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Daily Current Affairs 05.01.2022 (States told to share intel on common grid, Sri Lanka Cabinet clears oil tank deal, China to ‘modernise’ nuclear arsenal, The continuing political crisis in Sudan)

Daily Current Affairs 05.01.2022 (States told to share intel on common grid, Sri Lanka Cabinet clears oil tank deal, China to ‘modernise’ nuclear arsenal, The continuing political crisis in Sudan)

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1. States told to share intel on common grid

Shah asks DGPs to provide adequate information through counter-terror network

The Union government has asked the States to share more intelligence inputs through the Multi Agency Centre (MAC), a common counter-terrorism grid under the Intelligence Bureau that was made operational in 2001 following the Kargil War.

At a high-level meet on Monday, Union Home Minister Amit Shah asked the Directors-General of Police to share adequate information and actionable inputs through the MAC.

As many as 28 organisations, including the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW), armed forces and State police, are part of the platform. Various security agencies share real-time intelligence inputs on the MAC.

Plans are afoot for more than a decade to link the system up to the district level.

A senior government official said that though the system existed to share information among various agencies, it was not being implemented effectively.

‘States reluctant’

“States are often reluctant to share information on the platform. There are several gaps in sharing critical information at the right time, the meeting by the Home Minister will give a push to the efforts,” the official stated.

There are around 400 secured sites connected with the MAC headquarters.

Multi Agency Centre

The Multi-Agency Centre (MAC) was formed in December 2001 following the Kargil intrusion and the subsequent overhaul of the Indian national security apparatus suggested by the Kargil Review Committee report and GoM report.

Accordingly, the Intelligence Bureau (IB) was authorized to create a multi-agency centre (MAC) in New Delhi. Now functioning 24/7 as the nodal body for sharing intelligence inputs, MAC coordinates with representatives from numerous agencies, different ministries, both central and state.

The state offices have been designated as subsidiary MACs (SMACs).

In 2014 there were 374 MAC-SMAC sites across India.[8] As noted in a 2016 parliamentary report the major contributors of intelligence inputs to the MAC were the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW).

Research and Analysis Wing

RAW is the primary foreign intelligence agency of India.

It was established in 1968 following the intelligence failures of the Sino-Indian and Indo-Pakistani wars.

Headquarters: New Delhi

Motto:  The law protects when it is protected

It is under the direct command of Prime Minister and reports on an administrative basis to the Cabinet Secretary of India, who reports to the Prime Minister.

Its primary function is gathering foreign intelligence, engaging in counter-terrorism, advising Indian policymakers, promoting counter-proliferation and advancing India’s foreign strategic interests.

2. Sri Lanka Cabinet clears oil tank deal

Agreement will mark a milestone for India in a long-stalled, controversial project in Trincomalee

Sri Lanka’s Cabinet has given its nod for a new deal announced by the Energy Minister last week to jointly develop the Trincomalee oil tank farm with India.

According to a press statement issued by the Department on Government Information on decisions taken at the first Cabinet meeting of the year held on Monday, India and Sri Lanka “have reached an agreement to implement a joint development project” through diplomatic talks.

“Accordingly, the Cabinet of Ministers approved a proposal presented by Minister of Power to allocate 24 oil tanks for the business activities of the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation, to allocate 14 tanks of the Lower Oil Tank Complex already in use by Lanka IOC [Indian Oil Corporation] for the company’s business activities and to implement a development project by a company named Trinco Petroleum Terminal Pvt. Ltd. of the remaining 61 tanks, 51% to be owned by Ceylon Petroleum Corporation and 49% by Lanka IOC,” the statement said, reaffirming Minister Udaya Gammanpila’s announcement last week.

The statement did not mention the 50-year lease for the 14 tanks run by Lanka IOC that the Minister earlier spoke of. According to local media reports, the agreement on the project is expected to be signed soon.

Natural harbour

The signing of the agreement will mark a milestone for New Delhi in a long-stalled, controversial project in Sri Lanka’s eastern Trincomalee district, which has an enviable natural harbour.

While Indian involvement in a strategic national asset is viewed with suspicion by Sri Lanka’s Sinhala nationalist forces, New Delhi has been keen on partnering Sri Lanka in developing storage tanks of the Second World War era, since it was first discussed around the time of the India-Sri Lanka Accord of 1987.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his visit to the island nation in 2015, spoke of developing Trincomalee as a “regional hub”.

The Cabinet also cleared two other proposals with Indian involvement.

Ashok Leyland has won the bid for providing 500 new buses to Sri Lanka, while the Sri Lanka Police force will procure 750 jeeps from Mahindra and Mahindra, according to the official release.

India and Srilanka Relations

The relationship between India and Sri Lanka is more than 2,500 years old.

Both countries have a legacy of intellectual, cultural, religious and linguistic interaction. The relationship has been marked by close contacts at all levels. Trade and investment have grown and there is cooperation in the fields of infrastructure development, education, culture and defence. But there are times when relations between two countries hit a blow.

Relations with Sri-Lanka:

  1. Cultural Relations: The People of Indian Origin (PIOs) who have settled down in Sri Lanka and are engaged in various business ventures. The Cultural Cooperation Agreement has been signed between both the countries. The Indian Cultural Centre in Colombo actively promotes awareness of Indian culture by offering classes in Indian music, dance, Hindi, and Yoga. Every year, cultural troops from both countries exchange visits. Buddhism is a connecting link between India and Sri Lanka on religious lines.
  2. Education: Education is another important area of cooperation between India and Sri Lanka. India offers scholarship slots annually to deserving Sri Lankan students.
  3. Tourism: Tourism also forms an important link between India and Sri Lanka. India is the largest source of market for Sri Lankan tourism.
  4. Trade Relations: Sri Lanka is India’s second largest trading partner in SAARC. India and Sri Lanka signed FTA in 1998, which facilitated increased trade relations between the two countries.
  5. Defence and Security Cooperation: Sri Lanka and New Delhi have long history of security cooperation. In recent years, the two sides have steadily increased their military-to-military relationship. India and Sri Lanka conducts joint Military (‘Mitra Shakti’) and Naval exercise (SLINEX). India also provides defence training to Sri Lankan forces. A trilateral maritime security cooperation agreement was signed by India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives to improve surveillance, anti-piracy operations and reducing maritime pollution in Indian Ocean Region.

Issues and Conflicts In India-Srilanka relations:

  1. Strategic Issues: In the period of low profile relationship between the two nations, SL apparently started favouring China over India. The presence of China in Sri Lanka increased significantly in the recent years. As part of Maritime Silk Route (MSR) policy, China built two ports, one in Colombo and another in Hambantota. China has also collaborated in satellite launching activities with Supreme SAT (Pvt.), Sri Lanka’s only satellite operator.
  2. Fisherman Problem: Fishing disputes have been a constant area of concern between the two South Asian neighbours for a long time. Sri Lanka has long expressed concerns about illegal fishing by Indian fishermen within its territorial waters across the Palk Strait. The country regularly arrests Indian fishermen for crossing the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) that demarcates Indian and Sri Lankan waters. India also detains Sri Lankan fishermen for the illegal fishing.
  3. Katchatheevu Island: It is an uninhabited island that India ceded to Sri Lanka in 1974 based on a conditional agreement called “Katchatheevu island pact”. The central government recognises Sri Lanka’s sovereignty over the island as per the 1974 accord. But Tamil Nadu claimed that Katchatheevu falls under the Indian territory and Tamil fishermen have traditionally believed that it belongs to them and therefore want to preserve the right to fish there.

3. China to ‘modernise’ nuclear arsenal

Beijing defends its atomic weapons policy, urges U.S., Russia to reduce stockpiles

China said on Tuesday it will continue to “modernise” its nuclear arsenal and called upon the U.S. and Russia to reduce their own stockpiles a day after global powers pledged to prevent such weapons from spreading.

In a rare joint statement setting aside rising West-East tensions, the U.S., China, Russia, Britain and France reaffirmed their goal of creating a world free of atomic weapons and avoiding a nuclear conflict.

The five nuclear powers also committed to full future disarmament from atomic weapons, which have only been used in conflict in the U.S. bombings of Japan at the end of the Second World War.

But squaring that rhetoric with reality will not be easy at a time of spiralling tensions between those same global powers not seen since the Cold War.

There are growing global concerns about China’s rapid military modernisation, especially after its armed forces last year announced they had developed a hypersonic missile that can fly at five times the speed of sound.

The U.S. has also said China is expanding its nuclear arsenal with as many as 700 warheads by 2027 and possibly 1,000 by 2030.

On Tuesday, China defended its nuclear weapons policy and said Russia and the U.S. — by far the world’s largest nuclear powers — should make the first move on disarmament.

“The U.S. and Russia still possess 90% of the nuclear warheads on Earth,” Fu Cong, Director General of the department of arms control at the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said. “They must reduce their nuclear arsenal in an irreversible and legally binding manner.”

Mr. Fu dismissed U.S. claims that China was vastly increasing its nuclear capabilities. “China has always adopted the no first use policy and we maintain our nuclear capabilities at the minimal level required for our national security,” he said. But he said Beijing would “continue to modernise its nuclear arsenal for reliability and safety issues”.

Global Efforts:

The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) and the New START Treaty (between the USA and the Russian Federation) are few of the most important global efforts towards nuclear disarmament.

India has not signed NPT and CTBT.

Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)

The NPT is an international treaty whose objective is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to foster the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and to further the goal of disarmament.

The treaty was signed in 1968 and entered into force in 1970. Presently, it has 190 member states.

It requires countries to give up any present or future plans to build nuclear weapons in return for access to peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

It represents the only binding commitment in a multilateral treaty to the goal of disarmament by the nuclear-weapon States.

Nuclear-weapon states parties under the NPT are defined as those that manufactured and exploded a nuclear weapon or other nuclear explosive devices before January 1, 1967.

Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO):

The organization promotes the Treaty so that it can enter into force.

It establishes a verification regime to monitor adherence to the Treaty. The verification system is built around a network of over 325 seismic, radionuclide, infrasound and hydroacoustic (underwater) monitoring stations.

The organization was founded in 1996. It is headquartered in Vienna. It employs a staff of roughly 260 from the CTBT’s Member States.

4. The continuing political crisis in Sudan

What led to the resignation of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok? Where does the civil-military relationship stand?

Post the resignation of civilian Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, Sudan has plunged into a complete political turmoil. Mr. Hamdok was appointed as PM in 2019 post the formation of the Sovereignty Council, an 11-member body comprising military and civilian leaders that replaced the military-led transition council.

The military was unable to digest an equal sharing of powers and started processes to gain back political power of the country. In 2021, they disbanded the council, declared an emergency and arrested all civilian leaders including Mr. Hamdock, triggering massive protests.

Unable to deal with the rising protests, the military attempted to pacify the protesters by reinstating Mr. Hamdock but without the Sovereignty Council which leaves him powerless. The people did not accept this and have continued their demonstration against the military coup which led to Mr. Hamdock stepping down.

The story so far: Sudan’s civilian Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok resigned on Sunday, plunging the country into further turmoil. Mr. Hamdok, who was sacked by the military in October and reinstated a few weeks later as part of a deal, stepped down as anti-military protests continued to rock the country. The protesters rejected Mr. Hamdok’s deal with the military and demanded the Generals hand over power to an independent civilian authority.

Who is Abdalla Hamdok?

A trained economist, Mr. Hamdok had worked with the UN in the early 2000s. Born in 1956 in Sudan, he did his graduation in the University of Khartoum and earned a doctorate in economic studies from the University of Manchester. In 2018, the deposed dictator Omar Bashir nominated him as the Minister of Finance. But he refused the offer. Mr. Bashir had to resign in 2019 amid mass protests. The military formed a transition council and took the reins of the country in its hands. But the Generals’ attempts to consolidate power were thwarted by protesters. Eventually, the military agreed to share power with the civilian leaders. The Forces of Freedom and Change, the civil society coalition that was spearheading the movement for democracy, proposed Mr. Hamdok as the Prime Minister after the power-sharing agreement was signed in August 2019. Subsequently, the Sovereignty Council, an 11-member body comprising military and civilian leaders that replaced the military-led transition council, appointed Mr. Hamdok as Prime Minister. During the Sovereignty Council’s rule, Sudan entered into a peace deal with rebel groups, banned female genital mutilation, made peace with Israel and reached out to international powers for economic assistance. During this period, the U.S. took the country off the list of state sponsors of terrorism. Reforms at home and international recognition suggested that Sudan was on a slow but steady transition into full democracy. But then the military struck again.

What triggered the current crisis?

Ever since mass protests broke out in late 2018, the military has tried everything it could to protect its privileges. It first removed Mr. Bashir and established the transition council. When the direct rule became unsustainable, the Generals agreed to share power. But the civilian leaders’ consolidation of social support and political power upset the Generals. According to the agreement, the acting Prime Minister (Mr. Hamdok) would run the day-to-day affairs while the military chief would remain the leader of the Sovereignty Council for two years. Lt. Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the military chief, was scheduled to hand over the leadership of the transitional government to the civilian leadership last year. Instead, he disbanded the government, proclaimed himself the new leader, declared a state of emergency and imprisoned the civilian leaders, including Mr. Hamdok, in October 2021. The military was preparing the ground ahead of the coup. Pro-military mobs had carried out protests demanding the government’s removal amid soaring prices of essentials. Port Sudan, the country’s largest port, on the Red Sea, had been blockaded by a tribal group, with help from the military, which worsened the economic situation, including acute shortages of food, currency and fuel. But General Burhan failed to mobilise support after the coup. As protests continued, he reinstated Prime Minister Hamdok, but without the Sovereignty Council. This meant that the military could exercise greater control over the civilian government. The protesters didn’t buy the apparent concession by the military. They called Mr. Hamdok a “traitor” for cutting a deal with the military and pressed ahead with the agitation. Eventually, unable to convince his old comrades that he could form an independent technocratic government, Mr. Hamdok stepped down.

What explains the civilian-military rift?

After the Draft Constitution Declaration was signed on August 4, 2019, along with a power- sharing agreement between civilians and the military, promising elections in late 2022, tensions between the civilian leadership and the military leaders remained over at least one issue — bringing former dictator Mr. Bashir’s regime to account for genocidal acts, human rights abuses and corruption. Analysts say the military was uncomfortable with this as it would expose their own acts and their financial interests that were entrenched during Mr. Bashir’s rule. Gen. Burhan, after all, played a key role as inspector general of the armed forces during the fag end of Mr. Bashir’s tenure – overseeing Sudan’s intervention in the Yemen Civil War. He had also been a regional army commander in Darfur between 2003 and 2008, a period that coincided with the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians.

What’s next?

The military is now in a difficult position. Given that the civil-military relationship is already at a breaking point, the Generals establishing direct rule—the Myanmar model—would be extremely unpopular. That’s why Gen. Burhan reinstated Mr. Hamdok in the first place. What the military wants is a civilian Prime Minister without real powers. Now that Mr. Hamdok is gone, the Generals would be under pressure to appoint another civilian government. According to the constitutional declaration of 2019, the Prime Minister should be selected by a legislative council and then endorsed by the Sovereignty Council. The legislative council was never formed and the Sovereignty Council was disbanded. So the military is likely to directly appoint another technocrat. But that won’t resolve the crisis. If the protesters did not accept Mr. Hamdok as their PM, they are unlikely to accept anybody else the military would appoint next. And this political crisis is being played out at a time when Sudan is going through a severe economic crisis. Weeks-long protests have paralysed an already weak economy. Inflation has soared to over 400% in recent months.

The UN estimates that at least a third of the country’s 43 million people will need humanitarian assistance in 2022. What Sudan wants is a stable, responsive government that can urgently address the myriad problems the country faces. But the question is whether the military is committed to the democratic transition.

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