China is seemingly dealing with different troubles this year — Coronavirus pandemic, the trade war with the US, national security law of Hong Kong, various economic issues, and others. In addition to these, serious tensions have cropped up with the USA regarding the South China Sea. The US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo has called out China’s claims over the South China Sea to be unlawful.
China’s relations with major South East Asian countries are also worsening due to Beijing’s aggressive policy of claiming territories without paying any heed to international law. Philippines publicly called on China to abide by the decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Hague, Netherlands, in 2016, which invalidated China’s massive claim over the resource-rich South China Sea.
The South China Sea has been a bone of contention since the 1970s, between countries which extend their claims over its small islands like the Spratly Islands, reefs and vital shipping lanes full of resources. China’s assertive claims of sovereignty over the sea, its estimated 11 billion barrels of untapped oil and 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, have not been taken positively by the country’s fellow competitors Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam and Taiwan.
Stance of South-East Asian Countries:
Complying with the obligations of the Philippines and China under the international law and United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the country’s Foreign Secretary, Teodoro Locsin Jr. said, “The Tribunal authoritatively ruled that China’s claim of historic rights to resources within the sea areas falling within the ‘nine-dash line’ had no basis in law.
Instead, claims to historic rights, or other sovereign rights or jurisdiction that exceed the geographic and substantive limits of maritime entitlements under UNCLOS, are without legal effect”. However, China does not recognize the authority of the court, thereby disregarding the judgment.
The intrusion of Chinese coastguard and navy ships into Malaysian waters in the South China Sea 89 times between 2016-19, has been reported. A Chinese marine survey vessel backed by China’s coast guard and navy disrupted a Malaysian oil exploration project in the conflicted waters, where the Chinese coast guard had also rammed and sank a Vietnamese fishing vessel.
Japan has also reprimanded China’s unjustified territorial claims amid the Coronavirus pandemic and accused of spreading propaganda and misinformation while providing medical aids. The country’s annual defence review noted that China is relentlessly intruding disputed waters of the East China Sea and the South China Sea by establishing administrative districts around disputed islands, prompting other countries to react.
China’s Reclamation of Land:
In recent years, China has increased its efforts to reclaim land in the South China Sea by building up its military presence to backup its alleged ownership. It has piled sand onto existing reefs, constructed ports, airstrips and military installations, especially in Paracel and Spratly Islands. It has also deployed fighter jets, cruise missiles and radar system in Woody Island, thereby militarizing it.
Admiral Harry Harris, Forget Commander of US Pacific Command, referred to it as the “Great Wall of Sand”, a “nine-dash line” creating a protective ring and supply network around China’s sea territory, like the Great Wall of China does on land.
The military facilities on the islands include naval berths, hangars, 3000m runways, reinforced ammunition bunkers, radar sites and missile silos. Apart from these, accommodation blocks, administrative buildings, hospitals, sports complexes, internet services etc. have been set up, turning the islands into Chinese residential areas.
The South China Sea serves as a bastion for Chinese seaborne nuclear deterrent based on Hainan island as well as a gateway for the Maritime Silk Road, part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. China has also erected 200-tonne commemorative boulders quarried from the stone of Mount Taishan, symbolic of unbroken Chinese civilization for thousands of years, on three biggest island bases of Spratly Islands, resonating with President Xi Jinping’s Dream of national rejuvenation.
Responding to China’s aggressive advances, the US has deployed USS America, an amphibious assault ship of its navy, two navy-guided missile destroyers–USS Bunker Hill and USS Barry, two aircraft carrier strike groups–USS Nimitz and USS Roland Reagan for joint operations in the troubled waters, which have been joined by an Australian frigate. To challenge China’s unlawful claims on international waters, the US warships are carrying out Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOPs) and Securing Lines of Communication (SLOCs).
The US airforce has deployed the P8-Poseidon Maritime Patrol Aircraft surveying the sea along with the navy fighters conducting carrier operations, and a B-52 strategic bomber for backup support. The Chinese media has not accepted the situation cordially.
America has expressed its support to create a binding code of conduct along with other confidence-building measures.
Its defence treaty with the Philippines can introduce US in the potential China-Philippines conflict regarding natural gas deposits and fishing grounds in the area.
Great conversation with Singaporean Foreign Minister @VivianBala today to discuss our desire to uphold international law in the South China Sea and promote stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific.
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) August 4, 2020
Philippine Defense Secretary Lorenzana said that the Philippines will not involve itself in naval exercises with other countries in the South China Sea,and it looks forward to developing friendly ties with China.
— Spokesperson发言人办公室 (@MFA_China) August 5, 2020
Good call today with Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs @teddyboylocsin to discuss our shared interests in the South China Sea. The U.S.-Philippine Alliance is vital to a free and open Indo-Pacific. #FriendsPartnersAllies
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) August 6, 2020
Australia has aligned with the US by formally rejecting China’s territorial and marine claims and declared to UN that the allegations have “no legal basis”. The declaration marks a dramatic shift in Australia’s position which had previously refrained from interfering and urged all claimants to resolve matters following international law, showcasing the country’s deteriorating ties with China.
Trilateral exercises between the US, Australia and Japan are in process to counter the ambitious Chinese claims and India is likely to join them as is apparent from its crucial Malabar naval exercises.
Chinese reports suggest an advanced planning of establishing an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) over the disputed territory to monitor and control foreign aircraft, as that introduced in the East China Sea in 2013.
Experts are fearing a face-off between the American and Chinese superpowers and the only possible ray of hope in preventing the enormous consequences may depend on the possibility of restarting dialogues between the two militaries.
All You Need To Know About National Institute Of Food Technology Entrepreneurship And Management Bill 2021
On July 26, 2021, Lok Sabha passed a bill under the ministry of Food Processing Industry. The bill is titled as National Institute of Food Technology Entrepreneurship and Management Bill, 2021. The main motive of this bill is to address issues with the Food Processing Industry, Entrepreneurship and one Institution for National Importance. With the passing of this bill, the Indian Institute of Food Processing Technology (IIFPT) and National Institute of Food Technology Entrepreneurship and Management (NIFTEM) is now merged as Institutions of National Importance, and it aims at providing various research and advancement in learning about the Food Industry and its associated branches. The bill was first introduced in the house in February 2019 but was pending due to protest by the opposition.
Significance of Institutions of National Importance (INI)
With the passing of this bill, the institutions enjoy greater autonomy through which they can carry out various courses, research attracting skilled faculties and students from all over the country and overseas. Good standards in education will be adopted to improve the present and future of education in this branch and sector, overcoming the technological gap in the country. This law aims to improve and introduce new changes in food, bio-nanotechnology, cold chain technology etc. The desired efforts will be taken in terms of human resources and infrastructure developments, labs for research etc. Liberty to open centres anywhere in India is also granted to INI and include courses regarding food technology certification and improving the workforce of the country.
Some other important features of this act are the Institution has been authorized with the Board of Government, Senate and other acting Authorities. The Council of Board will include 16 members from different branches from the same field. The Head will be Chairperson, who will be a skilled person from the Food Industry, the Director, Dean and Registrar. Members appointed from Centre and State Governments, Members from FSSAI and Council of Agriculture Research, as mentioned in the bill. The 16 members of the board will carry out work of taking administrative decisions, creating annual budgets and paths for institution progress as an organization, establishing departments, their appointment terms of services, faculties etc. The Board of Council also holds power to grant Honorary Degrees and Diplomas. The Senate shall be the principal academic body of the Institute, consisting of the people such as Director as the Chairperson; Registrar; Full-time skilled level Professor; and Three academically skilled Individuals nominated by the board from the field.
The Union Minister of Food Processing Industry, Mr Pashupati Kumar Paras, expressed his gratitude to PM Modi for this landmark step in this industry from his Twitter handle, indicating new opportunities in Food Technology Industries. Therefore, this Act looks promising on paper with new opportunities and in Educational Development. Amidst the Pegasus Spyware and repeal of the farm laws, this looks positive from the Modi Government.
लोकसभा में आज, राष्ट्रीय खाद्य प्रौद्योगिकी, उद्यमिता और प्रबंध संस्थान विधेयक, 2021 (निफ्टेम विधेयक, 2021) को पारित किया गया।
इस विधेयक के पारित होने पर इससे जुड़े हर व्यक्ति को बधाई देता हूँ और साथ ही खाद्य प्रसंस्करण से जुड़े छात्रों को भी बधाई देता हूँ। @MOFPI_GOI
— Pashupati Kumar Paras (@PashupatiParas) July 26, 2021
Curious Case Of Pegasus: Explained
Pegasus is a spyware that can hack the victims’ mobile phones and read their SMS messages and emails. The Pegasus spyware is owned by an Israeli software company named NSO Group. According to the various reports, this company has targeted more than 50,000 phone numbers at the Global level, of which 300 are in India for surveillance.
The news broke out after the 17 media partners investigated. This investigation brought into the picture information about a leaked database of mobile telephone numbers of Indian Ministers, Opposition leaders, journalists, the legal community, business people, government officials, scientists, activists and many influential personalities of the nation.
Pegasus Spyware and India
According to the report by the agency, the Israeli company which sells Pegasus around the world says that its clients are confined to ‘vetted governments”, believed to number 36. The NSO Group also says that ‘the target list in India is not ours, never was.’ Their refusal of the leaked database has created a loophole in understanding this case.
This whole case has violated the integrity of democratic institutions. According to the report by the agencies, after the mobile phones of the opposition leader Rahul Gandhi and various other leaders were hacked under the Pegasus spyware surveillance. Multiple tweets were made against the Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP) government in India. This whole case has become one of the major threats in the political arena and the Indian Democracy.
Though at the start, it was used for national security purposes. The explosive expansion of surveillance technology vendors has become a vast human rights and a global security issue. If such surveillance technologies increase, it might cause a lot of problems to countries around the globe. Hence, as a precaution, all these countries need to work on regulating this technology.
According to the reports by the agency, one of the targeted phones by the Pegasus spyware was of the former election commissioner of India, Ashok Lavasa. Various such people and such opposition leaders were somehow against the BJP government having their phones hacked with the NSO-owned spyware. All these instances and the names in the leaked list have pointed figures towards the Modi Government.
The Modi government’s stand on this case was put forward in Lok Sabha by two serving ministers, Ashwini Vaishnaw and Prahlad Singh Patel. These two leaders were also featured in the leaked database. The recent Information Technology Minister, Ashwini Vaishnaw defended the BJP government in the parliament by saying, “the expose was an attempt to malign Indian democracy and its well-established institutions.” She even said, ‘any form of illegal surveillance is not possible with the checks and balances in our laws and robust institutions.’
This case has adjourned the parliament proceedings due to the protests inside and outside the house of parliament by the opposition party.
Pegasus Spyware and World.
In the statement given to the agency, Access Now, an organisation defending the digital rights of global users, said it was outraged that products sold by NSO were allegedly “used to hack and invade the private communications” of thousands of people across the globe.
At a global level, France’s Emmanuel Macron was targeted in the Pegasus spyware case. As the phone of French President Emmanuel Macron was hacked, the investigation was carried out and later on was published which was directed by the Paris-based non-profit journalism group Forbidden. After this case came in front of the whole world, the Pegasus spyware surveillance came into the picture.
If this continues for some more time, it will ruin India’s Democratic values at a global level. As well as this might become a huge technological threat between the different nations around the globe.
Modi Cabinet 2.0: Young and Dynamic Leadership or Otherwise
On the 7th of July, the union government announced the biggest cabinet expansion in the 7 years of NDA rule. The recent expansion increased the size of the Council of Ministers from 53 to 77. About 43 new ministers were sworn in, 15 of which were Cabinet Ministers and 28 Ministers of State (MoS). This is the first cabinet overhaul in the second term of NDA governance.
Experts however claim that the new cabinet expansion is a pre-emptive measure to balance electoral formulae in different states ahead of the 2022 State Assembly elections. It is also conjectured that the reshuffle comes as rectification of prolonged criticism about BJP’s governance in the past 2 years, including the Healthcare management during the Pandemic.
The Performance Paradox
This recent cabinet expansion is a report card of the BJP government’s performance in the last 2 years. Major ministerial changes, such as the resignation and replacement of Dr. Harshvardhan as the Health Minister indicate a confession of their mismanagement of the pandemic.
He has been replaced by Mansukh Mandaviya, a 2 time Rajya Sabha MP who has also been awarded by the UN for initiatives in Women’s healthcare in the past. His appointment as the Health Minister is one of hope for BJP, to change and streamline (a.) the COVID-19 Pandemic response and (b.) BJP’s image in the name of healthcare management.
On the contrary, Anurag Thakur’s promotion from MoS Finance to a Cabinet Minister defies all logical explanations for awarding performance. Not only has India’s economic condition worsened under his management, his controversial statements like “Desh ke Gadaaro ko…” do not present a strong case for him. His appointment is a political investment by BJP in Himachal Pradesh’s state elections next year which happens to be Thakur’s home state.
Similarly, Sitharaman’s finance ministry has remained untouched, after historical mismanagement of our Finance capabilities. All of this reflects a selective approach adopted by BJP, which is one of political hesitation and hyperopic ignorance.
BJP’s Political Calculator
Apart from the ‘punishment’ narrative, the new cabinet expansion has also given an insight into BJP’s political planning. This expansion has incorporated key leaders from several states that go to elections next year. Moreover, it has also been carefully planned to cover the losses BJP has incurred in the past two years.
As a reward for dismantling the elected Madhya Pradesh government and tipping scales in BJP’s favor, Jyotiraditya Scindia was appointed as the Cabinet Minister for Civil Aviation (a post held by his father as well in ’91) almost after 3 years.
On the contrary, Pashupati Kumar Paras got an early reward for breaking down Lok Janshakti Party’s (LJP) representation in Lok Sabha. He was appointed as the Union Minister for Food Processing, after the attempted coup on Chirag Paswan’s leadership.
Sarbananda Sonowal, who was replaced by Himanta Biswa Sharma as the Chief Minister of Assam after the fresh elections, was also awarded a berth in the Cabinet. It is conjectured that this development was in talks ever since Himanta Biswa Sharma was chosen as the CM.
As the Uttar Pradesh elections near, BJP also made sure to improve representation from the state. Major appointments such as Niranjan Jyoti (MoS Food Processing), Anupriya Patel (Mos Commerce and Industry), and Bhanu Pratap Singh Verma (MoS MSME) were made majorly because of their heavy support base in UP.
Following the same lead, Ajay Bhatt from Uttarakhand was appointed as MoS Defence and Tourism. As seen earlier, BJP has made major organizational changes in Uttarakhand which goes to elections next year.
In the mirage of calculated placements and image reconstruction, BJP has hit a few rights with this organizational change. The new cabinet includes a maximum number of women to have ever served in a Union Cabinet, a first in a nation with largely patriarchal tendencies.
The cabinet has also tried to focus on bringing people with commendable background experience and education on board. Ashwini Vaishnav, former IAS and an alumnus of Wharton School have been given major ministries such as Railways, Communications, and IT. Similarly, Anupriya Patel who has been given the Commerce and Industry as an MoS has also served as an educator at Amity University.
Moreover, the diffused reliance on regional strength has become the overarching theme in this cabinet reshuffle. Even though the ruling party intends to balance the voter dynamics, this regional unity has become something to watch out for.
Yet, the big story remains the ouster of major politicians who have served loyally and faithfully to this government. Ravi Shankar Prasad, Prakash Jaavedkar, and Dr. Harshvardhan are major losers in this dynamic reshuffle. While the current government has tried to modernize the leaders of this nation, it has set a new precedent that loyalty is not the most critical virtue anymore; Election Commission’s schedule is.
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