3RD NOVEMBER CURRENT AFFAIRS

1. Gilgit-Baltistan Issue

News: India has strongly rejected Pakistan’s move to grant provisional provincial status to Gilgit – Baltistan. Gilgit-Baltistan is one of the disputed territories of India.

Background:

  • Recently, Saudi Arabia, a key ally of Pakistan, had removed Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan from the Pakistan map on its new banknote after India asked it to take “urgent corrective steps” about the “gross misrepresentation”.
  • On the first anniversary of the revocation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, the Pakistan government had released a new “political map ”which included Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh and parts of western Gujarat as part of its territory.
  • Describing it as “political absurdity” and a “ridiculous assertion”, India said it “confirms the reality of Pakistan’s obsession with territorial aggrandisement supported by cross-border terrorism”. The Gilgit-Baltistan region is at the centre of USD 65 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor Infrastructure development plan.

Current scenario”

  • Pakistan has announced holding elections for the legislative assembly of Gilgit-Baltistan later this month.
  • Pakistan Supreme Court has also allowed Islamabad to amend a 2018 administrative order to conduct general elections in the region.
  • The Gilgit-Baltistan Order of 2018provided for administrative changes, including authorising the Prime Minister of Pakistan to legislate on an array of subjects.

India’s stand:

  • India has termed this move as an attempt to camouflage the “illegal” occupation of the region by Islamabad.
  • India has clarified that the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, including the area of so-called ‘Gilgit-Baltistan’, are an integral part of India by virtue of the legal, complete and irrevocable accession of Jammu and Kashmir to the Union of India in 1947.

Gilgit-Baltistan:

  • It is a chunk of high-altitude territory located on the north western corner of the Union Territory of Ladakh.
  • It is located strategically as it borders Pakistan, Afghanistan and China. The region was a part of the erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, but has been under Pakistan’s control since 4th November, 1947, following the invasion of Kashmir by tribal militias and the Pakistan army.
  • Maharaja Hari Singh, the last Dogra ruler of J&K, had signed the Instrument of Accession with India on 26thOctober 1947. India moved to the United Nations Security Council to raise the issue of Pakistan’s invasion on 1st January 1948.
  • The UN Security Council passed a resolution calling for Pakistan to withdraw from all of Jammu and Kashmir and then India had to reduce its forces to the minimum level following which a plebiscite would be held to ascertain people’s wishes.
  • However, no withdrawal was ever carried out and it remains a point of contention between two countries.

2. Bulk Drug Parks

News: Himachal Pradesh is one of the states vying for the allotment of a bulk drug park under a central government scheme announced earlier this year for setting up three such parks across the country.

Why Himachal?

  • Himachal already has Asia’s largest pharma manufacturing hub, that is the Baddi-Barotiwala-Nalagarh industrial belt, and the state produces around half of India’s total drug formulations.
  • Himachal offers power and water at the lowest tariffs in the country, and the state also has an industrial gas pipeline. It jumped nine places in this year’s ease-of-doing-business rankings declared by the Centre last month, securing the seventh position in the country.

What are bulk drugs or APIs?

  • A bulk drug is also called an active pharmaceutical ingredient (API). It is the key ingredient of a drug or medicine, which lends it the desired therapeutic effect or produces the intended pharmacological activity.
  • Take for example-Paracetamol– It is a bulk drug, which acts against pain. It is mixed with binding agents or solvents to prepare the finished pharmaceutical product, ie a paracetamol tablet, capsule or syrup, which is consumed by the patient.

Methodology:

  • They are prepared from multiple reactions involving chemicals and solvents. The primary chemical or the basic raw material which undergoes reactions to form an API is called the key starting material, or KSM.
  • Chemical compounds formed during the intermediate stages during these reactions are called drug intermediates or DIs.

Significance for India:

  • India has one of the largest pharmaceutical industries in the world (third largest by volume) but this industry largely depends on other countries, particularly China, for importing APIs, DIs and KSMs.
  • This year, drug manufacturers in India suffered repeated setbacks due to disruption in imports.
  • Factories in China shut down when the country went into a lockdown, and later, international supply chains were affected as the Covid pandemic gripped the entire world. The border conflict between India and China exacerbated the situation.

India’s steps:

  • Call for greater self-reliance: In June, the department of pharmaceuticals announced a scheme for the promotion of three bulk drug parks in the country.
  • A bulk drug park will have a designated contiguous area of land with common infrastructure facilities for the exclusive manufacture of APIs, DIs or KSMs, and also a common waste management system.
  • These parks are expected to bring down manufacturing costs of bulk drugs in the country and increase competitiveness in the domestic bulk drug industry.

Scheme for promotion of Bulk Drug parks:

  • The scheme will support three selected parks in the country by providing a one-time grant-in-aidfor the creation of common infrastructure facilities.
  • The grant-in-aid will be 70 per cent of the cost of the common facilitiesbut in the case of Himachal Pradesh and other hill states, it will be 90 per cent. The Centre will provide a maximum of Rs 1,000 crore per park.
  • A state can only propose one site,which is not less than a thousand acres in area, or not less than 700 acres in the case of hill states.

3. Cybercrimes

News: The Union Home Ministry has written to all States to examine and register FIRs based on the complaints received on the National Cybercrime Reporting Portal, www.cybercrime.gov.in.

Background:

  • Only 5% of total complaints registered on the portal are converted into First Information Reports (FIRs).
  • According to data compiled by NCRB, the number of registered cybercrimes increased by 63.5%in the year 2019 compared with the previous year’s.

Steps taken by Home Ministry:

  • Through the above mentioned portal, the Ministry aims to raise a group of “cybercrime volunteers” to flag “unlawful content” on the Internet. It has invited Good Samaritans to register as Cybercrime Volunteersin the role of Unlawful Content Flaggers for facilitating law enforcement agencies in identifying, reporting and removal of illegal / unlawful online content.

Unlawful Content:

  • It is categorised as content againstthe sovereignty and integrity of India, against defence of India, against security of the state, against friendly relations with foreign states, content aimed at disturbing public order, disturbing communal harmony and child sex abuse material.

Initiatives to Tackle Cybercrime

  • Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre (I4C):The I4C will assist in centralising cyber security investigations, prioritise the development of response tools and bring together private companies to contain the menace.
  • Draft Personal Data Protection Bill, 2018(based on the recommendation of Justice BN Srikrishna Committee) to secure citizens data.
  • Cyber Swachhta Kendra:The “Cyber Swachhta Kendra” (Botnet Cleaning and Malware Analysis Centre) is a part of the Government of India’s Digital India initiative under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY).
  • Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-IN):It is an organisation of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Government of India, with the objective of securing Indian cyberspace. It is the nodal agency which deals with cybersecurity threats like hacking and phishing.

National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal

  • Launched in 2019, it is a citizen-centric initiative enabling citizens to report cybercrimes online.
  • The portal specifically focuses on crimes against women, children, particularly child pornography, child sex abuse material, online content pertaining to rapes/gang rapes, etc. It also focuses on crimes like financial crime and social media related crimes like stalking, cyberbullying, etc.
  • It will improve the capacity of law enforcement agencies to investigate the cases after successful completion by improving coordination amongst the law enforcement agencies of different States, districts and police stations.

Budapest Convention

  • TheCouncil of Europe’s (CoE) Cybercrime Convention, also known as the Budapest Convention is the sole legally binding international multilateral treaty on cybercrime. It coordinates cybercrime investigations between nation-states and criminalizes certain cybercrime conduct.
  • It was open for signature in 2001 and came into force in 2004. The Budapest Convention is supplemented by a Protocol on Xenophobia and Racism committed through computer systems.
  • India isnot a party to it. India recently voted in favour of a Russian-led UN resolution to set up a separate convention. The resolution seeks to set up new cyber norms considered as a counter alternative to the US backed Budapest Accord.

4. The Shifting Trajectory of India’s Foreign Policy

Signing of BECA:

  • The centrepiece of the third 2+2 dialogue was the signing of the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA)for Geo-Spatial Cooperation. With the signing of BECA, India is now a signatory to all U.S.-related foundational military agreements.
  • Built into the agreements are provisions for a two-way exchange of information.
  • India had signed the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA), in 2016, and the Communications, Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA), in 2018. By appending its signature to BECA, India is in a position to specifically receive sensitive geo-spatial intelligence.
  • The foundational military pacts effectively tie Indiato the wider U.S. strategic architecture in the region.

Concerns:

  • With the signing of these agreements, India’s claims of maintaining strategic autonomywill be doubtful.
  • By signing BECA, India has signed on to becoming part of the wider anti-China ‘coalition of the willing’led by the U.S. By signing on to BECA at this juncture, India has effectively jettisoned its previous policy of neutrality, and of maintaining its equi-distance from power blocs.

Impact of signing BECA

India & China

  • China-India relations have never been easy. Since 1988, India has pursued, despite occasional problems, a policy which put a premium on an avoidance of conflicts with China.
  • This will now become increasingly problematic as India gravitates towards the U.S. sphere of influence.
  • India’s willingness to sign foundational military agreements with the U.S. would suggest that India has made its choice, which can only exacerbate already deteriorating China-India relations.

India & South Asia

  • India needs to pay greater attention at this time to offset its loss of influence in its immediate neighbourhood (in South Asia), and in its extended neighbourhood (in West Asia).
  • Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh, normally perceived to be within India’s sphere of influence, currently seem to be out of step with India’s approach on many issues.
  • At the same time, both China and the U.S. separately, seem to be making inroads and enlarging their influence here. The Maldives, for instance, has chosen to enter into a military pact with the U.S. to counter Chinese expansionism in the Indian Ocean region.
  • India needs to ensure that the latest UAE-Israel linkagedoes not adversely impact India’s interests in the region. India must also not rest content with the kind of relations it has with Israel, as Tel Aviv has its own distinct agenda in West Asia. Furthermore, India needs to devote greater attention to try and restore India-Iran ties which have definitely frayed in recent years.

India & Afghanistan

  • India must decide on how best to try and play a role in Afghanistan without getting stuck.
  • India had subscribed to an anti-Taliban policy and was supportive of the Northern Alliance (prior to 2001).
  • The new policy that dictates India’s imperatives today, finds India not unwilling to meet the Taliban.
  • India must decide how a shift in policy at this time would serve India’s objectives in Afghanistan, considering the tremendous investment it has made in recent decades to shore up democracy in that country.

Indian & SCO, NAM

  • SCO, which has China and Russia as its main protagonists — and was conceived as an anti-NATO entity — will test India’s diplomatic skills.
  • Even though India currently has a detached outlook, vis-à-visthe Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), and has increasingly distanced itself from the African and Latin American group in terms of policy prescriptions, matters could get aggravated, following India’s new alliance patterns.
  • It would be a rude awakening for India, if it is seen as no longer a stellar member of NAM.

India & Russia

  • The impact of India signing on to U.S.-related foundational military agreements, cannot but impact India-Russia relations. India-Russia relations in recent years have not been as robust as in the pre-2014 period, but many of the edifices that sustained the relationship at optimum levels, including annual meetings between the Russian President and the Indian Prime Minister have remained.
  • It is difficult to see how this can be sustained, if India is seen increasingly going into the U.S. embrace.
  • Almost certainly in the circumstances, India can hardly hope to count on Russia as a strategic ally.
  • This is one relationship which India will need to handle with skill and dexterity, as it would be a tragedy if India-Russia relations were to deteriorate at a time when the world is in a state of disorder.

Conclusion

  • While India moves towards more robust engagement with the U.S., it must also consider impact of such move on the relations with the other countries.