The latest list of the 25 largest arms companies in the world released by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute features 4 Chinese state-owned entities.
Of them, three figure in the top 10.
This clearly highlights the rapid military modernisation taking place in China, as well as growing Chinese arms exports to countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh and Algeria.
In fact, China is now the world’s fifth-largest arms exporter behind the US, Russia, France and Germany.
Contrast this with India’s unenviable position as the world’s second largest arms importer, despite being the third largest military spender.
A very large portion of India’s military spend is on pensions.
In the 2020-21 defence budget, the pension bill was almost $18 billion out of the total of $63 billion.
And the day-to-day running costs and salaries of the Indian armed forces far outstrip the capital outlay for military modernisation.
Armed forces personnel need to be streamlined to achieve a better teeth-to-tail ratio
There needs to be clarity on indigenous defence production and transfer of technology.
Unless offset obligations are strictly enforced and indigenous production boosted, the gap with China will continue to widen.
The rise of the AI economy
The potential of technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML)
AI/ML models and algorithms have supplemented the work of healthcare professionals, medical researchers, public health authorities and local administrations in monitoring and predicting trends.
Department of Telecommunications - Internet consumption in India rose by 13% after the lockdown was announced.
Higher consumption has generated goldmines of user data that online businesses can harness.
COVID-19 has created an AI moment that India can ill afford to miss.
NITI Aayog’s national strategy for AI envisages ‘AI for all’
The Telangana, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra governments, among others, have announced policies and strategies for AI adoption.
India has a thriving AI start-up ecosystem with cutting-edge solutions being developed in areas such as cancer screening, smart farming and conversational AI for the use of enterprises.
Our talent pool in AI/ML is fast growing, with over 5,00,000 people working on these technologies at present.
India is thus poised to become the AI powerhouse of the world.
Data and AI services are expected to help boost India’s economic growth in a big way.
Nasscom believes that data and AI will contribute $450 billion-$500 billion to India’s GDP by 2025, which is around 10% of the government’s aspiration of a $5 trillion economy.
The thrust will come from three key segments: consumer goods and retail, agriculture, and banking and insurance.
During the lockdown, the Telangana police used AI-enabled automated number plate recognition software to catch violations.
Three areas need our attention.
The first is talent development.
The second area is policies around data usage, governance and security.
Third, though the use of digital technologies has gone up, the level of digitisation continues to be low.
The arrest of five terror suspects in Delhi — two of whom were allegedly involved in the murder of Shaurya Chakra awardee Balwinder Singh in Punjab in October — has turned the spotlight on the embers of the long dead and buried Khalistan movement.
The Delhi police have claimed that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) is seeking yet again to link up terror outfits in Kashmir with pro-Khalistan activists; three of the others arrested were from Kashmir.
The Khalistan movement has long become moribund with the neutralisation of the threat and the ending of the Punjab insurgency in the early 1990s.
The movement has lost support from the Sikh community within India and the Sikh diaspora across the world.
The killing of Balwinder Singh is one of a few isolated and sporadic incidents that have occurred in the last decade but attempts to revive the movement from fringe groups have failed.
Security agencies must therefore remain vigilant.
Terror incidents and fatalities since the revoking of special status and statehood for Jammu & Kashmir in the last year have remained high.
Data from the terrorism monitoring portal, satp.org, show that there were 382 incidents related to terrorism and 302 fatalities in 2020 so far in J&K compared to 369 and 283 in 2019, respectively.
The lull in terror activities and the relative peace in the Valley from 2011 to 2015 are now a thing of the past and renewed violence besides disaffection have become a new normal, even if they have not reached the high levels of the 1990s and the early 2000s.
The persisting disaffection in the Valley can only be addressed by a new political process that seeks to review the unilateral changes made to the region’s status and restores its full statehood.
Heating Up | MP
In the history of Australia, bushfires and indeed extremely destructive bushfires are not entirely uncommon.
Still, the hot, dry and drought-prone climate of Australia means that throughout the year, some parts of Australia have an increased fire hazard.
It is known that indigenous Australian tribes have their own ways of controlling and using this fire hazard in a method referred to as fire-stick farming.
This method is now being reintroduced in several parts of Australia as part of a wildfire threat reduction system.
What has changed in the last century is the frequency and scale of such fires.
Several studies have shown that due to Australia's climate warming by more than one-degree Celsius over the last century has meant that Australia is presently seeing some of the hottest and driest weather that the nation has on record.
In fact, 2019 was noted to be the driest year in Australia since 1900.
WWF Australia recently released a report that stated that more than 61,000 koalas and almost 143 million other native mammals were in the path of the 2019-2020 fire.
This is an addition to the 2.46 billion reptiles who were also affected by the fire spreading.
Experts say that even if many of these animals avoided the grim fate of being burnt to death, they now face a subsequently higher risk of death due to injuries or deprivation of required resources.
Reports of irreversible damage to the Great Barrier Reef, increased year by year propensity of droughts, etc., create a picture of Australia that supports the scientific theory that Australia will likely be the first place on earth to produce climate change refugees.
In October, a blaze started by an illegal campfire started a bushfire that has now burnt through half of Fraser Island, an island that is 250 km north of Brisbane and is listed by UNESCO as a 'World Heritage' site.
The Scott Morrison government has typically tried to dodge the correlation between human activities, climate change and Australia's increasingly severe climate crises.
A report presented to the Australian Government on bushfires noted that continuing climate change will have a marked impact in exacerbating extreme weather conditions.
The report made 80 recommendations and called for the Government to recognise the unambiguously grim nature of the predictions.
India’s evolving energy diplomacy | HT
The recent decision of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to allow a muted increase in production in the first quarter of next year was welcomed by petroleum and natural gas minister, Dharmendra Pradhan, because of what it means for price stability rather than the hope it means cheaper oil.
India stands to gain because oil producers need to generate revenues necessary to maintain the investment levels to ensure steady oil supply.
India’s relations with the largest oil producers, notably the Persian Gulf monarchies and Russia, also increasingly revolve around them ploughing their earnings into India’s oil and gas sector.
India-OPEC institutional dialogue ~~ Mr Pradhan was notably more interested in potential OPEC investments in India than the ups and downs of oil production.
Despite OPEC’s earlier production cuts and its projected increases, global prices have remained in the $40 to $50 a barrel range.
Thanks to record foreign exchange reserves, India today can absorb somewhat higher global oil prices, and shift focus on attracting the massive investments needed for its natural gas and renewable energy plans.
The real challenge for India’s energy diplomacy is preparing the ground for a post-oil future in a manner that ensures oil markets abet rather than disrupt this larger transition.
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