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May 2019

Indian Army Updates

[op-ed snap] A blueprint for a national security strategy


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : There is a need for national security architecture.


There have been several attempts at formulating a national security strategy for India. According to some accounts, the National Security Advisory Board (NSAB) had formulated draft national security strategy documents on four different occasions and presented them to successive governments, but the political class wouldn’t bite. There has been a lingering worry in the minds of the politicians about a potential commitment trap if a national security strategy were to be put on paper.

Key issues with present security architecture

1. National Security Council

  • The National Security Council (NSC) set up in 1998 almost never meets, primarily because it is an advisory body, with the Cabinet Committee on Security being the executive body.
  • If the NSC is to be made more useful, the government’s allocation of business rules should be amended to give more powers to the NSC and its subordinate organisations, such as the Strategic Policy Group.

2. National Security Adviser’s role –

  • Second, the job of the National Security Adviser needs to be reimagined. Even though the NSA plays a vital role in national security, he has no legal powers as per the government’s allocation of business rules.
  • The K.C. Pant Task Force in the late 1990s had recommended the creation of an NSA with the rank of a Cabinet Minister.
  • Over the years, the NSA’s powers have increased, even though he is not accountable to Parliament.
  • The institution of the NSA today requires more accountability and legal formality.

3. Structural Reforms –

More national security organisations are not the answer; fundamental structural reforms in national security planning are needed.

Case Study of Defence Planning Committee (DPC) –

  • Take the case of the recently constituted Defence Planning Committee (DPC) tasked to recommend policy measures to improve India’s defence capability and preparedness, and national security in general.
  • Not only does the DPC have too many responsibilities on its plate, it is also an advisory body.
  • More worryingly, there is a feeling among the armed forces that by having the NSA chair the DPC, the government may have scuttled the demands to appoint a Chief of the Defence Staff, an issue the Hooda document highlights.

The Hooda document

Vision of document

  • The guiding philosophy of the document is enshrined in the following sentence: “This strategy recognises the centrality of our people. We cannot achieve true security if large sections of our population are faced with discrimination, inequality, lack of opportunities, and buffeted by the risks of climate change, technology disruption, and water and energy scarcity.”
  • At a time when national security is referred to in strictly military terms, it is heartening to see that a strategy document defines security in an out-of-the box and inclusive manner.
  • A glance at the key themes shows how well-designed the document is: “assuming our rightful place in global affairs”, “achieving a secure neighbourhood”, “peaceful resolution of internal conflicts”, “protecting our people” and “strengthening our capabilities”.

 1. Military jointmanship –

On the issue of military jointmanship, it recommends that “the three services should undertake a comprehensive review of their current and future force structures to transform the army, navy and air force into an integrated warfighting force.

2. Cyber Command –

While discussing emerging national security threats, the document differs with the BJP-led government’s decision to set up a Defence Cyber Agency instead of a Cyber Command as was originally recommended.

3. On Kashmir – 

There is a need to initiate structured programmes that bring together civil society members, family groups, educationists, religious teachers and even surrendered terrorists in an effort to roll back radicalisation.”


Let’s hope that this document is the beginning of a tradition in India of thinking about national security and strategy more systematically, consistently and comprehensively.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

[op-ed snap] Eye in the sky: on RISAT-2B


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : RISAT-2B

Mains level : Benefits of RISAT- 2B


With the successful pre-dawn launch of RISAT-2B satellite on May 22, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has added another feather to its cap.

Benefits of RISAT-2B

1. Agriculture, Disaster Management and Forestry

The satellite will enhance India’s capability in crop monitoring during the monsoon season, forestry mapping for forest fires and deforestation, and flood mapping as part of the national disaster management programme.

2. All weather monitoring – 

  • Given that overcast skies are a constant during the monsoon season and during times of flood, the ability to penetrate the cloud cover is essential.
  • While optical remote sensing that relies on visible light for imaging gets obstructed by clouds, RISAT-2B will not. Much like the RISAT-1 satellite that was launched by ISRO in April 2012, RISAT-2B will also use microwave radiation.
  • Unlike visible light, microwaves have longer wavelength and so will not be susceptible to atmospheric scattering.
  • Microwave radiation can thus easily pass through the cloud cover, haze and dust, and image the ground.
  • Hence, RISAT-2B satellite will be able to image under almost all weather and environmental conditions.

3. No dependence on visible light –

  • Since it does not rely on visible light for imaging, it will be able to image the ground during both day and night.
  • The satellite does not have passive microwave sensors that detect the radiation naturally emitted by the atmosphere or reflected by objects on the ground.
  • Instead, RISAT-2B will be transmitting hundreds of microwave pulses each second towards the ground and receiving the signals reflected by the objects using radar.
  • The moisture and texture of the object will determine the strength of the microwave signal that gets reflected.
  • While the strength of the reflected signal will help determine different targets, the time between the transmitted and reflected signals will help determine the distance to the object.

4. Study of small objects and surveillance –

  • The RISAT-2B satellite uses X-band synthetic aperture radar for the first time; the synthetic aperture radar was developed indigenously.
  • Unlike the C-band that was used by RISAT-1, the shorter wavelength of the X-band allows for higher resolution imagery for target identification and discrimination.
  • Since it has high resolution, the satellite will be able to detect objects with dimensions of as little as a metre.
  • This capacity to study small objects and also movement could be useful for surveillance.


As K. Sivan, ISRO Chairman and Secretary, Department of Space, had said last month, the satellite could be used for civil and strategic purposes. RISAT-2B will have an inclined orbit of 37 degrees, which will allow more frequent observations over the Indian subcontinent. With ISRO planning to launch four more such radar imaging satellites in a year, its ability to monitor crops and floods as well as engage in military surveillance will be greatly enhanced.

Electoral Reforms In India

[op-ed snap] Electoral bribery and the best way to stop it


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Electoral bribery hampers free and fair democracy.


According to Election Commission (EC) data compiled over the span of this year’s election season, seizures of illicit intoxicants, cash and gold have been vastly higher than before.


  • Attempts to bribe voters, it would seem, have not only been part and parcel of the fiesta, but the offerings being dangled have been juicier. The value of all the bottles of liquor, packets of narcotics, wads of currency and biscuits of shiny metal in electoral service recovered by the authorities is estimated at3,458.7 crore, several times what was seized during the general elections of 2014.
  • Cash seizures were up 181.3 %, while alcohol volumes have risen 15.9% and narcotic quantities have shot up 355.6% in five years.
  • The drugs alone were worth more than all the cash that was seized this year.
  • A closer examination of this year’s data reveals that five states accounted for the bulk of all seizures.
  • Tamil Nadu stands out with a share of 27.5% of the total by value, followed by Gujarat with about 16%, Delhi with 12.3%, Punjab with 8.2% and Andhra Pradesh with 6.6%.

Analysis of electoral bribery

  • Levels of political competition have been consistently high across the country, for example, and there is no reason to suppose that one state’s electorate would have been more amenable to such bribery than another’s. Still, some variations are clear.
  • In Gujarat, Punjab and Delhi, drugs were the most valuable part of the haul; in Tamil Nadu, gold and silver were favoured as a ballot lure; and in Andhra Pradesh, currency notes were apparently expected to take on some of the canvassing burden.

Puzzling Conclusion –

  • The data merely relates to seizures, and there is no way of knowing whether their higher rates reflect greater use of these devious methods or better vigilance by the authorities.
  • The same goes for the higher all-India figure of seizures this year. It could simply be that the EC, police and other departments have done a better job.
  • The Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs had specifically directed tax officials to share information with other government agencies on a real-time basis so that raids could be carried out.
  • As with all such matters, partisan action is easy to suspect.
  • Like demonetization—which has not stopped cash from being used like poll confetti—the axe of the authorities may have fallen harder on some than on others.

Way Forward

  • But the point is that offering people material inducements for their votes is against the law.
  • Such bribery is a blight on our democracy and perverts the very purpose of elections.
  • To rid ourselves of the problem, however, we cannot rely on the conscience of politicians.
  • It’s ultimately for voters to send them a clear signal that their votes cannot be bought. Let’s hope they already have.

Indian Ocean Power Competition

Doctrine of Hot Pursuit


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : UNCLOS

Mains level : Doctrine of Hot Pursuit


  • The Indian Coast Guard (ICG) has apprehended a Pakistani fishing vessel off Gujarat and seized huge cache of narcotic drugs worth ₹600 crore in the international market.
  • During the hot pursuit, the crew threw bags containing suspicious material into the sea.
  • The Coast Guard team, upon boarding the vessel, took the crew into custody and retrieved the material.

Doctrine of Hot Pursuit

  • The doctrine of hot pursuit in international law recognizes the right of a State to pursue a vessel belonging to a foreign State which has violated any law within its territorial boundaries and jurisdiction.
  • The doctrine vests a right to pursue the delinquent vessel outside the territorial limits into the open sea and then can be taken into custody.
  • The fundamental rule of the maritime law states that all vessels have the right to navigate freely on the high seas.
  • Yet, the traditional notion has recognized the doctrine of hot pursuit as an exception to the principles of freedom on the high seas.
  • At a time when smuggling and piracy were rampant, this customary doctrine emerged to empower a coastal state to pursue on to the high seas a vessel that had violated its laws within its waters.
  • This denied the intruding vessel the opportunity to escape punishment by claiming protection under the right of free navigation on the high seas, which had been designed to protect innocent vessels.
  • Importantly, this customary doctrine did not extend to the territorial waters of a foreign state.
  • Decades later, this customary doctrine was codified in the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of High Seas.

Hot Pursuit as per UNCLOS

  • The doctrine of maritime hot pursuit is codified in art 111 of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
  • It recognizes that a vessel, if has committed a violation of the laws of a foreign state while in that state’s sovereign or territorial waters, may be pursued onto the high seas and seized.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Species in news: White-throated Rail (or Aldabra Rail)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : About the specie

Mains level : What is Iterative Evolution?

Extinct bird rises again

  • The white-throated rail is the only flightless bird known in the Indian Ocean area.
  • New research has found that it had once gone extinct, but rose from the dead thanks to a rare process called “iterative evolution”.

Iterative Evolution of White-throated Rail

  • It means the repeated evolution of similar or parallel structures from the same ancestor but at different times.
  • There are many examples of iterative evolution in the fossil record, spanning a wide range of groups.
  • The fossil record shows that sometime after the island formed 400,000 years ago, the white-throated rail – a bird native to Madagascar – colonized Aldabra.
  • Since there were no natural predators, the birds soon evolved to become flightless.
  • But about 136,000 years ago, sea levels rose and the island was completely submerged and wiped them out.
  • Around 100,000 years ago, the island re-emerged when sea levels dropped due to an ice age.
  • White-throated rails migrated there from Madagascar and once again, evolved to become flightless – a textbook example of iterative evolution and one of the strongest cases ever seen in birds.

Animal Husbandry, Dairy & Fisheries Sector – Pashudhan Sanjivani, E- Pashudhan Haat, etc

Ongole Cattle Breed


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Ongole Cattle

Mains level : Promoting indigenous breeds for animal husbandry

  • The Vice-President has stressed for promoting Ongole cattle breed in a recent speech.

Ongole Cattle

  • Ongole cattle are an indigenous cattle breed that originates from Prakasam District in the state of Andhra Pradesh.
  • The breed derives its name from the place the breed originates from, Ongole.
  • The Ongole breed of cattle Bos Indicus, has a great demand as it is said to possess resistance to both foot and mouth disease and mad cow disease.

What’s so special about this breed?

  • Cattle breeders use the fighting ability of the bulls to choose the right stock for breeding in terms of purity and strength.
  • Ongole cattle are known for their toughness, rapid growth rate, and natural tolerance to tropical heat and disease resistance.
  • It was perhaps the first Indian breed of cattle to gain worldwide recognition.

Global Prominence

  • Ongole bulls have gone as far as America, the Netherlands, Malaysia, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Mexico, Paraguay, Indonesia, West Indies, Australia, Fiji, Mauritius, Indo-China and Philippines.
  • The Brahmana bull in America is an off-breed of the Ongole.
  • The population of Ongole off-breed in Brazil is said to number several million.
  • The famous Santa Gertrudis breed developed in Texas, USA have Ongole blood.
  • It has gained global prominence, particularly in Brazil which imported barely hundred animals and produced multiple superior breeds like the world famous Zebu.

Used for Bull Fights

  • These cattle are commonly used in bull fights in Mexico and some parts of East Africa due to their strength and aggressiveness.
  • They also participate in traditional bull fights in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

Disasters and Disaster Management – Sendai Framework, Floods, Cyclones, etc.

‘Room for the River’ Project


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Room for the River Project

Mains level : Flood control and management

  • The Kerala CM after returning from the Netherlands tour spoke of incorporating the model for flood control in the state’s ‘Rebuild Kerala’ plan.

‘Room for the River’ Project

  • The flagship project of the Dutch government is centered on protecting areas adjoining rivers from routine flooding and improving water management systems in delta regions.
  • The basic premise of the Dutch project is essentially to provide more space for the water body so that it can manage extraordinary high water levels during floods.
  • The project implemented at over 30 locations across the Netherlands and funded at a cost of 2.3 billion euros, involves tailor-made solutions for each river.
  • Among the nine measures which define the project are lowering the flood plain, deepening the summer bed, strengthening of dykes, relocation of dykes, reducing the height of the groynes, increasing the depth of the side channels and removing obstacles.
  • A key aspect of the project is also to improve the surroundings of the river banks through fountains and panoramic decks.
  • The landscapes are altered in a way that they turn into natural sponges which can accommodate excess water during floods.

Why such move?

  • Last year, Kerala had witnessed the century’s worst floods, which claimed nearly 500 lives and wiped out thousands of homes.
  • The Netherlands has historically been prone to flooding of rivers due to its low elevation. Much of the country lies below the sea level.
  • The country is located in the delta region of several major rivers like the Rhine, the Meuse and the Scheldt.
  • In fact, the rise of water levels in the sea and rivers due to the effects of climate change is one of the major challenges facing the Dutch.
  • But over the years, the country’s expert water management techniques and creation of independent local government bodies for flood control have borne praise across the world.