharing agreement with Mr. Abdullah.
That agreement has just been reached. It will inevitably further weaken Mr. Ghani.
How has Mr. Ghani reciprocated India’s such unqualified backing?
His clear and public response came last month in a manner. It could only have been disappointing to Indian decision makers. The United Nations Secretariat organised a meeting on Afghanistan where it invited the six current physical neighbours of Afghanistan—China, Pakistan, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.
In addition, invitations were extended to the United States, Russia and the Ghani government. Obviously, Mr. Ghani did not invite India.
He should have done so if only for the constructive role New Delhi has played in Afghanistan’s reconstruction since the Taliban were ousted from the country in 2001-2002 after 9/11. Also, for consistently supporting him.
Indeed, if all his fine words of India’s importance to Afghanistan were actually true, he would have lobbied and ensured India’s participation.
Point man’s blunt talk
So much for Mr. Ghani. What truly cut India more to the quick was the U.S. going along with India’s absence. So much for the personal chemistry of the leaders of the two countries.
The day after the meeting, Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. point man on Afghanistan and the architect of the Taliban deal, spoke to India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar to assuage hurt sentiments.
But the balm of good words cannot obscure the basic fact that the U.S. acts to promote its interests in Afghanistan. It obviously expects that if in doing so Indian interests are exposed, India will protect them as best as it can.
Zalmay Khalilzad said “‘India should talk directly to Taliban, discuss terror concerns directly’,”. He noted that despite India’s contributions to Afghanistan’s economic development — and these are undeniably significant covering large parts of the country, and are popular — as well as its long history of contacts with that country, it does not have a place in international diplomacy on Afghanistan.
He patronisingly added that the U.S. wants India to have a more active role in the peace process.
Clearly, as the most significant power in the region, India should have ensured that it had a place on the table and should have devised ways to achieve that end. This is especially so because Afghanistan impacts on India’s interests, especially its security concerns.
The Taliban and Pakistan
Khalilzad believes that dialogue between India and the Taliban are important, and it would be important that issues of concerns like this [terrorism] .Taking Mr. Khalilzad’s views in their entirety, it is clear that he feels that by avoiding open contacts with the Taliban, India has reduced its role in international diplomatic efforts.
That the U.S. is currently crucially dependent on Pakistan for the successful implementation of its Taliban deal aimed at securing as orderly a withdrawal as possible from what is a major strategic reverse for the world’s pre-eminent power is not in doubt.
In such a situation, it was essential for India to have maintained its strong links with the Afghan government, built and supported its traditional Afghan allies — perhaps this was discreetly resumed — but also establish open lines of communication with the Taliban.
Echo from the past
It is sad that despite all that India has done in Afghanistan over the past 18 years since the Taliban were ousted from Kabul in 2001, it finds itself on the margins of international diplomacy on Afghanistan.
It is reminiscent of the time in the 1990s when, at Pakistan’s insistence, India was considered a problem and kept out of crucial global forums on Afghanistan.
It did not matter then because along with Iran and Russia, it kept the resistance to the Taliban going through Ahmed Shah Masood.
Mr. Ghani is no Masood and there are no countries on the horizon which are really opposed to the Taliban acquiring a major place in the Afghanistan’s formal power structures.
India needs to take corrective diplomatic action even at this late stage, and even in the time of COVID-19. It must begin openly talking to the Taliban and with all political groups in the country. It must realise that its Afghan policy needs changes.
Baltic travel bubble
New road to Kailash Mansarovar runs into diplomatic trouble-India-Nepal Spat
Part of: GS-II- India and Nepal (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)
Nepal says India has breached a 2014 agreement India’s plans to shorten the travel time for pilgrims to Kailash Mansarovar ran into a diplomatic trouble as Nepal strongly objected to the new link road from India to China which was inaugurated by Defence Minister .
In a strongly worded statement, Nepal’s Foreign Ministry said the decision to build the road through territory at the Lipulekh pass that it claims as its territory is a breach of an agreement reached between the two countries to discuss the matter. “The Government of Nepal has learnt with regret about the ‘inauguration’ by India of ‘Link Road’ connecting to Lipulekh, which passes through Nepali territory,”
“This unilateral act runs against the understanding reached between the two countries including at the level of Prime Ministers that a solution to boundary issues would be sought through negotiation,” the statement said, referring to the agreement between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and (then) Nepal PM Sushil Koirala in 2014 for Foreign Secretaries to work out the “outstanding boundary issues” on Kalapani (where Lipulekh lies) and Susta.
The Ministry of External Affairs said the road going through Uttarakhand’s Pithoragarh district “lies completely within the territory of India”. The road that starts from Dharchula in Uttarakhand and runs 80 km to the Lipulekh pass was built by the Border Roads Organisation to help shorten the travel time to reach Kailash Mansarovar in Tibet by about three days each way. Nepal’s latest objection comes months after another protest in November 2019 by Mr. Oli’s government against the publication of Indian maps that included the Kalapani area. At the time, the Ministry of External Affairs had rejected Nepal’s contention, asserting that the map “accurately depicts the sovereign territory of India”.
Border Roads Organisation (BRO)
Darchula – Lipulekh road
(Note: The Lipulekh Pass links Uttarakhand with China’s Tibetan Autonomous Region.)
Phased withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan sharpens focus on CPEC
Part of: GS-II- I.N relation (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)
China, Pakistan engaged in firmly pegging Afghanistan with CPEC, say analysts
the impending withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan is sharpening the focus on the second phase of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which appears to have been fused with a larger regional plan involving Afghanistan and Central Asia. Analysts point out that while working together on the second phase, China and Pakistan are engaged in more firmly pegging Afghanistan — the gateway to Central Asia — with CPEC. The first visible sign that CPEC had been rebooted emerged in November when the 300-megawatt Gwadar coal-fired power plant was inaugurated.
“The killing of Osama bin Laden was a benchmark, as it marked the Obama administration’s policy to scale down American presence in Afghanistan. Ever since, China has given more and more importance to its bilateral ties with Afghanistan. China has to plug the resulting vacuum because no one else would. This is necessary to secure the One Belt One Road. Then there are compulsions of safeguarding the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Xinjiang’s stability is another big concern,
In view of strengthening the logistical infrastructure along CPEC, Chinese state media announced late last month the construction of a high-altitude airport at Taxkorgan — a county that falls within the Shaksgam valley that Pakistan had ceded to China in 1963. “It will create a new ‘air passage’ leading to Central Asia and South Asia. But the Afghans are not putting all their eggs in one basket. Last month, they also received a 75,000-tonne wheat shipment from India, which was routed through Chabahar — an India-run Iranian port on the Gulf of Oman, signalling their intent to diversify usage of trade routes.
What is OBOR
Stated Official Benefits
Advantages of OBOR for China
Potential Advantages to India
Issues with OBOR
The CPEC is the flagship project of the multi-billion dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a pet project of Chinese President Xi Jinping, aimed at enhancing Beijing’s influence around the world through China-funded infrastructure projects. The 3,000 km-long China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) consisting of highways, railways, and pipelines is the latest irritant in the India–China relationship.
CPEC eventually aims at linking the city of Gwadar in South Western Pakistan to China’s North Western region Xinjiang through a vast network of highways and railways. The proposed project will be financed by heavily-subsidised loans, that will be disbursed to the Government of Pakistan by Chinese banking giants such as Exim Bank of China, China Development Bank, and the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China.
The CPEC is bilateral project between Pakistan and China, intended to promote connectivity across Pakistan with a network of highways, railways, and pipelines accompanied by energy, industrial, and other infrastructure development projects linking the Western part of China to the Gwadar Port in Balochistan, Pakistan running some 3000 km from Xinjiang to Balochistan via Khunjerab Pass in the Northern Parts of Pakistan.
It will pave the way for China to access the Middle East and Africa from Gwadar Port, enabling China to access the Indian Ocean and in return China will support development projects in Pakistan to overcome the latter’s energy crises and stabilizing its faltering economy. CPEC is a part of OBOR.
Issues with CPEC
India’s Objections to OBOR-CPEC
Trump says crisis ‘worse than Pearl Harbor’ or 9/11
Part of: GS-II- International issues (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)
President Donald Trump said that fallout from the novel coronavirus pandemic has hit the United States harder than Pearl Harbor in World War II or the 9/11 attacks.
“We went through the worst attack we’ve ever had on our country. This is really the worst attack we’ve ever had,” he told reporters at the White House.
The surprise Japanese attack in 1941 on the Pearl Harbor naval base in Hawaii (PT) drew the United States into World War II.
The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks killed about 3,000 people, mostly in the World Trade Center in New York, triggering two decades of US wars and anti-terrorism operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries.
So far, more than 70,000 Americans have died in the flu-like global pandemic, while severe social distancing measures to stop the virus have forced the shutdown of much of the economy.
About Pearl Harbor
Attack on Pearl Harbor
What led up to the attack on Pearl Harbour?
What happened at Pearl Harbour?
Impact on the US
Israel – Palestine-Hamas Conflict
Part of: GS-II- International Issues (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)
The Israeli army attacked military positions of the Islamist Hamas movement early after militants in the Palestinian enclave fired a rocket at the Jewish state,
"A rocket was fired from the Gaza Strip towards Israeli territory," the army said in a statement. "In response, an IDF tank targeted three Hamas military posts in the northern Gaza Strip."
The Gaza rocket hit an open field near the border, with no immediate reports of damages or injuries.
It also followed strikes on Iranian-backed militias and their allies in Syria that killed 14, presumed to have been carried out by Israel. No Gaza group took responsibility for the rocket.
Areas of Conflict
Why is the solution so difficult to achieve?
Nearly 83% of world countries have officially recognized Israel as a sovereign state and maintain diplomatic relations with it. However, at the same time, many countries are sympathetic to Palestine.
What do both parties want?
The world at large needs to come together for a peaceful solution but the reluctance of the Israeli government and other involved parties have aggravated the issue more. Thus a balanced approach towards the Israel-Palestine issue would help to maintain favourable relations with Arab countries as well as Israel.
India hands over 3 tranche of emergency medical assistance to Bangladesh
The third tranche consists of RT-PCR COVID-19 kits capable of running 30 thousand tests. After being received in Dhaka, the RT-PCR test kits were dispatched to the Institute of Epidemiological Disease Control and Research (IEDCR), Bangladesh.
These test kits are domestically manufactured in India and they are being widely used for COVID-19 detection. Bangladesh is the first country to receive these test kits on priority which reflects the importance India attaches to Bangladesh. The release said that the assistance is in line with India’s Neighbourhood first policy and reaffirms India’s commitment to take a collaborative regional approach to contain the spread of COVID-19.
Foreign Minister of Bangladesh Dr. A.K.Abdul Momen appreciated India’s help for providing medical assistance through three tranches following the outbreak of the Corona pandemic.
The assistance is covered under the SAARC COVID-19 emergency fund which was set up with an initial contribution of 10 million dollars by India on the initiative of Prime Minister Narendra Modi after his video conferencing with leaders of SAARC nations on March 15.
The first tranche of emergency medical assistance under this fund containing 30,000 surgical masks and 15 thousand head-caps was handed over to Bangladesh on 25 March. The second tranche consisting of 50 thousand sterile surgical gloves and 1 lakh Hydroxychloroquine tablets were handed over on 26th April.
India has also conducted online courses for medical professionals of SAARC countries under its Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) framework programme. Two such courses have been conducted by AIIMS, Raipur and Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh in April and May. Another programme designed by AIIMS, Bhubaneshwar specifically for Bangladesh in Bangla language will be held on 12-13 May.
Vande Bharat Mission one of the largest evacuation mission
In one of the largest evacuation exercises named Vande Bharat Mission, the government will operate 64 flights between 7th and 13th of May to bring home nearly 14,800 Indian nationals stranded abroad due to the Corona virus lockdown. Minister of External Affairs S Jaishankar said that preparations for the operation has commenced and also urged the stranded individuals to stay in touch with the Indian embassies in their countries.
The 64 flights which will be operated include ten flights from UAE, seven each from Bangladesh,Malaysia, United Kingdom and United States, five each from Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Philippines and Kuwait along with two each from Qatar, Bahrain and Oman.
Meanwhile, Navy has confirmed that three of its ships are on the mission to get back stranded citizens from Maldives and UAE. INS Jalashwa and INS Magar (Operation Sagar setu) will get back Indians from the Maldives while INS Shardul has been diverted to Dubai to get back the expatriates.
Curbs on large gatherings of people and World major protests & Moment
Part of: GS-II- INTERNATIONAL Issue (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)
Protest movements in India against the implementation of the CAA and NRC appear to have been temporarily halted, due to corona outbreak but still many countries the protest seems to reappear.
Hong Kong protest
The Umbrella Movement was a political movement that emerged during the Hong Kong democracy protests of 2014. Its name arose from the use of umbrellas as a tool for passive resistance to the Hong Kong Police’s use of pepper spray to disperse the crowd during a 79-day occupation of the city demanding more transparent elections, which was sparked by the decision of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPCSC) of 31 August 2014 that prescribed a selective pre-screening of candidates for the 2017 election of Hong Kong's chief executive.
Almost all students in universities of Hong Kong were in echo of 2014 Hong Kong class boycott campaign, and fully supported the "Umbrella Movement". Many secondary schools established political reform concern groups, for supporting student protests and "Umbrella Movement". Hong Kong's protests took another turn in June against plans to allow extradition to mainland China. Critics feared this could undermine judicial independence and endanger dissidents.
Until 1997, Hong Kong was ruled by Britain as a colony but then returned to China. Under the "one country, two systems" arrangement, it has some autonomy, and its people more rights. The bill was withdrawn in September but demonstrations continue and now demand full democracy and an inquiry into police actions.
Protests supporting the Hong Kong movement have spread across the globe, with rallies taking place in the UK, France, US, Canada and Australia.
Lebanon has been hit by civil protests since October 2019 that show no signs of stopping more than six months later.
What started as hundreds of people taking to the streets of Lebanon to protest plans for new taxes during the 2020 budget season on everything from tobacco to social media platforms like WhatsApp, escalated and expanded to wide-scale protests against an unstable economy, sectarian rule, unemployment and corruption.
Lebanon’s financial crisis resulted in a sovereign debt default and also affected its currency’s value. Protest camps were ordered to be removed by the country’s security forces and curfews were imposed on public gatherings. Lebanon’s government is contemplating extending the lockdown at least until May 10 with proposals to potentially restore certain parts of the economy.
Since April 21, protests across the country, including in places like Beirut, Tripoli, Sidon, Nabatieh, Akkar, Bekaa Valley (PT) have become more volatile, resulting in deaths and injuries of civilians as well as soldiers.
The yellow-vest movement that started in France in October 2018, followed by mass demonstrations a month later, have shown no signs of stopping. This movement also started as a protest against high taxes that would further burden the middle class and the poor and against income inequality. France has been under lockdown since March 17 to curb the spread of Covid-19 and amid the global health crisis.
Protests have been ongoing in Colombia since November 2019 against a range of proposed economic and political reforms. While they stopped in January 2020, following the outbreak of coronavirus, they appear to have started once again. Since March 24, Colombia has been under lockdown, first starting at city levels and expanding across the country.
Following the announcement of the lockdown, many daily-wage workers gathered at the Plaza Bolivar, the main square in the capital of Bogotá and protested the sudden imposition of these government orders fearing that they may not be able to pay rent or purchase food due to the loss of wages.
With the US recording the highest rates of coronavirus infections around the world, and witnessing those numbers rising each day, it now has an additional challenge with which it needs to contend. While most of the country has still been ordered to stay at home, some states have been easing restrictions by allowing the opening of parks, beaches and some businesses.
However, in several states around the country, protestors have taken to the streets and have engaged in blocking streets using cars and car horns in their protest.
The protestors say these restrictions are preventing them from leading their daily lives and are impacting businesses. Some have even come carrying firearms, claiming infringement of rights and civil liberties.
Reports suggest unemployment has also spiked across the country. Some other protestors have said they are desperate to start earning a regular salary. In April, Trump appeared to endorse these protests on Twitter by posting messages with calls to “liberate” different states like Minnesota, Virginia, Michigan etc. that had placed curbs to control coronavirus.
Across political lines, the response towards these protests has also been divided. Some public health experts and state governors and other political leaders have stated that social distancing is necessary for the US given the high infection rates. Two weeks ago, Facebook announced that it would remove events listings for such protest gatherings if they violate state laws that have instituted bans against them.
Sudan moves to criminalise Female Genital Mutilation
Part of: GS-II- International issues (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)
Female genital mutilation is a deeply-rooted practice in Sudan and other countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, where it is traditionally seen as a way of curbing female sexual desire in order to reinforce conservative behaviour.
Sudanese officials said they are working to criminalise the widespread practice of female genital mutilation after the transitional government approved a landmark draft law. Under the proposed amendment to the criminal code, anyone found guilty of performing the procedure would be sentenced up to three years in prison.
What UN report says?
A 2014 report by the U.N. children’s agency estimated that 87% of Sudanese women and girls between the ages of 15 and 49 have been subjected to the procedure. The U.N. children’s agency also welcomed the efforts to outlaw the practice. This practice is not only a violation of every girl child’s rights; it is harmful and has serious consequences for a girl’s physical and mental health.
What it is?
Most undergo an extreme form known as infibulation, which involves the removal and repositioning of the labia to narrow the vaginal opening.
In context of India
FGM is practised by the Dawoodi Bohra, a sect of Shia Islam with one million members in India. In the community, FGM is performed on six- or seven-year-old girls in a form known as khatna or khafz involving the total or partial removal of the clitoral hood.
The spiritual leader of the Dawoodi Bohra, Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin, has stated that male and female circumcision (respectively khatna and khafz) are required as "acts of religious purity". The term khafd is also used to describe the practice. Other Bohra sects including the Sulemani Bohras and the Alavi Bohras As well as some Sunni communities in Kerala, are reported as practising FGM
Matter in Supreme Court
In May 2017 a public interest litigation (PIL) case was raised in India's Supreme Court. The case was filed by Sunita Tiwari, a lawyer based in Delhi, seeking a ban on FGM in India. The Supreme Court received the petition and sought responses from four states and four ministries of the central government. An advocate for the petition claimed the practice violated children's rights under Article 14 (Right to Equality) and Article 21 (Right to Life) of the Constitution of India. Female genital mutilation is performed "illegally upon girls (between five years and before she attains puberty)" and is against the "UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights of which is India is a signatory", the plea said, adding the practice caused "permanent disfiguration to the body of a girl child".
While an advocate opposing the petition argued that khafz is an essential part of the community's religion, and their right to practise the religion is protected under Articles 25 and 26. On August 28, 2018, the then CJI Dipak Mishra referred this matter to a five-judge bench. However, a bench has not yet been constituted to hear the matter in the apex court.
CONVENTION ON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD
The UN General Assembly adopted the Convention and opened it for signature on 20 November 1989 (resolution 44/25)
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child’ is an international statement of the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of children
The convention mentions the following rights of children
Guiding principles: General requirements for all rights
Survival and Development rights: The basic rights to life and achieving one’s full potential
Protection Rights: Keeping safe from harm
Participation rights: Having an active voice
UAE affirmed it’s commitment to achieve a political solution in Libya
Part of: GS-II- International issues (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)
The United Arab Emirates has affirmed its commitment to achieving a political solution in Libya and called for an immediate and comprehensive ceasefire.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MoFAIC) emphasized the UAE's support for a political solution to end the on-going Libyan crisis in line with the outcomes of the Berlin Conference. It called on all parties to commit to the political process under the supervision of the United Nations. MoFAIC commended the Libyan National Army for conducting anti-terror operations and its steadfast pursuit of stability by way of confronting extremist and terrorist militias in the country.
Ministry expressed its concern over Turkish interference in Arab affairs, particularly in Libya, via the deployment of militants belonging to terrorist organisations in Libyan territory in flagrant violation of UN Security Council resolutions, as well as the smuggling of arms in violation of UN resolutions and Berlin Conference outcomes, resulting in stalled efforts to achieve a ceasefire.
The UAE called upon all parties to work towards guaranteeing a better future for the Libyan people that meets their aspirations for stability, peace, and prosperity.
Libya is mostly desert and oil-rich country in northern Africa. Libya gained independence in 1951. Colonel Gaddafi seized power in 1969 and ruled for four decades until he was toppled in 2011 following an armed rebellion assisted by Western military intervention. The civil war in Libya may lead to a new migrant crisis from Africa. Libya has the largest oil reserve in Africa and one of the largest oil producers in the world. Instability in Libya may increase oil prices globally.
What is the political status of Libya?
Libya has been torn by violence and political instability since long-time ruler Muammar Gaddafi was toppled and killed by rebels in 2011. Today there are two governments in Libya, one based at Tobruk and the other in the capital Tripoli. The capital city Tripoli was captured by the Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj is called the Government of National Accord (GNA)
It has international recognition. The self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA), commanded by Mr. Haftar, backs the Tobruk government. Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are backing Mr. Haftar’s forces. Turkey and Qatar backs the Tripoli based government.
Libya has been in a state of civil war ever after the overthrow of Gaddafi following the Arab Spring Revolution which affected many of the countries having dictatorship. Observers are of the opinion that in recent years, Libya's conflict has turned into a proxy war, with a number of foreign powers joining in to defend ideological and economic interests. Al-Sarraj's administration is backed by the U.N. and Western powers including the U.S., but mainly relies on Turkey, Qatar and Italy. His rival Khalifa Haftar , a one time ally of Gaddafi, enjoys the support of Egypt, the United Arab Emirates , Russia, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and France. There were recent reports that Haftar may take over the military control in Libya.
Dams in China
Part of: GS-II- International relations (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)
Recently, a US-funded study has highlighted the possible impact of China’s dams on the Mekong river (known as Lancang river in China) and countries downstream. The study was published by the Sustainable Infrastructure Partnership in Bangkok and the Lower Mekong Initiative. The Lower Mekong Initiative is a US partnership with all the downstream countries of Mekong besides Myanmar. The Mekong flows from China to Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.
It has called the study groundless and highlighted the drought faced by Yunnan because Lancang only accounts for 13.5% of Mekong’s flows. China has maintained that the dams, it is building, are run of the river dams which store water for power generation.
According to Indian experts, the study is not conclusive because it only considers the water flowing into the lower basin at one station in Thailand. It did not consider other dams and water-use along the course of the river. The lower basin is not entirely dependent on flows from China, but also receives water from tributaries in all other countries it flows in, which the study did not account for.
India’s Other Concerns
India has been expressing concerns on Brahmaputra since 2015 when China operationalised its first hydropower project at Zangmu. Currently, three other dams at Dagu, Jiexu and Jiacha are being developed.
For India, quantity of water is not an issue because these are run of the river dams and will not impact the Brahmaputra flow.
More importantly, Brahmaputra is not entirely dependent on upstream flows and an estimated 35% of its basin is in India.
However, India is concerned about the Chinese activities affecting the quality of water, ecological balance and the flood management. India and China do not have a water sharing agreement. Both nations share hydrological data so it becomes important to share genuine data and have continuous dialogue on issues like warning of droughts, floods and high water discharges.
Ethnic clashes in Central African Republic
In Central African Republic, 25 people were killed and 51 others injured in clashes in the northeast part of the country. Between armed groups in Ndele led to the deaths of several civilians.
Humanitarian workers, however, said that members of the Popular Front for the Rebirth of the Central African Republic (FPRC) had clashed in Ndele the previous day.
The FPRC last year split into two factions: the Runga ethnic group on one side, including FPRC's military chief Abdoulaye Hissene, and rival fighters from the Gula and Kara ethnic communities.
CAR struggles with violence despite a peace deal signed between the government and 14 armed groups. Rival militias battling over resources control more than two thirds of the country.
India listed among ‘countries of particular concern’ in US religious freedom report- USCIRF
Part of: GS-II- India and USA (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)
In the 2020 edition of its annual report on International Religious Freedom, the USCIRF alleged that in 2019, religious freedom conditions in India "experienced a drastic turn downward", with religious minorities under increasing assault.
A US commission mandated to monitor religious freedom globally asked the State Department to designate 14 nations, including India, as "countries of particular concern", (CPC) alleging that religious minorities are under increasing assault in these nations.
These include nine countries that the State Department designated as CPCs in December 2019 - Myanmar, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan - as well as five others - India, Nigeria, Russia, Syria, and Vietnam
However, two of the nine members have expressed their dissent over the USCIRF recommendation to place India in the CPC.
Established by the US Government in 1998 after the inaction of the International Religious Freedom Act, recommendations of USCIRF are non-binding to the State Department.
India’s view on report
“India took a sharp downward turn in 2019,” the commission noted in its report, which included specific concerns about
The USCIRF alleged that during 2019, discriminatory policies, inflammatory rhetoric, and tolerance for violence against minorities at the national, state and local level increased the climate of fear among non-Hindu communities.
The report also ,mentioned about communal riots in Delhi in February 2020, alleging that there were reports of Delhi police, operating under the Home Ministry's authority, failing to halt attacks and even directly participating in the violence.
The USCIRF 2020 report makes a specific mention of Home Minister Amit Shah, for not taking what it deemed as sufficient action to stop cases of mob lynching in the country, and for referring to migrants as “termites”. In December 2019, the USCIRF had also asked the U.S. government to consider sanctions against Mr. Shah and “other principal leadership”
Recommendations made by USCIRF to state department
The USCIRF recommended to the State Department to impose targeted sanctions on Indian government agencies and officials responsible for severe violations of religious freedom.
Among others, it recommended the State Department to allocate funding to support civil society to create a monitoring and early warning system in partnership with police to challenge hate speech and incitement to violence.
The US Congress should continue to hold hearings highlighting religious freedom conditions in India and US policy toward India, the USCIRF said
In 2005, Prime Minister Narendra Modi who was at the time the Chief Minister of Gujarat was censured by the USCIRF. The commission had recommended sanctions against Mr. Modi for the 2002 riots and the U.S. government had subsequently cancelled his visa.
Part of: GS-II- International issue (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)
Yemen, one of the Arab world's poorest countries, has been devastated by a civil war. Here we explain what is fuelling the fighting, and who is involved.
How did the war start?
The conflict has its roots in the failure of a political transition supposed to bring stability to Yemen following an
Arab Spring uprising that forced its longtime authoritarian president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, to hand over power to his deputy, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, in 2011.
As president, Mr Hadi struggled to deal with a variety of problems, including attacks by jihadists, a separatist movement in the south, the continuing loyalty of security personnel to Saleh, as well as corruption, unemployment and food insecurity.
The Houthi movement (known formally as Ansar Allah) ,which champions Yemen's Zaidi Shia Muslim minority (with the help of ex president Saleh ), took advantage of the new president's weakness by taking control of their northern heartland of Saada province and neighbouring areas.
Disillusioned with the transition, many ordinary Yemenis - including Sunnis - supported the Houthis, and in late 2014 and early 2015 the rebels gradually took over the capital Sanaa. Then attempted to take control of the entire country, forcing Mr Hadi to flee abroad in March 2015.
Saudi Arabia interference and its coalition with eight Sunni Arab states to fight Houthi rebels (backed by ex president Saleh)
Alarmed by the rise of a group they believed to be backed militarily by regional Shia power Iran, Saudi Arabia and eight other mostly Sunni Arab states began an air campaign aimed at defeating the Houthis, ending Iranian influence in Yemen and restoring Mr Hadi's government. The coalition received logistical and intelligence support from the US, UK and France. Coalition ground troops landed in the southern port city of Aden in August 2015 and helped drive the Houthis and their allies out of much of the south.
Mr Hadi's government has established a temporary home in Aden, but it struggles to provide basic services and security and the president continues to be based in Saudi Arabia. The Houthis rebels still have control of Sanaa and north-western Yemen. They have been able to maintain a siege of the third city of Taiz and to launch regular ballistic missile and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia.
The launch of a ballistic missile towards Riyadh in November 2017 prompted the Saudi-led coalition to tighten its blockade of Yemen. It said it wanted to halt the smuggling of weapons to the rebels by Iran - an accusation Tehran denied - but the restrictions led to substantial increases in the prices of food and fuel, helping to push more people into food insecurity. The alliance between the Houthis and Ali Abdullah Saleh (Ex president) also collapsed in November 2017 following deadly clashes over control of Sanaa's biggest mosque. Houthi fighters launched an operation to take full control of the capital and Saleh was killed.
Rise of Militant group AQAP
Militants from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)and the local affiliate of the rival Islamic State group (IS) have taken advantage of the chaos by seizing territory in the south and carrying out deadly attacks, notably in Aden
Battle for port city Hudaydah (Pt SHOT)
In June 2018, the coalition attempted to launch an attack to capture from the Houthis , the Red Sea city of Hudaydah, whose port is the principal lifeline for almost two thirds of Yemen's population. The UN warned that the port's destruction would lead to massive loss of life due to famine.
After six months of fighting, the warring parties agreed a ceasefire at talks in Sweden. The Stockholm agreement required them to redeploy their forces from Hudaydah, establish a prisoner exchange mechanism. While hundreds of prisoners have since been released, the full redeployment of forces from Hudaydah has not yet taken place, raising fears that the Stockholm agreement will collapse and that the battle for Hudaydah will resume.
Fight among the coalition backed government and its ally Southern Transition Council
In August 2019, infighting erupted in the south between Saudi-backed government forces and an ostensibly allied southern separatist movement supported by the United Arab Emirates, the Southern Transitional Council (STC). Forces loyal to the STC, which accused Mr Hadi of mismanagement and links to Islamists, seized control of Aden and refused to allow the cabinet to return until Saudi Arabia brokered a power-sharing deal that November.
The UN hoped the agreement would clear the way for a political settlement to end the civil war, but in January 2020 there was a sudden escalation in hostilities between the Houthis and coalition-led forces, with fighting on several front lines, missile strikes and air raids.
Impact of war
Yemen is experiencing the world's worst humanitarian crisis.
1. The UN had verified the deaths of at least 7,500 civilians by September 2019, with most caused by Saudi-led coalition air strikes.
2. Thousands more civilians have died from preventable causes, including malnutrition, disease and poor health.
3. It is estimated that 85,000 children with severe acute malnutrition might have died between April 2015 and October 2018.
4. Almost 20 million people lack access to adequate healthcare
5. Almost 18 million do not have enough clean water or access to adequate sanitation.
6. The largest cholera outbreak ever recorded, which has resulted in more than 2.2 million suspected cases and 3,895 related deaths since October 2016.
7. About 80% of the population - 24 million people - need humanitarian assistance and protection.
Some 20 million people need help securing food, according to the UN. Almost 10 million of them are considered "one step away from famine".
Why should this matter for the rest of the world?
1. It also worries the West because of the threat of attacks - such as from al-Qaeda or IS affiliates - emanating from the country as it becomes more unstable.
2. The conflict is also seen as part of a regional power struggle between Shia-ruled Iran and Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia.
3. Yemen is also strategically important because it sits on a strait linking the Red Sea with the Gulf of Aden, through which much of the world's oil shipments pass.
Saudi led coalition in Yemen urges Emirates backed southern separatist to honour RIYADH peace deal
Part of: GS-II- International issue (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)
A Saudi-led coalition involved in a years-long war in Yemen urged Emirati-backed southern separatists to honour terms of a Riyadh peace deal and return control of the port city of Aden to the country's internationally recognized government.
The statement by Saudi Arabia comes after the separatists' Southern Transitional Council again claimed sole control of Aden, a Red Sea port that serves as the seat of the internationally recognized government as Yemen's Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, hold the country's capital, Sanaa. The council's decision adds yet more complexity to the grinding war in Yemen that has pushed the Arab world's poorest nation to the brink of famine and killed over 1,00,000 people.
In its statement, Saudi urged the council to return to the terms of the November 2019 Riyadh Agreement, which ended earlier fighting between the separatists and the government forces after the council seized control of Aden just a few months earlier.
Pakistan receives USD 1.39 billion emergency loan from IMF to deal with Corona virus crisis
Pakistan has received an emergency loan of 1.39 billion US Dollars from the International Monetary Fund to boost its foreign exchange reserves in the wake of the further economic downturn due to the Corona virus crisis.
Earlier, Pakistan requested the global money lender for a low-cost, fast-disbursing loan under its Rapid Financing Instrument (RFI) to deal with the adverse economic impact of COVID-19.The RFI is used to provide financial assistance to IMF member countries facing an urgent balance of payments need without requiring them to put a full-fledged programme in place. The 1.39 billion US Dollar loan is in addition to the six billion US Dollar bailout package that Pakistan has signed with the IMF in July last year to stave off a balance of payment crisis.
Pakistan has also approached other multilateral donors for additional funds to fight the pandemic and its economic implications. The World Bank has earlier approved one billion US Dollars and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) 1.5 billion US Dollars for Pakistan to keep its economy afloat.
COVID-19: China announces additional USD 30 million grants for WHO
China announced an additional 30 million US Dollar grant to the World Health Organization, days after Beijing expressed serious concern over US President Donald Trump's decision to freeze the funding for the global health agency over its handling of the COVID-19 crisis.
The grant will be in addition to the 20 million US Dollars provided by China earlier to the WHO. He said, China will always support the Geneva-based WHO in playing an important role in international public health and global anti-epidemic response.
Both China and the WHO faced serious criticism over lack of transparency especially about the discovery of the Corona virus in December last year and its silent spread in Wuhan until Beijing imposed lockdown in the city on 23rd of January. However, China had denied the allegations of any cover-up, saying it was the first country to report the COVID-19 to the WHO.
Iran says it launched military satellite into orbit
Amidst tension with the US, Iran today said that it had successfully launched its first military satellite into the orbit. The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) reported that the first military satellite “Noor”, which means light was successfully put into orbit. The satellite was launched from three-stage carrier Ghased and was placed in 425-km orbit.
RSTV Special: Oil Price War & Implications
Part of: GS-III- Economy (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)
The oil prices have reached their lowest levels in years, leading to the deepest oil crisis in decades. Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies led by Russia under the OPEC+ framework have agreed to cut their oil output by 10m barrels per day, or 10% of global supplies. This move is aimed at propping up the falling crude oil prices. They expect the United States and other producers to join in their effort by reducing up to 5m barrels per day.
Impact of COVID-19 on Oil Sector:
Disrupted supply chains:
Miscellaneous factors at play:
Move towards Renewable energy:
Governance structure for energy sector:
Too low oil price level:
Interdependency of the world economy:
Finalize an agreement:
Global governance structure:
Reforming the sector:
SAGAR programme- Indian Ocean
Part of: GS-II- SAGAR Doctorine and Indian Ocean (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)
India has for a long time had a “continental outlook,” with insufficient attention paid to maritime aspects of security. But this has begun to change over the last two decades, a reflection of India’s growing economy and the resultant need for secure trade routes and the growing security competition in the maritime space as a consequence of China’s naval expansion.
One aspect of this shift has been India’s efforts to build security partnerships in the Indian Ocean region. On this score, the record of India’s strategic shift is at best mixed. Indeed, while there are often headlines about India’s successes, with an example being India’s outreach to Indonesia with India gaining access to a strategically vital Sabang port earlier this month, in fact, India’s efforts to partner with other states have actually been less than successful, be it an agreement with Seychelles or the Maldives.
Significance of Indian Ocean
The geo-political significance of the Indian Ocean stems from the fact that it is a centre piece in the wider Indian Ocean Region (IOR). The combination of economic growth and slowdown, military expansion, increasing demand for natural resources, demographics combined with the geo-political situation, increased presence of nuclear capable actors and variances in regional structures of governance, highlights the geo-political significance of this area.
Major points that merit attention are: -
SAGAR Programme (Security and Growth for All in the Region)
SAGAR Doctrine was unveiled by India in 2016 underlining the growing salience of the Indian Ocean and global maritime commons in India’s strategic calculus. It calls for intensifying cooperation among navies and maritime agencies of the world to engineer virtuous cycles of cooperation. It is a maritime initiative which gives priority to Indian Ocean region for ensuring peace, stability and prosperity of India in Indian Ocean region.
Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA)?
Member Countries of the Indian Ocean Rim Association
United Arab Emirates
Dialogue Partners of the Indian Ocean Rim Association
Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) Objectives
Indian Ocean Dialogue (IOD)
The Indian Ocean Dialogue (IOD) is a flagship initiative of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), with its origins in the 13th Council of Ministers meeting, held in November 2013 in Perth, Australia.
The IORA Sustainable Development Program (ISDP)
The ISDP is a project-based program intended to meet the needs of the Member States of the IORA. Project proposals are formulated by the Member countries in collaboration with IORA Secretariat. As an instrument of sustainable development, the ISDP Program is expected to strengthen regional cooperation and forge new partnerships within the IORA Member States and with Dialogue Partners.
IORA Council of Members Meeting 2019
Objectives of SAGAR MAITRI
The IOR countries, include Oman, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Myanmar.
Oil crisis during 1973-74 :
Oil Crisis 1978-79:
Reason for drop in oil prices by 2014
Why oil prices have come down to Rs.1/barell during COVID-19?
What is Super Contango ?
What this means for the global economies?
What does this mean for India?
India Revokes Ban on Export of Hydroxychloroquine and India-USA Trade Ties
Part of: GS Prelims and GS-III-Economy
Recently, India revoked its earlier ban on the export of malaria drug hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), which is being used to treat Covid-19.
Note: India last month banned exports of 16 drugs, including hydroxychloroquine and paracetamol. President Trump had sought the lifting of the embargo placed on hydroxychloroquine exports to the US
India –USA trade ties
As per the current way of calculation, India-US trade is becoming more balanced. In 2016, the deficit (US trade deficit with India) was $24 billion. It came down to $22 billion in 2017 and is $20 billion now. The officials said that with increasing imports of oil and gas, this would reduce further.
History: Trade between the United States and India has grown steadily ever since India’s economy began to take off in the mid-1990s and its information technology sector shot to prominence in the early 2000s. From 1999 to 2018, trade in goods and services between the two countries surged from $16 billion to $142 billion. India is now the United States’ eighth-largest trading partner in goods and services and is among the world’s largest economies. India’s trade with the United States now resembles, in terms of volume, U.S. trade with South Korea ($167 billion in 2018) or France ($129 billion).
But as trade between Washington and New Delhi has increased, so too have tensions. U.S. and Indian officials have disagreed for years on tariffs and foreign investment limitations, but also on other complicated issues, particularly within agricultural trade. Concern for intellectual property rights has preoccupied the United States for thirty years, while issues concerning medical devices and the fast-growing digital economy have more recently emerged. On top of this, the Donald J. Trump administration has exacerbated tensions by creating new dilemmas, including a focus on bilateral trade deficits and the application of fresh tariffs, prompting retaliation from Indian government.
Deficits and Tariffs
The Trump administration’s approach to trade resulted in three new areas of friction that had not previously been on the already extensive menu of economic tensions with India. Bilateral trade deficits Previously not a top U.S. trade concern, these became a major focus when Trump issued an executive order in 2017 requiring a study of the United States’ most significant trade deficits. India has slightly narrowed the trade deficit in goods with the United States, which went from $24.3 billion in 2016, the tenth-largest that year, to $23.3 billion in 2019, the eleventh-largest. Indian negotiators have proposed reducing the deficit via major purchases of products including liquefied natural gas and aircraft.
Tariffs. The Trump administration began applying new tariffs in 2018 on steel and aluminum imports from dozens of countries, including India, using a national security exemption in U.S. trade law. In response, New Delhi drew up a list of retaliatory tariffs and filed it with the World Trade Organization (WTO), but held off on applying them.
Generalized System of Preferences (GSP): Following a public review process, the Trump administration removed India from the GSP program, a special trade treatment for developing countries. One qualification of the program is “equitable and reasonable” access to that country’s markets for U.S. goods and services, and the administration noted still-significant trade barriers in India. Shortly after the Trump administration pulled India from the GSP, India pulled the trigger on its retaliatory tariffs, after which the United States filed a dispute at the WTO. These retaliatory tariffs remain in place.
Agricultural Products: Although agricultural products are not the largest component of U.S.-India trade, tensions over them are long-standing and remain among the most difficult to resolve. The United States exported around $1.5 billion worth of agricultural products to India in 2018 and imported $2.7 billion. Exports to India include fruit, nuts, legumes, cotton, and dairy products, which are important to the economies of California, Montana, and Washington. Spices, rice, and essential oils are the top agricultural items imported from India to the United States.
India’s 2019 retaliatory tariffs included U.S. almonds, walnuts, cashews, apples, chickpeas, wheat, and peas—and came on top of globally applied tariff hikes by New Delhi. India imposed a retaliatory tariff of 20 percent on in-shell walnuts, added to a 2018 global duty hike to 100 percent. U.S. in-shell walnuts now carry a duty of more than 120 percent in India, according to the California Walnut Board and Commission. Apples, an iconic product of Washington State, were hit with a 20 percent tariff, on top of an existing 50 percent duty for all countries.
Negotiations over U.S. dairy products have gone on for years. It is difficult for U.S. dairy farmers to sell their products in India, according to the International Dairy Foods Association, because India requires that dairy products are “derived from a dairy cow that has been fed a vegetarian diet for its entire life.” India defends its position on religious and cultural grounds, whereas the association calls these requirements “scientifically unwarranted.”
India rejected U.S. proposals in 2015 and 2018 for consumer labels indicating the diet of dairy animals. Frustrated, the National Milk Producers Federation and the U.S. Dairy Export Council sought India’s removal from the GSP program.
Intellectual Property Rights: Intellectual property rights in India have been a chief U.S. concern since at least 1989, the year of the first “Special 301 report” mandated by Congress to identify intellectual property issues in trade. Concerns include piracy of software, film, and music and weak patent protections, among others. In that first report, India was one of eight countries placed on a priority watch list.
India has remained on the watch list, despite some progress. To comply with its obligations as part of the WTO’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, India amended its patent act to recognize product rather than process patents, meaning that replicating a product using a different process would qualify as an infringement. This came into force in 2005. However, the United States has sought further improvements. By 2018, Washington still cites insufficient patent protections, restrictive standards for patents, and threats of compulsory licensing. Other U.S. concerns include India’s copyright regime and whether current approaches can deliver “pro-innovation and -creativity growth policies.”
Investment Barriers: India has limited foreign investment in sectors such as insurance and banking for decades. While India has substantially liberalized foreign direct investment (FDI) procedures, issues remain. The insurance industry has an FDI limit of 49 percent and a requirement that companies be Indian-controlled. In banking, foreign ownership is capped at 74 percent. Media also face foreign investment limits: 49 percent for cable television, 26 percent for FM radio, 74 percent for direct-to-home satellite broadcasting, 49 percent for television news, and 26 percent for print newspapers and periodicals.
In single-brand retail, which comprises companies such as Nike that sell only their own goods, Indian rules permit 100 percent FDI but have some local sourcing requirements. Multi-brand retail is permitted up to 51 percent FDI, however Indian states can opt in or opt out of allowing this type of foreign investment; currently, only around nine of India’s twenty-nine states permit it (plus a small union territory). Additional requirements for multi-brand include at least $100 million in infrastructure investment, as well as local sourcing conditions.
President Trump has often bemoaned India’s high tariffs on motorcycles—they stand at 50 percent for some Harley-Davidson models. However, Trump is not the first U.S. president to focus on market access for America’s iconic bike. In 2007, during the George W. Bush administration, trade negotiators agreed to a deal under which Harley-Davidsons would be able to enter India in exchange for Indian mangoes gaining access to the U.S. market.
However, the mangoes-for-motorcycles deal wasn’t about tariffs, and instead worked through issues over emissions regulations and a pest-control irradiation process for mangoes in India to open up new trade. It turned out that high Indian duties on large-engine motorcycles made Harleys too expensive for Indian consumers. To make the bikes more affordable, Harley-Davidson built an assembly plant in India for less expensive models, which were imported unassembled and subject to much lower duties. The managing director for Harley-Davidson India told at the time that assembly in India would bring down duties by around 40 percent.
When Trump raised the issue of India’s motorcycle duties in 2017, tariffs were at 75 percent for the largest engine imports. Harley-Davidson sold fewer than 3,700 units in India that year, and most were cheaper models assembled in India. The tariffs on these more expensive, larger motorcycles fell to 50 percent after Trump discussed the issue with Modi in 2018, but Trump has said that 50 percent is “still unacceptable.”
Medical Devices: The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) expressed concern for years about customs duties on medical equipment and devices, and tensions were exacerbated in 2017 when the Indian government applied new price controls on coronary stents and knee implants. The following year, USTR explained the impact of the price controls in its National Trade Estimate report. U.S. manufacturers sought permission from the Indian regulatory authority to pull these devices from the market but were denied, forcing U.S. suppliers to “sell their products at a loss in the Indian market for up to eighteen months.”
Digital Economy: With the rise of the digital economy, and with India’s growing heft as a hub for information technology services and for digital businesses, new frictions have emerged over data localization, data privacy, and e-commerce. Unlike China, which largely operates on its own digital systems, India uses many U.S. platforms, and many U.S. companies have back-office operations in India. These platforms, enjoyed by India’s half a billion internet users, generate enormous data flows, and Indian leaders are well aware of the tremendous value of this data. Prime Minister has called it the “new oil” and “new gold.”
But the United States is concerned about how India has handled this new resource. In 2018, India’s central bank ordered companies “that operate a payment system in India”—meaning credit card companies and digital payment platforms such as PayPal—to store all data on local servers. This at first led to confusion about jurisdiction for cross-border transactions, and then a clarification that such data could be processed abroad but must ultimately be stored in India.
e-commerce sector: In the e-commerce sector, long-standing rules prohibit foreign investment in platforms that sell directly to consumers, so foreign e-commerce operators in India use a marketplace model. That means they provide the technology platform to connect buyers with sellers. A midstream change in December 2018 to e-commerce rules about subsidiaries of foreign-owned platforms earned mention in the 2019 U.S. National Trade Estimate about limiting access to India’s market.
Finally, India is developing a comprehensive data protection policy. Digital economy experts say a new bill introduced in Parliament in December 2019 is similar to the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation. The current draft offers provisions for individual data protections, provides carve-outs for specific government requests for data, and creates a new identity verification proposal for social media. Much could change as legislators review and debate the bill, but given the size of India’s digital economy, these issues will only become more central to U.S.-India trade relations.
Visas in Services Trade: Most of the above flash points center on U.S. concerns about the Indian economy, mostly because the U.S. economy presents fewer barriers. Yet, the Indian government has continued to highlight services trade and the “movement of natural persons,” or procedures typically involving a visa regime by which a citizen of one country can perform services work in another country. For India, this falls squarely in the world of trade, but for the United States, these are immigration matters that cannot be negotiated in trade deliberations. In the United States, H1B and L1 visas permit highly skilled workers from other countries to be employed, with an annual limit of sixty-five thousand regular applications and another twenty thousand for those who have earned an advanced degree in the United States.
Due to its large pool of highly skilled workers, India is extremely competitive in services, and its professionals work around the world. Of the top ten companies with H1B-approved petitions in 2018, four are Indian firms, three of which are at the very top. Over the past fifteen years, the proportion of approved H1B petitions from India went from just under 40 percent to more than 70 percent. India’s negotiating posture has long prioritized further opening other countries’ visa regimes for services workers; this was an unmet ambition, for example, of India’s in talks on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, a trade pact of fifteen countries, including China, that India opted out of after years of negotiations.
The Indian government continues to object to U.S. laws passed in 2010 and 2015 that apply higher fees on companies with more than fifty employees if more than half of those employees are in the United States as nonimmigrants. In 2016, India filed a trade dispute at the WTO over these visa fees, arguing that the higher fees “raised the overall barriers for service suppliers from India.” The WTO dispute is ongoing. India has also expressed concerns over visa processing delays, including more requests for evidence, which prolong review times, and increased rejection rates under the Trump administration.
Way Forward: In recent times both countries can understand the significance of each other and can cooperate. In the time of COVID-19 USA has been realising the significance of India which is still the largest market of the world and can help USA in countering China rise.
Part of: GS Prelims and GS-II- IR
Recently, India supplied 6.2 tonnes of essential medicines to Maldives, under Operation Sanjeevani as assistance in the fight against COVID 19.
Previous India’s Assistance to Maldives (PT SHOTS)
Relations Between the Two Countries
South China Sea Dispute
Part of: GS Prelims and GS-II-IR
About South China Sea
In News: The Chinese fishing fleets have been seen raiding the rich waters of the South China Sea that are internationally recognised as exclusively Indonesia’s to fish. The fishermen in Natuna Islands (Indonesia) are worried.
The Chinese steel trawlers scrape the bottom of the sea and destroy other marine life. Chinese trawling also breaches the maritime borders. Since China is its largest trading partner, it has been argued that the Indonesian government has not taken any steps to deal with the incursions by Chinese fishing boats.
China’s illegal fishing near the Natuna islands carries global consequence, reminding regional governments of Beijing’s expanding claims to the South China Sea through which one-third of the world’s maritime trade flows. China wants to claim the resources such as oil, natural gas, and fish in the South China Sea. The presence of Chinese fishers also helps to embody China’s maritime claims. The nine dash line (rejected by an international tribunal) asserted by China violates the principle of Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ).
History of Dispute
Why in the news?
Geopolitics and Activities undertaken in the region:
Reasons for the stalemate on a possible solution
Strategic Importance of South China Sea:
The Indian Context
Possible Way Forward
China operates from a position of strength in the South China Sea, wherein it has physical control over critical islands in the region, coupled with this, her policy of gradual militarization of the disputed islands in the South China Sea, would impact freedom of navigation- making China the main arbiter of the accepted range of ‘legitimate’ operations in the South China Sea.
Also, although the ruling is historic, the tribunal lacks powers to enforce its rulings, it is important that the claimant nations do not escalate the issue, but work on arriving at a consensus through effective diplomacy.
Judicial verdicts on issues of contested sovereignty have had historical precedents of triggering a nationalist backlash. It is thus important to consider possible solutions to this dispute. Some measures are as under:
Please refer: https://www.aspireias.com/current-affairs-news-analysis-editorials/70-Years-of-Diplomatic-Relations-India-China (FOR INDIA-CHINA 70 YEARS RELATIONS)
US Cancels Red Flag
Part of: GS Prelims and GS-II- IR
Recently, the U.S. Air Force has cancelled the Phase-I of Red Flag due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The Indian Air Force (IAF) was also to take part in the exercise with its Sukhoi Su-30 fighter jets.
Afghanistan and terrorist attack
Part of: GS Prelims and GS-II- IR
The terrorist attack on a gurudwara in Kabul, claimed by Islamic State (IS), has killed 25 people, mostly members of Afghanistan’s persecuted Sikh minority.
FOR CURRENT IMPORTANT LOCATION: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3EBazqLy34M
Afghanistan is notorious for violence against its minority communities.
Why Islamic State (IS) has attacked now?
What are the consequences of the attack?
What is the Impact on India?
Afghanistan faces two contagions, new and old — COVID-19 and the relentless violence. A united effort has to be made for the ceasefire of violence so as to enable humanitarian assistance to deal with the pandemic.
Jai Hind Jai Bharat
Japan and Russia - Kuril Islands
Part of: GS Prelims and GS-II- IR
Importance of South Kuril Islands
Recently, a 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck in the northern Pacific and a tsunami warning was issued for the closest shores on Russia’s far eastern Kuril Islands. The earthquakes of this strength in the region have caused tsunamis in the past far from the epicenter of the earthquake. The epicenter is the point on the Earth's surface directly above a hypocenter or focus (The hypocenter is where an earthquake or an underground explosion originates)
Kuril Islands are stretched from the Japanese island of Hokkaido to the southern tip of Russia's Kamchatka Peninsula separating Okhotsk Sea from the North Pacific ocean. It consists of 56 islands and minor rocks. The chain is part of the belt of geologic instability circling the Pacific and contains at least 100 volcanoes, of which 35 are still active, and many hot springs. Earthquakes and tidal waves are common phenomena over these islands.
India's role in Afghanistan
Part of: GS Prelims and GS-II- IR
Responding to President Donald Trump, the Indian government has stressed on the fact that developmental assistance can play a major role in transforming Afghanistan. US mocked at India for funding a "library" in Afghanistan, saying it is of no use in the war-torn country as he criticised India and others for not doing enough for the nation's security. US also asked India, Russia, Pakistan and other neighbouring countries to take responsibility for Afghanistan's security as he defended his push for the US to invest less overseas.
India most of the investments in Afghanistan were on mega infrastructure projects including the 218 km road from Zaranj to Delaram, the Salma Dam and the new Afghan Parliament building. India has also been supplying military equipment to Afghanistan besides providing training to hundreds of Afghan security personnel.
India and Afghanistan (PT and Mains)
Heart of Asia Conference
The Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process (HoA) was founded on November 2nd, 2011 in Istanbul, Turkey to address the shared challenges and interests of Afghanistan and its neighbours and regional partners. It will also contribute to the stability and prosperity to Afghanistan’s extended neighbourhood in South Asia, Central Asia and West Asia. The Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process was launched in 2011 and the participating countries include Pakistan, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, China, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and the United Arab Emirates. Three pillars of this conference process are: • Political Consultations: Political consultation involving Afghanistan and its near and extended neighbours • Confidence Building Measures (CBMs): Areas for CBMs identified in the Istanbul Process document are Disaster management, Counter-terrorism, Counter-narcotics, Trade, Commerce and Investment, Regional infrastructure, and Education. • Cooperation with Regional Organizations Key Highlights of the Sixth Conference a) Menace of terrorism dominated the Amritsar meet o Amritsar Declaration named the terrorist organisations that are jeopardising the security situation in Afghanistan: – This was a big blow to Pakistan as almost all the terrorist organisations which are named in the declaration are based in Pakistan. – The declaration mentions two groups targeting India, Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Jaish-e-Mohammad, in addition to the Haqqani network, among the organisations causing a “high level of violence” in Afghanistan and the region. b) A regional approach to eliminate terrorism is suggested: o It included dismantling of terrorist sanctuaries and safe havens in the Heart of Asia region, as well as disrupting all financial, tactical and logistical support for terrorism. o It also includes tapping the capacities of political and religious leaders, civil society, mass media and social networks in the fight against terror. c) The declaration asks for early finalization of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism with consensus. d) For the first time, a Heart of Asia declaration has expressed concern at the violence caused in Afghanistan and the region by groups like al-Qaeda and Daesh, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad etc. e) The declaration has spoken of the dangers emanating from the increase in production and cultivation of opium in Afghanistan, the volume of drug trafficking and demand in the HoA Region and beyond. f) Afghanistan rejected Pakistan’s offer of $500 million for reconstruction of Afghanistan, and advised it to use the money to counter terrorist activities emanating from Pakistan.
Afghan Peace Process
There are a number of indigenous players with regard to Afghan peace process
India’s Engagement with the Peace Process
Afghanistan Crisis- US TALIBAN DEAL
Part of: GS Prelims and GS-II- IR
The Saur Revolution had taken place in Afghanistan in 1978 which installed a communist party in power. Nur Muhammad Taraki became the head of the state replacing the previous president Daoud Khan. Taraki’s government introduced many modernisation reforms that were considered too radical and left them unpopular, especially in the rural areas and with the traditional power structures. The communist government also had a policy of brutally suppressing all opposition. Even unarmed civilians opposing the government were not spared. This led to the rise of various anti-government armed groups in the country. The government itself was divided and Taraki was killed by a rival, Hafizullah Amin, who became the president. The Soviet Union, which at that time, wanted a communist ally in the country, decided to intervene.
Soviet army was deployed on 24th December 1979 in Kabul. They staged a coup and killed Amin, installing Babrak Karmal as the president. Karmal was a Soviet ally. This intervention was seen as an invasion by the USA and other western nations. While the Soviet army had control of the cities and towns, the insurgency groups called the Mujahideen had the rural parts of Afghanistan under their control. A bitter war was fought between both groups. The Soviet Union, which had planned to stay for 6 months to a year in Afghanistan found themselves stuck in a war that was proving to be too costly.
The Mujahideen did not relent in their pursuit to ‘drive out’ the Soviets. They had the support of many countries like the USA, Pakistan, China, Iran, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. They were given assistance like arms and training needed to fight the soviets. The soviets followed a policy of wiping out the rural regions in order to defeat the Mujahideen. Millions of land mines were planted and important irrigation systems were destroyed. As a result, millions of Afghan refugees took refuge in Pakistan and Iran. Some came to India as well. It is estimated that in the Soviet-Afghan war, about 20 lakh Afghan civilians were killed.
In 1987, after the reformist Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in the Soviet Union, he announced that his government would start withdrawing troops. The final soviet troops were withdrawn on 15 February 1989. Now, the government of Afghanistan was left alone to fight the Mujahideen. Finally, they succeeded in taking control of Kabul in 1992. Again, the Mujahideen had different factions within and they could not agree on power sharing. The country collapsed into a bloody civil war.
In 1994, a group of fundamentalist students, wrought control of the city of Kandahar and started a campaign to seize power in the country. They were called the Taliban . Many of them were trained in Pakistan when they were in refugee camps. By 1998, almost entire Afghanistan was under the control of the Taliban. Many of the Mujahideen warlords fled to the north of the country and joined the Northern Alliance who were fighting the Taliban. This time, Russia lent support to the Northern Alliance, though they were fighting against them earlier. The Taliban ruled the country under strict interpretation of the Sharia law and many of the progress with regard to women and education which the country had seen earlier, were reversed. Girls were forbidden from attending schools and women banned from working. The Taliban-ruled country also became a safe haven for international terrorists. Only Pakistan, the UAE and Saudi Arabia recognised the Taliban government.
In 2001, a US-led coalition defeated the Taliban and established another government in place. However, Afghanistan still sees resistance from the Taliban in certain pockets.
US fighting a war in Afghanistan and why has it lasted so long?
The Taliban first took control of the capital Kabul in 1996, and ruled most of the country within two years. They followed a radical form of Islam and enforced punishments like public executions. Within two months of the US and its international and Afghan allies launching their attacks, the Taliban regime collapsed and its fighters melted away into Pakistan.
A new US-backed government took over in 2004, but the Taliban still had a lot of support in areas around the Pakistani border, and made hundreds of millions of dollars a year from the drug trade, mining and taxes. As the Taliban carried out more and more suicide attacks, international forces working with Afghan troops struggled to counter the threat the re-energised group posed.
In 2014, at the end of what was the bloodiest year in Afghanistan since 2001, Nato's international forces - wary of staying in Afghanistan indefinitely - ended their combat mission, leaving it to the Afghan army to fight the Taliban. But that gave the Taliban momentum, as they seized territory and detonated bombs against government and civilian targets. In 2018, Taliban was openly active across 70% of Afghanistan.
Where did the Taliban come from?
Why has the war lasted so long?
5 Main reasons why war is still going on:
How have the Taliban managed to stay so strong?
The group could be making as much as $1.5bn (£1.2bn) a year, a huge increase even within the past decade. Some of this is through drugs - Afghanistan is the world's largest opium producer, and most opium poppies - used for heroin - are grown in Taliban-held areas.
But the Taliban also make money by taxing people who travel through their territory, and through businesses like telecommunications, electricity and minerals.
Foreign countries, including Pakistan and Iran, have denied funding them, but private citizens from the region are thought to have done so.
The figures for Afghan civilians are more difficult to quantify. A UN report in February 2019 said more than 32,000 civilians had died. The Watson Institute at Brown University says 42,000 opposition fighters have died. The same institute says conflicts in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan have cost the US $5.9 trillion since 2001. The US is still conducting air strikes against the Taliban, instigated by the third president to oversee the war, Donald Trump. But he is keen to reduce troop numbers before he faces another election in November 2020. The Taliban now control much more territory than they did when international troops left Afghanistan in 2014. Many in Washington and elsewhere fear that a full US troop pull-out would leave a vacuum that could be filled by militant groups seeking to plot attacks in the West. The Afghan people, meanwhile, continue to bear the brunt of the long and bloody conflict.
What do the Taliban and the United States want?
The negotiations appear to be focused on four elements:
Reasons for India to be part of reconciliation process with the Taliban:
US- Taliban Deal
Recently, the U.S. signed a deal (at Qatar's capital-Doha) with the Taliban that could pave the way towards a full withdrawal of foreign soldiers from Afghanistan over the next 14 months and represent a step towards ending the 18-year-war in Afghanistan. Along with this, a separate joint declaration was also signed between the Afghan government and the US at Kabul.
The peace deal is expected to kick-off two processes- a phased withdrawal of US troops and an ‘intra-Afghan’ dialogue. The deal is a fundamental step to deliver a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire and the future political roadmap for Afghanistan peace process and the Central region.
Background of the Deal
Salient Features of the Deal
Challenges in the Deal
Impact of the Deal on Other Stakeholders
Impact of this Deal on India
This deal alters the balance of power in favour of the Taliban, which will have strategic, security and political implications for India. The deal may jeopardise the key stakes of India in Afghanistan:
An independent, sovereign, democratic, pluralistic and inclusive Afghanistan is crucial for peace and stability in the region. In order to ensure this:
Though the deal is a good step, the road ahead would not be easy. Achieving lasting peace in Afghanistan will require patience and compromise among all parties.
Recent News: Afghanistan’s two rival leaders have sworn themselves in as President at simultaneous ceremonies that were interrupted by at least two blasts.
Ashraf Ghani was declared the winner of a disputed presidential election in Afghanistan by the country’s independent Election Commission.
India and USA Military Cooperation
Part of: GS Mains and GS-II- IR
Preface: India-U.S. bilateral relations have developed into a "global strategic partnership", based on shared democratic values and increasing convergence of interests on bilateral, regional and global issues. The emphasis placed by the Government in India on development and good governance has created opportunity to reinvigorate bilateral ties and enhance cooperation under the motto --- “ChaleinSaathSaath: Forward Together We Go”, and "SanjhaPrayas, Sab ka Vikas" (Shared Effort, Progress for All) adopted during the first two summits of Prime Minister Modi and President Obama in September 2014 and January 2015 respectively. The summit level joint statement issued in June 2016 called the India-U.S. relationship an “Enduring Global Partners in the 21st Century”. Regular exchange of high-level political visits has provided sustained momentum to bilateral cooperation, while the wide-ranging and ever-expanding dialogue architecture has established a long-term framework for India-U.S. engagement. Today, the India-U.S. bilateral cooperation is broad-based and multi-sectoral, covering trade and investment, defence and security, education, science and technology, cyber security, high-technology, civil nuclear energy, space technology and applications, clean energy, environment, agriculture and health. Vibrant people-to-people interaction and support across the political spectrum in both countries nurture our bilateral relationship.
India-U.S. Dialogue Architecture: There are more than 50 bilateral dialogue mechanisms between the two governments. The first two meetings of the Strategic and Commercial Dialogue at the level of EAM and MoS (Commerce & Industry) were held in Washington DC in September 2015 and New Delhi in August 2016. This apex-level dialogue has added a commercial component to the five traditional pillars of bilateral relations on which the erstwhile Strategic Dialogue of Foreign Ministers had focussed, namely: Strategic Cooperation; Energy and Climate Change, Education and Development; Economy, Trade and Agriculture; Science and Technology; and Health and Innovation. The second meeting of the Strategic and Commercial Dialogue took place on 30 August 2016 in New Delhi. In addition, there are Ministerial-level dialogues involving home (Homeland Security Dialogue), finance (Financial and Economic Partnership), commerce (Trade Policy Forum), HRD (Higher Education Dialogue), Science & Technology (Joint Commission Meeting on S&T) and energy (Energy Dialogue).
Defence Cooperation: Defence relationship has emerged as a major pillar of India-U.S. strategic partnership with the signing of ‘New Framework for India-U.S. Defense Relations’ in 2005 and the resulting intensification in defence trade, joint exercises, personnel exchanges, collaboration and cooperation in maritime security and counter-piracy, and exchanges between each of the three services. The Defence Framework Agreement was updated and renewed for another 10 years in June 2015. The two countries now conduct more bilateral exercises with each other than they do with any other country. India participated in Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise in July-August 2016 for the second time with an Indian Naval Frigate. Bilateral dialogue mechanisms in the field of defence include Defence Policy Group (DPG), Defence Joint Working Group (DJWG), Defence Procurement and Production Group (DPPG), Senior Technology Security Group (STSG), Joint Technical Group (JTG), Military Cooperation Group (MCG), and Service-to-Service Executive Steering Groups (ESGs).The agreements signed during the past one year include, Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Association (LEMOA) signed in August 2016, Fuel Exchange Agreementsigned in November 2015,Technical Agreement (TA) on information sharing on White (merchant) Shipping signed in May 2016 and the Information Exchange Annexe (IEA) on Aircraft Carrier Technologies signed in June 2016. Aggregate worth of defence acquisition from U.S. Defence has crossed over US$ 13 billion. India and the United States have launched a Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) aimed at simplifying technology transfer policies and exploring possibilities of co-development and co-production to invest the defence relationship with strategic value. The DTTI Working Group and its Task Force will expeditiously evaluate and decide on unique projects and technologies which would have a transformative impact on bilateral defence relations and enhance India's defence industry and military capabilities. During President Obama's visit in January 2015, the two sides agreed to start cooperation on 4 DTTI pathfinder projects and 2 pathfinder initiatives, which are currently at various stages of execution. During RM's visit in December 2015, the two sides also identified opportunities for bilateral cooperation in production and design of jet engine components. During Secretary Carter's visit in April 2014, two more G-2-G DTTI projects were added to the list. The DTTI meeting in Delhi in July 2016 decided to broaden its agenda by setting up five new Joint Working Groups on: Naval Systems; Air Systems, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance; Chemical and Biological Protection; and Other Systems. During the visit of Prime Minister to the U.S. in June 2016, the U.S. recognised India as a "Major Defence Partner", which commits the U.S. to facilitate technology sharing with India to a level commensurate with that of its closest allies and partners, and industry collaboration for defence co-production and co-development.
India and the US have recently concluded second 2+2 ministerial dialogue in Washington. Several landmark agreements in both defence and Civilian sectors were signed.
Peacekeeping for Indo-Pacific
Tiger Triumph Exercise
Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI)
Water Resource Management
Space Situational Awareness (SSA)
Young Innovators Internship Programme (YIIP)
Parliamentary Exchange and Judicial cooperation
Syllabus subtopic: India and its Neighborhood- Relations.
Prelims and Mains focus: about the move and its significance
News: The Union government plans to set up a regional grid that will be leveraged to create a common electricity market for nations in India’s neighbourhood, according to the power and new and renewable energy minister.
About the move
India’s energy diplomacy
Syllabus subtopic: Bilateral, Regional and Global Groupings and Agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.
Prelims and Mains focus: about the issue; about India-Iran relations
News: India summoned Iranian ambassador to the foreign office to protest remarks made by Iran’s foreign minister on the recent riots in the national capital.
Syllabus subtopic: Effect of Policies and Politics of Developed and Developing Countries on India’s interests, Indian Diaspora.
Prelims and Mains focus: about the agreement and its implications
News: India has signalled its acceptance of the U.S.-Taliban and U.S.-Afghanistan peace agreements in Doha and Kabul that aim to end the 18-year war in Afghanistan, by sending envoys to witness them.
What are the agreements called?
1. US-Taliban agreement: “Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan between the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognised by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban, and the United States of America.”
2. US-Afghanistan agreement: “Joint Declaration between the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the United States of America for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan.”
Aim of the agreements signed
The two agreements set out a course for the next 14 months, including the pull-out of U.S. troops, the denial of space to foreign terrorist groups and any violence against the U.S. and allies, and intra-Afghan dialogue.
What are the salient points of concern?
In the Doha agreement, the Taliban has guaranteed “enforcement mechanisms that will prevent the use of the soil of Afghanistan by any group or individual against the security of the United States and its allies”. However, it is unclear whether India, which is not a U.S. ally, is included in this definition, and whether Pakistan-backed groups that threaten India, would still operate in Afghanistan. The Kabul declaration with the Ghani government more specifically commits to stopping “any international terrorist groups or individuals, including al-Qa’ida and ISIS-K, from using Afghan soil to threaten the security of the United States, its allies and other countries.”
This indicates that the Ghani government, which India has recognised as winner of the 2019 election, will only serve for an interim period. This also raises a big question mark on the future of Afghanistan’s government, and whether it will remain a democracy.
Syllabus subtopic: Effect of Policies and Politics of Developed and Developing Countries on India’s interests
Prelims and Mains focus: about CPEC and India’s concerns; about China’s Belt and Road Initiative
News: In an interesting move, cash-strapped Pakistan has invited the US to join the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), an ambitious infrastructure project looked with suspicion by the Trump administration for being non-transparent.
India’s objections to CPEC
Syllabus subtopic: Effect of Policies and Politics of Developed and Developing Countries on India’s interests
Prelims and Mains focus: about Brexit; the transition deal; conflicting issues between UK and EU regarding its implementation
News: Britain put the prospect of a chaotic Brexit back on the table as it set out its red lines for trade talks with the European Union.
Britain left the EU on January 31, but both sides agreed to a standstill transition period lasting until December 31 to allow time to strike a new partnership.
About the issue
This would see Britain’s currently seamless trading arrangements with the EU, forged over half a century, abruptly end after a post-Brexit transition period expires in December.
Demands of UK govt.
UK wants a free trade agreement similar to the EU’s deal with Canada, set alongside separate agreements on issues such as fishing, energy and aviation.
Concerns of EU regarding Britain’s demands
Regarding Financial Services
Other conflicting issues
The European Commission, which is negotiating on behalf of the EU’s 27 member states, said it was preparing for all scenarios.
Syllabus subtopic: Effect of Policies and Politics of Developed and Developing Countries on India’s interests
Prelims and Mains focus: about US-Taliban peace deal; its significance for India
News: In its first step towards engaging with the Taliban, India has decided to send its envoy to the signing of the peace pact between the US and Taliban in Doha.
On February 21, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had said the US and Taliban would sign a peace agreement on February 29, at the end of a week-long period of reduction in violence in Afghanistan.
About the issue
India’s engagement with Taliban
Joint statement related to Aghanistan during Trump’s visit
Significance to US-Taliban deal for India