Balakot Airstrikes

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Context:
  • Indian Air Force (IAF) has struck against Jaish-e-Mohammed camp in Balakot of Pakistan occupied Kashmir in the pre-dawn hours of 26th February 2019.
  • Mirage-2000 fighter jets were used to drop explosives on these training camps.
  • A dozen Mirage-2000 fighter jets used to carry out the attack were escorted by four Sukhoi Su-30 aircraft.
  • Phalcon Airborne Warning and Control System of Israel and the indigenous Netra Airborne Early Warning and Control System Aircraft (AEW&C) aircraft were deployed to monitor the mission.
Highlights of the statement by the Ministry of External Affairs
  • A suicide terror attack was conducted by a Pakistan-based terrorist organization Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) which led to the martyrdom of 40 brave jawans of the CRPF.
  • The terrorist organisation JeM has been active in Pakistan for the last two decades and is led by Masood Azhar with its headquarters in Bahawalpur.
  • JeM has been responsible for a series of terrorist attacks including on the Indian Parliament in December 2001 and the Pathankot airbase in January 2016.
  • Even though India provided location of training camps in Pakistan from time to time, Pakistan continued to deny their existence and Pakistan has taken no concrete actions to dismantle infrastructure of terrorism on its soil.
  • The existence of such massive training facilities capable of training hundreds of jihadis could not have functioned without the knowledge of Pakistan authorities.
  • India has struck biggest training camp of JeM in Balakot. A large number of JeM terrorists, trainers, senior commanders and groups of jihadis who were being trained for fidayeen action were eliminated. This facility at Balakot was headed by Maulana Yousuf Azhar (alias Ustad Ghouri), brother-in-law of Masood Azhar, chief of JeM.

Iran Sanctions and Impact on India

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Background:
  • Iran earlier had several sanctions imposed on it by USA, UN and other western world. These sanctions were earlier removed because of P5+1 negotiations and after Iran’s agreement to reduce its nuclear fuel stockpile in phased manner.
  • After Trump, US has imposed new sanctions on Iran unilaterally.
What is India’s response to these sanction removals?
  • India is  keen on taking ties with this “extended neighbor” to a higher level.
  • The removal of sanctions on Iran following the nuclear deal has ended its isolation, and enabled its return to the economic and diplomatic mainstream.
  • The visit is expected to bridge the trust deficit in bilateral cooperation and boost energy and trade ties while expediting India’s connectivity plans.
How did these sanctions impacted India-Iran relations?
  • Bilateral ties took a beating during the sanctions years.
  • India had voted against Iran at the International Atomic Energy Agency over its clandestine nuclear programme and, under pressure from the U.S., slashed oil imports from the country by up to 40 per cent during the period.
  • New Delhi had also backed off from a pipeline project that aimed to bring natural gas from Iran to India through Pakistan.
Why Iran is so important to India?
  • Till sanctions were imposed on Iran, it was India’s second largest source of crude oil after Saudi Arabia.
  • Once the Chabahar port in Iran is developed, it will offer India alternative access to landlocked Afghanistan, bypassing Pakistan.
  • Both Iran and India share the goal of a stable government in Kabul free of the Taliban’s influence. Globally, New Delhi and Tehran are on the same page in their opposition towards groups like Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.
  • The Iran visit is an opportunity to restore equilibrium in India’s foreign policy, which, of late, was seen to be skewed towards Israel and Saudi Arabia.
What India is doing?
  • The government appears to be trying to reach out to the three poles of the region.
  • While it will pursue good ties with the Sunni Gulf for energy supplies, Iran would act as a gateway to Central Asia besides enhancing India’s energy security.
  • Israel remains one of India’s top defence and technology suppliers.
  • The success of this policy depends on New Delhi’s capacity to do the balancing act.
Why and what new sanctions are imposed by US?
  • Iran has conducted a ballistic missile test.
  • The United States has imposed new economic sanctions against Iran over its ballistic missile programme and for contributing to regional tensions.
  • The sanctions cover Iran’s banking and energy sectors and reinstate penalties for countries and companies in Europe, Asia and elsewhere that do not halt Iranian oil imports.
  • According to US, Iran’s continued support to terrorism and development of its ballistic missile programme pose a threat to the region, US and its partners worldwide.
  • Under the sanctions, those involved cannot have access to the US financial system or deal with US companies.
  • They are also subject to “secondary sanctions”, which means foreign companies and individuals are prohibited from dealing with them as they also can be blacklisted by US.
What is Iran’s response to these new Sanctions?
  • Iran has denounced the new sanctions as illegal and hailed that they are not compatible with US’s commitments and United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution that endorsed the nuclear deal (known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA) reached between Iran and P5+1 countries in 2015
Exemptions to India by US:
  • The decision comes after US imposed toughest ever sanctions on Iran under Iran Freedom and Counter-Proliferation Act, 2012.
  • The exemptions to India are with respect to development of Chabahar port, construction of associated railway and for shipment of non-sanctionable goods through port for Afghanistan’s use, as well as the country’s continued imports of Iranian petroleum products.
  • This exception relates to reconstruction assistance and economic development for Afghanistan.
  • These activities are vital for ongoing support of Afghanistan’s growth and humanitarian relief.
  • It is also part US President Donald Trump’s South Asia strategy which underscores US’s ongoing support of Afghanistan’s economic growth and development as well as close partnership with India.
  • This strategy states that India has major role in bringing peace and development in Afghanistan.

Iran nuclear deal : Timeline

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Iran nuclear deal

  • It is officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
  • It was signed between Iran and the P5, plus Germany and the EU in 2015. P5 is the 5 permanent members of the UNSC (US, China, France, Russia, and UK).
  • The deal aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear programme.
  • Under the deal most of Iran’s enriched uranium was shipped out of the country.
  • A heavy water facility was rendered inoperable
  • Operational nuclear facilities were brought under international inspection
  • In return, the deal involved lifting of international sanctions on Iran.

What happened after the deal?

  • October 2015: Iran conducts its first ballistic missile test since the nuclear deal. The US accuses Iran of violating a UN Security Council resolution, but former President Barack Obama acknowledges that ballistic missiles are “entirely separate” from the nuclear deal.
  • Jan 2016: The IAEA acknowledges Iran has met its commitments under the nuclear deal, which sees most sanctions on Iran lifted. It takes time but Iran re-enters the global banking system and begins selling crude oil and natural gas on the international market. Next day, the US imposes sanctions over Iran’s ballistic missile tests.
  • October 2018: Trump announces he will not re-certify the Iran nuclear deal as required, criticizing the accord by saying it “threw Iran’s dictatorship a political and economic lifeline”.

What are US’s present concerns?

  • Trump administration says the deal did not target Iran’s ballistic missile programme.
  • It does not focus on Iran’s nuclear activities beyond 2025.
  • It also leaves Iran’s role in conflicts in Yemen and Syria.

India-Japan : Free and Open Indo-Pacific

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Free and Open Indo-Pacific:

  • India and Japan outlined a vision for strengthened bilateral relations at the 13th annual summit.
  • Japan’s formulation of a “free and open Indo-Pacific” received a central place in the vision statement issued at the end of the talks, with both sides stressing their “unwavering commitment to it.”
  • The concept is usually seen as a response to China’s growing dominance in the region.

Recent developments Indo-Pacific region

  • Bangladesh has already chosen Japan’s Martabali port project instead of China’s Sonadia port project. If the Trincomalee port project – involving Japanese assistance – in Sri Lanka succeeds, then the importance of China’s Hambantota port will decline.
  • Similarly, the Chabahar port project in Iran can mitigate the importance of the Chinese Gwadar port in Pakistan.
  • The Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC), a result of Indo-Japanese cooperation, will also counter China’s growing influence in Africa.
  • India has secured access to Duqm port in Oman for military use and develop the Agalega Island in Mauritius.
  • The Indian Navy has secured a logistics facility in Singapore that will allow it to refuel and rearm and has similar facilities in Vietnam.
  • India’s recent logistics agreement with France, just like the one with the US, allows it to access France’s military bases across the Indo-Pacific.
  • India and Indonesia are considering the development of a port at Sabang close to the Malacca Strait after the Indonesian minister for maritime affairs offered the port to India for military use. China was quick to warn India against militarization of the port.
  • The Andaman and Nicobar Islands are strategically important. These islands are near the Malacca Straits, providing an excellent location for tracking China’s submarine activities. India is modernizing infrastructure to deploy more and larger warships and planes in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
  • In addition, Japanese investment in India’s strategic road project in the latter’s North-East region will help increase India-South-East Asia trade. There is a possibility that growing India-South-East Asia trade could reduce China’s influence in South-East Asia.
  • India has been conducting a number of bilateral and multilateral military exercises. The Malabar naval exercises with the US and Japan are the largest and the most complex series of naval exercises that India engages in, developing interoperability with two of the most powerful navies in the Indo-Pacific.
  • The Quad, while not being given a military dimension yet, will be the most important grouping in the Indo-Pacific. It will have to set an economic programme to help smaller countries of the region.

Strategic Trade Authorization-1 (STA-1)

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Context:
  • United States has designated India as Strategic Trade Authorization-1 (STA-1) country that will allow country to buy highly advanced and cutting-edge sensitive technologies from America.
  • This coveted status brings India in par with US’s closest allies and partners such as NATO.
 
What is STA-1?
  • STA-1 designation authorizes export, re-export and transfer (in-country) of specified items on Commerce Control List to destinations posing a low risk of unauthorised or impermissible uses.
  • Currently there are 36 countries on STA-1 list.
  • India is only South Asian country to be on the list. Other Asian countries designated as STA-1 are Japan and South Korea.
 
What are the benefits of having STA-1 designation to India?
  • Under STA-1, India and US have reached understanding under which India will receive license-free access to wide range of dual-use technologies in conjunction with steps that India has committed to take to advance its export control objectives.
  • STA-1 treatment will expand scope of technology exports subject to Export Administration Regulations (EAR) that can be made to India without individual licenses.
  • It will further enhance bilateral defence trade relationship and result in a greater volume of US exports to India.
  • It will allow US companies to more efficiently export much wider range of products to Indian high technology and military customers.
  • It will benefit US manufacturers while continuing to protect its national security.
  • It will provide India greater supply chain efficiency, both for defence and for other high-tech products that will increase activity with US systems, interoperability of systems and will reduce time and resources needed to get licensing approved.
  • It will be also competitive advantage for US, in terms of supplying those kinds of products to India.
  • This new designation reflects India’s membership in three of four multilateral export control regimes.

 

ias4sure.com - Strategic Trade Authorization-1 (STA-1)

Israel’s ‘Nation State’ Law

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Context
  • The law establishes Israel as the
    • historic home of the Jewish people
    • with a “united” Jerusalem as its capital
    • declares that the Jewish people “have an exclusive right to national self-determination” in Israel.
  • The legislation, a “basic law” gives it the weight of a constitutional amendment — omits any mention of democracy or the principle of equality, in what critics called a betrayal of Israel’s 1948 Declaration of Independence, which ensured “complete equality of social and political rights” for “all its inhabitants” no matter their religion, race or sex.
 
Law downgrades status of Arabic
  • The law downgrades the status of Arabic, until now an official language of the State of Israel, along with Hebrew.
  • The law sets Arabic as a language with “special status.” Arabs make up approximately 20% of Israel’s population and about 36% of the population of Jerusalem.
 
What do the supporters of bill say?
  • It is aimed to boost Israel’s Jewish identity and will not discriminate against minorities.
 
Issue Area
  • Arab community, which makes up a fifth of Israel’s population, faces discrimination when it comes to opportunities and rights
  • It challenges the basic concepts of equality, which even Israel’s declaration of independence promised to all its inhabitants.
  • The legislation is racist and a form of apartheid aimed at creating two systems within one country.
  • The emphasis on Jerusalem and the promise to promote settlements pose a direct threat to any peace process with the Palestinians.
  • Jerusalem remains a disputed territory, with Palestinians seeing its eastern part as the capital of their future state. Israel’s claim over the city remains a key point of dispute between the two sides.
 
 
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