The Hindu Editorial Analysis
22 September 2021

1. ​​​​​​The big deal behind the ruckus over AUKUS| China’s economic and military capacities as well as its belligerence have led to a shift in regional security paradigms.

  • Page 6/Editorial
  • GS 2: IR

Context: The announcement of the new Australia-U.K.-U.S. (AUKUS) trilateral security pact has generated animated debate in strategic circles just days before the first in-person Quad Leaders Summit to be hosted by United States President Joe Biden on September 24 in Washington.

    • This cannot decrease the importance of QUAD

 

The AUKUS Pact: It will facilitate the transfer of nuclear submarine propulsion and manufacturing technologies to Australia.

    • Symbolism: It is the first instance of a non-nuclear nation acquiring such capability. This would go against the Non-Nuclear stance by many countries like New Zealand in the region.

    • Revival of Old alliance: The AUKUS pact is also an emphatic assertion of the relevance of the U.S.-Australia Security Treaty (ANZUS). New Zealand, the outlier, walked away in 1984 from the treaty that ironically still bears its initials.

    • A chance for the U.K.: It provides a fresh opportunity to the United Kingdom to reinsert itself more directly into the Indo-Pacific. It is already a member of the Five Eyes (FVEY), an intelligence-sharing alliance built on Anglo-Saxon solidarity (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the U.K., and the U.S.).

 

However, this is in line with the Quad alignment:

 Engagement with the Quad members & India:

    • Britain's Engagement: Last week, HMS Queen Elizabeth, the flagship of the UK’s Carrier Strike Group, arrived in Japan after exercising with India, Malaysia and Singapore and traversing the disputed waters of the South China Sea.

    • Exercise Malabar 2021: Quad Navel Exercise , Between USA, India, Japan and Australia every year. It was held in the Western Pacific from August 26-29, 2021.

    • France: Earlier in April, France, which like the United Kingdom has historically been an Indo-Pacific power with territories and bases across the region, participated in a multi-nation naval exercise in the Bay of Bengal with the four Quad nations (the U.S., Japan, Australia and India).

    • Increased engagement with Quad members: All this points to a vigorous strengthening of bilateral, trilateral and multi-lateral security dialogues and structures, seemingly different in scope and activity, but which converge on the core issue of maintaining peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific.

 

The Nature of Quad is not of military alliance:

    1. It is not a security arrangement: though there is a widespread feeling that without stronger security underpinnings it would play a limited role in dealing with the real challenge of China’s militarisation.

    2. The Malabar exercise is not a naval alliance: even though the habit of cooperation is geared to facilitate communication and interoperability in times of need. 

 

Increasing military strength of Quad Members:

    1. Japan's increased Military focus:

      • It's $50 billion military budget in 2022, showed that the traditional ceiling of limiting defence spending to under 1% of GDP is no longer sacrosanct.

      • Its Defence White Paper, for the first time, highlighted the urgent need to take stock of developments around Taiwan, a clear acknowledgement that Japan’s own security is linked to stability in the Taiwan Strait where muscle-flexing by China is the new norm.

    2. Australia's Defence focus: Its defence budget has seen enhanced outlays for the ninth straight year. For the financial year 2020-2021, it touched $34.84 billion. AUKUS would provide it new capabilities.

      • Strength in Indo-Pacific: Even if the first of the eight nuclear-powered submarines may be available only around 2040, or perhaps a few years earlier, the very fact of Australia operating such advanced platforms adds a new dimension to the evolving maritime security architecture in the Indo-Pacific.

      • Clear strategic Considerations: It conclusively puts to rest a long-standing domestic debate on whether it was time for Australia to assess China through the strategic lens, overcoming the purely mercantile considerations that tended to dominate its China policy.

      1. Australia’s role gets a boost: This deal will potentially be fully equipped with advanced U.S. weapons such as the Mark-48 torpedoes, the Harpoon anti-ship missiles and the Tomahawk cruise missiles. These will give Australia quite a punch in terms of a stand-off capability.

    1. India: it operates one indigenously-built SSBN (INS Arihant) after returning the SSN (INS Chakra) on lease from Russia. It operates a number of conventional submarines, though far fewer than what it truly needs, including the Scorpene-class diesel-electric attack submarine which is manufactured at Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Ltd. (MDL) in collaboration with France’s Naval Group under Project 75.

Beijing’s stance:

  • China has strongly criticised AUKUS and the submarine deal as promoting instability and stoking an arms race. Although, China itself has the world’s fastest-growing fleet of sub-surface combatants, including nuclear-powered attack submarine (SSN), ballistic missile submarine (SSBN), and a burgeoning fleet of conventional diesel-electric submarines with AIP (air-independent propulsion) capability. 

Conclusion:

  • AUKUS is not a substitute for the Quad. At the same time, it does not erode the Quad’s significance as a platform for consultations and coordination on broader themes of maritime security, free and open trade, health care, critical technologies, supply chains and capacity-building. The AUKUS submarine deal, on the other hand, is an undiluted example of strategic defence collaboration, and a game-changer at that.

Expected Question: How does the development of AUKUS impact the importance of QUAD? (150 Words) 

 

2. Changing the agri exports basketIndia has the potential to become a global leader in the food processing sector

  • Page 7/OPED
  • GS 3: Agriculture

Context: According to the Quick Estimates released by the Directorate General of Commercial Intelligence and Statistics (DGCI&S), the overall export of Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) products has witnessed 21.8% growth in terms of USD during April-August 2021 over the same period of the previous year.

    • Despite COVID: This rise in exports has been achieved notwithstanding Covid-19 restrictions.

    • Result of Government initiatives: It is seen as a testimony of the government’s commitment to increase farmers’ income through giving thrust on boosting exports of agricultural and processed food products of the country.

    • India's Position: According to WTO’s trade map, with the total agri-exports of USD 37 billion in the year 2019, India is ranked at 9th position in the world ranking.

 

Product-wise increase:

    • The export of rice: which recorded a positive growth of 13.7%, increased from USD 3359 million in April-August 2020 to USD 3820 million in April-August 2021.

    • Fresh fruits & vegetables: registered a 6.1% growth in terms of USD.

    • Cereals preparations and miscellaneous: processed items reported a growth of 41.9%. In April-August 2020-21, fresh fruits and vegetables were exported to the tune of $1013 million which rose to $1075 million in April-August 2021-22.

    • Meat & Animal Products: 142.1% jump in export of other cereals while the export of meat, dairy & poultry products witnessed an increase 31.1% in the first five months of the current fiscal (2021-22).

    • The cashew export witnessed a growth of 28.5% in April-August 2021 as the export of cashew rose from USD 144 million in April-August 2020 to USD 185 million in April-August 2021.

 

Traditional Products:

    • Basmati rice is one of the top export commodities. However, now there is an unusual spike in the export of non-basmati rice. In 2020-21, India exported 13.09 million tonnes of non-basmati rice ($4.8bn), up from an average 6.9 million tonnes ($2.7bn) in the previous five years.

    • Indian buffalo meat is seeing a strong demand in international markets due to its lean character and near organic nature. The export potential of buffalo meat is tremendous, especially in countries like Vietnam, Hong Kong and Indonesia.

 

Government's Initiatives:

    • The Indian government has been encouraging agricultural exports to meet an ambitious target of $60bn by 2022.

    • The Ministry of Food Processing Industries shows that the contribution of agricultural and processed food products in India’s total exports is 11%.

    • Agriculture Export Policy: to diversify and expand the export basket so that instead of primary products, the export of higher value items, including perishables and processed food, be increased. The exporters of processed food confront difficulties and non-tariff measures imposed by other countries on Indian exports.

 

Positives:

    • Primary processed agricultural commodities form the majority share.

    • India’s export earnings will increase by focusing more on value-added processed food products rather than primary processed agricultural commodities.

    • Value Addition increasing: The Indian agricultural economy is shifting from primary to secondary agriculture where the focus is more on developing various processed foods. The Indian food processing industry promises high economic growth and makes good profits.

 

Challenges: India lacks comparative advantage in many items.

    • Domestic prices of processed food products are much higher compared to the world reference prices.

    • Mandatory pre-shipment examination by the Export Inspection Agency being lengthy and costly;

    • Compulsory spice board certification being needed even for ready-to-eat products which contain spices in small quantities;

    • Lack of strategic planning of exports by most State governments;

    • Lack of a predictable and consistent agricultural policy discouraging investments by the private sector;

    • Prohibition of import of meat- and dairy based-products in most of the developed countries;

    • Withdrawal of the Generalised System of Preference by the U.S. for import of processed food from India;

    • Export shipments to the U.S. requiring an additional health certificate; and

    • The Absence of an equivalency agreement with developed countries for organic produce.

 

The way forward:

    • The Centre’s policy should be in the direction of nurturing food processing companies, ensuring low cost of production and global food quality standards, and creating a supportive environment to promote export of processed food.

    • Reputed Indian brands should be encouraged to export processed foods globally as they can comply with the global standard of codex.

    • Indian companies should focus on cost competitiveness, global food quality standards, technology, and tap the global processed food export market.

    • India has competitive advantages in various agricultural commodities which can be passed onto processed foods. It has the potential to become a global leader in the food processing sector. 

Expected Question: What are the Challenges that India's Agricultural Export sector faces today? How can these be addressed? (250 Words)