The sum and substance of the EU’s China dilemma
By, Vijay Gokhale is a former Foreign Secretary of India and a former Ambassador to Germany and to China
- Europe and China have been major partners for a generation. According to the Global Office of the International Comparison Program at the World Bank, China and the European Union (EU) jointly account for nearly 35% of global GDP in PPP terms.
- Europe championed China’s case for World Trade Organization (WTO) membership and China supported the ‘European Project’.
- A single example is sufficient to demonstrate how critical China is for European prosperity. Between 1995 and 2012, Germany, Europe’s economic powerhouse, enhanced its industrial value by 37%, the largest chunk of which came from supply chains not in the United States but in China.
Behind the presumption
- Therefore, when on June 9, Josep Borrell Fontelles, the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, publicly proclaimed that “China is without doubt one of the key global players. We have to engage with China to achieve our global objectives, based on interests and values”, a logical assumption might be that there is unlikely to be any change in the Europe-China relationship after the novel coronavirus pandemic.
- In March 2019, the EU Commission published “A Strategic Outlook”, describing China as, simultaneously, a cooperative partner, an economic competitor and a systemic rival promoting alternative models of governance.
- This was the product of a long process of distillation during which the political and security dimensions began to jostle with the economics that had been the primary determinant of China-EU ties for two decades.
Red flags go up (Issues between China and Europe)
- China’s efforts to cultivate separate European sub-constituencies like the 16+1 Format with the Central and Eastern European States, and meetings with the Nordics and the Southern Europeans; the sailing of the PLA Navy into the Baltic Sea for joint exercises with Russia in 2017; cross-sectoral hybrid threats including information operations in European countries; Chinese behaviour in the South China Sea and Indian Ocean; and its targeted acquisition of key high-technology companies such as Kuka in Germany or key ports like Piraeus in Greece, began to raise red flags in the Chancelleries of Europe.
- China’s economic and financial practices backed by strategic motives threatened unity and the European project itself, since it appeared to undo their efforts in terms of connectivity, regulatory frameworks and the building of a single European entity.
- Thus, even before the pandemic, the “Strategic Outlook” recommended that the EU should shift towards “a more realistic, assertive and multifaceted approach” to China.
- China’s early handling of COVID-19, and even more importantly, the clumsy Chinese efforts to use the confusion inside Europe to their propaganda advantage, led the EU to make a rare and blunt accusation against China on June 10, 2020: “Foreign actors and certain third countries, in particular Russia and China, have engaged in targeted influence operations and disinformation campaigns around COVID-19 in the EU, its neighbourhood and globally, seeking to undermine democratic debate and exacerbate social polarisation, and improve their own image in the COVID 19 context.”
- China’s aggressive actions in the South China Sea, on the Line of Actual Control with India, and in Hong Kong, among others, have also gained European eyeballs, so much so that even though China remains critical to European economic health, the EU Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, after the virtual Summit with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on June 22, 2020, said that Europe’s relations with China are “simultaneously one of the most strategically important and one of the most challenging that we have”.
- This then is the European dilemma.
Determinants and focus now
- The European debate is no longer simply about market access, industrial subsidies, over-capacity in steel and hi-tech industries; stealing of IPR, and China’s assertive approach to the security, resilience and stability of digital networks.
- It has begun to turn towards how to balance economic co-dependency and co-prosperity with China’s strategic global intentions and efforts to seek military supremacy and its bearing on European security.
- In the trinity of determinants identified by the EU in March 2019 — namely [negotiating] Partner, [economic] Competitor and Systemic Rival — the last dimension is gradually becoming the dominant political narrative.
- China also views Brussels as increasingly antagonistic. Yuan Peng, President of China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, which belongs to China’s intelligence services, has opined in a stellar article on June 17, titled “The Coronavirus Pandemic and a Once-in-a-Century Change”, that “Europe’s star is fading”.
- Ironically, the retreat of the U.S. from global leadership is providing the Chinese with the means to take advantage, even when they no longer deem it in their strategic interests to support the “European Project”.
- During recent EU-China leader level meetings, the Chinese have downplayed the differences. Yuan Peng puts it thus: “The United States, Europe and Japan have common interests in curbing China, but China, Europe and Japan also have much to gain in tapping the potential of their relations.”
- The Chinese intention is to delay the former by dangling the economic carrot.
Sentiments after pandemic
- None of this should lead to the inference that the EU will follow the U.S. in ‘de-coupling’ or join an ‘against-China’ camp.
- The European Union Chamber of Commerce in China, which recently released its Business Confidence Survey 2020, says that most European businesses are chiefly “in China, for China”.
- European companies still hope that China’s President Xi Jinping will use this pandemic to make fundamental reforms in the way that Deng Xiaoping and Zhu Rongji did in 1992 and 1998, respectively.
- European companies still regard China as the biggest potential market.
- The deteriorating relationship between China and the U.S. is causing many new investors to look for alternative investment spaces. If either the Chinese fail to restore their end of the global supply chains or if the world demand cannot be revived, more companies will tend to look elsewhere.
A role for India
- Political conditions are favourable especially after the withdrawal of the United Kingdom.
- The Europeans recognise India’s role in helping provide peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific.
- But we are not the only economic alternative for Europe in the aftermath of COVID-19.
- If the Broad-based Trade and Investment Agreement(BTIA) can be put back on track or, at the very least, if we conclude a new investment agreement, and if we are ready to join in high-technology collaboration including 5G and artificial intelligence, we may be able to align our stars.
- This will require imagination from our side, but Europe will also need to change its positions on trade in goods and be ready to accommodate India on services.
The opportunity for India and the EU to build a partnership that is both economic and strategic is there for the taking in a post-COVID-19 strategic scenario.
China, Nepal, Pakistan and Afghanistan: New grouping
Gs-Paper-2 China: OBOR (Mains)
Recently, China convened a quadrilateral dialogue with the Foreign Ministers of Afghanistan, Nepal and Pakistan.
China proposed a four-point plan to contain the Covid-19 pandemic, boost economic recovery and resumption of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) infrastructure projects. The four-point plan included:
Other Discussed Issues:
Concerns for India:
China is making concrete strategic inroads in South Asia which will necessarily impact India's interests. Experts are of the opinion that attempting to rope in three members of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) grouping, without including India, is a provocative move by China and should be seen as a message.
UK to Issue Coin in Honour of Mahatma Gandhi
Britain is considering minting a coin to commemorate Mahatma Gandhi. The consideration is seen as part of efforts to celebrate achievements of people from the Black, Asian and other Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities.
The British Finance Minister has written a letter to the Royal Mint Advisory Committee (RMAC), to consider recognising the contribution of BAME communities on Britain's coinage. The RMAC is an independent committee made up of experts who recommend themes and designs for coins.
The RMAC supports a campaign called ‘We Too Built Britain’, which seeks representation of non-white icons on British currency.
Recently, the murder of a Black man, George Floyd, in the United States due to police butuality has led to Black Lives Matter protests against racism, colonialism and police brutality across the globe. Triggered by the death of George Floyd, some British institutions began re-examining their past, which includes their history, colonialism and racism.
Black Lives Matter Protest
China’s Presence in South America
GS-PAPER-2 CHINA-OBOR (Mains)
Recently, Ecuador has expressed an official discomfort over the sighting of a flotilla of 260 mostly Chinese fishing vessels near the Galapagos archipelago (a part of Ecuador). The flotilla also consisted of some Liberia and Panama-flagged vessels which was detected in an international water corridor situated between two areas of Ecuadorian jurisdiction– 200 miles away from both the Galapagos Islands and mainland Ecuador.
The Galapagos Islands, spread over almost 60,000 sq km, are a part of Ecuador. These are located in the Pacific Ocean around 1,000 km away from the South American continent.
Protection Status: Ecuador made a part of the Galapagos a wildlife sanctuary in 1935, and the sanctuary became the Galapagos National Park in 1959. In 1978, the islands became UNESCO’s first World Heritage Site.
Wildlife: It contains aquatic species such as manta rays and sharks which have been endangered by commercial fishing. It also hosts a wide array of aquatic wildlife, including marine iguanas, fur seals, and waved albatrosses. Also, the giant tortoises found here – 'Galápagos' in old Spanish – give the islands its name.
Significance: The British naturalist Charles Darwin made key observations in 1835 that shaped his theory of evolution. Darwin described the islands as a “world in itself”.
Chinese ships are frequent in Ecuador's waters during august month of the year as the cold Humboldt Current brings in nutrients that lead to a high congregation of marine species.
All the nations including China need to be extra cautionary regarding environmental issues considering the looming threat of climate change. The warming of oceans due to climate change is expected to further increase fishing pressure around these islands. Thus, effective global collaboration is the only way forward to resolve such issues.
U.K. to issue coin to honour Gandhiji
Pakistanis behind ‘Chinese’ info war on border stand-off
SAGAR: Indian Ocean
GS-PAPER-2 India Ocean security
Recently, India was admitted to Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) as an observer member. This development is one of the steps in India’s strategic vision (SAGAR) for the Indian Ocean.
In 2015, India unveiled it's strategic vision for the Indian Ocean i.e. Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR). It is an increasing recognition of the increasing importance of maritime security, maritime commons and cooperation.
Through SAGAR, India seeks to deepen economic and security cooperation with its maritime neighbours and assist in building their maritime security capabilities. For this, India would cooperate on the exchange of information, coastal surveillance, building of infrastructure and strengthening their capabilities.
Further, India seeks to safeguard its national interests and ensure Indian Ocean region to become inclusive, collaborative and respect international law.
Need: Blue Economy
Blue economy presents India with an unprecedented opportunity to meet its national socio-economic objectives (livelihood generation, achieving energy security, building ecological resilience etc.) as well as strengthening connectivity with neighbors.
Apart from it, blue economy provides many opportunities:
Tackling Regional Issues
Checking Chinese Influence
Significance of SAGAR Vision
Formulating a Governance Framework
Focusing on Regional Organisation
India’s consultative, democratic and equitable leadership can help achieve the Security and sustainable growth to all in the region. Apart from it, India must also lead in ensuring Sustainability and Growth for All in the Region.
Indian Ocean Commission
India’s Maritime Security
GS-paper-2 International affairs – Indian Ocean
Amid recent clashes between India and China over Galwan valley, Indian Prime Minister, while addressing the armed forces, held that the “era of expansionism is over”. This signalled India's stance that it will not abide by the Chinese Aggressive posture at the LAC.
Though India and China finally agreed to withdraw their troops and agreed to work for mutual peace and cooperation, India should remain wary of Chinese tactics of salami-slicing. Under this strategy, China goes for territorial expansion in small proportion through military intimidation while proclaiming its commitment to peace and tranquillity.
In this context, it is argued by many foreign policy experts that India should counter China not only in land frontiers but also in the maritime domain. Thus, there is a need for a comprehensive maritime doctrine for India.
India’s Stakes in Maritime Domain
Security Imperative: Apart from China’s aggressive posture around land borders, its military presence is growing in the Indian Ocean too. This can be depicted by the strategy of String of pearls.
***Further, China is modernising its military base at Djibouti, an artificial island in the Maldives and there are similar reports regarding Gwadar port in Pakistan.
Geo-Economics of Indian Oceans: Geopolitics is entwined with geoeconomics and its focus on matters of control and access to economic resources.
India’s Geo-strategic Location: India is centrally located between the eastern and western stretches of the Indian Ocean, thereby able to deploy naval forces in both directions more easily than other littoral states in the Indian Ocean.
Establishing Sagar Panchayat: India can collaborate with Indian Ocean Rim countries to establish the common good order at sea. Given India’s geostrategic location, it could sherpa a cluster of Indo-Pacific nations into a “sagar panchayat” and uphold the rule of law at sea.
Strategic Alignment: In order to secure Sea Lanes of Communication, enhancing interoperability at sea, intelligence- sharing and maintaining freedom of navigation, India should work together with like-minded nations.
In this context, the four-nation Quad (United States, Japan, Australia and India) is a work in progress. This grouping can be expanded by including ASEAN nations.
Developing Blue-water Naval Capabilities: Given India’s stakes in Indian ocean, it is very significant for India to develop blue-water naval capabilities. Apart from developing indigenious naval capacity, there is a need to push for development of three aircraft carrier groups, one for each Command, and set to operate in western, southern, and eastern quadrants of the Indian Ocean.
Exploiting China’s Maritime Vulnerability: Though China has shown aggressive posture in the South China Sea and as well as Indian ocean, it has been anxious about its vulnerability at sea — or what is referred to as the Malacca dilemma. Taking this in cognizance, India should develop sea-denial capability mainly at choke points in Indian ocean such as Strait of Hormuz, Bab-el-Mandeb, Strait of Malacca.
Sea denial is a military term describing attempts to deny the enemy's ability to use the sea without necessarily attempting to control the sea for its own use.
The simultaneous rise of India and China is an important paradigm shift in the international system. This new paradigm shift will require India to focus on not only land boundaries but also maritime security.
FOR POLITICAL SCIENCE STUDENT:https://www.indiannavy.nic.in/sites/default/files/Indian-Maritime-Doctrine-2009-Updated-12Feb16.pdf
India Maritime doctrine: https://www.indiannavy.nic.in/sites/default/files/Indian-Maritime-Doctrine-2009-Updated-12Feb16.pdf
About RIC trilateral summit
DDT to South Africa
GS-Paper-2 I.R India and Africa (PT-MAINS)
Recently, HIL (India) Limited has supplied 20.60 Metric tonne of Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), a fertilizer to South Africa for their malaria control program. The Company is further in the process of supplying DDT to Zimbabwe and Zambia in the current Financial Year 2020-21.
HIL (India) Limited
It is a PSU under the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers. It was incorporated in 1954 to manufacture and supply DDT to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare for malaria control programmes. It is the sole manufacturer of DDT globally.
It is a colorless, tasteless, and almost odorless crystalline chemical compound. It was first synthesized in 1874 by the Austrian chemist Othmar Zeidler. Its insecticidal action was discovered by the Swiss chemist Paul Hermann Muller in 1939.
He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1948 "for his discovery of the high efficiency of DDT as a contact poison against several arthropods.
Arthropods are invertebrate species which include insects (Mosquitos), arachnids (Spiders), and crustaceans (Crabs) etc. Originally developed as an insecticide, it became infamous for its environmental impacts.
A worldwide ban on agricultural use was formalized under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants. However, its limited use in disease vector control continues, because of its effectiveness in reducing malarial infections.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends DDT as one of the efficient Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS) chemicals to curb mosquito menace and it is widely used by Southern African countries like South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia, Mozambique and India. IRS is a core vector control intervention that involves the application of a residual insecticide to internal walls and ceilings of housing structures where malaria vectors may come into contact with the insecticide.
Supply to South Africa: South Africa will be utilising DDT in three provinces bordering Mozambique. The region is highly affected with Malaria and it has reported maximum morbidity and mortality.
Supply to Other Countries: HIL (India) Limited has recently exported Malathion Technical 95% to Iran under Government-to-Government initiative for the Locust Control Programme and also exported Agrochemical-fungicide to Latin American region.
Malaria is caused by Plasmodium parasites. The parasites are spread to people through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes, called "malaria vectors".
Impact: Malaria continues to be one of the major public health problems globally. In 2018, an estimated 228 million cases of malaria occurred worldwide.
Most of the cases and deaths (93%) were reported from African Region. In the South East Asia Region, India accounts for the majority of cases and death.
According to World Malaria Report 2019, India reported 2.6 million fewer cases in 2018 compared to 2017. Thus the overall incidence of malaria in the country has reduced.
However, 7 states (Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Gujarat, Odisha and Madhya Pradesh) account for about 90% of the burden of malaria cases in India.
Military Equipments and why RUSSIA??
Russia's Military Equipment:
USA’s Military Equipment
There are many reasons for India's dependency on Russia for the supply of military equipments:
Border Clash with China: Notwithstanding India’s growing mutual convergence with the USA against China following the recent tensions on the Ladakh border, its armed forces remain heavily dependent on equipment, weapons and military platforms of Russian origin which form the bulk of its inventory.
USA’s CAATSA: Recently, the USA has asked all its allies and partners, including India, to stop transactions with Russia. The USA can risk triggering sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).
Cold War between U.S.A and China
GS-Paper-2 US-CHINA (Mains)
Recently, the U.S.A blocked China's access to chip making tools and designated Chinese telecom giants Huawei, ZTE as national security threats. However, with the 5G rollout approaching, the move will impact several countries including India. Recently, the United Kingdom also reversed its earlier decision and blocked Huawei from its 5G network rollout.
U.S.A-China Tech Relation: China has traditionally resisted against American big-data companies such as Facebook and Google to operate within its jurisdiction. However, both the Countries still have significant dealings on the technology side.
Last year, Apple recorded USD 100 million of daily sales in China, while Huawei Technologies reported record revenues primarily from its exposure in western markets, including the U.S.A.
The latest steps by U.S.A against Huawei mark the first real prohibitory action by a western government in the nearly two decades. This has been done on the ground that China’s equipment is designed to aid snooping. There have been apprehensions that American telecoms players are too much dependent on subsidised Chinese technology.
Impact of Ban on Chip Making Tools: Huawei could face shortages in its supply of specialist chips for which it relies on the U.S.A. Technological cold war could extend beyond the U.S.A and China, and compel other countries, including India, to effectively choose between one of the camps. Some of the countries perceive the same threat as that of the U.S.A, and others are wary of trade sanctions by the U.S.A.
This could have a bearing on the growing competition to dominate next-generation technologies such as 5G networks and artificial intelligence. Impact the plans of most countries preparing to transition to a 5G regime, including India.
In 2009, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) had advised Indian mobile companies to suspend deals with Chinese equipment makers after fears that Chinese equipment were being used for hacking and spying.
However, India did not took strong actions on any of DoT’s recommendations. Indeed, much of India’s telecom growth story has been supported by Chinese companies in both hardware and software.
The approach changed after the standoff in Ladakh, wherein India has asked state-owned telecom service providers to exclude Chinese companies from the scope of their network upgrade contracts.
India also justified the ban on 59 mobile apps with Chinese links on grounds of a threat to national security.
This was part of the wider decision to signal curbs on Chinese investments and tech companies in the country.
The border clashes and the U.S.A action could now force India into the anti-China camp.
With the Chinese being increasingly blocked by governments in 5G networks, other global players could be at a competitive advantage. The other leaders in the telecoms network equipment market are the European players such as Ericsson and Nokia, and South Korea’s Samsung.
India’s Reliance Jio has also designed and developed a complete 5G solution from scratch. This could also have a bearing on the global 5G rollout, especially in the countries outside of North America and Europe.
Australia rejects China’s sea claims
Australia- U.S. compact:
Territory Swap with Bhutan: CHINA
GS-PAPER-2 China domination (Mains exclusive)
Recently, China has offered Bhutan a “package solution” to its boundary dispute. Although the package solution is not specified, it may be seen as a revival of the 1996 proposal by China for a territory swap.
Territory Swap: In 1996, China wanted to exchange the valleys to the north of Bhutan (an area of 495 square kilometres), with the pasture land to the west (including Doklam), totalling 269 square kilometres. The deal would have benefited Bhutan by giving it the larger chunk of land, and resolving its tensions with China.
However it was a big worry for India, as the Doklam swap would have given China access to the strategically sensitive “chicken neck” of the Siliguri corridor.
Repeated Claim Over Sakteng: China also repeated its claim on Bhutan’s eastern boundary at Sakteng. Earlier, China has made the claim over Sakteng at an online meeting of the 58th Global Environment Facility (GEF) Council, while unsuccessfully objecting to the funding request to develop the Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary project in eastern Bhutan.
China claims that the boundary between China and Bhutan has never been delimited. It has had disputes over the eastern, central and western sectors of Bhutan. However, Bhutan outrightly rejected the claim made by China by saying that Sakteng is an integral and sovereign territory of Bhutan.
According to Bhutan, China and Bhutan have a dispute in only two sectors of the border, one in the north (central) – Pasamlung and Jakarlung, and second in the west – Doklam.
There has been no mention of eastern Bhutan, where Sakteng is based, in 24 previous rounds of boundary negotiations held between the two countries between 1984 and 2016.
Reason Behind the New Offer: The aim may be to pressure Bhutan into concluding a deal quickly on terms on offer, otherwise the claims may keep increasing. The similar offer was made to India on Arunachal Pradesh, which subsequently expanded to include a Chinese claim on Tawang in 1985.
Concerns for India
In 2017 China had intruded into Doklam plateau, which is claimed by Bhutan, leading to a standoff between Indian and Chinese Armies. Even after the India-Bhutan Friendship Treaty of 2007, Indian military is virtually responsible for protecting Bhutan from the kind of external threat that the Chinese military poses.
According to the India-Bhutan Friendship Treaty of 1949, Bhutan allowed India to "guide" its foreign policy and defence affairs. However, the 1949 treaty was amended in 2007 to respect the sensitivities of Bhutan regarding its sovereignty. Under the India-Bhutan Friendship Treaty of 2007, the two sides have agreed to cooperate closely with each other on issues relating to their national interests.
Neither Government shall allow the use of its territory for activities harmful to the national security and interest of the other. China has said that a third party should not point fingers in the China-Bhutan border issue, which is an apparent reference to India.
Bhutan has protested against Chinese territorial claims in eastern Bhutan and said that it will also contest in future if China refers to the territory as disputed. Safety of Border from China is a concern for both India and Bhutan. Therefore, both sides need to work together on this issue.
US-India Strategic Energy Partnership
GS-Paper-2 India and USA
Recently, India and the USA have participated in a virtual ministerial meeting of the U.S.-India Strategic Energy Partnership (SEP) to review progress, highlight major accomplishments, and prioritize new areas for cooperation.
The SEP was established in April 2018 whose objective is to encourage meaningful engagements through robust government-to-government cooperation and industry engagement. The next Ministerial meeting will be held in 2021.
Description: The SEP organizes inter-agency engagement on both sides across four primary pillars of cooperation:
The SEP also supports USA efforts under the AsiaEDGE initiative, which establishes India as a strong energy partner in the Indo-Pacific region.
Major Outcomes: Number of achievements and priorities for new work under the SEP were announced by both sides. These can be broadly segregated under the four primary pillars of cooperation, as given below:
1. Power and Energy Efficiency:
**sCO2 is a fluid state of carbon dioxide where it is held at or above its critical temperature and critical pressure.
2. Oil and Gas: A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed to begin cooperation on Strategic Petroleum Reserves operation.
3. Renewable Energy: The both sides launched a public-private Hydrogen Task Force to help scale up technologies to produce hydrogen from renewable energy and fossil fuel sources and to bring down the cost of deployment for enhanced energy security and resiliency.
4. Sustainable Growth: The best practices are being adopted through methodologies in energy data management and capacity building in energy modeling.
India – Iran recent ties and China
GS-Paper-2 International relation (Mains-I.V)
Recently, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has confirmed that India is no longer involved in the Farzad-B gas field project of Iran. Further, it said that India has not received any response from Iran since December 2019 on the future of the Chabahar-Zahedan railway project as well.
It cited policy changes by the Iranian government, Iran’s uncertain finances, and the USA sanctions situation as the reasons behind the decisions on Indian infrastructure projects in Iran.
Farzad-B Gas Field:
Chabahar-Zahedan Railway Project:
In the ‘New Delhi Declaration’ signed in 2003, both countries had decided to jointly develop the Chabahar Port complex.
Concerns for India
India needs to play a balancing act between the USA and Iran. Further, India needs to closely watch the space created by its exit. In a world where connectivity is seen as the new currency, India’s loss on account of these projects can become gain for some other country, especially China.
Iran drops India from Chabahar rail project, cites funding delay
25-year Strategic Partnership
Training Mobilisation Order (TMO)
Issue of Kachchatheevu?
India - Sri Lanka Relations
Paper-2 I.R India and Srilanka (Mains)
In recent years, significant progress in implementation of developmental assistance projects has further cemented the bonds of friendship between the two countries. The relationship between India and Sri Lanka is more than 2,500 years old. Both countries have a legacy of intellectual, cultural, religious and linguistic interaction.
In recent years, the relationship has been marked by close contacts at all levels. Trade and investment have grown and there is cooperation in the fields of infrastructure development, education, culture and defence.
The nearly three-decade long armed conflict between the Sri Lankan forces and the LTTE came to an end in May 2009. During the course of the conflict, India supported the right of the Sri Lankan Government to act against terrorist forces. India's consistent position has been in favour of a negotiated political settlement, which is acceptable to all communities within the framework of a united Sri Lanka and is consistent with democracy, pluralism and respect for human rights.
Geopolitical Significance of Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka’s location in the Indian Ocean region as an island State has been of strategic geopolitical relevance to several major powers. Started from the British Defence and External Affairs Agreement of 1948, and the Maritime Agreement with USSR of 1962.
Even during the J.R Jayewardene (1978-1989) and Ranasinghe Premadasa (1989-1993) tenures, Sri Lanka was chosen to build the Voice of America transmitting station (suspected of being used for intelligence gathering purposes and electronic surveillance of the Indian Ocean).
It was the massive Chinese involvement during the Rajapaksa tenure that garnered the deepest controversy in recent years. China is building state of the art gigantic modern ports all along the Indian Ocean to the south of it, in Gwadar (Pakistan), Chittagong (Bangladesh, Kyauk Phru (Myanmar) and Hambantota (Sri Lanka). China’s string of pearl’s strategy is aimed at encircling India to establish dominance in the Indian Ocean.
Post 2015, Sri Lanka still relies heavily on China for Port city project and for continuation of Chinese funded infrastructure projects in Sri Lanka. Although the Hambantota harbour is reportedly making losses, it too has potential for development due to its strategic location.
Sri Lanka has a list of highly strategic ports located among busiest sea lanes of communication.
**Sri Lanka’s Colombo Port is the 25th busiest container port in the world and the natural deep water harbor at Trincomalee is the fifth largest natural harbour in the world. Port city of Trincomalee was the main base for Eastern Fleet and British Royal Navy during the Second World War. Sri Lanka’s location can thus serve both commercial and industrial purposes and be used as a military base.
History of Civil War
India-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement (ISFTA)
Cultural and Educational Relations
Defence and Security Cooperation
Issues and Conflicts
Fishermen Issue with Sri Lanka
GS-Paper-2 International relation – Srilanka and India (Mains-I.V)
Recently, Sri Lanka’s northern fishermen have reported a sudden increase in the number of Indian trawlers spotted in its territorial waters. The territorial waters extend seaward up to 12 nautical miles (nm) from baselines of a country.
Fishermen along the northern coast of Jaffna Peninsula have lost their nets worth lakhs of rupees in the sea, after being caught under the large Indian trawlers. These Indian trawlers are known to originate from the Indian State of Tamil Nadu.
International Maritime Boundary Line :
Indian boats have been fishing in the troubled waters for centuries and had a free run of the Bay of Bengal, Palk Bay and the Gulf of Mannar until 1974 and 1976 when treaties were signed between the two countries to demarcate International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL).
However, the treaties failed to factor in the hardship of thousands of traditional fishermen who were forced to restrict themselves to a meagre area in their fishing forays.
Katchatheevu Island Issue:
The small islet of Katchatheevu, hitherto used by them for sorting their catch and drying their nets, fell on the other side of the IMBL. Fishermen often risk their lives and cross the IMBL rather than return empty-handed, but the Sri Lankan Navy is on alert, and have either arrested or destroyed fishing nets and vessels of those who have crossed the line.
Implementation of Practical Agreements:
Both countries have agreed on certain practical arrangements to deal with the issue of bona fide fishermen of either side crossing the International Maritime Boundary Line. Through these arrangements, it has been possible to deal with the issue of detention of fishermen in a humane manner.
India and Sri Lanka have agreed to set up a Joint Working Group (JWG) on Fisheries between the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare of India and Ministry of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development of Sri Lanka as the mechanism to help find a permanent solution to the fishermen issue.
Threat to Livelihoods:
The Sri lankan fishermen fear that their livelihoods will be hit due to trawlers which are already under strain due to the coronavirus pandemic induced reduction in the export.
Step Taken by Sri Lanka:
In the last couple of years, Sri Lanka has introduced tougher laws banning bottom-trawling, and has also introduced heavy fines for trespassing foreign vessels. The Sri Lankan Navy arrested over 450 Indian fishermen in 2017 and 156 in 2018 on charges of poaching. A total of 210 arrests were made in 2019, while 34 have been made so far in 2020.
Scare of Covid-19:
The Sri Lankan fishermen have been alleging that currently the Sri Lankan Navy is reluctant to arrest the trespassing fishermen from Tamil Nadu now, due to the Covid-19 prevalence in India. However, the Sri Lankan Navy claims to be very vigilant along their borders not just to monitor illegal fishing, but also to take action on any illicit activity such as narcotics trade.
India needs to focus more on its traditional and cultural ties to improve relations with Sri Lanka. Starting ferry services between India and Sri Lanka can improve people to people linkages. Mutual recognition of each other's concerns and interests can improve the relationship between both countries.
USA-CHINA 5G Issue
GS-Paper-2 International issue (Mains)
The US Federal Communications Commission (US FCC) designated Chinese telecom vendors Huawei and ZTE as national security threats.
US banned Huawei and ZTE?
The first official action on these Chinese telecom equipment makers was taken based on House Intelligence Committee’s report (2012). The report said that both the companies posed a risk to national security.
It also said that the US businesses should avoid buying equipment from them. On most occasions, the US had accused Huawei and ZTE of working in ways that were contrary to national security or foreign policy interests.
Huawei is the world’s largest maker of telecom equipment and the second largest maker of mobile phone parts. It has been at the forefront of innovation that allowed many companies to build large telecom infrastructure at very low costs.
ZTE has tied up with several big corporations to manufacture their patented equipment in China at very low costs. A ban on both Huawei and ZTE could mean an increase of up to 30% in cost of telecom equipment across the board. Apart from hardware, Huawei has also been trying to make inroads into the software and operating systems (OS) industry.
How it impact India?
This decision could put pressure on India to take similar action. Equipment market - The low cost equipment from Huawei or ZTE could provide some relief to domestic telcos.
Huawei was a major equipment supplier to companies like Vodafone Idea and Airtel during the initial rollout of the 4G services in India. Over the years, Huawei has made inroads into nearly 25% of the total telecom equipment market in India.
4G expansion - Now, Department of Telecommunications said that it would rework the 4G network expansion tenders of BSNL and MTNL. This would bar global vendors like Huawei and ZTE from participating.
5G trials - In 2019, the telecom minister said that all players, including Huawei, were permitted to participate in 5G trials in India. To allay security fears, Huawei had said it was ready to sign a no backdoor agreement with the government. Under the agreement, Huawei would vouch that it did not gain access to any Indian customer’s equipment under any circumstance.
Barring Huawei and ZTE from even bidding in the 5G auctions could mean equipment as much as 30% costlier.
New national security law for Hong Kong
GS-PAPER-2 IR China
China has unveiled a new national security law for Hong Kong. The new law was passed by the Chinese parliament unanimously. It was subsequently made a part of Hong Kong’s Basic Law. The law will greatly expand Beijing’s power in Hong Kong.
New law target protesters?
The new law has widely defined some offences which punishes the protestors with harsh punishments. The offences include Secession, Subversion, Terrorist Activities, and Collusion with a Foreign Country or with External Elements to Endanger National Security.
All four offences can invite life imprisonment as the maximum punishment, followed by lesser penalties. The law allows the prosecution of persons who are not the residents of Hong Kong for committing an offence under the law outside the city. This allows the prosecution of foreigners who involve in city politics.
What are the changes made?
The mainland China will establish a new department in Hong Kong called the ‘Office for Safeguarding National Security’. With Beijing’s approval, the Office would be able to take over jurisdiction from Hong Kong’s law courts,
In cases that are taken over by the Office, prosecutors as well as adjudicators will be appointed by mainland China. For these cases, Chinese procedural laws would apply. Under the new law, the power of interpretation of criminal statutes has been vested in the Standing Committee of the Chinese parliament.
If a trial involves “State secrets” or “public order”,
What are the changes made to the Police Force?
New Committee formed:
How is Hong Kong governed?
Why this security law was enacted by China, not Hong Kong?
CogX is a prestigious Global Leadership Summit and Festival of AI and Emerging Technology held annually in London. The awards are given out to the best-of-the-best in AI and emerging technologies across the world.
MyGov is the world’s largest citizen engagement platform. It facilitates two-ways communication between the Government and Citizen and facilitates participatory governance in India.
MyGov, JioHaptik Technologies Limited and WhatsApp team collaborated to develop AI enabled MyGov Corona Helpdesk. AI enabled MyGov Corona Helpdesk bagged two awards under categories of Best Innovation for Covid-19 - Society and People’s Choice Covid-19 Overall Winner.
Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), aims at taking punitive measures against Russia, Iran, and North Korea.
It was passed in the backdrop of Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine and its alleged meddling in the 2016 US presidential elections. It primarily deals with sanctions on the Russian oil and gas industry, defence and security sector, and financial institutions.
It empowers the US President to impose at least 5 of 12 listed sanctions enumerated in Section 235 on persons engaged in a “significant transaction” with the Russian defence and intelligence sectors. If implemented stringently, it would impact Indian defence procurement from Russia.
It would also affect purchase of spares, components, raw materials and other assistance. The bulk of India’s military equipment is of Soviet/Russian origin including the nuclear submarine
F-1 and M-1 Visa Holders in USA
Part of: GS-II- USA Visa issue (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)
Recently, the USA has announced that F-1 and M-1 visa holders who are planning to take online only models will not be allowed to stay in the USA. Many universities in the USA are planning to shift all their classes online for the fall semester due to Covid-19 pandemic.
Fall semester starts in late August and ends in late December or early January whereas the Spring semester begins in January and ends in early May.
***F-1 visas are issued to study in the USA for full-time students whereas M-1 visas are issued to students engaging in vocational or non-academic studies.
The announcement comes weeks after the USA President suspended H1-B highly skilled worker visas through the end of the year. Most of these visas go to Indian citizens each year.
If alternative measures are not opted then these students may face immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings. It is a difficult situation for students as international travel already faces disruption due to Covid-19.
Available Alternatives : Affected students may switch to visitor status but it is not a long term solution as visitor status is short term and there is no guarantee that it will be approved.
Considering the unprecedented pandemic scenario, the USA can amend the regulation for F-1 and M-1 students. The one-size-fits-all approach will create more havoc and complexities not only in USA administration but also in diplomatic relations with countries like India and China.
CAATSA and USA
Part of: GS-II- International Relation USA (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)
Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act: CAATSA is a United States federal law that imposed sanctions on Iran, North Korea, and Russia. It includes sanctions against countries that engage in significant transactions with Russia's defense and intelligence sectors.
Recently, the USA has reiterated its position and asked all its allies and partners, including India, to stop transactions with Russia. It can risk triggering sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).
**The S-400 is known as Russia’s most advanced long-range surface-to-air missile defence system. China was the first foreign buyer to seal a government-to-government deal with Russia in 2014 for the system.
The defence procurement for India has become significant amid deadly clashes with China on Line of Actual Control (LAC). Russia is an all weather defence partner of India. However, India needs to balance its relation with both Russia and USA, so that its national interest is not compromised.
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.