1. Dolphin boom in Odisha’s Chilika lake
Activists elated at jump in number of endangered Irrawaddy dolphins
The population of dolphins in Chilika, India’s largest brackish water lake, and along the Odisha coast has doubled this year compared with last year.
The wildlife wing of the State Forest and Environment Department released the final data on the dolphin census conducted in January and February this year, indicating a spectacular growth in numbers.
Divided into 41 units, wildlife activists, academicians, Forest Department officials, NGO members, boat operators and researchers from the Bombay Natural History Society, Mumbai, participated in the estimation exercise.
The population estimation exercise for dolphins and other cetacean species covered almost the entire coast of Odisha.
Three species were recorded during the census, with 544 Irrawaddy, bottle-nose and humpback dolphins sighted this year, compared with 233 last year.
Wildlife activists are elated over the sizeable growth in the population of endangered Irrawaddy dolphins, which are mostly found in Chilika lake, jumping from 146 in 2020 to 162 this year. Apart from Chilika, 39 Irrawaddy dolphins were sighted in the Rajnagar mangrove division, though their number has come down from 60 in 2020.
The highest growth has been noticed in the case of humpback dolphins. Only two humpbacks were sighted in the Rajnagar mangrove in 2020. In 2021, however, this population grew astronomically to 281.
“In 2020, the weather conditions were really bad. This year, our teams came across some large groups of humpback dolphins near Ekakula and Habelikhati areas, close to the Gahirmatha Olive Ridley nesting ground,” said Bikash Das, Divisional Forest Officer, Rajanagar (Mangrove) Division.
“These humpback dolphins were not part of any riverine systems, so they cannot be identified as residential mammals. They were spotted travelling along the Odisha coast and the number is likely to fluctuate in the next census,” Mr. Das added.
Chilika Lake is a brackish water lagoon, spread over the Puri, Khurda and Ganjam districts of Odisha state on the east coast of India, at the mouth of the Daya River, flowing into the Bay of Bengal
It is Asia’s largest salt-water lagoon and is separated from the Bay of Bengal by a sandy ridge.
It is the largest wintering ground for migratory birds on the Indian sub-continent. These birds travel great distances; migratory birds probably follow much longer routes than the straight lines, possibly up to 12,000 km, to reach Chilika Lake.
Chilka Lake is designated as a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention. The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat is an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands.
The Irrawaddy dolphin has been found in Chilika lake. It is a euryhaline species of oceanic dolphin found in discontinuous subpopulations near sea coasts and in estuaries and rivers in parts of the Bay of Bengal and Southeast Asia.
Irrawaddy dolphins are classified as ‘Vulnerable’ in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
2. Indus and Ganges river dolphins are two different species
The researchers studied ancient DNA that they got out of skulls and skeletons which were 20 to 30 to even 150 years old
“What’s in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” wrote Shakespeare. But ask a taxonomist and she will tell you how naming plays an important role in understanding and organising the diverse life forms on our planet. Now, a new study has once again shown the importance of taxonomic classification. Detailed analysis of South Asian river dolphins has revealed that the Indus and Ganges River dolphins are not one, but two separate species.
Currently, they are classified as two subspecies under Platanista gangetica and this needs a revision. The study estimates that Indus and Ganges river dolphins may have diverged around 550,000 years ago.
The international team studied body growth, skull morphology, tooth counts, colouration and genetic makeup and published the findings last month in Marine Mammal Science.
The corresponding author of the study Gill T. Braulik from the University of St. Andrews, U.K. explains about the DNA analysis to The Hindu: “To collect mitochondrial DNA, one would normally use skin samples or blood and hair. But in this instance, we didn’t really have access to fresh tissue samples. So we got ancient DNA out of skulls and skeletons, which were 20 to 30 to even 150 years old. Looking at the sequences in the DNA, it was quite clear that the Ganges dolphins and the Indus dolphins were quite different.”
The paper notes that “comparative studies of animals in the two river systems are complicated by the fact that they occur in neighboring countries separated by an unfriendly international border…Thus, sharing of samples or data between countries is extremely challenging.”
One of the authors of the paper Ravindra K. Sinha from Patna University explains: “The Ganges dolphin is a Schedule I animal under the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972, and has been included in Annexure – I of Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), so you cannot transfer any tissue or sample to foreign countries without getting CITES permission from the Competent Authority of Government of India.” Another reason was that finding dead animals were uncommon because they either float downstream or sink, and museum collections worldwide contain only a few specimens and most of them are damaged.
The Indus and Ganges River dolphins are both classified as ‘Endangered’ species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Dr. Sinha who has been studying Ganges dolphins for almost four decades explains that physical barriers such as dams and barrages created across the river reduced the gene flow to a great extent making the species vulnerable; He adds that river flow is also declining very fast as river water is being diverted through the barrages and this has affected the dolphin habitats. “Previously fishermen used to hunt dolphins and use their oil as bait, but though that practice of directed killing has stopped and they are not being hunted intentionally they end up as accidental catches. Also, before the 1990s, we had oar boats and country boats; but now mechanised boats are also causing accidental injury to the dolphins.”
Sources of pollution
Being a part of the Ganga Action Plan, Dr. Sinha monitored a large stretch of the river and noted that both point and non-point sources of pollution are affecting the dolphin habitat. “Recently we saw the Chinese river dolphin go extinct. Though the Indian government has given legal protection to the dolphin, more ground action and close work with local communities are needed to help them survive,” adds Dr. Sinha.
CITES – Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora & Fauna
The full form of CITES is the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. CITES is an international agreement between governments with the objective of the preservation of the planet’s plants and animals by ensuring that the international trade in their specimens does not threaten their survival. It was adopted in 1963 and entered into force in 1975.
CITES was conceptualised in 1963 at a meeting of the (IUCN) International Union for Conservation of Nature.
- It came into force in 1975 and consists of 183 member-countries till date that abide by CITES regulations by implementing legislation within their own borders to enforce those regulations.
- Located in Geneva, Switzerland, the CITES is administered by the United Nations under its UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) Wing.
- The Convention of Parties to CITES is the supreme decision-making body of the Convention and comprises all its Parties.
- The last CoP (17th) was held at Johannesburg (South Africa), in 2016. India hosted CoP (3rd) in 1981.
- Although CITES is legally binding on the Parties, it does not take the place of national laws.
- Rather, it provides a framework to be respected by each Party, which has to adopt its own domestic legislation to ensure that CITES is implemented at the national level.
CITES Classification or CITES Appendix
CITES classifies plants and animals into three categories, based on how threatened they are.
- Roughly 5,600 species of animals and 30,000 species of plants are protected by CITES against over-exploitation through international trade.
They are listed under the three CITES Appendices that are mentioned below:
|Appendix||Description||Examples of Species|
|CITES Appendix-I||Species that are in danger of extinction Commercial trade is prohibited. Permits are required for import and export. Trade permitted just for research only if the origin country ensures the trade won’t harm the species’ chance of survival.||Asiatic lions and tigers (tiger skin trade). Sea turtles, gorillas, lady slippers orchids (most species), etc. Total 931 species on the list.|
|CITES Appendix-II||Species that aren’t facing imminent extinction but need monitoring so that any trade doesn’t become a threat. Trade permits obtained legally and only if the origin country ensures that its harvesting and trade won’t harm the species’ chance of survival.||American Alligators (Alligator skin trade) Paddlefish, Mahogany, corals, etc. Total 34,419 species on the list.|
|CITES Appendix-III||Species that are protected in at least one country. Regulations for these species vary, but typically the country that requested the listing can issue export permits, and export from other countries requires a certificate of origin.||Honeybadger (medicinal or bushmeat purpose) Walruses, Map turtles, certain beetles, etc. Total 147 species on the list.|
- Species may be added to or removed from Appendix I and II, or moved between them, only by the Conference of the Parties.
- However, species may be added to or removed from Appendix III at any time and by any Party unilaterally.
Structure of CITES
The following image from the CITES official website gives the structure:
The Conference of the Parties (COP) meet every two to three years. The latest COP was CITES COP18 that took place in August 2019 in Geneva, Switzerland. CITES COP3 took place in India in 1981 in New Delhi.
- The CITES regulates international trade in close to 35,000 species of plants and animals –
- with international commercial trade generally prohibited for 3% of these species,
- And with international commercial trade for the remaining 97% regulated to ensure the trade is legal, sustainable and traceable.
- CITES has been at the cutting edge of the debate on the sustainable use of biodiversity for the past 42 years and it has records of over 12,000,000 international trade transactions in its data-bases for that period – trade which on many occasions has benefitted local communities, such as with the vicuña in South America.
- The Appendix II of CITES permits the international trade of wool cloth, and other manufactured products (luxury and knitted handicrafts) from the shearing of live vicuñas.
- Illegal trade is estimated by it to be worth between USD 5 billion and USD 20 billion per year–
- Illegal activity that is driving many species towards extinction, and depriving local people of development choices and governments of potential revenue.
- The International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC), a consortium of the CITES Secretariat, INTERPOL (International Criminal Police Organization), the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, the World Bank and the World Customs Organization has been established to tackle illegal wildlife trade.
- It brings together the entire enforcement chain to assist national enforcement authorities and regional bodies to combat illicit trade in wildlife.
CITES and India
- India is one of the recognized mega-diverse countries of the world, harbouring nearly 7-8% of the recorded species of the world, and representing 4 of the 34 globally identified biodiversity hotspots (Himalaya, Indo-Burma, Western Ghats and Sri Lanka, Sundaland).
- India is also a vast repository of traditional knowledge associated with biological resources. So far, over 91,200 species of animals and 45,500 species of plants have been documented in the ten biogeographic regions of the country.
- Inventories of floral and faunal diversities are being progressively updated with several new discoveries through the conduct of continuous surveys and exploration.
- India, being a CITES Party, actively prohibits the international trade of endangered wild species and several measures are in place to control threats from invasive alien species (e.g. certificates for exports, permits for imports, etc.).
- India has proposed to remove rosewood (Dalbergia sissoo) from Appendix II of CITES. The species grows at a very fast rate and has the capacity to become naturalised outside its native range, it is invasive in other parts of the world as well.
- The regulation of trade in the species is not necessary to avoid it becoming eligible for inclusion in Appendix I in the near future.
- India has also proposed to transfer small clawed otters (Aonyx cinereus), smooth coated otters (Lutrogale perspicillata), Indian Star Tortoise (Geochelone elegans) from Appendix II to Appendix I, thereby giving more protection to the species.
- The proposal also includes inclusion of Gekko gecko and Wedgefish (Rhinidae) in Appendix II of CITES.
- The Gekko gecko is traded highly for Chinese traditional medicine.
3. Another hint of ‘new physics’, this time from Fermilab, which houses the American particle accelerator, has released the first results from its ‘muon g-2’ experiment
Fermilab, which houses the American particle accelerator, has released the first results from its ‘muon g-2’ experiment. These results spotlight the anomalous behaviour of the elementary particle called the muon. The muon, a heavier cousin of the electron, is expected to have a value of 2 for its magnetic moment, labelled ‘g’. However, the muon exists not in isolation but embedded in a sea where particles are popping out and vanishing every instant due to quantum effects. So, its g value is altered by its interactions with these short-lived excitations.
The Standard Model of particle physics calculates this correction, called the anomalous magnetic moment, very accurately.
The muon g-2 experiment measured the extent of the anomaly and on Wednesday, Fermilab announced that the measured ‘g’ deviated from the amount predicted by the Standard Model. That is, while the calculated value in the Standard Model is 2.00233183620 approximately, the experimental results show a value of 2.00233184122. When the results are combined with those from a 20-year-old experiment at Brookhaven National Laboratory in the U.S., they show an accuracy of about 4.2 sigma. This means the possibility that this is due to a statistical fluctuation is about 1 in 40,000. This makes physicists sit up and take note, but it is not significant enough to constitute a discovery, for which a significance of 5 sigma is needed.
It is interesting that while the Brookhaven experiment had to be closed down in 2001, the main component of the experimental set up, a large superconducting magnetic storage ring that measures over 15 metres in diameter, was transported a distance of over 5,000 kilometres, in 2013, to be reused in the Fermilab experiment.
Rahul Sinha of The Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Chennai, who specialises in studying physics beyond the Standard Model, is very excited by the Fermilab result. According to him, even though the experiment measures a very elementary property related to the magnetic moment of the muon it is by no means a simple experiment. “Kudos to the experimental team for such a detailed treatment of the mindboggling systematic effects that makes this measurement so special. The muon g-2 experiment at Fermilab promises to be a torch bearer in the search for new physics,” he says.
The g factor
The muon is also known as the ‘fat electron’. It is produced copiously in the Fermilab experiments and occurs naturally in cosmic ray showers. Like the electron, the muon has a magnetic moment because of which, when it is placed in a magnetic field, it spins and precesses, or wobbles slightly, like the axis of a spinning top. Its internal magnetic moment, the g factor, determines the extent of this wobble.
As the muon spins, it also interacts with the surrounding environment, which consists of short-lived particles popping in and out of a vacuum.
The implications of this difference in the muon’s g factor can be significant. The Standard Model is supposed to contain the effects of all known particles and forces at the particle level. So, a contradiction of the Standard Model would imply that there exist new particles, and their interactions with known particles would enlarge the canvas of particle physics. These new particles could be the dark matter particles which people have been looking out for, in a long time. These interactions make corrections to the g factor, and this affects the precession of the muon.
Thus, if the measured g factor differs from the value calculated by the Standard Model, it could signify that there are new particles in the environment that the SM does not account for. “This observation together with the recently observed anomaly in B decays at CERN indicates that the effects of new yet unobserved particles and forces is being seen as quantum effects,” says Prof. Sinha.
Note of caution
There have also been calculations made by a group of scientists which appeared in Nature that use the Standard Model itself to explain this difference. But these so-called Lattice Models could have large errors and need to be substantiated further.
4. CPI (MAOIST): The ‘armed struggle’ that goes nowhere
Maoist insurgents, despite facing desertions and counter-attacks, stick to armed struggle, continuing to target security personnel
The CPI (Maoist) came into being after the merger of two Naxalite groups — the Peoples’ War Group and the Maoist Communist Centre — in 2004
They reject Indian democracy and electoral politics and term India a ‘semi-colonial, semi-feudal country’ that’s beholden to ‘imperialism’
The Indian government has launched a no-holds barred military campaign against the guerrillas, while taking steps to cut their popular support in remote villages
Hurt by incarcerations and “encounter” killings of senior leaders, facing desertions due to surrenders by cadres to security forces in various States, unable to build a workable organisation in new areas, and hemmed into what seems to be their last stronghold — South Bastar — such has been the status of the Indian Maoists lately. But this did not deter the insurgent group’s audacious ambush and killing of more than 20 paramilitary personnel in the Tarrem area in the Bijapur-Sukma district border in southern Chhattisgarh in early April, suggesting that the Communist Party of India (Maoist) might be down but was certainly not out.
The Tarrem attacks is believed to have been led by the heavily armed Battalion 1 belonging to the Maoists’ People Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA) and is led by a tribal guerrilla leader, Hidma. This ambush raised the number of security forces killed in the Bastar region to more than 175 since the killing of 76 CRPF personnel in the Chintalnar attack in April 2010.
The Maoists have also been at the end of strong attacks by paramilitary and police forces in areas such as the Andhra-Odisha border that is close to south Chhattisgarh, in Gadchiroli in Maharasthra and even as far as the western ghat forests in the tri-state junction between Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. The Chintalnar attack might have marked a turning point in the offensive by the Indian state against the insurgents — with a focus on a no-holds barred military campaign against the guerrillas even as governments sought to increase developmental work and infrastructure building in the remote areas with a strong presence and influence of the PLGA and Maoist organs to undercut any popular support.
The CPI (Maoist) came into being following the merger of two of the strongest Naxalite groups — the Peoples’ War Group (PWG) and the Maoist Communist Centre — in 2004. The PWG was formed in 1980 by Kondapalli Seetharamaiah from the splinter groups that had broken away from the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist), led by general secretary Charu Mazumdar in the early 1970s.
The PWG had a sizeable following in the 1980s and 90s in undivided Andhra Pradesh as it had led mass agitations on various issues, including peasant wages and land struggles. It had also graduated into a military force by forming guerrilla zones in northern Telangana, extending up to the Nallamalla forests. Anticipating state actions, a group from the PWG had already moved to present-day Chhattisgarh in the early 1990s and had formed mass organisations in the tribal areas in the southern part of the State. Mass organisations of the PWG included the Dandakaranya Adivasi Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan (DAKMS), which focussed on mobilising tribal villagers for rights to collect forest produce, besides some developmental work. While doing so, armed cadres of the PWG also used the difficult terrain to build guerrilla zones. Today, in places such as the Abujmarh forested areas in southern Chhattisgarh, the Maoists claim to have set up “janathana sarkars” — local government units.
The merger with the MCC, another armed Naxalite group that was founded by Kanai Chatterjee in 1975 and had strongholds in the Jharkhand forests, gave a fillip to the newly formed CPI(Maoist). By 2010, the Indian government already identified the Maoists as the “single biggest internal security challenge”.
While the PWG, in its initial years, combined mass activism with guerrilla warfare and violent attacks on police, the group, especially after its merger into the CPI(Maoist), had largely evolved into a military force. The Indian Maoists have steadfastly held that violent armed struggle is a must in its aims to achieve a socialist revolution in India and have sought to follow the Chinese path to revolution in the 1920s that sought to mobilise peasants in an armed struggle to overthrow the state and to form a one-party communist government.
The CPI(Maoist) rejects Indian democracy and electoral politics as they terms India to be a semi-colonial, semi-feudal country and the Indian state beholden to “imperialism, comprador big bourgeoisie [big business that is subordinate to foreign big capital] and feudalism” and which necessitates its recourse to armed struggle from the countryside to later encircling cities and capturing power. This is right from the playbook of the Chinese communists led by Mao Zedong in the 1920s. Yet, far from mobilising peasantry or even gaining their sympathies, the Indian Maoists have been reduced to seeking refuge in remote forested areas which offer them the camouflage and difficult terrain to engage in guerrilla warfare and to seek support from tribal people living in areas that are either under-developed or have limited access to the institutions of the Indian state.
In Bastar, the Indian government’s recourse to counter-mobilisation of tribals into armed resistance groups such as Salwa Judum was brought to a closure by the Supreme Court in 2011 following the resultant militant backlash that severely affected the tribal population. Tribal disenchantment with both severe state repression as well as Maoist violence had increased in the last decade, a fact that is also lamented by the Maoists in their internal documents and has limited their support and growth.
Despite severe reversals and setbacks — the capture and deaths of influential senior leaders and desertions by activists — the Maoists remain committed to militant insurgency even as they reject any call for a recourse to peaceful agitations or to enter the democratic process to further their goal. The elevation of Nambala Keshava Rao, a senior leader of the Maoists’ Central Military Commission, to the general secretary of the party in 2018 after replacing aged leader Muppala Lakshmana Rao was an indication that the proscribed outfit will continue to focus on military tactics and what it terms “strategic defence”.
This is despite its inability to graduate from guerrilla warfare and to build base areas where they could offer alternative governance — a key step for advance that has eluded them for decades. In other words, the Maoists refuse to change their understanding of the nature of the Indian state and continue to deny that conditions and aspirations of the poor necessitate alternative political work that do not draw from revolutions elsewhere.
The Maoist movement in India seems headed in the same direction that several violent and failed insurgencies, inspired by the Chinese revolution, went — from the Shining Path in Peru to the Communist Party of the Philippines. There have been exceptions — the Nepali Maoists, for example, managed to partake in power after peacefully ending the civil war — but if the Indian Maoists’ denunciation of these steps taken by their Nepali counterparts are any indication, such a step does not seem to be in the offing.
5. Meghalaya villagers oppose dam on Umngot
Stiff resistance from at least 12 villages in Meghalaya has cast a cloud on a 210 MW hydroelectric project on Umngot, considered India’s clearest river.
The villages are near the border with Bangladesh in East Khasi Hills district but the dam is proposed upstream in the adjoining West Jaintia Hills district.
The Meghalaya State Pollution Control Board (MSPCB) had on Friday scheduled a public hearing for the project to be executed by the Meghalaya Energy Corporation Limited.
Hundreds of people from more than a dozen villagers obstructed officers from conducting the public hearing at Moosakhia in West Jaintia Hills district on Friday. The MSPCB officials faced a similar situation at Siangkhnai in East Khasi Hills district on Thursday.
“Everyone is against the mega-dam project as their livelihood is dependent on the river,” Alan West Kharkongor, president of the Meghalaya Rural Tourism Forum, said.
The locals fear that the project, if executed, would cause irreparable losses by wiping out their areas from the tourism map.
The project documents say people of 13 villages along the Umngot are likely to lose 296 hectares of land due to submergence if the dam comes up.
North East India – Insurgency and Other Issues
The Northeast region of India comprising of eight states – Assam, Nagaland, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Tripura and Sikkim. North East India is a region poorly connected to the Indian mainland by a small corridor – Silghuri Corridor (also known as Chicken Neck – with a narrow width of only 23 kilometers.). North Eastern India has been facing problems of insurgency for near 5 decades, but things are now settling down and peace started to prevail.
What is insurgency?
An insurgency is an armed rebellion against a constituted authority when those taking part in the rebellion are not recognized as belligerents. Incase of Indian scenario it can be seen as armed rebellion and violent protests against Indian Government or authority.
Insurgency in North East India
Nagaland, Manipur, Assam and Tripura had been witnessing conflict since 1950-60 period, but since 1990, the intensity of conflicts started to decrease. Now the only state where prominent insurgency exist is Manipur. But in this region several armed factions operate. Some groups call for a separate state, others for regional autonomy while some extreme groups demand complete independence.
Reasons for conflict in North East India:
- Historical reasons – loosely administered under British India.
- Tensions between these states and the central government.
- Tensions between tribal people, who are natives of these states, and migrant peoples from other parts of India.
- Geographical reasons – not well connected with present Indian mainland.
- Developmental reasons – Poorly developed due to lack of fund from Center/States.
- Environmental reasons.
- Military reasons – AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Power Act).
- Foreign Policy – Look easy policy and market changes bought.
- External support – China and Myanmar.
Insurgent Groups in North East India
- Peoples Liberation Army
- National Liberation Front of Tripura
- All Tripura Tiger Force
Recent Observations about North East India
Insurgency & Ceasefire
- The basic ingredient of insurgency i.e. popular support is drying up in the region. Insurgency is active only in Manipur. There are around 50 insurgent groups in Manipur.
- Ceasefire and Suspension of Operations with militant groups allows them to indulge in extortion and kidnapping, which in turn help them in maintaining their clout over the people of the region.
- There exists deep nexus between all the insurgent groups in the Northeast. The CPI (Maoist) is also in touch with the North east insurgents primarily to source weapons. Arms were given by the United Liberation Force of Asom (ULFA) to the CPI (Maoist) in West Bengal.
- The biggest challenge to the North East is extortion carried out by various insurgent groups. Extortion has become meticulously organised activity in the region and is one of the major sources of funds for the militants.
- It is important to understand the culture and psyche of the people of North East while framing policy alternatives.
- The perceived threat to the political identity of the Assamese people from the illegal migrants from Bangladesh lies at the core of the Assam problem. The indigenous people of Assam feel that in future the illegal migrants will become the majority population and they will lose political power.
- The ceasefire agreements and peace negotiations have resulted in reducing the violence levels and given the civil societies of the region space to talk.
- One of the ways to contain insurgency in the region is to delegate powers to the ethnic minorities through the Autonomous District Councils so that they can fashion their own development.
- The implementation of Sixth Schedule in Assam has not benefited the tribal communities of the state. Following the 73rd and 74th amendments, the Central and state governments are providing huge amounts of financial resources to the Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRI) and municipalities. Since, the scheduled areas do not fall under the purview of the PRI and municipalities, they do not receive any share of these funds and as a result they lose out.
- Security situation in the region has improved considerably in Assam and Meghalaya in particular facilitating conducive atmosphere for investment and development. The Northeast Industrial Policy initiated by the Government of India further contributed in encouraging investment and industries in the region.
- However, the Northeast will not attract big industries because the region is resource deficit, and does not have economies of scale to match. Moreover, the security situation in the whole of the region has not improved uniformly.
- The North East Council (NEC) and the Ministry for the Development of the North East Region (DoNER) have become fund disbursing agencies instead of strategic planning agencies. At present approximately Rs. 11,000 crore is lying idle with the Ministry of DoNER.
Look East Policy
- The North East still remains inward looking focussing primarily on internal conflicts. There is no discussion on the benefits that could accrue to the region from the Look East Policy.
- If the North East Region is opened up there is a fear of being swamped by cheap Chinese goods, which would spell disaster for the local manufacturing units.
- Apprehensions exist that the development of communication links could result in developing strong links between the people of the North east with the people of China, Myanmar and ASEAN countries, which would undermine the unity and integrity of India.
- The international borders in the North east are extremely porous. Thus, cross border infiltration of militants, and smuggling of arms are rampant in the region.
- China has differing claim in Arunachal Pradesh. Along the westernmost corner, Chinese claim line lay 20 kms south and in the eastern most extreme of Arunachal Pradesh it lay 30 km south.
- International boundaries in the North East have not crystallised into lines separating sovereign countries on the ground.
Recommendations to solve North East India Problems
- Thorough background check of all insurgents groups should be carried out before the central government enters into any Ceasefire or Suspension of Operations Agreements with the insurgents.
- Political solutions to the Assam problem should be discussed openly as widely as possible to avoid backlash from the tribal and the minority population of the state.
- A system of work permit should be issued so that the illegal Bangladeshi migrants do not end up as Indian citizens.
- The Autonomous District Councils should be empowered.
- Governance should be improved in a step by step manner. Strict supervision by senior officials should be initiated to improve the delivery system of the government.
- The Ministry of the Development of the North East region (DoNER) be merged with the North East Council (NEC) for better strategic planning and coordination of various developmental projects in the region.
- Focus of the Ministry f DoNER and NEC should be on investment in mega-projects which will make big difference to the development of the region.
- Institutional capacities in the North east should be developed urgently.
- Pragmatic land use policy should be formulated for attracting industries in the region. Micro, small and medium enterprises should be encouraged.
- Local tourism should be promoted. Tourists residing in the eight North Eastern states should be encouraged to travel within the region.
- Niche tourism or high end tourism should be encouraged. Medical and higher education tourism should be encouraged.
- The North east should become a single economic unit without disturbing the political boundaries of the states. No internal traffic barriers in the region. Exclusive five year plan for the North east focusing on development of infrastructure.
Look East Policy
- Greater awareness about the Look East Policy and its benefits to the North East should be generated among the policymakers and the intelligentsia of the region.
- Ties with Myanmar should be deepened by exploiting Myanmar’s anxieties about China as well as existing deep civilization and spiritual ties.
- The North East region must be included in the India-ASEAN Vision for trade and cooperation. Development Plan for the North East should factor India-ASEAN strategic cooperation.
- Integrated and bottoms up approaches are required for integration of the North east in the Look East Policy. The North East should formulate plans as to how it can engage with the ASEAN. Better coordination of efforts by all the Northeastern states should be ensured.
- Visa offices of Bangladesh and Myanmar should be located in the North East.
- Centres/Departments for the studies of neighbouring countries like Myanmar, Bangladesh, Tibet, Bhutan and Nepal in Universities should be set up in universities to understand India’s neighbours better.
- Special economic zones along India-Bangladesh border, especially in Meghalaya and Assam should be set up.
- States should focus more on the development and security of the border areas.
- Sentiments of the people of Arunachal Pradesh should be taken into consideration by the central government while discussing the frameworks for resolution of the border dispute with China.
- Matching infrastructure and military capability should be build to ensure peace and enable negotiations from a position of strength.
6. ‘India, U.S. differ on rules-based order’
ORF Distinguished Fellow speaks on the controversy surrounding FONOP
On April 9, India protested against a U.S. decision to conduct a patrol in the Indian Ocean in India’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) near Lakshadweep. The U.S said it had conducted the “freedom of navigation operation” (FONOP) to challenge India’s “excessive” maritime claims. The latest FONOP underlines both countries have “huge differences” when it comes to what a “rules-based order” means for the region, says Manoj Joshi, Distinguished Fellow, Observer Research Foundation. Excerpts:
What does UNCLOS (UN Convention on the Law of the Sea) tell us about the statements from India and the U.S.?
UNCLOS is fairly straightforward on this. You have a 12 nautical mile territorial sea, an additional 24 nautical miles as a contiguous zone where you can have some law and order, policing etc., and a 200 nautical mile EEZ which you are free to exploit, with fisheries or sea-bed mining but where you do not have territorial rights. Military ships can go through even territorial waters on what is called innocent passage. But India insists on notification not only for its territorial waters but even its EEZ.
In Lakshadweep, there is another complicated issue called Straight Baselines, which allows countries to claim a larger area of water around an island group. The U.S. has challenged that as well. UNCLOS does not permit continental states like India to claim Straight Baselines, but only archipelago states like Indonesia or the Philippines.
So there is a dual challenge here, including to the Straight Baselines, which makes this latest FONOP different.
So India’s claims, both on notification and on Straight Baselines, are not backed by UNCLOS?
Absolutely. I must preface this by saying the U.S. of all countries has itself not ratified UNCLOS.
At the end of the day, when the U.S. talks about a rules-based international order, India is not following it. Neither the Straight Baseline claim nor notification is rules-based. I wonder whether there is a message to both China and India. The message to China, whose extravagant claims the U.S. has challenged in the South China Sea, is ‘we don’t do this only to you’. To India, it is ‘straighten out your rules-based order business’.
How does all this sit with the Quad — India, U.S., Australia and Japan — advocating a rules-based order for the region?
I presume when you say rules-based order, you’re talking about UNCLOS. I can’t see on what basis the Quad can implement UNCLOS. Do we do it on the U.S.-based understanding or Indian understanding? There are huge differences.
At the end of the day, international law is about might being right. What the U.S. does as FONOPs, only the U.S. can do. When a Chinese surveillance ship came near the Andamans, the Indian Navy allegedly chased it away. Now, you don’t chase away the U.S. Navy. The other future scenario to consider is, will the Pakistan Navy come by and send a ship through India’s EEZ, or the Chinese and Pakistanis carry out a joint exercise there? Perhaps UNCLOS itself needs revisiting.
United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)
UNCLOS is also known as the Law of the Sea Convention or the Law of the Sea Treaty that defines the rights and responsibilities of nations towards the use of the world’s oceans.
- The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea lays down a comprehensive regime of law and order in the world’s oceans and seas establishing rules governing all uses of the oceans and their resources.
- It enshrines the notion that all problems of ocean space are closely interrelated and need to be addressed as a whole.
The third session of the United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS III) which was held between 1973 to 1982 led to the formation of the current convention named UNCLOS.
- The Convention which concluded in the year 1982 replaced the quad-treaty of 1958 also known as Convention on the High Seas.
- UNCLOS became effective in the year 1994 and later in the year 2016, UNCLOS was joined by 167 countries and the European Union.
Formation of UNCLOS
UNCLOS was formed by replacing the older concept of the 17th-century known as ‘freedom of the seas’ where the national rights were only limited to a specified belt of water that extended usually up to 3 nautical miles (5.6 km) from a nation’s coastlines.
- Therefore, the belts of water that were beyond the national boundaries were considered international waters.
- Later, during the early 20th century, several nations addressed their needs for extending the national claims that included mineral resources, protection of fish stocks, and supply of resources to enforce pollution controls.
- As a result, in the year 1945, President Harry S. Truman extended United States control to all the natural resources of its continental shelf.
- Soon, between 1946-1950, three more nations namely Chile, Peru, and Ecuador also extended their rights to a distance of 370 km to cover their Humboldt Current fishing grounds whereas the other nations extended their territorial seas to 22 km.
The issues related to the varying claims of the territorial waters were raised in the year 1967 in the United Nations. During the Third UN Conference on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS III) of 1973, the UN ambassador, Mr. Arvid Pardo requested a legal power that could bring about international governance over the oceanic floor and bed.
- Even as the name of the nautical law suggests a United Nations’ involvement, the UN does not have any major functional role in the working of UNCLOS.
Some of the important features of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea are listed below:
- Nations are provided with full money rights by UNCLOS for a 200-mile zone along the shoreline.
- The sea and oceanic bed extending to this area are regarded to be the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of a country and that country can use these waters for their economic utilization.
- Another important organization that plays a vital role in UNCLOS operations is the International Maritime Organization (IMO).
- Other important parties involved in Nautical Law and its functioning are the International Seabed Authority and the International Whaling Commission.
Initiatives under UNCLOS
The first Conference on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS I) was held in the year 1956 at Geneva, Switzerland by the United Nations. This conference resulted in the following four treaties:
|Convention on the Territorial Sea and Contiguous Zone||Convention on Fishing and Conservation of Living Resources of the High Seas|
|Convention on the High Seas||Convention on the Continental Shelf|
Several initiatives were taken after the establishment of the United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) which are mentioned below:
- International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS)
- Established by the UNCLOS, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea is an independent judicial body that adjudicates disputes arising out of the convention. ITLOS was signed on December 10, 1982, and entered into force on November 16, 1994. To know more about ITLOS, refer to the linked page.
- International Seabed Authority
- It was formed in 1994 for regulating the exploration and exploitation of marine non-living resources of oceans in international waters.
- To know about the functions of the International Seabed Authority, refer to the linked page.
- Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS)
- Established under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, CLCS is responsible for facilitating the implementation of UNCLOS with respect to the establishment of the outer limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles.
UNCLOS and India
India played a constructive role in deliberations leading to UNCLOS’s adoption in 1982 and has been a party to the convention since 1995.
- India shares maritime boundaries with the following countries:
- The coastal State has exclusive jurisdiction to commercially exploit the continental shelf for metallic ore, non-metallic ore, and hydrocarbon extractions, opportune and accurate strategic measures will not only safeguard India’s maritime boundaries but can also reap benefits beyond expectation.
- India has invested heavily in exploring non-living resources in deep international waters for polymetallic nodules, cobalt crust, and hydrothermal sulphides. More and more hydrocarbon resources are being discovered worldwide in deeper parts of the continental shelf.
Enrica Lexie Case
Known as the Enrica Lexie incident, it took place in 2012, when the Italian oil tanker Enrica Lexie, traveling off the coast of Kerala, was approached by an Indian fishing vessel named St.Antony.
- Two Italian marines onboard fired what Italy contends were warning shots at the ship. Two Indian fishermen from Kerala were killed.
- The marines were then detained by the Indian Navy which had intercepted the Enrica Lexie.
- This sparked off a diplomatic row between India and Italy as the latter said that India did not have the jurisdiction to try the marines.
- The two marines were detained in India for two and four years respectively.
- Italy had approached the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, an arbitral tribunal under the International Court of Justice in 2015, and the matter was heard by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in July 2019.
Point of views of both the countries:
|India says the vessel was fired without notice. The marines flouted India’s sovereign right by entering Indian waters and killing the fishermen.||The Italians had offered compensation of Rs.1 crore each as ‘compensation’ for the families of the dead fishermen. This was interpreted as ‘blood money’ by the SC, who expressed shock at this development.|
In July 2020, the Permanent Court of Arbitration brought out its judgement:
- India does not have the jurisdiction to try the marines. The Italian marines cannot be tried in an Indian court. The Court recognised the marines’ functional immunity since they were engaged in a mission for the Government of Italy.
- Italy should compensate the victims’ families for the killing of the fishermen. Both countries are to jointly fix the amount of compensation.
- The Court rejected Italy’s demand for compensation for India’s detention of the marines.