AIR Discussions (May 3rd Week)
AIR SPOTLIGHT: POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS IN NEPAL
- KP Oli again took the oath as PM of Nepal. This follows political crisis in Nepal as he had earlier lost a vote of confidence in Parliament, leaving the country’s politics in uncertainty.
- Oli, chairman of the Nepal Communist Party-Unified Marxist-Leninist, had come to power for the second time in 2018, in the first ever parliamentary polls under the new Constitution promulgated in September 2015.
OLI’S LEGACY WITH RESPECT TO INDIA AND CHINA:
- Nepal-India relations have been strained during Oli’s two tenures. First it was the blockade, and then the Nepal government published a map including 370 sq. km with Kalapani, Lipulek and Limpiadhura, months after India had those areas in its map. He had once said in Parliament that Indian officers were hatching a conspiracy to dislodge him from power.
- Oli distanced himself from China by not promoting projects under Belt and Road Initiative that Nepal is a signatory to, and by not signing an extradition treaty as was promised during President Xi Jinping’s visit.
- Recently, China has also been competing with India in its vaccine diplomacy by supplying vaccines, oxygen cylinders and ventilators amid a growing pandemic in Nepal.
- His promises of linking Nepal with China and India by rail, starting waterways trade with India and beyond, and many more remain on paper.
INDIA AND POLITICAL CRISIS IN NEPAL:
- Unlike on previous occasions, Oli has refrained from blaming India for destabilising his regime.
- Energy and trade officials from the two countries have met each other, border talks are on board, and Nepal’s foreign minister visited India for the joint commission
- With an assiduously cultivated façade of non-interference, India let China smear itself into the mud of micromanaging the ruling party’s internal conflicts.
- Since the dissolution, India subtly contrasted its ostensibly hands-off approach, much appreciated in Nepal, to the rather proactive engagement of the Chinese envoy Hou Yanqi.
- The Chinese abandoned Oli in their effort to save the ruling party from an inevitable split. India, while ostensibly keeping distance, cultivated Oli against Prachanda’s attempts to form an alternative coalition.
NEPAL’S RELATIONS WITH INDIA AND CHINA IN RECENT TIMES:
- There is an increasing tendency among Nepalese politicians to use anti-India rhetoric as also push their two powerful neighbours in covert manoeuvres for domestic political gains.
- India’s entrenched interests in Nepal suffered a setback in 2015, when a blockade at the borders ensued following protests by Madhesis and some other ethnic groups against marginalisation of their interests in the newly-passed Nepalese Constitution.
- The blockade, which Nepal accused India of facilitating, caused a humanitarian crisis in the landlocked country.
- Within a month of the lifting of the blockade, Oli visited Beijing and signed a transit agreement that included access to Chinese ports and construction of rail links between the two countries.
- This signalled a scaling down of Nepal’s heavy dependence on India.
- China has been a big factor in Nepal’s internal politics since 2006. China has also invested in crucial sectors like trade and Investment, energy, tourism and post-earthquake reconstruction, and is Nepal’s biggest FDI contributor.
JOINT COMMISION MEET:
- Recently, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Nepal visited New Delhi for the sixth meeting of the India-Nepal Joint Commission.
- On the development partnership front, the expansion of the Motihari-Amlekhganj petroleum products pipelines to Chitwan and the establishment of a new pipeline on the eastern side connecting Siliguri to Jhapa in Nepal formed a part of the discussions.
- The operating procedures for commencement of train services of the first passenger railway line between India and Nepal from Jaynagar to Kurtha via Janakpurhave were discussed.
- The recently inaugurated Integrated Check Posts (ICPs) at Birgunj and Biratnagar have helped in the seamless movement of people and trade between the two countries.
- The construction of a third integrated check post at Nepalgunj has already commenced, while the new integrated check post at Bhairahwa would begin shortly.
- Nepali side’s demand to include the boundary in the Joint Commission Meeting. However, India made it clear to find a fresh mechanism to resolve any such crucial long-pending issue.
- India’s support for two more cultural heritage projects in Nepal, namely, the Pashupatinath Riverfront Development and the Bhandarkhal Garden Restoration in Patan Durbar is significant.
- Nepal expressed support for India’s permanent membership of an expanded UN Security Council (UNSC) to reflect the changed balance of power.
BACKGROUND OF RELATIONS:
- As close neighbors, India and Nepal share unique ties of friendship and cooperation characterized by an open border and deep-rooted people-to-people contacts of kinship and culture.
- There has been a long tradition of free movement of people across the border. Nepal shares a border of over 1850 km with five Indian states – Sikkim, West Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
- The India-Nepal Treaty of Peace and Friendship of 1950 forms the bedrock of the special relations that exist between India and Nepal. Nepalese citizens avail facilities and opportunities on par with Indian citizens in accordance with the provisions of the Treaty.
- Nearly 8 million Nepalese citizens live and work in India.
- Nepal is a unique country whose citizens can enrol into the Indian civil services as also the Army, which bestows an honorary General’s title to the Nepal Army Chief, a gesture that is reciprocated in equal terms.
- There are regular exchanges of high-level visits and interactions between India and Nepal.
- India and Nepal have several bilateral institutional dialogue mechanisms, including the India Nepal Joint Commission co-chaired by External Affairs Minister of India and Foreign Minister of Nepal.
- DEFENCE COOPERATION
- India has been assisting the Nepal Army (NA) in its modernisation by supplying equipment and providing training.
- Assistance during disasters, joint military exercises, adventure activities and bilateral visits are other aspects of India’s defence cooperation with Nepal.
- A number of defence personnel from Nepal Army attend training courses in various Indian Army training institutions.
- The ‘Indo-Nepal Battalion-level Joint Military Exercise SURYA KIRAN’ is conducted alternately in India and in Nepal.
- The Gorkha regiments of the Indian Army are raised partly by recruitment from hill districts of Nepal.
- 2015 EARTHQUAKE IN NEPAL
- Government of India swiftly dispatched National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams and special aircrafts with rescue and relief materials to Nepal.
- The total Indian relief assistance to Nepal amounted to over US$ 67 million.
- The Government of India announced a post-earthquake reconstruction package of US$ 1 billion (which comprises US$ 250 million grant and US$ 750 million concessional Line of Credit)
- CONNECTIVITY AND DEVELOPMENT PARTNERSHIP
- Government of India’s development assistance to Nepal is a broad-based programme focusing on creation of infrastructure at the grass-roots level, under which various projects have been implemented in the areas of infrastructure, health, water resources, education and rural & community development.
- In recent years, India has been assisting Nepal in development of border infrastructure in the Terai area; development of cross-border rail links at Jogbani-Biratnagar, Jaynagar-Bardibas; and establishment of Integrated Check Posts at Birgunj, Biratnagar, Bhairahawa, and Nepalgunj.
- The total economic assistance earmarked under ‘Aid to Nepal’ budget in FY 2019-20 was INR 1200 crore.
- Apart from grant assistance, Government of India has extended Lines of Credit of USD 1.65 billion for undertaking development of infrastructure.
- ‘India-Nepal New Partnership in Agriculture’ was launched in 2018.
- WATER RESOURCES COOPERATION
- A three-tier bilateral mechanism established in 2008, to discuss issues relating to cooperation in water resources, flood management, inundation and hydropower between the two countries, has been working well.
- ENERGY COOPERATION
- India and Nepal have a Power Exchange Agreement since 1971 for meeting the power requirements in the border areas of the two countries, taking advantage of each other's transmission infrastructure.
- India is currently supplying a total of about 600 MW of power to Nepal.
- An Agreement on ‘Electric Power Trade, Cross-border Transmission Interconnection and Grid Connectivity’ between India and Nepal was signed in 2014.
- South Asia’s first cross-border petroleum products pipeline connecting Motihari in India to Amlekhgunj in Nepal was inaugurated in
- India is the largest trading partner of Nepal.
- Total bilateral trade in 2018-19 reached INR 57,858 cr.
- In 2018-19, while Nepal’s exports to India stood at INR 3558 cr, India’s exports to Nepal were INR 54,300 cr.
- Indian firms are among the largest investors in Nepal, accounting for more than 30% of the total approved foreign direct investments.
- EDUCATION AND CULTURE
- GoI provides around 3000 scholarships/seats annually to Nepalese nationals for various courses at the Ph.D/Masters, Bachelors and plus–two levels in India and in Nepal.
- GoI initiatives to promote people-to-people contacts in the fields of art & culture, academics and media include cultural programmes, symposia and events organized in partnership with different local bodies of Nepal, as well as conferences and seminars in Hindi.
- INDIAN COMMUNITY
- Around 6,00,000 Indians are living/domiciled in Nepal.
- These include businessmen and traders who have been living in Nepal for a long time, professionals (doctors, engineers, IT personnel) and labourers (including seasonal/migratory in the construction sector).
- Nepal unveiled a new political map that claimed strategically important land Kalapani, Limpiyadhura and Lipulekh of Uttarakhand as part of its sovereign territory.
- The map is in retaliation of Nepal’s objection to construction of road by India from Dharchula to Lipulekh in Uttarakhand.
- This road connects close to the Line of Actual Control and opens a new route for Kailash Mansarovar yatra via Lipulekh pass.
- This will help pilgrims to avoid dangerous high-altitude routes through Sikkim and Nepal.
- India termed recent action by Nepal as a `unilateral act’ which is not based on historical facts and evidence and also stated that these areas have always been part of the Indian Territory.
WAY FORWARD WITH RESPECT TO INDIA NEPAL RELATIONS:
- The Kalapani dispute must be resolved expeditiously and earnestly, to the mutual satisfaction of both sides.
- A Joint Boundary Demarcation Committee could be appointed by both the countries to scientifically study the Maps and come to a conclusion diplomatically.
- India must introduce new economic, developmental and infrastructure initiatives with Nepal that will not only bring tangible benefits to Nepali citizens but also address the vulnerabilities that will emerge in Nepal as the country engages with China.
- A prudent course for India would be to let Nepal cope with its internal political mess. India must encourage consolidation of a people-driven polity, and improve its own popular profile.
- Nepal has asked for a revision of the 1950 treaty, and this has been accepted by India. Work should begin in this direction.
- On trade and investment issues, India needs to be more accommodative.
- The political crisis is a strong reminder for India to redefine its historic relationship tied in religion, culture and assimilation.
NEWS IN BRIEF: PRELIMS SPECIAL
- A low-pressure area over the Arabian Sea first concentrated into a depression and later intensified into a cyclonic storm named ‘Cyclone Tauktae’.
- The West Coast of India has been affected by the cyclone. It is the first cyclone of 2021.
- It is a tropical cyclone, termed as ‘Extreme Severe Cyclonic Storm’ (ESCS) and ‘Very Severe Cyclonic Storm’ (VSCS)
- It means ‘Gecko’ (in Burmese Language) which is a highly vocal lizard
- Myanmar has named this cyclone ‘Tauktae’.
- In 2020, the following cyclones hit the Indian regions: Nisarga, Amphan
13 countries of the World Meteorological Organization/United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (WMO/ESCAP) Panel on Tropical Cyclones (PTC) name the cyclones
National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC)
- Cabinet Secretary chaired National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC) meeting on Cyclone Tauktae.
- The NCMC is a committee set up by the Government of India in the wake of a natural calamity for effective coordination and implementation of relief measures and operations.
- It is headed by the Cabinet Secretary.
- In India, the NCMC and the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) are the two major committees involved in top-level decision making with respect to Disaster Management (DM).
- Key functions of the NCMC:
- Overseeing the command, control and coordination of the disaster response.
- Giving directions to the crisis management group as necessary.
- Toll Free Helpline for elderly persons ELDERLINE (14567) becomes operational in several states.
- The Ministry of Social Justice has started state-wise call centres in five major states to address the problems faced by elderly people in the wake of the covid pandemic.
- The states covered are Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan. It was already working in Telangana since one year.
- Tata Trusts and NSE Foundation have assisted in operationalising this facility.
International Museum Day 2021
- International Museum Day falls on May 18th.
- The theme for International Museum Day 2021 is “The Future of Museums: Recover and Reimagine.”
- The day is observed to raise awareness among people about museums.
- International Museum Day was first held in 1977. The lead in celebrating this day is taken by the International Council of Museums (ICOM).
- The International Council of Museums is an international organisation of museums and museum professionals which is committed to the research, conservation, continuation and communication to society of the world’s natural and cultural heritage, present and future, tangible and intangible.
- It was formed in 1946 and maintains formal relations with UNESCO.
Gholvad Sapota (Chikoo)
- Exports of GI certified Gholvad Sapota (chikoo) from Maharashtra to UK began.
- Its GI certification is held by the Maharashtra Rajya Chikoo Utpadak Sangh.
- It is believed that the unique taste is due to the calcium rich soil of Gholvad village.
- In India, sapota is grown in Karnataka, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh.
- Karnataka is the highest grower of sapota, followed by Maharashtra.
World Bee Day
- May 20 is observed as World Bee Day annually.
- It was on this day in 1734 that Anton Janša, the pioneer of beekeeping, was born.
- The United Nations proclaimed May 20 as World Bee Day in 2017. The proposal was put forth by Slovenia.
- The purpose of the day is to raise awareness of the importance of bees and beekeeping.
- Bees are very important for the sustenance of life itself. They are major pollinators.
- World Bee Day 2021 theme: “Bee Engaged – Build Back Better for Bees”.