India-US Naval Exercises

India-US Naval Exercises

Amidst recent clashes with China, India boosted its ties with allies through military collaborations and naval exercises, adding to its recent success of similar joint ventures.

Crux of the Matter

Recent Drills
Navies of India and the US recently conducted a joint navy exercise near the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Indian ships carried the drill with the US Navy “carrier strike group” led by USS Nimitz, which passed through Malacca strait located to the southeast of A&N – the strait is of strategic importance to India and China. The naval exercise took place amidst the sailing of the US ships from the South China Sea to the Middle East.

Passex is short for Passing Exercise in Navy terms. It is done to check the “communication and coordination” between navies, required in case of a mission or war. A drill which was conducted on short notice, the India-US drill was an example of Passex.

Cautioning China
Several drills have occurred in the South China Sea amidst its recent implementation of the ‘Security Law’ in Hong Kong and its conflict with Taiwan.

The US Navy recently conducted drills in the South China Sea, with the aircraft carriers USS Reagan and USS Nimitz leading the drill. China criticized the move and increased its deployment of warships and aircraft in the region, with the move gaining disapproval from Vietnam and the Philippines.

The US also sailed its warship in the strait between Taiwan and China at the time when Chinese aircraft reportedly entered the Taiwanese border.

India’s Naval Exercises
India held several navy drills in the recent past and it conducts joint annual exercise with several nations.

  • June 2020: Indian Navy conducted a joint exercise with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) in the Malacca Strait in the Indian Ocean.
  • December 2019: India and Russia held a “tri-service exercise” of the Army, Airforce, and Navy, named ‘Indra 2019’.
  • November 2019: India held the “Za’ir-Al-Bahr” (Roar of the Sea) maritime exercise with Qatar in Doha.
  • September 2019: India and Thailand conducted the 28th “coordinated patrol” (CORPAT) exercise.
  • May 2019: The 8th CORPAT drill took place between India and Myanmar.
  • Malabar is the annual naval exercise with the US and Japan, with Australia and Singapore being past non-permanent participants. The addition of Australia to the drill is expected in 2020.
  • Varuna is an annual naval drill with France.
  • Milan includes annual naval exercises with multiple nations. 30 participant countries including Australia and Singapore were confirmed for the 2020 drill, which got postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • SIMBEX is an annual naval drill with Singapore.
  • SLINEX is a naval exercise with Sri Lanka. While the exercise occurred once in 2 years, it has been made an annual event since 2018.
  • The Indian colonial navy was titled as His Majesty’s Indian Navy. When India became a republic in 1950, the Royal Indian Navy as it had been named since 1934 was renamed to the Indian Navy.
  • शं नो वरुणः is the motto Indian Navy. The Sanskrit phrase means “May the Lord of Water be auspicious unto us”.
  • Navy Day in India is celebrated on 4th December every year to recognize the achievements and role of the Indian Navy to the country. 4 December was chosen as on that day in 1971, during Operation Trident, the Indian Navy sank four Pakistani vessels including PNS Khaibar.

New Drone Funding In India

New Drone Funding In India

Indian government recently announced an Incubation Fund for the indigenous drone systems, which would have a utility across several fields.

Crux of the Matter

Incubation Funding For Drones
India is in the process of initiating an Incubation Fund for the drone industry. The move would reduce India’s dependency on the import of major drone equipment from China, which recently expressed aggression at the border against it.

Named DISHA (Drone for Infra Security Health and Agriculture), the fund aims to provide financial support to the indigenous drone makers.

The fund being conceptualised by NITI Aayog will aim at bridging the gap between academia and industry, so that the entire ecosystem of drone manufacturing improves in scale and size

Indian Government

Drones In India – History And Use

  • 1999: India uses first of its drones in the Kargil war, deploying IAI Heron and Searcher drones supplied by Israel.
  • Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) is a programme run by India’s Defense Research and Development Organization, that has created drones like Lakshya, Nishant, and Rustom which can be used for surveillance, with the last one also capable of offensive.
  • Indian Railways uses UAS for inspecting its development of the Freight corridor.
  • In 2019, Coal India used drones to investigate illegal mining.
  • In 2019, the Maharashtra government initiated the use of drones in agriculture to aid farmers in crop surveillance.
  • Food delivery apps Swiggy, Zomato and Dunzo are in the process of testing food delivery using drones.

Drones’ Use Across The World

  • 70% of investment in the global drone market is done for military use.
  • In 2018, WakeMed Health & Hospital in the US partnered with Matternet and UPS drone firms to initiate delivery of medicines.
  • RanMarine firm from the Netherlands uses drones to collect waste from ports.
  • Amazon recently initiated its Prime Air programme to deliver goods using drones.
  • News agency CNN runs a programme called CNN air, which uses drones to collect information and footage.
  • South Korea recently flew drones over Han River in Seoul to express support to the people while also spreading awareness against Covid-19.
  • One of the earliest explorations of the concept of the combat drone was by Lee De Forest, an early inventor of radio devices, and U. A. Sanabria, a TV engineer. They presented their idea in an article in a 1940 publication of Popular Mechanics. The modern military drone as known today was the brainchild of John Stuart Foster Jr., a nuclear physicist.
  • Gaspard-Félix Tournachon, known by the pseudonym Nadar, was a French photographer, caricaturist, journalist, novelist, balloonist, and proponent of heavier-than-air flight. In 1858 he became the first person to take aerial photographs. Today, drones are heavily used for Aerial photography.
  • FPV (first-person view) drone racing is a sport type where participants control “drones”, equipped with cameras while wearing head-mounted displays showing the live stream camera feed from the drones. Similar to full size air racing the goal is to complete a set course as quickly as possible.

Kuwait Passes Expat Quota Bill: How Will It Affect Indians?

Kuwait Passes Expat Quota Bill: How Will It Affect Indians?

Kuwait – a nation that has 3 million expats in its 4.3 million population – recently passed the ‘Expat Quota Bill’, limiting the population of foreign workers in the country while also adding to its mixed history with India.

Crux of the Matter

What’s In The Bill?
Kuwait recently accepted the draft Expat Quota bill, which now awaits parliamentary approval. The bill aims to reduce the Expat (foreign) workers’ population in the country from 70% to 30% of the total. The bill also specifies the limit on the number of migrants from several countries, differing according to several factors.

Kuwait Population Distribution
Out of its total population of 4.3 million, only 1.3 million people belong to the country. 3 million of its population is composed of Expats. The Expat bill was motivated by the Covid-19 pandemic and the decline in oil prices, which is creating economic difficulties for the Kuwaiti government. According to reports, most of the Covid-19 cases in Kuwait were accounted for by foreign workers.

History Of India-Kuwait

  • Currently, ~28,000 Indians are present in major occupations in Kuwait government like doctors, engineers, scientists, etc.
  • Kuwait is declared as an Islamic state. However, it allows freedom of religion provided it avoids interfering with Islamic traditions.
  • In the Kuwait-Iraq war, India initially supported the US, which was aiding Kuwait by attacking Iraq. However, India later changed its stance.
  • In 1990 during the Kuwait-Iraq war, Air India evacuated more than 170,000 Indians stranded in Kuwait, making it the largest civilian evacuation in history.
  • In 1994, a bill prohibiting the entry of Indians in Kuwait, reportedly due to its stance in the Kuwait-Iraq war, was rejected by the Kuwaiti government.
  • Consequently, the relationships between India and Kuwait strengthened over a period of time.
  • The word expatriate comes from the Latin terms ex (“out of”) and patria (“native country, fatherland”). An older usage of the word expatriate was to refer to an exile.
  • There are 17 Indian schools in Kuwait affiliated to the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE). Indians constitute the largest expatriate community in Kuwait.
  • During the reign of Mubarak Al-Sabah, Kuwait was dubbed the “Marseilles of the Gulf” because its economic vitality attracted a large variety of people. In the first decades of the twentieth century, Kuwait had a well-established elite: wealthy trading families who were linked by marriage and shared economic interests.

Changed Rajya Sabha Look After Recent Elections

Recent elections of Rajya Sabha changed the distribution of seats in the house while adding familiar faces to the Upper House of India. It has also brought the NDA near to having majority in the Upper House as well.

Crux of the Matter

Recent Elections
On 19 June, 2020, elections took place for 19 seats out of the 61 vacant ones, with the rest 42 being filled unopposed. BJP won 8 seats, while the Congress secured 4 seats.

BJP has now 83 seats in the Rajya Sabha, while its coalition NDA including JDU, SAD, and other parties now has 100+ seats. The NDA now constitutes ~50% of the total 245 seats in the Upper House of Parliament.

Scindia Defection Pays Off
Jyotiraditya Scindia was among the winners of BJP in Madhya Pradesh. In March 2020, he quit the Congress party and joined BJP. In the process, several of his supporting MLAs defected with him, which resulted in the fall of Congress government in Madhya Pradesh.

About RS
Rajya Sabha is also known as the Upper House of the Parliament. It can have a maximum of 250 members, out of which 12 would be appointed by the President of India. The elected members serve for a tenure of 6 years, and 1/3rd of the total members retire every 2nd year.

Members of the Upper House are elected by the Legislative Representatives of the concerned State or Union Territory. By-elections take place when a vacancy is created before the end of the tenure of the respective seat, with the elected member serving for the remaining term.

  • The Leader of the House is a Rajya Sabha member who is either a cabinet minister or another nominated minister. The Leader has a seat next to the Chairperson of the Rajya Sabha in the front row. Thaawar Chand Gehlot is currently the leader of the upper house of Indian Parliament.
  • Besides the Leader of the House, who is leading the majority, there is also a Leader of the Opposition (LOP) – leading the opposition parties. The function was only recognized in the Salary and Allowances of Leaders of the Opposition in Parliament Act, 1977. This is commonly the leader of the largest non-government party and is recognized by the Chairman.
  • Rajya Sabha Television (RSTV) is a 24×7 parliamentary TV channel owned and operated by the body. The channel aims to provide in-depth coverage and analysis of parliamentary affairs, especially its functioning and policy development. During sessions, RSTV provides live coverage and presents an analysis of the proceedings of the House.

India Looking To Park Oil In US

India may park oil in US

India is taking benefits of cheap crude oil by stockpiling its emergency reserves, oil tankers offshore and asking other nations to store oil for India. Historically, India has been buying from OPEC+ nations, but seems to be diversifying by buying oil from US, and even asking it to park oil in its reserves.

Crux of the Matter

India’s Crude Oil Stockpile
Strategic crude oil reserves help a country survive short-term supply disruptions in case of any emergency. Currently India has stored oil amounting to 20% of its annual need. As of now India imports nearly 80% of the annual crude oil need. India majorly depends on the gulf countries for oil.

However, as the price of crude oil has fallen due to less demand due to the Coronavirus lockdown, India seems to be taking advantage of it, just like China, by stockpiling 5.33 million tonnes (MT) in strategic storage. Strategic storage facilities in India are located at Visakhapatnam, Mangalore, and Padur (Karnataka). Looking at the increasing annual demand for fuel post lockdown, India is mulling to expand strategic storage to 6.5 MT. Moreover India has also stored around 8.5-9 MT oil on ships across the world.

Strategy to buy US’ Crude
US WTI crude oil futures stock traded in negative in April before expiring. Thereafter, it has seen a rise, albeit a slow one due to prolonged lockdown and uncertainty. At a time when WTI oil is cheap, India is planning to park oil from America in its own local facilities as India’s storage facilities are full. Recently Australia has also stockpiled oil in the US.

We are exploring some possibility if we can store some of our investment in a different country … we are exploring the possibility in the USA if we can store some of the low priced oil.

Dharmendra Pradhan, Indian Oil Minister
  • Morgan Downey is an Irish-born New York-based American commodities trader and acknowledged authority on the financial aspects of the oil industry. Downey has been cited in the press as an expert in oil markets and his 2009 book ‘Oil 101’ was called a “must-read” by a Financial Times blogger.
  • Exxon Mobil Corporation, doing business as ExxonMobil, is an American multinational oil and gas corporation headquartered in Irving, Texas. One of the world’s largest companies by revenue, ExxonMobil from 1996 to 2017 varied from the first to sixth-largest publicly traded company by market capitalization.
  • Fossil fuel phase-out is the gradual reduction of the use of fossil fuels to zero use. Current efforts in fossil fuel phase-out involve replacing fossil fuels with alternative energy sources in sectors such as transport, heating, and industry.