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New Delhi: As part of India’s mbitious playbook for electric mobility and green energy storage, the union cabinet on Wednesday approved an agreement to be signed between India and Argentina for mineral resources’ cooperation.

This to-be-inked Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) is aimed towards facilitating India’s energy security goals and involves setting up joint ventures for strategic minerals and future investments. This assumes significance given that Chinese state-owned firms have secured lithium mine concessions in countries such as Argentina, Bolivia, and Chile, which forms the so-called lithium triangle.

Securing lithium supplies, a key raw material for making batteries, follows the Asian majors’ quest for buying oil and gas fields overseas, that saw a resource race in geographies such as Africa. In this backdrop, Indian strategic experts believe India and China are locked in a geopolitical race to sew up as much of the world’s next generation natural resources such as lithium.

“The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has approved the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to be signed between the Ministry of Mines, Government of India and the Secretariat of Mining Policy of the Ministry of Productive Development of the Argentine Republic," the government said in a statement.

With unresolved border dispute with China, the stratagem being adopted is to not allow India to fall in a vulnerable position with a likely threat of supply squeeze for minerals such as lithium. This threat has been mapped and red flagged earlier in the case of crude oil, with India being the world’s third largest oil importer.

“The objectives of the MoU are to strengthen the activities involved like cooperation for encouraging minerals exploration and development, including extraction, mining and beneficiation of lithium; possibilities of forming joint venture in the field of base metals, critical and strategic minerals for mutual benefit; exchange of technical and scientific information and interchange of ideas and knowledge; training and capacity building; and promotion of investment and development in the area of mining activities, would serve the objective of innovation," the statement added.

India on its part is rolling out its roadmap for transition to electric mobility that involves manufacturing of lithium-ion batteries and has unveiled a 18,100 crore production linked incentive (PLI) scheme for the same to attract investments of about 45,000 crore. However, it does not have enough reserves for manufacturing lithium-ion batteries, with lithium also having other uses such as in mobile phone batteries, solar panels, aerospace and thermonuclear fusion. Almost all electric vehicles in the country run on imported batteries, mostly from China.

State-run Khanij Bidesh India Ltd is scouting for acquiring cobalt and lithium mines in Australia and South America. Also, the joint venture firm of National Aluminium Company Ltd, Hindustan Copper Ltd. and Mineral Exploration Company Ltd is exploring the direct purchase of cobalt and lithium.

In other decisions, the union cabinet gave its ex-post facto approval for signing and ratification of a “Cooperation in the field of Mass Media" agreement between the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) grouping members.

“The Agreement shall promote equal and mutually beneficial cooperation among associations in the field of Mass Media. Each Side shall, on the basis of reciprocity, facilitate the activities thereby ensuring equity," the government said in another statement.

The SCO founded in 2001 in the Chinese city of Shanghai by leaders of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan has seen India joust with China and Pakistan, after it became a full member in 2017.

The union cabinet also approved a MoU signed between India’s ministry of housing and urban affairs (MoHUA) and Maldives’ national planning, housing and infrastructure ministry on cooperation in the field of sustainable urban development in areas such as planning, smart cities, affordable housing and green mobility among others. In addition, the cabinet approved the signing of a Memorandum of Cooperation between India’s MoHUA and Japan’s land, infrastructure, transport and tourism on sustainable urban development.

In another decision, the union cabinet approved the Model Tenancy Act for circulation to all states and union Territories for adaptation.

“It will help overhaul the legal framework with respect to rental housing across the country, which would help spur its overall growth," the government said in a separate statement.

The Model Tenancy Act aims at resolving conflicts between property owners and tenants.

“The Model Tenancy Act aims at creating a vibrant, sustainable and inclusive rental housing market in the country. It will enable creation of adequate rental housing stock for all the income groups thereby addressing the issue of homelessness. Model Tenancy Act will enable institutionalisation of rental housing by gradually shifting it towards the formal market," the statement added.

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