Border crossing has not been taking place through the four routes designated by the Union Home Ministry. People coming into India from Pakistan could do so via the IGI Airport in Delhi or the Wagah-Attari border in Amritsar with their Pakistani passports and visas, or through the Poonch-Rawlakote and the Uri-Muzaffarabad border points on the Line of Control with permits approved by the authorities in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK)
But instead of taking these legal routes, a large number of individuals and their families are crossing over from Nepal.
Courtesy – blogs.fas.org (image)
India, Nepal to check illegal border trade
At the Inter-Governmental Committee meeting between the India and Nepal, the two countries have agreed to address each other’s concerns on commerce and transit, including reduction of tariff barriers and checking illegal trade along the porous border between the two countries.
It was in direction to step up efforts to check unauthorised trade and control trade in fake Indian currency.
The two sides have agreed on a 14-point agenda to enhance trade, promote cooperation and address concerns of the private sector of both sides.
Other concerns over which the two countries have agreed on:
With increasing demand from Nepal for milk and dairy products, the Indian side has agreed to provide 10,000 cows.
Nepal has agreed to adjust the 5% agriculture reforms charge it has been charging on Indian exports. While India has agreed to resolve difficulties related to export of Nepali books and newspapers.
The two sides agreed to make institutional arrangements to facilitate third country import and export to build infrastructure in newly identified customs points.
India would provide technical assistance that can enhance the competitiveness of Nepalese exports; basically India would be looking forward to enhancing the capacity building in areas required by the government of Nepal.
Nepal’s abundant natural resources, like its hydropower potential, can be tapped for the prosperity of the country and surplus power exported to India and other countries. The government of India has unilaterally made this possible by moving power trading or power export-import into India from a restricted category to the open general category. This would permit power generated in Nepal to be supplied to the entire subcontinent.
India-Nepal’s historic relationship.
What are the issues between the two countries? What are the steps taken by the Indian side to resolve these issues. Recent agreements between the two countries.
Strategic importance of Nepal to India.
Nepal impasse comes to an end as political parties reach accord
Nepal’s political parties, whose differences on the way ahead had led to a deadlock, reached a four-point agreement paving the way for the dissenters to join the Constituent Assembly (CA).
The parties have agreed to constitute a parliamentary committee to “investigate and submit suggestions on the questions raised about the CA election.” This was a concession to the UCPN (Maoist) and other dissenting parties which had been demanding a high-level commission outside Parliament to probe election-related questions as one of the conditions to join the CA. The UCPN (Maoist), the largest party in the first CA, had initially welcomed the successful conduct of the second CA election. However, it alleged systematic fraud after the trend showed it was set to lose heavily.
The parties also agreed to prepare the draft of the new constitution as per the spirit of the ‘12-point agreement’, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the Interim Constitution within six months and promulgate it in a year. They have decided to form a high-level political mechanism with top leaders of major parties as its members in order to complete the remaining tasks of the peace process and help write the constitution. The convenor of the mechanism would be appointed from within the CA.
There was also accord on forming a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), and a Commission on Enforced Disappearances. Both of these commissions have been long overdue. The parties pledged to form them on numerous occasions but never acted on their promise.
The leaders of eight political parties – the Nepali Congress, the CPN-UML, the CPN (Maoist), the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (Democratic), the Tarai Madhes Democratic Party, the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum Nepal, Sadbhawana Party and the Tarai Madhes Sadbhawana Party – signed the agreement. They endorsed the draft of the agreement that was decided by the NC, the UML and the UCPN (M) at an earlier meeting.
The agreement was possible after the Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML persuaded the UCPN (Maoist) to soften its stance on joining the CA. The two largest parties – the NC and the UML – had stood firm in the face of demands from the UCPN (M) which subsequently backed down from its position. The Maoists had initially put forth five conditions, including forming of a commission to investigate ‘election fraud’, its chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda as permanent convener of the political mechanism, amendment to the Interim Constitution to take decisions only by consensus, and hold a new election within a year after promulgating the constitution. There was no disagreement over its suggestion of moving forward as per the 12-point agreement, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the Interim Constitution.
The parties also decided to request the Election Commission yet again to extend the deadline to submit the names of the elected candidates under the proportional representation (PR) electoral system for five more days. The EC has already extended the deadline twice. The election to the Constituent Assembly (CA) was held on November 19, 2013. The deadline extension would further delay the convening of the first meeting of the CA.
Despite strains, India, Sri Lanka deepen naval ties
India and Sri Lanka have agreed to a slew of naval cooperation measures to target pirates and terrorist groups operating in the Indian Ocean.
The meeting, as well as separate dialogues with Indian naval commanders, took place amidst tensions in diplomatic relations between the countries. The Indian PM had stayed away from a recent Commonwealth Heads of Government summit in Colombo, amidst criticism of Sri Lanka’s human rights record.
The meeting focused on pushing ahead military-to-military cooperation to secure both countries’ common security interests.
The two countries, along with the Maldives, had signed a security cooperation agreement in July, 2012 designed to make operations by the three navies seamless.
India’s military-to-military relationship with Sri Lanka has grown despite political tensions. The Sri Lankan navy has ordered two modern offshore patrol vessels from the public-sector Goa Shipyards. It already operates the 101-metre offshore patrol vessel Sayura, sold by India in 2000.
The training has continued despite protests from Tamil Nadu CM, who had expressed dismay over the Indian Navy’s offer of further training cooperation to Sri Lanka.
India feels SCO can play a bigger role in Afghanistan
India has called for a greater role by the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in rebuilding and stabilizing Afghanistan. Since bulk of the SCO’s members and observers are Afghanistan’s neighbours.
However, Iran’s opposition of the West and the SCO’s tendency of trying not to annoy the West led to the organisation playing a more subdued role in Afghanistan.
SCO could also play a useful role in promoting trade connectivity in the region and countering terrorism.
From India’s point of view, it would be looking to enter into an energy and minerals partnership with Uzbekistan especially in the area of uranium.
India has been an observer country in the SCO since 2005. India, Pakistan, Iran and Mongolia have expressed their readiness to join Russia, China, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan as its full members.
More about Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO)
The SCO is a Eurasian political, economic and military organisation which was founded in 2001 in Shanghai by the leaders of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
It also has Afghanistan, India, Iran, Mongolia and Pakistan as observers, and Belarus, Sri Lanka and Turkey as dialogue partners.
It has also initiated a new security concept that is based on mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality and cooperation.
The SCO, which is an observer of the UN General Assembly, is the only regional inter-governmental organization founded in China.
Courtesy – http://english.cntv.cn/20130913/102515.shtml & Wikipedia
U.N. monitors say Taliban sanctions failing
The United Nations team monitoring the Security Council sanctions against the Taliban has warned that the international community is ill-placed to contain a surge of extortion-related funding the jihadist group is expected to raise in the run-up to next year’s (2014) elections in Afghanistan.
In 2014, Afghanistan there would be significant spike in international spending to finance the large-scale logistical operations necessary for the withdrawal of international forces from Afghanistan.
Illicit business activities and investments play a key role in the financial structure of the Taliban and its affiliates. Taliban continues to raise millions from drugs, extortion, in build-up to 2014 elections
Taliban’s continued ability to raise funds is critical to both its military and political influence in Afghanistan. According to the report, the Taliban is estimated to have raised $155 million from narcotics-related operations in 2012. The Taliban in Helmand province, a key hub for the jihadist group, had raised $8 million from the narcotics trade from January to May, 2013 alone, and an additional $400,000 a month through levies on local transport operators.
Also 90 to 99% of all gemstones mined in Afghanistan are illegally smuggled out of the country. The Taliban has targeted specifically gemstone and mining operations.
On these lines the Monitoring Team has recommended that the member-states be asked to submit any relevant information on Taliban bank accounts, hawalas and financial facilitators.
According to the Monitoring Team’s view, there appears to be little ground for optimism that violence could be defused by a peace deal between the Taliban and the Afghan government. But there are no evidence yet.
India supports Afghan over its row with U.S
India has expressed its disagreement over the U.S. pressure on Afghanistan to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA), which will limit the number of western troops in the war-torn country after 2014.
India and Afghanistan both see the BSA as important for the security and stability of Afghanistan. The Indian approach was not to pressurise, it would refrain from being intrusive and judgemental on the issue.
Issue:Over the timing of signing the BSA – The Afghan President wants the agreement to be signed by his successor after 2014 elections, in which he will not be eligible to contest, while the U.S. has threatened to walk out if it is not done immediately.
Apart from security issues, the other part of Mr. Karzai’s visit to India is economic. India is planning a major game-changing project in Afghanistan which will start taking shape once its Parliament approves new mining laws. Mr. Karzai has urged Indian businessmen to come forward and invest. The major investment planned by India is in Hajigak mines, said to be Asia’s biggest untapped deposits of iron ore.
Relationship among the three countries – India, U.S., Afghanistan.
India’s geo-political & geo-strategic interests with respect to Afghanistan
How will the withdrawal of U.S forces from Afghan impact the future prospects of Afghan and the other stakeholders vying for stability of Afghan?
Significance of India’s support to Afghanistan (amidst U.S pressure)? Does this move indicates India’s rise in the International fora, as a country which can take independent decision? Is India a soft- State?
India-Maldives relationship on the right track again
Following 2 years of testing times, India and Maldives are all set to restore their friendly relationship, with the upcoming visit of the newly elected President, Abdulla Yameen, from December 23 to 25, 2013.
On further strengthening of the ties between the two countries, India would formally hand over an indigenously made helicopter for surveillance and domain awareness operations in northern Maldives.
India has already gifted Maldives an advanced light helicopter (ALH) for its southernmost island Addu. This ALH will be for the northern most inhabited island.
Also both sides would be signing a package of measures to resume projects that had been stalled after Mohd Nasheed was ousted as President in February, 2012.
These include the construction of a national police academy, refurbishing of the Indira Gandhi Hospital in Male and setting up a faculty for teaching tourism and hospitality.
Also there are other issues – cancellation of a contract given to GMR, said to be the single biggest foreign investment proposal in Maldives, Tata Housing’s real estate project and Tattva Global’s contract for waste management, which needs to be looked into for better diplomatic relationships between the two countires.
India- Maldives strategic interest
In the direction of furthering the relationship between the two countries, India has promised a second Advanced Light Helicopter, Dhruv (indigenously-built), to the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF).
Earlier in 2010, India had donated an ALH to Maldives.
India and the Maldives have maintained close ties over the years and Indian naval ships and aircraft were deployed for surveillance of the Maldivian exclusive economic zone at their request.
Over the years, the Indian Navy has trained Mauritian naval pilots; extended training support to several nations, including Vietnam, conducted coordinated joint patrols, and supplied military hardware (including surveillance aircraft) to countries like Myanmar.
This is a part of the geostrategic measures undertaken by India to support friendly nations in the Indian Ocean rim to augment capacity.
Initiatives such as the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS), a geographical grouping of 35 Indian Ocean littorals, and biennial naval exercise ‘Milan’ went a long way in reaffirming the confidence nations in the region had in India.
Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS)
IONS is a voluntary initiative that seeks to increase maritime co-operation among navies of the littoral states of the Indian Ocean Region by providing an open and inclusive forum for discussion of regionally relevant maritime issues and, in the process, endeavors to generate a flow of information between naval professionals that would lead to common understanding and possibly agreements on the way ahead.
The inclusiveness of this forum means that all the principal maritime agencies of states in the IOR are members, unless they desire otherwise, thereby involving participation by almost all the littorals in the region to address cooperative maritime issues.
Milan basically is a biennial conglomeration of Asia-Pacific maritime navies, hosted by the Indian Navy, to foster bonds of ‘friendship across the seas’, boost interoperability and share views on common maritime issues.
Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA)
IORA was established in 1997 to promote cooperation in the Indian Ocean region. It seeks to expand mutually beneficial cooperation through a consensus-based, evolutionary and non-intrusive approach. IORA is the only regional forum linking most countries on the Indian Ocean rim through an annual Foreign Ministers’ meeting.
In 2011 six priority areas of cooperation were identified for IORA. These include: Maritime Safety and Security, Trade and Investment Facilitation, Fisheries Management, Disaster Risk Management, Academic and Science & Technology Cooperation, and Tourism and Cultural Exchanges.
Historical relationship between India & Maldives. India’s Strategic interests with respect to Maldives. Relationship between India and Maldives in recent times, especially last 2 years (till the recent elections & the future prospects)
What is India’s stake and concerns over Indian Ocean?
What are the geostrategic measures undertaken by India to support friendly nations in the Indian Ocean rim to augment capacity?
Significance of IORA.
Russia to boost Arctic presence
President Vladimir Putin has ordered the military to step up its presence in the Arctic after Canada signalled it planned to claim the North Pole and surrounding waters.
The tough and rapid response to Canada’s announcement reflected Russia’s desire to protect its oil and natural gas interests in the pristine but energy-rich region amid competing claims there by countries that also include Norway and Denmark.
Canada had earlier filed a claim with the U.N. Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf concerning the outer limits of its continental shelf in the Atlantic Ocean. The claim also included Canada’s stake on the North Pole.
Russia has an overlapping claim to both the North Pole and swathes of the Arctic that the U.S. Geological Survey thinks could hold 13 % of the world’s undiscovered oil and up to 30% of its hidden natural gas reserves.
In 2007, a government-sponsored diving team in had planted a Russian flag under the North Pole, and the Russia has been contemplating to deploy a large military presence in the region from a long time.
More about Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS): It’s Purpose, functions
The purpose of the CLCS is to facilitate the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (the Convention) in respect of the establishment of the outer limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles (M) from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured.
Under the Convention, the coastal State shall establish the outer limits of its continental shelf where it extends beyond 200 M on the basis of the recommendation of the Commission. The Commission shall make recommendations to coastal States on matters related to the establishment of those limits;
its recommendations and actions shall not prejudice matters relating to the delimitation of boundaries between States with opposite or adjacent coasts.
Functions of the Commission:
To consider the data and other material submitted by coastal States concerning the outer limits of the continental shelf in areas where those limits extend beyond 200 nautical miles, and to make recommendations in accordance with article 76 and the statement of Understanding adopted on 29 August 1980 by the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea;
To provide scientific and technical advice, if requested by the coastal State concerned during preparation of such data.
In accordance with article 76(8), the Commission shall make recommendations to coastal States on matters related to the establishment of the outer limits of their continental shelf. The limits of the shelf established by a coastal State on the basis of these recommendations shall be final and binding.
Courtesy- http://www.un.org/depts/los/clcs_new/commission_purpose.htm#Purpose (UN website)
Impact of exploration in north pole on climate change, global warming etc(help it offers in protecting Himalayan ecology, studying monsoons, data)
Russian confrontationist diplomacy, India’s stakes in arctic (in terms of research, energy security); Indian presence in the region.
How is arctic region governed? Future potential of the region apart from energy.
Japan’s military plan ‘proactive pacifism’
Taking Japan a step further from its post-war pacifism, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has approved a new five-year defence plan that calls for the acquisition of drones and amphibious assault vehicles to strengthen the nation’s military as it faces the prospect of a prolonged rivalry with China over islands in the East China Sea.
The PM has described the spending plan as “proactive pacifism”. It could be noticed that from 2013, Mr. Abe (who is building on moves by previous Prime Ministers) has started increasing the military expenditure to help offset China’s rapid military build-up and the relative decline of U.S. influence in the region.
Under the new 10-year defence and a broader national security strategy, Japan will continue to build closer ties with the United States, whose 50,000 military personnel stationed in Japan still form the basis of Japan’s national security. But it will also acquire weapons meant to increase its own capabilities, acquisitions that would have once been unthinkable for a nation that viewed its military with suspicion after its disastrous defeat in World War II.
Japan is trying to build a comprehensive defensive posture that can completely defend the nation. There are apprehensions over China’s attempt to alter the status quo by force in the skies and seas of the East China Sea and South China Sea and other areas based on assertions that are incompatible with the established international order.
Political analysts say that China’s assertive stance in the dispute over the East China Sea islands has made Japan’s once proudly pacifist public more willing to accept an expanded role for the nation’s military, called the Self-Defense Forces. China’s claims in the South China Sea have also put it at odds with several countries in Southeast Asia that say they own some of the territory in question.
The 10-year military strategy approved calls on Japan to create a more mobile military that can deal with contingencies on far-flung islands, as well as so-called gray zone conflicts that might involve small numbers of terrorists or paramilitary attackers.
The strategy also calls on Japan to study whether it should buy or develop long-range strike capability, like cruise missiles, that would allow it to destroy a threat like a North Korean ballistic missile before it was launched.
Japan has so far abstained from such offensive weapons in order to maintain the defensive nature of its military, whose existence already pushes the limits of a post-war constitution that bars the nation from possessing ‘land, sea and air forces, as well as other war potential.’
Mr. Abe is of the opinion to go even further by stretching the definition of self-defence to include action taken on behalf of allies under attack. For example, allowing Japan to shoot down a North Korean ballistic missile heading toward the United States. That doctrine, known as collective self-defence, has run into stiff public opposition, including from a small Buddhist political party within Mr. Abe’s governing coalition.
(According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Japan had the fifth-largest military budget in the world last year. China had the second largest, behind the United States.)