1. Impact of New US President on India
News: Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. has defeated Donald Trump to become the 46th US President. Biden’s running mate Kamala Devi Harris has become the first woman and first Indian- and African- American Vice President of the country. Biden and Harris will be sworn into office on 20th January 2021.
- The US has a Presidential System, whereas India has the Parliamentary System of Government.
- There are several way sin which the US economy, its health and the policy choices of its government affect India. Both the countries recently had 2+2 dialogue.
- Much before he became Vice President in the Barack Obama administration, Biden had advocated a stronger relationship with India.
- Biden played an important role, both as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and later as Vice President, in systematically deepening strategic engagement with India.
- In fact, in 2006, three years before he became the Vice-President of the US, Biden announced his vision for the future of US-India relations: “My dream is that in 2020, the two closest nations in the world will be India and the United States, ”he had said.
Joe Biden’s as VP in the Obama administration:
- The US officially declared its support for India’s membership in a reformed and expanded United Nations Security Council.
- India was declared a “Major Defense Partner” –a status approved by the US Congress – which made it easier to share advanced and critical technology to India to strengthen defence ties. This was crucial since it was for the first time that any country was given this status, outside of the US’s traditional alliance system.
- In August 2016, the two sides signed the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA),the first of the three “foundational pacts” for deeper military cooperation. Cooperation with India to fight terrorism was also strengthened.
What changes we can expect?
- Under Biden administration, India’s trade with the US could recover from the dip since 2017-18.
- Trade Surplus: A recent analysis by experts of CARE Ratings (a credit rating agency) shows that over the past 20 years, India has always had a trade surplus (exports exceeding imports) with the US.
- The trade surplus has widened from USD 5.2 billion in 2001-02 to USD 17.3 billion in 2019-20. Trade surplus had peaked at USD 21.2 billion in 2017-18and has moderated to some extent.
- In 2019-20, India exported goods worth USD 53 billion to the US – that’s roughly 17% of all Indian exports that year and imported goods worth USD 35.7 billion in return – that’s roughly 7.5% of all Indian imports.
- Trade in Services: India accounts for nearly 5% of USA’s services imports from the World.
- The US is the fifth-biggest source for Foreign Direct Investment(FDI – investment in the physical assets inside India) into India. Only Mauritius, Singapore, Netherlands, and Japan have invested more FDI since 2000. The US also accounts for one-third of all Foreign Portfolio Investments (that is, investment in financial assets) into India.
H1-B Visa Issue:
- How a US President looks at the H1-B visa issue, affects the prospects of Indian youth far more than the youth of any other country. Under President Trump, who severely curtailed the visa regime, owing to his policy of “America First”, India had suffered the most.
- H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows American companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise.
US’ Generalized System of Preference:
- India’s exclusion from the US’ Generalized System of Preference (GSP)could come up for reconsideration under Biden.
- In 2019, President Donald Trump had terminated India’s designation as a beneficiary developing nation under the GSP trade programme after determining that it has not assured the US that it will provide “equitable and reasonable access” to its markets.
- India was the largest beneficiary of the programme in 2017with USD 5.7 billion in imports to the US given duty-free status. GSP is designed to promote economic development by allowing duty-free entry for thousands of products from designated beneficiary countries.
- Other points of contention between India and US – such as the tricky issue of data localisationor capping prices of medicines and medical devices – have a chance of getting towards a resolution.
- Further, under the Trump administration, the US sanctions on Iran severely limited India’s sourcing of cheap crude oil.
- On China, it is more likely that a Biden administration will help India against China, instead of clubbing the two together.
- Paris Climate Accord: Biden has promised to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord, and this may help countries such as India in dealing with the massive challenges – both technical and financial – on this front.
Civil Liberties and Democratic Rights in India:
- Although some US Congressmen and women had raised red flags on the human rights situation following the revoking of J&K’s special status under Article 370and passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act alongside the proposed nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC), the Trump administration had not taken any actions beyond making some perfunctory statements.
- According to the Biden campaign’s policy paper, Biden has been “disappointed by the measures that the Government of India has taken with the implementation and aftermath of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam and the passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act into law”.
2. Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions
News: In a significant victory for India at the United Nations, Indian diplomat Vidisha Maitra was elected to the U.N. Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ).
- India has a stellar record of bringing professional auditing experience to the U.N. and contributing outstanding professionals to U.N. bodies.
- With India’s rising obligations in both assessed as well as voluntary contributions to the U.N., India holds key responsibility of administrative and budgetary management of U.N.
- The victory gives a strong display of support by U.N. member states for India.
- It comes as India gets ready to sit in the U.N. Security Council as a non-permanent member for a two-year term beginning January 2021.
- Advisory Committee is an expert Committee of sixteen Members elected by the General Assembly for a period of three years, on the basis of a broad geographical representation.
- Members serve in a personal capacity and not as representatives of Member States. The Committee holds three sessions a year with total meeting time between nine and ten months per year. The Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Committee are elected by the Members of the Advisory Committee.
- To examine and report on the budget submitted by the Secretary-General to the General Assembly.
- To advise the General Assembly concerning any administrative and budgetary matters referred to it.
- Examines, on behalf of the General Assembly, the administrative budgets of the specialised agencies and proposals for financial arrangements with such agencies.
- To consider and report to the General Assembly on the auditors’ reports on the accounts of the United Nations and of the specialised agencies.
3. Western Ghats Ecologically Sensitive Area
News: Recently, a Kerala-based NGO for farmers has moved the Supreme Court (SC) to declare the draft notification on the Western Ghats Ecologically Sensitive Area (ESA) unconstitutional. It has sought a direction to the government to not implement the Madhav Gadgil and Kasturirangan committees’ reports on the conservation of the Western Ghats.
- The Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel(WGEEP), also known as Gadgil Committee, and the Kasturirangan Committee, a High-Level Working Group, were constituted to conserve and protect the biodiversity of Western Ghats while allowing for sustainable and inclusive development of the region.
- They recommended that identified geographical areas falling in the six States of Kerala, Karnataka, Goa, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu should be declared as ESA.
- A draft notification related to the same was issued in 2018mentioning the areas to be notified in the ESA.
What are Ecologically Sensitive Areas?
- Eco-Sensitive Zones or Ecologically Fragile Are as are located within 10 km of Protected Areas, National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries. ESAs are notified by the MoEFCC under Environment (Protection) Act 1986.
- Aim: To regulate certain activities around National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries so as to minimise the negative impacts on the fragile ecosystem encompassing the protected areas.
Issues Highlighted by the Petition:
- The draft notification would declare 123 agricultural villages in Kerala as ESA converting the semi-urban villages in the region into forests with no facilities and roads. It will affect 22 lakh people and cripple the economy of Kerala.
- The Centre had wrongly branded people who had been residing in the Western Ghats area, as the “destroyers of the biodiversity and agents of ecological damage.” Apart from that, it suggested that ESA in Kerala should be restricted to reserved forests and protected areas.
- It recommended that all of the Western Ghats should be declared as the ESA with only limited development allowed in graded zones.
- It classified the Western Ghats into ESA 1, 2 and 3of which ESA-1 is a high priority zone where almost all of the developmental activities (mining, thermal power plants, etc) should be
- It also recommended the constitution of Western Ghats Ecology Authority(WGEA), as a statutory authority under the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) with the powers under Section 3 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
- It was criticised for being more environment-friendly and not in tune with the ground realities.
- It sought to balance the development and environment protection in contrast to the system proposed by the Gadgil report. The committee’s major recommendations were:
- Instead of the total area of Western Ghats, only 37% of the total area to be brought under ESA.
- A complete ban on mining, quarrying and sand mining in ESA.
- No thermal power projects to be allowed and hydropower projects to be allowed only after detailed study.
- Red industries(highly polluting industries) to be strictly
- Exclusion of inhabited regions and plantations from the purview of ESAs making it a pro-farmer approach.
4. Warli Paintings
News: Artists in Hyderabad are using traditional Warli art (Maharashtra) form not just to beautify Hyderabad, but also to create awareness on important issues.
- Warli is a traditional art form of Its roots can be traced to as early as the 10th century A.D.
- These paintings are distinctive with their vivid contrast expressions. These paintings are mainly dominated by basic geometric shapes like circles, triangles and squares.
- These geometric shapes stand as a symbol of natural elements in our environment.
- For example, the circles represent the sun and moon, the triangles represent the mountains and the squares are considered as the central motifs of the painting.
- People and animals are represented by two inverted triangles joined together, where the upper triangle is the torso and the lower triangle is the pelvis. The central theme of the paintings are scenes portraying hunt in, fishing, farming, festival and dances, trees and animals are used to surround the central theme.
- Warli art form is being used by many artists to beautify cities and spread awareness through wall paintings.
- It is also being used to beautify bags, bed sheets and many other items. Warli is the vivid expression of daily and social events of the Warli tribe of Maharashtra, used by them to embellish the walls of village houses.
- They are an indigenous tribe or Adivasis, living in the Mountainous as well as coastal areas of Maharashtra-Gujarat border and surrounding areas.
- They speak an unwritten Varli language which belongs to the southern zone of the Indo-Aryan languages.