Current Affairs - International
India signs Host Country Agreement with the ITU
India has signed the Host Country Agreement (HCA) for the establishment of an Area Office & Innovation Centre of ITU in New Delhi on 3rd March 2022.
- The agreement was signed in a virtual ceremony during the World Telecommunications Standardisation Assembly-20 (WTSA-20) being held in Geneva, Switzerland.
- WTSA is a four-yearly global conference of ITU dedicated to standardisation of the Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs).
- India has proposed to host the next WTSA to be held in 2024.
Host Country Agreement
- The Host Country Agreement provides the legal and financial framework for establishment and operations of the Area Office.
- The Area Office and Innovation Centre of ITU at New Delhi is expected to serve South Asian countries namely Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Iran, Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka and India.
Advantage: Innovation Centre
- The Area Office shall also have an Innovation Centre, which is expected to give impetus to research and development in telecommunication technologies in South Asia.
- The Innovation Centre will provide opportunities to academics, start-ups and SMEs to showcase their innovation at a global stage.
Global Democracy Index 2021
Global Democracy Index 2021 was released by the Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU).
The annual survey, rates the state of democracy across 167 countries on the basis of five measures:
- Electoral Process and Pluralism
- Functioning of Government
- Political Participation
- Democratic Political Culture
- Civil Liberties
- Global democracy continued its precipitous decline in 2021.
- More than a third of the world’s population lives under authoritarian rule while just 6.4% enjoy a full democracy.
The Index and India
- India has ranked 46th position in the 2021 Democracy Index’s global ranking. In 2020, India was ranked at 53rd position.
- India has been categorized as a ‘Flawed Democracy’ out of the four categories by the EIU – Authoritarian Regimes/Hybrid Regimes/Flawed Democracies/ Full Democracies.
- India has an overall score of 6.91. It has the lowest score of 5 on political culture and the highest score of 8.67 on electoral process and pluralism. It scores 6.18 on civil liberties, 7.22 on political participation, and 7.50 on functioning of government.
Countries at Top and Bottom in the Index
- Topping the list were Norway (1), New Zealand (2) and Finland (3).
- Afghanistan (167) and Myanmar (166) took the bottom two spots, just below North Korea (165).
Rank of Some Other Countries
- USA- 26 (Flawed Democracy)
- China- 148 (Authoritarian Regime)
- Pakistan- 104 (Hybrid Regime)
- Bangladesh-75 (Hybrid Regime)
Fourth Quad Ministerial Meeting
On 11th February, 2022, the fourth Quad Ministerial Meeting was held in Melbourne, Australia. India's Minister of External Affairs S. Jaishankar, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Australia's Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne, and Foreign Minister of Japan Yoshimasa Hayashi participated in the meeting. A joint statement was released after the meeting.
(Image Source: The Hindu)
- Climate Change: The members agreed to hold a special meet on climate change this year.
- Maritime Security:The participants also decided to step up efforts to ensure maritime security in the region.
- Terrorism: They called on all countries to ensure that territory under their control is not used to launch terror attacks and to expeditiously bring to justice the perpetrators of such attacks.
- They reiterated their condemnation of terrorist attacks in India, including 26/11 Mumbai and Pathankot attacks
- China’s Actions: The statement also made a veiled reference to China’s actions in the South and East China seas, reaffirming a commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific, “in which states strive to protect the interests of their people, free from coercion.”
- Indo-Pacific: The grouping committed to stronger cooperation on Indo-Pacific initiatives.
- Myanmar Issue: India said it is “troubled” by the situation in Myanmar post-coup, but its thinking is guided by concerns over cross border insurgencies, COVID infections, and concerns of a humanitarian situation that could arise from food shortages in Myanmar.
- The US, on the other hand, pushed for countries to stop arms trade with the Myanmar military.
- The joint statement called for a return to democracy in Myanmar, and also condemned North Korea’s recent ballistic missile tests.
- Russia-Ukraine Situation: Foreign Ministers of Australia, Japan and the US took a sharp line on the buildup of Russian troops along the border with Ukraine in recent weeks. The Russia-Ukraine situation did not find any mention in the joint statement though.
- Vaccines Initiative: The joint statement issued included a renewed commitment to the “flagship” Quad Vaccine Initiative to deliver at least one billion vaccines produced in India by the end of 2022 to Indo-Pacific countries, and to a pledge to donate 1.3 billion vaccine doses globally.
- Review of Cooperation: The joint statement also recorded progress on the other fields for cooperation identified during the Quad summit last year, including climate change, critical and emerging technologies, counter-terrorism, infrastructure, humanitarian-assistance and disaster-relief (HADR) and maritime domain awareness.
4th India-UK Home Affairs Dialogue
- On 10th February, 2022, the 4th India-UK Home Affairs Dialogue was held in virtual mode.
- The Dialogue covered a wide range of issues including Homeland Security, Cyber Security, Extradition cases, Migration & Mobility, etc.
- India called on the UK authorities to expedite the pending extradition cases.
- India communicated its concerns related to the anti-India activities of certain extremists and radical elements in the UK.
- It urged the UK to maintain vigil over the activities of such elements and take appropriate proactive action.
- Both sides agreed to maintain enhanced security cooperation. The meeting concluded with both sides agreeing to deepen security-related bilateral engagement.
First India-Central Asia Summit
Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi hosted the first India-Central Asia Summit in virtual format on 27 January 2022, which was attended by Presidents of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Republic of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Republic of Uzbekistan.
- This first India-Central Asia coincided with the 30th anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations between India and Central Asian countries.
(Image Source: India Today)
- The Leaders agreed to institutionalize the Summit mechanism by deciding to hold it every 2 years.
- They agreed on regular meetings of Foreign Ministers, Trade Ministers, Culture Ministers and Secretaries of the Security Council to prepare the groundwork for the Summit meetings.
- An India-Central Asia Secretariat in New Delhi would be set up to support the new mechanism.
- The Leaders discussed far-reaching proposals to further cooperation in areas of trade and connectivity, development cooperation, defence and security and, in particular, on cultural and people to people contacts. These included:
- A Round-Table on Energy and Connectivity;
- Joint Working Groups at senior official level on Afghanistan and use of Chabahar Port;
- Showcasing of Buddhist exhibitions in Central Asian countries ;
- Commissioning of an India-Central Asia dictionary of common words,
- Joint counter-terrorism exercises,
- Visit of 100 member youth delegation annually from Central Asian countries to India; and
- Special courses for Central Asian diplomats.
- Prime Minister Modi also discussed the evolving situation in Afghanistan with the Central Asian leaders. The leaders reiterated their strong support for a peaceful, secure and stable Afghanistan with a truly representative and inclusive government. Prime Minister conveyed India’s continued commitment to provide humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people.
- A comprehensive Joint Declaration was adopted by the leaders that enumerates their common vision for an enduring and comprehensive India-Central Asia partnership.
World Economic Outlook
On 25th January 2022, International Monetary Fund (IMF) released its World Economic Outlook report.
It is a survey by the IMF staff usually published twice a year. It presents IMF staff economists' analyses of global economic developments during the near and medium term.
The Report on India
- The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has cut India’s economic growth forecast for the current fiscal 2021-22 (FY22) to 9 per cent on concerns over impact of new Covid variant , in its latest world economic outlook report. Earlier, in October 2021 this was estimated at 9.5%.
- IMF has projected the growth forecast for India in 2022-23 (FY23) at 7.1%.
- According to the IMF, India's prospects for 2023 are marked up on expected improvements to credit growth and, subsequently, investment and consumption, building on better-than-anticipated performance of the financial sector.
Govt. of India’s Projections
The Report on World/Major Economies
- IMF has projected the global growth rate in 2022 to 4.4%, and in 2023 to 3.8%.
- United States: The IMF slashed the growth forecast for the United States - world's largest economy - to 4 per cent in 2022 from the 5.2 per cent it predicted in October 2021 and for 2023 it is projected at 2.6%.
- China: The Chinese economy is forecast to grow 4.8 per cent this year (2022) - down from 8.1 per cent last year (2021) and projected at 5.2% in 2023.
Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2021
India is ranked 85 out of 180 countries on the global Corruption Perceptions Index for 2021.
(Image Source: dreducation.com)
The Report on India
- According to the report, the case of India is particularly worrying. While the country’s score has remained stagnant over the past decade, some of the mechanisms that could help reign in corruption are weakening. There are concerns over the country’s democratic status, as fundamental freedoms and institutional checks and balances decay.
Ranking of India and its Neighbors
- With a score of 40, India stands at 85th position, while its neighbours Pakistan and Bangladesh fare worse in the global corruption index. Pakistan has dropped 16 spots and is ranked 140th out of 180 countries, as per the report. Bangladesh's Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) is 26 and ranks at the 147th position.
About the Index
- The index is brought out by Berlin, Germany based Transparency International.
- The CPI ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption on a scale of zero (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean).
- Corruption levels remain at a standstill worldwide, with 86 per cent of countries making little to no progress in the last 10 years.
- The top-performing countries as per the report are Denmark, Finland and New Zealand "all having a corruption perceptions score of 88". These are followed by Norway, Singapore and Sweden with all of them secoring 85.
- South Sudan with a corruption perceptions score of 11, followed by Syria (13), Somalia (13), Venezuela (14) and Afghanistan (16).
On 17th January, 2022, Oxfam International released the report titled- Inequality Kills: The unparalleled action needed to combat unprecedented inequality in the wake of COVID-19.
- Inequalities have been deepened in the midst of the pandemic, as a result of violent economic policies contributing to thousands of deaths a day.
- The proportion of people with COVID-19 who die from the virus in developing countries is roughly double that in rich countries.
- Women, ethnic minorities and developing countries have been the hardest hit by growing inequality during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- For 99% of the global population, incomes have fallen and over 160 million more people have been forced into poverty.
- Extreme inequality is a form of economic violence, where policies and political decisions that perpetuate the wealth and power of a privileged few result in direct harm to the vast majority of ordinary people across the world and the planet itself.
- Despite the huge cost of fighting the pandemic, in the past two years rich country governments have failed to increase taxes on the wealth of the richest and continued to privatize public goods such as vaccine science. They have encouraged corporate monopolies to such a degree that in the pandemic period alone, the increase in market concentration threatens to be more in one year than in the past 15 years from 2000 to 2015.
- Inequality goes to the heart of the climate crisis, as the richest 1 percent emit more than twice as much CO2 as the bottom 50 percent of the world.
India Specific Findings
- It reveals that when 84 percent of households in the country suffered a decline in their income in a year marked by tremendous loss of life and livelihoods, the number of Indian billionaires grew from 102 to 142.
- More than 4.6 crore Indians meanwhile are estimated to have fallen into extreme poverty in 2020 (nearly half of the global new poor according to the United Nations.) The stark wealth inequality in India is a result of an economic system rigged in favour of the super-rich over the poor and marginalised.
- Just a one percent wealth tax on 98 richest billionaire families in India can finance Ayushman Bharat, the national public health insurance fund of the Government of India for more than seven years.
Suggestion for the Governments to Reduce Inequality
- Tax the new wealth made since the start of the pandemic through permanent wealth and capital taxes.
- Invest the trillions that could be raised by these taxes in progressive spending on universal healthcare and social protection, climate change adaptation, and gender-based violence prevention and programming.
- Tackle sexist and racist laws that discriminate against women and racialized people, and create new gender-equal laws to uproot violence and discrimination.
- Define policies that will ensure women, racialized and other oppressed groups are represented in all decision-making spaces.
- End laws that undermine the rights of workers to unionize and strike, and set up stronger legal standards to protect them.
- Waive intellectual property rules over COVID-19 vaccine technologies to allow more countries to produce safe and effective vaccines to usher in the end of the pandemic.
Suggestions for India to Reduce Inequality
India-Sri Lanka: 5th Joint Committee on S&T Cooperation
At the India-Sri Lanka 5th Joint Committee on S&T Cooperation held on January 20, 2022, India and Sri Lanka extended the existing cooperation in science and technology.
- Both countries mutually agreed to extend the Programme of Cooperation (POC) for another 3 years and identified new areas such as waste-water technologies, industry and biotech, sustainable agriculture, aerospace engineering, robotics, big data analytics, and artificial intelligence to be included in the POC.
- The delegates reviewed the ongoing collaborative activities in the 9 areas spanning food technology; plant base medicines; meteorology; space research & applications, robotics & automation; industrial electronics, renewable energy; waste management; information and communication technology and discussed about the future activities.
- The Indian side presented the overall STI Policy and priority areas by showcasing the core mandates of DST, multi-stakeholder base of DST, India’s recent progress in S&T, as well as focus on securing India’s future in technology through missions like NM-ICPS, NM-QTA, Methanol mission, new initiatives like VAJRA, TARE, Vigyan Jyoti, Accelerate Vigyan.
- The Sri-Lankan side also highlighted the scope and status of S&T in their country and its application in various areas of national importance.
- Organizations like National Science Foundation, Sri Lanka, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, India and Industrial Technology Institute, Sri Lanka detailed on activities performed by the respective Scientific Agencies and areas of potential collaboration between both the countries.
- This platform will provide an opportunity for discussing various other facets which are possible for collaboration in the domain of S&T.
- India offers fellowships like India S&T fellowship, e-ITEC and both the countries can work through a number of multilateral platforms like BIMSTEC, which they are part of.
- As part of India’s "Neighborhood First" policy which guides the country’s cooperation with Sri Lanka, this meeting would help build on existing collaborative work and help these reach greater heights.
- S&T is a key enabler of socio-economic and sustainable development. The tools in science will enable the world in achieving the 2030 agenda of sustainable development.
India-China: Bilateral Trade Crosses 125 billion USD in 2021
- In 2021, the bilateral trade between India and China stood at 125.66 billion USD, up 43.3% from 2020.
- China’s exports to India were 97.52 billion USD while China’s imports from India were 28.14 billion USD in 2021.
- India was China’s 15th largest trade partner in 2021.
- Exports: India’s biggest exports to China were iron ore, cotton and other raw material-based commodities.
- Imports: India’s imports from China included electrical and mechanical machinery, active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs), auto components and medical supplies.
- Trade Deficit: Trade deficit between the two countries remained in favour of China – at $69 billion.
Reasons behind Widening of Trade Deficit
- The widening of India’s trade deficit with China can be attributed to two factors:
- Narrow basket of commodities, mostly primary, for export to China; and
- Lack of market access for most of India’s agricultural products and the sectors where India is competitive such as pharmaceuticals and IT.