February 2019
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[op-ed snap] Looking beyond Pulwama

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Internal Security | Security challenges & their management in border areas

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: IED

Mains level: Shortcomings in India’s response to security threats and measures to tackle them


Context

  • The death of 40 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel in a suicide bomb attack in Pulwama,  has shocked the nation, as it was unprecedented in recent times. An explosion of this magnitude was not ever presaged.
  • The CRPF has already ordered a court of inquiry into the lapses that may have led to the disaster, and to rectify the shortcomings.

Intelligence Failure

  • There has been an intelligence failure through the agencies claim to have sounded the security forces of a possible improvised explosive device attack.
  • Such information without any specifics could not have been acted upon with the seriousness it deserved.
  • Even an inkling of the possibility of an attack on the convoy could have put the road opening patrols and the officials manning the convoy on very high alert.
  • Intensive checking could then have been carried out of all vehicles so as to intercept and avert any mishap.
  • It seems, the intelligence feed was not given the attention and seriousness it warranted.

Operational Failures

  • Southern Kashmir has been the hotbed of terrorism with many young boys joining the militant ranks in recent months.
  • Intensive checking of vehicles and possible hideouts could have put breaks on their dirty mission that a long convoy of 78 vehicles with over 2,547 men had to move in the wee hours from Jammu is being questioned.
  • The convoy was split for better command and control and to avoid bunching, they are reported to have got close to each other on nearing Lethpora.
  • By no stretch of the imagination could any convoy commander have exercised proper command and control over the fleet and personnel extending over quite a few kilometres considering the mandatory distance that needs to be maintained between each vehicle as per the Standard Operating Procedure.

Measures  taken to enhance security

  • All civil vehicles need to be banned from plying on the highway when military/paramilitary convoys are on the move.
  • Ambulances and emergency service vehicles could be the sole exception to this rule.
  • While intelligence agencies need to beef up their sources, the security apparatus calls for a thorough review.
  • The J&K Police is already planning to install CCTVs all along the 400 km-stretch of the highway, right from the entry point to the state in Lakhanpur in Punjab to Sonmarg beyond Srinagar.

Proposed Measures

  • As a force multiplier, drones could also be pressed into service to hover along the highway and detect any suspicious movement of men or vehicles along the route.
  • Quick reaction teams deployed at vantage points along the highway could be rushed to spots where suspicious movements are noticed through real-time pictures and take remedial measures.
  • Similarly, the extensive use of sniffer and tracker dogs could lead to the recovery of explosives and even terrorists.
  • The Belgian Malinois dogs presently being used by the CRPF in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha have proved their mettle by way of being instrumental in the recovery of huge quantities of explosives in various operations.
Internal Security Trends and Incidents

[op-ed snap] Half-measures: new angel tax rules for start-ups

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Mobilization of resources

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Angel Tax

Mains level:  Change in Angel Tax rules on startup and it’s effects


NEWS

CONTEXT

After the uproar among start-up investors in the last few weeks, the Centre  decided to ease the conditions under which investments in start-ups will be taxed by the government.

New Rules

  • Investments up to ₹25 crore in companies that are less than 10 years old and with a total turnover of less than ₹100 crore will be exempted from the new angel tax.
  • Investments made by listed companies with a net worth of at least ₹100 crore or a total turnover of at least ₹250 crore will be fully exempt from the tax; so will investments made by non-resident Indians.

Problems with old rules

  • In 2012, the angel tax was justified as an emergency measure to prevent the laundering of illegal wealth by means of investments in the shares of unlisted private companies at extraordinary valuations.
  • But the adverse effect that it has had on investor confidence has forced the government to ease the stringent rules.

Positive effects of New Rules

  • The easing of the outdated angel tax rules will definitely make life easier for start-ups, which are in desperate need for capital to fund their growth and other business requirements. 
  • Further, since the new rules are set to be applied retrospectively, many young companies that have received notices from the Income Tax Department in the last few years will be relieved by the latest tweak in the rules.

Negative Effects

  • Companies wishing to make use of the latest exemption, for instance, will first need to be registered with the government as start-ups.
  • To be classified as one, a company needs to attest to conditions such as that it has not invested in any land unrelated to the business, vehicles worth over ₹10 lakh, or jewellery.
  • These requirements, while probably aimed to prevent money- laundering, can lead to considerable bureaucratic delays and rent-seeking.
  • . Also, the new rules for the angel tax can cause the same old problem of arbitrary tax demands for companies that do not fall under the defined category of start-ups.
  • The taxes to be paid are still supposed to be calculated by the authorities based on how much the sale price of a company’s unlisted share exceeds its fair market value.
  • It is impossible to know the market value, let alone the fair market value, of shares that are not openly traded in the marketplace.
  • So tax authorities with ulterior motives will still possess enough leeway to harass start-ups with unreasonable tax demands.

Way Forward

The government should address the arbitrary nature of the angel tax, Otherwise, the damage to investor confidence may remain.

Start-up Ecosystem In India

[op-ed snap] Picking sides in West Asia

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: International relations| India and its neighborhood- relations.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Basic knowledge of India and its neighbourhood- relations.

Mains level:  Chanaging nature of relationship and regional powers in West Asia


NEWS

CONTEXT

Over the past few years, the course of India’s relations with Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) suggests that under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India finally appears to be moving away from its traditional “balancing” approach to West Asia.

Recent Trends

The  government has in practice demonstrated a preference for working with the three regional powers rather than Iran, a trend likely to be reinforced after the visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) and the proposed trip by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to New Delhi.

Regional Realities

  • Since the 1990-91 Gulf War, India has officially adopted a “balancing” approach to West Asia, which some view as a legacy of non-alignment.
  • Although this approach has allowed India to eschew involvement in regional disputes and de-hyphenate relations with regional rivals including Iran, Israel and Saudi Arabia, the policy has also constrained India’s ability to press its geopolitical interests in the region.
  • Geopolitically, MBS and Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed (MBZ) have over the past few years escalated their battle against political Islamist groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood.
  • Most notably, this materialised in their support for Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s takeover of power in Egypt from the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013, and in their dispute with Qatar, a key regional backer of the group.
  • Naturally, this brings them closer to Israel, which faces a growing threat from Islamist militant groups, including Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iranian-backed forces in Syria.
  • The campaign by Saudi Arabia and the UAE to curtail the influence of political Islamist groups also draws them closer to India.
  • During his visit to New Delhi, the Saudi Crown Prince hinted at the attack by vowing to “cooperate in every way, including intelligence sharing”.
  • The UAE has also ramped up its security cooperation with India, extraditing at least three suspects wanted in relation to the AgustaWestland case.

Defence and energy needs

  • India’s defence and security partnership with Israel has already proven useful to its security and military modernisation drive.
  • India’s defence and security partnership with Israel has already proven useful to its security and military modernisation drive.
  • India and Israel have collaborated on a $777 million project to develop a maritime version of the Barak-8, a surface-to-air missile that India successfully tested in January.
  • India has also reportedly agreed to purchase 54 HAROP attack drones for the Indian Air Force and two airborne warning and control systems (AWACS) worth over $800 million from Israel.
  • Israel has become one of India’s top suppliers of military technology.
  • Economically, the ability of Saudi Arabia and the UAE to mobilise investments despite low oil prices are a huge asset in their relations with India.
  • Investments have included a $44 billion oil refinery in India by Saudi Aramco and the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company in partnership with an Indian consortium.
  • During his visit to New Delhi, MBS said he foresaw up to $100 billion worth of Saudi investments in India over the next few years, including a plan by the Saudi Basic Industries Corp. to acquire two LNG plants.

Iran’s Stake

  • The simultaneous attacks that claimed the lives of 27 members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps and 40 members of India’s Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) are likely to bring India and Iran closer together against Pakistan, it is doubtful that the occasion would generate much momentum in bilateral relations.
  • U.S. sanctions have turned Iran into an unreliable economic partner.
  • Despite obtaining a six-month waiver from the U.S. in November on energy imports from Iran, India is shoring up plans to find alternative sources as the waiver reaches its term.
  • Meanwhile, Indian investments in Iran, including the Shahid Beheshti complex at Chabahar and the Farzad B gas field, have languished for years, reflecting the severe constraints on doing business with Iran.

Complex Relationships

  • India’s tilt towards Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE is not a risk-free move. Iran continues to exercise much influence in West Asia and can help shape events in Afghanistan by shoring up the Taliban against the U.S.
  • Iran’s Chabahar port represents a strategic investment for India which hopes to use the facility to connect with the International North-South Transit Corridor (INSTC) that extends to Central Asia and to bypass Pakistan en route to Afghanistan.
  • Yet, as tensions rise in West Asia, Israel, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have coalesced more closely against Iran under the U.S.-sponsored Middle East Security Alliance (MESA).
  • Concurrently, the recent escalation between Iran and Israel on the Syrian front suggests that tensions are unlikely to drop soon.

Conclusion

  • Amid competing demands from West Asian powers for India to take sides, India might find it difficult to maintain a “balancing” approach even if it wanted to. Having practically abandoned a “balancing” approach, the government has, in effect, placed its bets on Israel and the Gulf monarchies, relegating relations with Iran to the side.

 

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

Explained: Why is China shielding the Jaish-e-Mohammad?

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | India & its neighborhood relations

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level: The newscard comprehensively discusses China’s tactics for its stance on backing terror groups


Context

Background

  • The Jaish-e-Mohammad has carried out multiple attacks on India over the last nearly two decades, but its leader, Masood Azhar, eludes international sanctions.
  • India’s proposal to designate Azhar as a global terrorist under the 1267 regime has been blocked four times by China, most recently in January 2017.
  • Beijing has refused to lift its “technical hold” on a proposal to declare Azhar a global terrorist.

Why is China so keen to shield Azhar?

  1. On Azhar, China insists there isn’t enough evidence to designate him a “global terrorist”, though the rest of the P5 believes otherwise.
  2. Its standard line is that it wants to “uphold the authority and validity of the 1267 Committee”.
  3. The UNSC Resolution 1267 prescribes a sanctions regime against designated terrorists and terrorist groups.
  4. But its real reasons range from protecting its “all weather” ally in South Asia to its business interests in the CPEC.
  5. China tries making things difficult for its Asian rival India to making a point to western powers led by the United States.

I. Importance of CPEC

  1. CPEC runs across the length of Pakistan, linking Kashgar in China’s Xinjiang province to the Gwadar deep-sea port on the Arabian Sea near Pakistan’s border with Iran.
  2. Access to the sea through Gwadar will remove the need for it to take the long route west through the Straits of Malacca and around India.
  3. The CPEC will dramatically increase its proximity to the oil shipping lanes through the Strait of Hormuz.
  4. Chinese firms have invested close to $40 billion in around 45 CPEC projects, about half of which are nearing completion.

II. Role of Jaish in CPEC

  1. International protection for ISI proxies like Jaish provides China the insurance against terrorist attacks on CPEC infrastructure and the thousands of Chinese working on them.
  2. The project has been targeted by Baloch separatists as well as the Pakistani Taliban, who have claimed to be protesting China’s treatment of its Muslim Uyghur minority in eastern Xinjiang.

III. Insecurity despite of State Security

  1. Pakistan has attempted to reassure Beijing on the security of CPEC.
  2. In 2015, it established a 20,000-personnel Special Security Division drawn from the Army and paramilitary forces to secure CPEC in addition to the local police.
  3. China has had a tacit understanding with the Afghan Taliban from the days of their predecessors in the 1970s.

IV. Uighur Question

  1. China subsequently in 70s made a deal with the Taliban that as long as they don’t support the Uyghurs in Xinjiang, they won’t harm them.
  2. China takes a different position because of the larger understanding it has with such organisations… as long as you don’t disturb me, we will not penalise you.
  3. If you are expanding your international base, it must not be at my expense. That’s China’s attitude.

V. Popularity in Pakistan

  1. Also, China enjoys overwhelming popularity on the street in Pakistan — surveys show 88% Pakistanis view China favorably, compared with only 33% Indians.
  2. It is not in Beijing’s interest to disappoint this constituency by giving in to India’s repeated demands to list Azhar.
  3. China remains conscious that relations between Pakistan and the US had been strongly impacted by the killings, first by al-Qaeda of American-Israeli journalist Daniel Pearl in 2002 and then, by US special forces of Osama bin Laden in 2011.

Does China’s stand have to do with India’s emergence as a competitor?

  1. India is part of a short list of economic giants who have refused to participate in the BRI due to sovereignty concerns in PoK.
  2. And since China views India as a competitor, Beijing looks to tie down New Delhi to South Asia using issues like Azhar.

Hafiz Saeed vs. Masud Azhhar

  1. Before Azhar, Beijing had blocked on three occasions India’s moves to designate Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed as a terrorist.
  2. But in 2008, as global outrage intensified in the aftermath of the 26/11 attacks, Beijing was forced to back international action against Saeed.
  3. But 26/11 was an extraordinary attack; it remains to be seen if India can drum up enough international support over Pulwama to push China on Azhar.

Is there a reason for Beijing to twist?

  1. Not budging on Azhar will probably not directly affect China’s bilateral ties with India.
  2. But Beijing may have to contend with the abstract impact of a shift in public opinion.
  3. The gains from last year’s Wuhan Summit may dwindle if public opinion turns against China.
  4. This time, it is not really defensible Jaish have said they were involved.
  5. China’s image will take a beating and the Indian public will have an increasingly negative view of China leading to boycott of its goods.

Conclusion

  1. China clearly supports Pakistan on UNSC Resolution 1267 and has blocked India’s entry into the NSG by tying its bid to Pakistan’s.
  2. China seeks to needle and frustrate India.
  3. Such tactics are also intended to send out a message to the US, which seeks to build a relationship with India to contain China in the Indo-Pacific.
Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

[pib] Atmospheric Water Generator (AWG)

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Indigenization of technology & developing new technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Working of the AWG

Mains level: Utility of the AWG in light of depleting water resources


News

  • A Navratna PSU Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) has unveiled the Atmospheric Water Generator (AWG).
  • It can be used to provide drinking water in community centres and public places.

Atmospheric Water Generator

  1. The AWG is being manufactured by BEL in collaboration with CSIR-IICT and MAITHRI, a start-up company based in Hyderabad.
  2. It employs a novel technology to extract water from the humidity present in the atmosphere and purify it.
  3. It uses heat exchange for condensing the atmospheric moisture to produce pure, safe and clean potable water.
  4. It comes with a Mineralization Unit, which is used to add minerals which are required to make the water potable.
  5. The AWG is configurable in static and mobile (vehicular) versions and is available in 30 litres/day, 100 litres/day, 500 litres/day and 1,000 litres/day capacities.
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

[pib] Indus Waters Treaty 1960 : Present Status of Development in India

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | India & its neighborhood- relations

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Permanent Indus Commission, Indus Water Treaty

Mains level: Rising tensions between India and Pakistan over various issues


News

Indus Waters Treaty, 1960

  1. The Indus Waters Treaty is a water-distribution treaty between India and Pakistan, brokered by the World Bank signed in Karachi in 1960.
  2. According to this agreement, control over the water flowing in three “eastern” rivers of India — the Beas, the Ravi and the Sutlej was given to India
  3. The control over the water flowing in three “western” rivers of India — the Indus, the Chenab and the Jhelum was given to Pakistan
  4. The treaty allowed India to use western rivers water for limited irrigation use and unrestricted use for power generation, domestic, industrial and non-consumptive uses such as navigation, floating of property, fish culture, etc. while laying down precise regulations for India to build projects
  5. India has also been given the right to generate hydroelectricity through run of the river (RoR) projects on the Western Rivers which, subject to specific criteria for design and operation is unrestricted.

Present Status of Development

  1. To utilize the waters of the Eastern rivers which have been allocated to India for exclusive use, India has constructed Bhakra Dam on Satluj, Pong and Pandoh Dam on Beas and Thein (Ranjitsagar) on Ravi.
  2. These storage works, together with other works like Beas-Sutlej Link, Madhopur-Beas Link, Indira Gandhi Nahar Project etc has helped India utilize nearly entire share (95 %) of waters of Eastern rivers.
  3. However, about 2 MAF of water annually from Ravi is reported to be still flowing unutilized to Pakistan below Madhopur.
  4. The three projects will help India to utilize its entire share of waters given under the Indus Waters Treaty 1960:

I. Resumption of Construction of Shahpurkandi project

  • It is a dam project under construction on Ravi River.

II. Construction of Ujh multipurpose project

  • It is a dam project under construction on Ujh , a tributary of Ravi River.

III. 2nd Ravi Beas link below Ujh

  • This project is being planned to tap excess water flowing down to Pakistan through river Ravi, even after construction of Thein Dam.
  • It aims constructing a barrage across river Ravi for diverting water through a  tunnel link to Beas basin.
Foreign Policy Watch: India-Pakistan

WHO prescribes ‘aerobics 150’ to stay fit

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health

The following things are important from UPSC perspective:

Prelims Level: Aerobics 150

Mains level:  WHO Guidelines for Physical Activity


News

Aerobics 150

  1. Reiterating the need for physical activity to reduce the incidence of non-communicable diseases (NCD), the WHO has prescribed 150 minutes of weekly physical activity.
  2. It emphasized that physical inactivity is now identified as the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality.

Hazards of physical inactivity

  1. The WHO warned that physical inactivity levels are rising in many countries with major implications for the prevalence of NCDs and the general health of the population worldwide.
  2. Physical inactivity is estimated to be the main cause for approximately 21%-25% of breast and colon cancers, 27% of diabetes and approximately 30% of ischemic heart disease burden.
  3. Regular and adequate levels of physical activity in adults reduces the risk of hypertension, coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, breast and colon cancer, depression and the risk of falls.

WHO Guidelines on Aerobics

  1. There is strong evidence to demonstrate that adults between the ages of 18 to 64 should do:
  • at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week
  • at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week, or
  • an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity
  1. Aerobic activity should be performed in bouts of at least 10 minutes duration.
  2. For additional health benefits, adults should increase their moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity to 300 minutes per week.
  3. Muscle-strengthening activities should be done involving major muscle groups on two or more days a week.
  4. Children and youth aged 5-17 years should accumulate at least 60 minutes of moderate-to vigorous-intensity physical activity daily.
  5. Amounts of physical activity greater than 60 minutes provide additional health benefits.

Psychological benefits

  1. Physical activity has also been associated with psychological benefits in young people by improving their control over symptoms of anxiety and depression.
  2. The WHO noted that physical activity provides young people opportunities for self-expression, building self-confidence, social interaction and integration.
  3. It has also been suggested that physically active young people more readily adopt healthy behaviors (For example, avoidance of tobacco, alcohol and drug use) and demonstrate higher academic performance.
Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

Women’s Livelihood Bonds

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Development & Employment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level:  Women Livelihood Bond

Mains level: Promoting Women entrepreneurs


News

  • The World Bank, the Small Industries Development Bank (Sidbi) and the UN Women, along with 10 wealth management firms and leading corporates has announced the launch of a new social impact bond to offer credit to rural women entrepreneurs.

Women Livelihood Bond

  • The bonds, which will have a tenure of five years, will be launched by SIDBI with the support of World Bank and UN Women.
  • The proposed bond will enable individual women entrepreneurs in sectors like food processing, agriculture, services and small units to borrow around Rs 50,000 to Rs 3 lakh at an annual interest rate of around 13-14 per cent or less.
  • SIDBI will act as the financial intermediary and channel funds raised to women entrepreneurs through participating financial intermediaries like banks, NBFCs or microfinance institutions.
Women empowerment issues: Jobs,Reservation and education