1. India seems to be giving prominence to BIMSTEC owing largely to the failed narrative of SAARC. Comment. Also examine the potential of BIMSTEC as a bridge between South Asia and Southeast Asia.
BIMSTEC stands for Bay of Bengal Initiatives for Multi-sectoral Technical and Economic Co-operation which comprises of India, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar, Thailand and Srilanka. It is headquartered in Dhaka, Bangladesh. During recent BRICS summit, BIMSTEC leaders were invited ignoring SAARC.
India giving more prominence to BIMSTEC than SAARC:
Regional Integration: They naturally lend towards regional integration.
Pakistan: Frequent tensions between India and Pakistan are making SAARC a failed initiative.
Physical connectivity: More of Physical connectivity between these countries. Ex: Easy border movements and no restriction like India-Nepal, India-Bhutan, India-Srilanka etc.
Economic Co-operation: Several economic initiatives and co-operation exists between these countries. Ex: India-Thailand free trade, India- Srilanka free trade, India-nepal free currency swap etc.
Potentials of BIMSTEC:
Human Resource: It brings together close to 1.5 Billion people together or 21% of world population. Can become human resource power house.
Economic growth: close to 2.5trillion in GDP. Have huge potential for being location for manufacturing hub of world.
Energy: All regions have huge energy potentials. Ex: Srilanka and India in Solar, Myanmar, Nepal and Bhutan in Hydro, Bangladesh and Thailand in Wind etc.
Connectivity: Trilateral Highways exist between India and Thailand through Myanmar. Huge potential for Industrial corridor.
BBIN: Free movement of goods and transport, can be extended to all other countries as there is road connectivity and through water for Srilanka.
Recent SAARC summit was also cancelled due to India-Pakistan issue. Rather than trying to sort out and force SAARC for better performing which is far from reality due to Pakistan, it is the right time to concentrate more on BIMSTEC and include Afghanistan and Iran too to push for more regional and economic co-operation.
2.What is the H1-B visa programme Bill? How does this affect India? Examine.
Recently a US senator introduced H1-B programme bill in US congress, which seeks to amend certain rules for this particular visa. H1-B visa is employment visa issues by US government which gains legal employment permit to work in USA.
The bill seeks to hike the salary limit for visa from $60,000 to $130,000 and remove restriction or classification of issue based on origin. These two are the major changes.
It affects India in following ways:
Employment: It helps most of the Indian companies to move back there centers back to India there by providing more employment to educated youths.
FDI: Outsourcing companies rather than hiring, will outsource the jobs cheaply to India or invest in units here.
Brain drain: It will limit the outflow of talented and skilled youths from India and their knowledge can be utilized for growth and development of country.
Technology transfer: Increased labor cost will make companies transfer their high techs into India to help in cheap manufacturing.
Foreign exchange: It will help in inflow of people and services into country to help/train local man power in development of world class services there by helping in increased foreign exchange.
Top level management: Removal of country limit will lead to increase in visa available for Indians of top level management and might lead to movement of high skilled/golden collared employees moving out.
Reverse brain drain: Will lead to drastic inflow of NRI’s, providing suitable opportunity for them will be difficult.
Students: It might lead to increased student level migration, which is best option available.
The new bill is both boon and bane for Indian economy. Most of the Indian educated student from top class institution would study at government cost and move out for better opportunities. But this might also lead to some friction in India-US relations due to pressure form lobbies.
3. Protectionism and a retreat from international cooperation seem to be the trend today with major powers of the world looking inward and adopting measures to protect their domestic interests. Has this trend affected India in any way? Critically examine.
“The greatest challenge we face today is the risk of the world turning its back on global cooperation — the cooperation which has served us all well,” the IMF chief Christine Lagarde once said.
Europe is battling its worst migration crisis since World War II as more than a million migrants, including many refugees escaping conflict in Syria and other states, have flooded in.
Donald Trump’s policy to build Mexican wall and to ban people from Muslim countries to enter U.S.
US withdrawing itself from Paris agreement on climate change.
in the US, the Fulbright scholarships will face severe budget cuts, which will restrict the mobility of students and faculty.
The rise of the populist in Europe are affecting the immigration of international students, a trend which has prevailed for the past half-century.
Lack of cooperation on issues like terrorism at the United Nations.
Low growth, rising inequality, and a lack of jobs have combined with social and geopolitical concerns to lead to the rise of populism and inward-looking forces.
Effect on India:
Terrorism remains a serious challenge for the country because of countries like China not cooperating.
India being an emerging economy is hurt more in case of global economic slowdown, which in turn is result of protectionist measures adopted by western powers.
The IT sector recently faced massive lay-offs with US proposing to raise the minimum income requirement for H1B visa. The rise of protectionist politics in advanced economies has increased the pressure on companies there to outsource contracts to local companies, instead of firms in India.
Protectionism and inward-looking trend is not desired particularly for India. In this light we need to increase global cooperation especially for global challenges like terrorism, economic slowdown and climate change.
4. Examine the significance of space diplomacy for India. Also discuss the steps taken by the government in this direction.
The idea of space diplomacy is to expand its sphere of influence using a country’s technological prowess in Space arena. The recent launch of South Asian satellite by Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has brought the focus on India’s space diplomacy as a continued process to bolster efforts for regional and international cooperation building on previous efforts with France on SHAR complex, TERLS, SITE and sending German satellites on chandrayaan 1 mission.
This initiative is part of New Delhi’s broader effort to demonstrate India’s rising global stature and the progress of its space program, while also bolstering the country’s neighborhood diplomacy, enhancing regional cooperation and connectivity, and improving service delivery.
The South Asia Satellite should be the first step toward making sure that such potential cooperation abounds. For example, satellite-enabled projects that involve cross-border management of common resources and other challenges could potentially greatly improve regional cooperation with minimal political costs.
The Indian space program is firmly rooted in the utilization of space technology for peaceful purposes, and the South Asia Satellite symbolizes this philosophy.
With the GSLV launch India is showing that where it is capable its commitment to the development of its neighbors is strong. Finally, by going ahead with the project despite Pakistan’s decision to pull out shows that regional cooperation is not held hostage to bilateral tensions.
A key objective of India’s foreign policy in the region is to overcome obstacles to regional integration and to broaden the scope for cooperation without appearing hegemonic. Initiatives like the South Asia Satellite provide a conducive means of pursuing these objectives. This project arguably is the first opportunity for India to harness its activities in outer space for distinct foreign policy goals.
The space has already become the hottest frontier for business with competition from space x, and the market for nano satellites, picking up ISRO’s expertise and cost efficiency can bring forward India’s tech prowess as shown in recent launch of 104 satellites in a single PSLV.
It might be worthwhile for ISRO to forge alliances with the likes of SpaceX, Google, or Facebook, to conquer space. ISRO has demonstrated strong technological capabilities, riding on which India could do what it did in Information Technology (IT) outsourcing in satellite launches.
India is embarking on an ambitious endeavor to deliver public goods to its neighbors and foster regional connectivity and integration and through space diplomacy India is quietly asserting its role as an emerging power and a global leader.
5. What are ‘new issues’ with respect to formal agenda of the WTO-level negotiations? What is India’s stand towards these issues? Critically analyse.
The 10th World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference, held in Nairobi, Kenya, on 15–19 December 2015, adopted a far-reaching ministerial declaration to guide the work of the organization in the coming years. The last paragraph of this declaration created the possibility of bringing so-called ‘new issues’ to the WTO. This paragraph states, ‘while we concur that officials should prioritize work where results have not yet been achieved, some wish to identify and discuss other issues for negotiation; which are investment, competition policy, trade facilitation, transparency in government procurement, environment and electronic commerce’.
India opposed attempts by some developed nations to introduce ‘new issues’ including e-commerce and investment into the formal agenda of the World Trade Organization (WTO)-level negotiations on liberalization of global trade. Unless there is consensus among all the WTO member countries, these issues cannot be made part of the formal agenda.
India had rejected the attempts of the developed world to make such ‘new issues’ part of the ongoing Doha Round talks saying it will ‘dilute’ the ‘development agenda’ of the negotiations.
Besides pushing for progress in outstanding issues including those related to food security/sovereignty, India is also demanding that there should be formal discussions at the WTO-level on its proposal on a Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) on Services, which, among other things, envisages easier temporary movement of skilled workers to boost global services trade.