Current Affairs - International
India and Australia convened the second India-Australia 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue on 20th Nov, between India’s Defence Minister, External Affairs Minister, Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister, and Foreign Minister.
- The dialogue aimed to enhance defence cooperation and deepen the strategic relationship, with a focus on critical minerals, trade, and investment.
- Diverse Agenda: The ministers exchanged views on strengthening multifaceted ties between India and Australia, encompassing defence and security, trade and investment, critical minerals, energy, climate change, science and technology, space, education, and people-to-people linkages. Regional and global issues were also on the agenda.
- Tribute to Sacrifices: Prior to the meeting, Penny Wong and Richard Marles paid respects at the National War Memorial, acknowledging the historical military relations between India and Australia, including joint campaigns such as Gallipoli.
- Broad Spectrum of Cooperation: The dialogue aimed to foster collaboration across various sectors, emphasizing the shared history of military relations and exploring opportunities for advancements in critical minerals, technology, and other strategic areas.
- Deepening Defence Ties: The meeting reflects the commitment of both nations to further strengthen defence cooperation and enhance strategic ties for mutual benefit.
Recently, the UK's insistence on elevated Geographical Indication (GI) protection for its agricultural products, including Scotch whisky, Stilton cheese, and Cheddar cheese, remains an unresolved issue in the ongoing free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations with India.
- The demand pertains to the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) standards, offering comprehensive protection for GIs, which currently exclusively applies to wines and spirits.
- GI Definition and Significance: Geographical Indication (GI) refers to agricultural, natural, or manufactured products originating from a specific geographical territory, symbolizing quality and distinctiveness associated with its origin. Once a product receives GI status, similar items cannot be sold under the same name.
- India's Current GI Framework: India typically provides general protection against GI rule violations. However, the UK is pushing for a higher level of protection, adding complexity to the negotiations.
- Ongoing Negotiations: Talks between India and the UK are underway, with unresolved issues primarily revolving around the Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) chapter.
- TRIPS Framework: The Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) under the World Trade Organisation outlines enhanced protection for GIs.
- This ensures complete protection, preventing the use of GIs unless the product genuinely originates from the designated area.
- Exclusive Protection for Wines and Spirits: The current higher level of GI protection, inclusive of terms like 'kind,' 'style,' and 'type,' is exclusive to wines and spirits.
- Indian Legislation and GI Protection: Indian legislation does not differentiate between wines and spirits and other products concerning GI protection.
- The decision to grant higher protection rests with the central government and varies based on international recognition.
- India's Advocacy for Extended Protection: India has been advocating for extended protection to products beyond wines and spirits to prevent the misuse of labels like Basmati rice by other countries.
- Balanced Trade Relationship: Experts emphasize the need for a balanced and reciprocal trade relationship. India should negotiate firmly for the UK to offer elevated GI protection to a broader range of Indian products.
- FTA Talks Timeline: India and the UK initiated talks for the free trade agreement in January 2022.
On 17th Nov, Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated DAKSHIN, a global centre for excellence catering to countries of the Global South. The initiative was proposed during the First Voice of Global South Summit in January.
- Global South's Voice: Emphasizing the newfound voice of the Global South, PM highlighted its geographical existence and the joint efforts that have brought it to the forefront.
- Technology and Global South: PM stressed responsible technology use, ensuring it doesn't widen the gap between the Global North and Global South. India will organize the AI Global Partnership Summit next month to further this agenda.
- G20 and Global South Priorities: During India's G20 presidency, over 200 meetings prioritized Global South concerns, leading to their inclusion in the New Delhi G20 Declaration. PM Modi underscored making the G20 "inclusive and human-centric."
- Condemnation of Terrorism: India condemned the October 7 terrorist attack in Israel, advocating for restraint, dialogue, and diplomacy. Humanitarian aid was sent to Palestine, emphasizing unity for global well-being.
- Second Voice of Global South Summit: The virtual summit, focusing on G20 outcomes during India's presidency, addresses global challenges and aims to sustain momentum for a more inclusive world order.
- Summit Structure: The summit comprises ten sessions, including inaugural and concluding sessions hosted by PM Modi, discussing growth, trust, and the united future of the Global South.
Global South: Evolution, Significance and Challenges
- The Global South refers to countries categorized as developing, less developed, or underdeveloped, primarily situated in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
- These nations often face higher levels of poverty, income inequality, and challenging living conditions compared to wealthier Global North nations in North America, Europe, and Oceania.
From "Third World" to "Global South":
- Coined in 1969 by Carl Oglesby, the term gained traction after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, marking the end of the "Second World."
- Previously termed the "Third World" by Alfred Sauvy in 1952, negative stereotypes led to the adoption of the more neutral "Global South."
Geopolitical and Economic Commonalities:
- The Global South is not strictly defined geographically but signifies political, geopolitical, and economic similarities among nations.
- Many countries share a history of Imperialism and Colonial Rule, particularly evident in African nations, shaping perspectives on the global political economy.
Significance of Global South Today:
- Shifting Economic and Political Power:
- Wealth shift acknowledged by the World Bank challenges traditional notions of economic power distribution.
- Projections indicate Global South countries leading in the four largest economies by 2030, with China and India at the forefront.
- BRICS nations' combined GDP surpasses that of the G-7 nations.
- Impact on Geopolitics:
- Growing economic and political power has implications for global geopolitics.
- Asian nations play a significant role in the projected "Asian Century," challenging historical Global North dominance.
Challenges to Global South Development:
- Green Energy Fund: Global North neglects funding green energy, impacting less emitting, developing countries disproportionately.
- Russia-Ukraine War Impact: Severely affects least developed countries, exacerbating concerns related to food, energy, and finance.
- China’s Interference: China's Belt and Road Initiative raises questions about being a win-win or solely benefiting China.
- US Hegemony: Despite a multipolar world, the US maintains dominance in international affairs, impacting global financial markets.
- Inadequate Access to Resources: Historical North-South divergences persist, with major gaps in access to crucial developmental resources.
- Impact of Covid-19: Pandemic exacerbates existing divides, revealing vulnerabilities in economies from Argentina to Sri Lanka.
Initiatives of India for Global South:
- Global South Centre of Excellence: Research development solutions and best practices for implementation in developing countries.
- Global South Science and Technology Initiative: Share Indian expertise in space technology and nuclear energy.
- Aarogya Maitri Project: Provide essential medical supplies to developing countries affected by natural disasters or humanitarian crises.
- Global South Young Diplomats Forum: Connect young officers of foreign ministries.
- Global South Scholarships: Provide higher education opportunities in India for students from developing countries.
The third IPEF Ministerial Meeting held in San Francisco, California on 14th Nov, saw significant participation from India's Union Minister for Commerce and Industry.
- Key developments and conclusions emerged during the meeting, emphasizing India's active involvement in advancing economic engagement in the Indo-Pacific region.
- IPEF Launch: The Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF) was jointly initiated by the USA and partner countries in the Indo-Pacific region on May 23, 2022, in Tokyo.
- It comprises 14 partner countries, including India, with a collective aim to foster growth, peace, and prosperity in the region.
- Framework Structure: IPEF is organized around four pillars: Trade (Pillar I), Supply Chains (Pillar II), Clean Economy (Pillar III), and Fair Economy (Pillar IV). India participates in Pillars II to IV and holds an observer status in Pillar I.
- Successful Negotiations: The Ministerial Meeting witnessed the substantial conclusion of negotiations under Pillar III (Clean Economy), Pillar IV (Fair Economy), and the Agreement on the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity. Additionally, the IPEF Ministers signed the IPEF Supply Chain Agreement, following the substantial conclusion of negotiations in May 2023.
- Pillar-Wise Efforts: A Pillar-wise Press Statement was issued, outlining the planned efforts and contours for each substantially concluded Pillar.
- Clean Economy (Pillar-III): Focuses on advancing cooperation in research, development, and commercialization of clean energy technologies.
- Shri Goyal emphasized increased collaboration on innovative and affordable climate-friendly technologies, highlighting priorities like hydrogen supply chain and India's proposals for biofuels and e-waste recycling.
- Fair Economy (Pillar-IV): Aims to strengthen anti-corruption and tax measures to boost commerce, trade, and investment.
On 16th November, 2023, the ninth edition of Joint Military exercise “Exercise MITRA SHAKTI-2023” commenced in Aundh (Pune).
- The aim of the exercise is to jointly rehearse conduct of Sub Conventional operations under Chapter VII of United Nations Charter.
- The Scope of the exercise includes synergising joint responses during counter-terrorist operations.
- The Indian contingent, of 120 personnel, is being represented mainly by troops from the MARATHA LIGHT INFANTRY Regiment.
- The Sri Lankan side is being represented by personnel from 53 Infantry Division. 15 personnel from Indian Air Force and five personnel from Sri Lankan Air Force are also participating in the exercise.
- Both sides will practice tactical actions such as raid, search and destroy missions, heliborne operations, etc.
- In addition, Army Martial Arts Routine (AMAR), combat reflex shooting and Yoga will also form part of the exercise curriculum.
- It will also involve employment of Drones and Counter Unmanned Aerial Systems besides helicopters.
- Drills to secure helipads and undertake casualty evacuation during counter-terrorist operations will also be rehearsed jointly by both sides.
- Collective efforts will focus on achieving an enhanced level of interoperability amongst the troops and reduce the risk of life and property while keeping the interests and agenda of the UN at the forefront during peace keeping operations.
- Sharing of best practices will further enhance the level of defence cooperation between Indian Army and Sri Lankan Army.
- The exercise will also foster strong bilateral relations between the two neighbouring nations.
Recently, US President announced the resumption of military-to-military communications with China to alleviate rising tensions, following a rare meeting with Chinese President in California.
- Direct Communication Restored: US President emphasizes the restoration of clear, open communication channels, marking the first in-person meeting between the leaders in over a year.
- Constructive Talks despite Disagreements: US President acknowledged remaining disagreements but describes the discussions as among the most constructive and productive.
- Direct Line Established: Both leaders agreed to establish a direct communication line to prevent misunderstandings and accidents, signalling progress in diplomatic relations.
- Military Communications Severed Last Year: China had cut military-to-military communications in response to a visit by then-US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan.
- Chinese President Openness to Better Relations: Chinese President expressed a desire for improved relations, affirming a commitment to diplomacy and cooperation during a dinner with US business leaders.
- Fentanyl Agreement: The leaders announced agreements, including measures to combat the flow of fentanyl from China, addressing a contributing factor to rising overdose deaths in the US.
- Joint Examination of AI: The US and China agreed to jointly examine artificial intelligence, demonstrating cooperation in addressing shared challenges.
- Communication Restored on "Basis of Equality": China announces the restoration of military communications on the basis of equality and respect after the APEC summit meeting.
- Managing Competition and Open Channels: Officials downplay expectations, emphasizing the goal of managing competition, preventing conflict, and keeping communication channels open.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) titled "Enhancing Innovation Ecosystems through an Innovation Handshake" was signed between India and the U.S. under the India-U.S. Commercial Dialogue framework on November 14, 2023, in San Francisco.
- Innovation Handshake Announcement in June: The "Innovation Handshake" was announced during the official State Visit of the Indian Prime Minister in June 2023, and the recent MoU is a concrete step towards its implementation.
- Industry Roundtable Kick-off in San Francisco: The MoU was signed at the industry roundtable event, "Decoding the 'Innovation Handshake': U.S. – India Entrepreneurship Partnership," co-hosted by USIBC and CII, where CEOs, venture capitalists, and startup founders discussed enhancing U.S.-India technology collaboration.
- Objectives of the MoU: The MoU aims to connect startup ecosystems, address regulatory hurdles, share best practices for fundraising, and promote innovation and job growth, especially in Critical and Emerging Technologies (CET) identified under the India-U.S. initiative for CET.
- Positive Impact on Economic Activity: The agreement signals a joint commitment to strengthen deep tech startup ecosystems, promoting economic activity, attracting investment, and generating employment, particularly in CET areas.
- Future Innovation Handshake Events: Two events are planned for early 2024, including an investment forum and a "hackathon" in Silicon Valley, fostering collaboration between U.S. and Indian startups to address global economic challenges.
- Commercial Dialogue Background: The Commercial Dialogue is a Ministerial-level cooperative effort between India and the U.S., facilitating regular discussions to deepen ties between business communities and enhance trade and investment opportunities.
- TIIG's Role in Supporting Startups: The TIIG Working Group aims to support startup efforts aligned with the iCET goals, identifying regulatory hurdles, and fostering connectivity between innovation ecosystems, focusing on startups through joint activities.
On 7th November, 2023, NATO formally suspended a key Cold War-era security treaty in reaction to Russia's withdrawal from the agreement.
- Suspension of the Treaty: NATO announced the suspension of the Treaty of Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, with most of its 31 allies signing the pact to prevent the massing of forces by Cold War rivals near mutual borders. The treaty was signed in November 1990 but ratified two years later.
- Unsustainability of One-Sided Treaty: NATO stressed that a situation in which allied state parties uphold the treaty while Russia does not would be unsustainable.
- The alliance made this decision in response to Russia's announcement of its withdrawal from the treaty.
- Supported Decision by All NATO Allies: NATO members who signed the treaty have chosen to suspend its operation for as long as necessary, in line with their rights under international law. This decision is unanimously supported by all NATO allies.
- Commitment to Reducing Military Risk: NATO emphasized its continued commitment to reducing military risk, preventing misperceptions, and avoiding conflicts as a primary objective.
On 7th November, 2023, India and Malaysia held the bilateral Joint Commission Meeting (JCM), co-chaired by External Affairs Minister and his Malaysian counterpart to strengthen their ties and delve into innovative areas of collaboration.
- Reinvigorating Bilateral Ties: The Joint Commission Meeting (JCM) marked a significant moment as it resumed after a 12-year hiatus, with the last JCM held in Kuala Lumpur in 2011.
- Strengthening Trade Relations: India holds a crucial role in Malaysia's trading partnerships, ranking among its top 10 trading partners and being the third-largest trading partner within the ASEAN region.
- Exploring New Horizons: The JCM provided an opportunity to explore uncharted domains of collaboration, including digital technology, renewable energy, semiconductors, and space-related endeavors.
- Agendas and Collaborations: During the meeting, the two sides reviewed their cooperation in various sectors, including defence, security, trade, health, energy, education, tourism, and people-to-people interactions.
- Memorable Agreements: Both ministers witnessed the signing of essential agreements, including a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for cooperation between Prasar Bharti and Radio Television Malaysia (RTM), as well as an agreement between the Sushma Swaraj Institute of Foreign Service and Malaysia's Institute of Diplomacy and Foreign Relations for diplomatic training collaboration.
- Diplomatic Milestones: The meeting took place as India and Malaysia celebrated 65 years of diplomatic relations in 2022.
- Trade Highlights: In 2022, India ranked as Malaysia's 11th largest trading partner, with total trade volume reaching $19.63 billion, marking a substantial increase of 23.6% compared to the previous year.
India and Bhutan have recently agreed to explore new routes for regional connectivity and upgrade border and immigration posts, backing Bhutan's plan for a smart city at Gelephu, situated on the Bhutan-Assam border.
- This decision followed a meeting between Prime Minister and Bhutan's 5th King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck in Delhi.
- Cross-Border Rail Links: Both countries have agreed to proceed with the final survey for a 58 km cross-border rail link between Gelephu and Kokrajhar in Assam, which India will build. Additionally, they plan to explore a second rail link spanning approximately 18 km between Samtse in Bhutan and Banarhat in West Bengal's tea gardens area.
- Expansion of Trade Routes: India has also consented to allowing Bhutanese trade items to be transported from Haldibari in West Bengal to Chilahati in Bangladesh.
- This move could potentially boost air connectivity for residents in India's northeastern region, as Bhutan intends to construct an international airport at Gelephu as part of the larger Sarpang district Special Economic Zone, an initiative set to be announced by the Bhutanese King on December 17.
- Development Assistance: India expressed its commitment to supporting Bhutan's 13th Five-Year Plan following the successful collaboration during Bhutan's 12th Five-Year Plan, which ended on October 31, 2023.
- Immigration Check Post: The Darranga-Samdrup Jongkhar border crossing between Assam and Bhutan's less developed South Eastern district is designated as an immigration check post, enabling third-country nationals to enter and exit.
- This move is aimed at enhancing connectivity, promoting tourism, and supporting Bhutan's Special Economic Zone project.
- Boosting Bhutan's Economy: Easing travel between India and Bhutan and facilitating exchanges to Bangladesh is expected to expand trade opportunities and tourism revenue, offering economic relief for Bhutan, which has faced challenges due to the COVID pandemic and youth out-migration.