Current Affairs 12th April 2022

Modi pushes for peace as Shehbaz flags Kashmir #GS2 #IR

Prime Minister Narendra Modi wished Pakistan’s new PM Shehbaz Sharif on Monday, with a message of peace in a region “free of terror”.

In a speech to the National Assembly a few hours earlier, Mr. Sharif said that Pakistan desires good ties with India, which is “not possible without the resolution of the Kashmir dispute”.

The comments from both leaders, while different from the period of no bilateral engagement between Indian and Pakistani leaders during the last few years of ousted PM Imran Khan’s tenure, indicated that both sides will maintain their positions on terrorism and Jammu and Kashmir respectively.

Development focus

“India desires peace and stability in a region free of terror, so that we can focus on our development challenges and ensure the well-being and prosperity of our people,” said Mr. Modi, expressing his congratulations to Mr. Sharif, in a tweet just minutes after Mr. Sharif was sworn in as Prime Minister.

Mr. Sharif was elected unopposed in the National Assembly on Monday, after days of uncertainty over the no-confidence motion against Mr. Khan, which was eventually resolved by the Supreme Court, which directed that the vote be held on Saturday.

The Ministry of External Affairs had declined to comment on the “internal matters” of Pakistan, when asked about the turmoil in the neighbouring country. However on Monday, Mr. Modi discussed the situation in Pakistan and Sri Lanka during his virtual meeting with U.S. President Joseph Biden, officials said.

Mr. Biden had not held any conversation with Mr. Khan after taking office in 2021, and his engagement with the new government will be watched closely.

In an hour-long speech after the vote, Mr. Sharif castigated Mr. Khan, accusing him of fostering a deterioration in Pakistan’s ties with several countries including China, Saudi Arabia and the U.S. He also criticised Mr. Khan for a failure to conduct any “serious diplomacy” after India’s decision to reorganise Jammu and Kashmir and amend Article 370.

“We want good ties, but there can be no peace without the resolution of Kashmir,” Mr. Sharif said, adding that “neighbours are not a matter of choice”, calling it a “misfortune” that India and Pakistan don’t share good relations. “I would tell PM Modi that poverty, illiteracy, unemployment are problems on both sides of the border,” he said.

He also criticised Mr. Khan for a failure to conduct any “serious diplomacy” after India’s decision to reorganise Jammu and Kashmir and amend Article 370.

“We want good ties, but there can be no peace without the resolution of Kashmir,” Mr. Sharif said, adding that “neighbours are not a matter of choice”, calling it a “misfortune” that India and Pakistan don’t share good relations. “I would tell PM Modi that poverty, illiteracy, unemployment are problems on both sides of the border,” he said. “I would invite him to come and talk, discuss a resolution of the Kashmir issue according to the wishes of the Kashmiri people,” Mr. Sharif said adding that “Kashmiris’ blood is flowing on roads of Kashmir and the Kashmir Valley is red with their blood.”

Mr. Sharif had accompanied his elder brother and three-time Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in December 2015, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi had made an unannounced visit to Lahore.

Although ties between the two countries deteriorated shortly after the terror strike on Pathankot military base in January, Mr. Shehbaz Sharif was known for efforts to increase business and energy ties between the India and Pakistan.

Mr. Sharif was also believed to be privy to the backchannel dialogue held behind the scenes, with prominent businessmen as interlocutors, which eventually was taken over by National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and Pakistan’s military leadership.

In the weeks ahead, Delhi and Islamabad will be tracked for any outreach by either side, particularly on the economic front.

https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/modi-pushes-for-peace-as-pak-pm-flags-kashmir/article65312930.ece

Ukraine dominates Modi-Biden talks #GS2 #IR

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and U.S. President Joe Biden met virtually on Monday morning, as External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh were in Washington for the fourth ‘2+2’ foreign and defence ministry dialogues with their U.S. counterparts.

The war between Russia and Ukraine featured prominently in the opening remarks of both leaders and is expected to occupy a significant part of the day’s discussions. Mr. Modi, who spoke via video link, described the situation in Ukraine as “very worrying” and said he had spoken, several times, with both Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Russian President Vladimir Putin and had not just urged peace, but also direct talks between them.

India’s unwillingness to call out Russia by name for its attack on Ukraine has not gone down well in Washington, but U.S. officials have also said that they hoped countries that have relationships with Moscow might leverage them to bring about a resolution to the situation.

“The United States and India are going to continue our close consultation on how to manage the destabilising effects of this Russian war,” Mr. Biden said on Monday during the opening remarks.

Mr Jaishankar, Mr. Singh, India’s U.S. Ambassador Taranjit Singh Sandhu, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan were seated at the table with Mr. Biden. Pointing to Mr. Biden’s slogan, ‘Democracies can deliver’, Mr. Modi said: “The success of the India-America partnership is the best means to make this slogan meaningful.”

Mr. Modi, who spoke via videolink to Mr Biden, described the situation in Ukraine as “very worrying” and said he had spoken, several times, with both Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Russian President Vladimir Putin and had not just urged peace, but also direct talks between them. India’s unwillingness to call out Russia by name for its attack on Ukraine has not gone down well in Washington, but U.S. officials have also said that they hoped countries that have relationships with Moscow might leverage them to bring about a resolution to the situation.

“The United States and India are going to continue our close consultation on how to manage the destabilising effects of this Russian war,” Mr. Biden said in his opening remarks.

The government’s readout of the meeting said that Ukraine was also discussed. Speaking to presspersons after the meeting, a senior U.S. administration official said there was a “pretty detailed and candid exchange of views” on Ukraine but added that Mr. Biden made no “concrete ask” of India and Mr. Modi gave no “concrete answer”.

The comment by the official was in response to a reporter’s question on whether any explicit commitments were sought from India in terms of Russian oil, and also with regard to condemning Russia for attacking Ukraine. Both the official and Press Secretary Jen Psaki emphasised that while payments for energy from Russia were not sanctioned, the U.S. was discouraging India from increasing its purchases of Russian energy.

In comments shortly after the bilateral meeting, Ms. Psaki said that Mr. Biden had “made clear” what the impact of US sanctions would be, adding, “We expect everybody to abide by those”.

“The President made clear that he does not believe it’s in India’s interest to accelerate or increase imports of Russian energy and other commodities,” Ms. Psaki said, adding that Mr. Biden had reiterated a U.S. offer to help India diversity its energy imports. India currently imports only a small 1-2% of its energy from Russia as per official estimates.

Ms. Psaki used the words “constructive”, “productive” and “direct” to describe the conversation. She said the call was not “adversarial”. During the opening segment of the bilateral meeting, Mr. Jaishankar, Mr. Singh, India’s U.S. Ambassador Taranjit Singh Sandhu, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan were seen seated at the table with Mr. Biden.

https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/ukraine-dominates-modi-biden-talks/article65312942.ece

NITI puts out Energy and Climate Index list #GS3 #Environment

Gujarat has topped the list for larger States in the NITI Aayog’s State Energy and Climate Index–Round 1 that has ranked States and Union Territories (UTs) on six parameters including discoms’ performance, energy efficiency and environmental sustainability.

The States have been categorised based on size and geographical differences as larger and smaller States and UTs. The index is based on 2019-20 data.

Gujarat, Kerala and Punjab have been ranked as the top three performers in the category of larger States, while Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh were the bottom three States. Goa emerged as the top performer in the smaller States category followed by Tripura and Manipur. Among UTs, Chandigarh, Delhi and Daman & Diu/Dadra & Nagar Haveli are the top performers.

Punjab was the best performer in discom performance, while Kerala topped in access, affordability and reliability category.

Haryana was the best performer in clean energy initiative among larger States and Tamil Nadu in the energy efficiency category.

First step

“The State Energy and Climate Index (SECI) is the first index that aims to track the efforts made by States and UTs in the climate and energy sector…These parameters have been devised keeping in mind India’s goals for climate change and clean energy transition,” the report said.

It said the SECI is the first step in this journey where States can explore and benchmark themselves on various parameters. For instance, in terms of energy efficiency, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra have done well while in terms of Discom’s performance, two small UTs — D&D and D&N — have done well.

Noting that for a few States, data for a few indicators are not available, which has also affected the overall ranking of the States, the report said data update and validation need to be a priority of State governments going forward to help them design better policies.

https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/niti-puts-out-energy-and-climate-index-list/article65312892.ece