(1) India and U.S. launch a semiconductor sub-committee
On Friday, India and the U.S. signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for creating a Semiconductor Sub-Committee. The MoU came as a part of the revised India-U.S. Commercial Dialogue.
This is the latest step India has taken to improve its semiconductor “supply chain resiliency.” Earlier, the government announced subsidies worth ₹76,000 crore (around $10 billion) to build a semiconductor ecosystem in India. This went to manufacturers setting up new factories. Then, in January, it launched the U.S.-India initiative of Critical and Emerging Technology (iCET) with a focus on making the semiconductor supply chain resilient.
Also read |Explained | A push for the semiconductor industry
However, experts say that subsidies are focused on the wrong areas. For instance, the $10-billion subsidy announced earlier targeted manufacturing, when it would have been better utilised targeting design and R&D. For one, the cost of setting up a fab plant far outweighs the given subsidy amount. On the other hand, the manufacturing process requires gallons of ultrapure water every day. This might be hard to keep up. However, India has a local talent pool of software and hardware designers for chip design, which is ignored.
Focusing more on making larger fabs (130 nm to 90 nm) instead of the more hi-tech smaller fabs would also help India start off strong. Later, more advanced chips can be made.
Editorial |When the chips are down: On India’s Semiconductor Mission
(2) Historic agreement on UN High Seas Treaty
The UN member states agreed on a historic treaty for protecting marine life in international waters that lie outside the jurisdiction of any country, marking the culmination of over a decade of negotiations to protect the high seas that cover nearly two-thirds of the global ocean.
The ‘breakthrough’ followed protracted talks led by the UN during the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) on Marine Biodiversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ) in New York where negotiations on the draft treaty were underway for the past two weeks.
The treaty is yet to be formally adopted as members are yet to ratify it.
The draft agreement of the ‘High Seas Treaty’ recognises the need to address biodiversity loss and degradation of ecosystems of the ocean and proposes rules to protect oceans outside national borders and regarding the sustainable use of its resources.
It places “30% of the world’s oceans into protected areas, puts more money into marine conservation and covers access to and use of marine genetic resources,” as per the United Nations. A marine protected area (MPA) is defined as a “geographically defined marine area that is designated and managed to achieve specific long-term biodiversity conservation objectives and may allow, where appropriate, sustainable use provided it is consistent with the conservation objectives.”
In a statement, UN chief Secretary-General António Guterres said the agreement was a “victory for multilateralism and for global efforts to counter the destructive trends facing ocean health” and added that the pact will be crucial for addressing the planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution.
Also read | Explained | How did the treaty on the high seas come through?
(3) Saudi Arabia, Iran agree to renew diplomatic ties
Regional rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia agreed on Friday to restore ties and reopen diplomatic missions in Chinese-brokered talks, they said in a joint statement, seven years after relations were severed. Riyadh cut ties with Tehran after Iranian protesters attacked Saudi diplomatic missions in the Islamic republic in 2016 following the Saudi execution of Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr.
The move caps a broader realignment and efforts to ease tensions in West Asia. Shia-majority Iran and Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia support rival sides in several conflict zones across West Asia, including in Yemen where the Houthi rebels are backed by Tehran, and Riyadh leads a military coalition supporting the government.
In Friday’s statement, Iran and Saudi Arabia said they “thank the Republic of Iraq and the Sultanate of Oman for hosting the talks held between the two sides in 2021 and 2022 as well as the leaders and government of the People’s Republic of China for hosting and supporting the talks held in that country”.
“The three countries expressed their keenness to exert all efforts towards enhancing regional and international peace and security,” they said.
(4) The new U.K. asylum law
On Tuesday, Britain’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced the Illegal Migration Bill that deports all asylum-seekers who enter the U.K. illegally. Under the Bill, the migrants will be sent back home or to a “safe third country” and face a lifetime ban on citizenship and re-entry. Legal challenges or human rights claims would be heard either in their home country or the “safe third country” they have been sent back to.
This comes after the number of people entering the U.K. on small boats rose 60% from 2021 in 2022 to over 45,000.
The law has come under fire from the UN refugee agency that the 1951 UN Refugee Convention (to which Britain is a signatory) explicitly allows people to flee their homeland and claim asylum elsewhere without passports or other papers. Others have said that the law would not actually stop the boats from coming, and would not deter criminal gangs who were into human trafficking and other crimes.
Also read |Explained | U.K.’s controversial asylum plan explained
On the other hand, Interior Minister Suella Braverman and Sunak have said that this would help ease the burden on the “broken” asylum system and save taxpayer money, while preventing migrants from dying in perilous crossings.
Over the past week, social media posts showing alleged migrant workers in Tamil Nadu being assaulted by so-called locals have gone viral. Soon after, a group of migrant workers were seen at the Coimbatore railway station waiting to return home. While some were leaving for the holiday season, others had chosen to stay away from work to be safe. Migrant workers working in construction, hospitality and real estate stayed off work.
On March 5, Chief Minister M.K. Stalin said he had spoken to Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and assured him that all workers in Tamil Nadu were the State’s own workers. Later, he alleged that BJP leaders from North India have spread the rumours online after his call for parties to come together against the BJP.
Editorial | Home and away: On rumours and fake news about migrant workers in TN
Fake news saw a sharp rise in 2020 after the pandemic. As seen in the graphic below, the numbers have decreased across the board for the selected States, but most States still register more cases than in 2019. Tamil Nadu has always registered the second highest number of cases.