20th Summit – Shanghai Cooperation Organization
20th Summit of SCO Council of Heads of State was held recently. The Meeting was chaired by the President of the Russian Federation Mr. Vladimir Putin. Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi led the Indian delegation.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi reiterated India’s firm belief in regional peace, security and prosperity and raising voice against terrorism, smuggling of illegal weapons, drugs and money-laundering. He mentioned that India’s brave soldiers participated in about 50 UN peacekeeping missions and India’s Pharma industry supplying essential medicines to more than 150 countries during the pandemic.
‘Shanghai Cooperation Organization’
- The SCO was founded in June 2001, built on the ‘Shanghai Five’ grouping of Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan (Kyrgyz Republic) and Tajikistan, which had come together in the post-Soviet era in 1996, in order to work on regional security, reduction of border troops, and terrorism.
- A particular goal all these years has been “conflict resolution”, given its early successes between China and Russia, and then within the Central Asian Republics.
- The 1996 meeting of the Shanghai Five, for example, resulted in an ‘Agreement on Confidence-Building in the Military Field Along the Border Areas’ between China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, which led to an agreement on the mutual reduction of military forces on their common borders in 1997. Subsequently, it helped push the Central Asian countries to resolve some of their boundary disputes as well.
- The 1997 meeting of the Shanghai Five, for example, resulted in “an Agreement on Mutual Reduction of Military Forces along China’s borders with Kazakhstan” and other agreements that resolved “disputes between Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan on border issues and the Ferghana Valley enclaves” have been facilitated by the grouping.
- In 2001, the Shanghai Five inducted Uzbekistan into the group and named it the SCO, outlining its principles in a charter that promoted what was called the “Shanghai spirit” of cooperation.
Mandate of the SCO
- According to its rules, the organisation has two permanent bodies — the SCO Secretariat based in Beijing and the Executive Committee of the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) based in Tashkent.
- The SCO Secretary-General and the Director of the Executive Committee of the SCO RATS are appointed by the Council of Heads of State for a term of three years.
- However, the venue of the SCO council meetings moves between the eight members (including India and Pakistan). The SCO also has four observer states — Afghanistan, Iran, Belarus and Mongolia — which may be inducted at a later date.
- The SCO was eyed with some misgivings by the U.S. and Europe as a result of this, not the least by its desire to build a “new international political and economic order”, and it was even dubbed the “Anti-NATO” for proposing military cooperation.
- In 2005, the Astana declaration called for SCO countries to work on a “joint SCO response to situations that threaten peace, security and stability in the region”, indicating the group’s strategic ambitions.
The SCO describes its main goals, part of its Charter that was adopted in St. Petersburg in 2002, as –
- strengthening mutual trust and neighbourliness among the member states;
- promoting their effective cooperation in politics, trade, economy, research and technology and culture, as well as in education, energy, transport, tourism, environmental protection, and other areas;
- making joint efforts to maintain and ensure peace, security and stability in the region; and moving towards the establishment of a democratic, fair and rational new international political and economic order.
Contradictions in SCO
- India and Pakistan joined the SCO as observers in 2005, and were admitted as full members in 2015. Since 2014, India and Pakistan have cut all ties, talks and trade with each other, and India has refused to attend the SAARC summit due to tensions with Pakistan, but both their leaderships have consistently attended all meetings of the SCO’s three councils: the Heads of State, Heads of Government, Council of Foreign Ministers, as well as other meetings.
- Despite the fact that India accuses Pakistan of perpetrating cross-border terrorism at every other multilateral forum, at the SCO, Indian and Pakistani armed forces even take part in military and anti-terrorism exercises together, as part of the SCO-Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure.
- In addition, the two countries are part of the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group, to discuss the course of Afghanistan’s future, an issue New Delhi and Islamabad are bitterly divided over.
Internationalisation of Education
Minister of Education has confirmed that through ‘Study in India, Stay in India and Internationalisation of Education’, we are committed to establishing India as a global hub of education. To ensure high quality of education, it is also necessary that we move forward with cooperation, coordination and agreement with the leading universities of the world.
In 2018, the Union Ministry of Education launched an ambitious “Study in India” programme to project India as a higher education designation by attracting and facilitating inward mobility of foreign students from 34 target countries (representing Africa, Middle East, and SAARC regions), thereby increasing India’s market share of global education exports.
Ministry of Human Resource Development (now Ministry of Education) had approved ‘Study in India’ programme with, inter-alia, the following objectives:
- To improve the soft power of India with focus on the neighbouring countries and use it as a tool in diplomacy.
- To boost the number of inbound International students in India.
- To double India’s market share of global education exports from less than 1 percent to 2 percent.
- Increase in contribution of international student in the form of direct spends, indirect spends, spillover effects.
- Improvement in overall quality of higher education.
- Increase in global ranking of India as educational destination.
- To reduce the export – Import imbalance in the number of International students.
- Growth of India’s global market share of International students
The ‘Study in India’ programme launched by the Government in 2018 needs to be executed strategically on a mission mode by engaging relevant stakeholders.
- Appoint an education counsellor at every Indian embassy abroad in order to help promote Indian higher education and the benefits of studying in India.
- Create a strong scholarship programme that will encourage the best brains to choose India as a study option.
- Develop ‘student cities’ that should be safe along with adequate infrastructural and logistical supports.
- Develop niche programmes in the areas that India has expertise in , such as life sciences, space sciences, creative disciplines, etc.
- Create a framework to map the credits of Indian programmes with a global framework so that there is a seamless mobility/transfer of credits.
- A joint working group should be created with inter-ministerial collaborations at the federal level and city level administrators along with leaders of leading public and private HEIs to develop a conducive ecosystem.
- Effective industry engagement for apprenticeships and employment, safe and secure living environment, state-of-the-art infrastructure, etc. are some of the other critical prerequisites to boost international mobility of foreign students to India.
National Agricultural Education Policy
The first National Agricultural Education Policy is set to bring academic credit banks and degree programmes with multiple entry and exit options to the 74 universities focused on crop sciences, fisheries, veterinary and dairy training and research.
A six-member committee of Vice-Chancellors has been asked to submit a draft policy document to the Agriculture Ministry soon. More than 45,000 students are admitted into agricultural universities every year, and the new policy is set to usher in some changes to their academic life.
The Student READY (Rural Entrepreneurship Awareness Development Yojana) programme requires all students to undertake a six-month internship, usually in their fourth year, to gain hands-on training, rural awareness, industry experience, research expertise and entrepreneurship skills.
- One major challenge is how to ensure that this experiential learning is made available to all students if we implement the multiple entry-exit system. Even if a student leaves after two or three years, even with a diploma, he should not miss out on it.
- Another major challenge for agricultural universities could be the push for multi-disciplinarity. Our universities have been modelled on the land grant pattern, with a focus on research and extension, and deep community connections, driven by the philosophy that farmers need holistic solutions to their problems. However, in recent years, several domain specific universities in horticulture, veterinary science and fisheries sciences have come up. How to incorporate humanities and social sciences into these settings could be a big challenge.
Competition Commission of India – CCI
The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has ordered a detailed probe against Google for ‘abuse’ of its dominant position, primarily with regard to its digital payments application GPay.
- The order follows a complaint by an ‘informant’ alleging multiple instances of abuse of dominant position by Google, with CCI deciding to carry forward the investigation into two of these instances — pre-installation of GPay on Android OS smartphones and use of Google Play’s in-app billing as the method of payment by developers.
- The Commission is of the prima facie view that Google has contravened various provisions of Section 4 of the Act. These aspects warrant a detailed investigation. The Commission has directed the Director General to finish the probe and submit the report in 60 days.
‘Competition Commission of India’
- The Competition Act, 2002, as amended by the Competition (Amendment) Act, 2007, follows the philosophy of modern competition laws. The Act prohibits anti-competitive agreements, abuse of dominant position by enterprises and regulates combinations (acquisition, acquiring of control and M&A), which causes or likely to cause an appreciable adverse effect on competition within India.
- The objectives of the Act are sought to be achieved through the Competition Commission of India, which has been established by the Central Government with effect from 14th October 2003.
- CCI consists of a Chairperson and 6 Members appointed by the Central Government (not less than 2 members). It is the duty of the Commission to eliminate practices having adverse effect on competition, promote and sustain competition, protect the interests of consumers and ensure freedom of trade in the markets of India.
- The Commission is also required to give opinion on competition issues on a reference received from a statutory authority established under any law and to undertake competition advocacy, create public awareness and impart training on competition issues.
Significance of CCI
- Competition is the best means of ensuring that the ‘Common Man’ or ‘Aam Aadmi’ has access to the broadest range of goods and services at the most competitive prices.
- With increased competition, producers will have maximum incentive to innovate and specialise. This would result in reduced costs and wider choice to consumers. A fair competition in market is essential to achieve this objective.
- The goal of CCI is to create and sustain fair competition in the economy that will provide a ‘level playing field’ to the producers and make the markets work for the welfare of the consumers.
- “The main objective of competition law is to promote economic efficiency using competition as one of the means of assisting the creation of market responsive to consumer preferences. The advantages of perfect competition are three-fold: allocative efficiency, which ensures the effective allocation of resources, productive efficiency, which ensures that costs of production are kept at a minimum and dynamic efficiency, which promotes innovative practices.” – Supreme Court of India in 2010.