India Current Affairs - 2020

India mulls new group of 8-10 countries in WTO

India is considering bringing together group of 8-10 member countries of World Trade Organisation (WTO) to prepare agenda for creation of conducive atmosphere to ensure smooth functioning of the global trade body.

Key Facts

It would be an informal group within WTO, which may also include nations like Brazil, China, South Africa, China, Indonesia and Columbia. The main idea behind this group is to create proper structured agenda which will be acceptable to all countries to reduce tension. Its main objective is to create conducive atmosphere so that global trading system works well. From India, Union Commerce Ministry will be discussing issue internally and work on structure of the group.

Significance

The initiative assumes significance as trade tensions have escalated after United States had imposed high customs duties on certain steel and aluminium products. Other WTO members too have retaliated, which is leading to trade war-like situation. In trade wars, countries try to restrict imports by resorting to tariff and non-tax related barriers. Increase in customs duties on product makes that item less competitive in importing nation.

Background

The talks at WTO’s 11th Ministerial Conference held in Argentina in December 2017 had collapsed after US went back on its commitment to find permanent solution to public food stockholding issue, a key matter for India. Following collapse of WTO ministerial talks in Argentina in December 2017, India had organised mini-ministerial meeting of about 45 WTO members in March 2018 to revitalise multi-lateral trade body. The objective of meeting was to initiate free and frank discussion on various key issues and challenges facing Geneva-based WTO.

World Trade Organisation (WTO)

WTO is an inter-governmental organization for governments to negotiate global trade agreements and progressively liberalizing trade. It operates system of trade rules that apply to all its members. It is also a place for Member governments to settle their trade disputes. Its headquarters are located in Geneva, Switzerland. It was established on 1 January 1995 and its official languages are English, French and Spanish.

Malabar 2018: India, Japan and US start naval exercise off coast of Guam Island in western Pacific

Trilateral Naval Exercise Malabar 2018 between India, Japan and United States kicked off the coast of Guam in Philippine Sea. It will be 22nd edition of the naval exercise, which has now become an annual feature in deep military ties between India and US. It will be first naval wargame after US renamed its Hawaii-based Pacific command (PACOM) as Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM) amid increased Chinese activities of building artificial islands in South China Sea and sending submarines into Indian Ocean.

Key Facts

This edition of annual exercise will focus on high-end war fighting skillsets, subject matter expert and professional exchanges. It will also include combined carrier strike group operations, surface and anti-submarine warfare, medical operations, maritime patrol and reconnaissance operations, damage control, helicopter operations and visit, board, search and seizure operations.

Phases: Malabar 2018 will be conducted in two phases: ashore and at-sea training. The harbour phrase will take place at Naval Base Guam and sea phase in Philippine Sea.

The ashore phase in Guam will include subject matter expert and professional exchanges on carrier strike group operations, reconnaissance operations, maritime patrol, surface and anti-submarine warfare, medical operations, damage control, helicopter operations and visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) operations.

The sea phase will see military-to-military coordination and capacity to plan and execute tactical operations between three navies in multinational environment. It will also see events like gunnery exercises, anti-submarine warfare, air defence exercises, surface warfare exercises, helicopter cross-deck evolutions and underway replenishments.

Participation: US Navy has deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, guided-missile cruisers USS Antietam and USS Chancellorsville, guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold and P-8A Poseidon aircraft. Indian Navy has deployed INS Kamorta, the first of four anti-submarine Kamorta-class stealth corvettes; INS Sahyadri, Shivalik-class stealth multi-role frigate, Deepak-class fleet tanker INS Shakti and also P-8I Neptune advanced maritime patrol and anti-submarine warfare aircraft. Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) has deployed three ships 19,000-tonne JS Hyuga (lead ship of Hyuga-class of helicopter carriers), Takanami-class guided-missile/ASW destroyer JS Suzunami, Akizuki-class guided-missile destroyer JS Fuyuzuki and diesel-electric attack submarine and Kawasaki P-1 maritime patrol aircraft..

Background

The Malabar exercise was started in 1992 as joint Indo-US naval drill. Since then it is held annually.But it was suspended from 1998 to 2002 after India conducted nuclear weapons tests in 1998. Japan became permanent participant in 2015.

The primary aim of this multilateral exercise is to increase interoperability amongst navies of three countries and develop common understanding of procedures for Maritime Security Operations and deepen defence relations between them.

In 2007, the exercise also saw participation of Australia and Singapore. All the participating nations in the exercise have clarified earlier that Malabar series of exercise is not aimed against specific country Since last two years, Australia repeatedly requested to be part of annual exercise but India again refused after China raised is concerns.