Mains Paper 2: IR | Effect of policies & politics of developed & developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora
From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:
Prelims level: Not much
Mains level: Rising tensions between US and China and its impact on India
Tech war between China & US
The arrest of a top executive of a Chinese company in Vancouver marks the sharpening contest between Washington and Beijing for leadership in such new areas as artificial intelligence, robotics and synthetic biology
The immediate focus is on fifth-generation wireless technologies that promise to transform digital connectivity in the next few years
The US, which has maintained a massive technological lead against other major powers through much of the 20th century, is now concerned that China is catching up
Losing the technological leadership to Beijing, Washington knows, will begin to undermine America’s global primacy in the 21st century
Not the first instance
This is not the first time that the US is targeting Chinese tech companies
Earlier this year, the Trump administration banned the export of American components to the Chinese telecom firm, ZTE, on charges similar to those being considered against Huawei
As ZTE began to implode, Trump agreed to lift the sanctions after the company agreed to pay a huge fine and punish those responsible for defrauding US financial institutions
The case of Huawei could turn out to be a bigger challenge for both countries
Unlike the ZTE case, the Huawei case is being treated as a criminal offence and could lead to severe punishment for Meng
Huawei is a much larger corporation than ZTE and showcases China’s technological advance and global commercial reach
Impact on India
India will not be unaffected by the technology war between America and China
As Washington goes after Huawei, the crown jewel of China’s technology companies, Delhi’s own exposure to the company will come under scrutiny
Even more important, the new dynamic between the US and China will severely test India’s great power relations
Just as India’s traditional defence relationship with Russia is coming under stress amidst the new conflict between Washington and Moscow, Delhi’s ties with Huawei will come under the American scanner, sooner rather than later
India’s strategy of playing all sides among the great powers seemed sensible when Russia and China had a relatively benign relationship with America
That approach, however, is becoming difficult to sustain amidst Washington’s rapidly deteriorating relations with Moscow and Beijing
Trade relations under stress
Washington, too, will have to consider the impact of this move on its technology giants, all of whom are joined at the hip with China
Any effort to decouple this massive interdependence will certainly hurt Beijing
But it will also inflict much pain on the American companies
Warning bells for India
Over the last few weeks, the Western intelligence agencies have come out in the open to voice security concerns in relation to Huawei and the dangers of letting it build 5G networks in the world
The concerns of these agencies regarding China’s 5G equipment include the opaque nature of Huawei’s links with the People’s Liberation Army, the danger of enhanced Chinese espionage, and the potential boost to China’s offensive cyber capabilities
These arguments are not very different from those that India’s security agencies had articulated nearly two decades ago when Huawei was trying to break into the Indian telecom market
But commercial interests and foreign policy considerations of strengthening economic engagement with China helped tip the argument in Huawei’s favour
Since then, Huawei has acquired a dominant position in the smartphone sales domain and the supply of network equipment
Amidst the new global pushback against Huawei and India’s own plans to introduce 5G mobile technology, Delhi might have to revisit the old arguments and take a fresh look at its relationship with the Chinese tech giant
Mains Paper 3: Agriculture | Major crops cropping patterns in various parts of the country
From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:
Prelims level: GM technology
Mains level: Various research related to GM crops and how GM technology can help Indian farmers
GM crops debate
A review article, “Modern technologies for sustainable food and nutrition security” authored by geneticist P.C. Kesavan and leading agriculture scientist M.S. Swaminathan describes Bt cotton as a “failure”
In 2016, 107 Nobel laureates signed a letter challenging Greenpeace to drop its anti-genetically modified organism (GMO) technology stance
They stated that the anti-GMO campaign is scientifically baseless and potentially harmful to poor people in the developing world
GM crops effectiveness
Genetic modification is the technology of choice for solving abiotic problems like drought flood, salinity, etc
It may not be equally effective in the case of biotic stresses since new strains of pests and diseases arise all the time
Usefulness of GM crops
Data from a large number of peer-reviewed publications have shown that, on average, GM technology adoption has reduced pesticide use by 37%, increased crop yield by 22%, and increased farmer profits by 68%
Yield gains and pesticide reductions are larger for insect-resistant crops than for herbicide-tolerant crops
Yield and profit gains are higher in developing countries than in developed countries
Data from a billion animals fed on GM corn have not indicated any health hazards
GM crops not a failure in India
Bt cotton is not a failure in India
The yields hovering around 300 kg/ha at the time of introduction of Bt cotton (2002) have increased to an average of over 500 kg/ha, converting India from a cotton-importing country to the largest exporter of raw cotton
India has one of the strongest regulatory protocols for field trials of GM crops
GM technology is not a magic bullet. It needs to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis
There is definitely scope for improvement in terms of technology and regulatory protocols
But it is time to deregulate the Bt gene and lift the embargo on Bt brinjal
Mains Paper 3: Economy | Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.
From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:
Prelims level: ISA and its license grants to India
Mains level: India’s deep sea missions
Exploring oceanic beds
The floor of the world’s seas is scattered with vast beds of black potato-shaped polymetallic nodules comprising copper, nickel, cobalt, manganese, iron and rare earth elements.
These natural goodies are key to making modern gadgets, from smartphones and laptops to pacemakers, hybrid cars and solar panels.
As expanding technology and infrastructure fuel, global demand for these resources — whose supply is dwindling fast onshore — more and more countries are eyeing the ocean.
Deep sea explorations now a reality
Once thought to be too costly and difficult, industrial-scale sea mining could begin as early as 2019.
Canada’s Nautilus Minerals is on track to become the first company to start operations, which it plans to launch near the Pacific island nation of Papua New Guinea, according to a company statement.
All countries are as yet in the experimental or exploratory phase, and the ISA is still hammering out regulation and royalty terms for commercial mining.
Indian exploration initiatives
Over the next decade, the Indian government plans to pump in more than $1 billion to develop and test deep sea technologies like underwater crawling machines and human-piloted submarines, according to the earth sciences ministry.
If it works, the equipment will be able to reach depths of up to 6 km (3.7 miles), where metals can be 15 times more concentrated than in land deposits.
ISA Licenses and India
India, Asia’s third-largest economy, is going full steam ahead in anticipation of the International Seabed Authority (ISA).
ISA is a U.N. body that oversees mining on the high seas giving the green light for commercial exploitation.
The ISA allows India to explore an area in the Indian Ocean of 75,000 square kilometres (about 29,000 square miles), equal to roughly 2% of the country’s size.
The prospect has excited India, which depends heavily on China, the world’s biggest producer of elements.
China provides about 90% of rare earths, which are used in aviation and defence manufacturing.
It has four of the 29 licences awarded by the ISA, and Beijing controls more exploration areas in the high seas than any other country, according to the Jamaica-based agency.
Why India needs seabed minerals?
India is most interested in copper, nickel and cobalt, as it ramps up clean power generation.
Cobalt, also produced in Democratic Republic of Congo, is used to make batteries that can store energy from renewable sources, including solar and wind.
These metals are not widely available in India, so they have strategic importance.
India’s goal is to become self-reliant in the minerals, and it is “not in a race with anybody”.
Experts warn that in the absence of a clear international charter, deep sea mining operations could cause irreversible damage to a little understood ecology.
The seabed is home to a unique ecology where colonies of organisms and creatures have evolved over millions of years, free of wild currents, sunlight, vibrations and noise which mining would bring.
Environmentalists fears private players could sound the death knell for Earth’s “final frontier”, which he said has been explored only 0.0001%.
It could also have long-term effects on how the ocean, which absorbs carbon dioxide and heat, regulates the world’s climate.
While the 1982 U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) already includes regulation of mineral-related activities, environmentalists say the rules are not good enough.
It urged countries to put vested interests aside in agreeing the new ISA framework, given the damage humans have already done to the planet’s atmosphere, land and surface water.
India to minimize its mining footprint
India’s deep ocean exploration programme dates back more than two decades, during which it has been surveying the sea floor and testing environmental impacts.
India believes that sediment kicked up by underwater mining would dissolve and resettle, and there would be no carbon emissions, unlike on land.
There would be no need to build roads, infrastructure or relocate communities nothing major like we see on land.
But some experts warned even minor alterations could cause substantial harm to marine habitats and sea creatures.
With the plan only to scoop up mineral nodules rather than digging into the sea floor, flora and fauna would not be destroyed.
Deep sea mining will be pure commerce, but there are certain situations where we cannot put profit before people.
We should not rush it, otherwise we will head towards another disastrous environmental damage.
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: Commonwealth of Nations
Mains level: Impact of regime change in Maldives on India
Maldives applies to rejoin
The Maldives has applied to rejoin the Commonwealth, reversing a policy of isolation under autocratic leader Abdulla Yameen who suffered a shock defeat in September.
Yameen earlier withdrew the Maldives from the Commonwealth after it mounted pressure on him to protect human rights and ensure the rule of law amid a ferocious crackdown on dissent.
The new president’s administration believed in the values of the bloc, which consists mainly of former territories and colonies of the British Empire.
Impact of regime change
The Maldives’ interest in re-joining the Commonwealth stems from a deep conviction that the values and principles enshrined in the Commonwealth Charter are more vital than ever.
The former accused the London-based Commonwealth Secretariat of interfering in the nation’s affairs.
During Yameen’s reign, the US had repeatedly warned democracy was under serious threat in the strategically-located archipelago sitting on key international shipping lanes.
After Solih’s election, political prisoners have been freed and opposition figures in exile have returned home.
Solih has expressed “dire” economic crisis in the Maldives and asked regional power India for help. Yameen had drifted closer to China and the Maldives saw its foreign debt balloon under his leadership.
Commonwealth of Nations
The Commonwealth of Nations, normally known as the Commonwealth is an intergovernmental organisation of 53 member states that are mostly former territories of the British Empire.
The Commonwealth dates back to the first half of the 20th century with the decolonization of the British Empire through increased self-governance of its territories.
It was originally created as the British Commonwealth of Nation through the Balfour Declaration at the 1926 Imperial Conference, and formalized by the UK through the Statute of Westminster in 1931.
The current Commonwealth of Nations was formally constituted by the London Declaration in 1949, which modernized the community, and established the member states as “free and equal”.
The symbol of this free association is Queen Elizabeth II, who is the Head of the Commonwealth.
The Queen is head of state of 16 member states, known as the Commonwealth realms, while 32 other members are republics and five others have different monarchs.
The chief institutions of the organisation are the Commonwealth Secretariat, which focuses on intergovernmental aspects, and the Commonwealth Foundation, which focuses on non-governmental relations between member states.
Member have no legal obligations to one another. Instead, they are united by language, history, culture and their shared values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
Mains Paper 2: IR | Important International institutions
The following things are important from UPSC perspective:
Prelims Level: India Day, RMNCHA+A
Mains level: Addressing Maternal and Child health issues
The ‘India Day’, an official side event was organized jointly by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, and the development partners in the run up to the Partners’ Forum 2018.
India Day 2018
India Day event is aimed to reflect on the journey of the RMNCH+A programme.
RMNCHA+A stands for reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent.
It aims to share and learn from the good practices and innovations implemented by different States/UTs and organisations to address various health challenges around maternal and child health.
The RMNCH+A strategy is centred on the continuum of care approach, catering to health needs at every stage of the lifecycle.
RMNCH+A strategy in India
RMNCH+A is aligned with the Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health.
Its key programming tenets include well-defined targets to end preventable deaths, ensure health and well-being and expand enabling environments, popularly known as the Survive, Thrive and Transform approach.
In India, maternal, child, neonatal and adolescent health gained tremendous momentum since RMNCH+A was rolled out.
India’s maternal mortality rate (MMR) has fallen from 556 in the year 1990 to 130 in 2014–16 (SRS data).
The country’s progress can be gauged from the 77% decline in MMR that it achieved during 1990–2015, compared to global decline of 44% during this period.
Under-five mortality rate (U5MR) in India has fallen significantly, from 126 per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 39 per 1,000 live births in 2016.
About Partners Forum 2018
The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH) has organised 2018 Partners’ Forum in New Delhi.
The 2018 Forum, hosted by the Government of India will centre on improving multisectoral action for results, sharing country solutions and capturing the best practices and knowledge within and among the health sector and related sectors.
It will also emphasize the importance of people- centred accountability bringing forward the voices and lived realities of women, children and adolescents through innovative programming and creative projects.
Specific goals of the Partners’ Forum include:
Greater political momentum, sustaining attention to the “Survive-Thrive-Transform” agenda of the Global Strategy, and its contribution to driving the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and the 2030 SDG.
Knowledge exchange, through sharing of lessons learned and best practices to innovate and improve implementation strategies for results.
Improved cross-sectoral collaboration through knowledge exchange and joint advocacy strategies.