The India-Australia Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement was recently signed by India and Australia (Ind- Aus ECTA).
India and Australia announced their intention to sign such an agreement in February 2022.
The India-Australia ECTA negotiations were formally re-launched in September 2021 and are expected to be completed on a fast-track basis by the end of March 2022.
It is India’s first Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with a major developed country in over a decade.
India signed an FTA with the UAE in February and is currently negotiating FTAs with Israel, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the European Union.
The Agreement covers cooperation in all areas of bilateral economic and commercial relations between the two friendly countries, including:
Trade in Goods, Origin Rules
Australia will provide India with preferential market access on all of its tariff lines.
This includes all labor-intensive export sectors of interest to India, such as gems and jewellery, textiles, leather, footwear, furniture, and so on.
On the other hand, India will provide preferential access to Australia on more than 70% of its tariff lines, including lines of export interest to Australia that are primarily raw materials and intermediaries such as coal, mineral ores, and wines, among others.
It will grant duty-free access to 96 percent of Indian exports to Australia, including shipments from key sectors such as engineering goods, gems and jewellery, textiles, apparel, and leather.
According to the government, it will increase bilateral trade in goods and services to USD 45-50 billion over the next five years, up from around USD 27 billion, and create over one million jobs in India.
It will also grant zero-duty access to the Indian market to approximately 85 percent of Australian exports, including coal, sheep meat, and wool, as well as lower duty access to Australian wines, almonds, lentils, and certain fruits.
It is an agreement between two or more countries to reduce barriers to imports and exports.
A free trade policy allows goods and services to be bought and sold across international borders with few or no government tariffs, quotas, subsidies, or prohibitions impeding their exchange.
Trade protectionism and economic isolationism are the polar opposites of the concept of free trade.
FTAs are classified as Preferential Trade Agreements (PTAs), Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreements (CECAs), and Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreements (CEPAs) (CEPA).
India and Australia have excellent bilateral relations that have undergone transformational evolution in recent years, developing into a friendly partnership.
This is a unique partnership defined by shared values such as pluralistic, parliamentary democracies, Commonwealth traditions, expanded economic engagement, long-standing people-to-people ties, and increased high-level interaction.
The India-Australia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, which was launched during the India-Australia Leaders’ Virtual Summit in June 2020, is the foundation of India-multifaceted Australia’s bilateral relations.
Growing Economic and commercial relations between India and Australia contribute to the stability and strength of the two countries’ rapidly diversifying and deepening bilateral relationship.
India and Australia have been important trading partners for each other.
India’s 17th largest trading partner is Australia, and Australia’s 9th largest trading partner is India.
In 2021, India-Australia bilateral trade in goods and services is expected to be worth USD 27.5 billion.
Between 2019 and 2021, India’s merchandise exports to Australia increased by 135 percent. India’s exports, which totaled USD 6.9 billion in 2021, are primarily made up of a diverse basket of finished goods.
In 2021, India’s merchandise imports from Australia totaled USD 15.1 billion, primarily consisting of raw materials, minerals, and intermediate goods.
Along with Japan, India and Australia are partners in the trilateral Supply Chain Resilience Initiative (SCRI), which aims to improve the resilience of supply chains in the Indo-Pacific region.
Furthermore, India and Australia are members of the QUAD grouping (India, the United States, Australia, and Japan), which also includes the United States and Japan, to strengthen cooperation and develop partnerships on a variety of issues of mutual concern.
Shared values, shared interests, shared geography, and shared goals are the foundations of deepening India-Australia ties, and cooperation and coordination between the two countries has gained traction in recent years.
Both India and Australia share a vision of a free, open, inclusive, and rules-based Indo-Pacific region, as well as cooperative use of the seas based on international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and peaceful dispute resolution rather than unilateral or coercive actions.
The India-Australia ECTA will strengthen the two countries’ already deep, close, and strategic relations by significantly increasing bilateral trade in goods and services, creating new job opportunities, raising living standards, and improving the general welfare of the two peoples.
For the first time, the Indian President visited Turkmenistan, where he signed four agreements, including one on financial intelligence and disaster management, as well as an agreement to expand bilateral trade and energy cooperation to further strengthen the multifaceted partnership.
Previously, India and Turkmenistan signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Disaster Management Cooperation.
The importance of the International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC) and the Ashgabat Agreement on International Transport and Transit Corridor were emphasised.
India’s Chabahar port in Iran could be used to improve trade between India and Central Asia.
When discussing the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline, India suggested that technical and expert level meetings address pipeline security and key business principles.
India expressed its willingness to collaborate with Turkmenistan in its digitalization efforts, noting that space can be another area of mutual benefit.
The importance of holding regular cultural events on each other’s territory was emphasised because both countries share centuries-old civilisational and cultural ties.
The importance of both countries cooperating closely on the effective management of the Covid-19 pandemic that has affected their populations was emphasised.
It was agreed to expand cooperation under the framework established by the India-Central Asia Summit.
India expressed gratitude to Turkmenistan for its support for India’s permanent membership in a reformed and expanded United Nations Security Council, as well as for India’s initiatives as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for the period 2021-22.
Both share a broad’regional consensus’ on Afghanistan-related issues, including the formation of a truly representative and inclusive government, combating terrorism and drug trafficking, the central role of the UN, providing immediate humanitarian assistance to Afghans, and preserving the rights of women, children, and other national ethnic groups and minorities.
Turkmenistan borders Kazakhstan to the north, Uzbekistan to the north and east, Iran to the south, and Afghanistan to the southeast.
India’s ‘Connect Central Asia’ policy of 2012 envisions deeper mutual relations with the region, with energy linkage being a key component.
India has signed on to the Ashgabat agreement, which calls for the establishment of an international transport and transit corridor connecting Central Asia and the Persian Gulf in order to significantly increase trade and investment.
The TAPI pipeline (Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India) is regarded as a “key pillar” in India’s economic relations with Turkmenistan.
In 2015, the Azadi Institute of World Languages in Ashgabat established a Hindi Chair, where university students are taught Hindi.
Turkmen nationals are trained in India through the ITEC (Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation) programme.
Turkmenistan supports India’s permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.
Turkmenistan has a GDP of more than USD 40 billion, but bilateral trade with India is below potential. India has the potential to expand its economic presence in Turkmenistan, particularly in the information and communication technology (ICT) sector. This would aid in the preservation of the future trade balance.
The third meeting of the India-Central Asia Dialogue was recently held in New Delhi.
It is a ministerial-level dialogue between India and Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.
Turkmenistan has enormous natural gas reserves.
Turkmenistan is also strategically located in Central Asia, and India believes that a partnership with Turkmenistan will pay dividends in terms of connectivity.
The Supreme Court recently overturned Tamil Nadu’s 10.5 percent internal reservation for the Vanniyakula Kshatriya community.
The Supreme Court ruled that 10.5 percent internal reservation for the Vanniyakula Kshatriya community violates the fundamental rights of 115 other Most Backward Communities (MBCs) and De-Notified Communities (DNCs) in Tamil Nadu to equality, non-discrimination, and equal opportunity.
The allocation of 10.5 percent reservation to a single community from the total Most Backward Classes (MBC) quota of 20 percent in the State, leaving only 9.5 percent to 115 other MBC communities, lacked “substantial basis.”
Furthermore, the court stated that no assessment or analysis was conducted prior to the 2021 Act to support the claim that the Vanniyakula Kshatriyas were more backward than the other MBCs and DNCs.
The court emphasised that, while caste can be used as a starting point for internal reservation, the State government must justify the decision’s reasonableness.
Though the court ruled that the 2021 Act and its percentages of reservation were unconstitutional, it upheld the State’s legislative authority to enact legislation sub-classifying and apportioning percentages within identified backward classes.
Tamil Nadu has 69 percent reservation under a 1994 Act protected by the Constitution’s Ninth Schedule.
Backward classes, including Christians and Muslims, receive 30% of the 69 percent, MBCs receive 20%, Scheduled Castes receive 18%, and Scheduled Tribes receive 1%.
The Vanniyakula Kshatriya reservation was established by the State Within Reservation for the Most Backward Classes and Denotified Communities Act, 2021.
Vanniyakula Kshatriya community (which includes Vanniar, Vanniya, Vannia Gounder, Gounder or Kander, Padayachi, Palli, and Agnikula Kshatriya).
The population of Vanniyakula Kshatriyas was found to be 13.01 percent of the total population of the state by the second Tamil Nadu Backward Commission in 1983.
As a result, granting 10.5 percent reservation to a community with a population of 13.01 percent cannot be considered disproportionate.
The Ninth Schedule was added to the Indian Constitution by the first amendment.
The Jawaharlal Nehru Government enacted it on May 10, 1951, to protect land reform laws from being challenged in court on the grounds of violation of fundamental rights.
It was created as a result of the new Article 31B.
Article 31B is also retroactive, which means that if laws are inserted into the Ninth Schedule after they have been declared unconstitutional, they are considered to have been in the Schedule since their inception and thus valid.
While the majority of the laws protected by the Schedule concern agriculture/land issues, the list also includes laws on other topics.
Although Article 31B precludes judicial review, the Supreme Court has previously stated that laws under the Ninth Schedule would be subject to scrutiny if they violated Fundamental Rights or the Constitution’s basic structure.
Journalist Rana Ayyub was detained in Mumbai on the basis of a look out circular (LOC) issued by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) barring her from leaving the country.
A Look out notice (LOC) is issued to ensure that an individual who is fleeing or wanted by law enforcement agencies does not leave the country.
It is mostly used by the immigration branch at immigration checkpoints at international airports and seaports.
When a person is a suspect and the police believe that the person will not join the investigation at a later stage, the police can approach a court and request that the person’s movement outside the country be restricted.
The subject of a LOC may file a challenge to the circular and seek relief from it.
Issuing a LOC – An LOC can be initiated by a large number of authorised officers, including an officer with a rank no lower than deputy secretary.
In the state government, an officer not lower than the rank of joint secretary,
A district magistrate or superintendent of police, designated officers of various law enforcement and security agencies, an Interpol designated officer, an officer not lower than the rank of additional director in the Serious Fraud Investigation Office, and the Ministry of Corporate Affairs
Since 2018, any officer of a public sector bank who is not below the rank of chairman/managing director/chief executive can make a request. The Bureau of Immigration can only modify/delete/remove a LOC at the request of the authorised originator to whom the LOC was issued.
Is a LOC grounds for arrest? – No, not always. There are various types of LOC.
They can simply seek to prevent a person named in the circular from leaving the country, to prevent a person from entering the country, or to notify the relevant investigation agencies.
The LOC proforma also includes a request to detain the individual at the local police/investigation agency, which usually results in arrest.
After the Lok Sabha passed the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order (Amendment) Bill, 2022, the Darlong community was officially added to the list of Scheduled Tribes.
Darlong is one of Tripura’s 19 tribal communities. It is a small town of about 11,000 people.
Despite being Scheduled Tribes, Darlongs were never granted ST status.
They were given tribal certificates as members of the ‘Kuki’ community because they were considered a generic tribe under the Kuki community.
Thanga Darlong, a tribal musicologist and Rosem (tribal instrument) maestro, was awarded the prestigious Padma Shri award for his contribution to culture a few years ago.
This 2022 Amendment Bill was introduced to include Darlongs as a Kuki sub-tribe because people from the same communities live in hilly terrain as different sub-tribes and have long been excluded from the ST list.
Despite its small population, the community places a high value on education, cultural activities, and so on.
Members of the community hold various high-level positions in the local government.
Darlongs have traditionally used Jhum cultivation/shifting cultivators. The Darlongs, on the other hand, refer to it as ‘Loi.’
In addition to wet rice cultivation and seasonal vegetable cultivation, the majority of them now rely on agro-forestry and horticultural plantation or orchard development as their primary source of income.
Traditionally, the Darlongs were ruled by hereditary village chieftains (known as lal), but they have been replaced by a democratic body known as Village Council, which includes an elected Village Chairman and representatives.
Village Councils are linked to an apex council (known as Darlong Hnam Inzom or Darlong Peoples’Apex Council).
Every Darlong must instil a compelling code of social ethics, known as Tlawminngaina or Tlawmngaihna, in order to place the common good of the community above self and to be charitable and humane in all dispositions.