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12th August Current Affairs

What is the significance of India’s talks with NATO?

(GS-II: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and affecting India’s interest, NATO etc)

In News:

NATO is important due to the Russia-Ukrain issue and talks for the expansion of NATO. But be selective in making notes.

Background of India-NATO engagement:

India held its first political dialogue with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Brussels on December 12, 2019, with the aim to assess cooperation on regional and global issues of mutual interest. The talk was primarily political in Character.

What is the significance of India’s talks with NATO?

NATO’s engagement with Pakistan and China: India’s talks with NATO hold significance given that the North Atlantic alliance has been engaging both China and Pakistan in bilateral dialogue.

NATO opened selective training for Pakistani officers and its military delegation visited Pakistan in November 2019 for military staff talks.

Balance in NATO’s perception: Engaging NATO in a political dialogue would provide India with an opportunity to bring about a balance in NATO’s perceptions about the situation in regions and issues of concern to India.

Common ground: There is a convergence in the perspectives of both India and NATO on China, terrorism, and Afghanistan, including Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan, sources said.

Maritime security: It is a principal area of conversation in the future, given a substantial common ground with NATO.

Limitations of India-NATO talk:

Russia’s threat to Euro-Atlantic: From NATO’s perspective, it was not China, but Russia whose aggressive actions continued to be the main threat to Euro-Atlantic security.

China as a challenge and opportunity: Given the divergence among NATO countries, its view on China was mixed; while it did deliberate on China’s rise, the conclusion was that China presented both a challenge and an opportunity.

Taliban as a political entity: In Afghanistan, NATO saw the Taliban as a political entity, which was not in line with India’s stanc This was almost two years before the Taliban announced an interim government in Afghanistan in September 2021.

Way forward:

Continuing engagement with India on a mutually agreed agenda.

Geo-strategic position of India: In NATO’s view, India, given its geo-strategic position and unique perspectives on various issues, was relevant to international security and could be an important partner in informing the alliance about India’s own region and beyond.

Considering proposals from NATO: As far as India is concerned, it was felt New Delhi may consider proposals emanating from NATO, if any, on bilateral cooperation in areas of interest to India, based on the progress achieved in the initial rounds.

About NATO:

It is a military alliance established by the North Atlantic Treaty (also called the Washington Treaty) of April 1949, by the United States, Canada, and several Western European nations to provide collective security against the Soviet Union.

Headquarters: Brussels, Belgium.

It was the US’s first peacetime military alliance outside the western hemisphere.

There are currently 30 member states.

NATO’s essential and enduring purpose is to safeguard the freedom and security of all its members by political and military means.

What is important about NATO’s collective defence?

Collective defence: Members of NATO are committed to mutual defence in response to an attack by any external party.

Collective defence lies at the very heart of NATO, “a unique and enduring principle that binds its members together, committing them to protect each other and setting a spirit of solidarity within the Alliance”.

This is laid out in Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, the founding treaty of NATO.

Article 5: “The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all

Consequently, they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in the exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognized by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary

Including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.”

The Vandenberg Resolution:

The US Congress passed the Vandenberg Resolution, a landmark action “advising the President to seek US and free world security through support of mutual defence arrangements that operated within the UN Charter but outside the Security Council, where the Soviet veto would thwart collective defence arrangements)was the stepping stone to NATO.

The treaty was signed in Washington DC on April 4, 1949. It had 12 signatories initially: the US, UK, Canada, France, Denmark, Belgium, Norway, Portugal, the Netherlands, Italy, Iceland, and Luxembourg.

State-level OBC groups must be included in the central list

Currently, for each state, there are two OBC lists, i.e., one for the state and the Centre. So, a caste included in the OBC list of a state enjoys the reservation benefits in state government jobs and educational institutions, but not with respect to central government jobs or educational institutions.

However, for SC/ST, there is only one list and one status (identified as per the state or UT)

Central Government argument: In Ram Singh and Ors vs Union of India Case (2015), the Central government argued that the inclusion of classes or groups in state OBC lists is a strong and compelling reason for the inclusion of such classes in the central lists. The Supreme Court judgment validated this argument.

Constitutional Provisions:  Articles 15(4) and 16(4) make special provisions for socially and educationally backward classes of citizens (SEBCs, popularly known as OBCs), the Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs).

Historical development of the OBCs reservation:

First Backward Classes Commission (1955) recommended the inclusion of 2,399 castes as OBCs. But, the then central government did not implement it.

Second Backward Classes Commission (Mandal Commission, 1980), the central government implemented it much later.

The central government introduced a reservation of 27% for OBCs in government jobs, in 1990. The constitutional validity of the reservation was upheld in the Indira Sawhney case. Pursuant to judgment, the National Commission for Backward Classes Act, 1993was enacted.

SMILE-75 Initiative

In News:

The Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment has launched the “SMILE-75 Initiative”.

About SMILE-75 initiative:

SMILE (Support for Marginalized Individuals for Livelihood and Enterprise Scheme) is aimed at making cities/towns and municipal areas begging-free and comprehensive rehabilitation of the persons engaged in the act of begging.

Under the initiative, seventy-five (75) Municipal Corporations in collaboration with NGOs and other stakeholders will cover several comprehensive welfare measures for persons who are engaged in the act of begging.

Measures taken: rehabilitation, provision of medical facilities, counselling, awareness, education, skill development, economic linkages and convergence with other Government welfare programmes etc.

Beggars In India:

According to the Census 2011 total number of beggars in India is over 4 lakhs.

West Bengal tops the chart followed by Uttar Pradesh and Bihar

Legal Status: Though there is no central law on begging, some states have adopted the Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, 1959, which penalises beggary.

Move towards protectionism

In News:

Data shows, that since 2018-19, the government has switched from liberalism to protectionism on account of its import substitution.

Details:

Protectionism: the theory or practice of shielding a country’s domestic industries from foreign competition by taxing imports.

In the last two decades, there has been a trend to reduce customs duty (liberalization). However, since budget 2018-19, the government changed policy and has since increased customs duty (protectionism) in order to further incentivise domestic value addition.

The issue with such a policy: The government has used custom duties as a revenue-raising instrument. But, a central principle of public finance does not allow the customs duties to be used as a revenue instrument.

Increases in customs duties should be strictly reserved for the protection of new industries.

History of tariff setting in India:

British Era: Since 1882, Britain had followed a policy of complete free trade in India.

Indian Fiscal Commission of 1921-22 recommended that custom duty has a protective role to play, as initial protection is important to withstand foreign competition. It recommended the establishment of a tariff boardfor the grant of protective duties.

First Tariff Boardwas appointed in 1923. It granted protection to the iron and steel industry.

After Independence, India tried to follow liberal policy, however, in face of the BOP crisis (1957-58), strict import licensing was adopted. In the 1970s, the licence-permit raj erawas ushered in. It was only in the 1991 reform, that the government eliminated import licensing.

Electromagnetic Field (EMF) Emissions

In News:

Several steps taken by the government to reduce Electromagnetic Field(EMF) Emissions.

Details:

EMF: They are invisible areas of energy, often referred to as Radiation, that is associated with the use of electrical power and various forms of natural and man-made lighting.

Sources: Natural Sources (such as thunderstorms, and the earth’s magnetic field) and Human-made sources (such as medical equipment using static fields (e.g. MRI), wireless, telecommunications and broadcasting equipment)

Issues: Above certain levels of radiation, EMF emissions can be harmful to health and affect the human body as well as that of animals in different ways depending on their frequency.

Government steps:

EMF emissions from mobile towers (they are non-ionizing Radio frequencies and not dangerous): Electromagnetic Field (EMF) emissions norms from mobile towers in India are already ten times more stringent (even lower) than the safe limits recommended by WHO.

Monitoring of EMF emissions: Telecom Service Providers (TSPs) are to adhere to the prescribed norms including the submission of a self-certificate before the commercial start of the Base Transceiver Station (BTS) site.

EMF audit by the field units of the Department of Telecommunications (DoT)

Penalty and shut down of services if found non-compliant.