IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs – 17th December, 2016
TOPIC: General Studies 2
India and its neighbourhood- relations.
Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests
Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.
India Indonesia Relations
India and Indonesia have shared two millennia of close cultural and commercial contacts. The Hindu, Buddhist and later Muslim faith travelled to Indonesia from the shores of India. The Indonesian folk art and dramas are based on stories from the great epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata. The shared culture, colonial history and post independence goals of political sovereignty, economic self-sufficiency and independent foreign policy have unifying effect on the bilateral relations.
For a long time that two nations have kept each other out of focus while determining their foreign policy, even though they have had converging strategic interests. Even under the present ruling governments, the nations have taken too long to reach out to each other. However, both the countries have shown willingness and intent to build a strong relationship with President Widodo’s visit to India being the first presidential visit from Indonesia to India in nearly six years. The areas of common concern and interest have been discussed below with the joint efforts made by both the countries.
South China Sea
India and Indonesia both are not in agreement with China’s aggressive stance on South China Sea and want the dispute to be resolved by peaceful means and in accordance with international law such as UNCLOS.
Both the countries do not have a direct stake in this dispute, yet they are concerned about China’s territorial expansion and its reluctance to abide by international laws and norms.
India and Indonesia want their nations to emerge as major maritime powers and ensure a stable maritime order in the region.
India’s concerns lie in the security of the sea lanes of communication in the Indo-Pacific region and Indonesia has been concerned about Chinese maritime intrusions near the Natuna islands and its claim to include the island chain in its territorial maps. Indonesia claims it to be a part of its exclusive economic zone.
Terrorism and Security
The two countries are also now moving towards cooperation in defence and security which will help in focussing on combating terrorism and organized crime.
They have also issued a joint statement which condemns terrorism in all forms and emphasises on “zero tolerance” towards terrorism.
The statement has asked all nations to focus on the following:
Eliminating terrorist safe havens and infrastructure,
Disrupting terrorist networks and their financing channels, and
Stopping cross-border terrorism.
Called upon all countries to implement the UN Security Council Resolution 1267 (banning militant groups and their leaders) and other resolutions designating terrorist entities.
The two nations have also laid stress on the need to combat and eliminate illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing and recognized transnational organized fisheries crime.
Defence and Security
India and Indonesia have been gradually enhancing their security and political ties through the strategic partnership agreement signed in 2005.
This agreement also introduced the annual strategic dialogue between the two nations.
In 2006, the two countries ratified a defence cooperation agreement, focussing on areas of defence supplies, technology and joint projects.
An extradition treaty and a mutual legal assistance treaty for gathering and exchanging information to enforce their laws have also been signed.
Other important features of the relationship between the two nations are the joint naval exercises and patrols and regular port calls by their respective navies.
India is also a major source of military hardware for Indonesia.
India and Indonesia have also decided to give a major boost to their trade and investment ties by focusing on the areas of oil and gas, renewable energy, information technology and pharmaceuticals.
It is expected that bilateral trade between the two may grow by four times in the next decade.
The importance of cooperation between these two countries is important due to the strategic location of these two. Indonesia’s location allows it to work effectively with India to ensure security in the sea lanes of communication between Europe, the Middle East and South-East Asia. Together, they control the entry point from the Bay of Bengal to the Strait of Malacca.
However, the need of the hour is to ensure that the two nations speed up the progress of improving the ties. Even though, the two countries have shared cultural and historical links they have still been distant. One very major highlight of the poor quality relationship between the two countries was the lack of direct air connectivity between the two till this visit by the Indonesian President. This visit by Mr. Widodo has helped India take another step in its “Act East” policy. This will promote greater engagement and integration between India and South-East Asia.
Connecting the dots
What is the ‘Act East’ Policy of India? Discuss the importance of Indonesia for India, with regard to this policy.
Discuss the importance of India Indonesia relationship and the steps which can be taken by both the nations of improve this relationship.
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
General Studies 3
Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology.
Indigenization of technology and developing new technology.
Awareness in the fields of IT, Space
General Studies 2
Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
India and its neighbourhood- relations.
India’s space diplomacy
India has vigorously expanded into space diplomacy as an instrument to expand Indian diplomatic clout and soft power as well as further its geo strategic interests. This has the potential to enhance India’s diplomatic relations with developed as well as developing countries. Let us look at India’s space diplomacy reign so far.
Technological capabilities in outer space have long been used as an effective tool of foreign policy. For instance, US used its LandSat satellites to share the data or Russia included an Indian cosmonaut Rakesh Sharma in its manned space flight.
India has established a long-standing space programme with a history of over 50 years of space exploration. This is evident from the fact that India has some of the best remote sensing satellites in the world and it has provisioned downlink capabilities for these remote sensing satellites for a number of countries.
India also shares data with countries and is a part of international forums such as United Nations Platform for Space-based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response (UNSPIDER).
Also, India has launched satellites for countries that do not have space launch capabilities as well as for countries like France, Canada and even USA who find Indian services reliable as well as reasonable.
Thus, India has taken excellent steps towards utilisation of space diplomacy and more can achieved considering India’s capabilities for regional and global diplomacy.
India’s space applications
ISRO is now supporting many new tools and governance applications such as alert system for unmanned railway crossings, identifying water sources, pipeline safety etc. This can be used in furthering improvement in living standards of people.
Civil aviation, marine navigation, road transportation and disaster management are some of the areas that would stand to benefit from the potentials of IRNSS.
Significantly, the INSAT communications and IRS earth observation spacecraft constellations being operated by ISRO are being routinely harnessed for a wide ranging purposes including disaster warning, tele medicine and tele education, crop forecast, water resources monitoring and mapping of natural resources.
Indeed, India’s experience in exploiting the potentials of satellite technology for accelerating the pace of socio economic development is of immense relevance to the third world countries including the India’s South Asian neighbours.
A peaceful and prosperous neighbourhood
Reaching out to the neighbours with the expertise in space technology has become a new, vibrant mantra of the space diplomacy projected by the current government.
The SAARC satellite which is being spearheaded by ISRO, is considered an excellent example of the Indian policy of strengthening relations with the immediate neighbours.
The SAARC satellite aims to help South Asian countries in India’s neighbourhood for fighting poverty and illiteracy, scientific advancement and open up the opportunities for the youths of these countries.
India has successfully launched seven satellites of IRNSS which will help in regional navigation too, thereby generating an alternative to commercial navigation satellite services.
India has now offered Bangladesh its expertise to build and launch its domestic satellites.
South East Asia outreach
With a view to project its soft power through the sharing of its space expertise, India is looking at the possibility of setting up a ground station in Fiji that could ultimately serve as a hub for sharing space expertise with the Pacific island nations.
ISRO already operates ground stations in Mauritius, Brunei and Indonesia to help track the Indian satellites launched from Satish Dhawan Space Centre.
India has offered to share Indian space expertise with the countries in South East region where China, Japan, Australia and USA are competing to acquire a strategic edge.
As part of its international cooperation programme, ISRO has offered to share its experience in utilizing the space technology for socio economic development with ASEAN countries which are also prone to natural disasters.
Relevantly, the Department of Space (DOS) Annual Report for 2014-15 makes a reference to the plan for the setting up of a satellite data reception centre in Vietnam. It says “India is actively pursuing a proposal with ASEAN comprising Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam to establish a ground station in Vietnam to receive, process and use data from Indian satellites for a variety of applications including disaster management and support and also to provide training in space science ,technology and applications”.
China along with Pakistan, Bangladesh and a number of other countries have set up a regional partnership organization called the Asia-Pacific Space Cooperation Organization.
It involves sharing data, establishing a space communication network and tracking space objects.
China is helping set up a space academy/satellite ground station alongside the launch of a telecommunications satellite for Sri Lanka. Bangladesh and Maldives were also expected to pursue a similar path.
Pakistan is expected to receive military grade positioning and navigation signals from China’s BeiDou system.
Pakistan’s Space and Upper Atmospheric Research Commission (SUPARCO) is building a remote sensing satellite which is expected to be launched in 2018, by means of a Chinese space vehicle.
Thus, India is facing tough completion from China in expanding its space diplomacy in the region. SAARC satellite could serve as an instrument to blunt the edge of China’s plan to strengthen space cooperation with South Asian countries including Maldives and Sri Lanka.
Also, Indian plan to set up a state of the art satellite monitoring station in Vietnam has attracted Chinese ire where it sees satellite data reception cum tracking and telemetry station in Ho Chi Minhcity as a “clear cut attempt to stir up trouble in the disputed South China Sea region”. China is concerned that the link up of ground stations would give India a significant advantage in the South China Sea region.
India is considered to be a leader in societal applications of space technology. It can play a role in capacity building for other developing countries in use of space technology to solve their local problems of land, water, forests and crop, among others, which have been successfully demonstrated by ISRO.
Technological capacity-based diplomacy may very well hold the key to deepening relationships both regionally and internationally for India. India’s space prowess must be effectively used as a tool in diplomacy and foreign policy not only for regional capacity building and collaboration with developing nations but also for enhancing India’s role in a global framework. Thus, India should continue its efforts in spreading its space diplomatic tentacles.
Connecting the dots:
What is space diplomacy? Critically evaluate India’s position in furthering its diplomatic relations through space diplomacy.