India’s trade deficit with China dips to $48.66 billion

Paper: II

Mains: General Studies- II: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations.

Why in News:

  • India’s trade deficit with China fell to $48.66 billion in 2019-20 on account of the decline in imports from the neighbouring country, according to government data.
  • Exports to China in the last financial year stood at $16.6 billion, while imports aggregated at $65.26 billion, the data showed.
  • The trade deficit stood at $53.56 billion in 2018-19 and $63 billion in 2017-18.

Key Details:

  • Exports to China in the last financial year stood at $16.6 billion, while imports aggregated at $65.26 billion.
  • The trade deficit stood at $53.56 billion in 2018-19 and $63 billion in 2017-18.
  • Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) from China in India also dipped to $163.78 million in 2019-20 from $229 million in the previous fiscal.

Steps taken by India:

  • India has time and again raised concerns over the widening trade deficit with China.
  • The government is framing technical regulations and quality norms for several products to reduce dependence on Chinese imports.
  • In April 2020, the government tightened norms for FDI coming from countries that share a land border with India.
  • As per the amended FDI policy, a company or an individual from a country that shares a land border with India can invest in any sector only after getting government approval.

India loses jurisdiction over Italian marines’ case

Paper:  II

Mains: General Studies- II: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations.

Why in News:

  • The Government of India said it was studying an international tribunal’s ruling that the Italian marines accused of killing two fishermen in the waters off Keralaon February 15, 2012, held “immunity” and would face a trial in Italy, not India.
  • While the tribunal held in Italy’s favour the main submission, of jurisdiction, it found merit in India’s counter-claim that the marines on board “Enrica Lexie” had violated the freedom of navigation rights under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) by shooting at fishing boat “St. Antony” and should pay compensation to the victims’ families, the boat owner and crew members.

Background:

  • The decision pertains to an incident of the year 2012 when two Italian marines fired shots while on-board an Italian vessel, Enrica Lexie killing two Indian fishermen aboard an Indian vessel, St. Anthony.
  • The two marines were released from India and sent to Italy through orders passed by the Supreme Court.
  • The dispute between the two countries as regards which country will try the two marines was before the PCA.

Key Details:

  • The PCA has ruled that Italy would have jurisdiction to decide on the question of immunity for the marines. Thus, India is precluded from exercising its jurisdiction.
  • The PCA also ruled that while India’s conduct has not been in breach of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), Italy breached provisions of the Convention by intercepting the navigation of India’s vessel.
  • Italy is, as a result, liable to pay compensation to India. And both the nations are required to hold consultations in order to arrive at the amount of compensation to be paid to India.

No final decision on India’s involvement in Colombo terminal: Rajapaksa

Paper: II

Mains: General Studies- II: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations.

Why in news:

A year after the previous government signed an agreement with India and Japan to jointly develop the East Container Terminal (ECT) in Colombo, Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa has said “there is no final agreement” on the project.

Background:

  • In 2019, Sri Lanka, Japan and India had signed an agreement to jointly develop the East Container Terminal at the Colombo Port.
  • Current Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa has said there is no final agreement on the project, stating that it was an agreement between former President Maithripala Sirisena and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Challenge/Issue:

  • The statement indicates that the project at the strategic port, coveted by India for years and discussed bilaterally at the highest levels, is still far from certain.
  • The controversy around the ECT is not new. The development of the terminal was a major flashpoint between former President Sirisena and former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
  • Wickremesinghe took the position that developing the terminal would help Sri Lanka emerge a shipping hub in the region, while Mr. Sirisena resisted any foreign involvement in managing national assets.
  • Development of the ECT has remained contentious in Sri Lanka, with nationalist groups objecting to any foreign involvement in running national assets.

Strategic importance and concerns:

  • The ECT is adjacent to the Colombo International Container Terminal, which is a joint venture between China Merchants Port Holdings Company Limited and the Ports Authority, with the Chinese company holding an 85% stake.
  • Over 70% of the transshipment business at the strategically located ECT comes from India.
  • India and China’s competing geopolitical interests in the island are well known, but India-backed projects have often seen more vocal protests.

China opposes U.K.’s citizenship offer

Paper: II

Mains: General Studies- II: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations.

Why in news:

China warned Britain that it could retaliate with corresponding measures for London’s decision to extend a broader path to citizenship for the residents of Hong Kong.

Key Details:

  • The British plan covers almost three million Hong Kongers who either have a British National Overseas (BNO) passport or are eligible to apply for one.
  • Britain’s offer came in response to a sweeping new security law that China unveiled for the former British territory.
  • The Chinese Embassy in London stressed that “all Chinese compatriots residing in Hong Kong are Chinese nationals”.
  • Hong Kong was under U.K. jurisdiction until it was handed over to China in 1997 with a guarantee that Beijing would preserve the city’s judicial and legislative autonomy for 50 years.
  • Britain had sought closer relations with China after ending its decades-long membership in the European Union this year.
  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government also irritated the U.S in January 2020 by allowing private Chinese company Huawei to unroll Britain’s speedy new data network. But Britain is now studying ways to cut Huawei out of its system entirely and build up an alliance of European and Asian providers that reduces China’s dominance in the field.

MoD approves 33 new fighter jets in deals worth ₹38,900 cr.

Paper: III

Mains: General Studies-III: Technology, Economic Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management

Why in News:

Amid the ongoing tensions on the border with China, the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), chaired by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, on Thursday approved deals worth ₹38,900 crore. This includes procurement of 21 MiG-29 fighter jets for the Indian Air Force (IAF), upgrade of 59 of them and acquirement of 12 Su-30 MKI aircraft.

Key Details:

  • These include procurement of 21 MiG-29 fighter jets for the Indian Air Force (IAF), upgrade of 59 MiG-29s and acquirement of 12 Su-30 MKI aircraft.
  • MiG-29 procurement and upgrade from Russia is estimated to cost ₹7,418 crore.
  • Su-30 MKI will be procured from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
  • Other deals include Pinaka ammunition, armoured vehicle BMP armament upgrades and Software Defined Radio for the Army, Long Range Land Attack Missile Systems of over 1,000 km range and Astra Beyond Visual Range air-to-air missiles for the Navy and the IAF.
  • All of these would be procured domestically and are worth an estimated ₹31,130 crore.
  • Another deal for 83 Light Combat Aircraft Mk-1A, estimated to cost ₹38,000 crore, is expected to be signed in the next two months.

Significance:

  • Approvals come a week after the Defence Minister’s visit to Moscow for the Victory Day Parade.
  • It is an indication that India and Russia are cooperating more closely on strategic ties as a result of the tension with China along the LAC.
  • Russia has assured India of all its requirements of defence supplies in the near future.

Bid to turn Shivalik forest into tiger reserve

Paper: III

Mains: General Studies-III: Technology, Economic Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management

Why in News:

  • The Saharanpur Divisional Commissioner has sent a proposal to the State government to declare the Shivalik forest in the Saharanpur circle into a tiger reserve.
  • The State government is actively considering the proposal and would push it forward to the Central government to take a call, sources said.
  • If accepted, it would be the fourth tiger reserve in Uttar Pradesh after Amangarh in Bijnor, Pilibhit and Dudhwa in Lakhimpur-Kheri.

Key Details:

  • The forest constitutes the northern tip of the State, located at the foothills of the Shivalik range, connects four States — Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.
  • It is believed that it will facilitate safe movement of tigers and also reduce the man-animal conflict.
  • As the Uttarakhand Government is proposing to relocate tigers from Corbett to Motichur range of the Rajaji National Park, it is believed that the Shivalik forests in Saharanpur would be suitable for their movement.