Current Affairs 2nd November 2022

1.     SHANGHAI COOPERATION ORGANISATION (SCO)

  • News: External affairs minister S. Jaishankar on Tuesday pitched for better connectivity in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) region, but at the same time underlined that such projects should respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of member-states.
  • About Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO):
    • The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) is a Eurasian political, economic and security organization. It is the world’s largest regional organization in terms of geographic scope and population, covering approximately 60% of the area of Eurasia, 40% of the world population, and more than 30% of global GDP.
    • The Shanghai Five group was created on 26 April 1996 with the signing of the Treaty on Deepening Military Trust in Border Regions in Shanghai by the heads of states of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan.
    • The SCO is the successor to the Shanghai Five, formed in 1996 between the People’s Republic of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan.
    • On 15 June 2001, the leaders of these nations and Uzbekistan met in Shanghai to announce a new organization with deeper political and economic cooperation; the SCO Charter was signed on 7 July 2002 and entered into force on 19 September 2003.
    • Its membership has since expanded to eight states, with India and Pakistan joining on 9 June 2017. Several countries are engaged as observers or dialogue partners.
  • About Chabahar Port:
    • Chabahar Port is a seaport in Chabahar located in south-eastern Iran, on the Gulf of Oman.
    • It serves as Iran’s only oceanic port, and consists of two separate ports named Shahid Kalantari and Shahid Beheshti, each of which has five berths.
    • It is only about 170 kilometres west of the Pakistani port of Gwadar.
    • Development of the port was first proposed in 1973 by the last Shah of Iran, though development was delayed by the 1979 Iranian Revolution.
    • The first phase of the port was opened in 1983 during the Iran–Iraq War as Iran began shifting seaborne trade east towards the Pakistani border in order to decrease dependency on ports in the Persian Gulf which were vulnerable to attack by the Iraqi Air Force.
    • India and Iran first agreed to plans to further develop Shahid Beheshti port in 2003, but did not do so on account of sanctions against Iran.[5] As of 2016, the port has ten berths.
    • In May 2016, India and Iran signed a bilateral agreement in which India would refurbish one of the berths at Shahid Beheshti port, and reconstruct a 600 meter long container handling facility at the port.
    • The port is partly intended to provide an alternative for trade between India and Afghanistan as it is 800 kilometers closer to the border of Afghanistan than Pakistan’s Karachi port.
    • The port handled 2.1 million tons of cargo in 2015, which was planned to be upgraded to handle 8.5 million tons by 2016, and to 86 million tons in the future.
    • Following the re-imposition of sanctions against Iran, foreign companies became reluctant to participate in the port’s expansion, and only 10% of the port’s 8.5 million-ton total capacity was utilized in 2019.
    • Sanctions also played a role in reducing India’s involvement and investment in the US$1.6 billion Chabahar–Zahedan railway.
  • About International North – South Transport Corridor:
    • The International North–South Transport Corridor (INSTC) is a 7,200-km-long multi-mode network of ship, rail, and road route for moving freight between India, Iran, Azerbaijan, Russia, Central Asia and Europe.
    • The route primarily involves moving freight from India, Iran, Azerbaijan and Russia via ship, rail and road.
    • The objective of the corridor is to increase trade connectivity between major cities such as Mumbai, Moscow, Tehran, Baku, Bandar Abbas, Astrakhan, Bandar Anzali, etc.
    • Dry runs of two routes were conducted in 2014, the first was Mumbai to Baku via Bandar Abbas and the second was Mumbai to Astrakhan via Bandar Abbas, Tehran and Bandar Anzali. The objective of the study was to identify and address key bottlenecks.
    • The results showed transport costs were reduced by “$2,500 per 15 tons of cargo”.
    • Other routes under consideration include via Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan.
    • This will also synchronize with the Ashgabat agreement, a Multimodal transport agreement signed by India (2018), Oman (2011), Iran (2011), Turkmenistan (2011), Uzbekistan, (2011) Kazakhstan (2015), for creating an international transport and transit corridor facilitating transportation of goods between Central Asia and the Persian Gulf.
    • The primary objective of the NSTC project is to reduce costs in terms of time and money over the traditional route currently being used.

2.     INDIA’S DEFENCE EXPORTS

  • News: India now leading defence exporter.
  • Details:
    • India has emerged as a leading defence exporter in recent years and could fulfill Africa’s maritime, aerospace and defence requirements, with Mauritius, Mozambique and Seychelles becoming the major buyers of Indian arms during 2017-2021, according to a research report released here.
    • The report by India Exim Bank, titled ‘Reinvigorating India’s Economic Engagements with Southern Africa’, was released at the inauguration of the CII-Exim Bank Regional Conclave on India-Southern Africa Growth Partnership, where government officials and captains of business and industry are meeting on Tuesday to discuss a wide range of areas of potential cooperation.
    • The report also suggested a shift from India’s current approach to India’s defence and security cooperation with Africa and other developing countries, which remains need-based and focuses on empowering through training, capacity building, and humanitarian assistance.