A) Schemes/Policies/Initiatives/Social Issues
Energy Efficiency in India (TH)
- Context: In the last two decades, India’s manufacturing sector has gained 39 per cent in energy efficiency thanks to various policy reforms by the Centre, according to a research by IIT-Madras.
- The government:
- allowed existing capacity to be used more fully;
- allowed creation of additional capacity on a larger or more economic scale;
- removed constraints in raw material availability; and
- allowed access to better technologies through import of plant and equipment.
- The manufacturing sector also achieved energy efficiency from policies related to:
- clean development mechanism,
- technology transfer,
- foreign direct investment,
- innovation and R&D.
Role of States
- But the improvement is not uniform across States.
- Almost half the States have attained energy efficiency because of positive energy policies such as the National Mission on Energy Efficiency of 2008 at the national level.
- Small States, however, become highly effective in energy efficiency gain.
The Clean Development Mechanism
- The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) allows a country with an emission-reduction or emission-limitation commitment under the Kyoto Protocol (Annex B Party) to implement an emission-reduction project in developing countries.
- Such projects can earn saleable certified emission reduction (CER) credits, each equivalent to one tonne of CO2, which can be counted towards meeting Kyoto targets.
- It is the first global, environmental investment and credit scheme of its kind, providing standardized emissions offset instrument, CERs.
- A CDM project activity might involve, for example, a rural electrification project using solar panels or the installation of more energy-efficient boilers.
- The mechanism stimulates sustainable development and emission reductions while giving industrialized countries some flexibility in how they meet their emission reduction or limitation targets.
National Mission for Enhanced Energy Efficiency
- The National Mission for Enhanced Energy Efficiency (NMEEE) is one of the eight national missions under the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC).
- NMEEE consist of four initiatives to enhance energy efficiency in energy-intensive industries which are as follows:
- NMEEE aims to strengthen the market for energy efficiency through the implementation of innovative business models in the energy efficiency sector.
Perform Achieve and Trade (PAT) Scheme
- PAT scheme is a flagship scheme of Bureau of Energy Efficiency under the National Mission for Enhanced Energy Efficiency (NMEEE) to improve energy efficiency of large energy consuming industries through certification of excess energy saving which can be traded.
- The energy intensive industries including the thermal power plants are the major players in this entire scheme of PAT.
- PAT scheme is being implemented on a rolling cycle basis where new DCs/sectors will be included every year.
- The Energy Savings Certificates (ESCerts) so issued will be tradable on special trading platforms to be created in the two power exchanges — Indian Energy Exchange and Power Exchange India.
State Energy Efficiency Preparedness Index
- The nationwide Index is a joint effort of the NITI Aayog and Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) under the aegis of Ministry of Power, which assesses state policies and programmes aimed at improving energy efficiency across various sector.
Market Transformation for Energy Efficiency (MTEE)
- Under MTEE, two programmes have been developed i.e. Bachat Lamp Yojana (BLY) and Super-Efficient Equipment Programme (SEEP).
Bachat Lamp Yojana (BLY)
- The Bachat Lamp Yojana PoA is a scheme developed by BEE to promote energy efficient lighting in India.
- There are no mandatory requirements in India requiring the use of energy efficient CFL at the household level.
- All the key players under the scheme like the BEE and participating implementer(s), DISCOMs and households are voluntarily taking part under this scheme.
- The objective of the Bachat Lamp Yojana (BLY) scheme is to provide Energy Efficient Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) at the same cost i.e. Rs.15, as of Incandescent Bulbs.
- The cost differential would be made up by project implementer through carbon credits earned which could be traded in the International market under Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of Kyoto Protocol.
- The BEE coordinates the Small-Scale Programme of Activities (SSC-PoA) and supports the project implementer(s) in implementing the CDM Programme Activities (CPAs) in India through collaboration with Electricity Distribution Companies (DISCOMs).
- The scheme after implementation results in reducing GHG emissions (CO2) from power plants connected to the grid
- The BLY CDM Programme of Activities (PoA) is registered with UNFCCC.
Super-Efficient Equipment Programme (SEEP)
- SEEP is a program designed to bring accelerated market transformation for super-efficient appliances by providing financial stimulus innovatively at critical point/s of intervention.
- Under this program, ceiling fan has been identified as the first appliance to adopted.
- SEEP for ceiling fans aims to leapfrog to an efficiency level which will be about 50% more efficient than market average by providing a time bound incentive to fan manufacturers to manufacture super-efficient (SE) fans and sell the same at a discounted price.
- The goal is to support the introduction and deployment of super-efficient 35W ceiling fans, as against the current average ceiling fan sold in Indian market with about 70W rating.
Framework for Energy Efficient Economic Development (FEEED)
- Under the initiative of Framework for Energy Efficient Economic Development (FEEED), BEE has created two financial instruments – Partial Risk Guarantee Fund for Energy Efficiency (PRGFEE) and Venture Capital Fund for Energy Efficiency (VCFEE) – to help financial institutions actively engage with industries, large commercial establishments, and project implementation agencies and provide funds for energy efficiency projects across the country.
Partial Risk Guarantee Fund for Energy Efficiency (PRGFEE)
- To ease credit risk of Financial institutions (banks/NBFCs) BEE has institutionalized PRGFEE, which provides a partial coverage of risk involved in extending loans for Energy Efficiency (EE) projects.
- PRGFEE guarantees upto 50% of loan amount or Rs. 10 crore per project, whichever is less.
- PRGFEE support has been provided to government buildings, private buildings (commercial or multi-storey residential buildings), municipalities, SMEs and industries.
Venture Capital Fund for Energy Efficiency (VCFEE)
- To enhance equity investment in Energy Efficiency (EE) projects, BEE has institutionalized Venture Capital Fund for Energy Efficiency (VCFEE).
- The Fund shall provide last mile equity support to specific energy efficiency projects, limited to a maximum of 15% of total equity required, through Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) or INR 2 crores, whichever is less.
- The support under VCFEE is limited to Government buildings, private buildings having commercial or multi-storey residential accommodations, and municipalities.
EVIN (Electronic Vaccine Intelligence Network) (PIB)
- Context: The eVIN network, which can track the latest vaccine stock position; the temperature at storage facility; geo-tag health centres; and maintain facility-level dashboard, is being repurposed for the delivery of the COVID-19 vaccine.
- eVIN (Electronic Vaccine Intelligence Network) is an indigenously developed technology system in India that digitizes vaccine stocks and monitors the temperature of the cold chain through a smartphone application.
- electronic Vaccine Intelligence Network (eVIN) project is under National Health Mission, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare but it is being implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
- Presently it is being implemented called across twelve states in India.
- eVIN aims to support the Government of India’s Universal Immunization Programme by providing real-time information on vaccine stocks and flows, and storage temperatures across all cold chain points in these states.
- It aims to strengthen the evidence base for improved policy-making in vaccine delivery, procurement and planning for new antigens in India.
- It provides an integrated solution to address widespread inequities in vaccine coverage by supporting state governments in overcoming constraints of infrastructure, monitoring and management information systems and human resources, often resulting in overstocking and stock-outs of vaccines in storage centres.
The integrated solution combines:
- Technology: to facilitate evidence-based decision-making by making available online real-time information on vaccine stocks and storage temperature through the eVIN application software and temperature loggers;
- Governance: to ensure efficient vaccine logistics management by systemizing record keeping through standardizing stock and distribution registers; identifying gaps and improving clarity on vaccine cold chain network; drawing attention to infrastructure upgrades; developing standard operating procedures; and encouraging good practices;
- Human Resources: to empower the state cold chain network by building the capacities of government cold chain handlers; and deploying vaccine and cold chain managers in every district for constant support to estimate vaccine requirements, supervise cold chain handlers and coordinate with cold chain technicians across the district.
B) Science and Technology/Defence/Space
3.India and the Polar Research (IE)
- Context: After a Year in the Ice, the Biggest–Ever Arctic ScienceMission, the MOSAiC, Ends.
Fig. The German Polarstern Research Vessel.
- The Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate (MOSAiC) was the first year-round expedition into the central Arctic exploring the Arctic climate system.
- The focus of MOSAiC lied on direct in-situ observations of the climate processes that couple the atmosphere, ocean, sea ice, biogeochemistry and ecosystem.
- It was the largest Central Arctic expedition ever.
- The mission was spearheaded by the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI).
Why MOSAIC Mission?
- The Arctic is a key area of global climate change, with warming rates exceeding twice the global average (Figure 1).
- The observed rate of climate change in the Arctic is not well reproduced in climate models.
- Many processes in the Arctic climate system are poorly represented in climate models because they are not sufficiently understood.
- Understanding of Arctic climate processes is limited by a lack of year-round observations in the central Arctic.
Innovative experimental design of the MOSAiC expedition
- The backbone of MOSAiC will be the year-round operation of RV Polarstern, the German research icebreaker, drifting with the sea ice across the central Arctic during the years 2019 to 2020.
- During the set-up phase RV Polarstern will enter the Siberian sector of the Arctic in thin sea ice conditions in late summer.
- A distributed regional network of observational sites will be set up on the sea ice in an area of up to ~50km distance from RV Polarstern.
- The ship and the surrounding network will drift with the natural ice drift across the polar cap towards the Atlantic, while the sea ice thickens during winter.
- India’s Vishnu Nandan, the 32-year-old polar researcher from Kerala, was the only Indian aboard the multidisciplinary drifting observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate (MOSAiC) expedition.
- The Polarstern had internet access and satellite phones so those on board could email and talk to loved ones regularly.
- The following 20 nations will participate in the expedition:
- Great Britain
Indian arctic multi-sensor mooring (IndARC) observatory
- IndARC is India’s first multi-sensor moored observatory deployed in Kongsfjorden Fjord of the Arctic roughly halfway between North Pole and Norway in July 2014 for in situ long-term data collection.
- The observatory is anchored at a depth of 192 m and has an array of 10 state-of-the-art oceanographic sensors strategically positioned at various depths in the water.
- The sensors were programmed to collect real- time data on seawater temperature, salinity, ocean currents and other vital parameters of the fjord.
- Scientists predict that melting of the Arctic glaciers will trigger changes in weather patterns and ocean currents that could affect other parts of the world.
- Studies during the 1990s suggest that the Arctic has been a sink for atmospheric CO2.
- One of the major constraints in such a study has been the difficulty in reaching the location to collect data during the harsh Arctic winter.
- The IndARC observatory is an attempt to overcome this lacuna.
- IndARC can enable acquiring data of sub-surface parameters during winter when the surface is frozen.
- Data collected by IndARC would be used for climate modelling studies to understand the influence of the Arctic processes on the Indian monsoon system.
- Recent studies have shown that there is a physical linking of the multidecadal and inter-annual variabilities in the Indian summer monsoon rainfall with the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation as well as the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO).
- The Kongsfjorden is considered a natural laboratory for studying the Arctic climate variability.
- The fjord (a long, narrow, deep inlet of the sea between high cliffs, as in Norway, typically formed by submergence of a glaciated valley) lays adjacent to both Arctic and Atlantic water masses.
- It is an open fjord, without sill, and therefore is largely influenced by the processes on the adjacent shelf.
- With five tidewater glaciers, Kongsfjorden acts as a natural laboratory to study the climatic impacts of global warming, the local Arctic warming, the consequent glacial melt and the impacts of freshwater discharge.
- This is also an established reference site for Arctic marine studies as it receives variable Arctic/Atlantic climatic signals between years with measurable effects on the physical and biological systems.
National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research, Goa
- In 2018, India renamed the National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research (NCAOR), Goa — since 1998, charged with conducting expeditions to India’s base stations to the continent — as the National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research, Goa, India’s premier research institution responsible for the country’s research activities in the polar (Arctic, Antarctica, Himalayas) and Southern Ocean realms.
- Climate change was a decisive factor in India re-thinking priorities.
- Sea ice at the Arctic has been melting rapidly — the fastest in this century.
- That means several spots, rich in hydrocarbon reserves, will be more accessible through the year via alternative shipping routes.
- A big worry for India is the impact of melting sea ice on the monsoon.
- The rapid ice-melt in the Arctic is leading to large quantities of fresh water into the seas around the poles.
- This impedes the release of heat from the water and directs warm water into the seas around India, and eventually weakens the movement of the monsoon breeze into India.
India and Arctic
- India launched its first scientific expedition to the Arctic Ocean in 2007 and opened a research base named “Himadri” (India’s only Arctic observation station) at the International Arctic Research Base at Ny-Alesund, Svalbard, Norway in July 2008.
- Along with the Arctic, India’s earth sciences community also views the Himalayas as a “third pole” because of the large quantities of snow and ice it holds.
- It has already established a high-altitude research station in the Himalayas, called HIMANSH, at Spiti, Himachal Pradesh.
- India is already an observer at the Arctic Council — a forum of countries that decides on managing the region’s resources and popular livelihood.
- Antarctica “the white continent” is the fifth largest continent in the world.
- It is situated within the Antarctic Circle and is surrounded by Southern Ocean.
- James cook discovered Antarctica when he was crossing the Antarctic Circle.
- The world’s largest ocean current, the Antarctic circumpolar current circumvents the Antarctic continent.
- Of the 14 million-sq.km area, 98% is covered with thick ice sheets that formed 25 million years ago and holds 70-75% of the earth’s fresh water.
India and Antarctica
- Dakshin Gangotri (1983) was India’s first permanent research station in Antarctica as part of the Indian Antarctic Programme.
- It was located at a distance of 2,500 kilometres from the South Pole.
- Maitri (1988-89) is India’s second permanent research station in Antarctica.
- Dakshin Gangotri (1983) has since been decommissioned after it got buried under ice and has been marked as an historic site.
- Bharati, commissioned in 2012 in Larsemann Hills, is India’s third permanent research station in Antarctica.
- It has been constructed using 134 recycled shipping containers, to help researchers work in safety despite the harsh weather.
- In line with the Antarctic Treaty System, Bharati can be completely disassembled and removed without leaving even a brick behind.
- It is located almost 3,000 km away from the existing ‘Maitri’ station which is serving the nation since its inception in 1988-89.
- The location was important on account of scientific and logistic reasons, ice-free terrain and easy access from the sea.
- Bharati’ station is a self-contained double-storey structure on stilts and is designed to have a life span of 25 years.
- The station is designed to withstand extreme environmental conditions prevailing at Larsemann Hills and is compliant with the environmental standards under the Madrid Protocol.
- India is a signatory to the Antarctic Treaty and to the Protocol to the Antarctic Treaty on Environmental Protection
- The Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty (also known as the Madrid Protocol) provides for comprehensive protection of the Antarctic region (the area south of 60 degrees South latitude) and dependent and associated ecosystems.
- The Protocol:
- designates Antarctica as a ‘natural reserve, devoted to peace and science’,
- prohibits mining indefinitely,
- requires that all proposed activities must be subject to a prior assessment of their environmental impacts, and
- establishes the Committee for Environmental Protection.
- The Larsemann Hills area is marked by persistent, strong katabatic winds that blow from east to southeast during austral summer.
- India and Antarctica were once part of the southern part of the supercontinent Pangaea, called Gondwanaland, and their coastlines have a shared history).
- Normally, Indian scientists from several research institutions are selected every year to go in batches to Antarctica from November to March, the only clement months when ships and chartered flights can reach the continent — the ice being too thick otherwise.
- India does not have a specific law on Antarctica. But recently the Union Government has asked the Ministry of Earth Sciences to prepare a specific law on Antarctica.
- Just 2% of this continent is free of ice.
- In human historic terms, the land exploration of Antarctica is recent, most of it being accomplished during the twentieth century.
- The studies undertaken in Antarctica are mainly to understand climate change and find out the linkages between Antarctica and Indian monsoon.
- Unlike the tropical and temperate regions, past climate reconstruction in Antarctica is restricted to ice-cores, marine and lake sediments.
- The Antarctic Treaty was signed in Washington in 1959 by the twelve countries:
- Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Chile, France, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, United Kingdom, United States and USSR.
- The Treaty applies to the area south of 60° South latitude.
- The total number of Parties to the Treaty is now 54 including India (Consultative Party status).
- 29 are Consultative Parties and 25 Non-Consultative Parties (are invited to attend the Consultative Meetings but do not participate in the decision-making).
- No live animals, other than registered assistance dogs, should be intentionally carried on any vessel visiting Antarctica.
- Dogs are not permitted to land within the Antarctic Treaty area.
Other important Features
- Military activities, such as the establishment of military bases or weapons testing, are specifically prohibited;
- It prohibits nuclear explosions and the disposal of radioactive waste;
- It requires parties to give advance notice of their expeditions;
- It puts in place a dispute settlement procedure and a mechanism by which the Treaty can be modified.
- The Treaty also provides that any member of the United Nations can accede to it.
- Organizations such as the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, the United Nations Environment Program and the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition are also invited to the Treaty meetings as experts.
- Bodies with technical expertise relevant to the Treaty discussions also participate. They include:
- the International Hydrographic Organisation,
- the World Meteorological Organisation, and
- the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission.
- The Treaty provided that any party could call for a review conference after the expiration of 30 years.
- No party has done so.
- There is no similar international regime for the Arctic.
India’s Ocean Research Vessels
- India’s research-vessel fleet consists of six research vessels:
- Sagar Kanya (Ocean Research Vessel, ORV),
- Sagar Sampada (Fishery Oceanographic Research Vessel, FORV),
- Sagar Nidhi (Technology Demonstration Vessel, TDV),
- BTV Sagar Manjusha (Research/Survey Vessel),
- Sagar Purvi (Coastal Research Vessels, CRVs)
- Sagar Paschmi (Coastal Research Vessels, CRVs) currently.
- A seventh being the Polar Research Vessel (PRV) which is being considered for construction.
- The two Ocean going Research Vessels, viz., ORV Sagar Kanya and FORV Sagar Sampada were built under an exchange programme of German and Danish Governments.
Explained: Why Mars is the brightest this month (IE)
- Context: During this time, Mars will appear as a bright star to the unaided eye and when viewed from a telescope, ‘it will grow dramatically in size’, as per NASA.
- It is due to an event referred to as “opposition”, which takes place every two years and two months.
- Mars will outshine Jupiter, becoming the third brightest object (Moon and Venus are first and second, respectively) in the night sky during the month of October.
- ‘Opposition’ is the best time to view Mars.
So, what is the opposition?
- Opposition is the event when the sun, Earth and an outer planet (Mars in this case) are lined up, with the Earth in the middle.
- The time of opposition is the point when Mars is typically also at its closest distance to the Earth for a given year, and because it is close, the planet appears brighter in the sky.
- An opposition can occur anywhere along Mars’ orbit, but when it happens when the planet is also closest to the sun, it is also particularly close to the Earth.
- Even so, the closest approach does not mean that Mars will appear to be the same size as that of the moon.
When does opposition happen?
- Earth and Mars orbit the sun at different distance (Mars is farther apart from the sun than Earth and therefore takes longer to complete one lap around the sun).
- In fact, opposition can happen only for planets that are farther away from the sun than the Earth.
- In case of Mars, roughly every two years, the Earth passes between sun and Mars, this is when the three are arranged in a straight line.
- In case of opposition, however, Mars and sun are on directly opposite sides of the Earth and Mars is closest to the Earth.
- Note: Significantly, the closest distance is relative and hence can vary. As per NASA, Mars made its closest approach to Earth in 2003 in nearly 60,000 years and it won’t be that close to the planet until 2287. This is because Orbits of Earth and Mars are not perfectly circular and their shapes can change slightly because of gravitational tugging by other planets. For instance, Jupiter influences the orbit of Mars
But why is it called opposition?
- As per NASA, from an individual’s perspective on the Earth, Mars rises in the east and after staying up all night, it sets in the west just as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west.
- Because from the perspective on Earth, the sun and Mars appear to be on the opposite sides of the sky, Mars is said to be in “opposition”.
C) International Relations
.All about the Indo-Pacific (TH)
- China said the United States was aiming to build an “Indo-Pacific NATO” that would be founded on the four-nation India, U.S., Japan and Australia grouping, in Beijing’s most high-profile criticism so far on the “Quad”.
- In essence, [the Indo-Pacific strategy] aims to build a so-called Indo-Pacific NATO underpinned by the quadrilateral mechanism involving the U.S., Japan, India and Australia,” said China
What does “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” exactly mean? Why is it considered important?
- “Free and Open Indo Pacific” was coined as a new foreign policy strategy by Japan in 2017 and which subsequently found favour with the United States (US) as well as regional Asian powers.
- The Free and Open Indo-Pacific concept was unveiled by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2016.
- As per Japanese policy documents, the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy” seeks to improve “connectivity” between the Pacific and the Indian Oceans.
- In pursuit of this, Japan aims to strengthen strategic collaboration with India, the US and Australia.
- “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” can, arguably, be considered a reaction to the militarisation of waters in the Indo-Pacific, the South China Sea (SCS) in particular, and the growing heft of the Chinese economy across Asia and Africa.
- “Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy” aims to prepare Japan to deal with the fast changing global and regional order and threats from China and North Korea.
- The strategy aims to create a “free and open” Asia-Pacific region which connects parts of eastern Africa, south Asia and southeast Asia with the western Pacific Ocean region and Japan.
- Japan will expand infrastructure, development, trade and investment, and enhance business environment and human development from East Asia as a starting point, to the Middle East and Africa.
- The ‘Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy’ rests on “two oceans” — Indian and Pacific — and “two continents” — Africa and Asia.
U.S and the Indo-Pacific
- The Trump administration’s vision of a “free and open Indo-Pacific” has three components – economic, governance and security.
- Not only does the US seek greater economic engagement with countries of the Indo-Pacific but also aims at promoting greater transparency in governance and freedom for civil society in the region.
- The renaming of the U.S. Pacific Command to U.S. Indo-Pacific Command as well as the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act in December 2018 showcase Washington’s more serious engagement with the Indo-Pacific.
- Pacific Command is the oldest and the largest military command of U.S.
- The Donald Trump administration had been using the term Indo-Pacific instead of Asia-Pacific in official documents already.
- It is an annual U.S.-led and one of the largest multilateral humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness mission in the Asia-Pacific.
- Pacific Partnership began in 2006 following the December 2004 tsunami that devastated parts of Southeast Asia.
- Led by the U.S. Navy in partnership with other like-minded countries and non-governmental organizations, it sees the combined force visiting several host nations every year to bolster collective ability to respond to natural disasters.
Indo-Pacific trilateral dialogue
- With a focus on enhancing cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region, India, Australia and France held the first trilateral dialogue where they discussed
- economic and geostrategic challenges and cooperation” in the region, particularly in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and domestic responses to it;
- priorities, challenges and trends in regional and global multilateral institutions, including the best ways to strengthen and reform multilateralism;
- concrete cooperation projects in the maritime sector and those promoting global commons (climate, environment and biodiversity, health).
- Germany has announced a set of Indo-Pacific policy guidelines, becoming the second European nation after Franceto formally adopt a strategy for the Indo-Pacific region.
- On July 1, Germany assumed the EU Council’s six-monthly rotating presidency, putting it in a position to shape the bloc’s approach to the Indo-Pacific throughout the remainder of its term.
- The strategy is designed to allow Germany to make “an active contribution to shaping the international order in the Indo-Pacific.”
- On one level, the strategy is a simple concession to economic and geopolitical reality.
- Asia has long been Germany’s largest export market outside of Europe itself, and its economy remains heavily reliant on the global supply chains and open sea lanes that speed German-made cars and other goods to fast-growing Asian markets.
- It recognizes that the growing strategic uncertainty in the Indo-Pacific—due both to China’s increasing assertiveness in the region and the American push back that this has engendered—is likely to have direct impact on Germany’s future prosperity and security.
- Conversely, improved partnerships with other nations in the Indo-Pacific will undoubtedly help Germany handle many of the global challenges posed by an increasingly brash and ambitious China.
- At the same time, Germany’s engagement with the Indo-Pacific is likely to differ considerably from the go-it-alone posture of the United States under President Donald Trump, which has also put the Indo-Pacific at the center of its national security strategy.
- While the German guidelines hold out a diversification of economic and trade links away from China, preexisting trade flows militate against any significant economic decoupling.
- Moreover, an important part of its approach to the region will be “to strengthen structures of international cooperation”—exactly the sort of multilateral mechanisms that the Trump administration disdains.
- For example, the German announcement singled out the ten-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as a special focus of engagement.
- Indeed, one could read Berlin’s opposition to “the law of the strong” as a veiled declaration of independence from Washington’s “America First” unilateralism.
- The Indo-Pacific wing has been set up in the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in April 2019.
- Note: Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) was covered comprehensively in 2nd September file.
Explained: What’s behind recent tensions between Turkey and Greece (IE)
- Context: NATO allies Turkey and Greece have locked horns twice over the past two months – first after Turkey converted the 1,500-year-old Hagia Sophia from a museum into a mosque, and then over who gets to explore hydrocarbons in the Eastern Mediterranean.
- Relations between the two nations have seen a marked downturn this year. In February, Turkey had allowed thousands of migrants to cross the border into Greece and the European Union, irking the latter.
The Mediterranean neighbors
- Greece won independence from modern Turkey’s precursor, the Ottoman Empire, in 1830.
- In 1923, the two countries exchanged their Muslim and Christian populations – a migration whose scale has only been surpassed in history by the Partition of India.
- The two nations continue to oppose each other on the decades-old Cyprus conflict, and on two occasions have almost gone to war over exploration rights in the Aegean Sea.
- Both countries are, however, part of the 30-member NATO alliance, and Turkey is officially a candidate for full membership of the European Union, of which Greece is a constituent.
The Hagia Sophia row
- The centuries-old Hagia Sophia, listed as a Unesco World Heritage site, was originally a cathedral in the Byzantine Empire before it was turned into a mosque in 1453, when Constantinople fell to Sultan Mehmet II’s Ottoman forces.
- In the 1930s, however, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey, shut down the mosque and turned it into a museum in an attempt to make the country more secular.
- Many Greeks continue to revere the Hagia Sophia, and view it as a key part of Orthodox Christianity. So, when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ordered the structure open to Muslim worship last month, tensions escalated.
Energy rivalry in the Eastern Mediterranean
- Greece has condemned new Turkish gas exploration off the coast of the divided island of Cyprus.
- Turkey alone recognises the self-styled Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.
- The Republic of Cyprus, Greece and Israel are also exploring for gas.
- In July a new “East Mediterranean Gas Forum” (EMGF) was launched by these three countries, plus Egypt, Jordan, Italy and the Palestinian Authority. However, Turkey was excluded.
- But Turkey challenged the pipeline project and reached an agreement with Libya’s Tripoli-based government, which Ankara is backing, to form an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) from its southern shores to Libya’s northern coast across the Mediterranean.
- Greece claimed the Turkish zone violated its maritime sovereignty. Later, Greece announced its EEZ with Egypt, which clashes with Turkey’s zone.
- It is difficult to demarcate the maritime boundaries in the eastern Mediterranean, which is dotted with Turkish and Greek islands.
- The Eastern Mediterranean is reckoned to be rich in natural gas: the US Geological Survey estimates the deposits to run into trillions of cubic metres, worth hundreds of billions of dollars, besides millions of barrels of oil.
- Relations between France and Turkey have been icy as France has accused Ankara of violating the sovereignty of Greece and Cyprus — claims Turkey rejects.
- France recently announced it was “temporarily reinforcing” its military presence in the eastern Mediterranean in support of Greece.
- That decision only further worsened France’s tensions with Turkey — already high because of opposing approaches to the Libya conflict and other parts of the region.
August 2020: Turkey says it will hold military drills in east Mediterranean
- The Turkish navy issued the latest advisory, known as a Navtex, saying it will hold the shooting exercises in the eastern Mediterranean off the coast of Iskenderun, northeast of Cyprus, which have fuelled tensions with Greece.
- It also extended the seismic work of its Oruc Reis survey vessel, southwest of Cyprus, until September 1.
- The announcement came hours before Parliament in Greece is expected to ratify an agreement with Egypt, which defines maritime boundaries between the two countries, a step which Turkey considers an affront.
- Greece and Turkey, both members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, have been locked in a dispute over control of eastern Mediterranean waters, which escalated after Ankara sent a seismic survey vessel to the disputed region this month in a move which Athens called illegal.
- They are at odds over the rights to potential hydrocarbon resources, based on conflicting claims over the extent of their continental shelves.
- As the dispute widened, France said it was joining military exercises with Italy, Greece and Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean.
- Cyprus was divided in 1974 following a Turkish invasion triggered by a Greek-inspired coup.
- Turkey recognises the Turkish-populated north of Cyprus as a state, which is not recognised by other countries.
- Parliament in Greece is expected to ratify an accord defining its sea boundaries with Egypt, having ratified a similar deal with Italy.
- Greece now plans to extend its territorial waters in the Ionian Sea to 12 nautical miles from its coast, from six nautical miles. Turkey has warned that a similar move by Athens in waters east of Greece would be a cause for war.
- NAVTEX, an acronym for navigational telex (navigational text messages) is a device used on-board the vessels to provide short range Maritime Safety Information in coastal waters automatically.
- It can be used in ships of all types and sizes.
- The area covered by Navtex can extend as far as 400 nautical miles from the broadcast station.
- A NAVTEX receiver on board prints out navigational and meteorological warnings and forecasts as well as urgent Marine Safety Information to ships.
- It forms a vital element of the Global Maritime Distress Safety System (GMDSS).
- In 1570, the predominantly Greek-speaking island of Cyprus came under the control of the Ottoman Empire.
- Over the centuries, many Turks settled on the island and a sizeable Turkish Cypriot community grew up.
- By the time Cyprus became an independent country in 1960, the Greek-speaking community made up around three-quarters of the population but Turkish speakers were still a sizeable minority.
What happened in 1974?
- Relations between the two sides came to a head in July 1974 when the military junta that was ruling Greece at the time staged a coup d’etat so it could annex Cyprus as a part of Greece.
- Responding to this, the Turkish military staged an invasion and captured the northern city of Kyneria, the northern corridor between Kyneria and the capital Nicosia and the Turkish quarter of Nicosia itself.
- A UN-backed ceasefire was eventually declared with a buffer zone running through the country which remains in place today.
What is the status of Northern Cyprus?
- Turkey recognises Northern Cyprus, which takes up around 36% of the island’s landmass, as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.
- The United Nations recognises it as a territory of the Republic of Cyprus currently under Turkish occupation.
- Cyprus and Turkey have had no formal diplomatic relations since 1974.
What has this got to do with energy exploration?
- The dispute comes because the area where Turkey is sending ships is off the northern coast of the island.
- Cyprus and the EU consider the north to be part of the Republic of Cyprus and the waters surrounding it to be part of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) which means EU nations have the exclusive right to fish, drill and carry out other economic activities.
- But as Turkey recognises Northern Cyprus as independent, with its own EEZ, Ankara says it is within its rights to drill there.
- Cyprus is physically divided with the southern part ruled by the internationally-recognized government and the northern part controlled by Turkey.
- The Turkish Navy recently said the Oruc Reis ship will restart activities in the region, including the south of Kastellorizo.
- Greece claims rights over the waters around its island of Kastellorizo but Turkey says the island’s close proximity to its longer coastline makes the territory a legitimate area for its vessels to explore.
- Greece, a member of the EU, claims the waters are part of its continental shelf and has enlisted the support of the 27-nation bloc, which has condemned Turkey’s “illegal activities” and plans to blacklist Turkish officials linked to energy exploration.
- Turkey disputes Greece’s claims that waters, where it’s searching for hydrocarbons, are part of Greece’s continental shelf, insisting that Greek islands near Turkey’s coast cannot be taken into account when delineating maritime boundaries.
- The Aegean Sea — the smaller passage that separates Greece from Turkey — has become an increasingly popular route for refugees and, by extension, an increasingly deadly one.
- The short distance has encouraged smugglers to take increased risks at the expense of the refugees.
East Mediterranean Gas Forum (EMGF)
- It is an intergovernmental energy forum, formally established in September 2020, based in Egypt and consists of Egypt, Israel, Greece, Cyprus, Italy and Jordan.
- The Palestinian Authority is also part of the forum
- It seeks to promote natural gas exports from the eastern Mediterranean and that Israel hopes will strengthen ties with Arab neighbours.
- The group unites regional rivals of Turkey, which has been locked in a bitter dispute with European Union members Greece and Cyprus over gas drilling rights in the region.
- France has applied to join, with the United States and European Union requesting observer status.
- For Israel, the forum “brings regional cooperation with Arab and European countries, the first of its kind in history, with contracts to export (Israeli) gas to Jordan and Egypt worth $30 billion.
- Egypt began importing Israeli gas at the start of this year, for possible re-export to Europe or Asia.
- The 2015 discovery of the giant offshore Zohr field had unlocked interest in Egypt’s energy market and encouraged Cairo to promote itself as a regional hub.