[op-ed snap] Terror next door

Mains Paper 2 : Bilateral, Regional and Global Groupings and agreements involving India |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Reasons for Serial blasts in Sri Lanka


CONTEXT

The Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka could widen ethnic faultlines, threaten to disrupt a decade of calm.

Background

  • Sri Lanka’s decade of peace after the LTTE’s military defeat in May 2009 has been shattered with a diabolical plan to drag the country back into its darkest days.
  • The death toll is nearly 300 from the chain of eight bombings on Easter Sunday targeting churches and hotels across the island nation, worse than anything it has experienced at the hands of the LTTE in the three decades of civil war.
  • The scale and the ferocity of the attack has no precedent in Sri Lanka’s troubled history, one from which it believed it had finally emerged.
  • In the last decade, a generation of Sri Lankans has come of age for whom conflict was history, who have no experience of curfews and emergency regulations or the Prevention of Terrorism Act.
  • Now all this is threatening to engulf Sri Lanka again.

Fault in action on intelligence

  • it is Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s acknowledgment that the country’s security apparatus had “prior information” on the attacks that causes more anguish.
  • The differences between President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe appear to have played a good part in the security warning not being taken seriously.
  • The PM has alleged that he was not kept in the loop about the intelligence warnings.
  • If so, the inability of the country’s top functionaries to get along has had deadly consequences. It casts their leadership abilities in extremely poor light. However, the administration has done well to prevent any backlash on the Muslim community.

Reasons for attack

1.Rise of extremism and fundamentalism –

Given that investigators believe this was the handiwork of radicalised local Muslims, there have been straws in the wind of such radicalisation for years, as a reaction to attacks by the LTTE on Muslims through the 1990s, and after the war, to the rise of Buddhist fundamentalism that began targeting Muslims.

2.Spread of Wahabism

Sri Lanka, where nearly 10 per cent of the 22 million population is Muslim, has also not been insulated from the global spread of Wahabism.

3. Politicisation

Mainstream Muslim parties, major players in Sri Lanka’s robust democratic political space, had managed to keep the radicals at bay all these years despite the failure of the political class to repair the ethnic faultlines.

4.Local Grievances

The targeting of Christians, who are an even smaller minority in Sri Lanka than Muslims, and in a manner similar to anti-Christian incidents in other parts of the world, also points to more than a local grievance.

Conclusion

But it seems too early to say if the Easter bloodbath was the handiwork of ISIS, which would be searching for new spaces to compensate for its total loss of territory. Solving these puzzles will help Sri Lanka, also the rest of South Asia, to craft responses that ensure there will be no repetition of this nightmare.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Sri Lanka

[Op-ed Snap] Sovereignty And A Road

Mains Paper 2 : Bilateral, Regional and Global Groupings and agreements involving India |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : BRI

Mains level : Wuhan summit alone will not fasten India-China Relationship. Other Stepa are required.


Background

India has, once again, decided to not participate in China’s second Belt and Road Forum (BRF) due on April 25, which is likely to be attended by around 40 heads of government.

Situation after Wuhan Summit

  • The admiration of India’s attempt to engage China through the Modi-Xi Wuhan informal meeting has faded away in recent months
  • For instance, for the fourth time in a row, China blocked India’s bid to designate the Jaish-e-Mohammad Chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist at the UNSC, the CPEC is going on regardless of India’s stern objections vis-à-vis PoK, and the balance of trade is still hugely in China’s favour.

Loopholes in criticism

  1. High Expectations –
  • First, thanks to the overpublicising of the Modi-Xi meeting, the expectation bar was set to an unrealistically high level.
  • The Wuhan meeting was not about resetting India-China relations. It was an initiative to engage each other in a constructive dialogue.
  • Wuhan and subsequent steps were intended to only manage the differences and prevent relations from getting derailed.
  • The popular perception in the Indian media that because of Wuhan, China would not go ahead with the CPEC or support India on Masood Azhar and the belief in the Chinese media that it would lead India to join the BRI, are misinformed at best.

2. Not a stand-alone dialogue –Second, Wuhan was not a stand-alone dialogue, it was deeply embedded with the Doklam standoff. For the two countries, facing an eyeball-to-eyeball situation in Doklam, Wuhan came as an opportunity to re-start the dialogue.

India’s response to BRI

  • India’s response to the BRF is not linked with the Wuhan spirit.
  • Territorial Concerns – It is deeply rooted in its territorial sovereignty concerns vis-à-vis China and Pakistan. The Chinese investments in Pakistan are complicating the matter with each passing day. India’s main concern remains the much-controversial CPEC that passes through the PoK.

Current Relationship

  • It is clear that China has been selective in addressing India’s concerns, and India too has adopted a similar approach.
  • China is mindful of the fact that without India’s participation, BRI will remain an incomplete project at best.
  • That is perhaps why China is keen to have another Wuhan-like dialogue. We do need more such meetings but only to facilitate the negotiation processes.

Way Forward

  • Pragmatic Approach- Considering the asymmetry in its relationship with China, India needs to continue its pragmatic and balanced policy of engaging China through dialogues while actively looking for ways to deal with the possible scenarios.
  • The institutionalisation of regional groups –The quest to institutionalise the Quad and Indo-Pacific seems to be turning into reality with the restructuring of the MEA’s ASEAN Multilateral Division and the Indian Ocean Region Division into the Indo-Pacific Division.
  • Trilateral Dialogues – Trilateral dialogues and search for avenues to normalise and improve regular healthy conversations with China are the best way forward.
  • Balance of relationships – Self-doubt over peace initiatives or hesitation in moving forward on the Quad are detrimental to India’s interests. One should not happen at the cost of the other. A careful balancing of both tracks will contribute to India’s stronger positioning in the region.
Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Green issues in J&K

Mains Paper 3 : Conservation, Environmental Pollution & Degradation, Eia |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Dal and Wular Lake, Indus Water Treaty

Mains level : Green issues in J&K


News

  • Even as Articles 370 and 35A generate considerable heat in Jammu & Kashmir, crucial issues of ecology and environment remain conspicuously ignored by all.

Geopolitical fallouts impacting environment

  • Shrinking glaciers tops this list. Through summer these glaciers charge the Valley’s water bodies, like streams and canals used in irrigation and rivers that flow into Pakistan.
  • The state also witnesses two of its major lakes — Dal and Wular — become smaller.

I. Shrinking waterbodies

  • Dal, the mascot of Kashmir’s famed natural beauty and a major tourist puller, has shrunk around 36 per cent in almost four decades.
  • According to a study by Srinagar’s Directorate of Environment, Ecology and Remote Sensing, it has shrunk to 1,620 hectares in 2008 from 2,547 hectares in 1971.
  • Wular, which is the largest fresh water lake in Asia and was designated a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention in 1990, is worse than Dal.
  • Since 1911, the overall water spread and marsh areas have shrunk by more than 50 per cent.
  • The water-holding capacity of the lake that helps prevents floods and drought is fast diminishing.

II. Conversion of farmlands

  • Over the past three decades, Kashmir has also witnessed a steady conversion of farmland into ones used for non-agricultural purposes.
  • As a result, food grain deficit, which in 1950-51 was 32 per cent, has now shot up to 81.5 per cent.

III. Issue over Indus Water

  • Recently, India threatened to stop J&K rivers from entering Pakistan after the Pulwama attack.
  • According to the Indus Water Treaty (IWT), Pakistan gets water from three J&K rivers — Jhelum, Sindh and Chenab — and India gets the right to completely divert water from Punjab rivers — Satluj, Ravi and Beas.
  • Shrinking glaciers threaten to reduce the discharge in J&K rivers, which will reduce the distribution of waters between neighbours.
  • If there is less water available to meet J&K needs, even lesser will flow to Pakistan. This may impact the country’s agriculture and its economy.

IV. Issue over Hydropower

  • Another related issue is hydro-power generation, again a politically touchy issue.
  • Under IWT, the Valley can only generate electricity from run-of-the-river power projects.
  • So, the depleting discharge in rivers will mean a progressive decline in generation capacity.
  • But, as of now, J&K faces severe shortage of electricity, an irony for a state that exports power to the rest of the country.
  • According to an estimate, around 84 per cent of the 3593 megawatt of energy generated in J&K goes to  the northern grid and the state buys a chunk of  it back  for a hefty cost.

Kashmir is  in Despair

  • The state doesn’t even have an agency to address its water problems as IWT already takes care of the larger issue — the rivers.
  • About receding of glaciers, the state can hardly do anything. One of the factors that may be accentuating the shrinkage, apart from climate change, is Amarnath Yatra.
  • But regulating pilgrimage to protect the fragile environment is too politically sensitive an issue to be addressed.

Lack of awareness

  • J&K faces mass unemployment, an underperforming economy (as the state imports 96 per cent of goods) and dwindling tourism.
  • In popular perception, the accent in public discourse on development and environment issues is perceived as a motivated digression from the ongoing secessionist campaign.
  • People see these development and environment related issues as secondary to the political issues of existential nature confronting the state.
  • Issues like water, power and development are seen as a consequence of the political conflict in and over the state and are hence not considered addressable unless the conflict itself is resolved.

Way Forward

  • J&K is important for environmental stability of the subcontinent.
  • So the issues of the state’s disappearing water bodies, receding glaciers needs to be openly discussed on their merit unencumbered by the political and religious sensitivities and the interests.
  • Neglecting green issues in public discourse and the consequent lack of effective administrative redressal can cost not only J&K but the entire region heavily.
J&K – The issues around the state

Right to travel abroad is a basic human right: SC

Mains Paper 2 : Indian Constitution - historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : 1958 Kent vs Dulles Judgment

Mains level : Right to travel abroad


News

  • The right to travel abroad is a genuine and basic human right like marriage and family, the Supreme Court has observed in a recent order.

Right to travel abroad

  • The court was hearing an appeal filed by an IPS officer who was refused permission to take a private trip abroad to visit relatives as he had a departmental enquiry pending against him.
  • The court ruled that the right to travel abroad is an important basic human right for it nourishes independent and self-determining creative character of the individual.
  • The right also extends to private life; marriage, family and friendship are humanities which can be rarely affected through refusal of freedom to go abroad and clearly show that this freedom is a genuine human right.

Referring the 1958 Kent vs Dulles Judgment

  • Setting aside the order, the Supreme Court referred to its Maneka Gandhi judgment upholding the right to travel and the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case of 1958 Kent vs Dulles.
  • The Bench quoted the majority opinion of Justice William O. Douglas in the latter case which said freedom to go abroad has much social value and represents the basic human right of great significance.
  • The court said that this basic human right also extends to private life; marriage, family and friendship.
  • These are part of human nature which can be rarely affected through a refusal of freedom to go abroad.
Right To Privacy

Bacteriophages in Ganga Water

Mains Paper 3 : S&T - Applications In Everyday Life |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Bacteriophages

Mains level : Importance of Ganga River


News

  • A study commissioned by the Union Water Resources Ministry to probe the “unique properties” of the Ganga found that the river water contains a significantly higher proportion of organisms with antibacterial properties.
  • Other Indian rivers also contain these organisms but the Ganga — particularly in its upper Himalayan stretches — has more of them.

Assessing Ganges Water

  • The Nagpur based NEERI team was tasked with assessing the water quality for “radiological, microbiological and biological” parameters in the Bhagirathi and the Ganga at 20 sampling stations.
  • As part of the assessment, five pathogenic species of bacteria (Escherichia, Enterobacter, Salmonella, Shigella, Vibrio) were selected and isolated from the Ganga, Yamuna and the Narmada.
  • Their numbers was compared with the bacteriophages present in the river water.

Uniqueness of Ganga

  • That the Ganga may contain unique microbial life, which makes it relatively more resilient to putrefaction, was suggested by British colonial scientists about 200 years ago.
  • Because bacteriophages are a kind of virus that kill bacteria, they are frequently found in proximity to each other.
  • In the river Ganga, the bacteriophages were detected to be approximately 3 times more in proportion than bacterial isolates.
  • Though it isn’t evident that there are bacteriophage species unique to the Ganga, the study suggests there are many more of them in the Ganga than in other rivers.
  • Samples drawn from the Ganga contained almost 1,100 kinds of bacteriophage, and proportionally there were less than 200 species detected in the samples obtained from the Yamuna and the Narmada.
  • However, these antibacterial properties varied widely along the length of the river.

Uses of Bacteriophages

  • Phage therapy or viral phage therapy is the therapeutic use of bacteriophages to treat pathogenic bacterial infections.
  • Phage therapy has many potential applications in human medicine as well as dentistry, veterinary science, and agriculture.
  • Bacteriophages are much more specific than antibiotics. They are typically harmless not only to the host organism, but also to other beneficial bacteria.
Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

U.S. ends waiver for India on Iran oil

Mains Paper 2 : India & Its Neighborhood - Relations |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : India's oil imports

Mains level : Heated US-Iran relation and its impact of India


News

  • The U.S. has decided that it will not renew exemptions from its sanctions for importing oil from Iran.

Penalty for Indian Imports

  • The US will not issue any additional Significant Reduction Exceptions [SREs] to existing importers of Iranian oil.
  • US has continued to apply maximum pressure on the Iranian regime until its leaders change their destructive behaviour, respect the rights of the Iranian people, and return to the negotiating table.
  • India, China and U.S. allies Japan, South Korea and Turkey will be the most impacted by the non-renewal of waivers.
  • The other three currently exempted countries — Italy, Greece and Taiwan — have already reduced their imports to zero.

Implications for India

  • India is the second biggest buyer of Iranian oil after China.
  • It is being pushed by the US to restrict its monthly purchase to 1.25 million tonnes or 15 million tonnes in a year down from 22.6 million tonnes in 2017-18 financial year.
  • Even during the last set of sanctions between 2012 and 2015, India had continued to import oil from Iran.
  • The US decision is intended to bring Iran’s oil exports to zero, denying the regime its principal source of revenue.
  • Apart from oil imports, India will also have to navigate a waiver for development of the Chabahar port which is of critical strategic importance.

About India’s Oil Import

  • India is the world’s third-largest consumer of oil.
  • With 85 per cent of its crude oil and 34 per cent of its natural gas requirements is being fulfilled by imports.
  • In 2016, India imported 215 million tonnes of crude oil and at 13 per cent, Iran stood third among India’s biggest oil suppliers, after Saudi Arabia and Iraq at 18 per cent each.
Oil and Gas Sector – HELP, Open Acreage Policy, etc.