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  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
GDP
Millions of US $ 598,966 515,000  481,400 12
         
GNI per capita
 US $ 530 480 470 160
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

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Update No: 109 - (26/10/13)

October was an eventful month for India not just diplomatically but also in terms of its technological advancement. In a major diplomatic success India and China reached a comprehensive border defence agreement to avoid tensions and army face-offs along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). Called the Border Defence Cooperation Agreement (BDCA), the pact was signed after extensive talks between Indian PM Manmohan Singh and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. Before his visit to China, however, PM Manmohan Singh visited Moscow to strengthen India’s strategic partnership with Russia, which had some under relative strain on issues including nuclear power sharing. The two sides signed five commercial contracts and discussed the possibility of setting up a gas pipeline from Russia to India, a rather ambitious project prompted by Russian fears of losing its markets in Europe, to competitively priced Shale gas. India-Pakistan relations, however, remained strained. The reason is the ongoing border skirmishes, one of which proved to be the longest anti-infiltration operations in recent history. The military operations, lasting fifteen days, took place along the Keran sector of the LoC within a three-km area in which seven militants were killed and six Indian soldiers were seriously injured. Finally, in a major leap forward for it space aspirations – India will be sending a mission to Mars. The principal aim of the mission is to test India's space technology to see if the emerging space-faring nation is capable of interplanetary missions. The spacecraft will also collect scientific information about the planet's atmosphere and surface.

India signs border pact with China
In a major diplomatic success India and China reached a comprehensive border defence agreement to avoid tensions and army face-offs along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). Called the Border Defence Cooperation Agreement (BDCA), the pact was signed after extensive talks between Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. PM Manmohan Singh was on a three-day visit to China, after completing another successful two-day visit to Russia. The ten clauses of the agreement iterate the importance of maintaining peace, tranquility, and stability along the 4,000 km long LAC and that neither side shall use its military capability against the other side, nor tail patrols along the border.

The deal comes against the backdrop of strain in ties following a series of Chinese intrusions including the prolonged one by People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops in the Depsang valley in Ladakh province in the north Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, in April this year. Apart from the border agreement, eight other agreements were signed. One of the key ones of the rest includes the pact on strengthening cooperation on trans-border rivers. In his remarks at the joint press interaction, Singh said the two countries agreed that peace and tranquillity on the borders must remain the foundation for growth in the India-China relationship, ‘even as we move forward the negotiations towards a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable settlement to the India-China Boundary Question. This will be our strategic benchmark.’

Issues, however, still remain. While the border defence pact remains an important step further in calming down cross-border skirmishes, no agreement was reached on liberalising the visa regime. While the Chinese side was very keen on doing so, India held back. The visa issue remains sensitive to New Delhi as Beijing, controversially, gave stapled visas to two Indian sportsmen from the Northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh. While under strict Indian administrative control, large territories of Arunachal Pradesh are claimed by China. Giving stapled visas to people coming from that state, according to New Delhi, undermines India’s territorial sovereignty.

Apart from the agreements signed, this was also the second time the Indian PM met his Chinese counterpart in the same year. Reflecting renewed positive dynamism between the leaderships of the two countries, it also marks the growing maturity with which the two Asian giants have approached bilateral disputes. The last time India and China had open and frequent channels of communications was in early 1950s when former Indian PM Jawaharlal Nehru and his Chinese counterpart Chou enLai undertook visits. Relations between between the two countries soured tremendously after a border war in 1962, in which India faced a crushing defeat.

The border has another significant aspect to it as well. In the past months India has been involved in cross-border tensions not just with China, but with Pakistan as well. In fact, the Line of Control (LoC) between India and Pakistan remains on the boil even now. Resolution of border tensions with China would give India a much-needed diplomatic and military relief to constructively, and securely, engage the Pakistani civilian leadership to address the LoC firing issue. With its military vision and training aimed for a two-front war – in the hypothetical scenario where Pakistan and China will both attack India simultaneously – India would not want to have both its borders on the boil at the same time.

India signs five deals with Russia, Nuclear-pact elusive
Before his visit to China, however, PM Manmohan Singh visited Moscow to strengthen India’s strategic partnership with Russia, which had some under relative strain on issues including Nuclear power sharing. The two sides signed five commercial contracts and discussed the possibility of setting up a gas pipeline from Russia to India, a rather ambitious project prompted by Russian fears of losing its markets in Europe to competitively priced Shale gas. However, the key commercial pact to set up the third and fourth unit in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu’s Kudankulam nuclear power project would not be ready in time. The deal is stuck due to Russian apprehensions over the debilitating impact that India’s unlimited liability law would have on them. Russia had worked with the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCI) to set up the first two 1000MW plants that are expected to begin producing power soon.

Having witnessed one of world’s worst industrial disasters also known as the Bhopal Gas tragedy in 1984, India has been reluctant to let international power consortiums invest in India with limited liability in case of an accident. Under tremendous pressure from civil rights activists India wants foreign investors to undertake unlimited liability, which has shied away many prospective investors. As a result, India’s relations in the nuclear sector have come under strain not just with Russia, but also with the United States – which signed the landmark India-US nuclear deal in 2008, bringing New Delhi out of nuclear isolation.

In addition to the commercial agreements Manmohan Singh tried to allay Russian concerns by asserting that India’s strategic relationship with Russia is ‘indispensable’. Moscow had been concerned about India’s increasing tilt towards the US and Israel as New Delhi looks for more arms suppliers. During his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Singh discussed issues ranging from defence acquisitions, trade, energy as well as their similar positions on Syria and Afghanistan. Interestingly, the visit comes as BRICS economies seek ways of challenging US hegemony in world affairs. The BRICS countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – have already put some effort into shifting the global economy from the dominance of the US dollar and ‘establishing a new architecture of multi-polar world order,’ according to Putin.

India-Pakistan on the boil, again
Despite the welcome rise of a strong civilian government in Islamabad, New Delhi remains at odds with Pakistan. The reason is the ongoing border skirmishes, one of which proved to be the longest anti-infiltration operations in recent history. The military operations, lasting fifteen days, took place along the Keran sector of the LoC within a three-km area in which seven militants were killed and six Indian soldiers were seriously injured. According to Indian army and Ministry of Defence (MoD) officials, the infiltrations were supported by the Pakistani army. Indian army chief General Bikram Singh categorically said that the seven militants killed while infiltrating at Keran may have been part of a 40-member infiltration group. He also ruled out any domination or occupation of any area by the militants. On the other side, the Pakistani army blames India for undertaking unprovoked firing and killing Pakistani civilians and soldiers. Fresh rounds of firing created panic in the area and many people have started fleeing the adjoining villages.

Furthermore, what is being termed as a snub to India, Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif recently sought American arbitration on the Kashmir dispute. Addressing the think tank US Institute of Pakistan (USIP) in Washington DC recently, Sharif said Pakistan is ‘neither a source of, nor the epicentre of terrorism, as is sometimes alleged’. The statement came as a response to Indian PM Manmohan Singh’s assertion that Pakistan is an epicenter of terrorism, during his meeting with US President Barack Obama last month. Sharif reiterated his call for American mediation to resolve issues with India: ‘With its growing influence in India, the US now has the capacity to do more to help the two sides resolve their core disputes, including Kashmir, and in promoting a culture of cooperation’. Third-party involvement in India and Pakistan issues, however, stands against the long-held position of resolving the territorial dispute bilaterally. ‘Our position has been stated for a very long time. This no-third party involvement in Kashmir is a written understanding between the two countries according to the 1971 Simla Agreement – which was signed after the dismemberment of Pakistan and creation of Bangladesh. There is no scope of any change or accommodation at this. Jammu & Kashmir is an integral part of India. We value it and it is a part of the sense of our identity and our sense as the nation,’ said Salman Khurshid, India’s External Affairs Minister.

India to launch Mars mission
In a major leap forward for it’s space aspirations – India will be sending a mission to Mars on 5 November. The Indian Space Research Organization completed integration of its Mars mission satellite with the rocket while the heat shield was closed in as well. The launch was delayed by a week as only one of the two ships – Nalanda and Yamuna – carrying rocket tracking systems had reached Fiji – from where it will be tracking the spacecraft. Known as the Malgalyaan Mission, the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) will cost about US$ 73 million and will take place from ISROs rocket launch centre in Sriharikota, in the South Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. Of importance, however, is the space race that the forthcoming launch might unleash in Asia.

The principal aim of the mission is to test India's space technology to see if the emerging space-faring nation is capable of interplanetary missions. The spacecraft will also collect scientific information about the planet's atmosphere and surface. If the mission succeeds, ISRO will become only the fourth space agency, after those in the US, Europe and Russia to have successfully sent a spacecraft to Mars. In 2011, a Chinese attempt to send a spacecraft named Yinghou-1 to Mars was aborted because of a technical problem. The Indian space agency then fast-tracked its Mars mission, readying it in just 15 months. India has had a space programme for more than 30 years. Until recently, its priority has been to develop technologies that would directly help its poor population, such as improving its telecommunications infrastructure and environmental monitoring with satellites. 

  

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