Indo-French Strategic Dialogue
Context– The 36th session of the Indo-French Strategic Dialogue was recently held by India’s National Security Advisor (NSA) with his French counterpart.
- The 36th round of the Indo-French Strategic Dialogue yielded significant results.
- Both participants decided to strengthen efforts “towards strategic autonomy”.
The two parties discussed a number of subjects, including:
- The present global security situation in the context of the Ukraine conflict
- Afghanistan’s regional security situation
- Indo-Pacific cyber security and defence cooperation
- Other topics of mutual interest.
- PM Modi and France’s Diplomatic Adviser to the President addressed “energy and culture” as well.
- The conversations revealed India and France’s shared perspectives on all important international problems.
- The strategic collaboration between France and India is critical to addressing the grave issues of 2023.
- France has pledged its “unconditional support” for India’s G-20 presidency.
India- France Relations
- After India’s nuclear tests in 1998, France was the first country to establish a Strategic Dialogue with India. France refrained to impose bilateral sanctions on India because it shown a better grasp of India’s security concerns than other countries.
- The strategic cooperation between India and France is founded on “extraordinary mutual trust, shared democratic ideals, and a common vision for a multipolar, rules-based international order.”
- Bilateral commerce with France has steadily increased over the previous decade, and is expected to reach USD 10.75 billion in 2020.
- France ranks ninth in terms of foreign investment in India.
- The need of expediting negotiations on an India-EU trade and investment pact has been recognised by both parties.
- Firms: Over 150 Indian companies operate in France, while over 1000 French companies operate in India, with a combined turnover of $20 billion.
- At the ministerial level, India and France hold a defence conversation.
- Joint defence exercises are held on a regular basis between the Air Force (Garuda series) and the Armies (Shakti) and Navies (Varuna).
- P-75 Dea Scorpene In 2005, a deal was reached for the construction of six Scorpène submarines at Mazagaon Docks Ltd. in India, with French assistance.
- Technology transfer and the purchase of short-range missiles and radar systems were completed.
- The Rafale deal: A government-to-government deal has been reached for 36 French Rafale multi-role combat aircraft.
Proposals in line:
- India is nearing a decision on a fighter jet to fly from the Navy’s aircraft carriers (either the Boeing F-18 Super Hornet or Dassault Aviation’s Rafael-M).
- India is also considering purchasing 26 planes (probably Rafale, as per official sources).
- The French engine maker Safran is competing with other worldwide engine manufacturers to co-develop a fighter jet engine with the DRDO.
- Energy Sector Cooperation:
- Nuclear Reactors: A decade ago, an agreement was made to develop six European Pressurized (Nuclear) Reactors (EPR) with a total capacity of 9.6 GW.
- India and France co-founded the International Solar Alliance.
Science and engineering:
- Gaganyan Mission: Both nations have inked a collaboration agreement for India’s Gaganyan Mission.
- The French space agency will aid India’s scientific research by supplying French technology and medical instruments to Indian astronauts.
- Mission of Joint Satellites TRISHNA: TRISHNA is the third collaborative mission of ISRO and CNES and is designed to monitor ecosystems and water consumption.
- India and France is concerned about China’s increasing footprint in the Indian Ocean. Following the advent of AUKUS, France shown a greater openness to collaborate with India.
- French overseas territories in the Indian and Pacific Oceans provide it the world’s second-largest exclusive economic zone. It has long maintained bases in the Reunion Islands and Djibouti, and in 2009 opened one in Abu Dhabi.
- Even as India expands its footprint in Oman (Duqm) and Seychelles, strengthening collaboration with France (the western Indian Ocean Region) makes sound strategic sense (Assumption Island).
- Naval cooperation in the Gulf region, where France has a base (in Abu Dhabi), for safeguarding communication sea routes and combatting piracy, transnational crime, and terrorism by developing capabilities in the Indian and Pacific seas.
Significance of India-France Relationship
- France has reiterated its support for India’s objective of Atmanirbhar Bharat, as well as its assistance for defence industrialization, cooperative research, and cutting-edge technological development.
- Following Brexit, Indian businesses might use France as an entrance route into Europe.
- No Money for Terror-an international conference to combat terrorist financing is strongly supported by both India and France on the UN Platform.
- A common vision of a multipolar world order.
- France has always supported India’s bid for UN Security Council Permanent Membership.
- France has long backed India’s membership in Multilateral Export Control Regimes such as the NSG and MTCR.
- Reciprocal Logistics Support Agreement to assist the refuelling and repair of each other’s warships, military aircraft, and personnel during port visits and disaster relief.
Source: The Hindu
All India Annual State Minister’s Conference on Water
Context – The inaugural All India Annual State Ministers’ Conference on Water started recently in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh.
- Inter-state water disputes between various states continue to affect water-sharing prospects.
Water is a state topic:
- Despite the fact that water is a state topic, it was everyone’s job to make water a matter of collaboration, coordination, and cooperation between states.
- ‘2047 Water Vision’.
- It is an essential aspect in ‘Amrit Kaal’s’ journey over the next 25 years.
Whole of Government Approach:
- All governments should function as a system, with regular contact and conversation between various departments of state governments, such as those in charge of water, irrigation, agriculture, rural and urban development, and disaster management.
More responsible behaviour will result from public participation:
- When the public gets involved in a campaign, they learn about the importance of the effort.
As a result, the public develops a sense of ownership in any project or campaign Water Treatment:
- When treated water is reused, fresh water is preserved, and the entire ecosystem benefits.
- That is why water treatment and recycling are so important.
- Despite the COVID epidemic, the Indian economy has maintained its upward track, and it is expected that by 2027, India would be the world’s third biggest economy, ahead of Germany and Japan.
- There is a clear relationship between economic growth and power and water use.
- As the world’s economy grows from 3 to 5 trillion dollars to 10 trillion dollars, similar conferences are needed to debate water requirements and availability at a macro level.
Efforts of the Government:
- Since its inception under the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana (PMKSY), the ‘Per Drop More Crop’ programme has helped bring more than 70 lakh hectares of land in the country under micro-irrigation.
- Madhya Pradesh is developing a comprehensive water policy, which will be implemented shortly.
- The Union and state governments’ efforts and initiatives have expanded awareness.
- The Prime Minister’s Jal Shakti Abhiyan, which brought together many organisations, Panchayats, NGOs, celebrities, and others, has begun to yield positive outcomes, as seen by the ground water report provided.
- This has resulted in a decrease in the number of overexploited, critical, and semi-critical blocks, while the number of safe blocks has grown since more work has to be done in this sector with a targeted approach.
- India has 4,000 BCM of water available through rain, glaciers, or foreign basins, with half of this being harvestable and useful.
- Climate change has altered rainfall patterns, resulting in scarce and variable rainfall, which has had and continues to have a detrimental influence on this harvestable component.
- Rapid urbanisation, rising water consumption, and water pollution have lowered per capita water availability from 5000 CM to 1500 CM, with a further reduction possible by 2047.
- Our demand for water is anticipated to exceed the supply by 2047, necessitating the convening of this conference with all states to comprehensively debate the issue and develop a roadmap to ensure readiness and contingency planning.
- Water requirements must be determined in a more holistic approach, much as food is now estimated based on its nutritional content rather than weight.
- Increasing storage capacity through modest storage structures similar to Amrit Sarovars is similarly difficult.
- Dam storage capacity decline owing to reservoir sedimentation must be worked on, and measures must be done in this respect to guarantee optimal reservoir capacity usage.
- Along with consistent supply, there is a need to concentrate on demand side management. Water resource contamination must be stopped.
- The efforts of the states to save water will go a long way toward reaching the country’s common goals.
- The states should use the Centre’s Namami Gange Mission as a model and launch comparable river protection programmes.
- The states must adopt methods in which the water budget is generated at the panchayat level based on the amount of water necessary in each village and the type of work that may be done for it.
- The states must include the general population in water conservation efforts.
- Natural farming should be given more attention since good impacts on water conservation have been shown in areas where natural farming is implemented.
- Crop diversity should be attempted, but only if water is available.
- Gram Panchayats should create a five-year action plan that includes everything from water supply to sanitation and garbage management.
Source: The Hindu
Decennial Census Exercise Postponed
Context – The Union government has informed states that the decennial census procedure has been postponed until September 2023, while the period of administrative boundary freeze has been prolonged to June 30, 2023.
More on Census
- The census is the process of gathering, compiling, analysing, evaluating, publishing, and disseminating statistical data on the population.
- India will soon begin planning for one of the world’s largest population counts.
- The Census is an enumeration of the country’s population that is carried out every ten years.
- It was founded in 1872 by British Viceroy Lord Mayo.
- In 1881, India undertook its first synchronised census.
Who conducts this exercise?
- The Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner, India, under the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, is in charge of conducting the decennial Census.
- The Census collects information on demographic and socioeconomic criteria such as education, SC/ST, religion, language, marriage, fertility, handicap, occupation, and migration of persons.
- Biometric data was collected for the first time in 2011.
- The Census provides a comprehensive picture of who India is—its demographics, how people live, and what they do—and serves as the foundation for critical policies.
- It aids in the development of government initiatives to address community needs.
- It is also the foundation for analysing the country’s development over the last decade, monitoring the government’s continuing projects, and preparing for the future.
Ancient-Medieval practice of population counting:
- The ancient literature, the ‘Rig-Veda,’ suggests that some type of population count was kept in India between 800-600 BC.
- The famed ‘Arthashastra’ by ‘Kautilya,’ published in the 3rd Century BC, established population figures as a gauge of state policy for taxes.
- During the reign of Mughal emperor Akbar, the administrative report ‘Ain-e-Akbari’ featured extensive statistics on population, industry, wealth, and a variety of other factors.
Difference between the National Population Register (NPR) and the Census
- The NPR and Census processes will begin concurrently; however, the two databases are not the same.
- The decennial census is the most comprehensive single source of statistical data on the many characteristics of the Indian population.
- While NPR just has demographic information, the census requires more information such as demographics, economic activity, literacy and education, and housing and household amenities, among other things.
National Population Register (NPR):
- NPR was originally implemented in 2010 and was upgraded in 2015 when it was connected to Aadhar.
- It already has 119 crore residents on its database.
- Every ordinary inhabitant of India is required to register with the NPR.
- A typical resident is defined as a person who has resided in a local region for the last 6 months or more or who plans to reside in that area for the future 6 months or more for the purposes of NPR.
- The Registrar General of India will serve as the country’s “National Registration Authority,” as well as the Census Commissioner.
Source: The Hindu
Underwater Combat Drones
GS Paper III
Context– India is attempting to integrate unmanned warfare systems into its military. Months after the Indian Army announced the integration of swarm drones into its mechanised forces, Admiral R Hari Kumar, the Navy leader, emphasised the necessity of autonomous technologies in building a future-proof Indian Navy (IN).
The Indian Navy’s increased surveillance and the reasons for it:
- The military revealed an unclassified version of its unmanned roadmap for the induction of remote autonomous platforms, including submarine vehicles, in July 2022, two years after leasing MQ-9B Sea Guardian drones from the US.
- Underwater domain awareness, regarded as an increasingly important component of maritime deterrence in the Eastern Indian Ocean, is a significant motivator for the firm.
- Following the fight in Ladakh in June 2020, there is a growing concern among Indian scientists and military strategists that China’s underwater presence in the Indian Ocean is approaching a tipping point.
- Recent sightings of Chinese drones in the waters around Indonesian islands show that the Peoples Liberation Army Navy has been investigating the Indian Ocean’s operational environment.
- The deployment of Chinese research and survey vessels in the waters surrounding India’s Andaman and Nicobar Islands has already increased.
- As the hazards presented by foreign undersea presence in Indian seas became increasingly apparent, the IN aspired to obtain its own autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) with dual surveillance and attack capabilities.
Analysis: The navy’s interest in armed underwater drones
- Despite their widespread usage in underwater search and exploration, underwater vehicles have never been considered warfighting equipment by India’s military establishment.
- Despite the AUVs’ effectiveness in missions such as mine detection and ship survey, India’s navy strategists have typically refrained from using underwater drones in a combat capacity.
- Indian analysts and policymakers appear to be recognising the warfighting capabilities of underwater autonomous systems driven by artificial intelligence late in the game.
- With the fourth industrial revolution ushering in a new era of warfare, Indian watchers are seeing the potential influence of disruptive technology on the marine sector. Many believe that AI driven by deep learning, data analytics, and cloud computing is set to change the maritime battleground, perhaps igniting a revolution in Indian naval affairs.
Challenges to harness the disruptive technologies in maritime combat
- An ethical conundrum characterises artificially intelligent warfare systems.
- Despite making warfare more lethal, AI compromises weapon system control, safety, and accountability. It also increases the risk of shared liability between networked systems, especially when weapon algorithms are sourced from abroad and the satellite and link systems that enable combat solutions are not under the user’s control.
- AI is distinguished by a preference for specific types of data. Biases in data collecting, data analysis instructions, and the selection of probabilistic outcomes confound logical decision-making, eroding trust in automated fighting solutions.
- There is no simple method to incorporate AI-fueled warfighting tactics into doctrine, especially given that many technologies are still in their early stages of research and there is uncertainty about how successful AI may be in warfare.
- While the navy’s technology absorption has evolved in some areas over time, a significant gap still remains in the development of essential technologies like as system engineering, aerial and undersea sensors, weapon systems, and high-tech components.
The critics of AI in warfare
- Fielding new technology without thorough testing endangers both military troops and civilians.
- A system of targeting humans based on probabilistic assessments by computers acting solely on machine-learned experiences is problematic because the computer does not have access to all relevant data to make an informed decision and does not recognise that more information is required to arrive at an optimal solution.
- This is due to the fact that military doctrine is based on a conventional concept of combat. If war is a normative construct, then laws and norms must be observed, as well as ethical standards must be satisfied.
- Furthermore, AI appears to automate weapon systems in ways that contradict war regulations.
The legality of underwater combat drones
- It is unclear whether unmanned marine systems have the status of ships under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea; even if they do, they are unlikely to be categorised as warships.
- Despite the introduction of many AI initiatives, the navy continues to prioritise the use of AI in noncombat functions such as training, logistics, inventory management, marine domain awareness, and predictive maintenance.
- India’s marine managers acknowledge that the IN is still at a stage in its maturation where using AI in combat systems might be dangerous. Many people feel that taking little steps is the best way ahead.
- It is important to recognise that AI in warfare is a question of both combat efficiency and warfighting ethics. AI-infused unmanned systems on the maritime front pose a risk, requiring the military to employ its forces in accordance with national and international law. India’s navy leadership would benefit from taking deliberate and planned measures toward building AI-powered undersea systems.
Source: Indian Express
Foreign Universities in India
GS Paper II
Context– The University Grants Commission (UGC) has released draught regulations for the ‘Establishment and Operation of Campuses of Foreign Higher Educational Institutions in India’.
The Search for Foreign Universities in India: A Quick Recap
- The administration had written the Foreign Education Bill in 1995, but it had to be abandoned.
- Another effort was attempted in 2006, but the proposed bill was unable to pass the Cabinet level.
- The UPA-2 administration then introduced the Foreign Educational Institutions Bill in 2010, which was defeated in Parliament.
- The measure expired when the UPA lost power in 2014.
- The New Education Policy 2020 permits for the development of international university campuses in India.
Procedures for Universities Visiting India
- In the beginning, the approval procedure for establishing a campus in India will be entirely online. Interested universities must apply through the UGC site and pay a non-refundable fee before submitting materials.
- After the applications are received, the Commission will appoint a committee to review them based on the following criteria:
The institution’s credibility
- Programmes that the institution will provide
- Their potential to improve educational prospects in India
- UGC (Regulations for the Establishment and Operation of Campuses of Foreign Higher Educational Institutions in India) 2023: Key Questions Answered
- All foreign institutions that intend to establish a campus in India must first obtain permission from the UGC.
- To establish a campus in India, international institutions must be either in the top 500 or “well respected” in their respective countries (if the varsity does not participate in global rankings). If their overall rating is between 500 and 100, but their subject-wise ranking is higher, the institutions will be allowed to establish campuses just for those listed topics.
- Furthermore, the UGC reserves the authority to investigate these Indian campuses of international HEIs at any time, and they will be subject to anti-ragging and other criminal legislation.
- All international institutions that build branches in India would be permitted to conduct only offline classes, i.e. foreign universities will be permitted to provide only full-time programmes in physical form.
- All overseas universities will be able to design their own admissions procedures. The institutions must, however, guarantee that the “quality of education offered at their Indian campuses is on par with their main campus.”
- Foreign higher education institutions would be able to enrol both Indian and international students on their Indian campuses.
- To avoid financial instability, all funding issues shall be handled in accordance with the Foreign Exchange Management Act of 1999.
- Without the previous consent of the commission, FHEI may stop any course or programme or close the campus. If a course or programme is interrupted or discontinued, the parent company is responsible for offering an alternative to the affected students.
- The credentials issued to students on the Indian campus must be recognised and considered as comparable to the similar qualifications awarded by the FEHI on the main campus in the student’s home country.
- FEHIs shall not provide any programme or course that jeopardises India’s national interest or higher education standards in India. The operation of FEHIs should not be incompatible with India’s sovereignty and integrity, the state’s security, cordial relations with other nations, public order, decency, or morality.
Why such move?
- There are around 1000 universities and 42,000 colleges in India. Despite having one of the world’s largest higher education systems, India’s Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) in higher education is 27.1%, ranking among the lowest in the world.
- The QS World University Rankings 2022 indicate the dearth of quality in Indian education. With a grade of 177, IIT Bombay was the highest-ranked Indian institute on the list. Only eight Indian colleges reached the top 400 list.
- London Business School, King’s College London, the University of Cambridge, and New York University have begun exploratory discussions with GIFT City officials and the regulator to develop facilities at the GIFT International Financial Services Centre.
Benefits of the move
- This step would be in addition to measures to deliver high-quality human resources to India’s financial services industry.
- Indian students’ foreign expenditure is expected to increase from $28 billion now to $80 billion by 2024.
- Apart from encouraging excellent competition, international branch campuses can also assist to reduce foreign exchange outflow.
- Opportunities are attracted by education. The Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative will help to retain homegrown talent. Almost the previous seven years, over eight lakh Indians have given up their citizenship.
- Opening the door to international colleges might boost India’s soft power by providing further fuel to the government’s Study in India initiative, which aims to recruit foreign students.
- Foreign higher education institutions may be discouraged from investing in India due to the following factors:
- A multi-tiered regulatory structure governs several elements of higher education.
- There is no one regulatory agency overseeing cooperation and investments, and many approvals are necessary to operate in India.
- While the NEP has made the necessary measures to strengthen the education sector and prepare the path for a globally compatible education system, its implementation has been tardy and unclear.
- The GoI has a policy problem in facilitating such collaborations in such a way that Indian talent chooses and is incentivized to stay in India, and Indian educational infrastructure is built to meet global standards.
- The clauses in the NEP demonstrate the GoI’s objective with regard to overseas institutions establishing campuses in India.
- However, more clarification is required before good implementation can take place.
Source: Indian Express
Facts For Prelims
Animals become transparent- Glass frogs
Context: Recently, scientists discovered how glass frogs, a species recognised for this ability, obtain such transparency.
- Glass frogs are nocturnal amphibians that spend their days resting upside down on transparent leaves that match the colour of their backs – a frequent concealment method in the American tropics. Their transparent skin and muscle allow them to see their bones and organs.
- By withdrawing approximately 90% of their red blood cells from circulation and storing them within their liver, which contains reflecting guanine crystals, resting glass frogs enhance transparency by two to thrice.
- When the frogs need to become active again, they pull the red blood cells back into the blood, allowing them to move around — at which time, light absorption from these cells breaks transparency.
- Aggregating red blood cells in most vertebrates can result in potentially deadly blood clots in veins and arteries. Glass frogs, on the other hand, do not clot.
Context: ‘Purple Fest: Celebrating Diversity,’ India’s first inclusive event, will get off tomorrow in Goa.
- It is India’s first inclusive festival that accepts, expresses, and celebrates those with disabilities.
- The Purple Fest will offer a range of thrilling live performances, athletic events, major exhibitions, immersive experience zones, accessible movie screenings, and talks on important topics such as inclusive education, tourism, employment, and independent living.
- Purple has recently become connected with disability and represents the contribution of a larger group of impaired workers.
Eat Right Station
Context: The Varanasi Cantt Railway Station of Indian Railways has received a 5-star ‘Eat Right Station’ accreditation for delivering high-quality, nutritional cuisine to travellers.
- The FSSAI awards the ‘Eat Right Station’ accreditation to railway stations that set standards for delivering safe and healthy food to passengers.
- The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare is in charge of the apex food regulation organisation.
- It comprises 240 factors for food preservation and cleanliness on which the certification is based.
- They are also assessed on a scale of one to five, with five being the highest level of conformity with the existing norms and regulations.
- So far, 34’Eat Right’ certified stations in India have been established, including Bhopal and Varanasi Cantt.
India now has 212 indigenous livestock breeds
Context: The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has approved the registration of ten new animal breeds, including cattle, buffalo, goats, and pigs. The overall number of indigenous breeds now stands at 212.
- Three new cow breeds (Kathani, Sanchori, Masilum), one buffalo breed (Purnathadi), three goat breeds (Sojat, Karauli, Gujari), and three pig breeds were among the ten new breeds (Banda, Manipuri Black, Wak Chambil).
- Purnathadi buffalo is found in Maharashtra’s Vidarbha area.
- Kathani, a dual-purpose cattle, is also available in the area. It has an excellent draw capacity and is well suited for paddy production on swampy ground.
- Masilum is a Meghalayan cow that is tiny in size yet strong. It is well suited to the hill ecology and is raised for sports, manure, and socio-cultural celebrations by the Khasi and Jaintia populations.
- Sanchori is located in Rajasthan’s Jalore district.
- All three new goat varieties originate from distinct districts of Rajasthan.
- Manipuri Black is a Manipur native, Banda is from Jharkhand, and Wak Chambil is from the Garo highlands of Meghalaya.