Daily Current Affairs for 16th July 2020

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India and European Union push trade talks

Paper: II

Mains:   General Studies Paper-II, Important International institutions, agencies and fora- their structure, mandate.

Why in News?

India and the European Union committed to a framework for strategic cooperation until 2025, and vowed to cooperate on their response to the coronavirus pandemic, and at the United Nations Security Council.

The assurances came as Prime Minister Narendra Modi held talks with the European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen via video-conferencing.

Key details:

  • In a new initiative to revive talks on a free trade agreement that have been suspended since 2013, the two sides announced a “high level dialogue” between Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal and E.U. Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan to try and take the Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) forward.
  • “India and the European Union are natural partners,” said Mr. Modi in his opening remarks. “Our partnership is important for global peace and stability, and this reality is clearer given the situation around the world,” he added. He also referred to shared “universal values” of democracy, pluralism, inclusivity, respect for international institutions and multilateralism between India and the European Union.
  • The leaders discussed India’s tensions with China at the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the situation with Iran, and concerns over cross border terrorism from Pakistan.
  • The EU leadership also raised concerns over the situation in Jammu and Kashmir as well as the Citizenship Amendment Act.
  • “Regarding the Citizenship law, you know that in the European Parliament this was an important topic, and we raised this issue in our talks. I would like to say that we trust Indian institutions. We understand the Supreme Court will have a role to play to assess this legislation,” said Mr. Michel.
  • “We took a decision with India to continue a dialogue on human rights in order to exchange best practices and have the best understanding on how to tackle this issue for India and the E.U.,” he added.
  • When asked at the briefing whether the European Union valued its strategic ties with India or China more, Ms. Von der Leyen said ties with both countries were “very different”, although they had a common interest in tackling climate change, and building trade.
  • According to diplomats, the high level dialogue on trade and investment now launched is a key takeaway of the E.U.-India summit, which was last held in 2017, and also failed to make headway on FTA negotiations that began in 2007, but stopped in 2013.
  • “We have been at it too long. It is time, especially with the COVID recession staring at all and an aggressive China, to leverage each other’s strengths and push better economics between India and the EU,” said former Indian Ambassador to Brussels, Manjeev Singh Puri.
  • “Prime Minister’s statement that “Atmanirbhar Bharat” would be open to the world should be music to the ears of European companies,” he added.

Way forward:

The summit is aimed at delivering concrete benefits for the people in the European Union and India. The two sides issued a joint political statement, a five-year roadmap for the India-E.U. strategic partnership, a civil nuclear research and development cooperation agreement between EURATOM and the Department of Atomic Energy, a declaration on “resource efficiency and circular economy” to exchange best practices in range of areas and the renewal of their science and technology agreement for another five years.Both sides stressed the importance of bilateral trade, as EU is India’s largest trading partner, while India is the E.U.’s ninth biggest trading partner.

India’s population may peak by 2047

Paper: I

Mains:   General Studies Paper-I, population and associated issues, poverty and developmental issues, urbanization, their problems and their remedies.

Why in News?

When this century ends, India may no longer be a country of a billion, says a projection that appears in the online edition of the Lancet.

Key points:

  • At the current rate of growth, India’s population is likely to peak by 2047 at about 1.61 billion and then decline to 1.03 billion by 2100. However, were it to meet UN Sustainable Goal Development targets, the peak would be earlier and see a population decline to 929 million.
  • Conventional wisdom is that though a decline in population is expected, it is expected to begin only around 2046 and that fall, according to the latest 2019 assessment by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) calculation, is expected to see India’s population settle at a little over 1.4 billion, though this too ranges from 2.1 – 0.9 billion.

Access to contraception

  • The sharper fall, say the group of scientists, who are affiliated to the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, is due to the assumption that all women globally will have much higher access to contraception and education.
  • This scenario will lead to a sharper reduction in the Total Fertility Rate (TFR), a metric that shows on average how many children a women must have to keep replenishing population. A TFR lower than 2.1, it is said, leads to a decline in a country’s population.
  • The UNPD forecasts assume that all countries mirror the trend in selected low-fertility countries in Europe, east and Southeast Asia, and North America, where the TFRs converge towards a level of approximately 1.75.
  • “In our model, in a population where all females have 16 years of education and 95 percent of females have access to contraception, the global TFR was projected to converge to 1.41 (1.35–1.47). The difference between a convergent TFR of 1.75 or 1.41 is profound,” the scientists say in their paper.
  • Seen this way, they argue, world population is expected to peak by 2061 at 9.73 billion and by 2100 reach 8.79 billion. The UNDP forecasts about 10.8 billion at this time.

Five most populated

  • India will, however, remain the most populous country. The five largest countries in 2100 (are projected) to be India, Nigeria, China, the U.S. and Pakistan.
  • However, these forecasts showed different future trajectories between countries. “Nigeria is forecast to have continued population growth through 2100 and was expected to be the second most populous country by then. The reference forecasts for China and India peaked before 2050 and both countries thereafter had steep declining trajectories,” the study added.

Maldives can’t grow without India

Paper: II

Mains:   General Studies Paper-II, India and its neighbourhood- relations.

Why in News?

The Maldives cannot grow or develop further if the country abandons its ties with India, Speaker and former President Mohamed has said.

Key points:

  • Speaking at a ceremony in Male, to mark the Government of India’s handing over of outdoor fitness equipment for 61 islands across the Maldives, Mr. Nasheed said: “We must be wise, and join hands with India, so that we may enjoy similar growth and development. It is my opinion, and my firm belief that we cannot grow or develop beyond what we are now, if we abandon our close relationship with India.”
  • Emphasising the Maldives’s presence and role in the Indian Ocean Region, Mr. Nasheed said: “I am also certain that Maldivians and their elected leaders will be wise and make shrewd and sensible decisions regarding our foreign policy and our relationship with our closest allies and neighbours, the closest and dearest of whom is India.”
  • This initiative is part of New Delhi’s nearly 200 million MVR-worth cash grant and development projects, being executed with Male, apart from the USD 800 million line of credit.
  • Underscoring the Maldives’s cultural connect with India, Mr. Nasheed said “there is no Maldivian citizen who doesn’t wish” the Bachchans – recently tested COVID-19 – a speedy recovery. “Both our people eat rice and curry, tandoori and biryani. We watch Kasauti, and movies starring Shatrughan Sinha, Dharmendra, Amitabh Bachchan and Rekha. Even our cultures have strong similarities.”
  • Speaking on the occasion, Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid said: “The traditionally close, bilateral relationship between the Maldives and India have been strengthened and deepened since November 2018. This is in no doubt, due to the personal commitment of President Solih to cultivating good neighbourly relations with our closest neighbour.”


  • India and Maldives share ethnic, linguistic, cultural, religious and commercial links. India was among the first to recognize the Maldives after its independence in 1965 and later established its mission at Male in 1972.
  • Maldives’ proximity to the west coast of India and its situation at the hub of commercial sea-lanes running through the Indian Ocean, and its potential to allow a third nation’s naval presence in the area imbues it with significant strategic importance to India.
  • India has a pre-eminent position in the Maldives, with relations extending to virtually most areas.

India was the first to assist the Maldives during the 2004 Tsunami as well as the water crisis in Malé in December 2014.

Child rights body to form health, nutrition division

Paper: II

Mains:   General Studies Paper-II, Issues relating to the development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

Why in News?

The Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR) decided to constitute a ‘health & nutrition’ division within the commission to ensure accessibility, availability, and adequacy of health and nutrition to every child in the city.

Key points:

  • The division will ensure adequate steps that shall be taken to monitor, review and take action on the implementation of mid-day meal scheme in schools, provision of supplements for children (0-6 years), provision of supplements for pregnant and lactating women under Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), neonatal care and screening in hospitals and immunisation of children, an official statement said.
  • “It is high time Delhi demonstrated that curbing child malnutrition and infant mortality rate is possible through honest, transparent, and committed governance,” said Women and Child Development Minister Rajendra Pal Gautam.
  • Anurag Kundu, chairperson of DCPCR, said that this was a long-pending move which was needed to fulfill the “government’s commitment to the spirited implementation of the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of the Child”.

Pacific a pivot for ties with Moscow: Indian envoy

Paper: II

Mains:   General Studies Paper-II,Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.

Why in News?

India wants Russia to be more involved in the Indo-Pacific and Moscow should look to its own interests in the region and that will create a mutual basis for cooperation and dialogue, said Indian envoy to Russia DB Venkatesh Varma while referring to Indian and Russian investments in Vietnam’s oil and gas sector as one of the areas of cooperation.

Key points

  • DB Venkatesh Varma said that,“We see Russia as a very important Pacific power… Just like Russia has an interest in the Indian Ocean, we have an interest in the Pacific Ocean. I think the connectivity that we are looking at, we are looking at Indo-Pacific as a geographic continuum for cooperation and for certain principles that we want this region to be free and fair for everyone,”.
  • He was speaking at a webinar, jointly organised by the Russian International Affairs Council and the Indian Council of World Affairs.
  • Referring to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s statements on Indo-Pacific on several occasions that Russia does not want to create new divisions especially with respect to containment of China, Mr. Varma said India saw this in a slightly different light. India did not see it as containment or non-containment but as a positive construct that brought together countries and people on the basis of certain principles. “If India were to say that no country in the region should look for unilateral advantage at the cost of international rules and law, I am sure Russia will agree,” he said.
  • In this direction, he referred to investments by both India and Russia in the oil and gas sector of Vietnam. If there was a challenge to well established principles of international law, norms and contracts, Indian interests were as much effected as much as Russian interests. “This is an area we need to work together. There is already a lot of common ground.”

Stand-offs in SCS

  • A stable Indo-Pacific assumes particular importance for Russia too with the proposed energy bridge from Arctic to Vladivostok to Chennai.
  • There have been stand-offs between China and Vietnam in the South China Sea due to overlapping claims close to the Indian oil blocks in Vietnam’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
  • Varma said both India and Russia saw ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) centrality as critical to the Indo-Pacific concept.
  • There was a perception that India and Russia dealt with Indo-Pacific as different concepts but “the differences are quite exaggerated.” The commonalities far outweighed the differences.
  • Varma said Russian President Vladimir Putin will visit India later this year coinciding with the 20th year of India-Russia strategic partnership.
  • Putin has visited India eight times on bilateral visits so far and since 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Mr. Putin met 22 times on various occasions.

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