Current Affairs - India And Its Bilateral Relations
India has recently strongly objected to China's deliberate and selective obstruction of three athletes from Arunachal Pradesh, a region claimed by China, preventing them from participating in the Asian Games in Hangzhou.
- Arunachal Pradesh Athletes Barred: Three women wushu players from Arunachal Pradesh faced difficulties downloading travel documents from an official Chinese website, preventing their participation in the Asian Games.
- Meanwhile, the rest of the wushu squad, consisting of ten players, faced no such obstacles and travelled to Hong Kong, with a connecting flight to Hangzhou.
- Strong Protest Lodged: India lodged a strong protest both in New Delhi and Beijing against China's actions, which were characterized as a "deliberate and selective obstruction" of Indian sportspersons.
- India-China Relations: This incident occurred amid strained India-China relations, primarily due to the prolonged military standoff on the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
- Rejection of Differential Treatment: India reiterated its long-standing position of rejecting differential treatment of its citizens based on domicile or ethnicity.
- Arunachal Pradesh is recognized as an integral and inalienable part of India, despite China's claims.
- Stapled Visas Controversy: The same three wushu players had previously been unable to compete in the World University Games in Chengdu due to China issuing stapled visas.
- Stapled visas are considered a signal that China does not recognize India's sovereignty over Arunachal Pradesh.
India- China Dispute on Arunachal Pradesh
China's Territorial Claim
- China asserts ownership of approximately 90,000 sq km of Arunachal Pradesh.
- It refers to this area as "Zangnan" in Chinese and often mentions "South Tibet" in connection with this region.
- Chinese maps depict Arunachal Pradesh as part of China and occasionally label it as "so-called Arunachal Pradesh."
- China periodically reinforces this unilateral claim to Indian territory, including by assigning Chinese names to places in Arunachal Pradesh.
China’s Argument for Claiming These Areas
- China disputes the legal status of the McMahon Line, which demarcated the border between Tibet and British India through the Simla Convention (also known as the 'Convention Between Great Britain, China, and Tibet') of 1914.
- During the Shimla Convention, China was represented by a delegate from the Republic of China.
- The Chinese representative did not provide consent to the Shimla Convention, contending that Tibet lacked the independent authority to engage in international agreements.
- The McMahon Line, named after Henry McMahon, the principal British negotiator in Shimla, extended from the eastern Bhutan border to the Isu Razi pass along the China-Myanmar boundary.
- China asserts territorial rights to the south of the McMahon Line, encompassing parts of Arunachal Pradesh.
- Additionally, China justifies its claims by referring to historical connections between monasteries in Tawang and Lhasa.
Origin of the Border Dispute with China
- Following the Communist Party's ascent to power in China, the country withdrew from all international agreements and "unequal treaties" imposed during its "century of humiliation."
- China demanded renegotiation of its borders.
- The border between China and India has remained un-delineated.
Line of Actual Control (LAC)
- The LAC separates Indian-administered areas from Chinese-administered territories.
- It comprises three sectors: Eastern (Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim), Middle (Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh), and Western (Ladakh).
- India and China hold different views on the LAC's alignment.
- India defines the LAC as approximately 3,488 km long, while China estimates it to be around 2,000 km.
India has recently issued a robust travel advisory to its citizens in Canada, warning of potential "politically condoned hate crimes," following recent allegations linking New Delhi to the assassination of a Sikh separatist activist on Canadian soil.
- Concerns over Targeted Threats: India’s Ministry of External Affairs has raised concerns about targeted threats against Indian diplomats and segments of the Indian community opposing anti-India agendas in Canada.
- Deteriorating Security Environment: The advisory emphasizes the deteriorating security situation in Canada and advises Indian students to exercise extreme caution and vigilance.
- Registration with Indian Authorities: Indian nationals and students are urged to register with the High Commission of India or Consulates General of India in Toronto and Vancouver for better communication in case of emergencies.
- Suspension of Visa Services: Visa consultancy service BLS International, responsible for processing Indian visa applications in Canada, announced the suspension of visa services for Canadian citizens, citing "operational reasons."
- Diplomatic Tensions: The travel advisory comes in the wake of a diplomatic rift between Canada and India, triggered by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's claims of investigating potential links between "agents of the government of India" and the assassination of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Sikh Canadian citizen.
- Terrorist Organizations: India categorizes several groups associated with the Khalistan movement as "terrorist organizations" under its Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).
Issue of Khalistan Movement
- Demand for a Sikh Homeland: The Khalistan movement represents a demand for a distinct homeland for Sikhs, known as Khalistan (the land of the Khalsa).
- Historical Background: The movement gained momentum in the 1980s due to widespread dissatisfaction among Sikhs in post-independence India regarding economic, social, and political conditions.
- Roots in Partition: The partition of Punjab between Pakistan and India in 1947 left the Sikh community divided between a Muslim-majority Pakistan and a predominantly Hindu India, leading to disaffection.
- 1966 Division: Punjab was further divided along linguistic lines in 1966 when the Hindi-speaking state of Haryana was created, exacerbating the Sikh community's sense of division.
- Green Revolution Impact: India's Green Revolution in the late 1960s, aimed at improving agricultural production, created resentment among Sikhs due to wealth inequality, lack of non-agricultural development, and centralized agricultural policy.
- Water Dispute: The diversion of water from the Sutlej River away from Punjab to neighboring states intensified Sikh grievances.
- Leadership of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale: In the late 1970s, Sikh preacher Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale emerged as a prominent leader, claiming discrimination against Sikhs and an erosion of Sikh identity by the Indian government. Bhindranwale established a parallel government in the Golden Temple complex in Amritsar.
- Operation Bluestar: In response to Bhindranwale's presence in the Golden Temple, the Indian army conducted Operation Bluestar in June 1984, further angering the Sikh population.
- 1984 Anti-Sikh Violence: Following the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards in November 1984, over 2,700 Sikhs (according to government estimates) were killed in violent attacks in New Delhi, intensifying the period of violence in Punjab.
- Resurgence in Recent Years: The Khalistan movement resurfaced in recent years, notably during the farmer protests in New Delhi in 2020–21. Some supporters advocated for its revival, leading to renewed debates on the issue.
- Transnational Character: The Khalistan movement has a transnational character, with significant support from the Sikh diaspora in countries like Canada, the UK, and Australia.
- Air India Bombing: Sikh organizations based in Canada were blamed for the 1985 bombing of an Air India flight from Toronto to London, resulting in 329 deaths. One acquitted suspect in the attack was later shot dead in Canada.
- Allegations of Canadian Support: The Indian government has accused Canada of providing a safe haven for Khalistani militants and extremists, leading to tensions in India-Canada relations.
- Public Referendums: Public referendums on the creation of an independent Khalistan state have been held in Canada, the UK, Australia, and other countries, further straining diplomatic ties.
- Recent Tensions: Recent tensions between India and Canada include the pause in talks on a free-trade agreement and a frosty exchange between the leaders of both countries at the G20 summit.
On 19th September, 2023, India and Malaysia convened in New Delhi for the 12th Malaysia-India Defence Cooperation Committee (MIDCOM) meeting, where they discussed various aspects of their defence cooperation and regional concerns.
- Establishment of a Strategic Affairs Working Group (SAWG): Both nations explored ways to strengthen bilateral defence engagement.
- An agreement was reached to create a Strategic Affairs Working Group (SAWG).
- SAWG will serve as a consultative mechanism to comprehensively handle all aspects of defence cooperation between India and Malaysia.
- Focus Areas: Emerging areas of cooperation, including cybersecurity, and global commons issues were addressed.
- Both nations emphasized collaboration in defence industry, maritime security, and multilateral initiatives.
- Defence Industry Collaboration: Malaysia expressed confidence in India's defence industry capabilities, especially in shipbuilding and maintenance.
- Enhanced Strategic Partnership: India and Malaysia reaffirmed their commitment to implementing the Enhanced Strategic Partnership, grounded in mutual trust and shared democratic values.
- Significance: The meeting signifies the deepening defence ties between Malaysia and India.
Recently, India and Canada have temporarily halted their negotiations on a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), a bilateral free trade agreement.
- Negotiations Paused: The pause is attributed to ongoing political developments and concerns related to "anti-India activities" in Canada.
- Resolution Expected: A senior government official confirmed the pause, explaining that talks would resume once the political issues between the two countries are resolved.
- The move is described as a pause rather than a complete break in negotiations.
- Strained Relations: Bilateral relations have been strained due to the activities of pro-Khalistan groups in Canada.
- Earlier in July, India summoned the Canadian envoy and issued a demarche after posters naming senior Indian diplomats appeared in certain areas of Canada.
- PM Strong Message: During the G20 Summit, Indian Prime Minister met Canadian counterpart and conveyed India's concerns about "anti-India activities of extremist elements in Canada."
- India raised issues related to the promotion of secessionism, incitement of violence against Indian diplomats, damage to diplomatic premises, threats to the Indian community, and the nexus of these elements with organized crime and other unlawful activities.
India – Canada Relations
- India established diplomatic relations with Canada in 1947.
- The Prime Minister of India's visit to Canada in April 2015 elevated bilateral relations to a strategic partnership.
- Recent years have seen efforts to enhance cooperation in various mutual interest areas.
Bilateral Trade Ties
- In 2022, India was Canada's 10th largest trading partner, with growing exports and imports.
- India's total exports to Canada in 2022-23 reached US$ 4.10 billion, up from US$ 3.76 billion in the previous fiscal year.
- Imports from Canada during 2022-23 amounted to US$ 4.05 billion, compared to US$ 3.13 billion in 2021-22.
- The current financial year (April-June) witnessed India's exports to Canada at US$ 911.10 million and imports from Canada at US$ 990.79 million.
Investment and Presence
- Canadian Pension Funds have invested approximately US$ 55 billion in India, while cumulative FDI from Canada since 2000 stands at about US$ 4.07 billion.
- Over 600 Canadian companies have a presence in India, and more than 1,000 firms actively pursue business in the Indian market.
- Indian companies in Canada operate in sectors such as Information Technology, software, steel, natural resources, and banking.
Major Exports and Imports
- Notable exports to Canada include gems, jewellery, pharmaceutical products, ready-made garments, mechanical appliances, organic chemicals, and light engineering goods.
- India imports pulses, newsprint, wood pulp, asbestos, potash, iron scrap, copper, minerals, and industrial chemicals from Canada.
- In June 2010, a Nuclear Cooperation Agreement (NCA) with Canada was signed, effective from September 2013.
- The Appropriate Arrangement (AA) for the NCA, signed in March 2013, established a Joint Committee on Civil Nuclear Cooperation.
- An annualized Trade Ministers dialogue reviews trade and economic relations.
- Technical negotiations for a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) were ongoing, covering goods, services, investment, and trade facilitation.
Science and Technology
- Focus on promoting industrial R&D with IP potential.
- Canada was a partner country for the 2017 Technology Summit.
Security and Defence
- Collaboration in international fora like UN, Commonwealth, and G-20.
- Expanding defence ties with mutual ship visits.
- Robust counter-terrorism cooperation through the JWG on Counter-Terrorism.
- Cooperation in space science, earth observation, satellite launch services, and ground support for space missions since the 1990s.
- ISRO and Canadian Space Agency (CSA) signed MOUs in 1996 and 2003.
- ANTRIX launched Canadian nanosatellites.
- ISRO's 100th Satellite PSLV in 2018 carried Canada's first LEO satellite.
- Bilateral MoU on agriculture cooperation signed in 2009.
- JWG established sub-groups on knowledge exchange, animal development, and agricultural marketing.
- Separate Joint Working Group for Pulses.
- Canada hosts a significant Indian diaspora of 1.6 million (PIOs and NRIs), over 4% of its population.
- Indian diaspora excels in various sectors, including politics, with 22 MPs of Indian origin in the House of Commons.
- Canada was the Country of Focus at the 48th International Film Festival of India in 2017.
- India – Canada Coproduction Agreement in films.
Challenges in India-Canada Ties
- Khalistan Separatism: Resurgence of Khalistan separatism and calls for a "referendum" among the Sikh community in Canada.
- Incidents of Vandalism: Targeting the Indian community in Canada.
- Canadian Pronouncements: Statements on developments in India can trigger diplomatic tensions.
- India's Structural Impediments: Complex labour laws, market protectionism, and bureaucratic regulations.
- Inadequate Trade: Despite some progress, Canada remains an insignificant trading partner for India.
Recently, the Union Cabinet gave its approval to the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India and Armenia, focusing on cooperation in the field of sharing successful Digital Solutions implemented at Population Scale for Digital Transformation.
- Enhancing Digital Cooperation: The MoU, signed on June 12, 2023, fosters collaboration and the exchange of experiences and digital technologies-based solutions.
- Transformational Initiatives: It is geared towards advancing digital transformation initiatives in both nations, including India's renowned India Stack project.
- Boosting Employment Opportunities: This agreement is expected to lead to improved collaboration and open up employment opportunities, particularly in the IT sector.
- Duration of the MoU: The MoU will become effective from the date of its signing and will remain in force for a period of 3 years.
- Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI) Focus: India and Armenia plan to enhance bilateral cooperation in the field of Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI), fostering government-to-government (G2G) and business-to-business (B2B) collaboration.
- India's Digital Leadership: India has demonstrated leadership in implementing Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI) and providing uninterrupted public services, even during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- India Stack Solutions: India Stack Solutions, a set of DPIs developed and implemented at population scale, aim to provide meaningful connectivity and seamless access to public services.
- These solutions are built on open technologies and encourage industry and community participation to foster innovation.
Recently, India and the United Kingdom reaffirmed their commitment to bolster financial services cooperation during the 12th Ministerial India-UK Economic and Financial Dialogue held in New Delhi.
- Emphasis on Financial Services: India and the UK expressed their dedication to deepen collaboration in financial services, capitalizing on their respective strengths to foster financial inclusion and sustainable development.
- Both nations expressed optimism regarding India's efforts to promote financial services and investment in GIFT IFSC (International Financial Services Centre), with the UK pledging support.
- Infrastructure and FinTech Focus: The dialogue centered on bolstering knowledge exchange, cooperation, and support for infrastructure development, robust FinTech partnerships, and sustainable finance, aligning with long-term growth objectives.
- Macroeconomic and Multilateral Cooperation: Discussions also revolved around enhancing mutual cooperation on macroeconomic and multilateral issues.
- Notably, they introduced the India-UK Infrastructure Finance Bridge, a collaborative initiative aimed at leveraging expertise and investment to support India's National Infrastructure Pipeline.
On 10th September, 2023, India and Saudi Arabia officially signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to strengthen cooperation in the energy sector.
- Scope of Collaboration: The MoU outlines several areas of cooperation between India and Saudi Arabia in the energy sector, encompassing:
- Renewable Energy
- Energy Efficiency
- Electricity and Grid Interconnection
- Natural Gas
- Strategic Petroleum Reserves
- Energy Security
- Bilateral Investment Promotion: The agreement encourages bilateral investment in Renewable Energy, Electricity, Hydrogen, Storage, Oil & Gas, and other related areas.
- Circular Economy and Climate Mitigation: Both nations commit to exploring circular economy principles and technologies to mitigate the effects of climate change. This includes initiatives like carbon capture, utilization, and storage.
- Digital Transformation: The MoU promotes the adoption of digital transformation, innovation, cyber-security, and artificial intelligence in the energy sector.
- Localization Efforts: The parties will work on establishing qualitative partnerships to localize materials, products, and services across various energy sectors, including supply chains and associated technologies.
- Flexible Collaboration: The MoU maintains flexibility for potential collaboration in any other energy-related fields that both countries may agree upon.
- Promoting Energy Transition: This agreement is poised to enhance the partnership between India and Saudi Arabia in the energy sector, supporting India's endeavors for an energy transition and contributing to the transformation of the global energy system to combat climate change.
During recent bilateral talks between Indian Prime Minister and his Bangladeshi counterpart, in New Delhi, the two nations inked three memorandum of understanding (MoUs).
- Cooperation in Digital Payments: An MoU on cooperation in Digital Payment mechanisms was signed between the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) and Bangladesh Bank.
- This collaboration aims to strengthen digital payment systems between the two countries.
- Renewal of Cultural Exchange Program: Another MoU pertains to the renewal of the Cultural Exchange Program (CEP) between India and Bangladesh for the years 2023-2025.
- This agreement underscores the importance of cultural ties and exchanges between the two nations.
- Agricultural Research Collaboration: The third MoU was signed between the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and the Bangladesh Agriculture Research Council (BARC), emphasizing joint efforts in agricultural research and development.
- Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA): The leaders also expressed their eagerness to commence negotiations on the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), which encompasses trade in goods and services, as well as investment protection and promotion.
- Comprehensive Bilateral Cooperation The discussions encompassed a wide range of bilateral cooperation areas, including political and security cooperation, border management, trade and connectivity, water resources, power and energy, development collaboration, and cultural and people-to-people linkages.
Recently, against the backdrop of the G20 Summit in New Delhi, India and the US have recently reached an agreement to settle their final lingering trade dispute lodged with the World Trade Organization (WTO), concerning India's restrictions on poultry imports due to avian influenza.
- Resolution and Tariff Reduction: As part of this agreement, India has also committed to reducing import tariffs on specific American products, including frozen turkey, frozen duck, fresh blueberries and cranberries, frozen blueberries and cranberries, dried blueberries and cranberries, and processed blueberries and cranberries.
- Significance of Resolution: The tariff reductions on certain US products enhance market access for American agricultural producers.
- Background on the Dispute: Since 2001, India has intermittently imposed restrictions on poultry imports due to avian influenza concerns.
- The dispute between the US and India dates back to the US request for consultations with India in 2012, followed by the establishment of a WTO dispute resolution panel in 2013.
- US's Allegations and India's Defense: The US contended that India's actions violated numerous articles in the SPS Agreement and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), including those related to scientific principles, discrimination, trade restrictions, risk assessment, and transparency.
- India argued that its measures conformed to international standards, particularly the OIE Terrestrial Code.
- WTO Panel's Findings and Appeal: The WTO dispute resolution panel ultimately found India's measures inconsistent with multiple provisions of the SPS Agreement and GATT.
- India appealed the decision, but the appellate body upheld the panel's findings in June 2015.
Recently, the 21st edition of the Varuna bilateral naval exercise between the Indian and French Navy, known as Varuna-23, took place in the Arabian Sea.
- This exercise involved guided missile frigates, a tanker, Maritime Patrol Aircraft, and integral helicopters from both navies, focusing on joint operations, replenishment at sea, and tactical maneuvers.
- Enhancing War Fighting Skills: During Varuna-23, Indian and French naval units engaged in joint operations and tactical maneuvers, aiming to enhance their war-fighting capabilities and improve interoperability.
- Promoting Peace and Stability: The exercise highlighted both navies' commitment to promoting peace, security, and stability in the region, showcasing their ability to contribute to regional and global security.
- Long-Standing Bilateral Exercise: Varuna, which began in 1993, has evolved into a vital aspect of the India-France strategic relationship. It was officially named Varuna in 2001 and has grown in scope and complexity over the years.
- Mutual Learning: The exercise provides a platform for mutual learning, allowing the two navies to exchange best practices and procedures. It also fosters operational-level interactions to enhance cooperation for maintaining order at sea and ensuring the security, safety, and freedom of the global maritime commons.
- Previous Phase: The first phase of Varuna-2023 occurred off India's Western Seaboard from January 16 to January 20, 2023.