Current Affairs (10th April 2021)
- The US Navy announced on April 7 that the USS John Paul Jones from its 7th Fleet had “asserted navigational rights and freedoms approximately 130 nautical miles west of Lakshadweep Islands, inside India’s exclusive economic zone, without requesting India’s prior consent, consistent with international law”.
- It said “India requires prior consent for military exercises or maneuvers in its exclusive economic zone or continental shelf, a claim inconsistent with international law”, and the “freedom of navigation operation (“FONOP”) upheld the rights, freedoms, and lawful uses of the sea recognized in international law by challenging India’s excessive maritime claims”.
- UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) states that the Convention does not authorise other States to carry out in the Exclusive Economic Zone and on the continental shelf, military exercises or manoeuvres, in particular those involving the use of weapons or explosives, without the consent of the coastal state.
- Freedom of Navigation Operations involves passages conducted by the US Navy through waters claimed by coastal nations as their exclusive territory.
- According to the US Department of Defense (DoD), the FON Program has existed for 40 years, and “continuously reaffirmed the United States’ policy of exercising and asserting its navigation and overflight rights and freedoms around the world”.
- The DoD says these “assertions communicate that the United States does not acquiesce to the excessive maritime claims of other nations, and thus prevents those claims from becoming accepted in international law”.
- From the US perspective, the FONOP — Freedom of Navigation Operations — is “country-neutral”, and the US Navy carried them as it would have done in the South China Sea or any other maritime domain. It has also been issuing public statements to underline its freedom of navigation.
- But Delhi has been accommodative of these US FONOP operations and has, in the past, not challenged the movement of the US naval fleet. Also, the US’s conventional approach of listing these operations as part of its annual reports has been “taken note of” by South Block. But this time, it’s the specific “operation-wise statement” that has created disquiet in Delhi.
- The Indian establishment is particularly perturbed at the fact that it was caught unawares at the public statement made by the Seventh Fleet. It reached out to the US administration officials separately for clarification after the matter came to its attention.
- It is the largest of the US Navy’s forward deployed fleets. At any given time there are roughly 50-70 ships and submarines, 150 aircraft, and approximately 20,000 Sailors in Seventh Fleet, which is commanded by a 3-star Navy officer.
- India had a close encounter with the 7th fleet during the 1971 war with Pakistan. US believed that there was an outside chance for a ceasefire before the Pakistan army caved in on the eastern front.
- US instructed its Chief of Navy “to assemble an impressive naval task force and move it off the coast of South Vietnam, into the Malacca Straits, and onward to the Bay of Bengal.
- According to UNCLOS, the EEZ “is an area beyond and adjacent to the territorial sea, subject to the specific legal regime” under which “the rights and jurisdiction of the coastal State and the rights and freedoms of other States are governed by the relevant provisions of this Convention”.
- As per India’s Territorial Waters, Continental Shelf, Exclusive Economic Zone and Other Maritime Zones Act, 1976, the EEZ of India “is an area beyond and adjacent to the territorial waters, and the limit of such zone is two hundred nautical miles from the baseline”.
- India’s “limit of the territorial waters is the line every point of which is at a distance of twelve nautical miles from the nearest point of the appropriate baseline”.
- Under the 1976 law, “all foreign ships (other than warships including sub-marines and other underwater vehicles) shall enjoy the right of innocent passage through the territorial waters”, innocent passage being one that is “not prejudicial to the peace, good order or security of India”.
- Prime Minister of India and Netherlands held a Virtual Summit. It was the first high level Summit attended by Netherlands PM after the general elections held in March 2021.
- Indian PM congratulated his counterpart on his election victory and on becoming the Prime Minister of the Netherlands for the fourth consecutive term.
- India and the Netherlands have a strong and steady relationship, nurtured by the shared values of democracy, rule of law and respect for human rights and the historic bonds of friendship between the two countries.
- During the Summit, the two leaders had a detailed review of the entire spectrum of bilateral engagements and exchanged views on further expanding and diversifying the relationship in trade and economy, water management, agriculture sector, smart cities, science & technology, healthcare and space.
- The two Prime Ministers also agreed on instituting a ‘Strategic Partnership on Water’ to further deepen the Indo-Dutch cooperation in the water related sector, and upgrading the Joint Working Group on water to Ministerial-level.
- The leaders also exchanged views on regional and global challenges such as climate change, counter-terrorism and Covid-19 pandemic and agreed to leverage the emerging convergences in new areas like Indo-Pacific, Resilient Supply Chains and Global Digital Governance.
- India thanked the Netherlands for their support to International Solar Alliance (ISA) and Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI).
- India also welcomed the Netherlands’ Indo-Pacific Policy and its desire to collaborate during India’s G20 Presidency in 2023.
- The two leaders reiterated their commitment to a rules-based multilateral order for ensuring international peace, stability and prosperity and looked forward to a successful India-EU Leaders’ Meeting in Porto, Portugal in May 2021.
Atal Tinkering Labs
- Atal Innovation Mission (AIM), NITI Aayog’s flagship 295 Atal Tinkering Labs (ATLs) were officially adopted recently by Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) across the country in an ambitious step towards inculcating scientific research and innovation culture among students.
- CSIR with their 36 labs have adopted 295 ATLs and their students across the country. This is going to be a path breaking opportunity for young innovators across India to learn from the best minds and scientists of the nation.
- The opportunity will enable innovative students to become living inspirations for their school, families, and local communities.
- CSIR will be nominating top research scholars and scientists who will mentor each of the ATLs and act as resource persons.
- AIM and CSIR will also conduct a series of webinars for students on various topics related to scientific and technological concepts, ideas or societal issues.
- The pandemic has reinforced the critical importance of Scientific and Industrial Research driven applied Innovations.
- Therefore, this partnership with CSIR is a crucial landmark achievement for Atal Innovation Missionspurring STEM research and innovation collaborations with public and private organizations playing a pivotal role.
- This collaboration with CSIR will add great impetus to the opportunities provided by ATLs to young school students in the country by providing access to the latest technologies and scientific research through the CSIR labs, as it not only aligns with the vision of the NEP 2020 but also paves the way for an Aatmanirbhar Bharat.
- It is very interesting milestone in the history of CSIR to be able to reach out to the young students of the country.
- CSIR has always been connected with the people of India through its innovations, science and technology and through its flagship “JIGAYASA” program has connected to more than 3 lakh students in the past few years.
- This partnership with AIM offers us the opportunity to expand our connect to the student community even further.
- AIM promoted innovation and entrepreneurship across the country and has come a long way in encouraging culture of incubation centers across India.
- It is a learning experience how students especially in remote areas are working in ATLs in a very fascinating manner towards becoming future scientists of nation.
- CSIR has significant capability with CSIR labs in every zone can connect in regional languages in the country and become local ambassadors.
- AIM can become a partner is CSIRs Virtual Lab initiative under JIGAYSA 2.0 program which has been taken up by CSIR as desired by Hon’ble PM.
- This partnership can leverage the innovation strength of AIM and the R&D capability and capacity of CSIR for the benefit of the youth of the country.
- Both AIM and CSIR are working toward achieving new milestones through this new collaboration.