Current Affairs - International

23rd Summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation

On 5th July, 2023, during the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) held under India's presidency, Iran officially became a full member of the grouping.

The key points of the summit are:

  • Iran's Membership: The SCO has decided to induct Iran as its ninth member, expanding the organization's membership.
  • New Delhi Declaration: The summit resulted in the New Delhi Declaration, which proposed five joint statements on various issues such as the fight against terrorism, de-radicalization, sustainable lifestyle to tackle climate change, production of millets, and digital transformation.
  • India's Stance on BRI: India once again refused to endorse China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which aims to connect China with Asia, Europe, and beyond through large infrastructure projects. India remains the only SCO member not supporting the project.
  • Lack of Consensus: India also stayed out of a joint statement on SCO Economic Development Strategy 2030, indicating a lack of consensus within the organization on this matter.
  • Cross-Border Terrorism: Indian Prime Minister emphasized that some countries use cross-border terrorism as an instrument of their policies. He urged the SCO to criticize such nations and stressed the need for consistent action against terrorism.
  • Pakistan's Role: India has been raising concerns about Pakistan's support for terrorist groups and their use as instruments of state policy. China's stance on blocking the listing of Pakistan-based terrorists at the UN Security Council (UNSC) has been a point of contention.

India-Tanzania Joint Defence Cooperation Committee Meeting

On 28th and 29th June, 2023, the second edition of the Joint Defence Cooperation Committee (JDCC) meeting between India and Tanzania was held in Arusha.

This important meeting brought together high-level officials from both countries to discuss and strengthen their defence cooperation.

The key points are:

  • Participation: The meeting witnessed the participation of high-level officials from both India and Tanzania.
  • Collaboration Opportunities: The meeting provided a platform for discussions on a wide range of opportunities for collaboration between the two countries, particularly focused on enhancing security in the Indian Ocean Region.
  • Both sides explored avenues for cooperation and emphasized the growing prowess of India's defence manufacturing sector, which can potentially export to friendly nations.
  • Five-Year Roadmap: A significant outcome of the meeting was the agreement on a comprehensive five-year roadmap for defence cooperation.
  • This roadmap encompasses initiatives such as customized training, capacity building, maritime cooperation, infrastructure development, and collaboration in defence equipment and technology.
  • The roadmap aims to strengthen defence capabilities and deepen the partnership between India and Tanzania.
  • Parallel Meetings: Alongside the JDCC meeting, representatives from Indian Defence Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) held extensive meetings with stakeholders from the Tanzanian Forces.
  • These parallel meetings allowed for focused discussions and explored avenues for cooperation and mutual benefit.
  • Warm Relations: The meeting highlighted the close, warm, and friendly relations between India and Tanzania.
  • It acknowledged the existing robust capacity building initiatives and development partnerships between the two countries, which contribute to strengthening bilateral ties.

Children and Armed Conflict Report 2023

On June 27, 2023, a report, titled 'Children and Armed Conflict' for the year 2023 was released by UN Secretary-General.

Key findings of the report are:

  • India's Removal from the Report: For the first time since 2010, India has been taken off the list of countries mentioned in the report on children and armed conflict.
  • This decision was based on the measures taken by the Indian government to better protect children.
  • Improved Child Protection Measures: The report acknowledges that India has implemented various policies and institutional changes since 2019 to enhance child protection.
  • These measures include the implementation of the Juvenile Justice Act, establishment of Child Welfare Committees, Juvenile Justice Boards, and Child Care Homes, and training of security forces in the protection of children.
  • Engagement with the UN: The Government of India has actively engaged with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) to address child protection concerns.
  • An inter-ministerial meeting in November 2021 paved the way for enhanced cooperation, leading to the appointment of a national focal point and joint technical missions with the UN.
  • Suspension of Pellet Guns: As part of the efforts to protect children, the use of pellet guns has been suspended. Pellet guns had been a cause of concern due to their potential harm to children during security operations.
  • Implementation of JJ Act and POCSO Act: India has been working on the implementation of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses (POCSO) Act.
  • These Acts provide legal frameworks for safeguarding the rights and well-being of children.

Global Liveability Index 2023

Recently, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) released its 2023 report on the Global Liveability Index, which ranks cities based on the quality of life.

The key highlights are:

  • Indian Cities: New Delhi and Mumbai secured the 141st position, while Chennai followed closely at 144th. Ahmedabad and Bengaluru were ranked 147th and 148th, respectively.
  • Asia-Pacific and Western Europe: While cities in the Asia-Pacific region made significant gains in the rankings, several western European cities have slipped down in the 2023 rankings.
  • Asian, African, and Middle Eastern Countries Show Optimism: The EIU report highlighted that there is growing focus on healthcare and education in Asian, African, and Middle Eastern countries.
  • Vienna Tops the Rankings: Vienna, the capital of Austria, secured the top spot as the most liveable city in 2023.
  • It retained its position due to its excellent liveability factors, including stability, culture, entertainment, reliable infrastructure, and exemplary education and health services.
  • Copenhagen and Australian Cities Follow: Copenhagen in Denmark maintained its second-place ranking from the previous year.
  • Melbourne and Sydney in Australia secured the third and fourth spots, respectively, indicating their high liveability standards.
  • Stability Scores Decrease: The report mentioned that stability scores have declined compared to the previous year, primarily due to civil unrest in various parts of the world.
  • Developing Countries and Post-Pandemic Recovery: The EIU highlighted that attempts to restore normalcy after the COVID-19 pandemic and incremental improvements in liveability made by many developing countries have been the major drivers of changes in the global liveability rankings.
  • Kyiv and Moscow: Kyiv, the capital of war-raged Ukraine, ranked lowly at 165th out of 173 cities. Moscow, Russia's capital, remained stable this year after falling to 96th place in 2022.
  • Damascus and Tripoli at the Bottom: Damascus in Syria and Tripoli in Libya occupied the bottom positions on the list, similar to the previous year, indicating significant challenges in terms of liveability.

India and Egypt: Strategic Partnership Agreement

Recently, during Indian Prime Minister’s visit to Egypt, India and Egypt signed a strategic partnership agreement, further solidifying the bilateral relationship between the two countries.

The key Agreements

  • Strategic Partnership Agreement: The most significant agreement signed during the visit was the strategic partnership agreement between India and Egypt.
  • This agreement marks a milestone in the bilateral relationship and sets the stage for enhanced cooperation in political, defense and security, economic, scientific, academic, and cultural fields.
  • Agreement on Agriculture: An agreement on agriculture was signed, reflecting the commitment to promote collaboration in the agricultural sector.
  • This agreement aims to enhance agricultural cooperation, including the exchange of knowledge, technologies, and best practices in farming, crop production, and food security.
  • Preservation of Monuments and Archaeological Sites: Both countries signed an agreement focused on the preservation and conservation of monuments and archaeological sites.
  • This agreement underscores the shared interest in protecting and promoting cultural heritage, fostering tourism, and deepening cultural ties between India and Egypt.
  • Agreement on Competition Law: Another important agreement was signed on competition law.
  • This agreement aims to strengthen cooperation and exchange of experiences in the field of competition regulation and enforcement, promoting fair competition, and creating a conducive business environment.

India Plans to Acquire 31 Armed Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

Recently, after talks between the U.S. President and the Indian Prime Minister, a joint statement highlighted India's plans to acquire 31 armed Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).

The Key Highlights

  • Procurement of Armed UAVs: The agreement entails the procurement of 31 armed Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). This includes 15 SeaGuardians for the Indian Navy and 16 SkyGuardians, with eight each designated for the Indian Army and Air Force respectively.
  • This acquisition will significantly enhance India's defense capabilities and strengthen its Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities across different domains.
  • Comprehensive Global Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul (MRO) Facility: General Atomics, the manufacturer of the UAVs, will establish a comprehensive MRO facility in India.
  • This facility will support India's long-term goal of boosting indigenous defense capabilities and promote self-reliance in defense manufacturing.
  • Procurement Process and Cost Negotiation: The procurement process has commenced, and the deal will be executed through the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) route of the U.S. government.
  • The exact cost of the procurement is yet to be finalized and will be subject to negotiation. The Ministry of Defense (MoD) will compare the acquisition cost with the best price offered by General Atomics to other countries.
  • Increased Indigenous Content: India aims to increase the indigenous content of the deal. Currently proposed at 8-9%, India hopes to raise it to 15-20%.
  • General Atomics is positive about this, and discussions are underway to include Indian companies for domestic manufacture of components.
  • This could potentially expand to include manufacturing electronics, sensors, and avionics.
  • Strengthening Strategic Partnership: The joint statement underscores the commitment of both nations to strengthen their strategic partnership and enhance bilateral defense cooperation.
  • It reflects the mutual trust and shared interests in addressing regional security challenges. The agreement signifies the growing defense ties between the United States and India.

India-US Deals

On June 22, 2023, during Prime Minister’s visit to the United States several key announcements and deals were made, highlighting the strengthening of bilateral relations between India and the United States.

Major Highlights

  • Co-production of GE 414 Jet Engines: General Electric (GE) and Hindustan Aeronautical Limited (HAL) signed an MoU for the co-production of GE 414 Jet Engines in India, supporting the development of the Tejas Mk2 light combat aircraft.
  • The agreement marks a significant milestone in India's defense sector, showcasing the commitment of both countries to enhance defense capabilities and promote strategic cooperation.
  • The collaboration demonstrates the progress made in overcoming bureaucratic obstacles, with U.S. officials expressing satisfaction with the deal's development.
  • Investment by Micron Technology in Gujarat: Micron Technology, a U.S. semiconductor technology and chip maker, plans to invest up to $825 million in a new chip assembly and test facility in Gujarat, India.
  • Purchase of Armed Drones: India revealed its potential purchase of armed drones, indicating a significant step in enhancing its defense capabilities and strengthening its security infrastructure.
  • Launch of 'INDUS-X' Innovation Platform: The Defense Ministries of both countries launched the innovation platform 'INDUS-X.' This platform aimed to promote collaboration in defense industries, fostering innovation, technological advancements, and mutual cooperation in the defense sector.
  • Space Cooperation: India joined a framework involving 25 countries for space exploration and collaboration.
  • This participation showcased India's commitment to space exploration and its growing role in international space missions.
  • Additionally, India and the United States agreed on a framework for human spaceflight and planned a joint mission to the International Space Station in 2024, reflecting their shared aspirations in space exploration.
  • Visa Renewal Pilot Program: The United States announced a pilot program to facilitate visa renewals domestically for certain petition-based temporary workers.
  • This program aimed to streamline the visa renewal process, providing convenience and efficiency for applicants.

Global Gender Gap Report 2023

On 20th June 2023, the World Economic Forum (WEF) published the 17th edition of the Global Gender Gap Index, which serves as a benchmark for measuring gender parity across 146 countries.

Key Findings of the report.

  • Health and Survival: India has a significant gender gap in health and survival, with a sex ratio at birth of 92.7% compared to the top-scoring countries at 94.4%.This indicates the need for ongoing efforts to ensure equal health outcomes for girls and boys in India.
  • Overall Gender Parity: The overall gender parity in India stands at 64.3%.
  • Education: India has achieved parity in enrolment across all levels of education.
  • Economic Participation and Opportunity: India falls short in achieving gender parity in economic participation and opportunity, with only 36.7% parity in this area.
  • Political Empowerment: In terms of political empowerment, India has made some progress with 25.3% gender parity.
  • However, women still make up only 15.1% of Members of Parliament (MPs).
  • Representation in Local Governance: The report mentions that out of 117 countries with available data since 2017, India is one of 18 countries that have achieved women's representation of over 40% in local governance.
  • Overall Global Gender Gap: The global gender gap score for all 146 countries in the index is 68.4% closed, indicating that there is still a significant gender gap worldwide. The score improved by 0.3 percentage points compared to the previous year.
  • Countries with Highest Gender Parity: No country has achieved full gender parity yet. The top nine countries with the highest gender parity are Iceland, Norway, Finland, New Zealand, Sweden, Germany, Nicaragua, Namibia, and Lithuania. Iceland continues to be the top-ranking country, with a gender gap score of 91.2%.
  • Regional Gender Parity: Europe surpasses North America to rank first among the eight geographic regions in terms of gender parity, with a score of 76.3%. The Middle East and North Africa region remains the furthest away from parity, with a score of 62.6%.
  • Gender Gaps in the Labor Market: Women's participation in the global labor market has slightly improved, but significant disparities still exist. The labor-force participation rate parity increased from 63% to 64% between 2022 and 2023.
  • However, women continue to face higher unemployment rates than men, and a significant portion of the employment recovery since 2020 is attributed to informal employment.
  • Workforce Representation: Women's representation in senior leadership positions remains lower than in the overall workforce. Globally, women account for 41.9% of the workforce but only 32.2% of senior leadership positions.
  • The representation of women in C-suite positions is even lower at 25%. (Note:C-suite typically include titles such as Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Chief Operating Officer (COO), and Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), among others)
  • Gender Gaps in STEM: Women are significantly underrepresented in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) occupations.
  • While they make up nearly half of total employment across non-STEM occupations, they account for only 29.2% of all STEM workers. The retention of women in STEM fields after graduation is also a challenge, with lower representation in high-level leadership roles.
  • Gender Gaps in Future Skills: Online learning platforms offer opportunities for acquiring future skills, but there are gender gaps in access and enrollment. Disparities exist in enrollment across various skill categories, with technology skills showing significant gender gaps.

New Collective Quantified Goal

Recently, the New Collective Quantified Goal (NCQG) has gained significant prominence as a crucial component of the climate finance framework.

  • Under the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, the establishment of the NCQG represents a pivotal step towards setting a new financial goal for climate financing before 2025.

Key Points about the NCQG in the Climate Finance Framework

  • Significance: The NCQG has emerged as a crucial aspect of climate finance, aiming to set a new financial goal for climate financing before 2025.
  • Paris Agreement: The NCQG was established under the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, signifying its importance in aligning financial commitments with climate action.
  • Addressing Developing Nations' Needs: The goal of the NCQG is to address the financial needs and priorities of developing nations in their efforts to combat climate change.
  • Beyond $100 Billion: The NCQG seeks to surpass the previously pledged amount of $100 billion per year until 2020, recognizing the inadequate funding to tackle climate challenges.
  • Evolving Challenges: Climate change requires substantial financial resources, potentially amounting to trillions of dollars, necessitating a new financial goal.
  • Bridging the Funding Gap: The NCQG aims to bridge the funding gap by providing a more accurate representation of the resources needed for effective climate action.
  • Mitigation, Adaptation, and Loss & Damage: The NCQG covers various dimensions of climate finance, including mitigation, adaptation, and addressing loss and damage caused by climate impacts.
  • Transparency and Accountability: The NCQG emphasizes the importance of transparent reporting, clear definitions, and sources of climate finance to enhance trust and accountability.
  • Inclusive Approach: The NCQG considers the unique circumstances and vulnerabilities of different countries, aiming to ensure an inclusive and comprehensive approach to climate finance.
  • Mobilizing Resources: By establishing a robust and equitable financial framework, the NCQG aims to mobilize the necessary resources for climate action and support the transition to a low-carbon and climate-resilient future.

Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technologies

Recently, India and the United States unveiled a roadmap for enhanced collaboration in high-technology areas through the Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technologies (iCET).

  • Aims: To position India and the United States as trusted technology partners and promote the co-production and co-development of items, as well as the establishment of supply chains.

Key Points

  • Focus Areas under iCET
    • Establishment of a research agency partnership to promote collaboration in the field of artificial intelligence (AI).
    • Development of a defense industrial cooperation roadmap aimed at joint technological development and production in the defense sector.
    • Focus on developing common standards in the field of AI to ensure compatibility and interoperability.
    • Efforts to foster a semiconductor ecosystem, aiming to strengthen the semiconductor industry and supply chain.
    • Strengthened cooperation in the field of human spaceflight, with an emphasis on joint endeavors and knowledge sharing.
    • Advancing collaboration in the development of 5G and 6G technologies, highlighting joint research and innovation.
    • Adoption of OpenRAN network technology in India, with a focus on utilizing open and interoperable radio access networks.
  • Quantum Coordination Mechanism: They have established the Quantum Coordination Mechanism, initiated a public-private dialogue on telecommunications, and held important exchanges on AI and space.
  • Mega Jet Engine Deal: The two countries are also close to finalizing a mega jet engine deal and have concluded a roadmap for defense industrial cooperation.

OpenRAN Network Technology

It refers to Open Radio Access Network, which is a concept and approach to building mobile communication networks that promotes openness, interoperability, and flexibility.

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