Current Affairs - International

India Secures Membership in Codex Alimentarius Commission's Executive Committee

On 2nd Dec, India achieved unanimous election to the Executive Committee of the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) during its 46th meeting in Rome, representing the Asian region.

Key Points

  • Significance of Committee Membership: India's membership offers a unique opportunity to actively contribute to global food standards.
  • It allows the country to partake in decision-making processes and critical reviews, supporting the CAC's program for standards development.
  • Committee Composition: The Executive Committee consists of the Chair, three vice Chairs, six regional coordinators, and seven elected representatives from different geographical regions of Codex, enhancing India's role in shaping international food standards.
  • Millets Standards Proposal: India's proposal for establishing group standards for millets gains approval from the Commission.
  • The country's initiative to set global standards for millets is recognized and supported by member nations, marking a significant achievement in global food regulations.
  • Project Approval: The Commission acknowledges India's proposition for global millets standards under Additional Agendas.
  • The proposal, discussed extensively during the CAC meeting, receives approval for the preparation of three Project documents, highlighting India's commitment to food standards.

Kenyan President Stresses Strong Bilateral Ties during India State Visit

Kenya's President, William Samoei Ruto, currently on a three-day state visit to India, highlighted the enduring friendship between the two nations, pledging to strengthen diplomatic bonds established since 1948.

Key Points

  • Diplomatic Reinforcement: Kenya's President greeted with honours at Rashtrapati Bhavan, expressed his commitment to fortify the longstanding diplomatic relations between Kenya and India.
  • Digital Collaboration: During a press conference, Kenya's President praised India's digital progress and announced Kenya's intent to sign agreements in the digital realm. He acknowledged his country's interest in learning from India's experiences in digital ID and government service digitization.
  • Collaboration Focus Areas: The Kenyan President identified key collaboration areas, including rural development, agriculture, vaccine manufacturing, and genomics. Both nations are set to sign memoranda of understanding (MoUs) to deepen cooperation in these sectors.
  • Economic Ties Reinforcement: Kenya's President emphasized the need to enhance business relationships, expressing optimism about bolstering economic ties between India and Kenya.
  • Gratitude for Warm Welcome: Expressing gratitude, President Ruto thanked Prime Minister Modi and President Droupadi Murmu for the warm reception during his visit.
  • Business and Investment Event: As part of the visit, Kenya's President is scheduled to participate in a business and investment event in New Delhi, signifying a renewed focus on economic collaboration.
  • Deepening Bilateral Relations: The visit, the first of its kind in over six years, aims to deepen the partnership between India and Kenya, with a strong emphasis on technological exchange, economic collaboration, and shared perspectives on global issues.

South Korea Conducts Test Flight of Solid-Fuel Space Rocket

On 4th Dec, South Korea achieved another milestone in its space endeavours with the successful test flight of a solid-fuel space rocket over the sea near Jeju Island, intensifying the space race with North Korea.

Key Points

  • Technology and Production Credits: The test launch involved cutting-edge technology developed by the state-run Agency for Defence Development. The space rocket and satellite were produced by South Korea's Hanwha Systems, highlighting domestic capabilities.
  • Strategic Significance: South Korea's defence ministry emphasized the strategic importance of the successful launch, particularly as North Korea recently deployed a military spy satellite, drawing condemnation for its alleged use of missile technology against U.N. security resolutions.
  • Accelerating Intelligence Capabilities: The ministry stated that the successful launch would accelerate South Korea's intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities, bolstering the nation's security posture.
  • Context of Recent Satellite Launches: The test flight comes on the heels of SpaceX launching South Korea's first spy satellite into orbit, contributing to the country's satellite capabilities.
  • Impact on Regional Dynamics: South Korea's successful satellite launches aim to reduce dependence on American intelligence systems, providing the nation with greater autonomy and control over its surveillance capabilities.
  • North Korea's Satellite Endeavours: North Korea's recent launch of a military reconnaissance satellite, capturing images of sensitive U.S. locations, raises questions about the strategic implications of advanced satellite capabilities in the region.

Indian Troops Withdrawal from Maldives

Following Maldives President statement that India had agreed to withdraw its troops from the island nation two days after a meeting with the Indian Prime Minister, Indian officials contested the assertion, asserting that no final decision has been reached and that on-going discussions are still in progress.

  • President of Maldives, during his election campaign, pledged to remove Indian troops, citing concerns about sovereignty. A formal request was made after his inauguration.

Key Points

  • COP Summit Meeting: Indian Prime Minister and Maldivian President met on the sidelines of the COP 28 summit in Dubai on December 1, initiating discussions on strengthening bilateral cooperation.
  • Formation of Core Group: Both nations announced the establishment of a 'core group' or 'high-level committee' to enhance bilateral cooperation, addressing various aspects, including development projects.
  • President Claim: Maldives President claimed that an agreement had been reached to withdraw Indian military personnel, citing on-going technical progress. He emphasized constructive dialogues with the Indian government.
  • Indian Response: Indian officials disputed the claim, asserting that discussions in Dubai briefly touched upon the status of Indian platforms engaged in humanitarian activities in the Maldives. They clarified that the focus was on operational aspects, not solely on development projects.
  • Operational Considerations: Indian sources highlighted the ongoing discussions on the continued operational use of Indian helicopters and a Dornier aircraft stationed in the Maldives for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief activities.
  • Bilateral Development Partnership: Indian sources contested the notion that the bilateral panel's primary focus was only on development projects.
  • They clarified that the core objective was to find solutions to keep the Indian platforms operational.

IMD Unveils 2023 World Digital Competitiveness Ranking (WDCR)

India was positioned 49th among 64 economies in the 2023 World Digital Competitiveness Ranking (WDCR) recently released by the International Institute for Management Development (IMD).

Key Points

  • Cybersecurity Advancements: Noteworthy progress in cybersecurity knowledge reported, but shortcomings identified in technology and future readiness.
  • Comprehensive Assessment: WDCR offers a holistic evaluation of nations in navigating the digital landscape amidst the surge of artificial intelligence (AI).
  • Key Digital Prowess Indicators: Ranking illuminates crucial aspects influencing a nation's digital capabilities in an era where technology shapes global societies.
  • U.S. Secures Top Spot: United States regains the leading position, reaffirming its status as a "digital nation" actively incorporating digital technologies like AI across governmental, corporate, and individual sectors.
  • Top 5 Countries: Netherlands rises to second place, Singapore excels in technology at third, Denmark slips to fourth, and Switzerland, strong in knowledge, maintains fifth place.
  • Asia-Pacific Descent: India drops to 12th among 14 countries in the Asia-Pacific region, a shift from its consistent 11th position in the last four years.
  • Global Ranking Change: Among nations with populations exceeding 20 million, India falls to 18th globally, marking a two-position decline from the previous year.
  • Cybersecurity Improvements: Positive developments in cybersecurity knowledge, particularly in talent, training, and education. Setback in the sub-factor of scientific concentration.
  • Technology Domain Challenges: India secures the 50th spot, facing issues in enforcing contracts, wireless broadband, and internet users. Notable strengths in telecommunications investments and IT and media stock market capitalization.
  • Future Readiness Assessment: India ranks 51st, highlighting weaknesses in tablet possession, internet retailing, and E-governance. Strengths noted in the distribution of world robots.
  • Top Five Investing Nations: China, Brazil, India, Indonesia, and Vietnam identified by the World Bank as responsible for 75% of the world's total digital infrastructure investment in 2023, capturing an impressive $68.3 billion.

India Secures Highest Votes, Re-elected to IMO Council for 2024–25 Biennium

On 1st Dec, India was re-elected to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Council with the highest votes during the assembly elections for the 2024–25 biennium.

Key Points

  • Category of Interest: India falls under the Category of 10 states with "the largest interest in international seaborne trade," alongside prominent maritime nations.
  • Term Duration: The Council's term will span the biennium 2024-25.
  • Proud Achievement: India maintains a proud and unbroken record in category B, showcasing continuous service at IMO.
  • Global Maritime Support: India secured large-scale support from the international community, allowing it to continue serving the global maritime domain.
  • IMO's Authority: The IMO is the leading authority regulating the maritime industry, crucial for global trade, transportation, and marine operations.
  • Council's Role: The council, as IMO's executive organ, supervises the organization's work and performs assembly functions between sessions, excluding recommendations to governments on maritime safety and pollution prevention.
  • Enhanced Representation: Under MIV 2030, India aims to appoint permanent representatives at IMO London for better representation.
  • JPO Program: Proposes nominating at least 2 qualified candidates for the Junior Professional Officer (JPO) Program, contributing to international cooperation.
  • Strategic Goals: Amrik Kaal Vision 2047 outlines initiatives to strengthen India's global maritime presence, including a dedicated IMO cell in India, permanent representative at IMO headquarters, London, and implementing BIMSTEC Master Plan.
  • Regional Coordination: Emphasis on creating a robust BIMSTEC institutional structure for coordinated and timely implementation of regional projects.

China, Japan, and South Korea Pave the Way for Cooperation

On 26th Nov, China, Japan, and South Korea have reached an agreement to restart cooperation, marking a significant step towards easing tensions among the Asian neighbours.

  • The move comes amid efforts to mend ties between China and the United States, with concerns in Beijing about the strengthening three-way partnership between Washington and its key regional allies.

Key Points

  • Resumption of Diplomatic Ties: Foreign ministers from China, Japan, and South Korea held their first meeting since 2019 in the South Korean port of Busan, reviving efforts to strengthen diplomatic and economic exchanges.
  • Disrupted Plans: Annual summits between the three nations, initiated in 2008, were interrupted by two-way disputes and the COVID-19 pandemic, with the last meeting occurring in 2019.
  • Comprehensive Cooperation: During the 100-minute talks, the ministers agreed to advance collaboration in six areas, including security, economy, and technology, aiming to foster concrete discussions in preparation for the trilateral summit.
  • Institutionalizing Cooperation: South Korean Foreign Minister emphasized the importance of institutionalizing trilateral cooperation for stability and sustainability, especially considering the complex regional dynamics.
  • Trilateral Free Trade Agreement: China foreign minister called for the restart of negotiations on a trilateral free trade agreement among the three nations, emphasizing the need for economic collaboration.
  • North Korean Issues: South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin expressed concerns about North Korea's recent launch of a spy satellite and sought increased responses to arms deals between Pyongyang and Moscow.

Malaysia to Offer Visa-Free Entry to Indians and Chinese

Close on the heels of similar moves by Sri Lanka and Thailand, Malaysia's Prime Minister has announced that Indians and Chinese citizens will enjoy visa-free entry for up to 30 days, starting from December 1.

  • The exemption, aimed at boosting tourism, will remain in effect until December 31, 2024.

Key Points

  • Prominent Announcement: Prime Minister disclosed the visa-free entry initiative during his address at the People’s Justice Party congress.
  • Top Source Markets: India and China are among Malaysia’s top five source markets for tourism, with 91 lakh tourist arrivals recorded until June this year.
  • Duration of Exemption: The visa exemption, applicable to both Indian and Chinese travellers, will be in effect until December 31, 2024.
  • Tourism Statistics: The Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board revealed a decline in tourist arrivals due to the pandemic, with around 5 lakh arrivals from China and 2.8 lakh from India until June 2023.
  • Post-Pandemic Recovery: Malaysia is optimistic about its post-pandemic recovery and aims to welcome 1.5 crore foreign tourists in the current year.
  • Significant Indian Diaspora: Malaysia houses a 29 lakh-strong overseas Indian community, including Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) and NRIs.
  • Security Clearance: The 30-day visa exemption for Indian and Chinese travellers is subject to security clearance. Initial screenings will be conducted, and individuals with criminal records or terrorism risks will be denied entry.
  • Outbound Travel Trends: India emerged as the largest source market for outbound travellers in Asia in 2022, with top destinations including the UAE, Saudi Arabia, USA, Singapore, and Thailand.
  • Diaspora Travellers: A significant portion of outbound travellers from India comprises diaspora travellers.

ASEAN-India Millet Festival 2023 Commences in Jakarta

The ASEAN-India Millet Festival 2023 is being held in South Jakarta, Indonesia, from 22nd November to 26th November 2023, with the aim of promoting millets and millet-based products among ASEAN member states.

Key Points

  • Awareness and Market Creation: The festival, organized by the Indian Mission to ASEAN and the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers' Welfare, seeks to raise awareness and create a market for millets and millet-based products in ASEAN countries.
  • Indian Delegation and Diverse Representation: The Indian delegation, representing various facets of the millet ecosystem, includes chefs, start-ups, FPO representatives, industry leaders, and state officials.
  • Millet-centric Exhibition: A dedicated exhibition featuring Millet-based FPOs, start-ups, and Indian chefs is part of the festival, showcasing the cultural and culinary diversity of millets.
  • Contributing to ASEAN-India Joint Leaders' Statement: The festival aligns with the ASEAN-India Joint Leaders' Statement on Strengthening Food Security and Nutrition, contributing to the goals outlined in the statement.

RISE Accelerator for Circular Economy Startups

On 21st Nov, in a strategic move to foster collaboration between India and Australia, the Atal Innovation Mission (AIM), under NITI Aayog, has introduced a groundbreaking accelerator program, Rapid Innovation and Startup Expansion (RISE).

  • This initiative aims to provide support to startups and SMEs in both countries, focusing on circular economy technologies and solutions.

Key Points

  • A Bilateral Endeavour: The RISE Accelerator, a multi-year bilateral program, is a joint venture between CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, and AIM, the Indian Government’s flagship initiative for innovation and entrepreneurship.
  • Diplomacy and Collaboration: High Commissioner of India to Australia, sees the RISE Accelerator as a catalyst not only for strengthening diplomatic ties but also for fostering collaborative efforts across various domains.
  • Nine-Month Accelerator Journey: The RISE Accelerator program spans nine months, providing startups the guidance to navigate a new region, establish connections, and build credibility for success in international markets.
  • Opportunity for Circular Economy Innovation: The program's first round aligns with CSIRO’s Circular Economy for Missions initiative, seeking startups and SMEs developing innovative business models and technologies to support the transition to a circular economy.
  • Program Details and Benefits: Startups can participate at no cost, with virtual delivery and potential travel opportunities between Australia and India. Participants may be eligible for up to INR 40,00,000 in non-equity grants.
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