According to a recently leaked document, the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific have reached an agreement with China outlining an unprecedented level of security cooperation.
This is China’s first deal of its kind in the region, and it is unclear whether the provisions mentioned in the leaked document are included in the final draught.
The Solomon Islands are an ethnically Melanesian group of Pacific islands located between Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu.
During the colonial era, the British Empire initially controlled the islands.
After the Americans took over the islands from the Japanese during World War II, it passed through the hands of Germany and Japan before returning to the United Kingdom.
The islands gained independence in 1978, becoming a constitutional monarchy under the British Crown with a parliamentary government.
Nonetheless, the Commonwealth member country is independent, and the governor-general is appointed on the advice of the unicameral National Parliament.
The document expressly authorises China to send “police, armed police, military personnel, and other law enforcement and armed forces” to the islands at the request of the latter government, or if the former believes the safety of its projects and personnel on the islands is jeopardised.
It also allows Chinese naval vessels to use the islands for logistical support.
The Pacific islands are one of the few places in the world where China faces diplomatic competition from Taiwan.
China regards Taiwan as a renegade territory awaiting reunification and opposes its international recognition as an independent state.
As a result, any country that wishes to establish official relations with China must sever diplomatic ties with Taiwan.
The Solomon Islands was one of six Pacific island nations with formal bilateral relations with Taiwan.
Small Pacific island states act as potential vote banks for mobilising support for the great powers in international fora such as the United Nations.
Large Maritime Exclusive Economic Zones: Despite their small size, these Pacific island states have disproportionately large maritime Exclusive Economic Zones.
Reserves of Timber and Mineral Resources: Solomon Island, in particular, has substantial reserves of timber and mineral resources, as well as fisheries.
The Pacific islands are strategically located for China to insert itself between America’s military bases in the Pacific islands and Australia.
This is especially important in the current context, given the emergence of the AUKUS (Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States), which seeks to strengthen Australia’s strategic capabilities in relation to China through Anglo-American cooperation.
All Pacific countries have a vested interest in the region’s stability and security.
Members of the Pacific Islands Forum, including Australia, agreed in the 2018 Boe Declaration to work together to address regional security challenges.
A bilateral agreement, such as the one proposed between China and the Solomon Islands, undermines that sentiment and demonstrates a limited appreciation for the region’s overall security.
Earlier, the United States announced plans to open an embassy in the Solomon Islands, laying out a strategy to increase its influence in the South Pacific nation before China becomes “strongly embedded.”
The region’s smaller island nations rely heavily on them, particularly Australia, which is a resident power.
China is increasingly challenging the region’s established power structure through the steady displacement of Taiwan and the cultivation of economic and political clout.
The region’s geopolitics are undergoing unprecedented change in tandem with larger shifts in the Indo-Pacific, implying that regional great power rivalry and domestic volatility for Pacific island states will intensify in the coming years.
The US State Department recently published a strong and critical report on human rights in India in 2021.
The report is submitted to the US Congress each year and is retrospective in nature, containing a country-by-country discussion of the state of internationally recognised individual, civil, political, and worker rights as outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international agreements.
The Ministry of Home Affairs provided data on human rights violations in states to Rajya Sabha in December 2021.
Arbitrary Arrest and Detention: According to Indian law, “arbitrary arrest and detention are prohibited,” but both occurred during the year, with police using “special security laws to postpone judicial reviews of arrests.”
Pretrial detention was arbitrary and prolonged, often exceeding the length of the sentence imposed on those convicted.
Citing media reports of journalists being targeted for surveillance via the Pegasus malware, the report highlighted government authorities’ violations of privacy, “including the use of technology to arbitrarily or unlawfully surveil or interfere with the privacy of individuals.”
Restriction of Free Expression and Media: The report cited instances in which the government or actors perceived to be close to the government allegedly pressured or harassed media outlets critical of the government, including through online trolling.
It outlined the government’s February 2021 order directing Twitter to block accounts of journalists covering protests against three (later repealed) farm laws.
Concerning Freedom of Association, the report highlighted the cases of Amnesty International India, whose assets were frozen by the Enforcement Directorate, and the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), whose Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) licence was suspended for alleged violations.
These are human rights that are inherent in all people, regardless of race, gender, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, or any other status.
These include the right to life and liberty, the freedom from slavery and torture, the freedom of thought and expression, the right to work and an education, and many others.
‘To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity,’ said Nelson Mandela.
Fundamental Rights are outlined in Articles 12 through 35 of the Constitution. These include the Right to Equality, the Right to Freedom, the Right Against Exploitation, the Right to Religious Freedom, Cultural and Educational Rights, the Right to Certain Laws to be Saved, and the Right to Constitutional Remedies.
Articles 36 to 51 of the Constitution contain the Directive Principles of State Policy. These include the “right to social security,” “right to work,” “free choice of employment,” and “protection from unemployment,” “right to equal pay for equal work,” “right to existence worthy of human dignity,” “right to free and compulsory education,” “right to equal justice,” and “right to free legal aid.”
Statutory Provisions: The Protection of Human Rights Act (PHRA), 1993 (as amended in 2019), provided for the establishment of a National Human Rights Commission at the Union level, which directs State Human Rights Commissions and Human Rights Courts for better protection of Human Rights, as well as matters connected with or incidental thereto.
Human Rights are defined in Section 2(1)(d) of the PHRA as “individual rights to life, liberty, equality, and dignity guaranteed by the Constitution or embodied in International Covenants and enforceable by Indian courts.”
India actively participated in the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).
These 30 rights and freedoms include civil and political rights such as the right to life, liberty, free expression, and privacy, as well as economic, social, and cultural rights such as the right to social security, health care, and education, among others.
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) recently issued guidelines to states and union territories requesting that they modernise prisons as part of the Modernisation of Prisons Project.
They Play an Important Role in the Justice System:
Prisons are an essential component of the country’s criminal justice system.
They not only play an important role in keeping offenders in solitary confinement, but also in the process of their reformation and reintegration into society through various correctional programmes in the jails.
Overcrowding, understaffing and underfunding, and violent clashes are three long-standing structural constraints in Indian prisons.
The Government of India has decided to provide financial assistance to states and union territories through the Project for Using Modern-Day Security Equipment in Prisons for: Improving the security of jails.
Through correctional administration programmes, the task of reforming and rehabilitating prisoners is made easier.
The project will run for five years, from 2021 to 2026.
The Central Government will provide a grant to states and UTs to help them carry out the project.
Grants-in-aid are payments made by one government to another government, body, institution, or individual in the form of assistance, donations, or contributions.
Implementation Strategy: MHA will provide funds to states and territories based on the number of prisons, inmates, jail staff, and other factors.
The Steering Committee formed to oversee the implementation of the prison modernization project will make the funding proposal.
Coverage: The project will include all states and union territories, as well as the following prison types: Central Jails, District Jails, Sub-Jails, Women Jails, Open Jails, Special Jails, and so on.
Filling existing gaps in jail security infrastructure.
Providing new security equipment in accordance with modern technology to jails.
Increasing the security of the jail through the use of security equipment such as door frames, metal detectors, security poles, baggage scanners, frisking, search and jamming solutions, and so on.
Focus on correctional administration, which includes introducing appropriate programmes for inmates for skill development and rehabilitation, including the engagement of trained correctional experts, behavioural experts, psychologists, and others, as well as bringing attitudinal change in the mindset of prison officials handling inmates through extensive training.
Prison Modernization Scheme: The prison modernization scheme was launched in 2002-03 with the goal of improving the conditions of prisons, prisoners, and prison personnel.
E-Prisons Project: The E-Prisons project aims to improve prison management efficiency through digitization.
2016 Model Prison Manual: The manual contains detailed information about the legal services (including free services) that are available to inmates in prison.
National Legal Services Administration (NALSA): It was established under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987, which went into effect on November 9, 1995, to create a nationwide uniform network for providing free and competent legal services to the weaker sections of society.
The Supreme Court has ordered the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) not to exclude colorblind candidates from its filmmaking and editing courses.
Color blindness, also known as colour deficiency, is the inability to see colours normally.
Color blind people frequently can’t tell the difference between certain colours, usually greens and reds, but sometimes blues as well.
The retina contains two types of cells that detect light.
Cones detect colour and Rods distinguish between light and dark.
Color is seen by three types of cones: red, green, and blue, and our brains use the information from these cells to perceive colour.
Factors – Color blindness can be caused by the absence of one or more of these cone cells, as well as their failure to function properly.
Mild colour blindness can occur when all three cone cells are present but one of them is malfunctioning.
The condition affects the majority of colorblind people from birth (congenital colour blindness), but some can develop it later in life.
Congenital colour vision deficiencies are usually passed down through families.
A problem with colour vision that develops later in life may be caused by disease, trauma, or ingested toxins.
Glaucoma, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, alcoholism, leukaemia, and sickle-cell anaemia are all medical conditions that may increase the risk of developing colour blindness.
Severity – There are various types and degrees of colour blindness.
Mildly colorblind people frequently see all colours correctly only when the lighting is good.
Others, no matter how bright the light is, can’t tell one colour from another.
The most severe form of colour blindness causes black-and-white vision, in which everything appears as a shade of grey.
Color blindness typically affects both eyes, and the condition persists for the duration of the individual’s life.
Color blindness cannot currently be treated or reversed.
It can, however, be mitigated to some extent by wearing special contact lenses or colour filter glasses.
Diagnosis – In the case of a child, parents may first notice the deficiency when the child begins to learn colours.
The child may struggle to see colours or recognise the brightness of colours in ways that would be considered ‘normal.’
The child may also be unable to distinguish between different shades of the same or similar colours.
Men are more likely than women to suffer from colour blindness.
Every tenth male in the world is estimated to have some form of colour deficiency.
The Supreme Court of India stated in the FTII case, “Estimated 8% of male population and less than 1% of female population have red and green colour deficiency being the most common form of color-blindness.”