India to lose presence on U.N. scientific panel

  1. News: For the first time in two decades, India will not have a member in a prestigious U.N. scientific body-Commission on Legal Continental Shelf (CLCS)
  2. India has decided not to field a candidate for the upcoming election to CLCS
  3. This comes in the backdrop when India is strenuously lobbying for seats in global high tables such as the United Nations Security Council and the Nuclear Suppliers Group
  4. The process: The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), which formally nominates Indian candidates, chose to nominate a person to another U.N. body, called the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS)
  5. The MoES is the nodal Ministry of the Government for the Law of the Sea-related issues
  6. However, the MEA went on to nominate a retired Joint Secretary-level officer for ITLOS membership, whereas the MoES candidate for CLCS was not agreed to by the MEA
  7. Despite several representations by the MoES Secretary at various levels, the issue was not addressed

CLCS and the importance of membership:

  1. It is a 21 person body and part of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)
  2. Decides what portions of the seabed can be exclusively mined for natural resources such as oil, precious metals and minerals
  3. The CLCS has a five-year tenure and elections are due in June for the 2017-2022 term
  4. Seabed demarcation: Apart from signalling prestige, a membership of the commission allows India to gauge the scientific strength of claims by countries to parts of the seabed that, like territorial waters, are often hard to demarcate
  5. Such information is privy only to participants
  6. India has had disputes with several neighbours — Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka — over how the continental shelf (the seabed under the Arabian Sea, the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal) can be fairly distributed
  7. India has huge interest in CLCS and applied for extending the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) up to 350 nautical miles from the existing 200 nautical miles
  8. India’s submission to CLCS will likely come up for scrutiny later this year, and Sri Lanka, which has claimed a larger area than India, will be examined first
  9. India’s application number is 48, while Sri Lanka’s is 43
  10. The presence of an Indian at this strategic period is essential and in national interest
  11. Impact: Not having an Indian in this group would mean that China and Pakistan would likely “grab” two of the five seats allotted to the so-called Asia-Pacific group
  12. Fielding candidates for ITLOS and CLCS would require India’s Permanent Commission to The United Nations, which coordinates the process, to canvass for votes for both positions and could reduce future “diplomatic leverage”
  13. It’s also one of those rare occasions when there’s been a vacancy in both ITLOS and CLCS…and maybe the MEA deems ITLOS more important
  14. In CLCS, the sitting members from the Asia-Pacific region are China, Japan, South Korea, Pakistan, Malaysia and India, and all countries, except India, are learnt to be sending candidates for both posts
  15. While ITLOS is a judge position and the appointee is paid annual wages, there is no remuneration for the sitting CLCS member
  16. India became a signatory to the UNCLOS in 1982 and has had continuous representation in CLCS, ITLOS and the International Seabed Authority (ISA) since their inception in 1997, 1996 and 1994 respectively


Very important for prelims and mains. Remember about the CLCS, ITLOS for prelims. Know about the importance of membership and the impact non-membership can have for mains.

[op-ed snap] Getting back home, safely


  1. On January 26, 1986, South Yemen was being engulfed in a civil war that threatened the lives of thousands of foreigners living there
  2. While Britain, France and the Soviet Union coordinated to jointly evacuate their nationals, the 850 Indians in the country were forced to wait for several more days until New Delhi finally managed to convince a merchant ship to pick them up
  3. Fast forward almost 30 years, to April 2015, when Yemen was on fire once again
  4. This time, however, the Indian government successfully conducted Operation Raahat to evacuate almost 5,000 Indians and nearly 1,000 citizens from 41 other countries
  5. Besides Air India aircraft, the Indian Navy deployed vessels, and the Indian Air Force C-17 Globemasters for strategic airlift
  6. Such unprecedented efforts and resources reflect New Delhi’s new drive to protect the lives and assets of its citizens abroad in times of crisis

Efforts needed:

  1. The increasing size and complexity of the diaspora requires the government to expand capacity and improve procedures
  2. More than 11 million Indians now reside abroad and 20 million travel internationally every year
  3. As political instability rattles the West Asian region, which hosts more than seven million Indians, the government can no longer rely on heroic efforts by individual officials or quick-fix solutions

Steps that should be taken:

  1. First, the government will need to build on its rich experience in conducting more than 30 evacuation operations since the 1950s
  2. Studying India’s history, best practices and lessons learned will help institutionalise them and avoid the need to reinvent the wheel every time a crisis erupts
  3. By supporting policy-oriented research at universities and think tanks to document the memory of senior officials, the government would also facilitate the transmission of their expertise to younger officials
  4. Second, the government must avoid the jugaad approach
  5. Every evacuation case is unique, given the specific nature and location of the crisis, but this should not preclude an analytical attempt to formulate a blueprint that lists core tasks for all operations
  6. An inter-ministerial committee should prepare a manual with guidelines that establish a clear chain of command and division of competencies; identify regional support bases, assembly points and routes for evacuation; develop country-specific warden systems to communicate with expatriates; and establish evacuation priority and embarkation criteria
  7. Third, India’s diplomatic cadre must be given specific training to operate in hostile environments
  8. To achieve this, the government could instruct the police or army to train Indian Foreign Service probationers to operate in war zones; conduct frequent evacuation simulations and emergency drills; and create rapid reaction teams of Indian security personnel to be deployed to protect diplomatic staff and installations abroad
  9. Fourth, the success of future operations will also rely on New Delhi’s willingness to work together with friendly governments
  10. India will have to invest in cooperative frameworks that facilitate coordination among countries that have large expatriate populations in West Asia, in particular Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, and among leading powers with evacuation capacity in the Indian Ocean region
  11. Fifth, the government will have to assign a greater role to its armed forces, in particular by strengthening the Navy and Air Force’s capacity to operate in tandem with civilian authorities
  12. It should, for example, direct the military to develop a non-combatant evacuation (NEO) doctrine, designate the Integrated Defence Staff as the nodal organisation to improve inter-services and civil-military coordination, direct the services to conduct more multilateral NEO exercises, and adapt military modernisation plans to increase capacity for out-of-area deployment and evacuation
  13. Sixth, to minimise redundancies, the government must institutionalise a permanent inter-ministerial coordinating mechanism for emergency evacuations, incentivise inter-agency cross-posting of officials dealing with diaspora affairs, and encourage State governments to create regional contingency plans
  14. Seventh, to avoid cost inflation and delays, the government must establish a permanent civil reserve air fleet that pools aircraft from all Indian airlines based on pre-established requisition and reimbursement procedures
  15. Eighth, the government will have to invest in new technologies to better monitor the diaspora’s profile and mobility
  16. This can be achieved by encouraging more diplomatic missions to provide online consular registration forms, developing an online registration system for overseas travellers, utilising social media, and by making the Aadhaar card compulsory to facilitate biometric identity verification and reduce identity fraud during evacuation
  17. The government must expand efforts to manage public opinion and be able to conduct a quiet diplomacy that is crucial to safely extricate Overseas Indians from conflict zones
  18. To reduce domestic pressures, it should embed media representatives more frequently in such missions, reassure the diaspora by ensuring that high-level political representatives are personally engaged, and avoid raising expectations by clearly distinguishing Indian citizens from people of Indian origin


India has extensive experience in conducting evacuation operations, but to secure the lives and assets of Indians abroad, the government must avoid an ad hoc approach and seek to institutionalise best practices, bolster diplomatic and military capabilities, and improve coordination. Make notes for a Mains answer. Also remember the highlighted points for Prelims.

‘Strategic partners’ are now dime a dozen

  1. What? India and Rwanda announced a strategic partnership after a meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Paul Kagame
  2. They promised to enhance their exchanges and tighten cooperation between them
  3. This is despite the fact that New Delhi does not even maintain a mission in the Rwandan capital of Kigali
  4. So far: Since signing its first strategic partnership with France in 1998, India has announced 30 such
  5. Issue: The Ministry of External Affairs has no “official list” of its strategic partners nor has it “formalised any criterion” for which a country qualifies for the term
  6. Sometimes, we sign partnerships with countries or entities such as the EU, without even fulfilling basic commitments on annual meetings with them


Not so important. Just know about the condition of strategic partnerships.


  1. A strategic partnership is a long-term interaction between two countries based on political, economic, social and historical factors
  2. Such a partnership manifests itself in a variety of relationships
  3. India has signed “strategic partnerships” with more than 30 countries
  4. Not all strategic partnerships are equally important
  5. Some have a dominant political element, while others have a prominent economic dimension
  6. In some cases, the security dimension may be the most important

[op-ed snap] The world at a crossroads

The policy outlook for 2017 appears not too promising:

  1. Geopolitical risks will remain high
  2. No improvement in the present unstable global order appears likely
  3. New terror patterns will increase the lethality of terror attacks
  4. Digital disruption and cyberthreats are poised to grow
  5. Global economy is caught in a low-growth trap

West failed to recognise the implications of the shift in economic power to the East:

  1. Chinese President Xi Jinping was possibly one of the few world leaders to recognise the nature of the tectonic shift taking place
  2. He therefore came up with the ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative
  3. This was accompanied by huge investments in infrastructure to connect China with Europe and the world

Dominant factors:

  1. S. President-elect Donald Trump’s slogan ‘America first’ and his statements expressing a need for the U.S. to increase its nuclear arsenal
  2. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s references to the need to increase the country’s nuclear military potential
  3. Xi’s emphasis on Chinese ‘exceptionalism’, alongside strengthening of its military, are reliable indicators of this

Asia and Europe:

  1. Reaching a modus vivendi with China may prove more problematic
  2. Talk of a ‘trade war’ between the U.S. and China is in the air, and the President-elect’s strong words about China’s trade practices make matters difficult
  3. Trump has served notice of his intention to pursue a hard line on trade with China by choosing two China critics to handle trade matters
  4. They will have to find common ground to accommodate mutual concerns in the South and the East China Seas
  5. As Russia and China fine-tune their economic and security interests in 2017, a moot question would be whether Russia will acknowledge China’s de-facto supremacy in Asia, in return for according Russia a special position in Eurasia
  6. Brexit, and the decision of the U.K. to leave the EU, has already led to widespread concerns about Europe’s future

Europe and America:

  1. Grappling with an existential crisis already, Europe is simultaneously confronting other dangers such as polarisation and the threat to its liberal and democratic policies and image
  2. The migrant crisis found Europe unprepared for the consequences of such mass inflows
  3. Many cities in Europe seem to have lost the ability to maintain law and order or contain the consequent surge in violent crime

The terror threat:

  1. Terrorism will continue to remain a grave threat during 2017
  2. A sharp increase in ‘lone wolf’ and ‘copycat’ terror attacks is likely and will result in an increase in fatalities in 2017
  3. Southeast Asia may witness many more terror attacks following a call by the Hizb-ut-Tahrir to retaliate for the treatment meted out to Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar
  4. India, for its part, cannot hope for, or expect, any reprieve from terror attacks from across the border

India and the neighbourhood:

  1. The Asian region will see heightened tensions between China and India, China and Japan, and India and Pakistan in 2017
  2. The overall military power balance is unlikely to shift decisively — Asia already has one of the largest concentrations of military capabilities (China, India and Pakistan) with substantial presence of the U.S. and Russian militaries
  3. The accelerated pace of development of China’s military in 2017, including its acquisition of new weapon systems, will be of increasing concern to countries of East, Southeast and South Asia
  4. For India, a deepening of the China-Pakistan military entente in 2017 will add a further dimension to the overall threat from Pakistan
  5. India’s position in Afghanistan in 2017 may well see a downturn, with new equations emerging in the region
  6. With the U.S., China and Russia backing Pakistan’s moves for ‘flexible ties’ with Taliban — ignoring India’s objections — New Delhi’s interests are set to suffer.


As 2017 dawns, the world and India are at the crossroads. Make note of these points and keep a track on their development. This could give an edge to your essay or an answer on international relations.

India lacks plan for global rescue: Study

  1. Source: A paper authored for Carnegie India
  2. Findings: The govt’s plans for conducting emergency large-scale international evacuation is “ad hoc” and depends on “quick-fix solutions”
  3. Despite conducting nearly 30 international evacuations, South Block does not have a standard operating procedure (SOP) for such missions
  4. It continues to depend on individual sacrifices from civil aviation, military and diplomatic services
  5. The paper coincides with the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (7-9 Jan, Bengaluru)
  6. As more than 11 million Indians now reside abroad, and more than 20 million now travel abroad each year, the govt will no longer be able to rely on heroic, ad hoc efforts and quick fix solutions
  7. Hence, the urgent need to craft an SOP on emergency evacuation
  8. It also states that the U.S., the U.K., and the NATO have institutionalised non-combatant evacuation operations (NEO) doctrine
  9. Among the developing countries, Brazil too has institutionalised an SOP
  10. However, India is yet to do the needful even as public scrutiny increases on international crisis situations
  11. Other factors: When the lives and assets of Indians are at risk abroad, civil society organisations mobilise
  12. They lobby elected representatives and regional authorities to pressure the Central govt to take a more proactive stance
  13. This can hinder quiet diplomacy efforts and further endanger the safety of overseas Indians


A useful news item keeping in mind the large scale evacuations India has made from the Middle East. It helps to understand the need for policy in this field and is helpful for mains.

Pravasi Divas this year to highlight social innovations

  1. Pravasi Bharatiya Divas 2017, annual global convention for the Indian diaspora, will focus on social innovators, according to the Ministry of External Affairs
  2. Twenty social innovations will be highlighted. There will also be a contest of innovators and the winner will get an award of ₹1 lakh
  3. The Jan 7 to 9 conclave to be held in Bangalore will be the first full-fledged festival of diaspora Indians under a new format adopted by the govt of PM Modi in 2016
  4. The event will be attended by more than 4,000 delegates and high-power delegations from Mauritius, Malaysia and Qatar
  5. The idea behind the new format was to make the celebration more responsive to the problems faced by the Indian diaspora abroad
  6. The highpoint of the event would be the award for the pravasi achievers (Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Awards) that will be conferred by President Mukherjee on Jan 9


1. Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) is celebrated on 9th January every year to mark the contribution of Overseas Indian community in the development of India. January 9 was chosen as the day to celebrate this occasion since it was on this day in 1915 that Mahatma Gandhi, the greatest Pravasi, returned to India from South Africa, led India’s freedom struggle and changed the lives of Indians forever.

2. PBD conventions are being held every year since 2003. These conventions provide a platform to the overseas Indian community to engage with the government and people of the land of their ancestors for mutually beneficial activities. These conventions are also very useful in networking among the overseas Indian community residing in various parts of the world and enable them to share their experiences in various fields.

3. During the event, individuals of exceptional merit are honoured with the prestigious Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award to appreciate their role in India’s growth. The event also provides a forum for discussing key issues concerning the Indian Diaspora.

India journeys from multilateral to bilateral

  1. What: Indian foreign policy took a decided step away from multilateral platforms to focus on bilateral relations to shore up its place in the world
  2. In multilateral platforms like the U.N., NAM, NSG, BRICS, SAARC, SCO and others, the Modi govt seemed to make limited headway
  3. This has led officials to argue that it was India’s bilateral engagements that were propelling it forward, as with the U.S., West Asia, or Japan; or holding it back, as with China and Pakistan
  4. According to Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar, “Global blocs and alliances are less relevant today and the world is moving towards a loosely arranged order”
  5. NAM: Shortly after that India announced that PM Modi was going to drop out of attending the Non-Aligned Summit in Venezuela
  6. The decision was significant as except for one occasion in 1979, an Indian PM has always attended the NAM summit which it helped found
  7. The decision seemed not just bound by the decision to move away from the bloc, that has been seen as less relevant in the post-Cold War era
  8. But also not to upset India’s partnership with the Obama administration that was at odds with Venezuelan President Maduro
  9. At the previous summit in Teheran in 2012, the UPA government had chosen to ignore pressure from the U.S. to give NAM a miss
  10. UN: With the U.N., the govt has felt “frustration” at its inability to move on issues important for India
  11. No headway was made on India’s bid for a permanent Security Council seat, on the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism
  12. Or on specific requests to ban Pakistan-based terror group chief Masood Azhar
  13. These delays lead India’s envoy to the U.N. Syed Akbaruddin to say the world body suffers from a “mix of ad hocism, scrambling and political paralysis”
  14. NSG: Similar frustration was felt when India’s bid to join the NSG was scotched not once but twice in the year, due to China’s objections
  15. Mr. Modi’s high-profile summits with countries ranging from Brazil to Switzerland and other members of the 48-nation body were not helpful despite making the NSG membership the centre-point of the trips
  16. BRICS: India’s attempts to introduce Pakistan-specific anti-terror strictures into the the BRICS declaration at the Goa summit came a cropper too
  17. This brought into sharp light India’s limited options when it comes to multilateral organisations like BRICS, RIC (Russia-India-China) and the SCO which are dominated by the growing Sino-Russian partnership
  18. Bright spots: For Indian foreign policy, instead, came from its strengthened bilateral relationships: most notably with the US
  19. We saw the PM’s address to the U.S. Congress, the signing of the Logistics Agreement, and India’s agreement to join the Climate Change convention
  20. As the year drew to a close, President Obama signed the Defence Bill that names India a “major defence partner” — a designation that seems most akin to a strategic ally without being one
  21. Another leap forward came from Gulf countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the UAE, which are forging closer ties with India despite their OIC reservations
  22. And also from Iran and Afghanistan
  23. Russia remains ambiguous, as 2016 saw it draw closer to Pakistan with military exercises and an interest in the CPEC


A somewhat long but very useful analysis of the trends in India’s foreign policy in 2016.

Minority Affairs Ministry takes charge of Haj pilgrimage

  1. Context: President’s assent to amendments to the Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules, 1961
  2. Haj management: Transfer of management of Haj Pilgrimage, including administration of the Haj Committee Act, 1959, to the Minorities Affairs Ministry
  3. Earlier: The Ministry of External Affairs has dealt with the Haj pilgrimage and other aspects of the Act so far
  4. However, MEA would still continue to oversee other pilgrimages to places outside India under the Indian Pilgrimships Rules, 1933, and pilgrim parties from India to shrines in Pakistan and vice versa

India makes list, plans outreach to 68 countries

  1. Context: Govt’s commitment to reach out to all countries worldwide
  2. Ministry of External Affairs has issued letters to various Ministers assigning them dozens of specific countries to engage with
  3. It has identified 68 countries which had not witnessed Ministerial-level visits from India
  4. Govt: By 2016-end, we will not leave any country where Indian Ministers have not gone

India to accede to the Ashgabat Agreement

  1. News: Cabinet has given its approval for India to accede to the Ashgabat Agreement
  2. About: International transport and transit corridor facilitating transportation of goods between Central Asia and the Persian Gulf
  3. Why? India’s intention to accede to the Ashgabat Agreement would now be conveyed to the Depository State (Turkmenistan)
  4. India would become party to the Agreement upon consent of the founding members
  5. Benefits: Accession to Agreement would enable India to utilise this existing transport and transit corridor to facilitate trade interaction with Eurasian region
  6. This would synchronise with efforts to implement the International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC) for enhanced connectivity

What is Ashgabat Agreement?

  1. About Ashgabat: Capital and the largest city of Turkmenistan in Central Asia
  2. Where? Situated between the Karakum Desert and the Kopet Dag mountain range
  3. About Agreement: aims to develop a shortest trade route between Central Asian countries and Iranian and Omani ports
  4. Initially signed among Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Oman and Qatar back in April 2011 and was given additional support in 2014 when a MoU was signed
  5. Iran-Turkmenistan-Kazakhstan (ITK) railway line will be the major route according to the Ashgabat Agreement, which became operational in 2014
  6. This was also included as part of India-funded North-South international transport corridor (NSITC)

MEA protests after being asked to curb foreign travel

  1. News: Memorandum issued Finance Ministry, stipulating new instructions for foreign travel
  2. This has spurred a protest “go-slow” from the MEA on all political clearances for officers travelling abroad
  3. Context: Finance Ministry officials say the memorandum is part of a bi-annual cost-cutting exercise to restrict foreign travel as much as possible
  4. Concern from MEA: First time, PM’s clearance needed for more than 4 visits by Secretaries in 1 yr, which will add to the red tape and cause delays
  5. Non-officials can only travel with PM’s clearance, not at MEA’s discretion

Pravasi Bharatiya Divas and important announcements

  1. Giving Adhaar cards to NRIs and OCIs is under consideration.
  2. Women workers will be allowed to go to Gulf countries for employment only through government agencies.
  3. This is to ensure they are not duped by recruiting agents.
  4. PBD is held on 9th January as on this day in 1915 that Mahatma Gandhi, the “greatest Pravasi”, returned home from South Africa to lead India’s freedom struggle.

Overseas Indian Affairs Ministry, MEA merged

In order to avoid duplication of work and to improve efficiency, the government merged the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA) with the Ministry of External Affairs.

  1. As senior diplomats wanted officials dealing with foreign workers-related issues and emergencies to have better diplomatic back-up and coordination.
  2. The merger is expected to increase efficiency in MEA’s emergency work abroad.
  3. MEA wanted the key operational posts, including that of the Protector General of Emigrants, one of the most important offices in MOIA, to have diplomatic focus.
  4. The post is responsible for issuing registration certificates to recruitment agents who send workers abroad, especially to the Gulf region.

:( We are working on most probable questions. Do check back this section.

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