The Crisis In The Middle East

Israel vs. Palestine Row over Gaza

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : West Bank, Gaza

Mains level : Israel-Palestine Issue

India has termed Gaza violence as grave concern and called for immediate resumption of talk between Israel and Palestine.

Here we explain the roots of the Israel-Palestine conflict, the two-state solution and why it has not materialized.

What is the Israel-Palestine conflict?

  • The land to which Jews and Palestinians lay claim to was under the Ottoman Empire and then the British Empire in early 20th century.
  • Palestinian people —the Arab people from the same area— want to have a state by the name of Palestine in that area.
  • The conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is over who gets what land and how it’s controlled.
  • Jews fleeing the persecution in Europe at the time wanted to establish a Jewish state on the land which they believe to be their ancient homeland.
  • The Arab at the time resisted, saying the land was theirs.
  • The land at the time was called Palestine.
  • In 1917’s Balfour Declaration, the United Kingdom declared its support for the establishment of a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine.
  • Arabs resisted it which led to violence.

When did the migration begin?

  • Some 75,000 Jews migrated to Palestine from1922-26 and some 60,000 Jews emigrated in 1935, according to a history published by the University of Central Arkansas.
  • It adds that Palestinian Arabs demanded the UK to halt Jewish emigration, but the UK ignored such calls. There were violent incidents, leading to deaths of some 500 people.
  • In 1923, the British Mandate for Palestine came into effect.
  • The document was issued by the League of Nations, the failed predecessor of the United Nations (UN).
  • The Mandate gave the UK the responsibility for creating a Jewish national homeland in the region.
  • In 1936, the UK government, recommended the partition of Palestine into Jewish and Arab states.

Issue at the UN

  • In 1947, Britain referred the issue of Palestine to the UN, which came up with a partition plan.
  • It put up two proposals. One, two separate states joined economically —the majority proposal— and, two, a single bi-national state made up of autonomous Jewish and Palestinian areas, the minority proposal.
  • The Jewish community approved of the first of these proposals, while the Arabs opposed them both.

Israel declares independence

  • In May 1948, Israel declared its independence.
  • The Arab countries of Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Egypt invaded the newly-declared country immediately.
  • When the war ended, Israel gained some territory formerly granted to Palestinian Arabs under the UN resolution in 1947.
  • It also retained control over the Gaza Strip and the West Bank respectively.

The two-state solution and why it hasn’t worked out

  • The two-state solution refers to an arrangement where Israeli and Palestinian states co-exist in the region.
  • However, such a solution has not materialised over the decades.
  • As outlined in the beginning and in the briefly explained roots of the conflict, the two-state solution means two separate states for Israelis and Palestinians.

There are four main reasons why the two-state solution has not materialized by now:

[1] Borders

  • There is no consensus as to how to draw the lines dividing the two proposed states.
  • Many people say borders should have pre-1967 lines.
  • In 1967 Israeli-Arab war, Israel captured Sinai Peninsula, Gaza Strip, West Bank, Old City of Jerusalem, and Golan Heights.
  • Israel is not willing to give up these gains. It returned Sinai to Egypt in 1982.
  • Moreover, there is the question of Israeli settlements in West Bank.

[2] Question of Jerusalem

  • Both Israel and Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their capital and call it central to their religion and culture.
  • The two-state solution typically calls for dividing it into an Israeli West and a Palestinian East, but it is not easy to draw the line — Jewish, Muslim and Christian holy sites are on top of one another.
  • Israel has declared Jerusalem its ‘undivided capital’, effectively annexing its eastern half, and has built up construction that entrenches Israeli control of the city.

[3] Refugees

  • A large number of Palestinians had to flee in the 1948 War.
  • They and their descendants —numbering at 5 million— demand a right to return. Israel rejects this.
  • The return of these people would end the demographic majority of Jews, ending the idea of Israel that’s both democratic and Jewish.

[4] Security

  • Security concerns are also central to Israel as it’s constantly harassed by terrorist group Hamas that controls Gaza Strip.
  • Hamas and other Islamist group in Gaza launch rockets into Israel time-to-time.
  • Moreover, there are also concerns of Palestinians’ attack inside Israel.
  • This year in March-April, at least 18 Israelis were killed in Palestinian attacks inside Israel.
  • A total of 27 Palestinians were also killed in the period, including those who carried out attacks inside Israel. Palestinians too have their concerns.
  • For Palestinians, security means an end to foreign military occupation.

Why the two-state solution is needed?

  • Besides fulfilling the basic desire of both Jews and Arabs of their own states, supporters of two-state solutions say it must be backed because its alternatives are simply not workable.
  • A single state merging Israel, West Bank, and Gaza would reduce Jews to a minority.
  • At the same time, in such a state, Jews would be a significant minority which would mean that the Arab majority would be miffed.

Moral reasoning too for a two-state solution

  • It says that the aspirations of one person should not be overridden for others’ aspirations.
  • It’s a struggle for collective rights between two distinct groups of people.
  • Jews are the global micro-minority with a very small piece of land to exist.
  • Depriving Israeli Jews of a Jewish state or Palestinians of a Palestinian state would represent a subordination of one group’s aspirations to someone else’s vision.

Way forward

  • India opines that long-term peace in Israel and Palestine can be achieved only through a negotiated two-State solution leading.
  • This can be done with the establishment of a sovereign, independent and viable State of Palestine living within secure and recognized borders.

 

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J&K – The issues around the state

MEA lashes OIC for remark on Kashmir

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : OIC

Mains level : Not Much

India has said the statement by the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation on Jammu and Kashmir “reeked of bigotry”.

What did the MEA say?

  • The Ministry of External Affairs said the Saudi Arabia -based OIC continued to issue statements on J&K at the behest of a serial violator of human rights and notorious promoter of terrorism, indicating Pakistan.

What is OIC?

  • The OIC — formerly Organisation of the Islamic Conference — is the world’s second-largest inter-governmental organization after the UN, with a membership of 57 states.
  • The OIC’s stated objective is “to safeguard and protect the interests of the Muslim world in the spirit of promoting international peace and harmony among various people of the world”.
  • OIC has reserved membership for Muslim-majority countries. Russia, Thailand, and a couple of other small countries have Observer status.

India and OIC

  • At the 45th session of the Foreign Ministers’ Summit in 2018, Bangladesh suggested that India, where more than 10% of the world’s Muslims live, should be given Observer status.
  • In 1969, India was dis-invited from the Conference of Islamic Countries in Rabat, Morocco at Pakistan’s behest.
  • Then Agriculture Minister Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed was dis-invited upon arrival in Morocco after Pakistan President Yahya Khan lobbied against Indian participation.

Recent developments

  • In 2019, India made its maiden appearance at the OIC Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Abu Dhabi, as a “guest of honor”.
  • This first-time invitation was seen as a diplomatic victory for New Delhi, especially at a time of heightened tensions with Pakistan following the Pulwama attack.
  • Pakistan had opposed the invitation to Swaraj and it boycotted the plenary after the UAE turned down its demand to rescind the invitation.

What is the OIC’s stand on Kashmir?

  • It has been generally supportive of Pakistan’s stand on Kashmir and has issued statements criticizing India.
  • Last year, after India revoked Article 370 in Kashmir, Pakistan lobbied with the OIC for their condemnation of the move.
  • To Pakistan’s surprise, Saudi Arabia and the UAE — both top leaders among the Muslim countries — issued nuanced statements, and were not as harshly critical of New Delhi as Islamabad had hoped.
  • Since then, Islamabad has tried to rouse sentiments among the Islamic countries, but only a handful of them — Turkey and Malaysia — publicly criticized India.

How has India been responding?

  • India has consistently underlined that J&K is an integral part of India and is a matter strictly internal to India.
  • The strength with which India has made this assertion has varied slightly at times, but never the core message.
  • It has maintained its “consistent and well-known” stand that the OIC had no locus standi.
  • This time, India went a step ahead and said the grouping continues to allow itself to be used by a certain country “which has a record on religious tolerance, radicalism, and persecution of minorities”.

OIC members and India

  • Individually, India has good relations with almost all member nations. Ties with the UAE and Saudi Arabia, especially, have looked up significantly in recent years.
  • The OIC includes two of India’s close neighbors, Bangladesh and Maldives.
  • Indian diplomats say both countries privately admit they do not want to complicate their bilateral ties with India on Kashmir but play along with OIC.

Way ahead

  • India now sees the duality of the OIC as untenable, since many of these countries have good bilateral ties and convey to India to ignore OIC statements.
  • But these countries sign off on the joint statements which are largely drafted by Pakistan.
  • India feels it important to challenge the double-speak since Pakistan’s campaign and currency on the Kashmir issue has hardly any takers in the international community.

 

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Terrorism and Challenges Related To It

UNSC

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : UN-CTC

Mains level : Counter-terrorism initiatives by the UN

In a first, India will host diplomats and officials from all 15 countries of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), including China, Russia and the US, for a special meeting on terrorism, in Delhi and Mumbai in October.

Key determinants of the meet

The special meeting will specifically focus on three significant areas:

  1. Internet and social media
  2. Terrorism financing
  3. Unmanned aerial systems

What is Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC)?

  • The CTC is a subsidiary body of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).
  • The 15-member CTC was established at the same time to monitor the implementation of the resolution.
  • In the wake of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks in the US, the UNSC unanimously adopted resolution 1373.
  • This among its provisions obliges all States
  1. To criminalize assistance for terrorist activities,
  2. Deny financial support and safe haven to terrorists and
  3. Share information about groups planning terrorist attacks

Its executive body

  • Seeking to revitalize the Committee’s work, in 2004 the Security Council adopted Resolution 1535.
  • It created the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED) to provide the CTC with expert advice on all areas covered by resolution 1373.
  • It was established also with the aim of facilitating technical assistance to countries, as well as promoting closer cooperation and coordination both within the UN.

Its working

  • While the CTC is not a direct capacity provider it does act as a broker between those states or groups that have the relevant capacities and those in the need of assistance.
  • While the ultimate aim of the Committee is to increase the ability of States to fight terrorism, it is not a sanctions body nor does it maintain a list of terrorist groups or individuals.

Significance of the event

  • India has been pushing for the UN members to adopt a Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (first proposed in 1996), which is likely to be raised during the meeting.
  • The event will showcase India’s role as a victim of terrorism as well as a country at the forefront of global counter-terrorism efforts.
  • CTC meeting in India could also pave the way for a possible visit to New York by PM Narendra Modi in December, when India will be the President of the UNSC for the entire month.

Way ahead: Hitting the nerve

  • While terror financing was now recognised by FATF, it was necessary to build templates and “codes of conduct” for newer threats.
  • Today terror financing now includes financing through cryptocurrency and the use of drones for terror attacks.

 

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Animal Husbandry, Dairy & Fisheries Sector – Pashudhan Sanjivani, E- Pashudhan Haat, etc

World Dairy Summit 2022 to be held in India after 48 years

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : IDF-WDS

Mains level : India's dairy sector

At a time when several milk-producing centers are battling Lumpy Skin Disease (LSD), India will host the International Dairy Federation’s World Dairy Summit 2022 in Greater Noida.

World Dairy Summit

  • The World Dairy Summit is an annual meeting of the global dairy sector, bringing together approximately 1500 participants from all over the world.
  • The participant profile includes CEOs and employees of dairy processing companies, dairy farmers, suppliers to the dairy industry, academicians, government representatives, etc.
  • The summit is composed of a series of scientific and technical conferences and social events including a welcome reception, farmers’ dinner, gala dinner as well as technical and social tours.
  • The last World Dairy Summit was organised in 1974 in New Delhi.

Significance of the event

  • It is a prestigious event for us as India is now the largest milk producer in the world and we have the highest number of cattle.
  • The last time this event was held, India was import-dependent and now we are self-sufficient.

Back2Basics: India’s dairy sector

  • Initiated in 1970, Operation Floodtransformed India into one of the largest milk producers.
  • The per capita availability of milk in 2018-19 was 394 grams per day as against the world average of 302 grams.
  • Today with an annual production of 187.75 million tonnes India accounts for about 22% of the world’s milk production.
  • However, India is yet to join the ranks of major milk exporting nations, as much of what we produce is directed towards meeting domestic demands.

 

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

UN declares Access to Clean, Healthy Environment as Universal Human Right

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Article 21

Mains level : Read the attached story

Every person on the planet has the right to live in a clean, healthy environment, as declared United Nations (UN) in a historic resolution.

Access to Clean, Healthy Environment

  • The resolution recognizes the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment as a human right essential for the full enjoyment of all human rights and, among others.
  • It calls upon States and international organizations to adopt policies and scale up efforts to ensure a clean, healthy and sustainable environment for all.
  • The landmark development demonstrates that the member states can unite in the collective fight against the triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution.
  • The declaration sheds light on almost all the rights connected to the health of our environment.
  • The declaration adopted by over 160 UN member nations, including India, is not legally binding.

Why such move?

  • This right was not included in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948.
  • So, this is a historic resolution that will change the very nature of international human rights law.
  • The resolution will help to reduce environmental injustices and protection gaps.
  • It can empower people, especially those in vulnerable situations, including environmental human rights defenders, children, youth, women and indigenous people.

Landmark resolution after 50 years

  • Some 50 years ago, the United Nations Conference on the Environment in Stockholm concluded with a resolution placing environmental issues at the global forefront.
  • Today, over 176 countries have adopted environmental framework laws on the basis of it.
  • From a foothold in the 1972 Stockholm Declaration, these rights have been integrated into constitutions, national laws and regional agreements.
  • In October 2021, it was recognised by the UN Human Rights Council.

What were other such developments?

  • July 28, 2010, the UN general assembly recognised the right to water and sanitation through its resolution.
  • It stated that clean drinking water and sanitation “are essential to the realisation of all human rights”.
  • In response to this, governments across the world have changed their laws and regulations related to water and sanitation.

Issues over this declaration

  • The words’ ‘clean’, ‘healthy’ and ‘sustainable’ lack an internationally agreed definition.
  • The text fails to refer to the foundational principle of equity in international environmental law.
  • Nevertheless, this has given more power in the hands of environmental activists to question environmentally destructive actions and policies.

Back2Basics: Right to Clean Environment in India

  • The right to life has been used in a diversified manner in India.
  • It includes, inter alia, the right to survive as a species, quality of life, the right to live with dignity and the right to livelihood.
  • In India, this has been expressly recognised as a constitutional right under Article 21.
  • It states: ‘No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedures established by law.’
  • The Supreme Court expanded this negative right in two ways.
  1. Firstly, any law affecting personal liberty should be reasonable, fair and just.
  2. Secondly, the Court recognized several unarticulated liberties that were implied by article 21.
  • It is by this second method that the Supreme Court interpreted the right to life and personal liberty to include the right to a clean environment.

 

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Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

UN panel tells Hong Kong to repeal National Security Law

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Honkong, Taiwan

Mains level : Honkong, Taiwan issue

Hong Kong’s controversial national security law should be repealed, experts on the UN Human Rights Committee said, amid concerns the legislation is being used to crack down on free speech and dissent in the former British colony.

Why in news?

  • Chinese and Hong Kong officials have repeatedly used the NSL imposed by Beijing in 2020 to restore stability after the city was rocked for months by sometimes violent anti-government and anti-China protests in 2019.
  • The committee, which monitors the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) by state parties, released its findings on Hong Kong following a periodic review.
  • The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is a signatory to the ICCPR but China is not.

About Hong Kong

  • A former British Colony and Autonomous Territory: Hong Kong is an autonomous territory, and a former British colony, in south-eastern China.
  • It became a colony of the British Empire at the end of the First Opium War in 1842.
  • Sovereignty over the territory was returned to China in 1997.
  • Special Administrative Region (SAR): As a SAR, Hong Kong maintains governing power and economic systems that are separate from those of mainland China.
  • The 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration guarantees the Basic Law for 50 years after the transfer of sovereignty.
  • It does not specify how Hong Kong will be governed after 2047.
  • Thus, the central government’s role in determining the territory’s future system of government is the subject of political debate and speculation in Hong kong.

What is this law all about?

  • Hong Kong was always meant to have a security law, but could never pass one because it was so unpopular.
  • So this is about China stepping in to ensure the city has a legal framework to deal with what it sees as serious challenges to its authority.
  • The details of the law’s 66 articles were kept secret until after it was passed. It criminalises any act of:
  1. Secession – breaking away from the country
  2. Subversion – undermining the power or authority of the central government
  3. Terrorism – using violence or intimidation against people
  4. Collusion–  with foreign or external forces

What provisions do fall under the law?

  • The law came into effect at 23:00 local time on 30 June 2020, an hour before the 23rd anniversary of the city’s handover to China from British rule.
  • It gives Beijing power to shape life in Hong Kong it has never had before.
  • Its key provisions include:
  1. Crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces are punishable by a maximum sentence of life in prison
  2. Damaging public transport facilities can be considered terrorism
  3. Those found guilty will not be allowed to stand for public office
  4. Companies can be fined if convicted under the law
  5. This office can send some cases to be tried in mainland China – but Beijing has said it will only have that power over a “tiny number” of cases
  6. In addition, Hong Kong will have to establish its own national security commission to enforce the laws, with a Beijing-appointed adviser
  7. Hong Kong’s chief executive will have the power to appoint judges to hear national security cases, raising fears about judicial autonomy
  8. Importantly, Beijing will have power over how the law should be interpreted, not any Hong Kong judicial or policy body. If the law conflicts with any Hong Kong law, the Beijing law takes priority
  9. Some trials will be heard behind closed doors.
  10. People suspected of breaking the law can be wire-tapped and put under surveillance
  11. Management of foreign non-governmental organizations and news agencies will be strengthened
  12. The law will also apply to non-permanent residents and people “from outside [Hong Kong]… who are not permanent residents of Hong Kong“.

What has changed in Hong Kong since the law was introduced?

  • Hundreds of protestors, activists and former opposition lawmakers have been arrested since the law came into force.
  • The arrests are an ominous sign that its crackdown on Hong Kong is only going to escalate.
  • Beijing has said the law is needed to bring stability to the city, but critics say it is designed to squash dissent.

Why did China do this?

  • Hong Kong was handed back to China from British control in 1997.
  • But under a unique agreement – a mini-constitution called the Basic Law and a so-called “one country, two systems” principle.
  • They are supposed to protect certain freedoms for Hong Kong: freedom of assembly and speech, an independent judiciary and some democratic rights – freedoms that no other part of mainland China has.
  • Under the same agreement, Hong Kong had to enact its own national security law – this was set out in Article 23 of the Basic Law – but it never happened because of its unpopularity.

How can China do this?

  • Many might ask how China can do this if the city was supposed to have freedoms guaranteed under the handover agreement.
  • The Basic Law says Chinese laws can’t be applied in Hong Kong unless they are listed in a section called Annex III – there are already a few listed there, mostly uncontroversial and around foreign policy.
  • These laws can be introduced by decree – which means they bypass the city’s parliament.
  • Critics say the introduction of the law this way amounts to a breach of the “one country, two systems” principle, which is so important to Hong Kong – but clearly, it is technically possible to do this.

Must read:

[Burning Issue] National Security Law debate in Hong Kong

 

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Foreign Policy Watch: United Nations

India’s role in UN Peacekeeping Missions

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : United Nations Peacekeeping

Mains level : Read the attached story

Two BSF personnel recently got martyrdom who were part of the UN Peacekeeping Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Why in news?

  • A total 175 Indian peacekeepers have so far died while serving with the United Nations.
  • India has lost more peacekeepers than any other UN Member State.

What is United Nations Peacekeeping?

  • UN Peacekeeping helps countries navigate the difficult path from conflict to peace.
  • UN peacekeepers are often referred to as Blue Berets or Blue Helmets because of their light blue berets or helmets) can include soldiers, police officers, and civilian personnel.

UNPKF in operation

  • Since 1948, UN Peacekeepers have undertaken 71 Field Missions.
  • There are approximately 81,820 personnel serving on 13 peace operations led by UNDPO, in four continents currently.
  • This represents a nine-fold increase since 1999.
  • A total of 119 countries have contributed military and police personnel to UN peacekeeping.
  • Currently, 72,930 of those serving are troops and military observers, and about 8,890 are police personnel.

India’s contribution to UN Peacekeeping

  • India has a long history of service in UN Peacekeeping, having contributed more personnel than any other country.
  • To date, more than 2,53,000 Indians have served in 49 of the 71 UN Peacekeeping missions established around the world since 1948.
  • Currently, there are around 5,500 troops and police from India who have been deployed to UN Peacekeeping missions, the fifth highest amongst troop-contributing countries.
  • India has also provided and continues to provide, eminent Force Commanders for UN Missions.
  • India is the fifth largest troop contributor (TCC) with 5,323 personnel deployed in 8 out of 13 active UN Peacekeeping Missions, of which 166 are police personnel.

History of India’s contribution

  • India’s contribution to UN Peacekeeping began with its participation in the UN operation in Korea in the 1950s.
  • This is where India’s mediatory role in resolving the stalemate over prisoners of war in Korea led to the signing of the armistice that ended the Korean War.
  • India chaired the five-member Neutral Nations Repatriation Commission, while the Indian Custodian Force supervised the process of interviews and repatriation that followed.
  • The UN entrusted the Indian armed forces with subsequent peace missions in the Middle East, Cyprus, and the Congo (since 1971, Zaire).
  • India also served as Chair of the three international commissions for supervision and control for Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos established by the 1954 Geneva Accords on Indochina.

Role of women in Indian Peacekeeping

  • India has been sending women personnel on UN Peacekeeping Missions.
  • In 2007, India became the first country to deploy an all-women contingent to a UN Peacekeeping Mission.
  • The Formed Police Unit in Liberia provided 24-hour guard duty and conducted night patrols in the capital Monrovia, and helped to build the capacity of the Liberian police.
  • These women officers not only played a role in restoring security in the West African nation but also contributed to an increase in the number of women in Liberia’s security sector.

Medical care as part of India’s Missions

  • In addition to their security role, the members of the Indian Formed Police Unit also organized medical camps for Liberians, many of whom have limited access to health care services.
  • Medical care is among the many services Indian Peacekeepers provide to the communities in which they serve on behalf of the Organization.
  • They also perform specialized tasks such as veterinary support and engineering services.

India’s views on UN Peacekeeping

  • India is of the view that the international community must grasp the rapid changes that are underway in the nature and role of contemporary peacekeeping operations.
  • The Security Council’s mandates to UN Peacekeeping operations need to be rooted in ground realities, and co-related with the resources provided for the peacekeeping operation.
  • It is critical that troop and police contributing countries should be fully involved at all stages and in all aspects of mission planning.
  • There should be greater financial and human resources for peace-building in post-conflict societies, where UNPKOs have been mandated, according to officials.

 

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OBOR Initiative

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : CPEC, BRI

Mains level : Read the attached story

India has severely criticized the reported move by both China and Pakistan for third-party participation in some projects on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) that passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)

  • The CPEC, one of the most ambitious components of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), was announced to great fanfare in 2015.
  • CPEC is a collection of infrastructure projects that are under construction throughout Pakistan beginning in 2013.
  • Originally valued at $47 billion, the value of CPEC projects is worth $62 billion as of 2020.
  • It is intended to rapidly upgrade Pakistan’s required infrastructure and strengthen its economy by the construction of modern transportation networks, numerous energy projects, and SEZs.
  • On 13 November 2016, CPEC became partly operational when Chinese cargo was transported overland to Gwadar Port for onward maritime shipment to Africa and West Asia.

Why CPEC?

  • CPEC has consistently been held up as a “gamechanger” for Pakistan’s economy.
  • But the road to completion has proved long and winding. Reports indicate that the pace of CPEC projects has been slowing down in Pakistan in recent years.
  • At the same time, China is the only country that is heavily investing in Pakistan.

Why in news?

  • The lack of progress has led to numerous reports about CPEC being at a near standstill in the country.
  • Gwadar, despite being the epicenter of multibillion-dollar projects, lacks basic necessities like reliable access to water and electricity, let alone other facilities.
  • The baloch freedom movement is another impediment to the stalled project.
  • There have been sporadic attacks in Gwadar and elsewhere in the province and the country to discourage Chinese investments in the province.
  • China is also seeking to deploy its Army in the CPEC projects, to which Pakistan has contested.

India’s reservation

  • The GoI, which shares tense relations with Pakistan, objects to the CPEC project as upgrade works to the Karakoram Highway are taking place in Gilgit-Baltistan.
  • This is the territory illicitly occupied by Pakistan in 1947-48.
  • During the visit of Indian PM Modi to China in 2015, the Indian FM, Sushma Swaraj reportedly told the Chinese.
  • India did not object to the Chinese construction of the Karakoram Highway which was built between 1959 and 1979.

 

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Foreign Policy Watch: India-Pakistan

Pakistan and IMF talks: What lies ahead?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : IMF

Mains level : Pakistan economic crisis, Debt trap

The latest IMF press release maintains it would consider an extension of the current Extended Fund Facility (EFF) to end June 2023 and augment the fund amount to $7 billion for Pakistan.

Pakistan seeks IMF bailout

  • Surprisingly, it took five months to reach the staff-level agreement.
  • The total disbursement under the current EFF to Pakistan has now been $4.2 billion.
  • The talks were originally aimed at releasing a tranche of $900 million.

What is Extended Fund Facility (EFF)?

  • The EFF was established by the IMF to provide assistance to countries experiencing serious payment imbalances because of structural impediments or slow growth and an inherently weak balance-of-payments position.
  • An EFF provides support for comprehensive programs including the policies needed to correct structural imbalances over an extended period.

What was the Pakistani EFF?

  • The 39-month EFF between the two was signed in July 2019 to provide funds amounting to Self-Drawing Rights (SDR) — $4,268 million.
  • The EFF was signed by Pakistan to address the medium-term balance of payment problem, and work on structural impediments and increase per capita income.

Why did the talks take longer to conclude?

  • The IMF placed demands (all of which seem impossible for Pakistan) includes :
  1. Fiscal consolidation to reduce debt and build resilience
  2. Market-determined exchange rate to restore competitiveness
  3. Eliminate ‘quasi-fiscal’ losses in the energy sector and
  4. Strengthened institutions with transparency
  • Ousted Pakistani PM eased fuel prices. This was considered a major deviation under the EFF benchmarks.
  • Then govt gave tax amnesties to the industrial sector, impacted the tax regime and a structural benchmark for fiscal consolidation.
  • The IMF insisted on its demands before approving any release of the tranche.

How important is the IMF support to Pakistan?

  • Pakistan’s economic situation is dire.
  • According to the Economic Survey of Pakistan 2022, the fiscal deficit in FY 22 was $18.6 billion, and the net public debt at $252 billion, which is 66.3% of the GDP.
  • The power sector’s circular debt is $14 billion.

Why have the Pakistan-IMF relations remained complicated?

  • Structural reforms require long-term commitment, which have been sacrificed due to Pakistan’s short-sighted political goals.
  • Hence the urge to go to the IMF for fiscal stability has been repeated over time.

Risks posed by a failed Pakistan

  • There is also a narrative that Pakistan has the fifth largest population with nuclear weapons that cannot be allowed to fail.
  • A section within Pakistan also places the geo-strategic location of the country would provide an edge for cooperation, rather than coercion.
  • Hence, this section believes, the IMF would continue to support.
  • Given the IMF’s increased assertion, Pakistan’s political calculations and the elections ahead, the relationship between the two is likely to remain complicated.

What lies ahead for Pakistan and the IMF?

  • Despite the latest agreement, the road ahead for the IMF and Pakistan is not an easy one.
  • Political calculations and the elections ahead will play a role in Pakistan’s economic decision-making.
  • However, one thing is eminent Pakistan will certainly collapse someday badly like Sri Lanka.

Try this PYQ from CSP 2022

“Rapid Financing Instrument” and “Rapid Credit Facility” are related to the provisions of lending by which one of the following?

(a) Asian Development Bank

(b) International Monetary fund

(c) United National Environment Programme Finance initiative

(d) Word bank

 

Post your answer here.

Back2Basics: Special Drawing Rights (SDRs)

  • SDRs, created by the IMF in 1969, are an international reserve asset and are meant to supplement countries’ reserves.
  • Adding SDRs to the country’s international reserves makes it more financially resilient.
  • Providing liquidity support to developing and low-income countries allows them to tide over the balance of payments (BOP) situations like the one India has been experiencing due to the pandemic and the one it faced earlier in 1991.
  • SDRs being one of the components of foreign exchange reserves (FER) of a country, an increase in its holdings is reflected in the BOP.

 

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Foreign Policy Watch: India-SCO

Iran, Belarus to be newest SCO Members

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : SCO

Mains level : Read the attached story

Iran and Belarus are likely to be the two newest additions to the China and Russia-backed Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) grouping.

What is SCO?

Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO): a Formidable Alliance and its  Significance for India - Olive Greens Institute Blog- Olive Greens  Institute SSB | NDA | CDS

  • After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the then security and economic architecture in the Eurasian region dissolved and new structures had to come up.
  • The original Shanghai Five were China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan.
  • The SCO was formed in 2001, with Uzbekistan included. It expanded in 2017 to include India and Pakistan.
  • Since its formation, the SCO has focused on regional non-traditional security, with counter-terrorism as a priority.
  • The fight against the “three evils” of terrorism, separatism and extremism has become its mantra. Today, areas of cooperation include themes such as economics and culture.

India’s entry to the SCO

  • India and Pakistan both were observer countries.
  • While Central Asian countries and China were not in favor of expansion initially, the main supporter — of India’s entry in particular — was Russia.
  • A widely held view is that Russia’s growing unease about an increasingly powerful China prompted it to push for its expansion.
  • From 2009 onwards, Russia officially supported India’s ambition to join the SCO in 2017.
  • China then asked for its all-weather friend Pakistan’s entry.

Why expand now?

  • China and Russia are looking to frame the grouping as a counter to the West — particularly after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
  • China wishes to draw a sharp contrast between the SCO and NATO.

Changing narrative of SCO

  • There has been discussion in the international arena that the trend of non-alignment is back.
  • NATO is based on Cold War thinking.
  • The logic of NATO is creating new enemies to sustain its own existence.
  • However, SCO is a cooperative organisation based on non-alignment and not targeting a third party.

India and SCO: Present status

  • India will host the SCO summit next year, and Varanasi has been selected as the SCO region’s first “Tourism and Cultural Capital”.
  • India will also be chairing the summit.

Try this PYQ now:

In the context of the affairs of which of the following is the phrase “Special Safeguard Mechanisms” mentioned in the news frequently?

 

(a) United Nations Environment Programme

(b) World Trade Organization

(c) ASEAN- India Free Trade Agreement

(d) G-20 Summits

 

Post your answers here.

 

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Women empowerment issues – Jobs,Reservation and education

India ranks 135 out of 146 in Gender Gap Index

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Global Gender Gap Index

Mains level : Women empowerment

India ranks 135 among a total of 146 countries in the Global Gender Gap Index, 2022, released by the World Economic Forum.

What is Global Gender Gap Index?

  • The report is annually published by the World Economic Forum (WEF).
  • It benchmarks gender parity across four key dimensions or sub-indices — economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment.
  • It measures scores on a 0-to-100 scale, which can be interpreted as the distance covered towards parity or the percentage of the gender gap that has been closed.
  • The report aims to serve “as a compass to track progress on relative gaps between women and men on health, education, economy and politics”.
  • According to the WEF it is the longest-standing index, which tracks progress towards closing these gaps over time since its inception in 2006.

How has India fared on different sub-indices?

Here’s how it stands on different sub-indices:

(1) Political Empowerment

  • This includes metrics such as the percentage of women in Parliament, the percentage of women in ministerial positions etc.
  • Of all the sub-indices, this is where India ranks the highest (48th out of 146).
  • However, notwithstanding its rank, its score is quite low at 0.267.
  • Some of the best-ranking countries in this category score much better.
  • For instance, Iceland is ranked 1 with a score of 0.874 and Bangladesh is ranked 9 with a score of 0.546.
  • Moreover, India’s score on this metric has worsened since last year – from 0.276 to 0.267.
  • The silver lining is that despite the reduction, India’s score is above the global average in this category.

(2) Economic Participation and Opportunity

  • This includes metrics such as the percentage of women who are part of the labour force, wage equality for similar work, earned income etc.
  • Here, too, India ranks a lowly 143 out of the 146 countries in contention even though its score has improved over 2021 from 0.326 to 0.350.
  • Last year, India was pegged at 151 out of the 156 countries ranked.
  • India’s score is much lower than the global average, and only Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan are behind India on this metric.

(3) Educational Attainment

  • This sub-index includes metrics such as literacy rate and the enrolment rates in primary, secondary and tertiary education.
  • Here India ranks 107th out of 146, and its score has marginally worsened since last year.
  • In 2021, India was ranked 114 out of 156.

(4) Health and Survival

  • This includes two metrics: the sex ratio at birth (in %) and healthy life expectancy (in years).
  • In this metric, India is ranked last (146) among all the countries.
  • Its score hasn’t changed from 2021 when it was ranked 155th out of 156 countries.
  • The country is the worst performer in the world in the “health and survival” sub-index in which it is ranked 146.

Where does India stand amongst its neighbour?

  • India ranks poorly among its neighbours and is behind Bangladesh (71), Nepal (96), Sri Lanka (110), Maldives (117) and Bhutan (126).
  • Only the performance of Iran (143), Pakistan (145) and Afghanistan (146) was worse than India in South Asia.
  • In 2021, India ranked 140 out of 156 nations.

 

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G20 : Economic Cooperation ahead

Ex-NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant is new G-20 Sherpa

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Sherpa, G20

Mains level : G20 summit

Former NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant has been picked as India’s new Sherpa for the G-20.

Who is a Sherpa (in IR context)?

  • A Sherpa is the personal representative of a head of state or government who prepares an international summit, particularly the annual G7 and G20 summits.
  • Between the G7 summits, there are multiple Sherpa conferences where possible agreements are laid out.
  • This reduces the amount of time and resources required at the negotiations of the heads of state at the final summit.
  • The name Sherpa—without further context—refers to Sherpa for the G7 summit, but the designation can be extended to different regular conferences where the participation of the head of state is required.
  • The Sherpa is generally quite influential, although they do not have the authority to make a final decision about any given agreement.

Etymology

  • The name is derived from the Sherpa people, a Nepalese ethnic group, who serve as guides and porters in the Himalayas, a reference to the fact that the sherpa clears the way for a head of state at a major summit.
  • They are Tibetan Buddhists of the Nyingmapa sect, and have drawn much of their religious tradition from the Rongphu monastery, located at 16,000 feet on the north side of Mount Everest.

About G20

  • Formed in 1999, the G20 is an international forum of the governments and central bank governors from 20 major economies.
  • Collectively, the G20 economies account for around 85 percent of the Gross World Product (GWP), 80 percent of world trade.
  • To tackle the problems or address issues that plague the world, the heads of governments of the G20 nations periodically participate in summits.
  • In addition to it, the group also hosts separate meetings of the finance ministers and foreign ministers.
  • The G20 has no permanent staff of its own and its chairmanship rotates annually between nations divided into regional groupings.

Aims and objectives

  • The Group was formed with the aim of studying, reviewing, and promoting high-level discussion of policy issues pertaining to the promotion of international financial stability.
  • The forum aims to pre-empt the balance of payments problems and turmoil on financial markets by improved coordination of monetary, fiscal, and financial policies.
  • It seeks to address issues that go beyond the responsibilities of any one organization.

Members of G20

The members of the G20 consist of 19 individual countries plus the European Union (EU).

  • The 19 member countries of the forum are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, United Kingdom and the United States.
  • The European Union is represented by the European Commission and by the European Central Bank.

Its significance

  • G20 is a major international grouping that brings together 19 of the world’s major economies and the European Union.
  • Its members account for more than 80% of global GDP, 75% of trade and 60% of population.

India and G20

  • India has been a member of the G20 since its inception in 1999.

 

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

What is the EU’s Sustainable Finance Taxonomy?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : EU Taxonomy

Mains level : Not Much

Activists have been widely criticizing the EU’s sustainable finance taxonomy as a “greenwashing” exercise that puts the European Union’s climate change targets at risk.

What is the EU Taxonomy?

  • The EU taxonomy is a complex system to classify which parts of the economy may be marketed as sustainable investments.
  • It includes economic activities, as well as detailed environmental criteria that each economic activity must meet to earn a green label.

Why in news now?

  • Rules for most sectors came into effect this year, covering investments including steel plants, electric cars and building renovations.
  • The rules for gas and nuclear energy, however, have been long delayed amid intense lobbying from governments who disagree on whether the fuels help fight climate change.

What does it say about gas and nuclear energy?

  • The European Parliament supported that proposal in a vote paving the way for it to become law and apply from 2023.
  • Under the proposal, for a gas-fuelled power plant to be deemed green, it must emit no more than 270 grams of CO2 equivalent per kilowatt hour, or have average emissions of 550g CO2e/kW over 20 years.
  • It must also commit to switch to low-carbon gases by 2035.
  • Gas and nuclear power plants are classed as transitional activities.

What’s the taxonomy for?

  • The taxonomy does not ban investments in activities not labelled “green”, but it limits which ones companies and investors can claim are climate-friendly.
  • The EU’s goal to eliminate its net emissions by 2050 will require huge investments, much of it private funding.
  • The rules also aim to stamp out green-washing, where organisations exaggerate their environmental credentials, among so-called eco-friendly investment products.

Who does it apply to?

  • Providers of financial products – including pension providers – in the EU must disclose which investments comply with the taxonomy’s climate criteria.
  • For each investment, fund or portfolio, they must disclose what share of underlying investments comply with the rules.
  • Large companies and listed firms must also disclose what share of their turnover and capital expenditure complies.
  • That means polluting companies can get recognition for making green investments.
  • For example, if an oil company invested in a wind farm, it could label that expenditure as green.

What makes a “green” investment?

The rules classify three types of green investments.

  • First, those that substantially contribute to green goals, for example, wind power farms.
  • Second, those that enable other green activities, for example, facilities that can store renewable electricity or hydrogen.
  • Third, transitional activities that cannot be made fully sustainable, but which have emissions below industry average and do not lock in polluting assets or crowd out greener alternatives.

 

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OBOR Initiative

Status of China’s Belt and Road Initiative in South Asia

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : BRI

Mains level : Chinese BRI and its progress

China has felt a need to re-visit the various projects under the BRI in different South Asian countries.

Why in news?

  • At the recently concluded summit of G-7 leaders in Germany, US and his allies unveiled their $600 billion plan called the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Intelligence.
  • This is being seen as a counter to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), valued at a trillion U.S. dollars by some experts.

What is China’s Belt and Road Initiative?

  • In 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping, during his visits to Kazakhstan and Indonesia, expressed his vision to build a Silk Road Economic Belt and a 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.
  • He then aimed to break the “bottleneck” in Asian connectivity. This vision led to the birth of the BRI.
  • The initiative envisioned a Chinese-led investment of over $1 trillion in partner countries by 2025.
  • More than 60 countries have now joined BRI agreements with China, with infrastructure projects under the initiative being planned or under construction in Asia, Africa, Europe, and Latin America.

How does BRI work?

  • To finance BRI projects, China offers huge loans at commercial interest rates that countries have to pay within a fixed number of years.
  • The west has accused China of debt-trapping by extending “predatory loans” that force countries to cede key assets to China.
  • However, research indicates that low and middle-income countries are often the ones to approach China after not being able to secure loans from elsewhere.
  • In recent years, the BRI seems to have experienced a slowing down as annual Chinese lending to countries slimmed from its peak of $125 billion in 2015 to around $50 to 55 billion in 2021.

What have been the BRI’s investments in Pakistan?

  • On his 2015 visit to Pakistan, Xi unveiled the BRI’s flagship project and its biggest one in a single country — the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
  • The CPEC envisioned multiple projects involving energy, transport and communication systems.
  • At the centre of the CPEC was the $700 million development of the city of Gwadar into a smart port city that would become the “Singapore of Pakistan”.
  • Other major projects are the orange line metro, coal power plants to tackle energy shortages and the Main Line 1 rail project from Peshawar to Karachi.

Pace of progress in Pakistan

  • Multiple reports have shown that shipping activities at the Gwadar Port is almost negligible so far, with only some trade to Afghanistan.
  • Gwadar residents have also protested against the large security force deployed to protect Chinese nationals involved in projects.
  • Chinese nations has also became the target of multiple deadly attacks by Baloch freedom fighters.
  • Coal plants were set up and managed by Chinese firms to improve the power situation in Pakistan.
  • Chinese power firms closing down their operations as the latter did not pay dues worth 300 billion in Pakistani rupees (approximately $1.5 billion).

What about Sri Lanka?

  • In Sri Lanka, multiple infrastructure projects that were being financed by China came under the fold of the BRI after it was launched in 2013.
  • In 2021, Colombo ejected India and Japan out of a deal to develop the East Container Terminal at the Colombo port and got China to take up the project.
  • Some BRI projects in Sri Lanka have been described as white elephants — such as the Hambantota port.
  • The port had always been secondary to the busy Colombo port until the latter ran out of capacity.
  • Other key projects under BRI include the development of the Colombo International Container Terminal, the Central Expressway and the Hambantota International Airport among others.

Projects in Afghanistan

  • Afghanistan has not comprehensively been brought into the BRI, despite a MoU being signed with China in 2016.
  • China had promised investments worth $100 million in Afghanistan which is small in comparison to what it shelled out in other South Asian countries.
  • The projects have not materialised so far and uncertainties have deepened after the Taliban takeover last year.

Projects in Maldives

  • Situated in the middle of the Indian Ocean, Maldives comprises two hundred islands, and both India and China have strategic interests there.
  • One of the most prominent BRI projects undertaken in the Maldives is the two km long China-Maldives Friendship Bridge — a $200 million four lane bridge.
  • Most of China’s investment in the Maldives happened under former President Abdullah Yameen, seen as pro-China.

Projects in Bangladesh

  • Bangladesh, which joined the BRI in 2016, has been promised the second-highest investment (about $40 billion) in South Asia after Pakistan.
  • It has been able to benefit from the BRI while maintaining diplomatic and strategic ties with both India and China.
  • It has managed to not upset India by getting India to build infrastructure projects similar to BRI in the country.
  • BRI projects include Friendship Bridges, special economic zones, the $689.35 million-Karnaphuli River tunnel project, upgradation of the Chittagong port, and a rail line between the port and China’s Yunnan province.
  • However, multiple projects have been delayed owing to the slow release of funds by China.

 

 

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Disasters and Disaster Management – Sendai Framework, Floods, Cyclones, etc.

[pib] Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : CDRI

Mains level : Disaster management

The Union Cabinet has approved the categorization of the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI) as an ‘International Organization’.

What is the news?

  • The cabinet also signed as the Headquarters Agreement (HQA) with CDRI for granting it the exemptions, immunities and privileges as contemplated under the United Nations (Privileges & Immunities) Act, 1947.
  • This will provide CDRI an independent and international legal persona so that it can efficiently and effectively carry out its functions internationally.

What is CDRI?

  • The CDRI is an international coalition of countries, UN agencies, multilateral development banks, the private sector, and academic institutions that aim to promote disaster-resilient infrastructure.
  • Its objective is to promote research and knowledge sharing in the fields of infrastructure risk management, standards, financing, and recovery mechanisms.
  • It was launched by the Indian PM Narendra Modi at the 2019 UN Climate Action Summit in September 2019.
  • CDRI’s initial focus is on developing disaster-resilience in ecological, social, and economic infrastructure.
  • It aims to achieve substantial changes in member countries’ policy frameworks and future infrastructure investments, along with a major decrease in the economic losses suffered due to disasters.

Its inception

  • PM Modi’s experience in dealing with the aftermath of the 2001 Gujarat earthquake” as the chief minister led him to the idea.
  • The CDRI was later conceptualized in the first and second edition of the International Workshop on Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (IWDRI) in 2018-19.
  • It was organized by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), in partnership with the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR), the UN Development Programme, the World Bank, and the Global Commission on Adaptation.

Its diplomatic significance

  • The CDRI is the second major coalition launched by India outside of the UN, the first being the International Solar Alliance.
  • Both of them are seen as India’s attempts to obtain a global leadership role in climate change matters and were termed as part of India’s stronger branding.
  • India can use the CDRI to provide a safer alternative to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as well.

Why designated as International Organization?

  • Deputing experts to other countries
  • Deploying funds globally and receive contributions from member countries
  • Making available technical expertise to assist countries
  • Imparting assistance to countries in adopting appropriate risk governance arrangements and strategies for resilient infrastructure
  • Aligning with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Paris Climate Agreement and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction
  • Leveraging international engagement to foster disaster-resilient infrastructure at home; and,
  • Providing Indian scientific and technical institution as well as infrastructure developers an opportunity to interact with global experts.

Try this PYQ:

Q.Consider the following statements:

  1. Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) to Reduce Short Lived Climate Pollutants is a unique initiative of G20 group of countries
  2. The CCAC focuses on methane, black carbon and hydrofluorocarbons.

Which of the above statements is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 only

(c) Both 1 and 2

(d) Neither 1 nor 2

 

Post your answers here.

 

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G20 : Economic Cooperation ahead

G-20 summit expected to be in Delhi

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : G7, G12, G20

Mains level : Not Much

India is expected to host the G-20 summit in Delhi, while a number of States, including Jammu and Kashmir and north-eastern States, have been asked to suggest venues for about 100 “preparatory” meetings.

Why in news?

  • The clarifications came in response to questions being raised over reports in the media about the possibility of holding the summit itself in Jammu and Kashmir.
  • Pakistan had issued a strong protest last week, sent formal demarches to Foreign Ministries in G-20 member-states, asking them not to attend such meetings.
  • Pakistan (alone) believes J&K is internationally recognised disputed territory.

Why such move?

  • The participation of the delegates from G-20 countries will be a major boost to the efforts of the Centre to project the situation in J&K as normal.
  • This is especially after J&K’s special constitutional position was ended in 2019.

What is G-20?

  • Formed in 1999, the G20 is an international forum of the governments and central bank governors from 20 major economies.
  • Collectively, the G20 economies account for around 85 percent of the Gross World Product (GWP), 80 percent of world trade.
  • To tackle the problems or address issues that plague the world, the heads of governments of the G20 nations periodically participate in summits.
  • In addition to it, the group also hosts separate meetings of the finance ministers and foreign ministers.
  • The G20 has no permanent staff of its own and its chairmanship rotates annually between nations divided into regional groupings.

Aims and objectives

  • The Group was formed with the aim of studying, reviewing, and promoting high-level discussion of policy issues pertaining to the promotion of international financial stability.
  • The forum aims to pre-empt the balance of payments problems and turmoil on financial markets by improved coordination of monetary, fiscal, and financial policies.
  • It seeks to address issues that go beyond the responsibilities of any one organization.

Members of G20

The members of the G20 consist of 19 individual countries plus the European Union (EU).

  • The 19 member countries of the forum are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, United Kingdom and the United States.
  • The European Union is represented by the European Commission and by the European Central Bank.

Its significance

  • G20 is a major international grouping that brings together 19 of the world’s major economies and the European Union.
  • Its members account for more than 80% of global GDP, 75% of trade and 60% of population.

India and G20

  • India has been a member of the G20 since its inception in 1999.

 

 

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Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Global Implications

Turkey backs Sweden and Finland’s NATO bid

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NATO

Mains level : Read the attached story

Turkey has agreed to support Finland and Sweden joining the NATO military alliance after weeks of angering partners by insisting it would veto the Scandinavian countries’ accession.

What is NATO?

  • NATO is a military alliance established by the North Atlantic Treaty (also called the Washington Treaty) of April 4, 1949.
  • It sought to create a counterweight to Soviet armies stationed in Central and Eastern Europe after World War II.
  • Its original members were Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
  • NATO has spread a web of partners, namely Egypt, Israel, Sweden, Austria, Switzerland and Finland.

Expansion of NATO: Transforming Europe

  • The war in Ukraine has already changed the geopolitics of Europe and the world.
  • The admission of Finland and Sweden to NATO would bring about a transformation in the continent’s security map by giving NATO a contiguous long frontier in western Russia.
  • Finland and Russia share a 1,300-km border — and doubling it from the present 1,200 km, parts of it in northern Norway, Latvia and Estonia, and Poland and Lithuania.
  • In addition, Sweden’s island of Gotland in the middle of the Baltic Sea would give NATO a strategic advantage.
  • Furthermore, when Sweden and Finland join NATO, the Baltic Sea — Russia’s gateway to the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean — would be ringed entirely by NATO members.

Why Nordic countries are willing to join NATO?

  • Although the debate over joining NATO was ongoing in both countries for nearly three decades, Russia’s annexation of Crimea pushed both towards NATO’s “open door” policy.
  • Still, there was little political consensus in either country, especially in Sweden where the Social Democrats have long been against the idea.
  • However, February 24 changed everything the date on which Russia invaded Ukraine.

A knee jerk reaction?

  • If Putin’s invasion of Ukraine was meant to deter NATO’s eastward expansion, the war has had the opposite effect.
  • If admitted, Sweden and Finland will become its 31st and 32nd members.

Russian response

  • Back in March, Russia had evoked a threatening response to take retaliatory measures by stationing its nuclear and hypersonic weapons close to the Baltic Sea.
  • Russia denounced the problems with Finland and Sweden but the NATO’s expansion at the expense of these countries does not pose a direct threat to us.
  • But the expansion of military infrastructure into this territory will certainly provoke their response, warned Mr Putin.
  • Sweden had already said it would not allow NATO bases or nuclear weapons on its territory.

Hurdles for Finland, Sweden

  • At the moment the main obstacle to their applications in Turkey, a member since 1952 and which has NATO’s second-largest army after the US.
  • Turkish president Erdogan has objected to their applications on the ground that the two countries had provided safe haven to the leaders of the Kurdish group PKK.
  • Many Kurdish and other exiles have found refuge in Sweden over the past decades.
  • PKK is an armed movement fighting for a separate Kurdistan, comprising Kurdish areas in Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria.
  • Neither of these countries have a clear, open attitude towards terrorist organisation.

What could Turkey gain?

  • Turkey is expected to seek to negotiate a compromise deal to seek action on Kurdish groups.
  • Erdogan could also seek to use Sweden and Finland’s membership to wrest concessions from the United States and other allies.
  • Turkey wants to return to the US-led F-35 fighter jet program — a project it was kicked out of following its purchase of Russian S-400 missile defense systems.
  • Alternatively, Turkey is looking to purchase a new batch of F-16 fighter jets and upgrade its existing fleet.

How does this affect Turkey’s image in the West?

  • Turkey is reinforcing an image that is blocking the alliance’s expansion for its own profit.
  • It also risks damaging the credit it had earned by supplying Ukraine with the Bayraktar TB2 armed drones that became an effective weapon against Russian forces.

Is Turkey trying to appease Russia?

  • Turkey has built close relations with both Russia and Ukraine and has been trying to balance its ties with both.
  • It has refused to join sanctions against Russia — while supporting Ukraine with the drones that helped deny Russia air superiority.

 

 

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

Commonwealth adopts ‘Living Lands Charter’

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Living Lands Charter

Mains level : Land degradation

All 54 Commonwealth members have agreed to voluntarily dedicate a ‘living land’ in their respective countries to future generations, in line with the strategy set for the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.

Living Lands Charter

  • The non-binding mandates that member countries will safeguard global land resources and arrest land degradation while acting against climate change, biodiversity loss and sustainable management.
  • It helps to encapsulate the combined effort to hold the global average temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius, said Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland.
  • The document came after nearly two years of intense consultation, engagement and negotiation with member countries at UN Rio Convention.

Key objectives

  • Leaders and their representatives noted with concern in the charter the alarming decline in the health and productivity of global land resources.
  • It aimed to support member countries to effectively deliver their commitments under the three Rio conventions:
  1. UN Convention on Biological Diversity
  2. UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)
  3. UN Framework Convention on Climate Change

Major outcomes

  • The attendees also underlined the principle ofcritical guardianship” provided by indigenous peoples and local communities in protecting land and vital ecosystem services.
  • The agreement was released along with a final wide-ranging communiqué by leaders, including on specific items on climate change.
  • Country heads underscored in it that the “urgent threat of climate change” exacerbates existing vulnerabilities and presents a significant threat to COVID-19 recovery efforts.

 

Try this PYQ from CSP 2012:

Q.Consider the following statements:

  1. The Commonwealth has no charter, treaty or constitution
  2. All the territories/countries once under the British Empire (jurisdiction/rule/mandate) automatically joined the Commonwealth as its members

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 only

(c) Both 1 and 2

(d) Neither 1 nor 2

 

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Back2Basics: Commonwealth of Nations

  • The Commonwealth of Nations is an intergovernmental organisation of 53 member states that are mostly former territories of the British Empire.
  • It dates back to the first half of the 20th century with the decolonization of the British Empire through increased self-governance of its territories.
  • It was originally created as the British Commonwealth of Nation through the Balfour Declaration at the 1926 Imperial Conference, and formalized by the UK through the Statute of Westminster in 1931.
  • The current body was formally constituted by the London Declaration in 1949, which modernized the community, and established the member states as “free and equal”.
  • The symbol of this free association is Queen Elizabeth II, who is the Head of the Commonwealth.
  • The Queen is head of state of 16 member states, known as the Commonwealth realms, while 32 other members are republics and five others have different monarchs.
  • Member has no legal obligations to one another. Instead, they are united by language, history, culture and their shared values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

 

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G20 : Economic Cooperation ahead

G-20

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : G7, G12, G20

Mains level : Read the attached story

The Jammu and Kashmir administration has constituted a committee to coordinate with the delegates of G-20 countries scheduled to participate in a meeting to be held in the Union Territory (UT) next year.

Why such move?

  • The participation of the delegates from G-20 countries will be a major boost to the efforts of the Centre to project the situation in J&K as normal.
  • This is especially after J&K’s special constitutional position was ended in 2019.

What is G-20?

  • Formed in 1999, the G20 is an international forum of the governments and central bank governors from 20 major economies.
  • Collectively, the G20 economies account for around 85 percent of the Gross World Product (GWP), 80 percent of world trade.
  • To tackle the problems or address issues that plague the world, the heads of governments of the G20 nations periodically participate in summits.
  • In addition to it, the group also hosts separate meetings of the finance ministers and foreign ministers.
  • The G20 has no permanent staff of its own and its chairmanship rotates annually between nations divided into regional groupings.

Aims and objectives

  • The Group was formed with the aim of studying, reviewing, and promoting high-level discussion of policy issues pertaining to the promotion of international financial stability.
  • The forum aims to pre-empt the balance of payments problems and turmoil on financial markets by improved coordination of monetary, fiscal, and financial policies.
  • It seeks to address issues that go beyond the responsibilities of any one organization.

Members of G20

The members of the G20 consist of 19 individual countries plus the European Union (EU).

  • The 19 member countries of the forum are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, United Kingdom and the United States.
  • The European Union is represented by the European Commission and by the European Central Bank.

Its significance

  • G20 is a major international grouping that brings together 19 of the world’s major economies and the European Union.
  • Its members account for more than 80% of global GDP, 75% of trade and 60% of population.

India and G20

  • India has been a member of the G20 since its inception in 1999.

 

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WTO and India

Outcomes of the WTO Ministerial Conference

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : WTO

Mains level : Read the attached story

Recently, member countries of the World Trade Organization (WTO) wrapped up the Ministerial Conference’s twelfth outing (MC12).

Key outcomes: “Geneva Package”

  • The conference has secured key agreements on
  1. Relaxing patent regulations to achieve global vaccine equity
  2. Ensuring food security
  3. According subsidies to the fisheries sector
  4. Continuing moratoriums relevant to e-commerce
  • Together they constitute what WTO Director-General is referred to as the “Geneva Package.”
  • India saw some successes at the MC12 with respect to the above mentioned sectors.

What is the WTO’s Ministerial Conference?

  • The MC is at the very top of WTO’s organisational chart.
  • It meets once every two years and can take decisions on all matters under any multilateral trade agreement.
  • Unlike other organisations, such as the International Monetary Fund or World Bank, WTO does not delegate power to a board of directors or an organisational chief.
  • All decisions at the WTO are made collectively and through consensus among member countries at varied councils and committees.
  • This year’s conference took place in Geneva, Switzerland.

Major debates at the MC12

(1) Agriculture

  • India is a significant contributor to the World Food Programme (WFP).
  • India had earlier stated that it had never imposed export restrictions for procurement under the programme.
  • It put forth that a blanket exemption could constrain its work in ensuring food security back home.
  • In such a situation, it would have to keep its WFP commitments irrespective of its domestic needs.
  • Negotiators could not reach agreements on issues such as permissible public stockholding threshold for domestic food security, domestic support to agriculture, cotton, and market access.

(2) Fisheries

  • India successfully managed to carve out an agreement on ELIMINATING subsidies to those engaged in illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.
  • The only exception for continuing subsidies for overfished stock is when they are deemed essential to rebuild them to a biologically sustainable level.
  • Overfishing refers to exploiting fishes at a pace faster than they could replenish themselves — currently standing at 34% as per the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
  • Declining fish stocks threaten to worsen poverty and endanger communities that rely on aquatic creatures for their livelihood and food security.
  • Further, the agreements hold that there would be no limitation on subsidies by developing or least-developed countries for fishing within their exclusive economic zones (EEZ).

(3) Patent relaxations

  • Member countries agreed on authorising the use of a patent for producing COVID-19 vaccines by a member country, without the consent of the rights holder.
  • Further, it asks member countries to waive requirements, including export restrictions, set forth by WTO regulations to supply domestic markets and member countries with any number of vaccines.
  • The agreement, however, comes too little, too late for economically poorer countries.

 

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