1.Redrawing the arc of influence (The Hindu) 

2.Skilling the workforce (The Financial Express)

1.Redrawing the arc of influence (The Hindu) 

Synoptic line: It throws light on what Indian diplomacy needs to display to play a global role. (GS paper II)

Overview

  • India is not yet fully in a position to lead, or set the rules of the international order, but it is taking steps to seek full membership of the most important global governance platforms.
  • India’s foreign policy is focusing on prioritizing an integrated neighbourhood; “Neighbourhood First”, leveraging international partnerships to promote India’s domestic development, ensuring a stable and multipolar balance of power in the Indo-Pacific; “Act East”, dissuading Pakistan from supporting terrorism, advancing Indian representation and leadership on matters of global governance.

The recent visit

  • Prime Minister of India and President of USA have moved to insulate the India-US strategic relationship from feuds over trade by instituting a new level of interaction between the principal actors, the foreign and defence ministers of the two countries.
  • The naming of the Hizbul Mujahedeen chief as a “specially designated global terrorist” and a “new consultation mechanism on domestic and international terrorist designations listing proposals” were the high points of the counter-terrorism agenda.
  • There was also reiteration of India’s position as a major defence partner and confirmation of the sale of the Guardian Unmanned Aerial System to India that has reflected the deepening security and defence cooperation.
  • Another visit was made to Israel; it was first ever visit by an Indian Prime Minister to the country, the euphoria of the standalone visit, de-hyphenating Israel from Palestine produced better dividends, including elevation of the India-Israel relationship to the level of a ‘strategic partnership’.
  • The main focus of the visit was on defence cooperation, joint development of defence products and transfer of technology. Most of the agreements signed related to transfer of technology and innovative technology-related items and India expects to benefit substantially, considering that Israeli export rules are far more flexible than those of the U.S.
  • Though both the countries expressed a strong commitment to combat terror, but the reality, however, is that when the two countries speak of terrorism, they speak of very different things. The targets of Israel to combat terrorism has little interest in the Afghan Taliban or Pakistan’s Lashkar-e-Taiba and for India, it is the latter that matters.
  • The euphoria of the visit cannot conceal China’s importance for Israel. China is a far bigger investor and trading partner of Israel than India. India and Israel decided to set up a $40 million Innovation Fund to allow Indian and Israeli enterprises to develop innovative technologies and products for commercial applications, but it is clearly dwarfed by the Israel-China comprehensive innovation partnership which has an outlay of $300 million.
  • Also India and Israel also have differences over China’s Belt Road Initiative (BRI), as Israel is eager to participate in it, unlike India, and possibly views this as an opportunity to develop a project parallel to the Suez Canal.

Neighbour issue for India

  • Despite given impetus to two countries, India’s diplomacy is currently facing heavy odds are China and Pakistan. China has a significant presence in East and Southeast Asia, and it steadily enlarging its presence in South Asia, and is also beginning to expand into West Asia. For instance, China’s influence in Iran today appears to be at an all-time high, whereas India’s influence seems to be diminishing.
  • India has refused to be involved in China’s blandishments, including the BRI. Few other countries in Asia are, however, willing or in a position to tangle with China. A divided ASEAN again has provided China with an opportunity to demonstrate its economic and military muscle. Most countries in the region also demonstrate a desire to join China-based initiatives.
  • Even in South Asia, despite India’s commanding presence, China has been successful in winning quite a few friends among India’s neighbours such as Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and the Maldives.
  • With Pakistan, the implosion of the state arising from its internal stresses and problems, together with the virtual standoff between India and Pakistan has enabled the Pakistani Deep State to further entrench itself and also India has been left with few options and this is leading to a diplomatic gridlock which does not augur well for India.
  • Pakistan dependence on China is growing, which is contributing to a strategic imbalance in the South Asian region. It is a moot point whether India and Indian diplomacy can do something to rectify matters in this context, but for the present it confronts Indian diplomacy with one more serious dilemma.
  • India’s ‘Act East and Look West’ policies have given a new dimension to Indian diplomacy in both East and West Asia. In both regions, however, but especially in West Asia, Indian diplomacy still lacks the nimbleness required to deal with fast-changing situations.
  • In West Asia, despite its long time presence in the region, a 9-million strong Diaspora, and the region being its principal source of oil, India is not a major player today. Both Russia and China have overtaken India in the affairs of the region. This is particularly true of Iran where the Russia-China-Iran relationship has greatly blossomed, almost marginalising India’s influence.
  • Though India’s closer relations with countries in East and South East Asia, especially Japan and Vietnam, are a positive development. However, in the Asia-Pacific, India has to contend with an increasingly assertive China. There is little evidence to show that India’s diplomatic manoeuvres individually, or with allies like Japan, have succeeded in keeping the Chinese juggernaut at bay.

Way ahead

  • Indian diplomacy is currently in need to find a way to steer amid an assertive China, a hostile Pakistan, an uncertain South Asian and West Asian neighbourhood, and an unstable world.

Question– What do you think about the Indian diplomacy so far? What more is needed in this regard?

2.Skilling the workforce (The Financial Express) 

Synoptic line: It throws light on to skilling the workforce in tourism and hospitality sector for harnessing our demographic dividend. (GS paper II)

Overview

  • Demographic Dividend refers to the rise in the rate of economic growth due to a rising share of working age people in a population. India’s demographic dividend, the working age (15-59 years) population, largely consists of youth (15-34 years), and as a result its economy has the potential to grow more quickly than that of many other countries including neighbouring China.
  • A little over 50% of India’s population is under the age of 25 and 65% under 35. People in this age group can be a productive workforce if equipped with the right skills. A growing workforce helps the entire Indian economy, giving businesses access to people that are young, educated and physically fit; it also drives down labour costs.
  • India is doing well in digital revolution and technology however, some sectors like hospitality and tourism have vast opportunities that can be tapped more effectively.

Tourism – a great potential

  • Tourism has a significant potential in India considering our rich cultural heritage, history and ecology making the sector a potentially large employment generator.
  • According to the World Economic Forum’s (WEF’s) travel and tourism competitiveness index, released recently, India had moved up 12 places and now ranks 40th among 136 nations globally. The report also noted that this was the largest leap made by any country in the top 50, thereby making India a prime candidate to lead the so-called Asian century in travel and tourism.
  • The travel and tourism sector has also grown exponentially in recent years, witnessing a growth rate of 10.7% year-on-year in 2016; as many as around 88.9 lakh foreign tourists arrived in India, compared to 80.27 lakh in 2015.
  • The government has also identified tourism and hospitality as one of the 29 sectors that are priority areas for skill development, as this sector faces a major skills gap in business management, operations and customer service. By imparting specialised skills, we can create lakhs of jobs in this sector.
  • Also under the umbrella of the government’s Skill India Mission there are skill development centres, education institutions and other agencies that are working on imparting the required skills, the Indian industry and corporate should view skills gap in sectors such as tourism and hospitality as an opportunity to contribute to the cause of nation-building.
  • Training the youth on skills such as business communication in English, national and foreign languages, and customer service will help the hospitality industry grow manifold.
  • India’s Ministry of Tourism has also launched skill initiatives in order to improve the sectoral service standards, which is one of the pre-requisites for attracting tourists in larger numbers.

Way ahead

  • India faces many problems, such as cumbersome visa regulations, bad travel infrastructure, poor sanitation, collapsing law enforcement systems and concerns about women’s safety. So there is need to work on ensuring for the development of safe and ease environment.
  • Tourism will also help  will in create job opportunities and help rural youths to earn their livelihood in rural India itself, which is yet another focus area of tourism and hospitality controlling mass migration to cities and towns.
  • As per the WEF report notes, foreign travel is no longer a luxury enjoyed only by wealthy Westerners. The lowering of trade barriers and the rise of the middle class in many emerging economies mean that North America and Europe, which have dominated the travel markets till now, may give way to international travel from Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

Question– Examine the importance of training in soft skill sectors for the sake of harnessing demographic dividend in India?