THE ARC TO SOUTHEAST ASIA :-
- This week India will host heads of state or government of all 10 nations of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for the Republic Day celebrations in a dramatic declaration of intent by New Delhi to boost India’s ties with Southeast Asia.
- The year 2017 was an important landmark as India and the ASEAN commemorated 25 years of their partnership, 15 years of summit-level interaction, and five years of strategic partnership.
- The challenge now is to map out next steps in the India-ASEAN partnership at this time of unprecedented geopolitical flux in the wider Indo-Pacific.
Disappointment on both sides :-
There has been a sense of disappointment on both sides about the present state of play in the relationship which prevents them from having candid conversations and realistic assessments.
- The ASEAN member states have been disappointed that India continues to punch below its weight in the region whereas on the other side New Delhi’s expectations regarding a more robust support for its regional outreach too have not been met.
- India’s capacity to provide development assistance, market access and security guarantees remains limited whereas ASEAN’s tendency to harness New Delhi for regional stability remains restricted by its sensitivities to other powers.
Shift of Focus :-
- Modi government’s ‘Act East’ policy is aimed at enhancing India’s strategic profile in East and Southeast Asia but the main focus remains on South Asia and the Indian Ocean region.
- There has been a shift in emphasis, of course, with India moving away from the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) to the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) and asserting its centrality in the evolving geography of the Indo-Pacific.
- India’s economic focus too is not in tune with other Regional powers which view ASEAN as an important market for exports and investments. India’s export sector remains weak and the government’s focus has shifted to boosting manufacturing domestically.
- India continues to privilege bilateral partnerships to further its own interests rather than showing interest in ASEAN.
- New Delhi is signalling that it is more interested in becoming a member of various regional organisations even when its substantive engagement with such platforms remains limited.
Way to reach ASEAN :-
- New Delhi’s gaze shifts to the Bay of Bengal, Myanmar and Thailand have emerged as key players in its southeastern outreach.
- The hope is to use these nations as a bridge to ASEAN. The temptation to prioritise these countries over others in ASEAN may also prevent others from looking at India as a regional stakeholder.
Need of Co-operation between ASEAN & India :-
It is important for India and ASEAN to chart out a more operational, though modest, agenda for future cooperation.
- The three Cs of commerce, connectivity and culture have been highlighted but a more granular perspective is needed in terms of a forging a forward-looking approach.
- There is no getting away from enhancing trade and economic linkages between India and ASEAN.
- They also need to focus on areas such as digital technologies. India, as a fast emerging major player, has significant comparative advantages.
India need to Focus on projects :-
Instead of talking about ASEAN-wide connectivity projects, New Delhi now needs to focus on more effective delivery of projects it is already committed to like :-
- Prompt completion of the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway, which will run from Moreh in Manipur to Mae Sot in Thailand via Myanmar, is key. The plan is to extend this highway to Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam in an attempt to project India’s role in the emerging transportation architecture.
- Improving air connectivity between India and ASEAN countries should also be high on the agenda.
- India as a facilitator of the ASEAN-wide digital economy would not only challenge China but also emerge as an economic guarantor of its own.
- The Bay of Bengal can be used as an exploratory ground for the development of an India-ASEAN maritime framework.
- The cultural connect between the two needs to be strengthen. While India offers scholarships to students from ASEAN states to study at Nalanda University, this initiative should be extended to the IITs and the IIMs.
- Tourism too can be further encouraged between India and the ASEAN with some creative branding by the two sides.
Conclusion :- While India and the ASEAN have been very ambitious in articulating the potential of their partnership, they have been much less effective in operationalising their ideas. The need now is to focus on functional cooperation and make the idea of an India-ASEAN partnership more exciting.
A TURTLE RECOVERY PLAN :-
Issues regarding Turtles :-
- Every year, thousands of sea turtles are accidentally captured, injured or killed by mechanised boats, trawl nets and gill nets operated and used by commercial fishermen.
- Heavy toll of injuries and deaths, occurs when turtles begin migrating to their nesting grounds on beaches and in fishing areas that are their feeding grounds.
Indian Species :-
There are five species in Indian waters :–
- Olive Ridley
Efforts done for Saving turtles :-
- In India, though sea turtles are protected under the Indian Wildlife Protection Act of 1972, under the Schedule I Part II, they face grave threats.
- Scientists are now working on programmes such as new fishing nets and gear that reduce the amount of bycatch while fishing.
Bycatch is one such example, which is the name given to ocean animals that are unintentionally caught by fishing gear.
Turtle’s Role in Maritime Ecosystem :-
- Sea turtles, especially the leatherback, keep jellyfish under control, thereby helping to maintain healthy fish stocks in the oceans.
- The Green turtle feeds on sea grass beds and by cropping the grass provide a nursery for numerous species of fish, shellfish and crustaceans.
- The Hawksbill feeds on sponges in the reef ecosystem and opens up crevices for other marine life to live in.
- Turtles are also transporters of nutrients and energy to coastal areas.
- Unhatched eggs, eggshells and fluids help foster decomposers and create much needed fertilizer in sandy beaches.
Bans are not enforced Properly.. For Exp :-
- Under current regulations, mechanised trawl boats are not allowed to operate within 8 km of the shore in Andhra Pradesh, 5.5 km in Tamil Nadu and 5 km in Odisha. However, these limits are not being enforced.
- Nets set for ray fish are banned under the law during the season. However, their use by some categories of fishermen is widespread.
There are closed seasons for certain types of fishing vessels in different states :-
–> In Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, the closed season for commercial fishing boats is from April 15 to May 29 (east coast) and June 15 to July 29 (west coast). Also Mechanised fishing trawlers are banned from fishing.
–> In Andhra Pradesh and Odisha, the season is between April 15 and May 31. Trawlers and motorised craft with an engine output greater than 25 hp are banned.
- In all these areas/States, all non-motorised and motorised craft with an engine output of less than 25 hp are permitted to fish during closed season. Unfortunately, none of these closed seasons takes into account the sea turtle nesting season that falls between January and April.
What should be done ?
- The ban needs to be enforced at all levels of fishing and monitored by the respective Fisheries departments, marine police and the Indian Coast Guard. All areas where fishing boats land need to be monitored.
- in India, trawlers meant for shrimp fishing are required by law to be fitted with TEDs (Turtle Excluder Device). If used correctly, TEDs have been found to reduce turtle captures by 90%.
- Areas where sea turtles forage and congregate need to be identified and additional seasonal closures need to be implemented within these areas.
- All trawl boats should be fitted with a vessel monitoring system that must be kept on at all times. This will provide a simple system of monitoring by the Coast Guard.