Contention over South China Sea

Malabar Naval Exercise to include Australia

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : QSD, Malabar Exercise

Mains level : Global move to curb Chinese overambitions

India has finally planned to invite Australia to join the annual Malabar naval exercise that has so far included just Japan and the U.S., in a move that could risk China’s ire.

Go through the list for once. UPSC may ask a match the pair type question asking exercise name and countries involved.

[Prelims Spotlight] Defence Exercises

About Ex. Malabar

  • Exercise Malabar is a trilateral naval exercise involving the United States, Japan and India as permanent partners.
  • Originally begun in 1992 as a bilateral exercise between India and the United States, Japan became a permanent partner in 2015.
  • Past non-permanent participants are Australia and Singapore.
  • The annual Malabar series began in 1992 and includes diverse activities, ranging from fighter combat operations from aircraft carriers through Maritime Interdiction Operations Exercises.

Significance of Australia’s inclusion

  • Earlier, India had concerns that it would give the appearance of a “quadrilateral military alliance” aimed at China.
  • Now both look forward to the cooperation in the ‘Indo-Pacific’ and the strengthening of defence ties.
  • This has led to a convergence of mutual interest in many areas for a better understanding of regional and global issues.
  • Both are expected to conclude the long-pending Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA) as part of measures to elevate the strategic partnership.

Back2Basics: Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD)

  • The QSD is an informal strategic forum between the United States, Japan, Australia and India that is maintained by semi-regular summits, information exchanges and military drills between member countries.
  • The forum was initiated as a dialogue in 2007 by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan, with the support of Vice President Dick Cheney of the US, PM John Howard of Australia and PM Manmohan Singh of India.
  • The dialogue was paralleled by joint military exercises of an unprecedented scale, titled Exercise Malabar.
  • The diplomatic and military arrangement was widely viewed as a response to increased Chinese economic and military power, and the Chinese government responded to it by issuing formal diplomatic protest.
  • The QSD was recently revived considering the tensions in the South China Sea caused primarily by China and its territorial ambitions.

J&K – The issues around the state

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : UNCAT, ICCPR

Mains level : UN intervention in Kashmir

United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteurs have made public their third communication forwarded to India expressing concern over alleged excessive use of force, ill-treatment during arrests and detentions.

Practice question for mains:

Q.There is an urgent need for reforming the criminal justice system in India in light of rising cases of custodial torture and killings. Comment.

What is the issue?

The UN urged the Indian government to conduct a prompt and impartial investigation into the allegations of arbitrary killings, torture and ill-treatment and to prosecute suspected perpetrators under articles 6 and of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and articles 7 and 12 of the Committee Against Torture (CAT).

What are the conventions cited by the UN?

1) International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)

  • The ICCPR is a multilateral treaty adopted by UN General Assembly Resolution on 16 December 1966, and in force from 23 March 1976.
  • The covenant commits its parties to respect the civil and political rights of individuals, including the right to life, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, electoral rights and rights to due process and a fair trial.
  • As of September 2019, the Covenant has 173 parties and six more signatories without ratification.
  • It is part of the International Bill of Human Rights, along with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).
  • It is monitored by the UN Human Rights Committee (a separate body to the UN Human Rights Council).

2) United Nations Convention Against Torture (UNCAT)

  • The UNCAT is an international human rights treaty, under the review of the UN and was adopted in 1984.
  • It aims to prevent torture and other acts of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment around the world.
  • The convention requires states to take effective measures to prevent torture in any territory under their jurisdiction and forbids states to transport people to any country where there is reason to believe they will be tortured.
  • Since the convention’s entry into force, the absolute prohibition against torture and other acts of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment has become accepted as a principle of customary international law.

3) The Committee against Torture (CAT)

  • It is a body of human rights experts that monitors implementation of the Convention by State parties.
  • The Committee is one of eight UN-linked human rights treaty bodies.
  • All state parties are obliged under the Convention to submit regular reports to the CAT on how rights are being implemented.
  • Upon ratifying the Convention, states must submit a report within one year, after which they are obliged to report every four years.
  • The Committee examines each report and addresses its concerns and recommendations to the State party in the form of “concluding observations.”
  • Under certain circumstances, the CAT may consider complaints or communications from individuals claiming that their rights under the Convention have been violated.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

UAE in support of Open Skies Agreement with India

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Open Sky Agreements, OST

Mains level : Not Much

The UAE is keen to have an open sky agreement with India.

Open Skies Agreement! Look how confusing does it sound compared to the Open Skies Treaty between the US and Russia.

What is the Open Skies Agreement?

  • The National Civil Aviation Policy, 2016, allows the government to enter into an ‘open sky’ air services agreement on a reciprocal basis with SAARC nations as well as countries beyond a 5,000-kilometre radius from New Delhi.
  • This implies that nations within this distance need to enter into a bilateral agreement and mutually determine the number of flights that their airlines can operate between the two countries.
  • India has open sky agreements with Japan, Greece, Jamaica, Guyana, Czech Republic, Finland, Spain and Sri Lanka.
  • India also has an open sky agreement with the US, among other countries.

Why UAE wants such an agreement with India?

  • There are about 1,068 flights a week between India and the UAE operated by the airlines of the two countries under the bilateral Air Service Agreement.
  • India has open skies policy with SAARC countries and those beyond the 5,000-km radius.
  • UAE wants India to revisit this policy.

Must read:

U.S. set to exit the ‘Open Skies Treaty’ Copy

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Biodiversity Governance: The agreements and laws that help enforce it

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : CBD, BDA

Mains level : Biodiversity and its governance

Police Reforms – SC directives, NPC, other committees reports

United Nations Convention Against Torture (UNCAT)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : United Nations Convention Against Torture (UNCAT)

Mains level : Police reforms in India

The alleged torture and custodial killing of TN father and son by police last week pointed towards a broken criminal justice system and highlighted the need for police reforms and the ratification of the United Nations Convention Against Torture (UNCAT).

Practice question for mains:

Q.There is an urgent need for reforming the criminal justice system in India in light of rising cases of custodial torture and killings. Comment.

United Nations Convention Against Torture (UNCAT)

  • The UNCAT is an international human rights treaty, under the review of the UN and was adopted in 1984.
  • It aims to prevent torture and other acts of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment around the world.
  • The convention requires states to take effective measures to prevent torture in any territory under their jurisdiction and forbids states to transport people to any country where there is reason to believe they will be tortured.
  • Since the convention’s entry into force, the absolute prohibition against torture and other acts of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment has become accepted as a principle of customary international law.

The Committee against Torture (CAT)

  • It is a body of human rights experts that monitors implementation of the Convention by State parties.
  • The Committee is one of eight UN-linked human rights treaty bodies.
  • All state parties are obliged under the Convention to submit regular reports to the CAT on how rights are being implemented.
  • Upon ratifying the Convention, states must submit a report within one year, after which they are obliged to report every four years.
  • The Committee examines each report and addresses its concerns and recommendations to the State party in the form of “concluding observations.”
  • Under certain circumstances, the CAT may consider complaints or communications from individuals claiming that their rights under the Convention have been violated.

Optional Protocol to CAT

  • The Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) was adopted by the General Assembly on 18 December 2002.
  • It provides for the establishment of a system of regular visits undertaken by independent international and national bodies to places where people are deprived of their liberty, in order to prevent torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

India needs to ratify UNCAT

  • India signed the convention in 1997 but it remains among a handful of countries including Pakistan and China which are yet to ratify the convention.
  • India is in the company of 25 other nations which have not ratified.
  • The National Human Rights Commission had said custodial violence and torture are already “rampant” in the country.
  • About 1,731 people had died in custody in 2019 a/c to NHRC report.

Women empowerment issues – Jobs,Reservation and education

State of the World Population Report 2020

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : UNFPA

Mains level : Preventing violence and abuse against women

The UNFPA has released the State of the World Population Report 2020.

Highlights of the WPR

I) Global prospects

  • According to estimates averaged over a five year period (2013-17), annually, there were 1.2 million missing female births, at a global level.
  • The same study shows that in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan excess female mortality of girls below 5 years of age was under 3 per cent.
  • These skewed numbers translate into long-term shifts in the proportions of women and men in the population of some countries, the report points out.
  • In many countries, this results in a “marriage squeeze” as prospective grooms far outnumber prospective brides, which further results in human trafficking for marriage as well as child marriages.

II) Data on India

  • India had about 4,60,000 girls ‘missing’ at birth each year.
  • The figure shows that the number of missing women has more than doubled over the past 50 years, who were at 61 million in 1970.
  • The report examines the issue of missing women by studying sex ratio imbalances at birth as a result of gender-biased sex selection as well as excess female mortality due to deliberate neglect of girls because of a culture of son preference.
  • Excess female mortality is the difference between observed and expected mortality of the girl child or avoidable death of girls during childhood.
  • The report cites a 2014 study to state that India has the highest rate of excess female deaths at 13.5 per 1,000 female births or one in nine deaths of females below the age of 5 due to postnatal sex selection.

About UNFPA

  • The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), formerly the United Nations Fund for Population Activities, is a UN organization.
  • It is the lead UN agency for delivering a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.
  • Their work involves the improvement of reproductive health; including the creation of national strategies and protocols, and birth control by providing supplies and services.
  • The organization has recently been known for its worldwide campaign against child marriage, obstetric fistula and female genital mutilation.

Primary and Secondary Education – RTE, Education Policy, SEQI, RMSA, Committee Reports, etc.

Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report 2020

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Impact of coronovirus outbreak on Education system

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated inequalities in education systems across the world a/c to the latest GEM report.

Practice question for mains:

Q.Discuss the impact of COVID-19 induced lockdown on India’s education sector.

About the report

  • Originally the EFA Global Monitoring Report, it has been renamed as the Global Education Monitoring Report.
  • It is developed by an independent team and published by UNESCO aimed to sustain commitment towards Education for All.
  • The ‘UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), based in Montreal provides data for the report on students, teachers, school performance, adult literacy and education expenditure.

Highlights of the 2020 report

  • The report noted that efforts to maintain learning continuity during the pandemic may have actually worsened exclusion trends.
  • During the height of school closures in April 2020, almost 91% of students around the world were out of school.
  • About 40% of low- and lower-middle-income countries have not supported learners at risk of exclusion during this crisis, such as the poor, linguistic minorities and learners with disabilities.

1. Risks of school closure

  • School closures also interrupted support mechanisms from which many disadvantaged learners benefit.
  • For poor students who depend on school for free meals or even free sanitary napkins, closures has been a major blow.
  • Cancellation of examinations in many countries, including India, may result in scoring dependence on teachers’ judgements of students, which could be affected by stereotypes of certain types of students.

2. Substitutes were imperfect

  • Education systems responded with distance learning solutions, all of which offered less or more imperfect substitutes for classroom instruction said the report.
  • Many poorer countries opted for radio and television lessons, while some upper-middle-income countries adopted for online learning platforms for primary and secondary education.
  • India has used a mix of all three systems for educational continuity.

3. The digital divide has resurfaced yet again

  • Even as governments increasingly rely on technology, the digital divide lays bare the limitations of this approach.
  • Not all students and teachers have access to an adequate internet connection, equipment, skills and working conditions to take advantage of available platforms.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

“Money Laundering and the Illegal Wildlife Trade” Report

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : FATF

Mains level : Wildlife trade and its prevention

A first global report on the illegal wildlife trade has been recently published by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

Try this MCQ:

Q.The report “Money Laundering and the Illegal Wildlife Trade”  recently seen in news is released by:

A. TRAFFIC/ B. CITES/ C. IUCN/ D. FATF

Highlights of the Report

  • FATF has described illegal wildlife trade as a “global threat”, which also has links with other organised crimes like modern slavery, drug trafficking and arms trade.
  • The illegal trade is estimated to generate revenues of up to $23 billion a year.
  • The report flagged a lack of focus on the financial aspects of wildlife crime.

(1)Economy of illicit wildlife trade

  • It said that criminals are frequently misusing the legitimate wildlife trade, as well as other import-export type businesses.
  • The FATF found that jurisdictions often did not have the required knowledge, legislative basis and resources to assess and combat the threat posed by the funds generated through the illegal trade.
  • The study has highlighted the growing role of online marketplaces and mobile and social media-based payments to facilitate the movement of proceeds warranting a coordinated response from government bodies, the private sector and the civil society.

(2)Money laundering is prominent

  • According to the report, criminal syndicates are misusing the formal financial sector to launder the proceeds.
  • Funds are laundered through cash deposits, under the guise of loans or payments, e-banking platforms, licensed money value transfer systems, and third-party wire transfers via banks.
  • Accounts of innocent victims are also used and high-value payments avoided evading detection.

(3)Misuse of front companies

  • Another common trend is the misuse of front companies with links to the legal wildlife trade, said the report.
  • Front companies, often linked to import-export industries, and shell firms are used for the movement of goods and trans-border money transfers.

Recommendations of the report

  • The report says the financial probe is the key to dismantling the syndicates involved, which can in turn significantly impact the associated criminal activities.
  • It recommended that jurisdictions should consider implementing good practices, as observed during the study.
  • They include providing all relevant agencies with the necessary mandate and tools; and cooperating with other jurisdictions, international bodies and the private sector.
  • The FATF said that legislative changes were necessary to increase the applicability of anti-money laundering laws to the illegal wildlife trade-linked offences.

Back2Basics

Financial Action Task Force (FATF)

Economic Indicators and Various Reports On It- GDP, FD, EODB, WIR etc

International Comparison Programme (ICP) by World Bank

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : ICP, PPP

Mains level : India's GDP related issues

The World Bank has released its ICP report for the reference year 2017. India has retained its position as the third-largest economy in the world in terms of purchasing power parity (PPP), behind the US and China.

Try this MCQ:

Q. The International Comparison Programme (ICP) Report recently seen in news is released by:  IMF/World Bank/OECD/None.

The International Comparison Programme (ICP)

  • ICP is one of the largest statistical initiatives in the world.
  • It is managed by the World Bank under the auspices of the United Nations Statistical Commission.
  • Globally 176 economies participated in the 2017 cycle of ICP. The next ICP comparison will be conducted for the reference year 2021.

The main objectives of the ICP are:

(i) To produce purchasing power parities (PPPs) and comparable price level indexes (PLIs) for participating economies;

(ii) To convert volume and per capita measures of gross domestic product (GDP) and its expenditure components into a common currency using PPPs.

Highlights of the report

  • India accounts for 6.7% or $8,051 billion, out of the world’s total of $119,547 billion of global GDP in terms of PPP compared to 16.4 % in case of China and 16.3 % for the US.
  • India is also the third-largest economy in terms of its PPP-based share in global Actual Individual Consumption and Global Gross Capital Formation.
  • In the Asia-Pacific Region, in 2017, India retained its regional position, as the second-largest economy, accounting for 20.83 % in terms of PPPs.
  • China was first at 50.76% and Indonesia at 7.49% was third.
  • India is also the second-largest economy in terms of its PPP-based share in regional Actual Individual Consumption and regional Gross Capital Formation.

Trends in INR

  • The PPPs of Indian Rupee per US$ at the GDP level is now 20.65 in 2017 from 15.55 in 2011.
  • The Exchange Rate of US Dollar to Indian Rupee is now 65.12 from 46.67 during the same period.

Significance of PPP

  • Purchasing Power Parities are vital for converting measures of economic activities to be comparable across economies.
  • It is calculated based on the price of a common basket of goods and services in each participating economy and is a measure of what an economy’s local currency can buy in another economy.
  • Market exchange rate-based conversions reflect both price and volume differences in expenditures and are thus inappropriate for volume comparisons.
  • PPP-based conversions of expenditures eliminate the effect of price level differences between economies and reflect only differences in the volume of economies.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-United States

UN Arms Trade Treaty (ATT)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : UN Arms Trade Treay

Mains level : Arms Trade Treay and its significance

China will join a global pact to regulate arms sales that has been rejected by the United States.

The New START, INF, Open Skies and now the ATT …. Be clear about the differences of these treaties. For example- to check if their inception was during cold war era etc.

What is the Arms Trade Treaty?

  • The Arms Trade Treaty is a multilateral treaty that regulates the international trade in conventional weapons. It entered into force on 4th December 2014.
  • The ATT is an attempt to regulate the international trade of conventional weapons for the purpose of contributing to international and regional peace; reducing human suffering; and promoting co-operation, transparency, and responsible action by and among states.
  • 105 states have ratified the treaty, and a further 32 states have signed but not ratified it.
  • India has abstained from voting for this Treaty

Highlights of the treaty

ATT requires member countries to keep records of international transfers of weapons and to prohibit cross-border shipments that could be used in human rights violations or attacks on civilians. The treaty would ensure that no transfer is permitted if there is a substantial risk that it is likely to:

  • be used in serious violations of international human rights or humanitarian law, or acts of genocide or crimes against humanity;
  • facilitate terrorist attacks, a pattern of gender-based violence, violent crime, or organized crime;
  • violate UN Charter obligations, including UN arms embargoes;
  • be diverted from its stated recipient;
  • adversely affect regional security; or
  • seriously impair poverty reduction or socioeconomic development.

China’s agenda at ATT

  • Beijing saying it is committed to efforts to “enhance peace and stability” in the world.
  • It comes after the US announced plans last year to pull the United States out of the agreement which entered into force in 2014.
  • The US Senate never ratified the 2013 Arms Trade Treaty after former president Barack Obama endorsed it, and Trump has said he would revoke his predecessor’s signature.

Why has India abstained?

  • From the beginning of the ATT process, India has maintained that such a treaty should make a real impact on illicit trafficking in conventional arms and their illicit use especially by terrorists and other unauthorized and unlawful non-state actors.
  • India has also stressed consistently that the ATT should ensure a balance of obligations between exporting and importing states.
  • However, the ATT is weak on terrorism and non-state actors (undoubtedly Pakistan) and these concerns find no mention in the specific prohibitions of the Treaty.
  • Further, India cannot accept that the Treaty is used as an instrument in the hands of exporting states to take unilateral force majeure measures against importing states parties without consequences.

Also read:

U.S. set to exit the ‘Open Skies Treaty’ Copy

AIIB & The Changing World Order

Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : AIIB, ADB

Mains level : Not Much

The Government of India and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) has signed a $750 million agreement for “COVID-19 Active Response and Expenditure Support Programme”.

Try this question from CSP 2019

Q.With reference to Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), consider the following statements

  1. AIIB has more than 80 member nations.
  2. India is the largest shareholder in AIIB.
  3. AIIB does not have any members from outside Asia.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 1 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

What’s so special about this assistance?

  • This is the first-ever budgetary support programme from the AIIB to India.
  • The project is being financed by the AIIB and Asian Development Bank (ADB) in the amount of $2.250 billion, of which $750 million will be provided by AIIB and $1.5 billion will be provided by ADB.
  • The package aims to assist India to strengthen its response to the adverse impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on poor and vulnerable households.
  • The current loan will be the second to India from AIIB under its COVID-19 crisis recovery facility apart from the earlier approved $500 million loans.
  • The primary beneficiaries would be families below the poverty line, farmers, healthcare workers, women, women’s SHGs, widows, PWDs, senior citizens, low wage earners etc.

About AIIB

  • The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) is a multilateral development bank with a mission to improve social and economic outcomes in Asia, began operations in January 2016.
  • AIIB has now grown to 102 approved members worldwide.
  • AIIB is a brainchild of China. The prime aim of the AIIB is infrastructure development.
  • By establishing interconnectivity across Asia through advancement in the construction of infrastructure and other productive services, the AIIB can stimulate growth and economic development in the Asian Region.

Must read:

International Economic Institution’s: ADB, BRICS Bank, AIIB

India’s Bid to a Permanent Seat at United Nations

India gets re-elected as Non-permanent Member of UNSC

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : UNSC, NORMS

Mains level : Significance of UNSC membership for India

India gets re-elected as Non-permanent Members of UNSC with 184 out of the 192 valid votes polled in its favour.

Practice question for mains:

Q. United Nations is in need of structural reforms suiting to the needs of present times. Discuss.

What are ‘non-permanent seats’ at the UNSC?

  • The UNSC is composed of 15 members: five permanent members — China, France, Russian Federation, the US, and the UK — and 10 non-permanent members who are elected by the General Assembly.
  • The non-permanent members are elected for two-year terms — so every year, the General Assembly elects five non-permanent members out of the total 10.
  • Even if a country is a “clean slate” candidate and has been endorsed by its group, it still needs to secure the votes of two-thirds of the members present and voting at the General Assembly session — which is a minimum of 129 votes, if all 193 member states participate.

Sharing of seats

  • These 10 seats are distributed among the regions of the world: five seats for African and Asian countries; one for Eastern European countries; two for Latin American and Caribbean countries; and two for Western European and Other Countries.
  • Of the five seats for Africa and Asia, three are for Africa and two for Asia.
  • Also, there is an informal understanding between the two groups to reserve one seat for an Arab country.
  • The Africa and Asia Pacific group takes turns every two years to put up an Arab candidate.
  • Elections for terms beginning in even-numbered years select two African members, and one each within Eastern Europe, the Asia Pacific, and Latin America and the Caribbean.
  • Terms beginning in odd-numbered years consist of two West European and Other members, and one each from the Asia Pacific, Africa, and Latin America and the Caribbean.

Current members as on today

  • The current non-permanent members of the Security Council are Belgium, Dominican Republic, Germany, Indonesia, and South Africa, all of whose terms end this year; and Estonia, Niger, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Tunisia, and Vietnam, whose terms end in 2021.
  • India begins its term at the beginning of 2021 and will hold the position until the end of 2022.

Has India been in the UNSC earlier?

  • India’s term on the 15-member Council will be it’s eighth.
  • India has earlier been a non-permanent member of the Security Council in 1950-51, 1967-68, 1972-73, 1977-78, 1984-85, 1991-92 and 2011-12.
  • For the 2011-12 terms, India won 187 of 190 votes after Kazakhstan stood down from its candidacy.
  • Unlike Africa, which has formalized a system of rotation of its three seats, the Asia Pacific grouping has often seen contests for seats. In 2018, there was a contest between the Maldives and Indonesia.
  • On the occasions when there is a contest, the elections for non-permanent seats can go on for several rounds.
  • Back in 1975, there was a contest between India and Pakistan, which went into eight rounds, with Pakistan finally winning the seat. And in 1996, India lost a contest to Japan.

Significance

  • Terming India’s winning of a non-permanent seat of the UN Security Council one of its best performances” ever, the Union government said.
  • The strong support by almost the entire U.N. membership demonstrates the goodwill that India enjoys in the U.N. and the confidence that the international community has reposed in India.
  • India’s EAM gave India’s overall objective during its forthcoming UNSC tenure as an acronym ‘NORMS’ — New Orientation for a Reformed Multilateral System.
  • NORMS includes the push for expanding the UNSC permanent membership.

Back2Basics: United Nations Security Council

  • The UNSC is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations and is charged with the maintenance of international peace and security.
  • Its powers include the establishment of peacekeeping operations, the establishment of international sanctions, and the authorization of military action through Security Council resolutions.
  • It is the only UN body with the authority to issue binding resolutions to member states.
  • The Security Council consists of fifteen members. Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, and the United States—serve as the body’s five permanent members.
  • These permanent members can veto any substantive Security Council resolution, including those on the admission of new member states or candidates for Secretary-General.
  • The Security Council also has 10 non-permanent members, elected on a regional basis to serve two-year terms. The body’s presidency rotates monthly among its members.

Nuclear Diplomacy and Disarmament

SIPRI Report on Nuclear Stockpiles

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : OST, INF Treaty, New START policy

Mains level : Global nuclear stockpiles and its threats

All nations that have nuclear weapons continue to modernize their nuclear arsenals, while India and China increased their nuclear warheads in the last one year, according to a latest report by Swedish think tank Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

About SIPRI

  • Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) is an international institute based in Sweden, dedicated to research into conflict, armaments, arms control and disarmament.
  • Established in 1966, the Stockholm based SIPRI provides data, analysis and recommendations, based on open sources, to policymakers, researchers, media and the interested public.

Practice question for Mains:

Q.“Nuclear disarmament of the world seems a distant dream”. Comment.

Nuclear arsenals are on rise in ‘thy neighbourhood’

  • China is in the middle of a significant modernization of its nuclear arsenal.
  • It is developing a so-called nuclear triad for the first time, made up of new land and sea-based missiles and nuclear-capable aircraft.
  • China’s nuclear arsenal had gone up from 290 warheads in 2019 to 320 in 2020, while India’s went up from 130-140 in 2019 to 150 in 2020.
  • Pakistan’s arsenal was estimated to be between 150-160 in 2019 and has reached 160 in 2020.
  • Both China and Pakistan continue to have larger nuclear arsenals than India.

A general decline across the globe

  • Together with the nine nuclear-armed states — the U.S., Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea — possessed an estimated 13,400 nuclear weapons at the start of 2020.
  • This marked a decrease from an estimated 13,865 nuclear weapons at the beginning of 2019.
  • The decrease in the overall numbers was largely due to the dismantlement of old nuclear weapons by Russia and the U.S., which together possess over 90% of the global nuclear weapons.

Major issue in reporting: Low levels of disclosure

  • The availability of reliable information on the status of the nuclear arsenals and capabilities of the nuclear-armed states varied considerably, the report noted.
  • The U.S. had disclosed important information about its stockpile and nuclear capabilities, but in 2019, the administration ended the practice of publicly disclosing the size of its stockpile.
  • The governments of India and Pakistan make statements about some of their missile tests but provide little information about the status or size of their arsenals, the report said.

New START seems to ‘STOP’ very soon

  • The U.S. and Russia have reduced their nuclear arsenals under the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) but it will lapse in February 2021 unless both parties agree to prolong it.
  • However, discussions to extend the New START or negotiate a new treaty made no progress with the U.S.’s insistence that China must join any future nuclear arms reduction talks, which China has categorically ruled out.
  • The deadlock over the New START and the collapse of the 1987 Soviet–U.S. Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles (INF Treaty) in 2019 suggest that the era of bilateral nuclear arms control agreements between Russia and the U.S. might be coming to an end.
  • Russia and the U.S. have already announced extensive plans to replace and modernize their nuclear warheads and delivery systems.
  • Both countries have also given new or expanded roles to nuclear weapons in their military plans and doctrines, which marks a significant reversal of the post-Cold War trend towards the gradual marginalisation of nuclear weapons.

Back2Basics: INF Treaty

  • Under the INF treaty, the US and Soviet Union agreed not to develop, produce, possess or deploy any ground-based ballistic and cruise missiles that have a range between 500 and 5,500 km.
  • It exempted the air-launched and sea-based missile systems in the same range.
  • The INF treaty helped address the fears of an imminent nuclear war in Europe.
  • It also built some trust between Washington and Moscow and contributed to the end of the Cold War.

New START Policy

  • The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) pact limits the number of deployed nuclear warheads, missiles and bombers and is due to expire in 2021 unless renewed.
  • The treaty limits the US and Russia to a maximum of 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700 deployed missiles and bombers, well below Cold War caps.
  • It was signed in 2010 by former US President Barack Obama and then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.
  • It is one of the key controls on superpower deployment of nuclear weapons.
  • If it falls, it will be the second nuclear weapons treaty to collapse under the leadership of US President Donald Trump.

Nuclear Diplomacy and Disarmament

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : IAEA and its mandate

Mains level : Nuclear ambitions and its rise

The UN nuclear watchdog IAEA’s governing body began meeting as a row brews over Iran’s refusal to allow access to two sites where nuclear activity may have occurred in the past.

Practice question for mains:

Q. Discuss the role of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in enhancing nuclear accountability of the world.

Concerns over Iran

  • The latest row over access comes as a landmark deal between Iran and world powers in 2015 continues to unravel.
  • If IAEA passes a resolution critical of Iran, it would be the first of its kind since 2012.
  • Even though the two sites are not thought to be key to Iran’s current activities, the agency says it needs to know if past activities going back almost two decades have been properly declared and all materials accounted for.

About IAEA

  • The IAEA is an international organization that seeks to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy and to inhibit its use for any military purpose, including nuclear weapons.
  • The IAEA has its headquarters in Vienna, Austria. It was established as an autonomous organisation on 29 July 1957.
  • Though established independently of the UN through its own international treaty, the IAEA reports to both the UN General Assembly and UN Security Council.

Functions of IAEA

  • The IAEA serves as an intergovernmental forum for scientific and technical co-operation in the peaceful use of nuclear technology and nuclear power worldwide.
  • The programs of the IAEA encourage the development of the peaceful applications of nuclear energy, science and technology, provide international safeguards against misuse of nuclear technology and nuclear materials, and promote nuclear safety (including radiation protection) and nuclear security standards and their implementation.

Indian Ocean Power Competition

Indian Ocean Commission (IOC)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : IOC

Mains level : Indian ocean security

India is looking to post Navy Liaison Officers at the Regional Maritime Information Fusion Centre (RMIFC) of IOC in Madagascar and also at the European maritime surveillance initiative in the Strait of Hormuz.

Note the members of the IOC form map. One may get confused considering India as a permanent member.

About Indian Ocean Commission (IOC)

  • The IOC is an intergovernmental organization that was created in 1982 at Port Louis, Mauritius and institutionalized in 1984 by the Victoria Agreement in Seychelles.
  • The IOC is composed of five African Indian Ocean nations: Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, Réunion (an overseas region of France), and Seychelles.
  • These five islands share geographic proximity, historical and demographic relationships, natural resources and common development issues.

Aims and Objectives of IOC

  • IOC’s principal mission is to strengthen the ties of friendship between the countries and to be a platform of solidarity for the entire population of the African Indian Ocean region.
  • IOC’s mission also includes development, through projects related to sustainability for the region, aimed at protecting the region, improving the living conditions of the populations and preserving the various natural resources that the countries depend on.
  • Being an organisation regrouping only island states, the IOC has usually championed the cause of small island states in regional and international fora.

India and IOC

  • India was accepted as an observer getting a seat at the table of the organization that handles maritime governance in the western Indian Ocean.
  • India’s entry is a consequence of its deepening strategic partnership with France as well as its expanding ties with the Vanilla Islands.
  • The IOC has four observers — China, EU, Malta and International Organisation of La Francophonie (OIF).

Significance of IOC

  • For India, the importance of joining this organization lies in several things.
  • First, India will get an official foothold in a premier regional institution in the western Indian Ocean, boosting engagement with islands in this part of the Indian Ocean.
  • These island nations are increasingly important for India’s strategic outreach as part of its Indo-Pacific policy.
  • This move would enhance ties with France which is the strong global power in the western Indian Ocean.
  • It lends depth to India’s SAGAR (security and growth for all in the region) policy unveiled by PM Modi in 2015.
  • The move, India hopes, would lead to greater security cooperation with countries in East Africa.

Higher Education – RUSA, NIRF, HEFA, etc.

Nature Index, 2020

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nature Index

Mains level : NA

India has ranked twelfth, globally in science research output as per the recently-released Nature Index table 2020. The top five positions have gone to the United States of America, China, Germany, United Kingdom and Japan.

Note: This nature index has nothing to do with nature conservation. It has only mentioned the rankings of research institutes in natural and physical sciences.

What is the Nature Index?

  • The Nature Index is a database of author affiliation information collated from research articles published in an independently selected group of 82 high-quality science journals.
  • It serves as an indicator of high-quality research in the Natural and Physical Sciences.
  • The database is compiled by Nature Research, a division of the international scientific publishing company Springer Nature that publishes academic journals.
  • The index provides a close to the real-time proxy of high-quality research output and collaboration at the institutional, national and regional level.

India’s achievements

  • Globally the top-rated Indian institutions in this list are CSIR, a group of 39 institutions at the 160th position and IISc Bangalore at the 184th
  • Three of the autonomous institutions of the DST have found their place among the top 30 Indian Institutions.
  • Keeping out CSIR, which is a cluster of institutions, IACS Kolkata is among the top three institutions in quality Chemistry Research in India.
  • NCASR Banglore ranks 4th among academic institutions in life sciences, 10th in Chemistry and Physical Sciences, 10th among Indian academic institutions, and 469th in the global ranking.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : IPAC

Mains level : Global move to curb Chinese overambitions

Senior lawmakers from eight democracies including the US have united to counter Communist China. They have launched the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC).

Points to ponder:

The world is growing conscious against China after its coronavirus adventure. IPAC is the first step towards the institutionalization of the Anti-China consciousness!

What should be India’s stance here?

IPAC

  • IPAC is a new cross-parliamentary alliance to help counter what the threat posed by China’s growing influence on global trade, security and human rights.
  • The participating nations include the US, Germany, UK, Japan, Australia, Canada, Sweden, Norway, as well as members of the European parliament.
  • It is an international cross-party group of legislators working towards reform on how democratic countries approach China.
  • Comprised of legislators from eight democracies it will be led by a group of co-chairs who are senior politicians drawn from a representative cross-section of the world’s major political parties.
  • The group aims to “construct appropriate and coordinated responses, and to help craft a proactive and strategic approach on issues related to China.”

India’s Bid to a Permanent Seat at United Nations

India launches campaign brochure for UNSC seat

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : UNSC

Mains level : Significance of UNSC membership for India

India has launched its campaign brochure ahead of elections for five non-permanent members of UNSC.

Practice question for mains:

Q. By any calculus, India will qualify for UNSC permanent seat. Analyse.

India’s agenda for UNSC

The normal process of international governance has been under increasing strain as frictions have increased. Traditional and non-traditional security challenges continue to grow unchecked. India will highlight:

  • International terrorism
  • UN reforms and Security Council expansion, and
  • Streamlining the world body’s peacekeeping operations
  • Various technological initiatives

India and UNSC

  • India is guaranteed a place in the UNSC as it is the sole candidate for Asia-Pacific but needs two-thirds of the 193-member General Assembly to vote in its favour in a secret ballot scheduled this month in New York.
  • While India is expected to sail through with the 129 votes required for the seat, the government is setting its sights on much higher numbers than that ahead of the election.
  • In 2010, when India stood for the UNSC seat of 2011-2012, it won 187 of the 190 votes polled.

Streamlining new NORMS

  • This will be the eighth time India will occupy a non-permanent UNSC seat, with its last stint in 2011-2012.
  • India’s overall objective during this tenure in the UN Security Council will be the achievement of N.O.R.M.S: a New Orientation for a Reformed Multilateral System.

Non-permanent membership  isn’t a cup of tea

  • The government launched its plan for the UNSC seat as far back as 2013, officials said, with a keen eye on 2021, and the year that will mark its 75th year of Independence.
  • To our good fortune, the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan agreed, in a gesture to our friendship, to step aside for the 2021-22 seats.
  • The next big challenge was to pursue the Asia-Pacific grouping nomination without any last-minute contenders being propped up against India.
  • While diplomacy between capitals certainly helps, the vote had to be tied down by negotiations on the ground.
  • India was able to win a unanimous endorsement from the 55-nation grouping that included both China and Pakistan, in June 2019.

Back2Basics: United Nations Security Council

  • The UNSC is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations and is charged with the maintenance of international peace and security.
  • Its powers include the establishment of peacekeeping operations, the establishment of international sanctions, and the authorization of military action through Security Council resolutions.
  • It is the only UN body with the authority to issue binding resolutions to member states.
  • The Security Council consists of fifteen members. Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, and the United States—serve as the body’s five permanent members.
  • These permanent members can veto any substantive Security Council resolution, including those on the admission of new member states or candidates for Secretary-General.
  • The Security Council also has 10 non-permanent members, elected on a regional basis to serve two-year terms. The body’s presidency rotates monthly among its members.

Also read:

India’s Bid to United Nations Permanent Seat

Climate Change Negotiations – UNFCCC, COP, Other Conventions and Protocols

‘Race to Zero’ campaign

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level :  ‘Race to Zero’ campaign, Carbon offset

Mains level : Not Much

The UN has launched the “Race to Zero” campaign ahead of delayed COP 26 Climate Talks.

Possible question for prelims:

The ‘Race to Zero’ campaign often seen in news is related to zeroing: Global Hunger/Carbon Emission/HR violations/None of these.

 ‘Race to Zero’ campaign

  • The campaign aims to codify commitments made via the Climate Ambition Alliance (CAA), which launched ahead of last year’s COP25 in Madrid.
  • It encourages countries, companies, and other entities to deliver structured net-zero greenhouse-gas emission pledges by the time the talks begin.
  • This messaging for the campaign — carried out under the aegis of the UNFCCC— seeks to emphasise the potential for non-state actors to raise climate ambition.
  • The campaign refers to these as ‘real economy actors’, noting they “cover just over half the gross domestic product, a quarter of global CO2 emissions and over 2.6 billion people”.

About the Climate Ambition Alliance

  • The CAA currently includes 120 nations and several other private players that have committed to achieving zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
  • Signatories are responsible for 23 per cent of current greenhouse-gas emissions worldwide and 53 per cent of global GDP.

What Are the Criteria?

  • The minimum criteria for establishing a recognized pledge were developed through dialogues coordinated by Oxford University.
  • The pledges must include a clear net-zero target date no later than 2050, they must also begin immediately and include interim targets.
  • Much like the Paris Agreement itself, the criteria are designed to strengthen over time, but they begin at a level that reflects current best practices.

Issue over offsetting

  • Offsets are emission-reductions generated outside a company’s own operations, and they are used in both compliance programs to meet mandated emission caps (“cap and trade”) and involuntary programs to reduce a company’s overall impact (voluntary carbon markets).
  • The Race to Zero criteria emphasizes that if offsets are ultimately recognized, they must only be used to neutralize residual emissions that can’t be eliminated internally – at least not immediately.

Contention over South China Sea

What is the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA)?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA)

Mains level : VFA and its significance for the US

Security issue in the disputed South China Sea has helped convince the Philippines to delay quitting a key U.S. military pact called the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

Practice question for mains:

Q. What’s behind diplomatic tensions in the South China Sea? How it is set to become another flashpoint between the US and China?

The Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA)

  • A VFA is a version of a status of forces agreement that only applies to troops temporarily in a country.
  • The US military operates around the world thanks to Status of Forces Agreements (SOFA) in 100 or so countries.
  • Similarly, the VFA spells out the rules, guidelines and legal status of the US military when operating in the Philippines.
  • The VFA also affirms the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty as well as the 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement — agreements that enable the U.S. military to conduct joint exercises and operations in the Philippines.
  • It came into force on May 27, 1999, upon ratification by the Senate of the Philippines.
  • It also exempts U.S. military personnel from visa and passport regulations in the Philippines.

Significance of VFA

  • Both the US and Philippines remain wary of Beijing’s actions in the South China Sea (SCS). The VFA, therefore, act as an insurance policy against Chinese threats.
  • Terminating the VFA would leave the U.S. military without any legal or operational standing in the Philippines — and that’s a problem for the alliance.
  • Without a VFA, the U.S. military would not be able to support either of these defence agreements.

Philippines-China spat on SCS

  • The Philippines has had diplomatic spats with China over the Scarborough Shoal and Spratlys in particular.
  • It says China’s “nine-dash line”, which China uses to demarcate its territorial claims, is unlawful under the UNCLOS convention.
  • The SCS is also a major shipping route and home to fishing grounds that supply the livelihoods of people across the region.

Back2Basics: South China Sea Row

  • It is a dispute over territory and sovereignty over ocean areas, and the Paracels and the Spratlys – two island chains claimed in whole or in part by a number of countries.
  • China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei all have competing claims.
  • Alongside the fully-fledged islands, there are dozens of rocky outcrops, atolls, sandbanks and reefs, such as the Scarborough Shoal.
  • China claims by far the largest portion of territory – an area defined by the “nine-dash line” which stretches hundreds of miles south and east from its most southerly province of Hainan.
  • Beijing says its right to the area goes back centuries to when the Paracel and Spratly island chains were regarded as integral parts of the Chinese nation, and in 1947 it issued a map detailing its claims.
  • It showed the two island groups falling entirely within its territory. Those claims are mirrored by Taiwan.

Spat over Chinese claims

  • China has backed its expansive claims with island-building and naval patrols.
  • The US says it does not take sides in territorial disputes but has sent military ships and planes near disputed islands, calling them “freedom of navigation” operations to ensure access to key shipping and air routes.
  • Both sides have accused each other of “militarizing” the South China Sea.
  • There are fears that the area is becoming a flashpoint, with potentially serious global consequences.

With inputs from Washington Post