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Indian Express

11- January-2024

1. Missing a maritime doctrine

Topic: GS2 – International Relations
This topic is not much relevant in the context of Prelims but more for Mains in the context of India-Maldives relations, maritime security, and diplomatic strategies.
Context:
  • Tensions between India and the Maldives have increased as a result of recent disparaging comments made by junior ministers in the Maldivian administration against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the Lakshadweep islands.
  • Following India’s declaration of disapproval, the Maldivian government distanced itself from the remarks and suspended the relevant ministries.
  • During his first visit to Beijing, President Mohamed Muizzu added to the complexity by indicating possible changes in diplomatic alliances.
Strategic Dimension and Maritime Security:
  • The Maldives, a group of over 900 islands spread across the southern Indian Ocean, is strategically significant to India’s maritime security framework.
  • India’s maritime endeavours, albeit significant, have been patchy, indicating a continental obsession in the making of policy.
Diplomatic Approach and Regional Dynamics:
  • Maldivian politics, shaped by religious fanaticism, hypernationalism, and the competition between China and India, necessitate a diplomatic strategy that is complex.
  • The efficacy of India’s diplomatic engagement is called into doubt by the cancellation of contracts, such as the GMR airport project in 2011, and the rise of anti-India sentiments in the Maldives.
  • Tense relationships may be caused by cultural domination, perceived condescension, and an outdated image projection.
Geopolitical Competition and Indo-Pacific Dynamics:
  • It is imperative to move the focus from border conflicts to broader geopolitical competition as China and India compete for influence in the Indo-Pacific.
  • The significance of regional friends is highlighted by China’s economic interests and geographic disadvantage in the Indian Ocean.
  • The Maldives incident represents the geopolitical rivalry in the area, as China is attempting to use the Maldives as an ally in opposition to India.
Maritime Diplomacy and SAGAR Vision:
  • The episode emphasises how important maritime diplomacy can be as a tool for traditional diplomacy.
  • Positive outcomes have come from India’s maritime diplomacy, which has taken the form of giving naval support to its neighbours.
  • A clear direction and purpose in regional diplomacy are suggested by the urge to develop the Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR) vision into a comprehensive maritime doctrine.
Conclusion:
  • Temporary diplomatic setbacks are to be expected, but India’s long-term neighbourliness is vital.
  • By combining a thorough SAGAR philosophy with the possibilities of maritime diplomacy, regional maritime cooperation may be shaped.
  • To reinforce India’s strategic interests in the changing geopolitical landscape, it will be crucial to remove bureaucratic roadblocks and guarantee sufficient finance for maritime activities.
MISSION SAGAR
  • Mission Sagar, initiated by the Indian government in May 2020 as part of its commitment to providing essential assistance to Indian Ocean countries during the COVID-19 pandemic, marked a significant humanitarian outreach effort. This endeavor was subsequently followed by Mission Sagar II in November and Mission Sagar III in December of the same year.
  • According to the Ministry of External Affairs, Mission Sagar aligns with the broader vision of SAGAR (SECURITY and Growth for All in the Region), although it’s essential to note that Mission Sagar and the SAGAR initiative are distinct entities. While Mission Sagar focuses on humanitarian and inter-country outreach, the SAGAR initiative is a policy doctrine centered on maritime cooperation.
Practice Question: Discuss the significance of SAGAR vision in safeguarding India’s maritime interest. (150 words/10 m)

2. A plan to measure

Topic: GS3 – Indian Economy- Infrastructure 
This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains in the context of Government Initiatives, economic policies, infrastructure development, and trade logistics 
Context:
  • The six main indicators used by the World Bank to evaluate trade logistics are customs, infrastructure, international shipping, logistics competence, tracking and tracing, and timeliness.
  • These indicators are combined to generate the Logistics Performance Index (LPI).
  • India now stands at 38th place out of 139 countries in the 2023 LPI, up from 54th place in 2014.
  • The indicator emphasises India’s improved performance in logistics, even though it acknowledges the possibility of subjectivity in data collecting through questionnaires.
  • The National Logistics Policy was created in 2022 and lays out specific objectives, including aiming for a top 25 LPI rating, establishing data-driven decision support systems, and bringing India’s logistics costs into line with international standards by 2030.
Logistics Cost in India:
  • According to the Economic Survey 2022–2023 India’s logistics costs represent 14–18% of GDP, which is more above the global average of 8%.
  • Variations are suggested by the D&B and CII-Arthur D Little reports from 2018 and 2020, respectively, with an emphasis on seaport costs.
  • A more accurate technique, however, is offered in a paper released by NCAER in December 2023. It estimates logistics costs to be between 7.8% and 8.9% of GDP in 2021–2022, showing a gradual decrease.
  • The paper refutes the notion of excessive logistical costs and emphasises a systematic advancement despite estimations differing.
PM Gati Shakti and Future Impact:
  • Although PM Gati Shakti was introduced in 2021 with the intention of improving logistical infrastructure, its effects are not immediately apparent in the 2023 LPI.
  • Acknowledging reasonable delays, the project is anticipated to support upcoming advancements in logistics efficiency.
State-Level Logistics Performance:
  • According to their logistics performance, states are categorised in the commerce ministry’s LEADS (Logistics Ease Across Different States) report.
  • States are categorised as achievers, fast movers, and aspirers in the 2023 edition. States around the coast, which account for a large share of exports, show differences.
  • The top performing states are Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu.
  • The bottom performing states are Goa, Odisha, and West Bengal.
  • West Bengal is singled out in the report as a state that might gain from developing a State Logistics Master Plan and Policy, underscoring the significance of state-level logistics regulations.
Trends in Logistics Performance
  • Not all states in India have seen an improvement in logistics performance overall. Despite having policies in place, some states have experienced a decrease.
  • According to the LEADS report, in order to promote investments and efficiency gains in the logistics industry, both federal and state governments must continue to focus on strategic planning and attention.
Conclusion:
  • The significance of accurate data in evaluating logistics performance is emphasised throughout the article.
  • It is encouraging to see the logistics industry move away from subjective indices and towards more methodologically sound reports like the NCAER study, which may help decision-makers make well-informed choices.
  • The study refutes widely held beliefs regarding the seriousness of logistics expenses and emphasises the upward trend in cost declines over time, which is consistent with gains observed in the LPI.
About PM Gati Shakti
  • PM Gati Shakti (launched in 2021) is a National Master Plan for multi-modal connectivity that will incorporate the infrastructure schemes of various Ministries and State Governments like Bharatmala, Sagarmala, inland waterways, dry/land ports, UDAN etc.
  • Under the programme, 100 critical infrastructure gap projects have been prioritized in FY24 for development with a budgetary allocation of Rs. 75,000 crores.
Objectives of PM Gati Shakti Master Plan
  • Integrated planning and coordinated implementation of infrastructure connectivity projects.
  • For example: Centralized portal to include all the updates regarding existing and planned initiatives of various Ministries and Departments.
  • Multi-modal seamless connectivity for movement of people, goods and services, facilitating the last mile connectivity.
For example: 400 Vande Bharat trains are to be manufactured and 100 PM Gati Shakti Cargo Terminals are to be built.
  • Reducing logistics costs by filling critical infrastructure gaps, thus improving supply chains.
For example: the Indian government has a vision of bringing down logistics costs from 13% to 7.5% of GDP.
  • Making India the Business capital of the world by enhanced multimodal connectivity, reduced logistics cost and providing proper linkages between local industry & and consumers.
For example: Economic Zones like pharmaceutical clusters, defence corridors, electronic parks, industrial corridors, and agri-zones will be covered to improve connectivity. Significance of PM Gati Shakti Master Plan
  • Boost to economic growth due to enhanced connectivity, reduced logistics cost and increased business opportunities.
  • Investment opportunities will gather up due to the improved state of infrastructure, ease of doing business and enhanced connectivity.
  • Employment generation, particularly in infrastructure, logistics and economic clusters, is accompanied by economic growth and increased private investment.
  • Reduction in regional disparity due to increased investment and economic activity in underdeveloped regions, led by improved connectivity and accessibility.
  • Ease of living will improve for common people due to improved connectivity, reduced transportation costs and new job opportunities.
The Gati Shakti Programme aims to boost India’s economic growth and achieve its ambitious economic goals by improving transportation and logistics infrastructure. Its successful implementation is crucial for making India a global economic powerhouse by 2024-25.
PYQ: Investment in infrastructure is essential for a more rapid and inclusive economic growth. Discuss in the light of India’s experience. (250 words/15m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2021)
Practice Question: Critically analyze India’s progress in improving its logistics performance, taking into account the LPI ranking, national policies, state-level variations, and the role of data-driven decision making. Suggest specific strategies for India to achieve the goals outlined in the National Logistics Policy by 2030. (250 words/15 m)

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