Delta COVID Wave, Protesting Farmers, Border Tensions & More: Events That Shaped 2021 for India

© AP Photo / Altaf QadriIndian farmers participate in a protest while blocking a major highway to mark 100 days of the ongoing farmer protests against new farm laws along the Delhi-Haryana border near New Delhi, India, Saturday, March 6, 2021. Thousands of farmers have hunkered down outside New Delhi’s borders since late November to voice their anger against three laws passed by Parliament last year. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government says the laws are necessary to modernize agriculture but farmers say they will leave them poorer and at the mercy of big corporations.
Indian farmers participate in a protest while blocking a major highway to mark 100 days of the ongoing farmer protests against new farm laws along the Delhi-Haryana border near New Delhi, India, Saturday, March 6, 2021. Thousands of farmers have hunkered down outside New Delhi’s borders since late November to voice their anger against three laws passed by Parliament last year. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government says the laws are necessary to modernize agriculture but farmers say they will leave them poorer and at the mercy of big corporations.  - Sputnik International, 1920, 31.12.2021
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As the world rings in 2022, Sputnik takes a look back at 10 crucial domestic and external developments of the year that affected Indians as well as garnered significant attention outside the South Asian country.

India-China Border Standoff

In February last year, India and China began to disengage their troops from major friction points in the eastern Ladakh region in a bid to resolve a deadly border standoff that erupted in May 2020.
After meeting with initial success, the disengagement talks partly broke down during the 13th military commander-level meeting on 10 October. New Delhi accused Beijing of not being able to provide any “forward-looking proposals”, while Beijing said that India was making “unreasonable and unrealistic demands”.
India's Ambassador to the United States, Dr. S. Jaishankar - Sputnik International, 1920, 02.12.2021
Indian FM: China Has Unrealistic Expectations, Border Tensions Have 'Spilt' Into Other Areas
As of today, the two militaries have disengaged their troops from several friction points — Galwan Valley, the northern and southern banks of Pangong Tso Lake, and the Gogra Post.
However, reports in the Indian media have claimed that the PLA has refused to back down on its claims in other disputed areas, including Depsang Plains and Hot Springs.
The two nations have reportedly amassed nearly 50,000 troops and advanced weapon systems near the joint border as the ongoing standoff approaches its second anniversary this year.

India Winds Down Its Presence in Afghanistan

New Delhi suffered a major diplomatic jolt in August after the Taliban took over Kabul and proclaimed its rule over Afghanistan.
This prompted New Delhi to end its diplomatic presence in the country.
India was also the largest regional donor to Afghanistan during the government of former President Ashraf Ghani, having contributed almost $3 billion in developmental aid and constructing civil, educational, and infrastructure projects in every Afghan province before the Taliban takeover.
The capture of Kabul prompted India's prime minister to hold a high-level meeting in Delhi. It was decided to evacuate Indian-origin Hindu and Sikh communities from Afghanistan over their safety concerns under the new Islamist government.
Taliban soldier in combat gear stands amid the protesters during the anti-Pakistan protest in Kabul, Afghanistan, September 7, 2021. - Sputnik International, 1920, 08.09.2021
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'Pakistani Imprint': Ex-Envoys Say New Taliban Cabinet in Afghanistan Isn't 'Good News' For India
New Delhi has also expressed grave concerns about anti-India terrorist groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) setting up and expanding their bases in Afghanistan under the new authorities.
India has consistently raised its concerns on global platforms, including during its rotating presidency of the UN Security Council in August as well as during a regional security dialogue on Afghanistan that New Delhi hosted in November.
In September, India for the first time also acknowledged that it had held a meeting with the Taliban in Doha.

First-Ever Quad Leaders’ Summit at the White House

The first leaders’ summit of the "Quadrilateral Security Dialogue", a group comprising Australia, India, Japan, and the US, was organised at the White House on 24 September.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, like his Australian and Japanese counterparts, flew down to Washington for the summit and held his first in-person meeting with Joe Biden after the latter's win in the US presidential election last year.
In the Quad's joint statement, the four leaders reaffirmed their commitment to a “free and open” Indo-Pacific region, called for respecting the territorial and maritime integrity of countries, and expressed concerns over the situation in the East and South China Seas.
The meeting was held amid the ongoing border dispute between China and India, as well as Beijing’s "nine-dash line" claims in the South China Sea and its dispute with Japan in the East China Sea.
U.S. President Joe Biden hosts a 'Quad nations' meeting at the Leaders' Summit of the Quadrilateral Framework with India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga in the East Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., September 24, 2021. - Sputnik International, 1920, 25.09.2021
China Warns US Will 'Dump' India, Australia, and Japan as Four Nations Convene for Quad Summit
China has been scathingly critical of the Quad grouping, referring to it as an Asian version of the US-led North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). Chinese state media warned after the summit that Washington would “dump” Australia, India, and Japan once its geopolitical objectives were met.
However, ties between India and the other Quad nations have been expanding. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited India in July.
In September, India and Australia held the third edition of their 2+2 Dialogue involving their foreign and defence ministers.

Russian President Vladimir Putin Visits India for Annual Summit With PM Modi

Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in New Delhi on a day-long visit on 6 December for the 21st Russia-India Annual Summit with Prime Minister Modi. The last time the two leaders held the annual affair was in 2019, when the Indian PM attended the fifth edition of the Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) in Vladivostok.
The annual summit remained suspended in 2020 due to the onset of the COVID pandemic.
During their meeting, the two leaders reaffirmed their commitment to the “Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership” between New Delhi and Moscow, besides vowing to further expand military and trade ties.
Brahmos supersonic missiles, jointly developed by India and Russia, are displayed during full dress rehearsals for the Republic Day parade in New Delhi, India, Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014 - Sputnik International, 1920, 06.12.2021
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India and Russia Sign Number of Military Agreements and Contracts
President Putin expressed the hope that two-way trade between the two nations could reach the $30 billion mark by 2030. The two countries also signed a military-technical cooperation agreement for the decade 2021-2030. The foreign and defence ministers of Russia and India also held their first-ever 2+2 Dialogue on the same day.
India also received its first shipment of Russian S-400 "Triumf" surface-to-air defence systems just ahead of Putin’s arrival in New Delhi.

AUKUS Pact Announcement

The announcement of the tri-nation AUKUS alliance comprising Australia, the UK, and the US on 15 September became a hotly debated issue in the South Asian nation. Prominent former diplomats and military veterans expressed concerns over the “unpredictability” of Washington as a partner for New Delhi.
The AUKUS pact's first initiative will see Australia getting advanced technology, to be used for developing at least eight nuclear attack submarines (SSNs) by 2040, from the US and the UK.
A monitor displaying a virtual meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden (top L), Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison (bottom L), Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga (top R) and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi is seen during the virtual Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) meeting, at Suga's official residence in Tokyo on March 12, 2021. - Sputnik International, 1920, 21.09.2021
AUKUS
‘An Unpredictable Ally’: Does the AUKUS Pact Undermine the Quad's Significance?
The concerns in India primarily centre on whether the Quad grouping has been “undermined” by the AUKUS announcement.
The US’ decision to supply SSN technology was also a snub of sorts to New Delhi, which is reported to have approached Washington for help with its nuclear attack submarine programme. Moreover, several Indian experts have also expressed concerns that China could replicate the example of the US to transfer its SSN technology to Pakistan.
Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla has, however, downplayed the public concerns, stating that AUKUS doesn’t “undermine” the Quad. Separately, the Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters after a meeting with Modi on the sidelines of the Quad summit in Washington that the Indian leader backed the AUKUS pact.

India's Second COVID Wave Disaster

India witnessed overloaded graveyards and healthcare facilities, with hospitals running out of beds and oxygen among the grim images that emerged during the second COVID wave in the country in April.
Daily new cases rose to 400,000 and India had to rely on the international community to get oxygen, vaccines, and medical supplies to tackle the situation.
Lilaben Gautambhai Modi, 80, wearing an oxygen mask, sits inside an ambulance as she waits to enter a COVID-19 hospital for treatment, amidst the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Ahmedabad, India, May 5, 2021.  - Sputnik International, 1920, 05.05.2021
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India's West Bengal State Election

The West Bengal legislative assembly polls held in March and April saw some of the fiercest state elections in India. The vote was seen as a direct contest between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and State Chief and Trinamool Congress head Mamata Banerjee.
Banerjee easily won the election and was re-elected as the state chief for the third time. Weeks after winning the election, Banerjee announced that she would expand her party nationwide and challenge the BJP in other state elections.
Chief Minister of West Bengal state and Trinamool Congress party leader Mamata Banerjee - Sputnik International, 1920, 04.08.2021
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With 2024 Elections in Sight, Mamata Banerjee's TMC is Taking on PM Modi on All Fronts

Massive Farmers' Protest Comes to an End

Thousands of farmers arrived on Delhi's border on 26 November 2020 for a three-day protest against the Narendra Modi government passing three farm laws. But as the government stopped the farmers from entering at the city border, farmer unions opted to camp there.
The protest went on throughout 2021, drawing global attention and prompting intervention from the country's top court. After 14 months, it ended on 9 December as the Modi government revoked the laws and agreed to accept the farmers' demands.
 Farmers  - Sputnik International, 1920, 08.12.2021
Indian Farmers Agree to Call Off Year-Long Protest after Government Promises to Meet Demands

Will AFSPA Be Removed From Nagaland?

A botched anti-insurgency operation and retaliatory violence resulted in the deaths of 13 civilians and one soldier on 4-5 December in Nagaland state.
Nagaland is one of the Indian states where the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act or, the AFSPA has been enacted by the federal government, empowering the military to shoot to kill, or carry out searches without warrants.
However, the recent killings have seen a massive uproar from civilians and political parties calling to repeal the AFSPA. In a first, the federal government has now decided to set up a committee to look into the AFSPA's withdrawal.
Indian army soldiers ride past the main town in a convoy in Kohima, capital of northeastern Nagaland state, India, Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021 - Sputnik International, 1920, 16.12.2021
Thousands Hold Protests Demanding Withdrawal of Indian Army from Remote Nagaland Province

Political Churning in Jammu and Kashmir

The year witnessed Prime Minister Narendra Modi convening an all-party meeting on 24 June to reach out to Jammu and Kashmir's mainstream political parties.
This was the first such meeting since the erstwhile state's special status was abrogated and made into a federally administered union territory on 5 August 2019. The meeting saw the participation of political representatives and senior political leaders who had otherwise been demanding the restoration of Jammu and Kashmir's statehood throughout the year.
By the end of the year, Jammu and Kashmir signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Dubai for real estate development, industrial parks, super-speciality hospitals, and much more. These are expected to open new paths of growth in 2022 and before the expected 2022 state assembly elections.
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