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- The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Qingdao, China (June 9-10) attracted little international attention
- This was majorly due to U.S. President Donald Trump’s acrimonious public exchanges with other leaders at the G-7 (group of seven industrialized countries) summit (June 7-8) and the headline-hogging U.S.-North Korea summit (June 12)
- The SCO grew out of the Shanghai Five grouping — of Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan — which was set up in 1996 to resolve boundary disputes between China and each of the four other members
- It admitted Uzbekistan in 2001, re-christened itself the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and broadened its agenda to include political, economic and security cooperation
- It admitted India and Pakistan as full members in 2017
Opportunities at SCO
- The admission of India and Pakistan has expanded the geographical, demographic and economic profile of the SCO
- It now has about half the world’s population and a quarter of its GDP
- Its boundary extends southwards to the Indian Ocean
- The SCO’s relevance for India lies in geography, economics and geopolitics
How can SCO help?
- Its members occupy a huge landmass adjacent to India’s extended neighborhood, where India has important economic and security interests
- A narrow sliver of land separates southern Tajikistan from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir
- It makes sense to strengthen relations with your neighbors’ neighbors if you have complicated relations with your neighbours
- With Pakistan joining the Organisation and Afghanistan and Iran knocking on the doors for membership, the logic of India’s membership becomes stronger
- India has to carve out a political and economic space for itself in Central Asia, alongside Russia’s role as a net security provider and China’s dominating economic presence
- The Central Asian countries would welcome India breaking into this Russia-China duopoly
- The SCO will nudge both countries to cooperate in sensitive areas
- One example is the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) of the SCO, which coordinates cooperation for security and stability, through intelligence-sharing on criminal and terrorist activities
- India has agreed to participate in the SCO’s counter-terrorism military exercises in Russia later this year, when Indian and Pakistani troops will operate together
- Tacitly accepting the fact that India and Pakistan are not signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the Qingdao declaration confirms the compliance of the SCO’s NPT signatories to its provisions
Non-Western Perspective on Global Issues
- Besides expanding opportunities for India in Central Asia, the SCO is a platform for articulating a non-Western perspective on global issues which distinct from an anti-Western one
- This includes opposition to the selective advocacy of regime change, self-serving homilies on human rights and intrusive advice on domestic policies
- Security and defense cooperation with Pakistan
- Increasing Chinese dominance of the SCO
- Another possible game-changer could be the fallout of the much-heralded U.S.-North Korea summit
- If peace in the Korean peninsula leads to reduced American military presence in the region, it would dramatically change the balance of forces in the Asia-Pacific in favor of China
- Since the break-up of the Soviet Union, the optimal development of India’s relations with Central Asian countries has been constrained by lack of overland access through Pakistan and Afghanistan/Iran, because of political and/or security reasons
- With new multimodal transport corridors now envisaged through Iran, there are again prospects of invigorating trade and investment links with this region
Why there is a need for National Asylum policy?
- India urgently needs a national asylum policy. This month, it is five years since Nargis first arrived in Delhi. The Afghan journalist in Herat, Afghanistan had to flee her country after the Taliban threatened to kill her. But as a refugee in India, she has had no opportunity to earn a living and has been unable to rebuild her life.
- Today, India is host to over 200,000 refugees like her who have been forced to flee conflict and persecution in their home countries.
- On World Refugee Day (June 20), there is a need to reassess India’s approach to refugee protection, particularly in light of the regional refugee crisis after the mass exodus of the Rohingya from Myanmar.
- Traditionally, India has hosted several persecuted groups such as Tibetans and Sri Lankans. While it is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention and has no domestic asylum law, it has reiterated its commitment towards the protection of refugees at various international fora, including the UN General Assembly.
- One of the most significant affirmations of this commitment was demonstrated by India becoming a signatory to the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, which was adopted by 193 countries in September 2016.
- In doing so, India has expressed its solidarity with those forced to flee and agreed that protecting refugees and supporting the countries that shelter them are shared international responsibilities that must be borne more equitably.
New Framework: The Global compact on Refugees (GCR)
- The Declaration sets the stage for a new framework for refugee protection — the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR).
- The Compact is a coordinated effort to strengthen international response to protracted refugee situations and comprehensively addresses all stages of refugee protection, from reception to long-term solutions.
- Two of its key objectives are to ease pressures on host countries and enhance refugee self-reliance. The GCR recognises that certain refugee situations can last for decades and acknowledges that the burden is borne largely by developing countries, that now host over 80% of the refugee population in the world.
- In light of this, it calls for support from the international community in the form of resources. It also seeks to establish forums to enable expertise-sharing to promote economic opportunities, decent work and job creation not just for refugees but also for the host community.
- Since the Declaration was adopted, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has been engaging with member states, UN bodies, and non-governmental organisations to develop a plan for its practical implementation; this will be finalised by the end of 2018.
- Although India has hosted refugees of varying nationalities for decades, the country has done little beyond providing asylum. There have been some attempts to introduce a refugee law in the country, the latest being the Asylum Bill 2015, introduced as a private member’s bill by Shashi Tharoor.
- However, none has gone the distance and the government continues to adopt an ad hoc approach towards this group. Given that most refugees have been unable to return to their countries, leading to protracted refugee situations, there is an urgent need for the government to develop a uniform framework for their management during their stay in India.
- For instance, due to their unclear legal status and lack of uniform documentation, refugees have limited access to essential services and almost no avenues for livelihood.
- While some refugees have been able to generate income by working in the informal sector, many of them, especially vulnerable women like Nargis, are at the mercy of touts and traffickers even within their own community. At best, they are forced to rely on income from odd jobs which is an unsustainable livelihood option that often leaves them exposed to exploitation.
- The solution to this may lie within the GCR, which calls for States to identify gaps and opportunities for employment and income generation for refugees in a bid to enhance their self-reliance.
- Moreover, it specifies the need to include the host community in enabling mapping skills, vocational training and capacity-building among refugee populations, thereby fostering understanding and cooperation among the communities and paving the way for a socially cohesive approach.
- India’s commitment to refugee protection under the GCR is evident in its active participation in ongoing GCR consultations, where it has emphasised the need for a clear mechanism for the refugee response regime. Therefore this is an opportune time for India to reassess the need for a national asylum policy which is compliant with the principles laid down in the GCR. This will not only re-establish India’s place as a democratic regional power committed to core humanitarian principles but will also provide refugees such as Nargis a chance to give back to the country that has adopted her.
Election of Deputy Chairman
- The election of a Deputy Chairman shall be held on such date as the Chairman may fix and the Secretary-General shall send to every member notice of this date.
- At any time before noon on the day- preceding the date so fixed, any member may give notice in writing addressed to the Secretary-General of a motion that another member be chosen as the Deputy Chairman of the Council, and the notice shall be seconded by a third member and shall be accompanied by a statement by the member whose name is proposed in the notice that he is willing to serve as Deputy Chairman if elected: Provided that a member shall not propose or second more than one motion.
- A member in whose name a motion stands in the list of business may, when called, move the motion or not move the motion, in which case he shall confine himself to a mere statement to that effect.
- The motions which have been moved and duly seconded shall be put one by one in the order in which they have been moved and decided if necessary by division.
- If any motion is carried, the person presiding shall, without putting later motions, declare that the member proposed in the motion which has been carried, has been chosen as the Deputy Chairman of the Council.
- The Centre has started work to create a national database and Aadhaar-seeded identification number system to facilitate welfare delivery to 40 crore workers in the unorganized sector
- This comes ten years after passing a law that envisaged a portable smart ID card for unorganized sector workers
Unorganised Workers Identification Number
- The Union Ministry of Labour has called for tenders to design, develop and run the new UWIN — Unorganised Workers Identification Number — Platform
- The “single unified sanitized database” will assign a ten-digit UWIN to every worker and include details of both nuclear and extended families of unorganized workers
- The Centre will create and maintain the platform and it is up to the states to identify and register unorganized workers
- The Socio-Economic and Caste Census 2011 will be used as the base for the platform, and other worker databases — from the states as well as other Central ministries such as Textiles and Health — will also be incorporated into UWIN
- The Unorganised Workers Social Security Act, 2008 had first mandated that every worker be registered and issued a smart ID card
- Those who have enrolled for Aadhaar but have not yet received it can provisionally enroll themselves into the UWIN system with their Aadhaar Enrollment ID
- They will be assigned a UWIN number only when they are able to link Aadhaar with their dataset at a later stage
- India is expected to challenge charges levelled against it by the U.S dairy and medical devices industries at a hearing before the United States Trade Representative (USTR) office and defend its eligibility for benefits under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) programme.
- The GSP programme provides for the duty-free treatment of designated articles when imported from beneficiary developing countries to America.
- What is at stake is exports worth about $5 billion annually, of 1,937 products from India.
- The USTR is reviewing India’s eligibility under the programme, after complaints from bodies representing the dairy and medical devices industry.
- The USTR had accused India of implementing a wide array of trade barriers that create serious negative effects on U.S. commerce.
- The petitions calling for a review of India’s GSP benefits, based on concerns that India has allegedly created trade barriers for these industries, are without substantive merits.
- Defending India’s measures to control prices of the medical devices, the petition said, the country was committed to providing its citizens with equitable and affordable access to essential medicines and medical devices.
- But this is a huge business opportunity for American companies, the submission argues because of the large size of the Indian population which is likely to benefit U.S and other multinational companies involved in manufacturing of such devices.
- India requires that dairy products be derived from animals which have never consumed any feeds containing internal organs, blood meal, or tissues of ruminant origin.
- In this regard, India has explained to the U.S that India’s position is based on religious, cultural and moral grounds. India is committed to respect the religious and cultural beliefs of its people and it will be inappropriate to impute any other considerations to this decision.
- India imports dairy products from countries such as Australia and Switzerland. India will tell the USTR that this is not a question of market access but of certifications.
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