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Questions about International Relations

Can India’s International North-South Transport Corridor be a counter to China’s Belt and Road Initiative?

The International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) is not a counter to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). INSTC was conceived long before BRI came into picture. INSTC is a join initiative taken by India, Russia and Iran

The ‘Inter-Governmental Agreement on International “North-South” Transport Corridor’ was signed by the three countries in Saint Petersburg on September 12, 2000. It was subsequently ratified by the three signatory states and has been in force since May 16, 2002. Azerbaijan became the fourth member in 2005. Since then many countries have joined INSTC. 

Currently, there are fourteen members and many more are willing to be a part of it – Finland, Estonia and Latvia have also expressed their interest in joining INSTC. Turkmenistan may not be a formal member but is linked to it. There is a possibility of future expansion of INSTC to Southeast Asia as well.

As specified in the ‘Inter-Governmental Agreement’, the main objectives of INSTC are “increasing effectiveness of transport ties in order to organise goods and passenger transport along the international ‘North-South’ Transport Corridor”; “promotion of access to the international market through rail, road, sea, river and air transport of the state Parties to this Agreement”; “providing security of travel, safety of goods as well as environmental protection”; and “harmonisation of transport policies as well as law and legislative basis in the field of transport for the purpose of implementing this Agreement.”

BRI, on the other hand, is basically a Chinese initiative, first proposed in September 2013. While INSTC is a collective effort of countries, BRI is a single country plan encompassing countries across Eurasia, Africa and more than 60 partner countries. 

Both the projects are completely different in scale and size and also in terms of financial resources as well as their overall objectives. In fact, it would not be fair to compare the two projects. Chinese geostrategic goals are embedded in their infrastructure drive under BRI, and one can also see the trust deficit between China and its BRI partner countries.

However, both the projects are exposed to many challenges. In fact, there are points where INSTC and BRI do seem to criss-cross each other. An important question to be raised here would be, if there can be any coordination or cooperation between the two and if yes how?

What is the meaning of the term ‘deep state’ in the context of Pakistan?

The term ‘deep state’ was used first in the context of groups carrying disproportionate influence in a polity or state short-circuiting the recognised lines of authority. In Turkey, such a phenomenon was called derin devlet or the ‘deep state’ or even ‘state within the state’. Such phenomenon is not, however, confined to Turkey alone and is noticeable in other states as well. Such groups usually consist of agencies, small political cliques, factions or coteries, who wield enormous power often shaping, resisting, subverting and directing the policies of the legitimate arm of the government.

In case of Pakistan, the army, the Military Inc., which has been touted as the largest political party that is always in power and does not have to fight any election to be in power, is often regarded by observers as the ‘deep state’. It has nothing but contempt for the democratically elected political leadership, and because of intermittent military rules it feels has a legitimate right to intervene in decision making, whenever it thinks its own ‘institutional’ interests are in jeopardy. 

Ironically, successive elected governments have tamely allowed their authority to be compromised in the face of increasing assertion of the military. Any political leader who has sought to challenge military’s preponderance has found it difficult to survive politically because of an entrenched tendency on the part of ambitious political parties and leaders to be coopted by the military to dance to its tune.

Equipped with a well-oiled public relations strategy, an obliging vernacular media to propagate its vision among the people, a squeamish civilian bureaucracy and an activist and hyperactive judiciary opposed to elected government in power, the military has demonstrated its ability to sway public opinion one way or the other and retain its salience in Pakistani polity. So much so, that an ex-prime minister went to the extent of saying that it was ‘a state above the state’!

How will the re-imposition of US sanctions on Iran affect India’s energy ties with the latter?

Despite Iran being India’s third largest oil supplier, the termination of oil purchases from Iran will not affect supplies as other alternative sources are available, in fact eager to gain greater access to the lucrative Indian oil market. However, India will have to do without the concessional terms offered by Iran – such as the 60-day credit line as well as the insurance benefits.

Relations between the two countries including in the energy sector go beyond a transactional one, i.e. mere purchase and sale of oil. There is a strategic component to the relations and with many facets to it. An example is India’s investment and engagement in the Chahbahar Port, which continues.

Further, Iran had offered India’s ONGC Videsh Limited (OVL) a stake in its Farzad B gas field. Although India has been delaying its commitment to developing the field due to sanctions, and Iran has said that they may offer the field to the Iranian contractors if India backs out, it is believed that Tehran may be willing to wait. Indian officials have also said that once the sanctions are lifted, New Delhi would try and fast forward its investment in the project.

India is one of the few growing markets for oil and potentially gas, which are Iran’s major exports. When the sanctions are lifted, Iran would want to retain its share of the Indian market. Hence, while energy trade has been terminated for the time being, as in the past, Iran is likely to once again become a major source of crude oil for India in future.

What is the difference between transnational terrorism and global terrorism?

The term terrorism whether prefixed with transnational or global has a more or less similar connotation, as in the case of any other structure or organisation. 

Transnational essentially means beyond a national boundary. On the other hand, global implies anything which has a global footprint.

In illustrative terms, if we relate it to any industry or brand and say that it has developed a transnational footprint, it would imply that its operations and support structures extend beyond its country of origin. On the other hand, if it has a global reach then the organisation has its impact and influence globally.

When this is related to terrorism, the term transnational terrorism implies the impact of terrorism from a particular country or region across the boundary of the country of origin. Terrorist groups such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) or Jaish-e-Mohmmed (JeM) exemplify what is regarded as transnational terrorism.

Similarly, Daesh, often incorrectly termed as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or ISIS, represents global terrorism. As a global terrorist group, its supporters and affiliates have proved over time to have their reach across continents and countries with attacks taking place in a number of diverse locations worldwide.

When global terrorism is used in isolation, without necessarily making any reference to a terrorist group, then it can also relate to a phenomenon or threat which has a global footprint. This is indeed the case with terrorism as a common security challenge.

Despite having brought its legal framework largely in consonance with the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime, why is India hesitant to accede to it?

The objectives of the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime are to formalise and harmonise legislation to combat cybercrime in signatory states, to set in place common procedures in the prosecution and investigation of cybercrimes, and to foster seamless co-operation amongst the law enforcement agencies through appropriate legislation, building up points-of-contact, and through capacity building programmes.

To this end, the Convention (Treaty No. 185 of the Council of Europe) goes beyond just harmonisation and incorporates Articles which provide for transborder investigations by law enforcement agencies without the permission of the country where the data is located in the interest of speedy dispensation of justice. This issue of dilution of sovereignty has been flagged by several countries, including India. Many of the countries that have signed up to the Convention, including the United States, have also issued reservations noting that in cases where the Convention is not aligned with domestic laws, the latter shall prevail.

The point has also been made that the Convention prioritises issues that are more important to the European countries, reflecting its origins, and less on issues like propagation of terror over the Internet that are important to India. Furthermore, since it was created in November 2001, many of its provisions are believed to be out of date, and irrelevant to the current needs. Additional protocols to expand its provisions have stayed in the negotiation stage.

Accession to the Convention is only by invitation, and only two countries in Asia, Sri Lanka and Japan, have so far signed up to the Convention. There is no empirical evidence that accession to the Convention has made any material difference to the effective and speedy resolution of criminal cases in these countries, or elsewhere.  Access to capacity building programmes is, in itself, not a sufficient enticement to join the Convention, given its other drawbacks and flaws including a convoluted two-tier system of membership. India might consider signing up at a point its concerns are addressed and the treaty becomes a more effective means of combating cybercrime. For the moment, existing instruments of co-operation such as the bi-lateral Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties (MLATs) seem to be adequate. 

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