AIR Discussions (May 2nd Week)
AIR SPOTLIGHT: PRIME MINISTER’S VIRTUAL SUMMIT WITH AUSTRALIAN PREMIER
CONTEXT: Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi spoke with Scott Morrison, the Prime Minister of Australia.
- The two leaders agreed on the importance of ensuring equitable access to vaccines and medicines, and discussed possible initiatives for it.
- The Leaders also discussed regional issues. They reiterated the importance of working together for a rules-based international order and a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region.
- Prime Minister conveyed his appreciation for the prompt and generous support extended by the government and the people of Australia for India’s fight against the second wave of COVID-19.
- Prime Minister sought Australia’s support for the initiative taken at the World Trade Organization by India and South Africa to seek a temporary waiver under TRIPS in this context.
- They also took note of the progress made in the India-Australia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership since the virtual summit held on June 4, 2020 and discussed ways to further strengthen cooperation and foster people-to-people ties.
FIRST VIRTUAL SUMMIT:
- The first ever virtual bilateral summit was held between Prime Ministers of India and Australia in 2020.
- Key Outcomes of the Summit
- Elevated the bilateral Strategic Partnership to Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.
- Elevated the “2+2” engagement to the level of Foreign and Defence Ministers (from secretary level), where strategic discussions will be taking place every two years. India already has such mechanism with USA and Japan.
- MOU on cooperation in the field of mining and processing of Critical and Strategic minerals.
- Mutual Logistics Support Agreement was signed.
- Joint declaration on shared vision for Maritime Cooperation in the Indo- Pacific region.
OVERVIEW OF THE RELATIONS:
- The India Australia bilateral relationship has undergone evolution in recent years, developing along a positive track, into a strategic partnership.
- The two nations have much in common, underpinned by shared values of a pluralistic, Westminster style democracies, Commonwealth traditions, expanding economic engagement and increasing high level interaction.
- The long standing people to people ties, ever increasing Indian students coming to Australia for higher education, growing tourism and sporting links have played a significant role in further strengthening bilateral relations between the two countries.
- The historical ties between India and Australia started immediately following European settlement in Australia from 1788.
- All trade to and fro from the penal colony of New South Wales was controlled by the British East India Company through Kolkata.
- India and Australia established diplomatic relations in the pre Independence period, with the establishment of India Trade Office in Sydney in 1941.
- The end of the Cold War and simultaneously India’s decision to launch major economic reforms in 1991 provided the first positive move towards development of closer ties between the two nations.
- With the passage of time, the relationship gained momentum towards a strategic relationship in 2009.
- Over the years an array of institutional mechanism has been put in place to promote bilateral cooperation.
- Bilateral mechanisms include high level visits, Annual Meetings of Prime Ministers, Foreign Ministers’ Framework Dialogue, Joint Trade & Commerce Ministerial Commission, India Australia '2+2' Foreign Secretaries and Defence Secretaries Dialogue, Defence Policy Talks, Australia India Education Council, Defence Services Staff Talks, Energy Security Dialogue, JWGs on different issues etc.
- India and Australia co-operate in various multilateral fora. Australia supports India’s candidature in an expanded UN Security Council.
- Both India and Australia are members of the Commonwealth, IORA, ASEAN Regional Forum, Asia Pacific Partnership on Climate and Clean Development, and have participated in the East Asia Summits.
Bilateral Economic And Trade Relationship:
- India Economic Strategy, prepared by Australian Think Tank, aims for a clear exposition of the kind of relationship Australia should aspire to have with India out to 2035.
- It identifies ten key sectors (Education as flagship sector; Agribusiness, Resources and Tourism as lead sectors; Energy, Health, Financial Services, Infrastructure, Sports, Science & Innovation as Promising Sectors) and ten states in India (Andhra Pradesh, Delhi NCR, Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, UP and West Bengal) where Australia should focus efforts.
- India-Australia Joint Ministerial Commission was established in 1989 to enable interaction at a Government and business level on a range of trade and investment related issues.
- India is the 5th largest trade partner of Australia with trade in goods and services at A$ 29 billion representing 3.6% share of the total Australian trade in 2017-18, with export at A$ 8 billion and import at A$ 21 billion.
- India-Australia CEO Forum is a mechanism for business from both nations to engage directly on ways to build the bilateral trade.
Civil Nuclear Co-Operation:
- A Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement between the two countries was signed in September 2014
- The Australian Parliament passed the “Civil Nuclear Transfer to India Bill 2016” which ensures that Uranium mining companies in Australia may fulfil contracts to supply Australian uranium to India for civil use with confidence that exports would not be hindered by domestic legal action challenging the consistency of the safeguards applied by the IAEA in India and Australia’s international non--proliferation obligations.
- Both conduct regular maritime exercises and hold regular meetings at the level of the Defence Minister and convene regular service--to--service talks.
- A Technical Agreement on White Shipping Information Exchange was signed.
- Defence Policy Talks and Service to Service Staff talks are also held regularly.
- The first--ever Bilateral Maritime Exercise, AUSINDEX 15, was conducted in Visakhapatnam in September 2015.
- Indian Air Force participated for the first time in the Exercise Pitch Black in Australia
- The 4th edition of AUSTRAHIND (Special Forces of Army Exercise) was held in September 2019
Agriculture, Science And Technology:
- An Australia—India Strategic Research Fund (AISRF), which was established in 2006, supports scientists in India and Australia to collaborate on leading--edge research. AISRF consists of edge research.
- The Australian side is also cooperating in Clean Ganga Project.
Resources And Energy Security:
- Joint Working Group on Energy and Minerals was established in 1999 to expand bilateral relationship in the energy and resources sector.
- In December 2017, the Australian government formally ratified the agreement to join the International Solar Alliance.
Education, Sports, Art And Culture:
- Joint Working Group on Education between the two countries has identified several key areas between the two countries for cooperation, including collaborative research in education policy, student exchange programmes, capacity building in vocational education and distance learning in higher education.
- Indian students currently enrolled for studying in Australia is around 90,000.
- Under New Colombo Plan of Australian government, Australian undergraduates have studied and completed internships in India.
- Australia has also agreed to help in establishing a world class Sports University in India.
- MoU in the field of Tourism was signed in 2014.
- The Indian community in Australia continues to grow in size and importance, with the population of nearly half seven lakhs.
- India is now the third largest source of immigrants to Australia.
SOME CONCERNS IN INDIA-AUSTRALIA RELATIONS:
- Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement still remains inconclusive after 9 rounds of negotiations.
- India opted out from Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
- Australia’s economy is heavily dependent on China, with China being Australia's largest trading partner, accounting for 26 % of its trade with the world.
FUTURE PROSPECTS OF BILATERAL RELATIONS:
- In coming years, the overall relationship between India and Australia will continue to grow and has the potential to assume greater prominence.
- The prospects for bilateral relationship are recognised in both countries as strategically useful, economically productive and aligned with each other’s new agenda.
- The several commonalities and closely aligned values in principles of democracy, liberty, the rule of law, human rights, freedom of speech, free press and multiculturalism serve as a foundation for a closer cooperation, multifaceted interaction and enhancement of bilateral relationship.
- Countries should conclude CECA at the earliest, to realize the economic opportunities.
- Both shall enhance the bilateral relationship by expanding engagement in various sectors like defence industry and commercial cyber activity etc.
NEWS IN BRIEF: PRELIMS SPECIAL
- DCGI approves anti-COVID drug developed by DRDO for emergency use.
- An anti-COVID-19 therapeutic application of the drug 2-deoxy-D-glucose (2-DG) has been developed by Institute of Nuclear Medicine and Allied Sciences (INMAS) in collaboration with Dr Reddy’s Laboratories (DRL), Hyderabad.
- INMAS is a lab of Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
- Clinical trial results have shown that this molecule helps in faster recovery of hospitalised patients and reduces supplemental oxygen dependence.
- Higher proportion of patients treated with 2-DG showed RT-PCR negative conversion in COVID patients.
NITI Aayog Report
- NITI Aayog and Mastercard Release Report on ‘Connected Commerce: Creating a Roadmap for a Digitally Inclusive Bharat’.
- The report identifies challenges in accelerating digital financial inclusion in India and provides recommendations for making digital services accessible to its 1.3 billion citizens.
- Key recommendations in the report include:
- Strengthening the payment infrastructure to promote a level playing field for NBFCs and banks.
- Digitizing registration and compliance processes and diversifying credit sources to enable growth opportunities for MSMEs.
- Building information sharing systems, including a ‘fraud repository’, and ensuring that online digital commerce platforms carry warnings to alert consumers to the risk of frauds.
- Enabling agricultural NBFCs to access low-cost capital and deploy a ‘phygital’ (physical + digital) model for achieving better long-term digital outcomes. Digitizing land records will also provide a major boost to the sector.
- To make city transit seamlessly accessible to all with minimal crowding and queues, leveraging existing smartphones and contactless cards, and aim for an inclusive, interoperable, and fully open system such as that of the London ‘Tube’.
National Technology Day
- India celebrates May 11 as ‘National Technology Day’.
- The day celebrates the achievements and contributions of Indians to science and technology.
- The day commemorates India conducting three successful nuclear tests at the Indian Army’s Pokhran Test Range in Rajasthan under Operation Shakti in 1998.
- The National Technology Day 2021 theme is “Science and Technology for a Sustainable Future”.
International Nurses Day
- International Nurses Day is celebrated every year to honour nurses and healthcare workers.
- May 12 is observed as nursing day to honour Florence Nightingale, the English nurse and social reformer who founded the key pillars of modern nursing. Nightingale was born on this day in 1820.
- The theme for this year’s International Nurses Day is “Nurses: A Voice to Lead – A Vision for Future Healthcare.”
National Programme on Advanced Chemistry Cell Battery Storage
- Cabinet approved PLI scheme for Advanced Chemistry Cell (ACC) Battery Storage.
- ACCs are the new generation of advanced storage technologies that can store electric energy either as electrochemical or as chemical energy and convert it back to electric energy as and when required.
- All the demand of the ACCs is currently being met through imports in India. The scheme is expected to reduce import dependency.
- National Programme on Advanced Chemistry Cell Battery Storage is basically a ₹18,100 crore production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme for building Tesla-style giga factories to manufacture batteries.
- The plan is to set up 50 giga watt hour (GWh) manufacturing capacity for advance chemistry cell batteries by attracting investments totaling ₹45,000 crore.
- The beneficiary firms have to achieve a domestic value addition of at least 25% and make the mandatory investment of ₹225 crore /GWh within 2 years (at the mother unit level) and raise it to 60% domestic value addition within 5 years.
- Government take steps to ramp up availability of Amphotericin B – to fight Mucormycosis.
- Mucormycosis has been observed in a number of Covid-19 patients recently.
- It is a rare but serious fungal infection.
- The disease, dubbed ‘black fungus’, often manifests in the skin and also affects the lungs and the brain.
- It is caused by a group of moulds known as mucormycetes present naturally in the environment.
- It mainly affects people who are on medication for health problems that reduces their ability to fight environmental pathogens.
- The symptoms of mucormycosis depend on where in the body the fungus is growing.
- While it is treated with antifungals, mucormycosis may eventually require surgery.