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Earth has two extra, hidden ‘moons’

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Kordylewski clouds, Lagrange Points

Mains level: Various space missions and their objectives


News

Three Moons for Earth

  1. The existence of the two extra ‘moons’ was hotly debated for over 50 years but as per a recent National Geographic report, Hungarian astronomers and physicists have finally provided enough data to confirm.
  2. The moon has at least two other companions made entirely of dust.
  3. The team of researchers confirmed their presence through photographs of the natural bodies at a distance of approximately 250,000 miles more or less the same distance as our moon.

Facts about the newly discovered dust moons

  1. The presence of the dust ‘moons’ or Kordylewski Clouds had been inferred by researchers since long before
  2. The first glimpse of the clouds was seen only in 1961 by Polish astronomer Kazimierz Kordylewski, after whom the dust clouds were named
  3. The new findings note that each Kordylewski cloud is about 15 by 10 degrees wide, or equal to 30 by 20 lunar disks in the night sky
  4. They are spread over a space area that is almost nine times the width of Earth — about 65,000 by 45,000 miles in actual size
  5. The dust ‘moons’ are huge but they are made of tiny dust particles that barely measure one micrometre across

How to spot them?

  1. When sunlight hits the dust particles, they glow very faintly, much like the zodiacal light we receive from the dust scattered in between planetary orbits
  2. Since these satellite dust clouds emit an extremely faint light, they are very difficult to find amidst the star light, sky glow, galactic light and zodiacal light in the sky
  3. The recent study revealing the existence of the two dust ‘moons’ used special polarizing filters on cameras to reveal the scattered light coming from the reflection of the individual dust particles in the clouds

Kordylewski clouds are always changing

  1. The Kordylewski clouds are always changing.
  2. They might be stable in orbit and may have existed for millions of years, but the ingredients that make the clouds the dust particles are always getting swapped for others.
  3. Some escape to gravitational pulls from Earth or the moon, while others come from interplanetary spaces and meteor showers

How Lagrange points in space helped find the extra ‘moons’

  1. Speculations about Earth having multiple moons have taken turns in astronomer circles for years.
  2. It was realized that if extra moons did exist, they could only do so in stable points in Earth’s orbit.
  3. Lagrange points are sweet spots in a planetary orbit where the pull of gravity working from two opposing celestial bodies is balanced due to the centripetal force of their orbits.
  4. Thus, an object at a Lagrange point will remain fixed at a constant distance from both the moon and Earth.
  5. In the 1950s, Kordylewski searched two Lagrange points L4 and L5  where he found the first glimpse of the two dust clouds orbiting Earth.

Aspect associated with Dust Clouds

  1. These huge clouds of dust could add much to space exploration efforts when it comes to fuel consumption and safety issues.
  2. Sometimes, satellites need to be parked at the Lagrange points so that the spacecraft consumes minimal fuel and can still stay in orbit.
  3. The James Webb Space Telescope will be set up at the L2 Lagrange point in 2020 for this purpose.
  4. Moreover, space agencies are also planning to use Lagrange points as transfer stations for Mars missions.
International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

Palau becomes first country to ban sunscreen to save coral reefs

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Geographic Location of Palau, Reef toxic chemicals

Mains level: Conservations of Corals


News

Protecting Corals

  1. The Western Pacific nation of Palau has become the first country to ban many kinds of sunscreen, in a move to protect its coral reefs from chemicals that scientists say cause significant damage.
  2. Under the ban “reef-toxic” sunscreen is defined as containing one of 10 prohibited chemicals, a list that could grow later can be confiscated from tourists when they enter the country.
  3. Retailers who sell it can be fined up to $1,000.

List of Reef Toxic Chemicals

(Not essential to be remembered)

  • oxybenzone (benzophenone-3)
  • octinoxate (octyl methoxycinnamate)
  • octocrylene
  • 4-methyl-benzylidene camphor
  • triclosan
  • methyl paraben
  • ethyl paraben
  • butyl paraben
  • benzyl paraben
  • phenoxyethanol

How these chemicals trigger Coral Bleaching?

  1. Damage to coral reefs worldwide from climate change has been widely reported.
  2. But scientists say there is growing evidence that chemicals from sunscreen, which washes off swimmers or enters the ocean through sewer systems causes grave harm.
  3. Even a low concentration of sunscreen in the water can hinder the development of young coral.
  4. It causes localized coral bleaching and can disrupt the reproduction of fish by interfering with their hormonal systems.

Why such move?

  1. An estimated 14,000 tonnes of lotion ends up in the world’s oceans each year
  2. A 2017 report has found sunscreen products widespread in Jellyfish Lake, one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites in Palau
  3. A 2015 study found that oxybenzone in sunscreen stunts coral growth and is toxic for the algae that live within reefs.

EC issues order on poll expenses

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Citizens charters, transparency & accountability & institutional & other measures

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Election Expenditure

Mains level: De-criminalization of Politics


News

Addition in Poll Expenditure

  1. Recently the Supreme Court has directed the Contesting Candidates to publicize information about the criminal cases against a candidate.
  2. The costs incurred on this publication will be counted as part of poll expenditure, according to the Election Commission.
  3. The expenses will be borne by the candidate and the political parties.
  4. This being an expenditure made in connection with the election, if expense is incurred in this regard, the same will be counted for the purposes of election.

Expenditure Caps

  1. There is no limit on the party election expenditure.
  2. For Assembly polls, the cap on expenses by the candidates is between ₹20 lakh to ₹28 lakh.

Revised status

  1. The EC said that the FIR cases essentially have to be given publicity.
  2. If after filing the nomination, the status of the criminal case changes, it will be open to the candidate to notify the revised status to the Returning Officer and publish the revised status.
  3. Separate formats have been specified by the Commission for the candidates and the political parties.
Electoral Reforms In India

ASEAN member countries of RCEP offer India concession

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional & global groupings & agreements involving India &/or affecting India’s interests

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: RCEP, TPP etc.

Mains level: How India will gain from being a part of RCEP


News

Encouraging India for RCEP

  1. Several Asian member countries of the proposed RCEP have offered India a significant concession on the extent to which it needs to open up its markets.
  2. India can open up 83% of its market against the earlier 92%.

Quick Recap of RCEP

  1. The RCEP is a proposed trade agreement between the 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries and their six free trade agreement partners, namely Australia, China, India, Japan, Korea, and New Zealand.
  2. The grouping would comprise 25% of global GDP, 30% of global trade, 26% of FDI flows, and 45% of the population.

Scope for bilateral agreements with China

  1. India is concerned about further opening its market to China and skewing the trade deficit between them further.
  2. However the RCEP allows for bilateral agreements also to be made so India can perhaps open up to China gradually and not in one go.

India’s successful negotiations so far

  1. India has achieved some success regarding some of its other concerns, such as getting the other RCEP countries to liberalize their services markets and allow for a more free movement of service sector professionals.
  2. India stands to gain a lot from joining RCEP at a time when so much trade is being diverted from China because of the ongoing trade tensions with the U.S.

Hurdled by Elections

  1. India along with Indonesia and Australia are also due to go to elections in 2019.
  2. It is unlikely that these countries would make a decision before the general elections in 2019, even though the RCEP countries have set a December 2018 internal deadline for the “substantial outcomes”.
  3. India and a few other countries want only a statement on substantial progress to be made during the summit, and for negotiations to be pushed till next year.
  4. This adds to the urgency of concluding the RCEP negotiations as it makes it harder for governments to give any concessions on tariffs and subsidies closer to polls, given political compulsions.
Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)

National River Ganga (Rejuvenation, Conservation and Management) Bill, 2018

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the Draft Bill

Mains level: Maintaining ecological flow of River Ganga


News

Draft Ganga Bill, 2018

  1. The government has banned the construction of jetties, ports or “permanent hydraulic structures” in the Ganga, unless permitted by the National Ganga Rejuvenation Authority, according to the proposed ‘Ganga Act’.
  2. The legislation, formally called the National River Ganga (Rejuvenation, Conservation and Management) Bill, 2018, proposes to create a management structure that will supervise the health of the 2,500-kilometre long banks.
  3. The bill declares that the Centre will take control of the management, regulation and development of Ganga as the river is of unique importance.
  4. It defines Ganga as India’s National River.

For Maintenance of Ecological Flow

  1. The Bill lays down a host of restrictions to ensure the uninterrupted, ecological flow of the river.
  2. Currently, a host of dams in the upper stretches of the river lead to the river’s flow being obstructed say several activists and researchers, and persistent campaigns notably led by the late G.D. Agrawal.
  3. This led government finally recognising the need for proposed and existing hydropower projects to change their design plans to ensure minimum flows all through the year.

Cognizable offences under the act

The Bill has listed out a list of offences marked as cognizable which includes:

  • construction activities causing obstruction in the river,
  • withdrawal of ground water for industrial or commercial consumption from the land fronting the river and its tributaries;
  • commercial fishing or aqua culture in the river and its tributaries;
  • discharging untreated or treated sewage into the river.

Preventing Unauthorized Activities

  1. The proposed legislation specifies that “unauthorized” activities that cause obstruction or discontinuity of water in the River Gang due to engineered diversion of water or stoppage of water.
  2. Carrying out such activities are liable to a prison term of 3 years or fines upto ₹50 crore, or both.
  3. The legislation looms even as the government is developing a National Waterways Project-1 (River Ganga) from Haldia to Varanasi (1,390 km).
  4. The waterways project involves creating permanent and movable terminals that require dredging and frequent de-silting to ensure that minimum river depths for the smooth movement of the vessels.

Armed Ganga Protection Corps (GPC)

  1. The Armed Ganga Protection Corps (GPC) personnel will be provided by the ministry of home affairs and will be deployed by the National Ganga Rejuvenation Authority.
  2. The GPC personnel will have power to arrest those who pollute the river covering offences like obstructing the flow of the river to commercial fishing.

Section 54 : A Contentious Clause

  1. Section 54 of the bill on offences by companies, states that if an offence is committed by a company, every person who in charge of the company when the offence is committed and the company will be deemed guilty.
  2. But if the in-charge is able to prove that the offence was committed without his or her knowledge or that they exercised due diligence to prevent the offence, they will not be punished under the act.
  3. This section first strongly puts the onus of those heading operations and activities of companies that are damaging the river.
  4. But then promptly adds a protective clause by saying that action will not be taken if the offence was taken without his or her knowledge.
Mission Clean Ganga

Is RBI really being strict with banks under PCA?

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Mobilization of resources

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: PCA, Minimum Capital Requirement

Mains level: NPA problem and solution


News

Criticisms over PCA

  1. Reserve Bank of India is accused of being too stringent in applying the prompt corrective action (PCA) framework for banks.
  2. This has hurt the flow of credit to the economy.

Restrictions on Lending

  1. PCA has been imposed on 11 state-run banks, which did not meet RBI’s specified thresholds on either capital adequacy, asset quality or profitability.
  2. The idea behind this is that banks preserve capital and regain their health, which means that lending takes a hit.

Reality Check

  1. Analysis shows that far from being too stringent, the central bank has shown forbearance with some of the banks that are not already under PCA.
  2. At least four more banks need to be censured for not meeting the central bank’s specified risk thresholds, if RBI follows a strict rule-based approach.
  3. These are Andhra Bank, Canara Bank, Punjab National Bank (PNB) and Union Bank of India.
  4. Each of these has breached the maximum permissible levels of 6% for net non-performing advances as a percentage of total advances.
  5. RBI rules state that PCA can be imposed if any one of the risk thresholds for capital, asset quality, profitability or leverage is breached.
  6. However these banks met the minimum capital requirements needed to avoid PCA.

Norms are Conservative

  1. While recognition of NPAs has improved in the Indian banking system, provisioning norms are still conservative.
  2. In jurisdictions where only capital ratios are considered in the PCA framework, NPA provisioning norms are more stringent.
  3. Perhaps RBI’s forbearance has to do with an expectation that the government will recapitalize these banks, so that provisioning for their NPAs do not drag their capital down to low levels.

Back2Basics

Capital adequacy ratio(CAR)

  1. Capital Adequacy Ratio (CAR) is also known as Capital to Risk (Weighted) Assets Ratio (CRAR), is the ratio of a bank’s capital to its risk
  2. National regulators track a bank’s CAR to ensure that it can absorb a reasonable amount of loss and complies with statutory Capital requirements.
  3. It is a measure of a bank’s capital
  4. It is expressed as a percentage of a bank’s risk weighted credit exposures.
  5. This ratio is used to protect depositors and promote stability and efficiency of financial systems around the world
  6. Two types of capital are measured: tier one capital, which can absorb losses without a bank being required to cease trading, and tier two capital, which can absorb losses in the event of a winding-up and so provides a lesser degree of protection to depositors
Banking Sector Reforms

[pib] India elected as a Member of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Council

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional & global groupings & agreements involving India &/or affecting India’s interests

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: ITU

Mains level: Importance of ITU.


News

  • India has been elected as a Member of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Council for another 4-year term (2019-2022).

Other Details

  1. By securing 165 votes, India ranked third among the 13 countries elected to the Council from the Asia-Australasia region, and eighth among the 48 countries elected to the Council globally.
  2. The ITU has 193memberstates who elect representatives to the Council.

India and ITU

  1. India has been an active member of the ITU since 1869, earnestly supporting the development and propagation of telecom in the global community of nations.
  2. It has been a regular member of the ITU Council since 1952, and has played an important role in upholding principles of equality and consensus-building.
  3. India’s strong partnership with the ITU was also demonstrated in the recent ITU decision to set up the ITU South Asia Area Office and Technology Innovation Centre in New Delhi buy Jan 2019.

Back2Basics

International Telecommunication Union

  1. ITU is a United Nations specialised agency for Information and Communication Technologies, with membership of 193 countries and nearly 800 private sector entities and academic institutions.
  2. The body freezes international standards on telecom technologies that are to be used globally.
  3. ITU, based in Geneva, Switzerland, is a member of the United Nations Development Group and has 12 regional and area offices in the world.
  4. The ITU coordinates the shared global use of the radio spectrum, promotes international cooperation in assigning satellite orbits, works to improve telecommunication infrastructure in the developing world.
  5. The ITU is active in areas including broadband Internet, latest-generation wireless technologies, aeronautical and maritime navigation, radio astronomy, satellite-based meteorology, convergence in fixed-mobile phone, Internet access, data, voice, TV broadcasting, and next-generation networks.
  6. India has been member of ITU since 1869 and has also been a regular member of the ITU Council since 1952.
Telecom and Postal Sector – Spectrum Allocation, Call Drops, Predatory Pricing, etc

[op-ed snap] Raja Mandala: Shifting sands in West Asia

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Effect of policies & politics of developed & developing countries on India’s interests

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: US sanctions on Iran and how they are being leveraged to rearrange geopolitics in West Asia


Context

India’s dilemma in handling West Asia relations

  1. When it comes to the Middle East, the political discourse in Delhi tends to oscillate between extremes
  2. One the one hand are the grandiloquent themes — solidarity with the Arabs and Muslims of the region and supporting their battle against imperialism and Zionism
  3. On the other hand are such mundane considerations as where the next barrel of oil comes from and its price. And the safety and security of millions of Indians working in the region
  4. Delhi’s efforts to deal with these difficult challenges in an unforgiving region constantly run into the tension between pragmatism and high-minded foreign policy rhetoric
  5. India’s Middle East policy has long been tied to domestic political contestation on “secularism” and “minority appeasement”

Emerging trends after US sanctions on Iran

  • The nature of confrontation between the US and Iran
  1. The sanctions regime against Iran, according to the US’s official claims, is one of the toughest the world has known
  2. Their objective is not just about getting Tehran to renegotiate the terms of the nuclear agreement of 2015 that Iran signed with the US and the international community but also to change the “behaviour” of the regime if not the regime itself
  3. It is an economic war against Iran that could escalate into a military conflict
  4. Many of Iran’s Arab neighbours, including Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, support the Trump Administration’s offensive against Tehran
  5. This is due to the fear Iran’s growing power and the assertion is threatening to undermine their national coherence and security
  • The unfolding normalisation of relations between Israel and the Gulf countries
  1. The tone for new thinking was set at the highest levels in the region by Oman’s Sultan Qaboos bin Said who received the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Muscat last month
  2. This was the first time in more than two decades that an Israeli PM was travelling to the Gulf
  3. Beyond this high-profile visit, there is growing engagement between Israel and the Gulf across a broad spectrum
  4. Apart from sport and culture, there have been unconfirmed reports on the growing intelligence exchanges and security cooperation between Israel and some Gulf countries
  • A new framework for peace between Israelis and Palestinians
  1. The Trump Administration is promoting this new framework
  2. The Trump Administration, which has discarded the traditional approaches to peace in the region, is betting that Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arabs will help nudge the Palestinians into accepting a new deal
  3. For Washington, the political crisis over the killing of Khashoggi has come in handy to pressure Saudi Arabia into facilitating peace deals in Palestine and beyond in Yemen and Syria

Why the US is assertive about the transformation of the middle east?

  1. The idea of a grand transformation in the Middle East has tempted other American presidents before
  2. The US invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003 was driven by the ambition to promote democracy in the region
  3. Now again, the Trump administration is hoping that a renewed confrontation with Tehran will create the conditions for the overthrow of the Islamic Republic and rearrange the regional order
  4. It thinks that the threat from Iran can be leveraged to build a new Middle East Security Alliance of Sunni Arabs and help settle the Palestine question

Way forward for India

  1. Trump has embarked on a bold new course in the Middle East
  2. As its stakes in the region grow by the day, Delhi needs to devote ever great amounts of diplomatic and political energies to deal with the unfolding changes in the Middle East
Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

[op-ed snap] The need for strong contract enforcement

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Effects of liberalization on the economy, changes in industrial policy & their effects on industrial growth

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Doing business report, Economic survey

Mains level: Need of robust contract enforcement regime in India


Context

Lax contract enforcement in India

  1. According to Milton Friedman, the three primary functions of the government are defence, law and order, and contract enforcement
  2. Unlike the former two, the latter has not received adequate importance in India

Why is contract enforcement important?

  1. A sound contract enforcement mechanism is essential for maintaining business confidence, reducing uncertainty and promoting fair play in the economy
  2. An efficient contract enforcement mechanism not only provides remedies to aggrieved parties but also dissuades violation of the contractual obligations because of the fear of legal fees and court fines
  3. Thus, an effective contract enforcement mechanism can, in reality, reduce the flouting of laws and contracts, reducing the need to approach redressal mechanisms
  4. This is the reason for its inclusion as a criterion in World Bank’s Doing Business (DB) report
  5. Though India’s overall ranking in the report this year improved from 100 to 77, when it comes to the contract enforcement metric, it lags behind at 163 out of 190 nations

Costs of poor contract enforcement

  1. The Economic Survey 2017-18 tried to highlight the impact of this problem by drawing attention to the costs of stalled projects and legal fees
  2. However, the true extent of the problem also includes various indirect costs
  3. These are an outcome of the inefficient choices made by economic agents in an inefficient legal system
  4. Two such cases are inefficient risk-taking and skewed firm structure
  5. A business must try to maximize its expected returns
  6. At the same time, healthy risk-taking behaviour in the economy is necessary to ensure growth, rather than just relying on low-return risk-free alternatives
  7. However, poor contract enforcement tends to increase the risk and reduce the returns (increased legal costs), thus affecting the overall risk to return ratio
  8.  As a result, businesses don’t engage in economically and socially beneficially activity such as innovation
  9. Similarly, the failure of legal mechanisms in guaranteeing loan repayment has resulted in banks bearing greater risks
  10. The outcome is that interest rates are higher and banks are reluctant to lend to socially beneficial sectors such as agriculture and infrastructure
  11. Another issue is that poor legal frameworks tend to promote an excessive vertical integration of companies
  12. According to Nobel Laureate Oliver Hart, when contracts are ineffective, businesses prefer to eliminate the need to deal with other companies by resorting to acquisitions and mergers

Shining example: India’s e-commerce sector

  1. Today, the sector is dominated by the likes of Flipkart and Amazon, while companies such as Snapdeal and eBay have failed to make a lasting impression
  2. The main difference is that the former two have a ‘hybrid’ model, while the latter two primarily have a ‘marketplace’ model
  3. The hybrid model entails that the companies themselves sell various products (along with other sellers) by integrating logistics, procurement and delivery
  4. In a marketplace model, the companies just manage a platform to facilitate purchase between various sellers and buyers
  5. The success of an e-commerce company depends on its ability to retain consumers’ trust
  6. For Snapdeal and eBay, this trust has been waning because of frequent reports of fake and poor quality products sold on their websites
  7. A poor contract enforcement system further prevented them from ensuring good quality products from their suppliers
  8. On the other hand, Flipkart and Amazon through their hybrid model have been able to maintain the quality of their own products
  9. To compete with these products, other sellers have also had to improve the quality of their products
  10. Thus, the latter two have succeeded while the others have not been able to
  11. In this context, an effective legal system provides the necessary level playing ground for smaller firms
  12. This ensures that they are given adequate opportunity to grow and prosper

Effects of poor contract enforcement

  1. A poor legal system tends to centralize industries, wherein the firms tend to integrate with backward and forward linkages
  2. This results in the concentration of wealth as consumers prefer capital-intensive large firms over smaller labour-intensive rivals
  3. This reduces employment and perpetuates inequality
  4. Another effect of poor contract enforcement mechanisms is the spurt of informal and often illegal channels of dispute resolution
  5. These make use of local leaders and under-the-table dealings to help settle disputes
  6. Keeping aside the issue of biased and poor quality decisions, this also brings undue power into the hands of middlemen and facilitators
  7. This, in turn, creates problems such as increased corruption and the undermining of the rule of law

Way forward

  1. These direct and indirect problems and the market inefficiency associated with them underline the need to reform the legal system
  2. Though some measures have recently been undertaken, they fail to address the deeper issue of an overburdened and understaffed judiciary
  3. Addressing such deep-rooted problems will only be possible through extensive cooperation between the organs of the government—“cooperative separation of powers”
Industrial Sector Updates – Industrial Policy, Ease of Doing Business, etc.

[op-ed snap] The significance of Arihant

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Achievements of Indians in science & technology

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: INS Arihant, India’s nuclear triad

Mains level: Shortcomings in India’s nuclear triad and how to overcome those


Context

India’s nuclear triad complete

  1. India achieved a significant milestone in its strategic nuclear posture when it announced the completion of its survivable nuclear triad by adding maritime strike capability to land and air-based delivery platforms for nuclear weapons
  2. With the country’s first nuclear ballistic missile submarine, INS Arihant, completing its maiden “deterrence” patrol, India joined the select group of five — US, Russia, China, France and UK — which can boast of this capability

Importance of INS Arihant’s deterrence patrol

  1. A deterrence patrol, as the term signifies, is meant to deter the adversary from conducting the first nuclear strike, as a nuclear ballistic missile submarine provides India with an assured second-strike capability
  2. The success of INS Arihant gives a fitting response to those who indulge in nuclear blackmail
  3. As a nation committed to “no first use” (NFU), it is of critical importance that an adversary contemplating a nuclear (first) strike should never be in doubt about the credibility of India’s nuclear deterrent and the assurance of a swift, devastating response
  4. Given the kind of transparency provided by satellites and other technical means, the land-based legs of our nuclear triad (missile sites and air-bases) remain exposed to enemy attack
  5. Once the submarine disappears underwater, it becomes virtually impossible to locate and can remain on patrol for months, with its ballistic missiles ready for launch on the PM’s orders
  6. This is the kind of credibility that Arihant and other submarines will provide to India’s nuclear deterrence in the future

Some shortcomings still present

  • The issue of missile ranges
  1. From a submarine patrol area in mid-Bay of Bengal, Islamabad is 2,500 km, while Beijing and Shanghai are over 4,000 km
  2. Therefore, to target cities and nuclear forces deep inside China or Pakistan, from a “safe haven”, India needs a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) of 6,000-8,000-km range
  3. The missile, reportedly, carried by the Arihant is the K-15, whose range falls below 1,000 km
  • Lack of coordination
  1. India has, so far, followed an unorthodox system, in which the National Command Authority (NCA) manages the nuclear deterrent through a “troika” consisting of the Strategic Forces Command (SFC), the Department of Atomic Energy and DRDO
  2. While scientists are the custodians of nuclear warheads and help mate them with the SFC’s missiles and IAF fighter-bombers, the MoD and Raksha Mantri remain out of the loop
  3. Since Arihant and her sisters will carry “cannisterised” missiles, with pre-mated warheads, scientists have been eliminated from the chain, with custody and control of weapons devolving on the submarine’s captain
  4. Although “fail-safe” electronic permissive action links (PAL) have been installed to ensure instant compliance with an authorised “launch” command from the NCA, while preventing accidental launch, structural and doctrinal changes are also urgently required
  • Effective command and control structure
  1. The Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC) is, notionally, a key functionary in the nuclear command chain, responsible to the PM for the functioning of the SFC
  2. With the operationalisation of Arihant, his role assumes greater criticality
  3. Under existing rules, the appointment of chairman is tenable by the senior-most service chief who may (depending on his retirement date) serve for durations, varying from 30 days to 18 months
  4. He discharges this duty on a part-time basis, in addition to running his own service
  5. No other nuclear weapon state has such a farcical arrangement, and this impinges on the credibility of our deterrent
  6. Given the gravity and magnitude of his responsibilities, in the context of the nuclear triad, the Chairman COSC, in his current avatar, needs to be urgently replaced either by a Chief of Defence Staff or a Permanent Chairman COSC, with an independent charter and a fixed tenure
  • Need of more submarines
  1. The nuclear-reactors of our SSBNs will need re-fuelling (with fresh Uranium rods) every few years
  2. The process being a rather lengthy one, India would require an inventory of at least 3-4 SSBNs to maintain one on deterrent patrol off each seaboard
  3. A small force of nuclear attack submarines (SSN) would be required for the protection of SSBNs and other roles
  4. Thus, in a 50-60 year perspective, India should be looking at a nuclear submarine force of 8-12 SSBNs and SSNs

INS Arihant’s role in Make in India

  1. Apart from its strategic significance, the Arihant is a live manifestation of PM Modi’s “make in India” vision
  2. A number of major private-sector companies contributed to the Advanced Technology Vessel (ATV) programme by mastering esoteric technologies to design and fabricate systems for the vessel
  3. This Navy-managed DRDO project has also spawned a huge country-wide indigenisation process by which small and medium industries, have contributed components manufactured to high precision and reliability specifications

Way forward

  1. India’s nuclear triad and its accessories are going to cost the nation trillions of rupees in the decades ahead
  2. It would be delusionary to imagine that a large military, and nuclear weapons, just by themselves, can assure India’s security and bequeath “great power” status on it
  3. A grand-strategic vision that integrates military power with a national security doctrine will certainly achieve both

With inputs from editorial: Sea change

Nuclear Diplomacy and Disarmament