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Daily Current Affairs 07.03.2022 (‘Operation Ganga’ is proof of India’s growing clout, says Modi, The effects of the Russia-Ukraine conflict on maritime trade)

Daily Current Affairs 07.03.2022 (‘Operation Ganga’ is proof of India’s growing clout, says Modi, The effects of the Russia-Ukraine conflict on maritime trade)

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1. ‘Operation Ganga’ is proof of India’s growing clout, says Modi

Congress, NCP, Shiv Sena slam Prime Minister for politicising the evacuation

The fact that India is able to evacuate its citizens out of war–torn Ukraine through “Operation Ganga” is proof of the country’s increasing influence around the globe, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Sunday.

Speaking during the inauguration of the golden jubilee celebrations of the city-based Symbiosis University, the Prime Minister said big countries are facing problems in getting out their citizens safely during the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict.

“Big countries are finding it difficult to evacuate their citizens …But it is due to the growing influence of India in the globe that we have brought thousands of students back to our homeland,” Mr. Modi said, underscoring the confidence of the “new India” while remarking that India today was “innovating, improving, and influencing the whole world”.

The Prime Minister said India had today emerged as the global leader in the sectors which were previously considered out of its reach.

“India has become the second largest mobile manufacturer in the world. Seven years ago, there were only two mobile manufacturing companies in India. Today more than 200 manufacturing units are engaged in this work. Even in defence, India, which was recognised as the world’s largest importer country, is now becoming a defence exporter,” Mr. Modi said, adding that two major defence corridors were coming up where the biggest modern weapons would be manufactured to meet the country’s defence needs.

In a veiled dig at erstwhile governments, the PM, addressing students in the audience, said: “Your generation is fortunate in a way that it has not suffered the damaging impact of the earlier defensive and dependent psychology. If this change has come in the country, then the first credit of it also goes to all of you, goes to our youth.”

The BJP’s touting of “Operation Ganga” and its claims of ‘evacuating’ students from the war zone has led to fierce criticism, with parties such as the Congress, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Shiv Sena — allies in the tripartite ‘Maha Vikas Aghadi’ coalition in Maharashtra — slamming the BJP leadership and Mr. Modi for politicising the whole affair.

‘Irresponsible comment’

While Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and Sena MP Priyanka Chaturvedi have censured the BJP leaders’ “irresponsible comments” over the plight of the students, NCP chief Sharad Pawar had rebuked Mr. Modi saying it was more important for the Centre to focus on evacuating all Indian students stranded there than the PM to inaugurate projects in Pune.

Speaking in Osmanabad district today, Mr. Pawar said: “For the last few days, I have been in touch with students stranded there. There are students from every village in Maharashtra who have gone there… They are children from ordinary families and are living there with no food, no water, and enduring a precarious existence. There should be no politics in getting them out safely.”

Both Mr. Gandhi and Ms. Chaturvedi had slammed BJP leaders who were remarking that the students went to the Ukraine as they had failed here and could not get admission to medical colleges in India.

Earlier this week, a Sena editorial in the party’s mouthpiece Saamana had accused the BJP leaders of being more focused on holding roadshows in poll–bound States rather than in acting early to mitigate the sufferings of the students.

About ‘Operation Ganga’

  • Under this, India has already successfully brought back more than a 1,000 of its nationals from the country.
  •  It has also set up 24×7 control centres to assist in the evacuation of Indians through the border crossing points with Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovak Republic. 
  • A Twitter handle, ‘Op Ganga Helpline’, has also been dedicated to the mission, where all information regarding evacuation process and advisories of embassies are shared to keep everyone up-to-date.
Other related missions of India
Operation Sukoon: Operation Sukoon, or the ‘Beirut Sealift,’ was launched by the Indian Navy in July 2006 to evacuate Indians, Sri Lankans, Nepalese and Lebanese nationals with Indian spouses from Lebanon during the Israel-Lebanon war in 2006.
Operation Safe Homecoming: The Indian government had commenced Operation Safe Homecoming on 26 February 2011 to rescue over 15,400 Indian nationals stuck in Libya during the civil war.
Operation Maitri : Operation Maitri was initiated by the Indian government in the aftermath of the Nepal earthquake on 25 April 2015.
Operation Raahat: An operation was launched by the Indian Armed Forces to evacuate 4,640 Indians and 960 foreign nationals of 41 countries from Yemen during the 2015 Yemen Crisis.
Operation Devi Shakti: The evacuation operation from Afghanistan in the backdrop of the Taliban’s takeover of the country is known as “Operation Devi Shakti”.
Vande Bharat Mission’: Evacuations during Covid-19 pandemic: The Indian government initiated a massive evacuation programme titled the ‘Vande Bharat Mission’ on May 7, 2020.

2. The effects of the Russia-Ukraine conflict on maritime trade

How will the military invasion of Ukraine affect sea commerce? Will it affect the seafarer workforce?

As crude oil prices go up, the price of ship fuel is also going up. Fuel cost is the biggest contributor to the operating costs of a ship and the increase will have a cascading effect on shipping costs and freight.

Russia and Ukraine are major traders in grain, minerals and oil so bulk shipping including oil and gas tankers will be significantly affected.

As Turkey abides by the Montreaux convention, it has banned Russian naval ships from passing through the Bosphorus Strait which leads to the Black Sea.

The story so far: As Russia continues its military onslaught on Ukraine, the Western economies and its allies have taken retaliatory steps, in the form of heavy sanctions, to effectively paralyse the Russian economy. One industry which is going to be heavily affected is the shipping industry as delays and shipping costs are expected to rise due to disruptions in the global supply chain.

What has been the impact on maritime trade so far in Ukraine?

When the war started, some 15 sea ports in Ukraine were shut down. The loading and discharging of cargo ceased. Around 140 ships that were berthed in the Ukranian ports at that time have stayed in the ports since then. None of the ports or the ships berthed in these ports has been attacked so far. Two ships were attacked while in anchorage leading traders to avoid Black Sea routes for their ships.

For seafarers, the safest place in case of any accident is always the ship which has power, food and means to make water. Bunkers in ports have been identified for safely housing seafarers but ship crew have not moved out of their ships, says Sanjay Prashar, managing director of VR Maritime Services. One of the company’s ships is stranded at a Ukranian port. Some of the stranded ships in Ukrainian ports have Indian crew on board.

Barring occasional attacks, ports and nuclear facilities, as strategic assets have not seen much fighting or attacks. So far, the war has involved the Russian Army and Air Force, not so much Naval attacks except a small operation in Kerch, says Pritam Banerjee, a logistics expert. Port cities such as Mariupol have been attacked from land but as Ukrainians hold out and resist the invasion, Ukrainian president has warned of an imminent attack on the Odessa port by Russian warships. This would be a major escalation of the war. All the merchant ships will be under threat. As a direct consequence of the war, insurance premiums will go up for ships serving Black Sea ports.

What has been the impact globally?

Crude oil prices have gone up 20% over the last week in-part due to fears and also due to possible disruptions in supply since Russia is a major supplier of oil and gas through pipelines as well as ships. Black Sea is home to the few warm water ports the country has and is the theater of the war. As crude oil prices go up, the price of ship fuel, called Bunker fuel, is going up as well. Fuel cost is the biggest contributor to the operating costs of a ship and the increase will have a cascading effect on shipping costs and freight.

The pandemic drove up container freight rates which have seen a further escalation. Pritam Banerjee however, says the escalation may only be short-term and is largely due to the oligopolistic control some firms have over container shipping. He explains that Russia or even Ukraine matter little in container trade, so global container freight rates should not be affected greatly.

Bulk shipping including oil and gas tankers will be significantly affected. Russia and Ukraine are major traders in grain, minerals and oil. High insurance premiums, disruption in supply will rile the sector. In case of escalation, the Baltics and the North Sea shipping traffic may also be affected. War risk will hike insurance premiums.

While Russia may not attack in the Mediterranean, insurance costs may go up for ships serving those routes also, which are the hub of European trade.

What is the role of Turkey in this conflict?

Turkey controls the entry and exit of Black Sea and hence has a say over ship traffic in the Black Sea. It has banned Russian naval ships from passing through the Bosphorus Strait. Turkey is not a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea which sees the oceans as commons and allows even warships innocent passage through territorial waters of a nation.

Turkey abides by the Montreaux convention which gives it greater control over the straits. Free passage is guaranteed for merchant vessels belonging to belligerents in war, especially if Turkey is not a belligerent. The convention also lays down clearly what is a warship and what is not. Having said that, any interpretation to curb Russian merchant ship movement will be a significant escalation and inflame the scenario.

The pandemic saw a disruption in crew change in merchant ships. Will this conflict have a similar impact?

A less discussed impact of the war is the share of Ukrainian and Russian seafarers in the global seafarer workforce. China, Philippines and India contribute significantly to the international seafarer workforce. Pritam Banerjee estimates that Russia and Ukraine together supply nearly 15% of the seafarers. It is common for Russian and Ukrainian seafarers to serve together on merchant ships. Their joining and disembarking merchant ships will be severely affected, mounting a challenge to the manning requirements of global shipping. The pandemic had disrupted the free movement of crew and things were just about settling down.

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