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9th November Current Affairs

India’s counter-terror diplomacy and challenges ahead

(GS-II: Bilateral, Regional and Global Groupings and Agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests)

In News:

The decision to host the United Nations Security Council’s Counter-Terrorism Committee (UNSC-CTC) is one of several events planned by the Government of India to strengthen its counter-terror diplomacy.

How India is strengthening its counter-terror diplomacy?

Last month (October), the Special Meeting of the UNSC-CTC was hosted by India in Mumbai and Delhi, focussing on new and emerging technologies.

Later this month (November), New Delhi will host the third edition of the No Money for Terror (NMFT) conference for tackling future modes of terror financing.

Next month (December), India will chair a special briefing on the Global Counter-Terrorism Architecture, looking at the challenges ahead.

However, it is critical to evaluate some of the current challenges, particularly when the world is dealing with the war in Europe, COVID-19 and the global recession.

Challenges ahead for India:

The foundation of the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) is an unequal approach:

For example,

USA’s counter-terrorism efforts post-9/11 attack differs from its recent approach to negotiate with the Taliban and then withdrew from Afghanistan.

Pakistan was recently removed from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) grey list.

This shows that counter-terrorism cooperation will become less cooperative in the future and counter-terrorism regimes such as UNSC Resolutions 1267, and 1373, will become ineffective.

Increasing global division over the Russia-Ukraine conflict:

It is not only shifting the focus from terrorism but is also blurring the definition of what constitutes terrorism.

For example, drone attacks by Yemeni Houthis on the UAE’s oil infrastructure were condemned as terrorist attacks while drone attacks on Russian ships in a port used for loading grain were not.

This division has rendered the UNSC unable to pass any meaningful resolutions as they are vetoed either by Russia, western members or China.

For example, India’s proposal for the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT) has made very little progress due to a lack of consensus over the definition of terrorism.

Emerging technologies used for terrorism purposes:

Drones, biowarfare and Gain-of-Function (GoF) research to mutate viruses and vectors, artificial intelligence (AI) systems and robotic soldiers makes it even easier to perpetrate mass attacks while maintaining anonymity.

Terror financing uses bitcoins and cryptocurrency and terror communications use the dark web.

Way ahead:

Terrorist acts of the future will grow more and more lethal. Thus, developing a global consensus on –

  • What constitutes terrorism,
  • Regulating the use of emergent technologies by all responsible states is the need of the hour.

Reducing global inequality, food and energy shortages, and adverse impacts of climate change and pandemics needs to be on the top of the agenda of the international community.

Conclusion:

As the host of these counter-terrorism meetings, India must set the global narrative of not only fighting the “last war” on terrorism but also preparing for the next.

Nicobar project

In News:

The Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has granted an in-principle clearance for the diversion of 130.75 sq km of forest in Great Nicobar Island for the Nicobar project (includes a transhipment port, an airport, a power plant and a greenfield township).

Details:

The project implementation agency is the Andaman and Nicobar Islands Integrated Development Corporation (ANIIDCO).

Concern Raised: 8.5 lakh trees will have to be cut in Great Nicobar for this project. The area is nearly 15% of the thickly forested Great Nicobar Island that is spread over 900 sq km.

Endemic species such as the Nicobar shrew, the Nicobar long-tailed macaque, the Great Nicobar crested serpent eagle, the Nicobar paradise flycatcher and the Nicobar megapode may be impacted.

Great Nicobar: Great Nicobar is the southernmost island of the Nicobar Islands Archipelago. It has the Great Nicobar Biosphere Reserve. The Mongoloid Shompen Tribe, about 200 in number, live in the forests of the biosphere reserve, particularly along the rivers and streams.

Mangrove Alliance for Climate (MAC)

In News:

Spearheaded by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in partnership with Indonesia, MAC was launched at the COP27 Summit in Egypt to scale up and accelerate the conservation and restoration of the mangrove forests.

Details:

India along with Australia, Japan, Spain and Sri Lanka have joined it as partners.

Mangrove forests, also called mangrove swamps, mangrove thickets or mangals, are productive wetlands that occur in coastal intertidal zones. Mangrove forests grow mainly at tropical and subtropical latitudes because mangrove trees cannot withstand freezing temperatures.

Mangroves in India: Mangrove cover in India is about 0.15% of the total geographical areas. (West Bengal> Gujarat> Andaman and Nicobar Islands). Largest mangrove forest in India is Sundarbans (UNESCO world heritage site) followed by Bhitarkanika (Odisha).

Inclusion of Dalit Christians, Dalit Muslims in SC list

(GS-II: Polity)

In News:

Case for the inclusion of Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims on the list of Scheduled Castes is being heard in the Supreme court.

Details:

In 2019 rejected the possibility of including Dalit Christians as members of SCs.

Central Government justification for the exclusion of Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims from the Scheduled Castes list are:

  • “Foreign” origins of Islam and Christianity as opposed to Hinduism, Sikhism and Buddhism (although the government has not directly said so)
  • The identification of Scheduled Castes is centred around a specific social stigma [and the connected backwardness with such stigma] that is limited to the communities identified in the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950
  • Scheduled Castes converts to Buddhism embraced Buddhism voluntarily at the call of Dr Ambedkar in 1956 on account of some innate socio-political imperatives. The original castes/community of such converts can clearly be determined.

However, this cannot be said in respect of Christians and Muslims who might have converted on account of other factors, since the process of conversions has taken place over the centuries

Article 14 forbids class legislation but does not forbid classification.

Who is included in the Constitution Order of 1950?

The Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order of 1950: recognised only Hindus as SCs.

Amendments 1956 and 1990:

  • Included Dalits who had converted to Sikhism(1956)
  • Included Dalits who had converted to Buddhism(1990).

Both amendments were aided by the reports of:

  • Kaka Kalelkar Commission in 1955
  • High Powered Panel (HPP) on Minorities, SC/ST in 1983.

Why are Dalit Christians excluded?

The practice of “untouchability: It was a feature of the Hindu religion and its branches, not Islam or Christianity.

The Registrar General of India: It had cautioned the government that SC status is meant for communities suffering from social disabilities arising out of the practice of untouchability.

A mandate in rules for inclusion: It was framed in 1999 and requires RGI approval.

Amendment to include Buddhist converts as SCs was passed in 1990.

Clause (2) of Article 341 for inclusion: Dalits who converted to Islam or Christianity belonged to different caste groups, as a result of which they cannot be categorised as a “single ethnic group(required for inclusion)”.

Case for inclusion:

Several Independent Commission reports: They have documented the existence of caste and caste inequalities among Indian Christians and Indian Muslims.

Casteism: Even in Sikhism and Buddhism, casteism is not present and yet they have been included as SCs.

Advocate representing Dalit Christian bodies: Empirical evidence did not exist for including Sikh or Buddhist converts either and yet they were included as SCs.

Registrar General of India:

Established in 1949 under the Ministry of Home Affairs.

To develop a systematic collection of statistics on the size of the population, its growth, etc.

Later, this office was also entrusted with the responsibility of implementing of Registration of Births and Deaths Act, 1969 in the country.

It arranges, conducts and analyses the results of the demographic surveys of India including the Census of India and Linguistic Survey of India.