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16th September 2023

The importance of Saudi Arabia to India


Amid the announcement of the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor, a massive infrastructure project that would connectIndia to Europe via West Asia makes Saudi Arabia a critical partner for India in recent times.

So, let us take a look at their bilateral relations.

  • For years, the Saudi Arabia-India relationship had always been shadowed by the Kingdom’s close ties with Pakistan.
  • That has changed, while Riyadh retains strong ties to Islamabad, there is no longer an “either-or” element, and the Kingdom has demonstrated geopolitical diversification in its relations with South Asia.
  • The rise of jihadist extremism, the gradual decline of American power, and the rise of China have brought about transformational changes in India’s engagements with the Gulf region.
  • India’s Prime Minister has demonstrated an increased willingness to cooperate with Saudi Arabia on a variety of security issues such as joint military exercises, intelligence sharing, counterterrorism, anti-money laundering, and terror financing.
  • On the face of it, much of the deliberations have been shrouded over “terror talks”: The historic visit of King Abdullah to India in 2006 had laid solid ground for the India-Saudi relationship.
  • The “Delhi Declaration,” signed between the two countries during his visit, stressed that terrorism was a scourge that “the governments would closely and actively cooperate” to fight against.
  • The “Riyadh Declaration” signed in 2010 during then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Saudi Arabia emphasized cooperation on information exchange on terrorism.
  • Enhanced security cooperation has added a new dimension in the bilateral ties between New Delhi and Riyadh.
  • Saudi Crown Prince held bilateral talks with PM Modi after the recently concluded G-20 summit.
  • India-Saudi Arabia has further deepened their strategic relationship by forming Strategic Partnership Council (SPC).

India-Saudi Arabia Relations:

  • Economic Ties:
  • India and Saudi Arabia enjoy strong economic ties, with Saudi Arabia being India's fourth-largest trade partner, and India ranking as Saudi Arabia's second-largest trade partner.
  • Indian companies have made substantial investments in Saudi Arabia, with approximately 2,783 Indian companies registered as joint ventures or wholly-owned entities in the kingdom.
  • Leading Indian corporate giants like L&T, Tata, Wipro, TCS, TCIL, and ShapoorjiPallonji have established a robust presence in Saudi Arabia, contributing to the economic partnership.
  • Saudi Arabia has made significant direct investments in India, totaling around 3.15 billion dollars as of March 2022.
    • Key investors include prominent Saudi entities like Aramco, SABIC, Zamil, e-holidays, and the Al Batterjee Group.
    • The Public Investment Fund (PIF) of Saudi Arabia has also ventured into Indian startups through SoftBank Vision Fund, making investments in companies like Delhivery, Ola, Paytm, and Policy Bazaar.
  • Energy Cooperation:
  • Saudi Arabia is a key partner for ensuring India’s energy security, and was its third largest crude and petroleum products source for FY23.
  • India imported 5 million metric tonnes (MMT) of crude from the country in FY23, amounting to 16.7% of India’s total crude imports.
  • India’s LPG imports from Saudi Arabia stood at 7.85 MMT, and 11.2% of its total petroleum product imports, in FY 23.
  • Defense Partnership:
  • There is extensive naval cooperation between India and Saudi Arabia, and two editions of the bilateral naval exercise, Al Mohed al Hindi, have been concluded so far.
  • Both sides also cooperate closely in the domain of defence industries and capacity-building.
  • On defence ties, the joint statement said that the two sides commended their deepening cooperation, and agreed to continue work including joint exercises, training and high-level visits, and to “consider possibilities of joint development and production ofdefence equipment.
  • Indian Diaspora
  • The Indian community in the kingdom is more than 4 million strong, widely respected for its contribution to the development of Saudi Arabia, and seen as a living bridge between the two countries.


  • Counter Terrorism Cooperation-Saudi Arabia has a substantial influence over Pakistan. India can use this influence to bring Pakistan to negotiating table for talks on terrorism.
    • Saudi Arabia has shown an understanding of India’s terrorism-related concerns and has agreed to work with India in countering the global menace.
  • Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030-Vision 2030 plan of Saudi Arabia calls for diversification of the oil-dependent economy by attracting tourism and foreign investment and turning it into a global hub for business and culture.
    • Saudi Arabia needs India’s technological assistance to execute Vision 2030.
    • This Vision opens up immense opportunities for Indian businesses like the IT sector and the infrastructure businesses.
  • Saudi Arabia has one of the largest Sovereign Fund in the World- It is an important nation to invest fund in India particularly in National Infrastructure and Investment fund (NIIF).Saudi oil giant Aramco and the AbuDhabi National Oil Companyhave acquired 50% stake in the 44 billion dollars project in Ratnagiri, Maharashtra.

What are the Challenges in India Saudi Arabia Relations?

  • Complexity of Middle East Politics-The politics of the Middle East are complex and multidimensional. There exist several fault lines like Saudi Arabia-Iran Rivalry, Saudi Arabia-Israel animosity. India faces a complex challenge to manage its relationship with all these countries without antagonizing others.
  • Pakistan Factor-The Pakistan factor is also an important challenge in the development of strong India-Saudi Arabia relationship. Saudi Arabia is one of the largest granter of loans to Pakistan. Pakistan has been using its territory to breed terrorism and hatred towards India.This has also led to some discomfort in deepening of India Saudi Arabia Relationship in the field of counter terrorism.
  • Nitaqat Program of Saudi Arabia-The Nitaqat program was introduced in 2011 in order to increase the employment of Saudi nationals in the private sector.Saudi policy of ’Nitaqat’ have upset the large expatriate community of Indian working in the Kingdom.

Way forward

  • Greater Integration of economies-Some labour-intensive establishments from Saudi Arabia can be shifted to India which would reduce Kingdom’s expatriate population. This would also eliminate the need to bring Nitaqat Policies.
  • Increased Cooperation in Space-With India’s growing space prowess, space becomes an important domain of cooperation between the two countries.Newly established Saudi Space Agency can engage with ISRO.
  • Increase in defence cooperation- India Saudi Arabia can uplift cooperation in the maritime security domain to safeguard the global oil supply chain.
  • Expanding the areas of bilateral cooperation- India Saudi Arabia should expand the potential areas for next stage of bilateral cooperation in Indian infrastructure, agriculture, start-ups, skilling and IT.

Government notifies 31 Benches of GST Appellate Tribunal


The Finance Ministry has notified the constitution of 31 Appellate Tribunals across 28 States and eight Union Territories for the Goods and Services Tax (GST) setting the stage to resolve a growing number of taxpayer disputes with the Revenue Department.

  • The States had proposed 50 tribunal benches to the GST Council. These tribunals will be implemented in phased manner.
  • Amongst all, the first set of tribunals will become operational from January 2024.
  • Under the order, Uttar Pradesh will have the highest number of benches of the GST tribunals, with three benches proposed to be set up across Lucknow, Varanasi, Ghaziabad, Agra, and Prayagraj.
  • Karnataka and Rajasthan will have two benches each, while Maharashtra and Goa together will have three benches to take up appeals.
  • Tamil Nadu, along with Puducherry, will have two benches, as will Gujarat along with the Union Territories of Dadra and Nagar Haveli, and Daman and Diu.
  • Disputes arising in West Bengal, Sikkim, and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands will be taken up by two benches of the tribunal to come up in Kolkata.
  • For the seven northeastern States, one tribunal bench has been proposed in Guwahati, with circuit benches in Aizawl, Agartala and Kohima that will be operationalised depending upon the number of appeals filed by suppliers in respective States.

What is GST?

  • GST was introduced through the 101st Constitution Amendment Act, 2016.
  • It is one of the biggest indirect tax reforms in the country.
  • It was introduced with the slogan of ‘One Nation One Tax’.
  • Objectives:
    • To mitigate the double taxation, cascading effect of taxes, multiplicity of taxes, classification issues etc., and has led to a common national market.
    • The GST that a merchant pays to procure goods or services (i.e. on inputs) can be set off later against the tax applicable on supply of final goods and services.
    • The set off tax is called input tax credit.
    • The GST avoids the cascading effect or tax on tax which increases the tax burden on the end consumer.
  • Levied on:
    • The GST has subsumed indirect taxes like excise duty, Value Added Tax (VAT), service tax, luxury tax etc.
    • It is essentially a consumption tax and is levied at the final consumption point.

Role of GST Council

  • The GST Council is a joint forum of the Centre and the states.
  • It was set up by the President as per Article 279A (1) of the amended Constitution.
  • Members:
  • The members of the Council include the Union Finance Minister (chairperson), the Union Minister of State (Finance) from the Centre.
  • Each state can nominate a minister in-charge of finance or taxation or any other minister as a member.
  • Functions:
  • The Council, is meant to “make recommendations to the Union and the states on important issues related to GST, like the goods and services that may be subjected or exempted from GST, model GST Laws”.
  • It also decides on various rate slabs of GST.

About GST Appellate Tribunal (GSTAT):

  • The Central Goods and Service Tax Act, 2017 (CGST Act) in Section 109 mandates for the constitution of a GSTAT and its Benches.
  • The GSTAT will be the specialized appellate authority for resolving disputes under the GST laws.
  • Composition:
  • The GST Tribunal will have one principal bench in New Delhi and as many benches or boards in states as decided by each state, subject to approval of the council.
  • North-eastern states could opt for one bench for 2-3 states and an additional bench for very far-flung areas.
  • The principal bench and state boards would have two technical and two judicial members each, with equal representation from the Centre and states.
  • All four members would not sit for hearing each case. It depends on the threshold or value of dues involved.

Kalaignar Magalir Urimai Thittam


Tamil Nadu Chief Minister has launched the 'KalaignarMagalirUrimaiThittam' (Kalaignar Women's Rights Assistance Scheme), offering Rs.1000 monthly assistance to women in the state.


About the initiative:

  • The state government had months ago announced that the scheme and would be launched on September 15, on the birth anniversary of Annadurai.
  • The initiative is recognition of women's hard work, a key objective of the scheme.
  • The State government has identified as many as 1.06 crore women as beneficiaries under the plan and the Rs 1,000 assistance is paid to beneficiaries through Direct Benefit Transfer.
  • Significance:
    • The 12,000 payout per annum would be great support for women, a symbol of development.
    • It would help them improve their standards of living, lead a life of self-respect and eradicate poverty.

This year will mark as the 115th birth anniversary of Annadurai.

Other related initiatives:

  • Mahila E-Haat: This is an online platform that enables women entrepreneurs to showcase and sell their products. While not a direct cash transfer, it supports women's economic empowerment.
  • PM SVANidhi Scheme: While not exclusively for women, this scheme provides working capital loans to street vendors, including many women, to restart their businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • PradhanMantriMatruVandanaYojana (PMMVY): This scheme provides financial assistance to pregnant and lactating women to ensure proper nutrition and health during pregnancy and after childbirth.

The CEC and Other EC (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Bill, 2023


The special session of Parliamentis going to witness the discussion on a Bill that seeks to regulate the appointment, service conditions, and office terms of the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and other Election Commissioners.


About the Bill:

  • The Bill attempts to alter constitutional provisions that equate ECs with Supreme Court judges.
  • It also seeks to undo the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in ‘AnoopBaranwal vs. Union of India’ Case.
  • Key points:
    • The Bill proposes to revise the salary, allowance, and service conditions of the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and the two Election Commissioners, to bring it at par with those of a Cabinet Secretary.
    • Until now, Election Commissioners were at par with Supreme Court judges in this regard, under the Election Commission Act, of 1991.
    • However, the Bill’s passage will result in the 1991 Act’s repeal.
    • This Bill seeks to constitute a committee of the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition in the LokSabha, and a Cabinet Minister nominated by thePM to select members of the Election Commission of India.

How does the new Bill change the 1991 Act?

  • Section 3 of the 1991 Act states that, “There shall be paid to the Chief Election Commissioner [and other Election Commissioners] a salary which is equal to the salary of a Judge of the Supreme Court.”
  • However, Section 10 of the Bill states that the salary, allowances, and service conditions of the CEC and ECs shall be the same as those of the Cabinet Secretary.


  • Bureaucratic ambit: This move seeks to bring Election Commissioners under the ambit of the bureaucracy, which in turn could stifle their authority and independence
  • Shift tasks and roles:The EC’s primary task is that of superintendence, direction, and control of elections, as laid down under Article 324.
    • However, this control of elections is likely to shift if the Election Commissioner, who will now be equivalent to the rank of a Cabinet Secretary, tries to discipline a Union Minister for electoral violations.
  • CJI not a member: The committee formed for election of CEC will not have the Chief Justice of India as a member, contrary to the top court’s suggestion in a ruling delivered in March this year.
  • Equivalent to Supreme Court Judge vs. Cabinet secretary: The proviso to Article 324 (5) of the Constitution says that a CEC can only be removed in a manner similar to that of a SC judge.
    • The reason behind the EC’s independence and equivalence to SC judges was so that it could freely and fairly decide cases involving the government, the Prime Minister, and Ministers.

Unified portal for agri-statistics (UPAg)


Recently, the government has launched a unified portal for agri-statistics (UPAg) that will empower stakeholders to access credible and objective data for taking informed decisions.

  • Developed by:The UPAg, developed by the Ministry of Agriculture, is a crucial component of digital public infrastructure for agriculture.
  • Objective: The portal aims to address the data related governance challenges such as lack of standardised and verified data, which make it difficult for policymakers, researchers, and stakeholders to make informed decisions.
  • The UPAg portal will have key features such as;
    • Data standardization,
    • Data analyses,
    • Granular production estimates,
    • Commodity profile reports, and
    • Plug and play.
  • Functions:
    • The portal will standardise data on prices, production, area, yield, and trade, making it accessible in one location, eliminating the need to compile data from multiple sources.
    • It will perform advanced analytics, offering insights such as production trends, trade correlations, and consumption patterns, aiding policymakers in making informed decisions.
    • It will perform advanced analytics, offering insights such as production trends, trade correlations, and consumption patterns, aiding policymakers in making informed decisions.
    • The portal will generate granular production estimates with increased frequency, enhancing the government's ability to respond to agricultural crises swiftly.
  • Significance:
    • This platform, designed to streamline and enhance data management in the agricultural domain, marks a significant step towards a more efficient and responsive agricultural policy framework.
    • The portal should ensure data credibility.
    • This initiative aligns with the principles of e-governance, bringing smartness, transparency, and agility to India's agriculture sector.


In diverse India, name change demands consensus


The invitation for the G-20 summit in New Delhi, calling the Indian President 'President of Bharat,' sparked controversy due to political tensions and distrust across the nation.

Constitutional Perspective on Changing India's Name

  • Constitutional Clarity: The controversy surrounds the use of 'President of Bharat' in official G-20 summit invitations under India's presidency, raising constitutional questions.
  • Constitutional Amendment required: Constitutionally, the official title is 'President of India,' specified in Article 52, and can only be changed through a constitutional amendment (Article 368).
  • A Name game: The Constitution does mention "India, that is Bharat" in Article 1, but this clarifies that 'Bharat' serves as a translation for 'India' rather than an interchangeable term.

Implications of Using 'Bharat' Interchangeably

  • Potential Confusion: Using 'Bharat' interchangeably with 'India' in official communication could create confusion, especially in international agreements and treaties.
  • Can hamper global image: The official name, 'Republic of India,' is consistently used in international affairs and should not be altered arbitrarily.
  • Bharat as a secondary suggestion: The Constituent Assembly originally debated using 'India' as the sole name and added 'Bharat' later as a compromise, with no intention of interchangeability.

Broader Implications and Impacts

  • Controversy and Alienation: Changing a country's name should not be a political party's agenda; consensus is essential in diverse countries like India.
  • To break Colonial legacy: A rushed effort to distance from colonialism by altering names risks alienating certain sections of the population.
  • Hinder Unity and Cooperation: India's newfound anti-colonial enthusiasm should align with its motto of 'VasudhaivaKutumbakam,' promoting global unity rather than division.
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Warlordism and terror finance


There have been several allegations of the anti-state actors' financial activities in Northeastern region of India and their impact on regional dynamics, highlighting the need for cooperation between India and Bangladesh to address these issues.

The Nature of Anti-State Actors

  • Varied Beginnings: Anti-state actors, often involved in armed conflicts, employ distinct strategies to gain support and recognition, initially emphasizing theoretical foundations.
  • Initial Revolutionary Objectives: These groups, especially in the Indian subcontinent, tend to adopt revolutionary objectives, sometimes resonating with the public.
  • Erosion of Revolutionary Character and Leadership Transition: However, the revolutionary character often erodes as they consolidate power, with leaders transitioning into warlords, challenging national governments and influencing regional dynamics.

The Case of ULFA

  • Ideological shift:The United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) leader exemplifies the shift from revolutionary to warlord, with ties to external entities like ISI and Chinese intelligence.
  • Concern associated: The control over ULFA's leader in finances and alleged connections with Chinese ordnance factories and Bangladeshi business conglomerates raise concerns.
  • Unwanted dispute: Investigations into ULFA leaders’ properties in Bangladesh and their financial activities highlight potential influence in the region, impacting India-Bangladesh relations.

Broader Implications

  • Call for Investigation: Allegations of terror actors from Bangladesh investing in Indian stock markets and real estate, along with ULFA's business ties in Bangladesh, require thorough investigation.
  • Necessity of India-Bangladesh Cooperation: The evolving landscape of Islamist terror in South Asia necessitates cooperation between India and Bangladesh in addressing these concerns.
  • Resolution for Sustaining Anti-Terror Alliance: Maintaining a lasting alliance against terror demands transparency and resolution of these issues, even if it involves temporary embarrassment.
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A GM crop decision that cuts the mustard


To achieve global food security and 'Zero Hunger' by 2030, adopting science-based technologies like GM crops is crucial amid climate change challenges.

Need for Genetic Improvement in Crop Production

  • Boosting Food Production: To achieve food and nutritional security in the face of climate change, there is an urgent need to accelerate genetic improvement in crops.
  • Superior crop varieties and hybrids: They are essential for higher yields, adaptability across diverse environments, and reduced resource inputs.
  • The Green Revolution of the 1960s-70s; significantly increased food production, but new biotech/GM crops are required for climate resilience and nutrient-rich food production.

Economic Benefits of GM Crops

  • GM Crop Adoption: Genetic modification of crops has been embraced worldwide, with 72 countries adopting GM crops for food, feed, and commercial cultivation.
  • Benefits: GM crops have benefited over 1.95 billion people, mainly in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, India, and the United States.
  • Helping developing countries: Economic gains from GM crops have exceeded 224.9 billion dollars, with the majority of beneficiaries being farmers in developing countries.

GM Mustard as a Solution for Edible Oil Deficit in India

  • Focus on Mustard Agriculture: India faces a significant edible oil deficit, relying on imports for 60% of its demand.
  • Increasing Productivity: Mustard, a vital oilseed crop, has low yields compared to global averages, necessitating productivity improvements.
  • Help to increase farmer’s Income: Genetic engineering efforts, like the GM mustard hybrid DMH-11, aim to enhance domestic edible oil production and farmer incomes.
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ISRO gives India more space in the world


India is technologically and economically far behind China, but it can show off its capabilities in one domain: space.

ISRO's Changing Perceptions and Achievements

  • ISRO's Remarkable Journey: ISRO, the Indian Space Research Organisation, is undergoing a rebranding phase, propelled by its recent successes including lunar missions and a Mars orbiter.
  • Advancing on the Global Stage: The organization is gearing up for a solar probe and a manned mission, reflecting India's evolving role in the global arena.
  • The Lingering Irony: Despite these achievements, a long-standing irony remains – India, a spacefaring nation, grapples with challenges like food security, education, and poverty at home.

Evolution of India's Space Program

  • From Jugaad to Scientific Excellence: India's early space endeavors were often associated with frugality and jugaad (resourcefulness), epitomized by missions like Mangalyaan, which garnered global attention for its cost-effectiveness.
  • Cost effective efforts: However, ISRO's success also involves scientific innovation, such as utilizing angular momentum to reduce fuel usage and the country's cost-effective inputs.
  • Become a global example: India's space objectives differ from technologically advanced nations, focusing on development, earth sciences, and national integration rather than space tourism or planetary colonization.

Geopolitical Significance of India's Space Program

  • ISRO's Geopolitical Role: ISRO's space program serves as a geopolitical signal, showcasing India's capabilities in the global arena, particularly concerning China's maritime ambitions.
  • India's Lunar Mission: India's lunar mission, aimed at putting an Indian on the moon, reflects its determination to assert influence and competence.
  • Compelling Message to the World: Despite the ongoing irony of domestic challenges, India's lunar mission sends a compelling message to the world about its capabilities and aspirations.
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Short News Article

International Relations (GS-II)

International Organisation of Legal Metrology (OIML)

India has become the 13th country authorised to certify ‘measuring and weighing instruments’ based on globally accepted standards of the Paris-based International Organisation of Legal Metrology (OIML)


  • The OIML stands for International Organisation of Legal Metrology.
  • Established in 1955 and headquartered in Paris, the OIML is an international standard-setting body.
  • It develops model regulations, standards and related documents for use by legal metrology authorities and industry.
  • It plays a crucial role in harmonising national laws and regulations on the performance of measuring instruments like clinical thermometers, alcohol breath analysers, radar speed measuring instruments, ship tanks found at ports, and petrol dispensing units.

Polity and Governance (GS-II)

Arunachal launches Aadhaar-linked birth registration

Arunachal Pradesh became the second state in the Northeast after Nagaland to launch Aadhaar-linked birth registration.


  • It would help in birth registration-based Aadhaar enrolment for children up to the age of 5.
  • Aim: To ensure successful implementation of the initiative, so that no child is deprived of the benefits of any social welfare schemes.
  • A child would be provided with a blue colored ‘Baal Aadhaar’, which would be visibly distinguishable from other Aadhaar cards.
  • Nodal Agency: The Directorate of Economics and Statistics, the registrar for birth and death in the state, is the nodal department for Aadhaar related activities.

Polity and Governance (GS-II)

Goa govt. launches taxi service app

The Goa governmenthas launched a taxi service app through which people can book a cab online to travel anywhere within the coastal state.


  • Chief Minister has launched the "Goa Taxi App".
  • The app will also help bring down the travelling cost for tourists, who have been complaining about exorbitant taxi fares in the coastal state.
  • More than 500 tourist taxi operators have already joined the app and are satisfied with its performance.
  • Operators affiliated with the app will get the benefits of various schemes, financial help for marriage and scholarships for their children.


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