- Russia-China relations
- ‘Sops to see delay’
- Aluminium-air technology-based battery systems
- Mizoram’s bond with people fleeing Myanmar
Context: Russia’s relations with China were currently at “the best in their entire history”, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said as he began a key visit to China on Monday.
- The visit comes shortly after the China-U.S. dialogue in Alaska and follows the first leaders’ summit of the Quad — India, Australia, Japan and the U.S. — held virtually.
- “In response, Russia and China are promoting a constructive and unifying agenda and hope that the international governance system would be fair and democratic, run smoothly and be based on extensive interaction between countries and their integration initiatives,” the official Xinhua news agency quoted him as saying, adding that the “mutually trusting and respectful dialogue should serve as an example to other countries”.
- ‘Best in history’
- “Current Russia-China relations are assessed both by our national leaders and citizens as the best in their entire history,” he said. “This is a well-deserved and fair assessment.”
- This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Treaty of Good-neighbourliness and Friendly Cooperation signed in July 2001, which Mr. Lavrov credited for deepening strategic relations and creating “a model of interaction between Russia and China that is absolutely free from any ideological constraints… of an intrinsic nature, not subject to any opportunistic factors nor against any third country.”
- Both countries are expected to discuss deepening coordination against the threat of sanctions from the West.
- Only recently, the EU imposed sanctions on four Chinese officials for human rights violations in Xinjiang, the first sanctions since the 1989 arms embargo.
- Mr. Lavrov called on both countries — permanent members of the UN Security Council — to work “under the UN framework on the immediate end to unilateral coercive measures” and to “take the opportunity to enhance their scientific and technological innovation and improve their national strength in response to the sanctions”.
- Trade ties are also on the agenda, with bilateral trade last year reaching $107 billion. China is Russia’s biggest trade partner.
- Li Yonghui, a Russia expert at the official Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, wrote in an article on Monday in the Communist Party-run Global Times that the China-Russia relationship could “counterbalance” the Quad.
- “Russia should not be ignored regarding its capabilities to offset the influence of Quad,” the commentary said, noting in particular Russia’s continuing close relations with India as a potential “destabilising factor” for the Quad’s potential. “India will not destroy its relations with Russia just because it wants to seek courtship with the U.S. to deal with China,” it said. “From this perspective, if Russia-India relations continue in a stable way, they will to some extent restrain India-US ties from further deepening.”
- Ms. Li, in the commentary, noted that “as early as December 1998, then Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov expressed hope that Russia, China and India could establish a ‘strategic triangle’ that would be in the interests of peace and security”.
- “Currently, though China and India have undergone twists and turns in their relations due to border tensions, Russia still hopes that Beijing and New Delhi won’t engage in bigger problems,” she said. “Russia has actually played an active role between China and India. In other words, Russia has maintained relatively close ties with India, which has thereupon become a counterbalance to the so-called Quad group of the US, Japan, India and Australia.”
‘Sops to see delay’
Context: Recently, the Government has decided to extend the benefit of the Scheme for Remission of Duties and Taxes on Exported Products (RoDTEP) to all export goods.
- The notification of benefit rates payable to exporters under the Remission of Duties and Taxes on Export Products (RODTEP) scheme, is expected to take more time as it is facing ‘teething issues.
- It’s a new scheme and there are always some teething issues, but the roadmap is clear and exporters know what is coming and they will get it from January 1 this year.
- There are a few weeks of teething issues and should be behind us soon.
Extension of Benefits
- The government has decided to extend the benefits of the RoDTEP to all export goods starting 1st january 2021.
- Initially, the scheme was expected to be limited to around three sectors to start with due to limited resources.
- The rates under this scheme, which are expected to be notified soon, will be applicable from 1st january 2021 to all eligible exports of goods.
Remission of Duties or Taxes on Export Product (RoDTEP)
- The scheme was announced in 2020 as a replacement for the Merchandise Export from India Scheme (MEIS), which was not compliant with the rules of the World Trade Organisation.
- Following a complaint by the US, a dispute settlement panel had ruled against India’s use of MEIS as it had found the duty credit scrips awarded under the scheme to be inconsistent with WTO norms.
- The RoDTEP scheme would refund to exporters the embedded central, state and local duties or taxes that were so far not being rebated or refunded and were, therefore, placing India’s exports at a disadvantage.
Aluminium-air technology-based battery systems
Context: Indian Oil Corporation Ltd. has entered into a joint venture with Israel-based battery technology start-up Phinergy to develop aluminium-air technology-based battery systems.
- These batteries utilise oxygen in the air which reacts with an aluminium hydroxide solution to oxidise the aluminium and produce electricity.
- These batteries are said to be a lower cost and more energy-dense alternative to lithium-ion batteries, which are currently in use in India.
- These batteries can be used for electric vehicles and stationary storage, as well as hydrogen storage solutions.
- Downsides of aluminium-air batteries is that they cannot be recharged like lithium-ion batteries. So, large scale use of these battery based vehicles requires several battery swapping stations.
- Aluminium plates in aluminium-air battery is converted into aluminiumtrihydroxide over time and that aluminium can be reclaimed or even traded directly from it for industrial uses.
Mizoram’s bond with people fleeing Myanmar
Context: Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga held a virtual meeting with Myanmar Foreign Minister-in-exile Zin Mar Aung of the National League for Democracy. The meeting took place despite the Centre’s reluctance to accommodate people fleeing Myanmar in light of the recent military coup and the crackdown on protesters.
- Mizoram has been reluctant to send back Myanmarese and sought that they be provided political asylum by the Centre.
- Zoramthanga wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 18, saying India could not turn a blind eye to the humanitarian crisis unfolding in front of us in our own backyard.
- The Myanmar areas bordering Mizoram are inhabited by Chin communities who are ethnically Mizo brethren with close contact throughout all these years even before India became independent.
- The Chin Hills, or the Indo-Chin hill ranges as they are often called, are a mountainous region in north-western Myanmar.
- At an elevation of 2100-3000 metres, this heavily forested mountain region was the home of numerous tribes that fall under the Zo umbrella.
- The Zo people include all the tribes that come under the Chin-Kuki-Mizo ethnic group spread across Myanmar, India and Bangladesh including a host of tribes, sub-tribes and clans such as Chin, Kuki, Mizo, Zomi, Paitei, Hmar, Lushei, Ralte, Pawi, Lai, Mara, Gangte, Thadou
- Believed to have originated in China, the tribes migrated through Tibet to settle in Myanmar, and speak a group of the Tibeto-Burman languages.
Bond between the Chin people in India and Myanmar:
- While they are separated by a 510-km India-Myanmar border, they consider themselves “one people’’ despite past conflicts: the Indo-Chin people.
- Besides the shared ethnicity, what binds these two peoples together is a shared religion. Mizoram is predominantly Christian, as are the Chin people of Buddhist-majority Myanmar.
- Mizoram officials refer to the refugees’ status as a Christian minority seeking asylum for them, and also the fear of persecution by the junta.
- RihDil in Chin state, Myanmar, is a cultural and spiritual lake for the Mizos, deeply revered in folklore, shaping pre-Christian belief of traditional Mizo views of life after death.