International issues-June

Brexit-hit Hungary eyes Indian corporates in U.K.

  • India is likely to hold high-level consultation on the fallout of the Brexit referendum on the European Union (EU) during next week’s visit Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade
  • On top of his agenda is going to be a possible role that Indian government and corporates can play to help more than two lakh Hungarians employed in various economic sectors of the U.K. and who are facing post-Brexit uncertainty.
  • Hungary hopes for understanding from India on issues like migration into Europe and industrial cooperation that are in line with the EU’s plans for greater cooperation with the major emerging powers
  • Hungary is willing to be the alternative location to Indian companies that are considering exit from the U.K.
  • Hungary which hosts a major unit of IT giant Tata Consultancy Services and a few other Indian corporate giants is trying to convert the challenge thrown up by the Brexit crisis to its advantage and invite U.K.-based Indian majors as it may become unviable for Indian corporate houses to cater to the EU market while being based in London as U.K. is unlikely to receive favourable subsidies if it severs ties with the European Union.
  • Apart from the cushioning of Brexit’s impact on Hungary, the bilateral talks are to include the issue of illegal immigration and flow of refugees as Hungary is one of the gateways through which nearly 1 million migrants, including terror suspects from the conflict zones of West Asia, arrived in Europe over the last one year, said the diplomat.
  • Hungary has not pointed at any South Asian country for contributing to illegal immigration into Europe but it falls on the “pipeline” and has often been used by illegal immigrants from South Asia in the past.
  • The issue of illegal immigration and flow of refugees is expected to be more challenging as faced with an unprecedented numbers of migrants, the EU is likely to ask member states to resettle migrants and refugees on their territory.

India to teach Africa how to protect VIPs

  • As Prime Minister Narendra Modi sets out on a four-nation African tour next month, the government has decided to share India’s expertise in securing VIPs and vital security installations with these countries.
  • Apart from planning training modules for police and security forces in Kenya, Mozambique, Tanzania and South Africa, India is expected to sign memorandums of understanding (MoU) during Mr. Modi’s visit, a senior government official said. India also intends to share its combat training programme and experience in busting narcotics cartels.
  •  India’s elite commando force, the National Security Guards, not only performs combat operations during terrorist attacks but also gives proximity security cover to several VIPs
  • A capsule course is being devised where police forces from these [African] countries can arrive for an exchange programme here.
  • The Indian government also plans to sell its success story in containing radicalisation and spread of violent extremism by way of various projects involving community members.

U.S. wants progress in investment pact talks with India: Envoy

  • The new model text on the basis of which India is negotiating its Bilateral Investment Treaties (BIT) is making it difficult for America to hold bilateral talks on the proposed India-U.S. BIT, according to U.S. Ambassador to India.
  • A bilateral investment treaty (BIT) is an agreement establishing the terms and conditions for private investment by nationals and companies of one state in another state. This type of investment is called foreign direct investment (FDI). BITs are established through trade pacts. The objective of BITs is protection of the interests of investors but in the process these pacts aim to balance the obligations of the respective governments and the rights of investors.
  • Countries develop a model BIT to use as a template to negotiate investment treaties, but on its own, a model BIT has very limited legal value.
  • The first round negotiations on the India-U.S. BIT was held in August 2009. However, the negotiations were initially delayed as India and the U.S. had undertaken a review of their respective model BIT texts.
  • Provoked by foreign investors suing India under different bilateral investment treaties (BITs), the government recently adopted a new model BIT. The 2015 model BIT replaces the 2003 model.
  • Most of India’s existing BITs, signed with more than 70 countries, are based on the 2003 model. The adoption of the new model BIT heralds a new era in India’s engagement with foreign investment and investment treaty practice.

The demands by the US

  • This is mainly because India’s model BIT text “substantially narrows the scope of investments” that can be covered by the proposed India-U.S. BIT
  • The model text also requires that disputes be exhausted in local Indian jurisdictions before alternative investor-state dispute mechanisms can be initiated.
  • Investors from developed countries including the U.S. have been citing ‘judicial delays’ in India to demand that they be granted the flexibility in the BITs to take disputes to international arbitration tribunals without waiting to exhaust remedies available in India.
  • These investors have also demanded that the BITs should ensure protection of even the investment commitments they make on the basis of existing policies in India in case changes in such policies later harm those investment plans.
  • India had become very cautious about the Investor-State Dispute Settlement mechanism in its BITs following instances of governments being dragged by investors to international courts on the basis of the existing treaties. Foreign investors — seeking such international arbitration — usually claim huge compensation for “losses” they “suffered” owing to reasons including government policy changes.

India enters elite missile tech group

  • In a boost to its non-proliferation credentials, India joined the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) at a ceremony in South Block, attended by Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar and diplomats from the Netherlands, France and Luxembourg missions.
  • India’s MTCR membership would help in “furtherance of international non-proliferation objectives,”
  • The MTCR chair at The Hague said India would enjoy “full participation in organisational activities, including the October 2016 plenary of the regime in South Korea.”
  • India had intensified efforts at gaining membership of the MTCR, the NSG, the Australia Group and Wassenaar Arrangement since getting a waiver at the NSG in 2008. Membership of these groups would help India trade more effectively in critical high tech areas.

Expanded Panama Canal is now open

  • A giant Chinese-chartered freighter nudged its way into the expanded Panama Canal to mark the completion of nearly a decade of work forecast to boost global trade.
  • The vessel, especially renamed COSCO Shipping Panama, inaugurated the widening of the century-old waterway, which has been fitted with a new shipping lane and locks.
  • The United States — builder of the original canal, which opened in 1914 and is still in operation alongside the additions.The U.S. and China are the two most frequent canal users.
  • Its expansion is expected to greatly benefit commercial traffic between North America and Asia.
  • The expansion — work began in 2007 and finished two years late at a cost of at least $5.5 billion — allows a new generation of much larger ships, known as Neopanamax class vessels, to ply the canal.
  • Neopanamax freighters can carry up to three times the cargo of older and smaller Panamax ships.
  • Cruise ships built to the same dimensions typically double the number of passengers of the previous iteration.

India’s NSG entry stuck on NPT issue

  • After a day of twists and turns, India’s hopes for membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) got stuck over the question of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in Seoul
  • The much-anticipated bilateral meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Tashkent ended without a statement of support from China.
  • Earlier in the day, India had scored a coup when the NSG agreed to hold a ‘Special Session’ previous night with India’s membership on the agenda. This was despite China’s repeated assertion that the membership of non-signatories to the NPT, or “non-NPT countries” was not on the table for the 26th Plenary session that got under way in Seoul.

India has to complete a long process for SCO membership

  • A long-drawn process lies ahead for India to complete its entry into the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) which will begin its annual summit on June 23-24 at Tashkent
  • At this upcoming summit, the process of India’s accession to the SCO will start with a signature on the ‘base document’ which is called the ‘Memorandum of Obligations
  • India will attend the summit as an “Acceding Member” but will speak from the category of “Observers.”
  • The Memorandum of Obligations, however, will begin a process of more intense engagement.
  • The memorandum which India will sign on June 24 will also provide opportunity to intensify anti-terror cooperation between India and China.

India seeks to purchase patrol drones from U.S.

  • India has sent a letter of request (LoR) to the U.S. seeking to purchase patrol drones for protection of its maritime assets in the Indian Ocean
  • The LoR sent by New Delhi comes less than a fortnight after India was inducted into Missile Technology Control Regime and recognised by the U.S. as a “major defence partner” after the meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Barack Obama earlier this month.
  • This is part of the government’s effort to fast-track its goal to secure the country’s maritime assets, particularly in the Indian Ocean and detect any untoward intrusion like Mumbai terrorist attack.
  • The letter seeks purchase of
    • state-of-the-art
    • multi-mission
    • maritime patrol Predator Guardian Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV).
    • It provides high-altitude wide area view and
    • has long endurance maritime ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance) capability.

To be or not to be – Brexit vote

  • The results of the June 23 referendum, the second vote in 41 years on United Kingdom’s place in the European Union, will have implications for generations to come.
  •  According to one poll tracker, the ‘exit’ camp has a one percentage point lead over the ‘remain’ lobby in the weighted average of recent major polls.
  • There is widespread resentment among voters against the current terms of Britain’s membership in the EU
    • The Brexit camp argues that owing to the EU membership, Britain is not allowed to make changes in existing laws and take independent economic decisions.
    • Such restrictions have cost the country economically and are partly responsible for high unemployment.
    • The camp also blames the EU’s immigration policies for migrant arrivals.
  • But most of these arguments appear hollow as a post-Brexit scenario could throw up even worse outcomes.
    • On the other hand, the Treasury assesses that Brexit would slow down growth, and could lead to a loss of £36 billion in tax receipts.
    • In the short term, a ‘No’ vote will throw the country into political instability as Prime Minister David Cameron is likely to resign.
    • There will also be economic uncertainty as Britain will have to negotiate its new relationship with the EU within two years.
    • A bigger problem would be trade. Currently, almost half of Britain’s exports go to other EU countries. The economic impact of losing access to the EU’s single market will be huge.
      • One alternative is to follow the Norwegian model. The Scandinavian country is not part of the EU but has access to the single market. But Norway has had to make huge concessions for this access, including making payments into EU budgets.
      • Another option is for Britain to negotiate a free trade agreement with the EU. But this route has at least two problems. First, free trade deals are unlikely to cover financial services. Second, the U.K. will face competition from other economic powerhouses such as the U.S. and India in negotiating a trade agreement with the EU. On its own, the U.K. will be at a disadvantage compared to the bigger markets.
  •  Moreover, Brexit would put the idea of a united Europe in danger as it could have a domino effect.
  • The voters’ decision will have serious effects on not just the country but on the whole region.

China keeps close eye on Malabar exercises

  • Multiple incidents during the ongoing Malabar naval exercises between India, Japan and the U.S. off the Okinawa coast in Japan highlighted the increasing friction between China and the other nations in the region over developments in the South China Sea, unwittingly dragging India into the tensions.
  • A Chinese observation ship had  tailed the U.S. aircraft carrier USS John C Stennis in the Western Pacific which is taking part in the exercises,
  • In a separate incident Japan said that another ship entered its territorial waters for the first time in over a decade.

Exercise Malabar

  • is a trilateral naval exercise involving the United States, Japan and India as permanent partners. Originally a bilateral exercise between India and the U.S., 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 OperationsExercises

Bill seeking special status for India fails in U.S. Senate

  • The Senate has failed to recognise India as a “global strategic and defence partner” of the U.S. after a key amendment necessary to modify its export control regulations could not be passed.The U.S. had recognised India as a “major defence partner” in a joint statement issued after Mr. Modi held talks with President Barack Obama which supported defence-related trade and technology transfer to the country which would now be treated on par with America’s closest allies.
  • National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA-17) – which if passed would have recognised India as a global strategic and defence partner.
  • Top Republican senator John McCain had moved an amendment to the National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA-17)
  • The NDAA was passed by the Senate with an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 85-13. But some of the key amendments including the (SA 4618) — even though they had bipartisan support — could not be passed by the Senate.
  • The McCain amendment said that the relationship between the U.S. and India has developed over the past two decades to become a multifaceted, global strategic and defence partnership rooted in shared democratic values and the promotion of mutual prosperity, greater economic cooperation, regional peace, security and stability.
  • As such it asked the President to take such actions as may be necessary “to recognise the status of India as a global strategic and defence partner” of the U.S. through appropriate modifications to defence export control regulations.

India warned against pitfalls in ASEAN trade agreement

  • MSF has warned India it will no more remain ‘the pharmacy of the developing world’ if the proposals in the pact are adopted.
  • As talks for a Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) — a regional trade agreement among the 10 ASEAN countries — continue in Auckland, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has warned India that it will no more remain ‘the pharmacy of the developing world’ if the proposals in the pact are adopted.
  • MSF Access Campaign and other civil society organisations are pushing for the removal of harmful intellectual property provisions that could potentially increase drug costs by creating new monopolies and delaying the entry of affordable generics in the market.
  • Two of the most worrying are the demands for ‘Data Exclusivity’ and ‘Patent Term Extensions’.
  • Data exclusivity is a form of legal monopoly protection for a drug, over and above the patent protections. This is given expressly to compensate for the investment made during clinical trials. It implied that regulators cannot approve a similar drug with similar data for the next five years, delaying the entry of generic, affordable versions
  • Patent term extensions are given to compensate the company for delays in processing patent applications. A company gets a 20-year patent monopoly on a drug from the date that the application is filed. Sometimes processing these applications takes time and the companies get only 13 years instead of 20. A patent term extension will give another five-year monopoly to the innovator company, again delaying the entry of generic drugs in the market

Marching onwards from Paris

  • The first half of 2016 has been marked by severe droughts across the world due to the intense El Niño coupled with record high temperatures. From parts of southern and eastern Africa, the Philippines, to many areas in India, the effects on crops, livestock and humans have been devastating. There is compelling evidence that anthropogenic climate change has been a significant factor in these weather events.
  • Since the historic Paris Agreement on climate change (COP-21) signed last December, the first meeting of parties took place in May in Bonn.
  • With 177 signatories at the moment, the Paris Agreement will enter into force, or take effect, 30 days after at least 55 countries accounting for 55 per cent of the global greenhouse gas emissions have ratified the agreement.
  • According to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC): “17 States have deposited their instruments of ratification, acceptance or approval.” These account for only 0.04 per cent of the total global greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement (APA) is the body now responsible for developing mechanisms and detailed steps for the implementation of the Paris deal. These would include
    • mitigation of global greenhouse gas emissions to meet the goal of staying well below 2°C;
    • mechanisms that support adaptation on the ground;
    • means for support through finance, technology and capacity building;
    • and the development of specifics on the global stocktake agreed upon every five years.
  • Ensuring that countries set up the frameworks for implementing their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), establishing processes for transparency across the board on a range of issues, and for dealing with loss and damage as a result of climate change are other matters to be addressed.

The Bonn meeting

  • In Bonn, there were early disagreements between rich and developing countries over the provisional agenda of the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) regarding an item related to the Paris Agreement. Item 5 in the provisional agenda related to the NDCs.
  • The dispute, according to observers, reflected the overall difference in opinion between developed and developing countries on whether mitigation alone should be a part of the NDCs or whether adaptation and the means of implementation should also be included.
  • Other points of contention appeared around interpretation of the Paris Agreement regarding differentiated transparency of action in developed and developing countries.
  • The APA’s efforts were complemented by negotiations on some items in subsidiary bodies of the UNFCCC.
  • For instance, at Bonn, parties began discussion on many points under the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA).
    • There were sessions covering the use of internationally transferred mitigation outcomes or ITMOs; these involve cooperative approaches to mitigation by different countries and are widely seen as a new avatar of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of Joint Implementation, more generally.
    • Other issues of significance were on potential governance structures and avoiding double counting.
  • An important point discussed in Bonn related to specifying the differences between the Paris Agreement and the Kyoto Protocol. The Paris Agreement will be quite different from the Kyoto Protocol, since all parties have agreed to the Paris Agreement; the Kyoto Protocol was meant only for wealthier or Annex-1 countries. Significantly, there was no final clarity on what it means to “deliver an overall mitigation in global emissions”, which will likely determine at least one benchmark of a legally binding global target. All of these concerns would require further discussion and have to be resolved before COP-22 in Marrakech, Morocco.
  • India’s position in the meeting was significant in at least two ways.
    • First, by recognising the pivotal role of the Bonn meeting in shaping emerging rules and activities of a post-Paris world order, it reiterated the importance of Article 3.1 of the Framework Convention (UNFCCC) which uses as a yardstick the common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities (CBDR-RC) of the parties in responding to climate change. In taking the lead, developed countries also had an obligation to meet their pre-2020 commitments in the Kyoto Protocol and to take early action.
    • Second, Ecuador, India and other Like Minded Developing Countries called for the need for clarity on the role of non-state actors in the Paris Agreement and asked for a report on the topic at the next meeting of the SBI. There could be a conflict of interest in their participation, and the rules and guidelines on non-state actor engagement need to be clear so that their roles are transparent and the integrity of the UNFCCC process is safeguarded.
  • Transformation
  • A key outcome of the meetings of the SBI and SBSTA was
    • the resolution to have a technical session in November 2016 on economic diversification and transformation;
    • and just transition of the workforce,and the creation of decent work and quality jobs.
  • In many ways, this commitment is a recognition that the world’s economy cannot proceed as if it were on a business-as-usual pathway, and that a few tweaks would address the challenge of climate change. Rather, it requires a broader transformation involving just transitions in forms and types of work and economic production. Taken seriously, the forum could energise an important global discussion on the types of transformational changes needed to reduce emissions and adapt to living in a warmer world.
  • Given that the Paris Agreement will be a legally binding document when it goes into force and will have serious consequences for each country, there are bound to be legal battles on the interpretation of the core agreement and the portion of the text which is referred to as the “decision”. While some international observers have said that the Paris Agreement is likely to be ratified soon, given the complexity of the document and the global politics of climate change, some countries may choose to wait until these meetings of parties have set the rules in place and provide greater clarity.
  • The Bonn meeting could energise the global discussion on the types of changes needed to reduce emissions

The twin towers of terrorism

  • The Islamic State has displaced al-Qaeda as the dominant force in international jihadism, but the two are still competing for funding, recruits and prestige — and together pose the gravest threat to the world
  • Since 2013, IS and al-Qaeda have been competing for funding, recruits and prestige — and they often argue over tactics.

Islamic state

  • IS leaders prefer the wholesale slaughter of civilians, as epitomised by recent attacks in Paris, Baghdad, Beirut and elsewhere.
  • By late 2014, the IS seized large chunks of territory in Syria and Iraq.
  • The group then proclaimed a caliphate in the territory under its control, and named its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, as caliph and “leader of Muslims everywhere”.
  • The IS established a regional base that has allowed it to govern territory, train thousands of fighters and generate income from illicit trade in oil and other resources — all on a scale larger than anything al-Qaeda has achieved.
  • The IS has also established a larger recruitment effort and more sophisticated social media presence than al-Qaeda’s.
  • With its self-declared caliphate, the IS has gained control of more resources and generated more income than the al-Qaeda.
  • The IS generates money by selling oil and wheat, imposing taxes on residents of the territory it controls, and through extortion.
  • In 2014, it raked in about $2 billion, according to the U.S. Treasury Department. That included $500 million in oil sales in the black market, and up to $1 billion in cash stolen from banks while the group made its initial march across Syria and Iraq.
  • Overall, IS has displaced al-Qaeda as the dominant force in international jihadism.

Al-Qaeda

  • By contrast, the al-Qaeda has historically relied on donations from wealthy individuals, especially in the Gulf states.
  • But even in its weakened state, the al-Qaeda still poses a danger to the West, West Asia and the wider Muslim world.
  • In recent years, it has become more active in Yemen and has established a strong affiliate in Syria, the Jabhat al-Nusra, which is a dominant force among the jihadists fighting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
  • It’s essential not to underestimate al-Qaeda’s ability to evolve and adapt to a new landscape — as it has done before. When the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in October 2001 to drive out the ruling Taliban movement that sheltered bin Laden and his supporters, the al-Qaeda was temporarily thrown off balance. It quickly regrouped, dispersing its surviving members, distributing its ideological tracts and terrorist techniques to a wider audience on the Internet, and encouraging new recruits to act autonomously under its banner.
  • Even while in hiding, bin Laden and his top lieutenant, Ayman al-Zawahiri, freely addressed their supporters through dozens of videos, audiotapes and Internet statements. They helped inspire hundreds of young men to carry out suicide or conventional bombings in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Spain, Turkey and Britain.

‘Near’ and ‘far’ enemies

  • IS and al-Qaeda differ in other important ways: the al-Qaeda wants to overthrow what it views as the corrupt and “apostate” regimes of West Asia — the “near enemy”. But in order to do so, al-Qaeda’s leaders focussed on the “far enemy:” the U.S. and the West.
  • In targeting the U.S., the al-Qaeda believes it will eventually force Washington to withdraw its support for the autocratic Arab regimes and abandon West Asia entirely.
  • But the IS does not subscribe to al-Qaeda’s vision and instead it mainly focusses on the “near enemy” — meaning the so-called apostate regimes in Syria, Iraq and other parts of the Arab world. So far, IS has been more successful in its strategy, which relies on capturing and holding territory.
  • As the al-Qaeda’s influence waned, the IS has tried to fill the vacuum by expanding into new territory. In November 2014, Baghdadi announced that the IS was creating new “provinces” of its self-declared caliphate in five new countries: Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Libya, Algeria and Egypt. While IS sympathisers had pledged allegiance to Baghdadi in other states, the IS leader singled out only those countries where the movement has a strong base of support and could mount sustained attacks.
  • But Baghdadi also called on his supporters to carry out “lone wolf” attacks wherever possible. “Oh soldiers of the Islamic State, erupt volcanoes of jihad everywhere,” he declared. “Light the earth with fire against all dictators.” And for more than a year, IS militants have been heeding the self-proclaimed caliph’s call.

Chinese violate border in Arunachal Pradesh

  • A fresh transgression by Chinese troops into Indian territory has come to light. The incident happened on June 9 at Yangtse which is located 25-30 km east of Bum La pass in western Arunachal Pradesh.
  • This is the first incident in the Yangtse region this year and such incidents usually tend to increase this time of the year.
  • Army officials said that this happens regularly due to differences in perception on the boundary and after claiming that the area belongs to China, troops tend to go back.
  • The incident coincides with India’s efforts at securing membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) which China has openly opposed citing India’s non-accession to the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
  • Late last week Prime Minister Narendra Modi had attempted to reach out to China on the issue through Russia.
  • In March, Chinese troops had entered Indian territory in Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir. While the first incident was reported on March 8, there was a face-off between the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army on March 11 as well. On March 8, Chinese troops had entered almost 6 km deep inside Indian territory near the Pangong lake in Ladakh.

Unrest in Venezuala

  • As a deepening economic crisis aggravates Venezuela’s severe social and political unrest, it has exposed the fragility of its institutions to deal with the situation.
  • Plagued by long years of populism kept afloat on a sea of oil, the plunging prices of crude have resulted in a lethal mix of goods shortages and hyperinflation, threatening to push the country into a state of chaos.
  • Already, there are snaky queues for food and medicines and a crippling shortage of electricity that has forced a two-day week for government employees and blackouts across the country.
  • The oft-repeated grievance of President Nicolás Maduro, the charismatic Hugo Chávez’s hand-picked successor, that Venezuela is the victim of an ‘economic war’ is beginning to have an increasingly hollow ring as his government struggles to repay the massive external debt it accumulated during the oil boom even as it is forced to cut down on imports of basic necessities to avoid a default.
  • As a rash of criminal activity and a surge of angry protests break out on the streets, the opposition, buoyed by a victory in the congressional elections last December, is looking to oust Mr. Maduro.
  • The focus now is on the fate of the recall referendum, with the opposition claiming it has the required 1.85 million signatures to force one and the government dismissing this as fraudulent, something that a pliant National Electoral Council has endorsed by declaring about a third of the signatures on the petition as invalid.
  • The opposition, led by Henrique Capriles, a former presidential candidate, wants the referendum to be held by January next year as a victory would mean a fresh presidential election. Were the referendum to take place later, then a Maduro loss would merely mean that his Vice-President runs the country until 2019.
  • The big question is whether the country can afford to wait for the political process to play itself out. Time and patience are wearing thin. It is becomingly apparent that Mr. Maduro, who has become isolated within the region — he was described as a “traitor to ethics” by the Secretary General of the Organisation of American States — will be unable to carry the country for much longer with rhetoric of jingoism and victimhood.
  • The President has the backing of the armed forces and a government-stacked Supreme Court and is now armed with emergency powers to “confront all…international and national threats”.
  • It is imperative that he allows some sort of international mediation with the immediate aim of calming political tempers and dealing with the shortage in food and medicines. The risks otherwise are a slip into dictatorship or, even worse, anarchy.

President leaves for Africa

  • After hosting the third India Africa Forum Summit (IAFS) in New Delhi in October 2015, India is working on a plan to consolidate and further strengthen its engagement with Africa.

  • President Pranab Mukherjee embarked on a six-day visit to Ghana, Ivory Coast and Namibia to boost trade ties with these countries.
  • This is not a ceremonial visit. It has an educational component, economic component and a community component
  • The President will visit the India-Ghana Kofi Annan Centre of Excellence in ICT, set up by India, and will meet its faculty and alumni at Ghana

India, Ghana sign three agreements

  • Ghana is the first country visited by the President
  • The three agreements signed with Ghana, after delegation level talks between Mr. Mukherjee and his Ghanaian counterpart John Dramani Mahama, included
    • one for visa waivers for holders of diplomatic and official passports and
    • one for setting up a Joint Commission.The commission will periodically review various aspects of the multi-dimensional relationship between the two countries.
  • Though symbolic in nature, the pacts came during the first ever visit of President Pranab Mukherjee to the country.
  • Ghana has sought India’s civil nuclear cooperation to explore the possibilities of reducing its dependence on traditional energy sources to cut costs and focus on cleaner environment.
  • India is the largest foreign investor in Ghana today, with more than 700 projects. More than 222 of these projects are in the manufacturing sector.

Bilateral trade

  • With China at the back of its mind, India intends to expand its bilateral trade with Ghana from $3 billion to $5 billion in the next three years. Though India has a strong presence for decades with a sizeable diaspora and business community engaged in trade for decades in Africa, it is way behind China in investments in key infrastructure sectors.
  • India’s cumulative investments in Ghana hover around $1 billion, whereas bilateral trade is worth $3 billion in 2015-16. Though bilateral trade and investments have been steadily growing, these were still below potential.
  • They acknowledged the need to take up mutually beneficial projects such as a joint fertilizer plant, with an emphasis on greater value-addition.
  • Government of Ghana conveyed its deep appreciation of India’s concessional developmental assistance by way of grants and Lines of Credit, in particular, its support for major socio-economic projects such as Komenda Sugar Plant and Elmina Fish Processing Plant.
  • India has also approved a Line of Credit for setting up a Foreign Policy Training Institute.
  • It was agreed that India would establish a Chair on Indian Studies in the University of Ghana, Accra.
  • In the course of his visit, the President paid floral tributes to Ghana’s first President Kwame Nkrumah at his Mausoleum in Accra, and unveiled the statue of Mahatma Gandhi, in the University of Ghana.

From Ghana, Mr. Mukherjee leaves for Ivory Coast.

Ivory Coast

  • Cote D’Ivoire (also known as Ivory Coast), a francophone country
  • Its the biggest producer and exporter of cashew nuts to India which procures nearly 80 per cent of their total exports.
  • The Ivory Coast government is very keen to get Indian private sector on board
  • President Pranab Mukherjee was decorated with National Grand Croix, Cote D’Ivoire’s highest honour.
  • UN reforms- Mr. Mukherjee raised the issue of U.N. reforms at a meeting with President of Cote D’Ivoire Alassane Ouattara. He made out a strong case for a “concerted push” to make the United Nations more democratic and representative at the annual session of its general assembly scheduled for September, maintaining that any further delay would rob the process of its grace.

Namibia

  • Namibia is the fourth largest producer of uranium..
  • Reiterating its commitment to honour the 2009 pact to supply uranium to India at the earliest, Namibia has asked New Delhi to enter into similar agreements with other countries to convince the member-states of the African Nuclear Weapon Free Zone Treaty (ANWFZT).
    • Namibia, a member of ANWFZT, is barred from supplying uranium to India as the latter is not a member of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, commonly known as the Non-Proliferation Treaty or NPT.
    • The ANWFZT, also known as the Treaty of Pelindaba, is named after South Africa’s main Nuclear Research Centre, run by the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation.
    • It was the location where South Africa’s atomic bombs of the 1970s were developed, constructed and subsequently stored.
  • The sale of uranium to India was one of the main topics on the agenda of discussion between the President Pranab Mukherjee and his Namibian counterpart Hage Geingob at the delegation-level talks.
  • Namibia was keen on supplying uranium to India as part of the civil nuclear cooperation, for augmenting its resources.
  • Sale of uranium by Namibia to India can change the trade dynamics between the two countries. It is a win-win situation.
  • So far, India has signed civil nuclear cooperation agreements with 12 countries, including the United States, Russia, Korea and Japan.
  • Among the other engagements of the President during the day was an address to the Namibian Parliament.
  • He also addressed the students of Namibia University of Science and Technology.

NSG divided on entry of non-NPT nations

  • Notwithstanding a U.S. push for India’s NSG membership, China said that members of the elite club “remain divided” on the issue of non-NPT countries joining it.
  • China has maintained that non-NPT signatories should not be admitted into NSG on the grounds that it would undermine efforts to prevent proliferation

Quest for another holy grail

  • India’s efforts to join various bodies
    • 30-year-old effort to secure a permanent seat on the UN Security Council – characterised as the pursuit of a diplomatic holy grail.
    • A similar, but less intense effort is on to seek admission to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), a body which should have included India in the first place. Here again, there is no sign of India being invited, even as the 10-year moratorium on new membership has expired.
    • India has now embarked on another quest, this time to seek membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). The Prime Minister himself has travelled to Switzerland to seek support and he will also go to Mexico for the same purpose.

Formation of NSG

  • Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG)
    • is a group of nuclear supplier countries
    • that seek to prevent nuclear proliferation
    • by controlling the export of materials, equipment and technology that can be used to manufacture nuclear weapons
  • The NSG was founded in response to the Indian nuclear test in May 1974 and first met in November 1975.
  • The India nuclear test demonstrated that certain non-weapons specific nuclear technology could be readily turned to weapons development.
  • Nations already signatories of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) saw the need to further limit the export of nuclear equipment, materials or technology. Another benefit was that non-NPT and non-Zangger Committee nations, then specifically France, could be brought in.
  • A series of meetings in London from 1975 to 1978 resulted in agreements on the guidelines for export, these were published as INFCIRC/254 (essentially the Zangger “Trigger List”) by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
  • Listed items could only be exported to non-nuclear states if certain International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards were agreed to or if exceptional circumstances relating to safety existed.
  • The name of the “London Club” was due to the series of meetings in London. It has also been referred to as the London Group, or the London Suppliers Group.
  •  At the first meeting since 1978, held at the Hague in March 1991, the twenty-six participating governments agreed to the changes, which were published as the “Dual-use List” in 1992, and also to the extension of the original list to more closely match the up-to-date Zangger list. A regular series of plenary meetings was also arranged as was the regular updating of the two key lists

Why India might not be able to enter NSG

  • The NSG was invented to prevent Indian advance towards possession of nuclear weapons after the technology demonstration test of 1974. If India joins it, the very nature of the NSG will change and dilute its fundamental position that all members should be signatories to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
  • Though the U.S. has stated repeatedly that it would like to see India in the NSG, it cannot be expected to be a party to the fundamental alteration of the NPT regime.
  • Since the group takes all its decisions by consensus, it follows that new members should also be by consensus.
  • For those outside the group, there is an outreach programme which is being pursued vigorously. The outreach programme is meant merely for conveying information and not for consultation. New Delhi hosted an outreach meeting a few years ago, but it was found that the exercise was not of much use in influencing the guidelines.
  • The pursuit of membership of the NSG by India at the highest level has aroused suspicion that India is aiming to be in the group to deny entry to Pakistan. Such an interpretation is the result of lack of any clarity as to the benefits that will accrue to India by joining the NSG.

India efforts till now

  • Interestingly, it was a U.S. think tank which brought up the topic in a Track II discussion with some of us in 2007. The suggestion was not that India should be given membership of the NSG, but that India should join all multilateral export control regimes like
    1. the NSG,
    2. Missile Technology Control Regime ,
    3. the Wassenaar Arrangement for control of conventional weapons and
    4. the Australia Group for control of chemicals that could contribute to chemical and biological weapons.
  • It appeared then that the whole proposal was to drag us into Wassenaar Arrangement and the Australia Group by presenting them as a package. We had refrained from joining both, though they were open for us from the beginning, for our own reasons. Our response to the U.S. proposal was guarded as we did not want a bargain on all the groups together.
  • We did, however, emphasise that India’s membership of the NSG would be helpful as it had received an exemption from the NSG guidelines.
  • As a member of the group, we could contribute to the discussion if it sought to amend the guidelines in any manner. In other words, it was not an Indian initiative to press for admission to the NSG.
  • U.S. President Barack Obama formalised the proposal in 2010, as though it was a concession to India, in his bid to win various contracts, including nuclear supplies. Perhaps, he was aware that a decision on the NSG was not in his hands, but promised to take up the matter with the others just to win some goodwill in the process.
  • As was expected, the fundamental requirement that every member should be a signatory to the NPT was brought up not only by China but several others. There was similar opposition in the case of the exemption from NSG guidelines at the time of the nuclear deal also, but our bilateral efforts and heavy lifting by the U.S., including a final phone call from the U.S. President to his Chinese counterpart, resulted in the exemption. The strength of the argument was that this would be a one-time exemption with no strings attached.

No great gains in the offing- The other side of the story 

  • In fact, membership of the group will not immediately open up nuclear trade as India has already pledged not to transfer nuclear know-how to other countries. If we attempt to dilute the guidelines to liberalise supply, it will be resisted by the others.
  • Membership of the NSG will only mean greater pressure on us to sign the NPT and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) and commit in advance to a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty, which would impose restrictions on existing stockpiles of fissile material.
  • China has given scant attention to the NSG guidelines and has violated them in the case of Pakistan by claiming to act under an agreement reached before China joined the NSG. Unlike India, Pakistan has not even sought an exemption from the NSG. The NSG’s ineffectiveness in countering proliferation makes it even less attractive as a group India should join.
  • Membership of the MTCR, which restricts the weight and range of missiles, is being projected as clearing the way for NSG. This is not likely because of China except that we can now threaten to veto China if it applies for membership of the MTCR.
  • When India is not anywhere near the permanent membership of the Security Council and even APEC membership remains elusive, the high-level pursuit of NSG membership may give the impression that India is unrealistic in its expectations from the international community. Support from Switzerland and Mexico will not make any difference as there will not be a vote on the issue. The U.S. may reiterate its support, but the objection will come from China and even some others. It will be better for India to concentrate on one or two fundamental objectives rather than fritter away our diplomatic resources on matters of marginal interest.

India, Seychelles working to ‘ensure security’ in Indian Ocean

  • Seychelles’s Tourism Minister Alain St. Ange, was in Chennai to promote the country’s tourism industry
    • India is an important source of tourism for the island nation.
    • Last year, about 8,000 Indians travelled to Seychelles to spend holidays. About 4,000 Indian tourists have travelled to Seychelles so far this year
    • The economy of the Indian Ocean country is heavily dependent on tourism. It receives about 2,80,000 tourists a year a year, roughly three times its population.
    • The direct share of tourism in the economy 27 per cent, which goes up to 62 per cent if the indirect contribution is factored in
  • Indian ocean– India and Seychelles have “very close” relations and both counties are working together to ensure safety and security in the Indian Ocean.seyc-LMAP-md
    • Work will start this year in the Assumption Island to jointly develop a naval base by India and Seychelles.
    • The country has allocated a plot on the Assumption Island for the base, which will help enhance maritime security along India’s west and south coast. This initiative has come following China’s announcement that it would build its first African naval base in Djibouti.
    • However Mr. St. Ange said it’s not right to call the Assumption Island facility an Indian naval base. It’s a base of Seychelles to be built with support from India.
    • India is already helping Seychelles patrol the Indian Ocean. When you leave the African waters, you enter the Seychelles waters in the Indian Ocean. So every time the world spoke of bandits they say in the Seychelles waters. Alone Seychelles cannot patrol this wide area.. And India is one of the supporting countries in this regard.

It’s Hillary vs. Trump in November vote

  • Powered by a solid triumph in California, Hillary Clinton declared victory in her year-long battle for the heart of the Democratic Party, seizing her place in history and setting out on the difficult task of fusing a fractured party to confront Donald Trump.
  • Ms. Clinton cruised to easy victories in four of the six State contests. With each win she further solidified Sen. Bernie Sanders’ defeat and dashed his already slim chances of using the last night of State contests to refuel his bid.
  • The victories allowed Ms. Clinton to celebrate her long-sought “milestone”, the first woman poised to lead a major political party’s presidential ticket.
  • Standing before a flag-waving crowd in Brooklyn, the former Secretary of State soaked up the cheers and beamed.

China-U.S. strategic dialogue was ‘marginally helpful’

  • The China-U.S. Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) dialogue took place following weeks of tensions that peaked when U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, responded harshly to a poser from the Chinese side that Beijing could impose an Air Defence Identification zone (ADIZ) in the SCS.
  • The remarks had followed an article that said that China is preparing an ADIZ in the SCS, two years after it announced a similar one in the East China Sea.

Air defence zone

  • The possibility that China may enforce an ADIZ, in turn, was fuelled by the U.S. conduct of “freedom of navigation” patrols in the SCS — moves which evoked a robust response from China. In May, the U.S. had launched its third “freedom of navigation” operation in the disputed Spratly Islands, followed by the flight of a U.S. EP-3 Aries surveillance aircraft, which was challenged by two Chinese fighter jets.
  • The back and forth between the U.S. and China mirrored China’s vocal response in the SCS to President Barack Obama’s “Pivot to Asia” doctrine.

Economic dialogue

  • Equally riveting was the economic dialogue, where the debate over China flooding the Western markets and ‘weakening’ their recovery pitted U.S. Treasury Secretary against Chinese Foreign Minister
  • China stressed that China’s steel overcapacity was accumulated during the post-economic crisis period, when $609 billion were pumped into the economy towards infrastructure — a move that contributed to more than half of global growth in the 2009-11 period.

Officials hope for a repeat of 2008 at NSG meeting

  • In 2008, negotiations over the special waiver for India at the Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG) had gone down to the wire. The real worry was China, as it will be again now, during a special session of the NSG, convened in Vienna, to discuss India’s membership application.
  • The session, called ahead of the annual NSG plenary in Seoul on June 23-24, is looking specifically at the applications from India and Pakistan for membership to the 48 member nuclear export control regime.
  • Winning a vote at the NSG is not about numbers but consensus, and China’s vote against India, like that of any of the other 47 members could dash India’s hopes.
  • Measures taken to win support
    • To that end, Prime Minister Modi has travelled to one-third of the NSG members in the past two years
    • External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar have tapped others including hosting NSG chair Rafael Grossi in Delhi last November.
    • As Prime Minister makes his last scheduled stop of his current tour in Mexico to garner support for India’s membership, Indian diplomats in Vienna are hoping that something similarly miraculous will work and China, that has been extremely vocal about its opposition to Indian membership, will change its stand at the last moment like in 2008
    • In the weeks leading up to the NSG application, the government also tried another direct pitch to China, announcing a visit by President Pranab Mukherjee. Officials say the President brought up the issue at the “highest level” seeking President Xi Jinping’s “personal attention” to India’s quest for clean nuclear energy
  • China’s objections have been three-fold
    • India is not a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty;
    • that no “country-specific” exemption could be given, given Pakistan’s application for NSG membership a week after India;
    • and that the NSG decision should not change the “South Asian balance”.
  • Factors that might affect India’s NSG membership
    • Strain in India-China ties over Indian closeness to the U.S. on its South China Sea standoff,
    • The changed balance of power between the U.S., that is promoting India’s efforts for NSG membership and China
    • A final difference between the 2008 and 2016 bids is the present application from Pakistan, which officials worry could be a spoiler.Many countries are wary of Pakistan’s terrible record on nuclear proliferation and terrorism

India eyes uranium from Africa

  • On the sidelines of its campaign for membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), India is likely to ask African countries to relax commitment to the Pelindaba Treaty
    • which controls supply of uranium from key mineral hubs of Africa to the rest of the world. 
    • The Pelindaba Treaty signed in 1996, also known as the African Nuclear Weapon Free Zone Treaty,
    • aims at preventing nuclear proliferation and preventing strategic minerals of Africa from being exported freely.
  • President Pranab Mukherjee would begin the process by trying to convince Namibia next week, during his June 15-18 trip, to implement a bilateral treaty with India and supply uranium to Indian nuclear energy projects. Namibia is the fourth largest producer of uranium.

France launches ‘terror alert’ smartphone app

  • A new smartphone app to alert users to possible terror attacks was launched by the French government  in time for the start of Euro 2016, amid growing security concerns over the tournament.
  • The application, which is free to download in both French and English, will send users a warning “in case of a suspected attack,”
  • It will also alert users  about “unexpected events” such as the breaching of flood defences.
  • Alerts will appear on the app less than 15 minutes after the incident has been confirmed by authorities, and will be customised according to the user’s exact location.

PMs US visit

India now a ‘major defence partner’
  • The U.S. has recognised India as ‘major defence partner,’ a classification that will allow India to buy more advanced and sensitive technologies from the U.S. Now we will be treated at a level similar to the closest allies and partners of the U.S. and it sort of allows for better, higher quality, faster technology access on the defence side and also more liberal access to the dual technology side
  • This move will be complemented by India’s entry into the Missile Technology Control Regime, an exclusive club that restricts trade in sensitive defence technologies.
  • The U.S. has also declared that it will be its “strong objective to have India voted as a member “of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), another export control regime, later this month.
  • Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA)-
    • The logistics pact between India and the U.S., Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA), which found mention in the joint statement has some more steps to go through back home before it can be signed.
    • In the coming weeks the agreement will go through the administrative procedure and has to be formally approved by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) before it can be signed. Both sides had announced their ‘in-principle’ understanding to conclude the logistics arrangement
    • LEMOA is
      • basically a functional technical agreement to carry out logistical tasks
      • It will simplify exchange of fuel and other logistics support at each other’s facilities during joint training, exercises, port calls and Humanitarian Assistance & Disaster Relief missions.
      • It would entail designation of officials on both sides for each side to approach in case of necessity and each request would be considered on a case by case basis.
      • would enable India to respond faster to contingencies in the HADR domain like in Yemen or Nepal.
      • The steps not withstanding experts think India is reluctant due to domestic political sensitivities.

Modi addresses U.S. Congress

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi combined poetry, humour and rhetoric to outline his vision for India’s partnership with the U.S in the 21st century, addressing a joint session of the U.S. Congress.
  • This was Mr. Modi’s first address and he became the fifth Indian Prime Minister to address a joint session of the Congress.
  • Mr Modi called for deepening U.S.- India security cooperation to tackle global terrorism, based on a policy that “delinks religion from terrorism.”
  • Effusive in his enthusiasm for India’s partnership with the U.S “in every sector of India’s forward march, I see the U.S as an indispensable partner”, Mr. Modi, however, diplomatically and emphatically drove home the message that New Delhi could have its own priorities and convictions. “As we deepen our partnership, there would be times when we would have differing perspectives. But since our interests and concerns converge, the autonomy in decision-making and diversity in our perspectives can only add value to our partnership,”
  • Recalling former prime minister A.B. Vajapyee’s address to the Congress, where he had spoken about overcoming the “hesitations of history,” Mr. Modi said: “Our relationship has overcome the hesitations of history,” and “comfort, candour and convergence define our conversations.”
  • With Pakistan obviously in mind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday said that terrorism was being “incubated in India’s neighbourhood”, and pressed for action without distinction against groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Taliban and the IS who share the “same philosophy of hate, murder and killings.”
  • In his address to the joint sitting of the U.S. Congress here, Mr. Modi said terrorism has to be fought with “one voice” as he commended the American lawmakers for sending out a clear message in refusing to “reward” those who preach and practice terrorism for political gains — an apparent reference to the recent blocking of sale of eight F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan.
  • “Let us work together to convert shared ideals into practical cooperation,” he said, lauding common democratic principles and hailing two heroes of non-violence, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.

To mollify China, India eases curbs on conference visas

  • India has removed “conference” visas for Chinese participants from the prior referral category. 
  • Conference visas are issued for seminars, workshops and conferences organised by government departments, Union ministries, public sector undertakings, central educational institutions or public funded universities. The relaxation is only for conference visas as it was a major hindrance for the Chinese to come here and share technological advancements and strategies
  • China has, on several occasions, pressed India for lifting restrictions on conference and research visas.
  • Recent moves to liberalise the visa regime for Chinese citizens.
    • India has already rolled out electronic tourist visa-on-arrival facility for Chinese and
    • more recently, removed the need for prior approval for conference visas.
  • Earlier, China was bracketed with Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, foreigners of Pakistani origin and stateless persons under the restricted category, requiring prior security clearance from the intelligence agencies for obtaining a visa.
  • However, Beijing is yet to reciprocate to New Delhi demand for a similar arrangement for its citizens.
  • The timing of the move is being seen as an attempt to soften the atmosphere in the run-up to the meetings of the NSG in Vienna.

Tragedy of the boat people

  • The death of about 700 people in three shipwrecks in the Mediterranean Sea is another reminder of the horrors of the refugee crisis confronting Europe. Globally there is a spike in the number of refugees over the past few years, mainly due to the wars and civil strife in West Asia and North Africa.
  • Refugees have taken two major routes to reach Europe: from Turkey to the Greek islands, and from Libya to Italy.
  • The ‘One In, One Out’ deal reached recently between the European Union and Turkey, under which Europe will resettle one Syrian refugee in the continent for every Syrian returned to Turkey from the Greek islands, has seen the arrival of refugees from Turkey subside.
  • But the closure of this route has prompted those who smuggle refugees to shift their focus to Libya, resulting in a surge of arrivals on the Italian coast.
  • Europe needs a comprehensive plan to tackle this crisis.
    1. First, it should welcome more people. But for Germany and Sweden, European countries have largely been shy of accepting refugees.
    2. Second, Europe needs to have a more efficient and proactive search and rescue mission with the required financial muscle.
      • Italy has proposed the creation of euro bonds to finance the response facility, a move Germany opposes.
      • If Europe wants to prevent people from drowning, rescue teams should be provided the resources they ask for.
    3. Third, the official European position is that more should be done to stop refugees from leaving for Europe in the first place.
      • This cannot be done unless there are functional, cooperative governments in these countries.
      • The EU could reach an agreement with Turkey because there is a stable authority in Ankara that could implement the plan.
      • But Libya has been in the midst of a violent civil war ever since the regime of Muammar Qadhafi was toppled in a war led by Europeans. This makes it difficult to crack down on the sophisticated smuggling network that has developed over the last few years. Any plan to check the flow needs to be supplemented by efforts to find peace in Libya.

A re-look needed at India’s engagement of the neighbourhood

  • India has traditionally displayed a self-imposed ‘unilateral bias’ in addressing key challenges in the neighbourhood and near abroad. The limits of this approach are evident
  • For instance The Salma Dam in Afghanistan’s Herat Province or Iran’s Chabahar port complex represents New Delhi’s ambitious foray into its extended neighbourhood. But there is considerable scepticism within the strategic community regarding India’s material and political wherewithal to stay the course vis-à-vis these long-term projects

The problem 

  • India’s strategic engagements in the region and beyond suffer from several handicaps.
  1. First of all, New Delhi lacks the financial resources to invest in crucial projects in a sustained manner
    •  due to budget constraints and compulsions of domestic priorities.
    • Eg- Hambantota Port some years ago is a case in point
  2. Second, there is also a problem of severe attention deficit resulting from an inability to commit diplomatic and political capital to pursue key strategic objectives.
  3. Third, many of India’s strategic initiatives in the region, Chabahar for instance, often get portrayed in competitive terms, thereby getting into the cross hairs of adversarial/insecure neighbours.
  4. Finally, this problem is compounded by the fact that New Delhi has traditionally displayed a self-imposed “unilateral bias” in addressing key challenges in the neighbourhood and near abroad. Indeed, this tendency to “go solo” partly explains the lacklustre performance of at least some of India’s strategic initiatives, and has, indeed, contributed to a certain “strategic diffidence” in our strategic culture.

Solution

  1. Adopting a grand strategic approach to addressing key strategic challenges: there should be a clear rationale guiding our strategic engagements
  2. Moving from a unilateral approach to tackling problems to a multilateral approach, and
  3. Creating a regional/global consensus on key challenges. Let’s examine some of our current strategic engagements in the region and see whether a multilateral approach can help us pursue our objectives better.

For instance

  1. Co-developing Chabahar
  2. Unilateralism in Afghanistan
    • There is no denying the fact that India’s engagement with Kabul has so far been praiseworthy
    • thanks to its well-conceived reconstruction and development assistance (over $2 billion so far) to Afghanistan.
    • The Afghan Parliament, constructed with Indian assistance and scores of school buildings and hospitals, among others, have generated a lot of goodwill for India there
    • And yet, there is a real danger of Indian interests and assets being the target of adversaries in the days ahead with the Taliban on the rise and NATO and U.S. troops withdrawing from Afghanistan.
    • New Delhi does not seem to have a contingency plan to deal with it other than perhaps putting an end to the good work there.
    •  New Delhi does not seem to have recognised the fact that reconstruction and peace-building should go hand in hand. India has so far shied away from participating in the Afghan peace process since the ouster of the Taliban regime in 2001.
    • If New Delhi’s Afghan policy is to be meaningful and sustainable, it needs to do two things:
      • get like-minded countries on board India’s reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan, and support and
      • engage in the Afghan reconciliation and peace-building process.
  3. India-China strategic partnership
    • India should also try to engage China more proactively and with a long-term geopolitical imagination.
    • India and China have traditionally viewed each other through the Pakistan prism, and the resultant faulty view of each other has constrained us from fully utilising our potential in addressing the challenges faced by the region.
    • A more meaningful Sino-Indian strategic partnership should therefore be undertaken at three levels.
    • First, by jointly fighting terror in the region.
    • Second, China today is a major contributor to South Asia’s developmental needs. There is no point in crying foul about increasing Chinese forays into the region
    • Finally, Indian reactions to China’s One Belt, One Road (OBOR) project should be to see how we can utilise the many economic, infrastructural and other opportunities opened up by OBOR.
  • We need to create alliances and coalitions to confront challenges and better utilise opportunities, and in today’s “loose multipolar” world, our alliance behaviour should be guided by clear strategic objectives rather than traditional friendships alone.
  • In today’s ‘loose multipolar’ world, our alliance behaviour should be guided by clear strategic objectives rather than traditional friendships alone

White tiger mascot of 2018 Winter Games

  • A cheerful white tiger cub, named ‘Soohorang’, was unveiled as the official mascot for South Korea’s 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.

India, U.S. to share data on terrorists

  • The Home Ministry signed an agreement on  to join the global terror database maintained by the Terrorist Screening Center (TSC) of the U.S.
  • This move comes ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the United States on June 7 and 8.
  • Under this arrangement, both sides will give each other access to terrorism screening information through designated contact points, subject to domestic laws and regulations
  • The proposal was initially made by the U.S. in 2012, but had made little progress due to objections raised by security agencies. The Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) and Intelligence Bureau (IB) had opposed giving the United States unhindered access to the database of terror suspects in India.
  • The U.S. has already finalised such agreements with 30 countries
  • The Terrorist Screening Center has details of 11,000 terror suspects on its database, including nationality, date of birth, photos, finger prints (if any) and passport number.

India joins The Hague Code of Conduct

  • Strengthening worldwide attempt to contain the spread of ballistic missiles, India has joined The Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation (HCoC)
  • It is a
    • voluntary
    • legally non-binding
    • multilateral body
    • aimed at preventing the spread of ballistic missiles that can deliver weapons of mass destruction
  • India’s joining the Code signals our readiness to further strengthen the global non-proliferation regimes
  • In recent years, the HCoC has been focused on West Asia, South Asia and the East Asia due to the rising missile and nuclear arms race among rival powers.
  • In the latest meeting of the HCoC which concluded on May 29, a special mention was made of the increased number of missile launches by North Korea in 2015.

PM to inaugurate Friendship Dam in Afghanistan

  • Marking the completion of a landmark Afghan development project, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate the Afghan-India Friendship Dam during his visit to Afghanistan this weekend
  • The completion of the dam project in Herat province represents the culmination of work by 1500 Indian and Afghan engineers and other professionals in very difficult conditions
  • Originally constructed in 1976, the reservoir was damaged in the Afghanistan civil war. The Afghan-India Friendship Dam will irrigate 75,000 hectares of farmland in arid parts of western Afghanistan.
  • The Afghanistan government in 2015 changed the name of the project from Salma dam to Afghan-India Friendship Dam.

S. China Sea issue to dominate Asia security summit

  • U.S. Defence Secretary Ashton Carter arrived in Singapore ahead of a regional security summit Shangri-La Dialogue
  • The summit is likely to be dominated by China’s continued military build up in the South China Sea.
  • His attendance at this weekend’s Shangri-La Dialogue is part of a broader U.S. diplomatic push to build and maintain alliances in the Asia-Pacific region, which America sees as key to its own long-term economic and security interests.
  • In the year since the last summit, China has stepped up its maritime patrols across the South China Sea and built up a series of military bases on small islands it reclaimed from the ocean.
  • Mr. Carter has spoken forcefully about China’s military moves in the South China Sea and last week said Beijing risked building a “Great Wall of self-isolation”.
  • China has indicated it may soon declare an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) that would require civilian aircraft to identify themselves to military controllers in the region.

The Shangri-La Dialogue

  • The IISS Asia Security Summit: The Shangri-La Dialogue (SLD) is a “Track One” inter-governmental security forum held annually by an independent think tank, the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) which is attended by defense ministers, permanent heads of ministries and military chiefs of 28 Asia-Pacific states. The forum gets its name from the Shangri-La Hotel in Singapore where it has been held since 2002.
  • The summit serves to cultivate a sense of community among the most important policymakers in the defence and security community in the region. Government delegations have made the best out of the meeting by holding bilateral meetings with other delegations on the sidelines of the conference. While primarily an inter-governmental meeting, the summit is also attended by legislators, academic experts, distinguished journalists and business delegates.
  • The participants have included Australia, Brunei, Burma(Myanmar), Cambodia, Canada, Chile, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Mongolia, New Zealand, Pakistan, People’s Republic of China, Philippines, Russia, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Sweden, Thailand, East Timor, United Kingdom, United States and Vietnam.

Sri Lanka panel proposes Bill of Rights

  • The 20-member committee official committee on constitutional reforms in Sri Lanka has submitted its final recommendations
  • It has not been able to arrive at a consensus while making recommendations on several contentious areas such as the nature of state, national flag, religion, merger of provinces and land powers.
  • Outcomes-
    • Bill of Rights – It covers 32 types of rights, ranging from right to life (not included in the 1978 Constitution) to freedom of religion to rights of people with diverse sexual and gender identities.
    • Provisions for curtailment of powers of the office of Governor, a subject that has been of great interest to the Northern and Eastern Provinces.
    • On the issue of religion, the committee points out that despite the existing constitutional position of providing Buddhism “the foremost place”, the Supreme Court has called Sri Lanka a “secular State”. One of its suggestions was that all religions be given equal status while protecting and fostering Buddhism.
    • The committee is also for retaining the present national flag or designing one without any reference to ethnicity, while representing Sri Lankan collective life, or framing a new flag symbolising the equality of all ethnic groups.
    • As for the nature of the state, the panel has suggested three formulations, one of which had no reference to unitary or federal. Another proposal, using the term “unitary”, talks of “multi-tier governance systems”.
    • Terming the merger of the Northern and Eastern provinces as “the most controversial”, the committee makes six recommendations. One of them is for allowing the current structure of nine provinces with constitutional provisions for power- sharing.