The G7’s infrastructure investment plan to counter China’s Belt and Road Initiative

GS Paper 2: International Relations

Important for:

Prelims exam level: Not Much
Mains exam Level: Countering China
Context
The G7 countries, who are meeting during the ongoing Leaders’ Summit in Germany, have officially launched the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGII), a joint initiative to fund infrastructure projects in developing countries. The project is being seen as the bloc’s counter to China’s ‘Belt and Road Initiative.
What is G7’s PGII?
• The infrastructure plan was first announced in June 2021 during last year’s G7 Summit in the UK.
• The US President Joe Biden had called it the Build Back Better World (B3W) framework.
• It did not register much progress and details regarding the plan’s time period or funding source were unclear.
• This time around, the initiative was officially launched as PGII.
• Essentially, G7 countries — the US, Canada, Italy, the UK, France, Germany, and Japan — and the EU have noted the infrastructure projects being undertaken and funded by China at a global level and decided to present their alternative mechanism for it.
• The stated purpose of both the PGII and the BRI is to help secure funding for countries to build critical infrastructure such as roads, ports, bridges, communication setups, etc. to enhance global trade and cooperation.
• However, the G7 say their initiative is meant to be transparent, focused on building climate change-resilient infrastructure, and help in achieving objectives of gender equality and health infrastructure development.
Where are funds being directed under the plan?
• In India, the US International Development Finance Corporation, the development bank of the country, will invest up to $30 million in the Omnivore Agritech and Climate Sustainability Fund 3, described as “an impact venture capital fund that invests in entrepreneurs building future of agriculture, food systems, climate, and the rural economy
• The fund will invest in companies that “increase food security and promote both climate resilience and climate adaptation in India, as well as improve the profitability and agricultural productivity of smallholder farms.”
• Apart from India, projects have been announced in countries across West Africa, Southeast Asia, and South America.

What is China’s BRI?

• China began the Belt and Road Initiative in 2013.
• It aims to revive the ancient trade routes crossing to and from China–from Rome in Europe to East Asia.
• Under this, the Chinese government helped in providing loans for infrastructure projects to various countries, and in many cases, Chinese companies were awarded contracts for carrying out the work. This helped China mark its footprints at a global level.
• China was criticised in the West and by some other countries for providing unsustainable debts to countries that will be unable to repay them. ( Debt-Trap Diplomacy)
• According to a 2019 World Bank report, among the 43 corridor economies for which detailed data was available, 12 could face a situation where debts were not sustainable, which could lead to public assets being handed over to foreign contractors or China itself.

India’s stand on BRI

• India opposed the BRI as it included the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which connected Kashgar in China with the Gwadar port in Pakistan via Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
• India’s External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said in 2021: “Any serious connectivity initiative must be transparent and conform to the most basic principle of respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Debt-Trap Diplomacy

Debt-trap diplomacy is when a richer country lends to poorer countries – that are resource-rich or strategically placed – overwhelming them with debts that are not sustainable. This leads the poorer countries to give up their strategic assets or give in to political leverage.

What is SC’s ‘Kihoto Hollohan’ judgment?

GS Paper 2: Indian Constitution – historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure
Important for:
Prelims exam level: Kihoto Hollohan Case
Mains exam Level: Political conundrum in states over defection
Why in News
As the political battle in Maharashtra moves to the Supreme Court, the role and powers of the Deputy Speaker are in focus.

Background:

What does the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution say?

• The Tenth Schedule, which was inserted in the Constitution by the Constitution (Fifty-Second Amendment) Act, 1985, provides for the disqualification of Members of Parliament and state legislatures who defect.
• The Schedule says that “a member of a House belonging to any political party shall be disqualified from being a member of the House… if he has voluntarily given up his membership of such political party; or if he votes or abstains from voting in such House contrary to any direction issued by the political party… without obtaining… prior permission…”
What is the extent of the Speaker’s powers under the Tenth Schedule?
• The Tenth Schedule describes the Speaker’s sweeping discretionary powers: “If any question arises as to whether a member of a House has become subject to disqualification under this Schedule, the question shall be referred for the decision of the Chairman or, as the case may be, the Speaker of such House and his decision shall be final.”

What is the ‘Kihoto Hollohan’ case?

• The law covering the disqualification of lawmakers and the powers of the Speaker in deciding such matters became part of the statute book in 1985 when the Tenth Schedule to the Constitution, commonly known as the ‘anti-defection law’, was adopted.
• A constitutional challenge to the Tenth Schedule was mounted, which was settled by the apex court in ‘

Kihoto Hollohan case’.

• In this case a Constitution Bench, while upholding the validity of the anti-defection law, held that the Speaker’s decision was subject to judicial review, albeit on limited grounds.
o It also made it clear that this should take place after a final decision, and there can be no interim order, except if there is an interim disqualification or suspension.
What is the GST Council, what does it do?

GS Paper 3: Indian Economy

Important for:
Prelims exam level: GST Council: Mandate, Composition
Mains exam Level: GST, Fiscal Federalism
Why in News
The 47th meeting of the Goods and Services Tax Council held in Chandigarh, almost marking five years of the tax system coming into effect on July 1, 2017.

What is the GST Council?

• The Goods and Services Tax regime came into force after the Constitutional (122nd Amendment) Bill was passed by both Houses of Parliament in 2016.
• The GST Council – a joint forum of the Centre and the states — was set up by the President as per Article 279A (1) of the amended Constitution.
Members
• The members of the Council include the Union Finance Minister (chairperson), the Union Minister of State (Finance) from the Centre. Each state can nominate a minister in-charge of finance or taxation or any other minister as a member.

Why was the Council set up?

• The Council, according to Article 279, is meant to “make recommendations to the Union and the states on important issues related to GST, like the goods and services that may be subjected or exempted from GST, model GST Laws”.
• It also decides on various rate slabs of GST.
• For instance, an interim report by a panel of ministers has suggested imposing 28 per cent GST on casinos, online gaming and horse racing. A decision on this will be taken at the Council meeting.
Recent Developments
• The ongoing meeting is the first since a decision of the Supreme Court in May this year, which stated recommendations of the GST Council are not binding.
• The court said Article 246A of the Constitution gives both Parliament and state legislatures “simultaneous” power to legislate on GST and recommendations of the Council “are the product of a collaborative dialogue involving the Union and States”.
• This was hailed by some states, such as Kerala and Tamil Nadu, who believe states can be more flexible in accepting the recommendations as suited to them.
• The council’s meeting is also likely to focus on the issue of extension of the GST compensation regime beyond June 2022.
o This was a special mechanism by which states were assured that their revenues would not be

GST Compensation Cess

• GST Compensation Cess is levied by the Goods and Services Tax (Compensation to States) Act 2017.
• The object of levying this cess is to compensate the states for the loss of revenue arising due to the implementation of GST on 1st July 2017 for a period of five years or such period as recommended by the GST Council.
affected by the new GST system.

PADMA

GS Paper 3: Science and Technology- Developments and their Applications and Effects in Everyday Life.
Important for:
Prelims exam level: Related ministry and objective
Mains exam Level: Use of technology in streamlining the payment system and increase transparency

Why in news

PADMA, the Centralised Pay System for Indian Coast Guard has been launched by Controller General of Defence Accounts (CGDA), Ministry of Defence,

About PADMA

● Payroll Automation for Disbursement of Monthly Allowances(PADMA) is an automated Pay & Allowances module for the Indian Coast Guard.
● PADMA is leveraging latest technology which will provide seamless and timely disbursal of Pay & Allowances to around 15,000 Indian Coast Guard personnel.
● This module has been developed under the aegis of Defense Accounts Department and will be operated by Pay Accounts Office Coast Guard, Noida.
● The launch marked the beginning of the Centralized Pay System (CPS), the foundation of which is being laid down by the Defence Accounts Department Headquarters to provide one stop pay accounting solutions for all organisations under the Ministry
● It has been designed to ensure dedicated services and reduce manual intervention at every level & to promote E-Governance in a big way.
● Launch of PADMA will strengthen the Digital India concept.
● It is an ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ initiative as the entire module has been designed and developed by Indian entrepreneurs assisted by domain experts.

UN Ocean Conference

GS Paper 2 and 3: International organisation and conferences, Conservation of ocean.
Important for:
Prelims exam level: UN Ocean conference, membership
Mains exam Level: Conservation and sustenance of ocean and ocean resources.
Why in news
The Union Minister of Earth Sciences is in Portugal to take part in the “2022 UN Ocean Conference” in Lisbon from 27th of June to 1st of July 2022.
About 2022 UN Ocean Conference
● The Ocean Conference, co-hosted by the Governments of Kenya and Portugal, comes at a critical time as the world is seeking to address the many of the deep-rooted problems of our societies laid bare by the COVID-19 pandemic and which will require major structural transformations and common shared solutions that are anchored in the SDGs.
● To mobilize action, the Conference will seek to propel much needed science-based innovative solutions aimed at starting a new chapter of global ocean action.
● Solutions for a sustainably managed ocean involve green technology and innovative uses of marine resources.
● They also include addressing the threats to health, ecology, economy and governance of the ocean – acidification, marine litter and pollution, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, and the loss of habitats and biodiversity.
● The five-day UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon, Portugal has drawn senior officials and scientists from more than 120 countries as well as activists dismayed by the failure to come up with international rules that might ensure ocean sustainability.

What is the need of this conference?

● The ocean is facing unprecedented threats as a result of human activities.
● Its health and ability to sustain life will only get worse as the world population grows and human activities increase.
● If we want to address some of the most defining issues of our time such as climate change, food insecurity, diseases and pandemics, diminishing biodiversity, economic inequality and even conflicts and strife, we must act now to protect the state of our ocean.
● Sustainable Development Goal 14 stresses the need to conserve and sustainably use the world’s oceans, seas and marine resources.

Why are Oceans critical

● While they cover 70 per cent of the planet, the oceans form the largest biosphere, and are home to up to 80 percent of all life in the world.
● They generate 50 percent of the oxygen we need, absorb 25 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions and capture 90 percent of the additional heat generated from those emissions.
● It is not just ‘the lungs of the planet’ but also its largest carbon sink – a vital buffer against the impacts of climate change.
● It nurtures unimaginable biodiversity and produces food, jobs, mineral and energy resources needed for life on the planet to survive and thrive.
India’s stand at 2022 UN Ocean conference
● India assures the world community that it is committed to protect at least 30 % of “our” lands, waters and oceans and adhere to its commitment of 30X30 by 2030.

India joined the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People, which was initiated at the “One Planet Summit” in Paris in January 2021, which aims to promote an international agreement to protect at least 30% of the world’s land and ocean by 2030.

● India offers to provide science and innovation based solutions for the implementation of SDG-Goal 14 through partnerships and environmentally friendly solutions
● Minister said, India is committed to the “Coastal Clean Seas Campaign” and has declared that India will soon achieve a complete ban on single use plastics. One of the best examples is in phasing out of plastic /polyethylene bags and promoting the alternatives such as usage of cotton/jute cloth bags.
● The research to gather scientific data and information on Marine Litter in different matrices viz., coastal waters, sediments, biota and beaches as a part of formulating a National Policy has already begun.
● It has proposed to establish Sustainable Coastal and Ocean Research Institute (SCORI) to meet the needs and aspirations of the Pacific Island Countries (PIC).

Sustainable Development Goal 14: Life Below Water

Adopted in 2015 as an integral aspect of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its set of 17 transformative goals, Goal 14 stresses the need to conserve and sustainably use the world’s oceans, seas and marine resources.

UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development 2021 – 2030

The Decade provides a common framework to ensure that ocean science can fully support countries’ actions to sustainably manage the ocean and more particularly to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – through the creation of a new foundation, across the science-policy interface, to strengthen the management of the ocean and coasts for the benefit of humanity.

RIMPAC-22

Miscellaneous
Important for:
Prelims exam level: RIMPAC organiser and participant
Mains exam Level: Multinational cooperation in defence and security
Why in news
INS Satpura and one P8I maritime patrol aircraft from the Indian Navy are participating in the US Navy led biennial Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise 2022.
About RIMPAC-22
First conducted in 1971, RIMPAC 2022 will be the 28th iteration of the multinational maritime exercise.
Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) is a US-led biennial exercise.
The exercise will be conducted in and around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California region from 29 June to 4 August.
The iteration will see participation of forces from 26 nations including the US, Australia, the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, Canada, France, India, Chile, Ecuador, Indonesia, Denmark, Tonga, Israel, Colombia, Japan, Brunei, Malaysia, Mexico, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, New Zealand, Peru, the Republic of the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Thailand.
The theme of RIMPAC 2022 is ‘capable, adaptive, partners.’
RIMPAC exercise aims to provide training opportunities to the participants for sustaining and fostering the relationships critical for the safety and security of sea lanes and interconnected oceans.
The participating forces will carry out a variety of missions including disaster relief, sea control, maritime security operations and other complex warfighting.
RIMPAC 2022 will involve a network of e partners training together to strengthen the collective forces and promote an open and free Indo-Pacific region.

About INS Satpura

INS Satpura is an indigenously designed and built 6000-tonne guided missile stealth frigate equipped to seek and destroy adversaries in air, surface and underwater.

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