Daily Current AFfairs 01.05.2021 (Xi sends message to Modi, offers China’s help, Armed forces get powers for relief work, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan seek to ease cross-border tensions)

Daily Current AFfairs 01.05.2021 (Xi sends message to Modi, offers China’s help, Armed forces get powers for relief work, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan seek to ease cross-border tensions)


1. Xi sends message to Modi, offers China’s help

It’s the first such known communication between the two leaders since last year’s border crisis

China’s President Xi Jinping on Friday sent a message to Prime Minister Narendra Modi offering China’s support in dealing with the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

Mr. Xi’s message, the first such known communication between the two leaders following the pandemic and last year’s border crisis, was followed by a telephone call on Friday from China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi to his counterpart S. Jaishankar. Mr. Wang also sent a message to Mr. Jaishankar on Thursday offering China’s support.

“I am very concerned about the recent situation of the COVID-19 pandemic in India. On behalf of the Chinese government and people, as well as in my own name, I would like to express sincere sympathies to the Indian Government and people,” Mr. Xi said in the message, shared by China’s Ambassador to India Sun Weidong on Twitter.

“Humanity is a community with a shared future. Only through solidarity and cooperation can countries around the world ultimately defeat the pandemic,” he added. “The Chinese side stands ready to strengthen cooperation with the Indian side in fighting the pandemic and provide support and help in this regard. I believe that under the leadership of the Indian Government, the Indian people will surely prevail over the pandemic.”

Mr. Jaishankar said he had received a call from his Chinese counterpart “conveying China’s sympathies at the COVID challenge now faced by India”. “Discussed the international cooperation aspects of the public health response to this difficult situation,” he said on Twitter, adding that he had “highlighted the importance of supply chains and air flights being kept open in these circumstances” and “welcomed his assurances in that regard, as also more openness to Indian chartered flights”.

Both sides also “discussed the issue of full and sincere implementation of the Moscow Agreement of complete disengagement at all friction points along the LAC and full restoration of peace and tranquility in Eastern Ladakh” and “agreed to continue discussions in this respect”. Talks between military commanders are ongoing and have made slow progress since February following the first phase of disengagement at Pangong Lake, with the Chinese military dragging its heels on pulling back in other areas.

Mr. Wang said on Thursday that “anti-pandemic materials produced in China are entering India at a faster pace to help India fight the epidemic”.

A large number of orders for oxygen concentrators, ventilators and other medical supplies are in the process of being sourced from China. A first batch of 800 oxygen concentrators was flown in from Hong Kong earlier this week and Mr. Sun, the Chinese envoy, said on Thursday China had, since April, “supplied more than 5000 ventilators, 21,569 oxygen generators, over 21.48 million masks & around 3,800 tons of medicines to India” according to Chinese customs data. These were acquired on a commercial basis.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said on Friday “all social sectors in China are busy taking actions” to aid India.

More supplies

“The Red Cross Society of China, local governments, many non-governmental organisations and Chinese enterprises are trying their best to collect anti-epidemic supplies urgently needed by India, and deliver them to the Indian people as soon as possible,” he said. “Chinese manufacturers of anti-epidemic supplies and medical equipment are racing against the clock in full speed to ensure production. In the next few days, more anti-epidemic materials will be sent.”

He said “freight air routes from China to India are operating normally” and “in the past two weeks, a number of freight flights from China to India remain in operation”. “Relevant Chinese authorities have provided and are providing convenience in customs clearance and transportation for India to transport liquid oxygen tanks, oxygen concentrators and other materials from many cities in China,” he added. “China will continue to ensure the smooth functioning of the export channel of materials to India.”

On Friday, China joined Australia in effectively barring its nationals in India from returning. While there was no formal announcement, Chinese nationals in India have been told they would no longer be issued “health codes” by the Embassy in New Delhi that are needed to travel to China.

Last week, the Embassy in Delhi imposed new curbs by barring transit through some countries, including Nepal, as there are no direct flights between India and China. Now, the issuance of health codes on the only allowed transit routes through Germany and Oman has also been temporarily suspended. Indians and foreigners based in India have been barred from travelling to China since November 2020.

India’s Neighbourhood Diplomacy

India’s foreign policy engagements with its neighbourhood is an active topic of debate now, especially in the context of “territorial disputes” with China and Nepal.

The South Asian region, which is home to eight countries, and the Indian Ocean region (maritime Indian Ocean region; mostly Western Indian Ocean) comes under the broad geographic expanse of India’s neighbourhood.

Moreover, there are ideas such as “extended neighbourhood” (linking India with other regions which do not necessarily share borders but share cultural, civilisational or economic linkages) that have come up in policy parlance in recent times.

In general, in the immediate neighbourhood, there is an India-centric system with India dominating its geography, economic, social and cultural systems.

Given its centrality and capabilities, since Independence, traditionally India had preponderance in the region, especially in South Asia and to a large extent, in the Western Indian Ocean.

Most of the South Asian smaller neighbours have had friendly ties with India in their post independent period.

Evolution of India’s neighbourhood policy:

India’s neighbourhood policy has been through several phases.

  1. The phase under colonial times centred on ideas and slogans around anti-colonialism, anti-imperialism, anti-racism, (for instance, major agendas of Asian Relation Conference of 1948) which cemented India’s relations with its neighbours and in a way, supported their respective de-colonisation movements.
  2. The post-colonial phase, which broadly began in the late 1940s, again, has had a complementariness which helped India and its neighbours to propel ideas such as non-alignment in the international arena, which was inspired by a macro-level “third worldism”, “South-South cooperation” and so on.
  3. Though multilateralism prevailed in India’s foreign policy at the international level, there has been a tremendous focus on bilateralism in India’s approach to its immediate neighbourhood.
  4. This was due to a variety of factors since Cold War related dynamics at play in the region.
  5. In that context, to a large extent, India’s foreign policy approach towards its neighbours were shaped by the “principle of balancing”.
  6. For instance, the policies that the major adversarial States (such as Pakistan and China) followed with super powers defined India’s relations with the latter. Such balancing and counterbalancing have had an effect on India’s neighbourhood.
  7. It does not imply that domestic level factors never played a role in the shaping of neighbourhood policy; indeed, some of the conflicts in the neighbourhood had domestic dimensions for example, the India-Sri Lanka conflicts in the eighties and water sharing issues with Bangladesh.
  8. Parallel to this, the role of super powers and their Cold War proclivities significantly contributed to India’s neighbourhood policies.
  9. In general, there is a dominant perception that India’s neighbourhood policy was mostly dominated by issues involving Pakistan and China in the land territorial sphere and was overtly overlooking maritime issues.
  10. In the post-Cold War period, which began in the 1990s, India set out to refashion its foreign policy premises on non-alignment, its relations with Western bloc countries, regionalism and so on, which in turn had a huge impact on India’s neighbourhood/regional policies.
  11. The factors that contributed to such changes broadly fell under two categories systemic and domestic.
  12. The systemic (international) level factors included the collapse of the Cold War binaries, spread of globalisation, increased degree of regionalism.
  13. The domestic level factors included introduction of economic reforms, emergence of coalition politics, nuclearisation and so on.

In a way, India’s newly defined foreign policy premises began to provide an unprecedented attention to the neighbourhood.

In recent past, India to build better ties with its neighbours:

  1. There were several initiatives to build better ties with its neighbours as evident from the increased trade, confidence building measures (CBMs), border agreements/treaties and so on.
  2. India even undertook non-reciprocal initiatives to its South Asian neighbours to build ties and instil a high degree of confidence. One of those initiatives was the “Gujral Doctrine” of 1996.
  3. However, intermittent conflicts with neighbouring States like Pakistan continued, which to a large extent, affected the forward march of the South Asia specific regional organisation, the SAARC.
  4. In general, India through new neighbourhood policy at that point in time was striving to address both traditional and non-traditional issues.
  5. Traditional included military and economy while non-traditional included water, sharing, migration, climate and disasters and so on.
  6. Since the 1990s, many treaties have been signed with neighbouring States to address such issues, for instance, the India-Bangladesh Ganges Treaty, Mahakali Treaty with Nepal and so on.
  7. On the other end, security related issues have dominated India’s relations with Pakistan, and of late with China, though India-China trade increased exponentially in the period of post-Cold War era.

Present Issues as new economic and political realities:

  1. In the “current pandemic phase”, in the times of contracting economies, several fissures have emerged between India and its neighbours resulting in violent conflicts like the one witnessed involving China on June 15, 2020, which subsequently expanded into the economic and business arena.
  2. The pandemic to a large extent has accentuated the issues as new economic and political realities are transforming the world at a fast pace.
  3. In fact, the non-traditional security threats such as the COVID-19 pandemic are increasingly leading to traditional security conflicts.
  4. China’s aggressive actions and action of smaller countries are some of the indicators of a new geo-political situation emerging in the region.
  5. Apart from this, there is an ongoing trade conflict between the US and China, an offshoot of the emerging new Cold War at the global arena, which is most likely to impact India’s neighbourhood and its neighbourhood policies.
  6. In other words, the China factor, the changing global power architecture, and the existing conflicts with neighbours will play a significant role in India’s foreign policy, of which its neighbourhood policy is a crucial one.

2. Armed forces get powers for relief work

Defence Minister invokes special provisions to speed up efforts to tackle second wave of COVID-19

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has invoked special provisions and granted emergency financial powers to the armed forces to empower them and speed up their efforts to tide over the current COVID-19 situation.

The emergency financial powers will help formation commanders to establish and operate quarantine facilities, hospitals and undertake procurement, repair of equipment, items, material and stores, besides provisioning of various services and works required to support the ongoing effort against the pandemic, the Defence Ministry said.

Under these powers, Vice Chiefs of the armed forces, including the Chief Of Integrated Defence Staff to the Chairman Chiefs Of Staff Committee (CISC) and General Officer Commanding-in-Chiefs (GOC-in-Cs) and equivalents of all three Services have been given full powers, whereas Corps Commanders and Area Commanders have been delegated powers up to ₹50 lakh per case and Division Commanders, Sub Area Commanders and equivalents have been delegated powers up to ₹20 lakh per case. “These powers have been devolved initially for three months from May 1 to July 31, 2021. These are in addition to the emergency powers delegated to the medical officers of the armed forces last week,” the Ministry said.

To meet the urgent requirement of oxygen in various parts of the country, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is arranging big size oxygen cylinders for fulfilling requirements of different hospitals. “In this regard, the DRDO has handed over 75 such cylinders to the Department of Health and Family Welfare, Government of NCT of Delhi on Thursday,” a DRDO statement said. Forty cylinders of same capacity were handed over to Cabinet Secretariat officials on Friday for utilisation at the Sardar Patel COVID Care Centre at Radha Soami Satsang Beas at Chhatarpur in New Delhi.

These cylinders are of 80 litres water capacity each and can be pressurised up to the 130 bar because of which each of these cylinders can store 10,000 litres of oxygen, the statement said.

Navy contingent

The Navy has sent a 76-member medical contingent from five Naval hospitals around the country to bolster availability of trained manpower in the 900-bed COVID hospital in Ahmedabad.

The Cantonment Boards have extended support to civil administration in various parts of the country to tide over the surge in cases. “Presently, 39 Cantonment Boards (CB) are maintaining 40 general hospitals with 1,240 beds. CB hospitals at Pune, Kirkee and Deolali with 304 beds have been designated as dedicated COVID hospitals.,” a Defence Ministry statement said.

Cantonment General Hospitals of Kirkee, Deolali, Dehuroad, Jhansi and Ahmednagar have been designated as COVID care centres with 418 beds.

Paramilitary Forces

1. Assam Rifles 

  • Assam Rifles is the oldest of the Central Para Military Forces.
    • Though the organisation has a cadre of its own officers, most senior positions are filled by taking officers on deputation from the Army.
    • The Force functioned under the control of the Ministry of External Affairs till 1965.
    • Its control was then transferred to the Ministry of Home Affairs and has since been functioning under that Ministry.
    • The Assam Rifles Act, 1941, presently governs the Force.
    • Its charter of functions include:
  • Maintaining security of the North Eastern sector of the international border;
  • Helping states in the North East to maintain law and order and other states as and when needed; and
  • Taking counter insurgency measures in states of the North East. 

2. Special Frontier Force 

  • The special Frontier force (SFF) is paramilitary unit of India.
    • It was conceived in the post Sino-Indian war period as a guerrilla force composed mainly of Tibetan who are residents of India whose main goal was to conduct covert operations behind Chinese lines in case of another war between the People’s Republic of China and India.
    • Based in Chakrata, Uttarakhand, SFF is also known as the Establishment 22.
    • The force was put under the direct supervision of the Intelligence Bureau, and later, the Research and Analysis Wing, India’s external intelligence agency. 

3. Border Security Force (BSF) 

  • Prior to the Indo-Pak war of 1965, maintaining security on the Indo-Pak border was the responsibility of the Armed Police Forces of the concerned States.
    • The 1965 war led the government of India to recognize the need to setup a specialised force to maintain security on the Indo-Pak international border.
    • This led to the establishment of the BSF on December 1, 1965.
    • The BSF has a peace as well as war- time role.
    • Their tasks include: 
  • Peace time 
  • To prevent trans-border crimes, unauthorized entry into or exit from the territory of India;
  • To prevent smuggling and related illegal activities;
  • To promote a sense of security amongst the people living in the border areas; and d) To help civil administration in maintenance of public order. 
  • War Time 
  • To hold ground in less threatened sectors so long as the main attack does not develop in a particular sector.
  • To protect vital installations against enemy commandos and Para-troop raids. 

4. Indo-Tibetan Border Police 

  • Indo-Tibetan Border Police was conceived on October 24, 1962. ITBP was initially raised under the CRPF Act, however in 1992; the parliament enacted the ITBPF Act rules there under were framed in 1994
    • ITBP is a multi-dimensional force. Presently Battalions of ITBP deployed on Border Guarding Duties from Karakoram Pass in Ladakh to Jachep-La in Arunachal Pradesh covering 3488 KM of India China Border are manning Border out Posts at an altitude ranging from 9000′ to 18500′ in the Western, Middle & Eastern Sector of India China Border.
    • ITBP is basically a mountain trained Force and most of the officers & men are professionally trained Mountaineers and Skiers. They have scaled more than 140 Himalayan peaks including Mt. Everest Four times (Recent successful expedition in April- May, 2012), besides ITBP battalions are also deployed on CI OPS/ IS/ VIP security duties at Chamba – Doda border in VA/Strategic locations and with VIPs in Delhi and VIPs in Srinagar J&K.
    • The border posts manned by ITBP are exposed to high velocity storms, snow blizzards, avalanches, and landslides, bedsides the hazards of high altitude and extreme cold, where temperature dips up to minus 40 degree Celsius.
    • ITBP conducts Long Range and Short Range patrols to keep an effective vigil on inaccessible and unmanned areas on the border. To maintain optimum operational efficiency of troops, periodical tactical exercises are conducted independently as well as jointly with Army. 

5. Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) 

  • The CISF was set up through an Act of Parliament (Central Industrial Force Act, 1968) to provide security to public sector undertakings.
    • It was made an armed force of the Union subsequently in 1983.
    • The concerned public sector undertakings bear the expenses of the CISF personnel deployed for their security.
    • The Force is also deployed in States/ Union Territories to help them maintain public order.
    • With globalization and liberalization of the economy, CISF is no longer a PSU centric organization. Instead, it has become a premier multi-skilled security agency of the country, mandated to provide security to major critical infrastructure installations of the country in diverse areas.
    • CISF is currently providing security cover to nuclear installations, space establishments, airports, seaports, power plants, sensitive Government buildings and ever heritage monuments.
    • Among the important responsibilities recently entrusted to the CISF are the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, VIP Security, Disaster Management and establishment of a Formed Police Unit (FPU) of the UN at Haiti. 

6. Central Reserve Police Force 

  • This Force was formed in 1939 and was known at that time as the Crown Representative Police and was utilised to maintain law and order in the then princely states of the central India.
    • After Independence, the Force was given statutory status with the passage of the Central Reserve Police Act in 1949.
    • Its main role is to help the States/ Union Territories in maintaining law and order.
    • Besides dealing with various types of riots occurring in different parts of the country, it has over the past few years also been deployed on anti-insurgency and anti-terrorist operations, VIP security, aviation security, election duties, guard duties and army convoy protection duties. 

7. Sashastra Seema Bal 

  • The Special Service Bureau (also abbreviated SSB) was set up in early 20 December 1963, following the Sino-Indian War. SSB is now spread along the International border across Uttarakhand, UP, Bihar, West Bengal, Sikkim, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.
  • SSB’s  present charter of duties is to:
  • Safeguard the security of assigned borders of India and promote sense of security among the people living in border areas.
  • Prevent trans-border crimes, smuggling and any other illegal activities.
  • Prevent unauthorized entry into or exit from the territory of India.
  • Carry out civic action programme in the area of responsibility.
  • Perform any other duty assigned by the Central Government.(SSB is being deployed for Law & Order, Counter Insurgency Operations and Election duty).

3. Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan seek to ease cross-border tensions

39 dead in latest clashes over land, water and pastures

A ceasefire on the border between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan largely held on Friday following a day of intense fighting between the two ex-Soviet Central Asian neighbours that killed 39 people and wounded more than 175.

More than 7,000 Kyrgyz residents have been evacuated from the area engulfed by the fighting as troops from the two countries exchanged gunfire around a water supply facility near the village of Kok-Tash, located in western Kyrgyzstan on the border with Tajikistan.

Both nations have claimed the area around the water supply facility in Kok-Tash, a dispute dating back decades to when they were both part of the Soviet Union.

Kyrgyz officials reported firing on the border early on Friday but later said the truce was being observed.

Kyrgyzstan’s Deputy Health Minister, Jalalidin Rakhmatullayev, told the Interfax news agency that 31 people died and 154 others were injured in the clashes, which marked the worst outbreak of hostilities between the two countries since they gained independence in the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.

Local officials in Tajikistan’s city of Isfara reported eight dead and over 30 wounded.

A large part of the Tajik-Kyrgyz border remains unmarked, fuelling fierce disputes over water, land and pastures.

The latest conflict erupted on Wednesday when Tajik officials attempted to mount surveillance cameras to monitor the water supply facility amid the tensions over water distribution, and Kyrgyz residents opposed the move. Both sides began hurling stones at each other and troops quickly entered the fray.

India Central Asia Relations

India-Central Asia Dialogue It was the first ministerial level India-Central Asia dialogue.Dialogue focused on a number of issues including ways to improve connectivity and stabilize war-ravaged Afghanistan.India has proposed setting up of ‘India-Central Asia Development Group’ to take forward development partnership between India & Central Asian countries.The group may enable New Delhi to expand its footprints in the resource-rich region amid China’s massive inroads and to fight terror effectively, including in Afghanistan.India will host the next India-Central Asia Dialogue in 2020.


Historical ties with Central Asia

  • India has had relations with Central Asia since the 3rd century B.C as the nations fell on route to the Legendary Silk Route.
  • The Silk Route not only served as the medium for transportation of goods, silk, textiles, spices etc but also facilitated dispersion of thoughts, ideas, religion and philosophy.
  • Buddhism found inroads in several of Central Asian cities such as Merv, Khalachayan, Tirmiz and Bokhara etc in form of Stupas and Monasteries.
  • Babur in 1526 came from the fertile valley of Fergana (food bowl of Central Asia) to the dusty town of Panipat and established the mighty rule of Mughals in India.
  • Men of prominence such as Amir Khusrau, Dehlawi, Al-Biruni, Abdur Rahim Khan i Khanan etc having Central Asian routes came and made their name in India.
  • During the Soviet period- culture, music, dance, movies and literature bound the Soviet Republics closely with India. Popularity of iconic stars like Raj Kapoor, Nargis, and others brought India into the homes and hearts of common people of this region.
  • Bilateral relations however suffered considerable neglect in the 25 years after emergence of these countries as independent States in 1991.

Present Time

  • India has registered significant progress recently through renovation of Chabahar port, development of the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) and becoming a member of Ashgabat Agreement.
International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC), is multi-modal transportation established in 12 Sep 2000 in St. Petersburg, by Iran, Russia and India for the purpose of promoting transportation cooperation among the Member States.This corridor connects India Ocean and the Persian Gulf to the Caspian Sea via the Islamic Republic of Iran and then is connected to St. Petersburg and North Europe via the Russian Federation.The INSTC was expanded to include eleven new members, namely: the Republic of Azerbaijan, Republic of Armenia, Republic of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Republic of Tajikistan, Republic of Turkey, Republic of Ukraine, Republic of Belarus, Oman, Syria, Bulgaria (Observer).
  • India uses the instrumentality of soft power and its ready acceptability in Central Asia to strengthen bilateral ties.
    • India through cultural events- classical dance, music, Bollywood films, yoga, literature and educational programs reinforces the historical ties with the region.
  • The Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) Program provides technical assistance and training in areas such as banking, remote sensing and information technology etc in the premier institutions in India.

Importance of Central Asia for India

  • India has a very wide array of interests in Central Asia covering security, energy, economic opportunities etc.
  • Central Asia serves as a land bridge between Asia and Europe, making it geopolitically axial for India.
  • Security, stability and prosperity of Central Asia is imperative for peace and economic development of India.
  • The region is rich in natural resources such as petroleum, natural gas, antimony, aluminum, gold, silver, coal and uranium which can be best utilized by Indian energy requirement.
  • Central Asia has huge cultivable areas lying barren and without being put to any productive use, offering enormous opportunity for cultivation of pulses. Indian agribusiness companies can setup commercial agro-industrial complexes in Central Asia.
  • Owing to higher economic growth, several areas have become attractive for construction business, providing huge scopes to Indian companies engaging in financial services, contractors, engineers, and management specialists.
  • Both India and Central Asian Republics (CARs) share many commonalities and perceptions on various regional and world issues and can play crucial role in providing regional stability.
  • For India to use Chabahar as a vital gateway to access Eurasian markets and optimally operationalize its use, requires a Central Asian state joining the project as a direct stakeholder.
  • Central Asian Regions are fast getting linked to the global market for production, supplies of raw materials and services. They are also increasingly getting integrated into the East-West Trans-Eurasian transit economic corridors.

Indian Synergy in Central Asian Region

  • Central Asia is facing many challenges in food security; Indian expertise in the field can be a game changer in the region.
  • Commercial farming is another important area where India and CARs can cooperate.
  • India’s experience in boosting food and milk production and modernizing agro-techniques under the green and white revolution can prove panacea for Central Asia.
  • Good relations with India will provide an assured market to these countries for their energy, raw materials, oil and gas, uranium, minerals, hydro electric power etc.
  • India can significantly bring in lots of foreign investment along with technical expertise in field of infrastructure, hospitality, medical etc.


  • There are obstructions of physical connectivity due to Pakistan’s hostility and Afghan instability for its desultory attitude towards Central Asia.
  • India’s current trade volume with Central Asia is minimal, and cannot be increased without substantially improving transport connectivity.
  • Politically, the Central Asian republics are highly fragile and also face threats like terrorism, Islamic fundamentalism etc making the region a volatile and unstable market.
  • There are several administrative laggards in the region such as non-availability of hard currency, banking services, and prevailing corruption creating roadblocks in smooth bilateral relations.
  • India’s “Look East” policy has resulted in concentrating its economic and diplomatic resources in Southeast and East Asia.
  • Involvement of China in Central Asia in form of Belt and Road Initiative while posing opportunity by giving easy access to India in the region, it can significantly undermine India’s influence in the region.
  • Porous border and unbridled corruption along with the proximity with regions of soaring opium production (Golden Crescent and Golden Triangle) makes the region a powerhouse for drug and money trafficking.
Eurasian Economic Union The Eurasian Economic Union was started in 2015 based on the Customs Union of Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus.The bloc was launched to ensure the free movement of goods, services, capital and workforce within its borders.Members: Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia.

4. Amid U.S. exit, Taliban protected foreign bases

It covered Western facilities from attacks under a secret pact but kept targeting Afghans: sources

Taliban fighters have protected western military bases in Afghanistan from attacks by rival, or rogue Islamist groups for over a year under a secret annex to a pact for the withdrawal of all U.S. forces by May 1, three Western officials with knowledge of the agreement told Reuters.

The U.S. State Department gave no immediate response to Reuters over the existence of any such document. Nor did it have any immediate comment on what the three officials described as a “Taliban ring of protection”.

Since United States struck a deal with the Taliban in February 2020, paving the way for America to end its longest war, there have been no U.S. combat deaths, and there have been only isolated attacks on U.S. bases.

Instead, the Taliban intensified attacks on Afghan government forces, and civilian casualties have spiralled.

Peace talks between the militants and the government, which started in September, have made no significant progress, and a UN report said civilian casualties were up 45% in the last three months of 2020 from a year earlier.

Testing Taliban patience, U.S. President Joe Biden served notice that the U.S. withdrawal would overshoot the May 1 deadline agreed to by the previous U.S. administration, while giving an assurance that it would be completed by September 11 — the 20th anniversary of the al-Qaeda attacks on the U.S.

When the deadline passes on Saturday, around 2,000 U.S. troops will still be in Afghanistan, according to a western security official in Kabul. The commander of foreign forces in Afghanistan, U.S. Army General Scott Miller earlier this week said an orderly withdrawal and the handing over of military bases and equipment to Afghan forces had begun.

Afghan soldiers left manning those bases could need plenty of firepower to resist any offensive by Taliban fighters, who have been occupying strategic positions in surrounding areas.

Mounting attacks

In the past two weeks alone, the militants have killed more than 100 Afghan security personnel in a surge of attacks that followed Mr. Biden’s announcement that a U.S. withdrawal would take a few months more.

Two of the Western officials said Washington had accepted the Taliban’s offer to shield the western military bases from attacks by the likes of Islamic State.

The officials said the Taliban had wanted to demonstrate good faith by meeting a commitment to ensure Afghan soil was not used for attacks on U.S. interests — a key U.S. demand in the February agreement. “They provided a layer of cover, almost like a buffer and ordered their fighters to not injure or kill any foreign soldier in this period,” said one western diplomat involved in the process.

The western officials said it was also important for the Taliban to show its ability to control the more recalcitrant factions in its movement, like the Haqqani network, which has often followed its own agenda, though its leader Sirajuddin Haqqani is the second-highest ranking commander in the Taliban.

A western security official said that militants had kept their side of the bargain. “The Taliban swiftly responded to even minor attacks by the Haqqani network and IS fighters around the bases,” he said.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid declined to comment on the so-called “ring of protection” agreement.

India in Afghan Peace Process

  • USA President’s New Peace Initiative:
    • Delay in Withdrawal of Troops: This peace plan has kept open the possibility that the USA troops, currently deployed in Afghanistan, might stay on for a longer time.
      • Under the earlier USA- Taliban Deal, the USA had promised to withdraw all troops by May, 2021.
    • Immediate Action: The USA is pressing the Taliban to accept an immediate agreement to reduce violence for 90 days that will provide the space for the peace initiative.
    • Inclusive Process: The USA will not be “dictating terms” to the Afghan parties, but facilitating an inclusive interim government, an agreement on the “foundational principles” for a new political order, and a “permanent and comprehensive ceasefire”.
    • Turkey’s Role: The USA is asking Turkey to convene a meeting of the government in Kabul (capital of Afghanistan) and the Taliban to finalise a peace settlement.
    • Unified Approach: The USA asked the United Nations to convene a meeting of the foreign ministers from China, Russia, Pakistan, Iran, India and the United States to develop a “unified approach” to peace in Afghanistan.
  • India’s Role in Peace Process Through “Unified Approach”:
    • India is an important player in the peace process – it has also been acknowledged by the USA.
    • India supports all efforts for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan which are inclusive and Afghan-led, Afghanowned and Afghan-controlled.
    • India has invested heavily in infrastructure developments, training security forces and supplying them with necessary equipment.
    • India has a major stake in the stability of Afghanistan since it has invested considerable resources in Afghanistan’s development.
    • India hopes to have a role in setting the terms especially concerning terrorism, violence, women’s rights and democratic values.
  • India’s Interest in Afghanistan:
    • Economic and Strategic Interest: Afghanistan is a gateway to the oil and mineral-rich Central Asian republics.
      • Anyone who is in power in Afghanistan controls the land routes connecting India with Central Asia (via Afghanistan).
    • Developmental Projects: The massive reconstruction plans for the country to offer a lot of opportunities for Indian companies.
      • Major projects include the Afghan Parliament, the Zaranj-Delaram Highway, and the Afghanistan-India Friendship Dam (Salma Dam).
      • Also India’s assistance of more than USD 3 billion in projects, hundreds of small development projects (of schools, hospitals and water projects) have cemented its position in Afghanistan.
    • Security Interest: India has been the victim of state-sponsored terrorism emanating from Pakistan supported terrorist group operating in the region (e,g. Haqqani network). Thus, setting up a friendly government in Afghanistan can help tackling Pakistan supported terrorism.
  • Challenges:
    • The Afghan government as well as Taliban are unwilling for any power sharing.
      • Taliban is even not willing to give up its sanctuaries in Pakistan. Nor will it accept any dilution of the strict Islamic system that it wants to enforce.
    • Also, the Taliban is fragmented or divided internally. It is composed of various regional and tribal groups acting semi-autonomously.
      • Therefore, it is possible that some of them may continue to engage in violence impacting the peace process and dialogue.

5. Editorial: The rising sun in India-Japan relations

New Delhi should be confident that Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is willing to accord primacy to bilateral ties

Contrary to the expectations of many, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has turned out to be a true successor of his predecessor, Shinzo Abe, on the foreign policy front. His visit to the United States last month has set the agenda for the wider Indo-Pacific engagement of Tokyo and its evolving priorities.

Focus on China

Right at the outset, it was clear that the crux of the discussions during this first in-person meeting between the newly anointed President of the United States, Joe Biden, and Mr. Suga would revolve around China. To begin with, Tokyo and Washington drilled down to brass tacks on their joint security partnership given the need to address China’s recent belligerence in territorial disputes in the South and East China Seas as well as in the Taiwan Strait. Both sides affirmed the centrality of their treaty alliance, for long a source of stability in East Asia, and pledged to stand up to China in key regional flashpoints such as the disputed Senkaku Islands and Taiwan. Reflecting the changed nature of conflict, both sides acknowledged the importance of extended deterrence vis-à-vis China through cooperation on cybersecurity and space technology.

Discussions also touched upon Chinese ambitions to dominate the development of new age technologies such as 5G and quantum computing. Given China’s recent pledge to invest a mammoth $1.4 trillion in emerging technologies, Washington and Tokyo scrambled to close the gap by announcing a Competitiveness and Resilience Partnership, or CoRe. The two allies earmarked billions in funding for the deployment of secure 5G networks, committed to building digital infrastructure in developing countries and promised to collaborate on setting global digital standards. Both sides have also signalled their intent to continue the Trump-era policy of pressure on China to reform economic practices such as “violations of intellectual property rights, forced technology transfer, excess capacity issues, and the use of trade distorting industrial subsidies”.

Tokyo and Washington also rallied around the standard of shared values. Both powers repeatedly emphasised their vision of a Free and Open Indo-Pacific that respects the rule of law, freedom of navigation, democratic norms and the use of peaceful means to settle disputes. In the aftermath of the successful Quad Summit, both parties expressed their continued support for the four-nation grouping of the United States, India, Australia and Japan. China’s human rights violations in Xinjiang, its heavy-handed suppression of protests in Hong Kong and military aggression towards Taiwan came in for heavy criticism.

Given that the Japanese premier plans to visit India as soon as the situation permits following the COVID-19 pandemic, his dealings with the U.S. are a preview of what New Delhi can expect from Tokyo.

A preview

First, one can expect a continuation of the balancing security policy against China that began with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Shinzo Abe in 2014. During a phone call with the Indian Prime Minister, Mr. Suga expressed concern over China’s “unilateral” actions in the East and South China Seas, Xinjiang and Hong Kong. Crucially, India’s clashes with China in Galwan have turned public opinion in favour of a more confrontational China policy.

In just a decade, New Delhi and Tokyo have expanded high-level ministerial and bureaucratic contacts, conducted joint military exercises and concluded military pacts such as the Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA) logistics agreement. Further, no meeting would be complete without an affirmation of New Delhi and Tokyo’s support for a Free and Open Indo-Pacific and continued willingness to work with the Quad, which is fast emerging as a central pillar of the security strategies of both nations. A Modi-Suga meeting, accompanied by the planned 2+2 Ministerial meetings, will likely aim to take stock of the state of play in the security relationship while also pushing the envelope on the still nascent cooperation on defence technology and exports.

Technology partnership

Second, the two powers will look to expand cooperation in sectors such as cybersecurity and emerging technologies. During the Shinzo Abe years, New Delhi and Tokyo put together a digital research and innovation partnership that ran the gamut of technologies from AI and 5G to the Internet of Things and space research. As with the U.S.-Japan summit, Mr. Suga and Mr. Modi may look to deepen cooperation between research institutes and expand funding in light of China’s aforementioned technology investment programme. It is yet unclear whether Mr. Suga will attempt to stir the pot and bring up the disagreements over India’s insistence on data localisation and continued reluctance to accede to global cybersecurity agreements such as the Budapest Convention.

Third, economic ties and infrastructure development are likely to be top drawer items on the agendas of New Delhi and Tokyo. While Japan has poured in around $34 billion in investments into the Indian economy over the course of the last two decades, Japan is only India’s 12th largest trading partner, and trade volumes between the two stand at just a fifth of the value of India-China bilateral trade. A Modi-Suga summit will likely reaffirm Japan’s support for key manufacturing initiatives such as ‘Make in India’ and the Japan Industrial Townships. Further, India will be keen to secure continued infrastructure investments in the strategically vital connectivity projects currently under way in the Northeast and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

Third country outlook

Finally, a Suga-Modi Summit would undoubtedly devote much attention to evolving a joint strategy towards key third countries and multilateral bodies. In years past, New Delhi and Tokyo have collaborated to build infrastructure in Iran and Africa, provide vital aid to Myanmar and Sri Lanka and hammer out a common Association of Southeast Asian Nations outreach policy in an attempt to counter China’s growing influence in these corners of the globe. However, unlike previous summits, the time has come for India and Japan to take a hard look at reports suggesting that joint infrastructure projects in Africa and Iran have stalled with substantial cost overruns. Tokyo will also likely continue its charm offensive on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership in an attempt to get New Delhi to reverse its decision not to join the massive trade compact.

Writing in 2006, Shinzo Abe, in his book, Utsukushii Kuni E (Toward a Beautiful Country), expressed his hope that “it would not be a surprise if in another 10 years, Japan-India relations overtake Japan-U.S. and Japan-China relations”. Thus far, New Delhi has every reason to believe that Japan’s Yoshihide Suga is willing to make that dream a reality.

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