1. RIC, a triangle that is still important
Calls for a westward shift in India’s foreign policy appear misplaced as engagement with Russia and China does matter
- Last month, on June 23, a few eyebrows were raised when India decided to attend a (virtual) meeting of the Foreign Ministers of Russia, India and China (RIC). Amid the tensions on the Line of Actual Control, the dominant calls were for a more decisive westward shift in India’s foreign policy. A RIC meeting seemed incongruous in this setting.
- The leaders’ statements at the meeting reflected their divergent preoccupations. The Chinese Minister did not see the irony in his call for opposing bullying practices, rejecting power politics and supporting the rule of law in international relations. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov criticised unilateral coercive measures to settle scores with geopolitical rivals and topple regimes. India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar pointedly emphasised that for a durable world order, major powers should respect international law and recognise the legitimate interest of partners.
The initial years
- When the RIC dialogue commenced in the early 2000s, the three countries were positioning themselves for a transition from a unipolar to a multipolar world order. It was not an anti-U.S. construct; all three countries considered their relationship with the United States an essential prop to their global ambitions. The RIC shared some non-West (as distinct from anti-West) perspectives on the global order, such as an emphasis on sovereignty and territorial integrity, impatience with homilies on social policies and opposition to regime change from abroad. Their support for democratisation of the global economic and financial architecture moved to the agenda of BRIC (with the addition of Brazil).
- The initial years of the RIC dialogue coincided with an upswing in India’s relations with Russia and China. The advent of President Vladimir Putin reinforced the political, defence and energy pillars of the India-Russia strategic partnership. With China, the 2003 decision to bring a political approach to the boundary dispute and to develop other cooperation, encouraged a multi-sectoral surge in relations. An agreement in 2005, identifying political parameters applicable in an eventual border settlement, implicitly recognised India’s interests in Arunachal Pradesh.
Subtext to India-U.S. ties
- Simultaneously, India’s relations with the U.S. surged, encompassing trade and investment, a landmark civil nuclear deal and a burgeoning defence relationship that met India’s objective of diversifying military acquisitions away from a near-total dependence on Russia. There was a strategic sub-text: as China was rapidly emerging as a challenger to its global pre-eminence, the U.S. saw value in partnering with a democratic India in Asia. Former U.S. Secretary of State and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice writes about this in her memoirs.
- Transformations in the external environment impacted on these political equations. Among other irritants, China went back on the 2005 agreement, launched the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, worked to undermine India’s influence in its neighbourhood and expanded its military and economic presence in the Indian Ocean.
- The texture of the relationship with Russia also changed, as India-U.S. collaboration widened — in defence and the Indo-Pacific. As U.S.-Russia relations imploded in 2014 (after the annexation/accession of Crimea), Russia’s pushback against the U.S. included cultivating the Taliban in Afghanistan and enlisting Pakistan’s support for it. The western campaign to isolate Russia drove it into a much closer embrace of China — particularly in defence cooperation — than their history of strategic rivalry should have permitted. Thus, the RIC claim of overlapping or similar approaches to key international issues, sounds hollow today.
Links in the grouping
- Having noted this, the Russia-India-China engagement still has significance. India is in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which is driven by Russia and China and includes four Central Asian countries. Central Asia is strategically located, bordering our turbulent neighbourhood. A sliver of land separates Tajikistan from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Pakistan’s membership of SCO and the potential admission of Iran and Afghanistan (as member states) heighten the significance of the SCO for India. Growing Chinese influence is testing the informal Russia-China understanding that Russia handles the politico-security issues in the region and China extends economic support. It is important for India to shape the Russia-China dynamics in this region, to the extent possible. The Central Asian countries have signalled they would welcome such a dilution of the Russia-China duopoly. The ongoing India-Iran-Russia project for a sea/road/rail link from western India through Iran to Afghanistan and Central Asia, is an important initiative for achieving an effective Indian presence in Central Asia, alongside Russia and China.
- The bilateral arms of the India-Russia-China triangle will also remain important. The defence and energy pillars of India’s partnership with Russia remain strong. Access to Russia’s abundant natural resources can enhance our materials security — the importance of which has been highlighted by COVID-19. With China too, while the recent developments should accelerate our efforts to bridge the bilateral asymmetries, disengagement is not an option. We have to work bilaterally and multilaterally on a range of issues, even while firmly protecting our interests on the border, in technology and the economy.
The Indo-Pacific issue
- The elephant in the RIC room is the Indo-Pacific. For India, it is a geographic space of economic and security importance, in which a cooperative order should prevent the dominance of any external power. China sees our Indo-Pacific initiatives as part of a U.S.-led policy of containing China. Russia’s Foreign Ministry sees the Indo-Pacific as an American ploy to draw India and Japan into a military alliance against China and Russia. India’s focus on economic links with the Russian Far East and activation of a Chennai-Vladivostok maritime corridor may help persuade Russia that its interests in the Pacific are compatible with our interest in diluting Chinese dominance in the Indo-Pacific; this also accords with President Putin’s concept of a Greater Eurasia.
Autonomy of action
- The current India-China stand-off has intensified calls for India to fast-track partnership with the U.S. This is an unexceptionable objective, but is not a silver bullet. National security cannot be fully outsourced. India’s quest for autonomy of action is based on its geographical realities, historical legacies and global ambitions — not a residual Cold War mindset.
- As noted, RIC dynamics are sensitive to the configuration of the U.S.-Russia-China triangle. This configuration changed in 2008 (the global economic crisis) and again in 2014 (Crimea’s accession to Russia). COVID-19 could trigger another change, which could be modulated by the outcome of the U.S. Presidential elections. The nature and impact of this change is, for now, an unknown unknown.
- P.S. Raghavan, a former diplomat, is Chairman of the National Security Advisory Board. The views expressed are personal
2. At 2,967 tigers, India’s capacity at peak
With reserves crowded, animals are venturing out
- A detailed survey released on Tuesday reveals that nearly a third of India’s tigers are living outside tiger reserves and nearly 17 of the 50 reserves are approaching the peak of their capacity at sustaining their populations. India hosts 70% of the world’s tigers.
- At 2,967, experts say, India may slowly be approaching its peak carrying capacity of tigers. For the first time, said a scientist associated with the survey, there was an attempt to segregate how many tigers were largely present within the reserves and how many flitted in and out and were dependent on the core reserve for sustenance. This was to guide conservation policy.
- The reserves, by definition, are a “source” and suitable for nourishing a growing tiger population because of prey availability and territory. However, when they get too crowded, tigers venture out further from “sources” and form “sinks” and much of wildlife population dynamics is about understanding this source-sink relationship. “Generally, there’s a 60-40 split in tigers from source-sink, but this can vary. However, we are approaching the maximum capacity of several good reserves, and the focus should be on developing under-utilised reserves and not over-nourish those that have a good population,” said Rajesh Gopal, secretary general, Global Tiger Forum.
|International Tiger Day |
International Tiger Day was established in 2010 at Saint Petersburg Tiger Summit in Russia to raise awareness about the decline of wild tiger numbers, leaving them in the brink of extinction and to encourage the work of Tiger conservation. In the Summit, a declaration was made that Governments of tiger populated countries had vowed to double the tiger population by 2020. Several events every year are organised by animal organisations like WWF, IFAW, and the Smithsonian Institute.
Reasons behind the declining population of Tigers
– Poaching and illegal trade: For traditional Chinese medicines, tigers face the problem of poaching as there is a demand for every part of the body of the tiger. In illegal wildlife trades, they keep high prices.
– Habitat loss: Nowadays and with the increasing population forest are becoming less in numbers. Clearing of forests for several reasons like agriculture, industries, etc. made a loss of around 93% of the natural habitats of tigers.
– Climate Change: With the rise of sea level due to climate change lead to wiping out of Sundarbans one of the habitats of Royal Bengal Tigers.
– Several diseases are also the key factor. Several animals die and there is no way to ascertain the cause of their death. Certain diseases spread epidemic like Feline Panleucopania, tuberculosis, etc.
– The study of Wildlife Institute of India (WII) in the Ranthambore Tiger Reserve (RTR) says that the tiger population in the park shown a loss of genetic diversity over the years.
– Degradation of Habitats: Big cats want secure and disturbance-free habitat to survive but due to several developmental activities in the landscape of the protected areas (PAs) pose a big threat to tigers.
– Man-animal conflict also affects the population of big cats.
– Lack of protection infrastructure.
– Increasing tourism day by day is also one of the factors for the decline in tiger numbers.
3. ‘Notification on 74% FDI in defence soon’
Govt. invites comments on DAP from stakeholders
- The government is going to come out with a decision on 74% Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in defence and a notification is likely in the next few days, according to V.L. Kantha Rao, Additional Secretary, Department of Defence Production.
- Separately, the Defence Ministry said the second draft of the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) 2020, now renamed as the Defence Acquisition Procedure (DAP) 2020, was put out in public domain on Tuesday for comments from stakeholders and public.
- On the target to indigenise spares and sub-assemblies of imported military hardware, Mr. Rao said, “We will try and do at least 900 items this year and we have a target of 5,000 items in five years.” He was speaking at the Lockheed Martin – Society of Indian Defence Manufacturers suppliers conference.
- In May, the government announced a series of measures to promote domestic defence manufacturing. These include a negative import list, separate budgetary allocation for domestic procurements, indigenisation of spares and components and raising the FDI cap through automatic route from 49% to 74%.
- Mr. Rao said Indian manufacturers did well when it came to exports. “Government companies did $100 mn exports last year; the private sector 10 times, over a $1 billion, last year,” he said. However, when it came to overall defence manufacturing, the major share was with the public sector, which accounted for about $8 billion. The private sector did around $2 billion.
- The increase in exports by the private sector comes as several major defence companies like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Thales and Dassault Aviation are increasingly sourcing components from India for their global supply chains. For instance, all C-130 transport aircraft manufactured by Lockheed Martin have components sourced from their joint venture with Tata group in Hyderabad.
4. No indication virus is seasonal: WHO
Hardest-hit countries are in different seasons — U.S. in summer, Brazil in winter
- The spread of the novel coronavirus does not appear to be impacted by seasonality, the World Health Organization said Tuesday, warning against false beliefs that summer is safer.
- “Season does not seem to be affecting the transmission of this virus,” WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris told reporters in a virtual briefing.
- She pointed out that some of the hardest-hit countries are currently in the midst of different season.
- While it is summer in the U.S., which with nearly 1,48,000 deaths and close to 4.3 million cases is the hardest-hit country, the second most affected country Brazil, which counts more than 87,000 deaths, is in winter.
- And yet, she said, there “seems to be this fixed idea about this virus being seasonal”, and that COVID-19 will come in waves.
- This is because people are mistakenly viewing the pandemic through “a flu lens, because that is the way the flu behaves.”
- “What we all need to get our heads around is this is a new virus… and even though it is a respiratory virus and even though respiratory viruses in the past did tend to do these different seasonal waves, this one is behaving differently,” Ms. Harris said.
- Instead of expecting the virus to behave like other viruses that are more familiar, she said people should look at what is actually known about how to stop transmission of COVID-19.
- What works, she said, is physical distancing, hand washing, wearing a mask where appropriate, always covering up sneezes and coughs, staying home when experiencing symptoms, the isolation of cases and quarantining of contacts.
- “But at the moment, we aren’t doing that, because people seem to have it fixed in their heads that there is this seasonal thing and there seems to… be this persistent belief that summer is not a problem,” Ms. Harris said.
Following sectors are prohibited for FDI:
I. Lottery Business
II. Gambling and betting
III. The business of chit fund
IV. Nidhi Company
V. Trading in transferable development rights (TDRs)
VI. Manufacturing of cigars, cheroots, cigarillos and cigarettes, tobacco or its substitutes
VII. Atomic Energy
VIII. Railways Operation
|S. No||Sector||Sectoral Cap/ Route|
|1.||Defence Industry||49% automatic route|
|2.||Civil Aviation||49% FDI (100 percent for NRIs) Automatic|
|3.||Asset Reconstruction Companies (ARCs)||100 % (FDI + FII) – by FIPB if beyond 49%|
|4.||Banking: Private Sector Banking: Public Sector||74% (FDI + FII) by FIPB if beyond 49% 20% (FDI + FII) FIPB|
|5.||Broadcasting (i) FM Radio (ii) Cable Network (iii) DTH||26% (FDI + FII) FIPB 49% (FDI + FII) Automatic 74% (FDI + FII) FIPB beyond 49% , 26% (FDI + FII) FIPB|
|6.||Commodity Exchanges||49% (26% FDI + 23% FII) Automatic|
|7.||Credit Information Companies (CICs)||74% Automatic (FII only 24 %)|
|8.||Insurance||49%; up to 26% automatic and beyond it FIPB|
|9.||Stock Exchanges, Depositories, Clearing Corp||49% (26% FDI + 23% FII) Automatic|
|10.||Petroleum and Natural Gas Refining||49% FDI in case of PSUs Automatic|
|11.||Publishing of Newspapers and Current Affairs News||26%(FDI+FII) FIPB|
|12.||Security Agencies in the Private Sector||49 % FIPB|
|13.||Satellite and Establishment and Operation||74 % FIPB|
|14.||Single Brand Product Retailing||100% subject to sourcing conditions, FIPB beyond 49%|
|15.||Multi Brand Product Retailing||51% FIPB-subject to various conditions|
|16.||Telecom Services||100% FDI – FIPB beyond 49%|
|17.||Pharma Sector (Brownfield)||100 % FIPB except for medical devices|
|18.||Power Exchanges||29% (26 % FDI+23% FII) automatic|
|19.||Railway Infrastructure||100% percent automatic, FDI beyond 49% percent in sensitive areas from a security point of view|
|20.||Construction Development Projects||100% automatic- subject to various conditions.|