QUESTION : India needs to recalibrate its foreign policy vis-a-vis Russia, especially in the context of the strengthening Russia-China axis”. Analyse.
Topic- RIC,A TRIANGLE THAT IS STILL IMPORTANT
- Russia-India-China trilateral dialogue
WHY IN NEWS ?
- Calls for a westward shift in India’s foreign policy appear misplaced as engagement with Russia and China still does matter.
MORE ABOUT THIS NEWS :
- Recently India decided to attend a virtual meeting of the Foreign Ministers of Russia, India, and China (RIC).
- India’s External Affairs Minister pointedly emphasized that for a durable world order, major powers should respect international law and recognize the legitimate interest of partners.
- Amid the tensions on the Line of Actual Control with China, the dominant calls were for a more decisive westward shift in India’s foreign policy. However, a RIC meeting seemed incongruous in this setting
- RIC is a strategic grouping that first took shape in the late 1990s under the leadership of Yevgeny Primakov, a Russian politician as “a counterbalance to the Western alliance.”
- The group was founded on the basis of ending its subservient foreign policy guided by the USA and renewing old ties with India and fostering the newly discovered friendship with China.
- Together, the RIC countries occupy over 19% of the global landmass and contribute to over 33% of global GDP.
- The RIC dialogue commenced in the early 2000s.
- At that time the three countries were positioning themselves for a transition from a unipolar to a multipolar world order.
- It was not an anti-U.S. construct though.
- The initial years of the RIC dialogue coincided with an upswing in India’s relations with Russia and China.
- The 2003 decision to bring a political approach to India-China boundary dispute and to develop other cooperation, encouraged a multi-sectoral surge in relations.
- An agreement in 2005, identifying political parameters applicable in an eventual border settlement, implicitly recognised India’s interests in Arunachal Pradesh.
GROWING INDIA-USA RELATIONS :
- During the same period in which RIC dialogues took place, India’s relations with the U.S. surged.
- This involved trade and investment, a landmark civil nuclear deal and a burgeoning defence relationship.
- This rising relations with the U.S. met India’s objective of diversifying military acquisitions away from a near-total dependence on Russia.
- The U.S. saw value in partnering with a democratic India in Asia as China was rapidly emerging as a challenger.
HOW INDIA-US RELATIONS AFFECTED RIC:
- China went back on the 2005 agreement.
- It launched the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and worked to undermine India’s influence in its neighbourhood.
- And expanded its military and economic presence in the Indian Ocean.
- As U.S.-Russia relations imploded in 2014 after the annexation/accession of Crimea.
- Russia’s pushback against the U.S. included cultivating the Taliban in Afghanistan and enlisting Pakistan’s support for it.
- The western campaign to isolate Russia drove it into a much closer embrace of China.
- Thus, the RIC claim of overlapping or similar approaches to key international issues, sounds hollow today. But it is still holds significance.
WHY RIC IS STILL SIGNIFICANT FOR INDIA ?
1) SCO :
- India is part of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which includes Russia, China and four other Central Asian countries. China and Russia are the driving forces behind the SCO.
- Central Asia is strategically located and borders India’s turbulent neighbourhood. Pakistan’s membership of SCO and the potential admission of Iran and Afghanistan as member states would heighten the significance of the SCO for India.
- India could leverage its membership in the association to build its strategic depth in the region.
2) Significant bilateral relations :
- India’s defence and energy pillars of partnership with Russia remain strong.
- Access to Russia’s abundant natural resources can enhance our materials security.
- With China too, while the recent developments should accelerate our efforts to bridge the bilateral asymmetries, disengagement is not an option.
3) The Indo-Pacific issue:
- For India, it is a geographic space of economic and security importance, in which a cooperative order should prevent the dominance of any external power.
- China sees our Indo-Pacific initiatives as part of a U.S.-led policy of containing China.
- Russia’s Foreign Ministry sees the Indo-Pacific as an American ploy to draw India and Japan into a military alliance against China and Russia.
- India should focus on economic links with the Russian Far East and the activation of a Chennai-Vladivostok maritime corridor.
- This may help persuade Russia that its interests in the Pacific are compatible with our interest in diluting Chinese dominance in the Indo-Pacific.
4) Strategic autonomy of India:
- The current India-China stand-off has intensified calls for India to fast-track partnership with the U.S.
- National security cannot be fully outsourced.
- India’s quest for autonomy of action is based on its geographical realities, historical legacies and global ambitions.
- India has traditionally avoided taking sides in international politics, especially between the great powers, preferring its traditional nonalignment. However, China’s hostile attitude towards India in recent years is increasingly forcing India to confront.
- This makes it difficult to see how engagements through platforms such as RIC, are going to alter the basic conflictual nature of relations between India and China.
- Even though Russia has remained an old friend for India, it is increasingly under stress to follow China’s dictates. E.g. earlier, it openly opposed the Indo-Pacific concept at the Raisina Dialogue.
- On issues such as Jammu and Kashmir, which China raised at the UN Security Council, Russia preferred taking a middle position, not supporting India’s stand entirely.
WAY FORWARD :
- India is committed to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity in the border areas and RIC would give the platform for resolution of differences (along the Indo-China Border) through dialogue.
- Careful assessment of India’s foreign policy
- India needs to realize that National security cannot be fully outsourced.
- Cooperation during the pandemic
- India should focus on economic links with the Russian Far East and activation of the Chennai-Vladivostok maritime corridor.
- Moreover, the RIC forms the core of both the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and the BRICS as greater cooperation between China, India and Russia would lead to strengthening of both SCO and BRICS.
- The RIC is a significant multilateral grouping, because it brings together the three largest Eurasian countries which are also incidentally geographically contiguous. RIC, hence provides a worthwhile platform to discuss issues like West Asia, Afghanistan, climate change, terrorism, regional connectivity, tensions on Korean Peninsula, etc
QUESTION : Throw a light on many types of Challenges faced by migrant workers during covid-19 Pandemic and detail key initiatives taken by the Indian govt. respectively.
Topic- THE SOUTH ASIAN MIGRANT CRISIS
- Covid-19 Pandemic and its impact on migrants
WHY IN NEWS ?
- The pandemic crisis has further deteriorated the condition of South Asian migrants in the GCC countries and poses new challenges for the countries of their origin.
- South Asians account for nearly 15 million in the Gulf. Indians constitute the largest chunk with men dominating the workforce.
- According to the World Bank, in 2019, total remittances to South Asia was about $140 billion, of which India received $83.1 billion,
- Pakistan received $22.5 billion, Bangladesh received $18.3 billion and Nepal $8.1 billion.
Poor conditions of living:
- The labourers form the backbone of the Gulf Economy but are provided with minimal or no social security benefits.
- They are forced to live in deplorable conditions wherein multiple persons share a room so as to save money and remit it back to their homes.
STEPS TAKEN FOR THESE WORKERS :
Scenario in India:
- The Indian Government has repatriated over 7 lakh NRIs from various destinations under the Vande Bharat mission and a similar move is followed by other south asian economies.
- It has also announced the SWADES initiative that focuses on skill mapping of citizens returning from abroad.
- The Kerala Government has announced Dream Kerala initiative to utilise the diverse skill sets of migrants.
- The Kerala High Court in July directed the Government to set up a mechanism to assist workers in seeking compensation from their immigrant country.
- The order was based on a petition filed by Lawyers Beyond Borders, an international network of legal experts.
WORLDWIDE SCENARIO :
- Bangladesh has announced a special package for the resettlement of return migrants which includes money on arrival, money to launch self-employment projects, and compensation for the families of those who died abroad from COVID-19.
- The Overseas Employment Corporation in Pakistan has come out with special programmes to upgrade the skills of returnees.
- The pandemic, the shutdown of companies, the tightening of borders, and the exploitative nature of the Kafala sponsorship system have given the workers a deadly blow and they are facing multiple problems due to it, namely –
- Shortage of Food and other necessities
- Salary Cuts and Retrenchment (Most prominent in construction sector)
- Lack of access to medical services and medicines (Earlier Kerala Government was providing this but suspension of air travel halted the process)
- No safety net, welfare mechanisms, or labour rights
- The COVID-19 spike in these labour camps has mainly been due to overcrowded and unsanitary living conditions.
- There is also a growing demand for nationalisation of labour in the gulf region owing to the economic distress which further got aggravated by falling oil prices.
- Countries like Oman and Saudi Arabia have provided subsidies to private companies to prevent native lay-offs.
Challenges faced by the migrant labourers:
- Though the South Asian labour force forms the backbone of the Gulf economies, it has no social security protection or labour rights.
- The migrants living in the labour camps (mostly characterised by overcrowded and unsanitary living conditions) were vulnerable to the COVID-19 outbreak.
- The movement for nationalisation of labour and the anti-migrant sentiment have peaked in GCC countries.
- Climate change may significantly affect human migration in different ways. First, warming of the atmosphere in some regions will reduce the agricultural potential and undermine the ecosystem services such as fertile soil and water affecting people’s livelihoods
KAFALA SYSTEM :
- It is an exploitative system used to monitor migrant laborers, working primarily in the construction and domestic sectors in Gulf Cooperation Council member states and a few neighbouring countries, namely Bahrain, Kuwait, Lebanon, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.
- The system requires all unskilled laborers to have an in-country sponsor, usually their employer, who is responsible for their visa and legal status.
- It is the newest policy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia implemented by its Ministry of Labor and Social Development, whereby Saudi companies and enterprises are required to fill up their workforce with Saudi nationals up to certain levels.
- Announced in 2016, it is a key element of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030.
WAY FORWARD :
- The need of the hour is a comprehensive migration management system for countries that send workers as well as those that receive them. No South Asian country except Sri Lanka has an adequate migration policy.
- The pandemic has given us an opportunity to voice the rights of South Asian migrants and to bring the South Asia-Gulf migration corridor within the ambit of SAARC, the ILO, and UN conventions.
- India will need to rehabilitate, reintegrate, and resettle these migrant workers.