1. Centre’s push for NavIC system lands smartphone giants on unknown road
The Union government is pushing tech giants to make smartphones compatible with its home-grown navigation system within months, worrying the likes of Samsung, Xiaomi and Apple who fear elevated costs and disruptions as the move requires hardware changes, according to two industry sources and government documents seen by Reuters.
In line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s drive for self-reliance, India has over the years expanded the use of its regional navigation satellite system called NavIC (Navigation with Indian Constellation).
The Union government wants to reduce dependence on foreign systems, including the widely used U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS), and says NavIC provides more accurate domestic navigation and that its use would benefit the economy.
China, the European Union, Japan and Russia have their own global or regional navigation systems to rival GPS. Operational since 2018, NavIC’s uptake is minimal; it is mandated in public vehicle location trackers, for example.
But government and industry documents show Mr. Modi’s administration and space officials want to broaden its use.
They have this year pushed smartphone giants to make hardware changes to support NavIC, in addition to GPS, in new phones they will sell from January 2023. In private meetings in August and September, representatives of Apple Inc, Xiaomi Corp, Samsung Electronics Co Ltd and others pushed back, citing worries that making phones NavIC-compliant would mean higher research and production costs. The changes would also require more testing clearances, which with a January 1 deadline would disrupt businesses and planned launches, according to two smartphone industry sources and documents.
Samsung declined to comment on the meetings, while Apple and Xiaomi did not respond to requests for comment. The Information Technology Ministry and ISRO also did not respond. Samsung in particular voiced concerns during a September 2 closed-door meeting between top smartphone players and chipmakers with the IT ministry and ISRO officials, according to the meeting’s minutes reviewed by Reuters. Samsung’s India executive Binu George warned of cost worries, telling officials that NavIC support requires not just new smartphone chipsets but also many other components. “This would add to cost as it requires hardware design changes and additional investments to support devices specific to India,” the minutes quoted him as saying. Mr. George did not respond to a request for comment.
- It is an Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System or IRNSS.
- It was developed in India by Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and its commercial wing ANTRIX.
- It consists of 8 satellites located at a distance of approximately 36,000 Km. Currently, 7 satellites are active.
- 3 satellites are in Geostationary Orbit (GEO)
- 5 satellites are in inclined Geosynchronous Orbit (GSO)
- The objective of the NavIC is to provide navigation, timing, and reliable positioning services in and around India.
- Working of the NavIC is very similar to the Global Positioning System (GPS) implemented by the United States.
- The NavIC is certified by 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project) which is responsible for coordinating mobile telephony standards globally.
Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS)
- It is an independent regional navigational satellite system developed by India.
- It is being designed to give precise position data service to users located in India and also to users in the area out-spreading up to 1500 Km from India’s boundary.
- The two kinds of services provided by IRNSS will be:
- Standard Positioning Service (SPS) and
- Restricted Service (RS).
- The system can offer a position accuracy of more than 20 m within India which is the primary area of service.
The IRNSS is being constructed by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and is wholly under the Indian government’s control. The need for such a system of navigation is that the availability of global satellite navigation systems like the GPS is not assured in hostile conditions.
Commercialization of NavIC
- Antrix, the commercial arm of ISRO has floated two separate tenders to identify industries that can develop dedicated NavIC-based hardware and systems.
- Suitable device manufacturers are being identified along with integrators of NavIC-based systems.
- NAVIC is being commercialized for the following reasons :
- Navigation (Aerial, marines and terrestrial)
- Maps (Charting, Plotting and Geodetic data capture)
- Disaster Management
- Fleet Management and Vehicle Tracking (important during mining and transport operations)
- Mobile phone integration
- Precise timing (useful for power grids and ATMs)
- The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has mandated that all national-permit vehicles must have such tracking devices. As a pilot, many fishing boats have been fitted with these devices that have a unique texting facility.
- The 3GPP certification will allow multiple possibilities of further commercialization of NavIC.
NAVIC (Navigation with Indian Constellation) 2019
There are a few recent developments in the NAVIC (Navigation with Indian Constellation) according to ISRO:
- The leading semiconductor manufacturer Qualcomm Technologies Inc. developed and tested NavIC-friendly chipsets.
- This will help NAVIC support upcoming Automotive, Mobile and IoT applications and platforms.
- The collaboration will enable superior location-based services to India’s industries and technology ecosystem.
NAVIC vs GPS
The use of dual-frequency, both S and L Frequency Bands makes NavIC independent of using any delay-causing frequency models to detect frequency error.
Countries with their own Navigation Satellite System
Some of the countries provide navigation systems on a global scale, some of them provide navigation on a regional scale. The following countries have their own navigation satellite system.
- The United States Global Positioning System (GPS) – World’s most used GPS system, operational from 1978. Constellation of 32 satellites.
- Russian GLONASS – It provides global coverage. It has a total of 26 satellites.
- European Union Galileo – Became operational in 2016, with a constellation of 30 satellites.
- Chinese BeiDou – Currently it provides regional coverage of the Asia- Pacific region, plans to provide global coverage by 2020. It has a total of 35 satellites.
- Japanese Quasi-Zenith Satellite System (QZSS) – It is a regional satellite system covering Japan and the Asia-Oceania region. It has a total of 4 satellites, 7 are planned.
- India (IRNSS-NAVIC) – Constellation of 8 Satellites.
2. A push for the semiconductor industry
What is India’s modified incentive scheme for the chip-making sector? How is it different from the earlier policy? What are the difficulties faced by the industry?
Semiconductors are the thumbnail-sized building blocks of almost every modern electronic device. The semiconductor chip-making process is complex and highly exact, having multiple steps in the supply chain such as designing software for chips and patenting them through core Intellectual Property (IP) rights.
According to the Electronics and IT Ministry, semiconductor demand in India would increase to $70-$80 billion by 2026 with the growing demand for digital devices and electronic products. The modified scheme now provides uniform 50% fiscal support for all nodes. Besides, it will provide 50% of capital expenditure for other steps of the process as well (chip design and ATMP).
While the new scheme provides equal funding for all steps of the process, the outlay of the scheme remains $10 billion. Notably, just the setting up of one semiconductor fab requires an investment of anywhere between $3 and $7 billion.
The story so far:
In a bid to make India’s $10 billion chip-making initiative more attractive to investors, the Centre on September 21, approved changes to the scheme for the development of a semiconductor and display manufacturing ecosystem.
How big is the industry?
Semiconductors are the thumbnail-sized building blocks of almost every modern electronic device from smartphones toconnected devices in the Internet of Things (IoT). They help give computational power to devices. The global semiconductor industry is currently valued at $500-$600 billion.
The basic component of a semiconductor chip is a sliver of silicon, which is etched with billions of microscopic transistors, forming patterns to control the flow of current while following different computational instructions. The chip-making process is complex and highly exact, having multiple other steps in the supply chain such as designing software for chips and patenting them through core Intellectual Property (IP) rights. It also involves making chip-fabrication machines; setting up fabs or factories; and ATMP (assembly, testing, marking and packaging). The chip-making industry is a highly-concentrated one, with the big players being Taiwan, South Korea and the U.S. among others. In fact, according to a New York Times estimate, 90% of 5nm (nanometre) chips are mass-produced in Taiwan, by the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC). Therefore, the global chip shortage, U.S.-China tensions over Taiwan, and the supply chain blockages owing to the Russia-Ukraine conflict have led major economies to enter the chip-making sector with a renewed push. For example, the U.S. announcement of $52.7 billion in government funding for the CHIPS and Science Act and the EU’s Chips Act that will mobilise €43 billion for public and private investments.
What are the changes to India’s chip-making scheme?
In December 2021, India announced its roughly $10 billion dollar production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme to encourage semiconductor and display manufacturing in the country. It also announced fiscal support for a design-linked initiative (DLI) scheme to drive global and domestic investment related to design software, IP rights etc. According to the Electronics and IT Ministry, semiconductor demand in India would increase to $70-$80 billion by 2026 with the growing demand for digital devices and electronic products.
The new changes announced last Wednesday seek to harmonise government incentives for all technology nodes of semiconductors, according to the Minister of State for Electronics and IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar. In the previous version of the scheme, the Centre was offering to fund 30% of the project cost for 45nm to 65nm chip production, 40% for 28nm to 45nm, and 50% or half of the funding for chips 28nm or below. The modified scheme provides uniform 50% fiscal support for all nodes. Besides, it will provide 50% of capital expenditure for other steps of the process as well (chip design and ATMP).
So far, Vedanta and Taiwanese chipmaker Foxconn have signed an MoU to set up a ₹1,54,000 crore semiconductor plant in Gujarat. Two other projects have also been announced — a $3 billion plant in Karnataka by the International consortium ISMC and a $3.5 billion plant in Tamil Nadu by Singapore’s IGSS Ventures. The modified scheme also emphasised the production of the 45nm chip, which is fairly less time-consuming and economical in terms of production.
What are the challenges?
While the scheme is an encouraging move, chip production is a resource-intensive and expensive process. While the new scheme provides equal funding for all steps of the process, the outlay of the scheme remains $10 billion. Notably, just the setting up of one semiconductor fab requires an investment of anywhere between $3 and $7 billion. Analysts, while positive, are concerned that not much of the current scheme outlay would be left to support other elements including display fabs, packaging and testing facilities, and chip design centres. They also argue that the initial funding should focus on areas like design and R&D, for which India already has an established talent pool.
Chip-making also requires gallons of ultrapure water in a single day, which experts say, could be a task for the government to provide to factories, compounded also by the drought conditions which often prevail in large parts of the country. Another task for the government is to drive up consumer demand in the semiconductor and linked electronics industry to not end up in a situation where these ventures remain successful only till taxpayers are forced to fund required subsidies.
3. Landslides in Pettimudi: social inequalities in disasters
How socio-economic positions of a Kerala community determined the extent of disaster vulnerability and the process of risk management undertaken by the state especially during natural calamities
Irshad, Mohammed S. and Solaman, Christin S.S, ‘Identity, Space and Disaster: A Case Study of Pettimudi Landslide in Kerala’, Sage Journals, Vol 71, Issue no. 3, May 9, 2022
Among theories about the relevance of space as a social product and its relation with an individual’s or communities’ understanding of social realities, S. Mohammed Irshad and S.S. Christin Solaman’s article ‘Identity, Space and Disaster: A Case Study of Pettimudi Landslide in Kerala’, draws attention to the role of space during natural calamities such as landslides, in terms of the disaster vulnerability of a community and State interventions. The authors through the study of a landslide that hit Pettimudi, a tea plantation estate in the Idukki district of Kerala, discuss the ‘geographical and sociological space’ in which the incident occurred and how the State’s approach towards the incident was influenced by the social position and historical vulnerability of the community living in the landslide-prone region.
On August 6, 2020, a landslide caused by relentless rainfall in Pettimudi, a tea plantation estate in the Idukki district, killed over 65 workers. They lived in a ‘layam’, a line of 10 residential spaces in a building provided by the company as accommodation. Presently owned by the Kanan Devan Hills Plantations (KDHP), the tea estate was first owned by a British official, John Danial Manro, in 1877.
While in 1843, slavery was abolished in the State, estate owners found a work-around by bringing workers from other regions as bonded labour. Moreover, theorists argue that the Plantation Labour Act, of 1951 failed to provide the workers with social security and socio-economic mobility. Currently, most workers are part of the second and third generations of Tamil migrant workers who were provided with accommodation by the estate owners. Without decent accommodation or land of their own, the workers have continued to live in the accommodation (layam) provided by the estate owners in an ecologically vulnerable landscape. Layams, about 80-90 years old, were built when the plantation was set up and are not maintained well. In the landslide, 22 such layams were washed out, killing 66 people (four people are still missing and are considered dead), all of whom were buried together due to scarcity of land.
The Pettimudi landslide was analysed through a qualitative research approach with the help of secondary data. The authors interviewed labourers, trade union workers, and environmental scientists to understand the complexities behind the incident. The article also considered newspaper and media reports as well as comments of Ministers, officials and community leaders to understand the different narratives surrounding the incident.
The response and rehabilitation facilities provided by the government and the various descriptions of the incident show how the disaster was singled out and provided with only conventional relief measures. The spatial inequality that impacted the disaster vulnerability of the community due to their social position was also ignored.
Manipulating the narrative
Narratives have an immense impact on how one perceives reality. The authors explain how the media and government’s portrayal of the Pettimudi landslide conveniently labelled it as a single incident without interrogating the socio-economic complexity behind the situation. This was also reflected in the relief and rehabilitation provided by the State. Through a series of interviews, the article brings out a different narrative. Labour union leaders explain how the placement of the layam in a landslide-prone region with poor maintenance, coupled with the lack of socio-political and economic power of the workers factor into the situation. The company’s attempt to control how the news spread by only informing the government about the incident the morning after, once the situation was under control and the delay in the arrival of the government’s rescue team is proof of the negligence in the incident. The authors believe that the apathy of the State was evident in its response to the landslide when compared to an air crash that took place in the State the very next day and in the solatium offered to the victims.
The article explains how the ‘space’ of Pettimudi and the air crash determined the different treatments it received. Finally, through an analysis of the economic loss in the landslide, the authors discuss how the States’ accountability towards the victims of Pettimudi was minimal, with the government sharing the responsibility of rehabilitation with the private company which has been using the land to control the lives of its workers.
Space and vulnerability
Social theorists like Edward Soja and Andrzej Zieleniec have theorised about individuals’ interactions with space and how space becomes a social product and a place for practising discrimination. Spatial vulnerability results from the intersection of social relations of production, class relations, institutional relations and entitlement relations. Considering the private plantation land as a social space, the authors explain how the land is symbolic of the economic vulnerability of the labourers which has its roots in the history of slave labour, and how this vulnerability forces them to continue living and working in such deplorable conditions. The company, with its ownership of the space, claims power over the workers. The social exclusion of the community pervades public discourses and government policies as they are considered mere beneficiaries of State schemes. These victims rarely have any say in their rehabilitation process and are forced to accept government funds.
The apathy of the state
In such situations, the state often has a very visible textbook response. Instead of looking at the root causes of such calamities, the government does the bare minimum. In disaster-prone areas, the following are the standard procedures followed by a government — alert the residents of the area in case there is a weather forecast and provide a temporary space for shelter, and if a disaster occurs, plan to rehabilitate the community with rarely any consideration of the socio-economic impact of such a shift of space.
In the recently released Malayalam movie, Malayankunju the portrayal of the socio-economic status of the residents in the disaster-prone region and the government’s response is important to analyse the relationship between space and vulnerability. While separated by caste, the economic positions of the protagonist and his neighbours are similar, grouping them in terms of disaster vulnerability. When the weather becomes threatening, the government’s response is to give a public service announcement and provide shelter in a nearby building, a standard state response in case of a predicted disaster. Even at the end, there is no mention of rehabilitation, with the protagonist accepting his disaster-vulnerable position and returning to his daily life.
Vulnerability to a disaster is isolated from the people’s socio-economic status at the administrative level for their convenience in the intervention process. In doing so, the root causes of the issue are ignored. The authors claim that such dissociations have led to more disaster vulnerabilities among poor communities as disaster-prone areas in India are a result of unequal development or overexploitation of resources.
4. Editorial-1: Putting power back in the hands of the people
A world bereft of an inclusive global community of trust is upon us. Racial genocides through history, blatant fascist leanings of the so-called “democracies”, and escalating hunger and disease in Africa and other parts of the under-developed world give enough evidence that democracy faces serious issues of populism, growing economic discrimination, overpopulation and environmental degradation. Misgivings about moral progress, about mutual understanding, exacerbate the dismal situation that faces humanity.
And though there is a lot of rage to go around, we also share hope for a better world and a commitment to bringing it into existence through those who dream and work and think deeply to subvert any kind of state repression underpinned by violence and the manufacturing of fear. Aware that the odds are pulling us fast towards a cataclysm, these “dreamers” are ready to act against the increasing injustices of democracies gone astray. Their voices have already begun to resound and reinforce each other in unison of emancipatory struggle for the reinvention of democracy and its beleaguered institutions. As Slavoj Zizek, the European philosopher, argues, their watchword is: “We are the ones we are waiting for”, which apparently does not have connotations of “agents predestined by fate to perform the task” but that there is “no big Other to rely upon”. What alone can prevent the inexorable march of history towards the “apocalypse”, writes Zizek, is “pure voluntarism”.
The motivation is to oppose the tyranny of the state through the understanding of the workings of unilateral majoritarian power and control. In this context, people must believe in the fact that though demonstrations and strikes have always been put down, they nevertheless advance the cause of progressive movements. The Congress party in India, for instance, has nothing much to write home about, but the Bharat Jodo Yatra initiated by Rahul Gandhi is a way of reaching out to the people to make them see the grim reality facing the nation.
The pressure on the Government already exists, but it needs to grow. At a public gathering in honour of Gauri Lankesh, Arundhati Roy spoke on the death of democracy and argued: “The question we have to ask ourselves is, what is it that brought us to a situation where people who are oppressed, people who have no employment, people who are suffering deeply, are voting for further hellishness upon themselves. What has made people believe in propaganda more than the reality of their experience…” in and outside their homes? Understandably, democracy is more in crisis than ever before, with the onset of centralisation of power, with a foreign policy defying public opinion, with the media centralised, and with corporate control of the economy tighter than ever. It is our responsibility to publicise the anti-democratic actions of the state as much as we can because the political leaders will not do it.
There may be a new, threatening world order emerging, which seeks to abrogate all individual rights and divide us along the extremist polarities that we thought had been neutralised. We move into this new stage of conflict carrying the risk of a nuclear tragedy, further exacerbated by the collective buttressing of a global crisis of the novel coronavirus pandemic, uncontrollable ecological disasters, and food and water deficiency. With the crisis of representation before us, tottering democracies across the globe can be brought to life with the crucial role of referendum or direct democracy, thereby defusing social, economic and political tensions and putting power back in the hands of the people. Alternatively, the peoples of the world have to be led by wise and informed leaders. Or else the human race shall go extinct.
Paradoxically, the brighter side of totalitarian politics, according to Zizek, is the apparent provocation of great intellectual outrage by thinkers who examine history from the perspective of the overwhelming anti-human or repressive movements. Undeniably, it is a daring effort close to the ferocious thought of Hannah Arendt in its reconciliation with the true nature of ‘evil’ and its genealogical underpinnings that draw us towards inherent positive motivations. One such motivation has been the “2022 Resilient Democracies Statement” — signed recently by the G7 and four invited guests — conscious of the decline in the institution of democracy. The idea behind the document is to tell the errant democracies of the world to “guard the freedom of expression and opinion, an affirmation of commitment to the very idea of democracy and a move towards opposing oppression and violence”. Our ability to build a global self-governing ideal or what Tennyson dreamt of, “the Parliament of Man, the Federation of the World” can rekindle a new energy at every step that we fail. It is here that democratic institutions will facilitate the defence of our fundamental rights and the promotion of a civil society.
On rights for all
Clearly, we have hit a bottleneck in the efforts to achieve rights for all. Theoretically, it may seem to be the right step to prioritise universal legal and moral norms through public dishonouring of the guilty, but in fact, rights prevail only when they become relevant to the needs of the local communities especially through addressing important concerns such as impunity for atrocities, predicaments of free speech in the age of social media, ingrained exploitations of women’s rights, and violence against the marginalised. As B.R. Ambedkar in 1949 explained, “…political democracy cannot last unless it lies at the base of its social democracy…. in politics we will have equality and in social and economic life we will have inequality… We must remove this contradiction at the earliest possible moment….”
Global transformist thought in the areas of social justice, universal human rights, rule of law, global anti-war movements and transnational amity remains an aspiration and a motivating dynamism behind all liberatory movements. The ruling elite must come to grips with the notion that “true ideas are imperishable and come back to life particularly at moments of their demise”, something that is so apparent, for example, in the birth of ‘radicality’ at the juncture of the demise of Marxism.
And if our dreams fail, others must take their place. We as humans at the mercy of human and natural disasters can only individually respond to bringing meaning to senselessness, or reason to madness. As Howard Zinn says, “To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness.” It is the power of the people to act directly, stand up collectively before the state apparatus in the hope that they would overcome the challenges facing humanity. History indeed is unpredictable and sometimes manifestly volatile to take our destiny in an entirely another direction from the veniality and brutality of governments.
5. Editorial-2: Pitching India as a signature destination
Earlier this month, the Dhauladhar ranges in the Himalayas were the setting for a gathering of State Tourism Ministers — a first-of-its-kind meeting to discuss, debate and deliberate on modes and mechanisms to develop tourism in India.
The Ministers brainstormed for three days, co-developing ‘The Dharamshala Declaration’ by drawing inspiration from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Whole of Government’ approach, which enables the breaking down of silos and encouraging synergies across various government corridors.
On the occasion of World Tourism Day (it is held on September 27), I am happy to share this collective vision. ‘The Dharamshala Declaration’ aims to recognise India’s role in contributing towards global tourism as well as focusing on recovery by also promoting domestic tourism — which has been overlooked for long. In his Independence Day speech in 2019, Mr. Modi urged every Indian who could afford to travel, to visit at least 15 locations in India by 2022 and discover the country. However, COVID-19 made this vision a challenge.
In the declaration, the Tourism Ministry has come up with a strategy and action plan to encourage more Indians to travel domestically and explore India’s natural, cultural, and spiritual beauty while simultaneously reaching the goal of an ‘Ek Bharat Shrestha Bharat’ (interaction and mutual understanding). In parallel, the Ministry has also been working with the Ministry of External Affairs to identify 20 Indian missions abroad with the highest tourist footfalls to India and build country-specific strategies to attract foreign tourists.
Rethinking and reimagining tourism
Tourism has been one of the sectors severely affected by COVID-19. The Government of India’s Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme was recently enhanced by ₹50,000 crore, from ₹4.5 lakh crore to ₹5 lakh crore to benefit enterprises in hospitality and related sectors such as hotels and restaurants, marriage halls, travel agents, tour operators, adventure and heritage facilities. The pandemic has also given us the time to reset and rethink the way forward for tourism in India. The Ministry of Tourism, after wide-ranging consultations, has prepared a draft National Tourism Policy 2022, which aims at improving the framework conditions for tourism development in the country, supporting tourism industries, strengthening tourism support functions and developing tourism sub-sectors.
The guiding principles include promoting sustainable, responsible and inclusive tourism in line with our civilisational ethos. From Gautama to Gandhi, India has always spoken about the inherent need to live harmoniously with nature and within our means. The National Green Tourism Mission aims at institutionalising this approach.
The National Tourism policy also aims to give impetus to digitalisation, innovation and technology through the National Digital Tourism Mission and skilling through the Tourism and Hospitality Sector Skill Mission. The policy also gives a special impetus to private sector participation through public-private-partnerships (PPP). After 2002, this has been the first such attempt to bring forth a transformative tourism policy. Once the new policy is ratified, the Ministry would have a new set of tools and frameworks that are required to execute on the vision and goals we have set for ourselves.
Potential during the G20 presidency
The country has an opportunity to position itself as a major tourism destination during India’s presidency of the G20 ( December 2022- November 2023). India’s age-old dictum of ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’ will come to the fore as it welcomes delegates from the 20 countries/European Union. Delegates include personnel from the central banks and finance ministries of the G20 countries, close to 15 working groups ranging from anti-corruption and agriculture to health, culture and tourism and foreign ministers, and other ministerial meetings. All these tracks would mean that India will be hosting close to 200 meetings.
Even as the final list of cities is being finalised based on a set of transparent criteria such as conference infrastructure, accommodation availability, rankings in Swachh Bharat and other parameters, close to 35 cities with this potential have already been identified. During this time, the plan is to ensure due rigour, dedication and showcase the country’s cultural richness while welcoming the world to India. The Ministry of Tourism also plans to work with other Ministries to bring in necessary interventions such as visa reforms, ease of travel, traveller-friendly and improved immigration facilities at airports.
Over the past few months, all the major tourism indices such as domestic air passenger traffic, hotel occupancy and tourist footfalls have shown signs of recovery and are going back to pre-pandemic levels. By mid-2024, we would be at pre-pandemic levels, with India achieving $150 billion as GDP contribution from tourism and $30 billion in foreign exchange earnings with 15 million foreign tourist arrivals.
By 2030, India is estimated to grow at 7%-9% compounded annual growth rate and we expect the enabling policy framework to bring in $250 billion in GDP contribution from tourism, 140 million jobs in the tourism sector and $56 billion in foreign exchange earnings with more than 25 million foreign arrivals.
The Ministry is committed to delivering on these goals to ensure the positioning of India as one of the world’s best tourism destinations by 2047. World Tourism Day, therefore, is an appropriate day to renew this pledge.
6. Editorial-3: Home and abroad
If India is to unite polarised nations, it must bring divisive forces under control
Delivering India’s statement at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) this year, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar spoke of several challenges in India’s past, present and future, with a special emphasis on the immediate “shocks” arising from the war in Ukraine, the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, and terrorism. In stark contrast to the Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, who made pejorative remarks about India, Mr. Jaishankar made no direct comment on Pakistan. Nor did he directly mention India’s challenges at the Line of Actual Control, although he criticised China’s habit of politicising and blocking UN Security Council terrorist designations. His comments on Ukraine were watched, as they came days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi was lauded by western countries for telling Russian President Vladimir Putin that the “era of war is over”. Mr. Jaishankar expanded on Mr. Modi’s theme without seeming to either criticise Russia or condone its actions: instead, he said, India stands on the side of peace, of respect for the UN charter, dialogue and diplomacy, and with all those now grappling with the “escalating costs of food, of fuel and fertilizers”. His words were even-handed, and require global stakeholders to consider both the risks from the conflict in Ukraine, and from U.S.-EU led sanctions that could exacerbate global economic fragmentation and inflationary trends. The prognosis seems even bleaker, given that just prior to the UNGA, Mr. Putin delivered a speech committing to Russia’s ability to use “all weapons”, indicating nuclear options, while the Ukrainian President said no dialogue could bring an end to the war, calling instead for more weaponry and a global effort to “punish” Russia.
Above all, Mr. Jaishankar hailed what he called the “New India” under Mr. Modi, spelling out five pledges made at the 75th Independence day anniversary, which includes making India a developed nation by 2047. He added that India is ready to take on enhanced responsibility at the global body, and called for a reformed UN with an expanded Security Council, as a means at righting the “injustice” done to the global south. The year ahead, where India will host the G-20 summit, will, no doubt, test the will and the ability of the Modi government to play the role of global uniter, and what Mr. Jaishankar called a “bridge” between nations polarised by bitter divides. It is a goal which will only be achievable if New Delhi is able to play a similarly uniting role in its own neighbourhood, and bring polarising and divisive forces within India under control.
7. Editorial-4: Turning inward
In Europe, far-right is tapping into public disgruntlement with the establishment
Sunday’s parliamentary elections in Italy were seen as the first major test of Europe’s resolve to keep the anti-establishment far-right away from power amid a devastating cost-of-living crisis and rocketing energy prices aggravated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the West’s retaliatory sanctions on Moscow. However, the results, which saw Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy emerging as the biggest vote getter, underscored the trend in the continent where far-right parties are on the rise, channelising growing public disgruntlement with the establishment. In the French presidential election in April, Marine Le Pen secured some 41.5% vote, the far-right’s best post-War performance in the country. In the Swedish general election earlier this month, the government of Social Democratic Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson was voted out and the far-right Sweden Democrats emerged as the second largest party. And in Italy, a party with neo-fascist origins is going to form the next government, which would be the country’s farthest right administration since the fall of fascist dictator Benito Mussolini in 1945. When most of the votes were counted, the Brothers of Italy won some 26% vote in both Houses of Parliament. Ms. Meloni’s coalition, which includes Matteo Salvini’s League and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, has secured some 44% of votes.
The Brothers of Italy has been known for its anti-immigrant, hard nationalist, protectionist, Eurosceptic views. Ms. Meloni, who took over the reins in 2014, toned down its neo-fascist roots and embraced a more acceptable version of populism — a cocktail of social conservatism and economic welfarism. Her decision not to join Mario Draghi’s outgoing technocratic government also seemed to have helped her turn around the party’s prospects. While most key parties, from the Left to the Right, supported Mr. Draghi’s pro-business, pro-Brussels government in the name of stability, the Brothers of Italy remained the only opposition party. And when the cost-of-living crisis and internal divisions hit the Draghi administration and the country slid into another election, she stood to gain the most. The road ahead is not going to be easy given Italy’s economic problems, divisions within her coalition and foreign policy challenges, including Ukraine. But the rise of the Brothers should set alarm bells ringing across European capitals. More European countries could fall into recession. The energy crisis is expected to be worse during winter and there is no end in sight to the Ukraine war. If Europe’s establishment parties and governments fail to check the looming economic troubles and address growing discontent, the far-right will continue to exploit the political momentum.
8. Editorial-5: Samarkand: a miniature of an emerging world
That the world is in a state of flux — with all its complexities, hopes, aspirations and fears, but unable to embrace new realities — was in evidence in the historic city of Samarkand during the summit (September 15-16) of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) when key world leaders groped in the dark for an ideal world order.
The realities they faced were mind-boggling even without their traditional rivals breathing down their necks. Russia was clearly in the dock for its invasion of Ukraine, but the former Soviet Republics were not in a position to call a spade a spade. China was vulnerable because of the deal it had struck with Russia on Taiwan in return for a pledge to support Russia in its war with Ukraine. China appears to have made up its mind that its future lies with Russia as it does not see itself becoming a partner of the U.S. The U.S. seems to have chosen to be with democratic countries in its eventual return to centre stage. The emergence of a Red Quad may well be a possibility to counter democratic forces in the Indo-Pacific. The U.S.’s decision to modernise the Pakistani air force may be to preempt Pakistan from becoming a closer ally of China.
India’s message to Russia
India had both its biggest adversaries on the table but was not on talking terms with them on account of a conspiracy of circumstances. Ironically, India, with its special historic bonds with Russia, was the only country to demand a cessation of hostilities and want diplomacy and democracy. India bluntly told Russia that this was not the time for war and that the war must stop because of the immense challenges it had posed to the world. India spoke about the oil crisis and the looming food scarcity, the disruption of supply chains and transit trade access. The war had to stop to avert a disaster.
Russian President Vladimir Putin got away by saying that he understood India’s concerns over the war in Ukraine, promising to try and end the conflict, but blaming the Ukrainian government for prolonging the crisis. He indicated that he was in no hurry to end the war. India has the best of relations with Russia, but the exchange pointed to the future when Russia would be an adversary of India together with China. India appeared to be the spokesperson of the conscience of mankind, which wanted the war to end.
India’s real business should have been with China, which had violated every bilateral agreement and occupied territories across the Line of Actual Control. Chinese President Xi Jinping was there dictating to the world what kind of new world order must be shaped, and India was silent. The latest disengagement in Ladakh was supposed to have facilitated a thaw in the situation, making it possible for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to attend the SCO, but each side was perhaps waiting for the other to blink.
India had much to say about Pakistan too when a new Pakistani leader was there, and with no sign of regret over the perpetration of terrorism. Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif claimed that he had discussed Kashmir with the Chinese President and received an assurance of support, though China made no such statement on Kashmir. The only point that Mr. Modi made was that Pakistan should give India transit trade access by land to Afghanistan and Central Asia. China and Russia had good words to say about India when they welcomed India’s Chairmanship of the SCO and extended their support, which was nothing but a formality. It is impossible to predict the state of the SCO if the war persists and the world reaches an economic crisis.
India’s position at the summit turned out to be one of questioning Russia on the continuation of the war, which may have positioned India on the right side of history in a world order divided between democracies and autocracies. Clearly, India cannot be with China or Russia in the new dispensation. India made this clear at the SCO summit.
A dress rehearsal
The Samarkand summit presented, in miniature, the world that may emerge in the future and demonstrated to us where we should stand right now. The Quad may well be the forum that will enable India to protect its interests in the Indo-Pacific, and the SCO may have been a dress rehearsal for what may eventually emerge. As Chairman of SCO, India cannot transform it from within, because a China-Russia-Iran-Pakistan axis will dominate it. India should concentrate on cultivating bilateral relations with democratic nations to build a pole for itself in the new world order.
The ripples of the events in Samarkand became evident in the United Nations General Assembly at its present session when both the U.S. and Russia declared for the first time that they would favour an expansion of the UNSC to make it more effective. U.S. President Joe Biden indicated his readiness to accept an expansion while Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov specifically supported India being a permanent member. An effort is on to move with the times and meet the aspirations of developing countries and thus help shape a new world order.