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October 2019

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

[oped of the day] ISIS after Baghdadi


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : ISIS fall


On October 26, the top leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr-al-Baghdadi blew himself in a dead-end tunnel. As a “leader on the run” for more than five years, Baghdadi was more of a symbol for a Caliphate. His killing will only be a short-term setback for the network.

ISIS – brief history

    • Formation of ISIS – Within 18 months of the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq in 2011, the al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) captured large territories across Iraq and Syria and morphed itself into ISIS. 
    • Caliphate – In 2014, the group declared a Caliphate and anointed a “descendant” of the Prophet, Abu Bakr Baghdadi as the Caliph. 
    • Propaganda – Using propaganda on social media, the Caliphate attracted thousands of foreign fighters, including over 5,000 from the West.
    • Decentralised wilayas(branches) – Riding high on extremists and terrorists from across the globe, ISIS announced “decentralised” wilayas and asked their supporters to join them if they could not travel to the Caliphate. 
    • Unique modus operandi – This modus operandi paid rich dividends and has continued to keep the network going despite their losses. 
    • Operation Inherent Resolve – The US-led coalition launched Operation Inherent Resolve in 2014 and cleared the last pocket of the Caliphate in Baghouz, Syria in March.

Only a temporary setback

    • Prepared for the eventuality – the ISIS core had been preparing for this eventuality even while fighting to save the Caliphate. Soon enough, the ISIS core will anoint a new Caliph, to whom all the wilayas and extremists and supporters will readily offer allegiance to. 
    • More ready to prove resilience – The ISIS network will also make serious efforts to mount “signature” attacks on chosen targets to prove its resilience, while local networks may mount lone-wolf attacks.
    • Attacks after victory – the ISIS-claimed attacks in Sri Lanka. It released the second video of Baghdadi. He hailed the revenge for Baghouz by “brothers in Sri Lanka”. The rare video of Baghdadi was released to assure the cadres that it could hit their enemies anywhere at will.
    • Huge cadres
      • Over 25-30,000 ISIS cadres have survived and many foreign fighters have escaped the Iraq-Syria theatre. 
      • Thousands of fighters and family members are being held in the Kurdish areas of Syria.
      • ISIS sleeper cells across Syria and Iraq have mounted hundreds of attacks this year. 
      • The decentralised wilayas in West Africa, the Philippines, Egypt, Yemen, Afghanistan, Indonesia, and Libya have become more active and are showcasing successes on social media daily. 
      • The open propaganda forums have been replaced by “invitation only” links on social media, making detection much harder.
    • Complicated situation in Syria
      • The situation in Syria has become far more complicated as the US is only “guarding” oil fields from ISIS and chasing its counter-terror targets in Syria. 
      • The weakening of the Syrian Democratic Force’s position vis a vis Turkey and the Assad regime will deplete its resources and hinder the capability to defeat ISIS. 
      • Sectarian fault lines and public protests in Iraq and Lebanon, US/Saudi-Iran tensions, the region offers a fresh opportunity for recruitment to both the ISIS and al Qaeda networks.
    • Foreign networks: South AsiaISIS has attracted foreign fighters from South Asia, mainly Pakistanis, Afghans, Maldivians, and Bangladeshis.
      • The Easter attacks showed the potential of violence even by a small group of committed cadres with support of the ISIS network. 
      • In Bangladesh three years ago, ISIS did create an effective but small network, with the active support of western nationals of Bangladeshi origin. Bangladesh remains vulnerable.
    • India
      • Less than 100-200 Indians are believed to have traveled to Syria and Iraq and Afghanistan to join ISIS. This creates the potential for more recruitment as well as aiding attacks on Indian soil or interests.
      • A few weeks ago, ISIS propaganda has called for jihad pegged on sentiments around Kashmir and has specifically called for attacks on Indian interests in the Arabian Peninsula.
    • New radicalism – The fresh round of radicalisation and recruitment that ISIS will embark on under its new leader, will pose further threats to India as well as to South Asia.

India’s Bid to a Permanent Seat at United Nations

[op-ed snap] About time India got a seat at the high table


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : India's entry to UNSC


Prime Minister called upon all like-minded nations to push for an overhaul of the United Nations (UN) structure. 

Need for reforms

    • Misused by some members – The UN is being used by some members as a tool rather than an institution to resolve global conflicts. 
    • Losing relevance – It formed in 1945 after World War II with that war’s victors, the US, Russia, the UK, France, and China, as permanent members of its Security Council. For decades afterward, the Big Five exercised disproportionate clout in world affairs due to their nuclear arsenals. This is no longer so. 
    • Need other veto holders – If contemporary geopolitical realities are to be taken into account, then the Council needs to induct other countries as veto holders as well. 
    • The power matrix remains the same – the UN’s apex decision-making unit has remained stuck in time. Such structural deficiencies have rendered the UN largely ineffective on matters of war and peace. 

Signs of losing authority

    • 2003 Iraq war – The most glaring sign of the UN’s lost authority was the US’s 2003 offensive against Iraq in response to the 9/11 attacks. This campaign did not have any UN sanctions, nor was it sought, unlike America’s previous strikes. 
    • Unilateral powers – Since then, unilateral military actions by major world powers gained a measure of legitimacy. The idea of the Council working out solutions to international problems has turned anachronistic.
    • Reduced multilateralism – open disregard for multilateral deliberations has reduced the UN to a talk shop. 
    • Asian century – As the American century gives way to an Asian one, it’s more crucial that the UN regains the stature needed to act as a force for peace.

A strong case for India

    • Economy – India is a rapidly emerging economy. It provides large numbers of soldiers to the UN for peacekeeping missions and is armed with nuclear weapons, for which it has a clear no-first-use policy stated upfront. 
    • Population – India accounts for almost one-fifth of all humanity. 

Challenges to entry

    • Nuclear power – Nuclear hyphenation with Pakistan has been a stumbling block. Pakistan’s ties with Beijing make this hyphenation hard to remove. 

Way ahead

    • India’s market potential could change how strongly other nations rally to India’s cause. 
    • Realpolitik may determine the eventual outcome of structural reform.
    • India could do with a better record of conflict resolution.
    • A country of our strength and diversity simply cannot be left out of the power matrix for much longer.

J&K – The issues around the state

[op-ed snap] Task in the Valley


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : The road ahead for JnK


After the decision to divide Jammu & Kashmir into two Union Territories, much remains to be done. 

Abrogation of 370

  • Government and its functionaries have described and defended the decisions as necessitated by the need to “develop” a state that had lagged behind the rest of the country on economic and social fronts due to its special status. 

Jobs pending

  • Dividing the manpower and material resources of the state is not over.
  • The government is yet to allow the people of the Valley to speak out, and be heard on decisions that affect them the most. 
  • The government’s plans to bring J&K up to speed are not yet known.

Recent Elections

  • The Block Development Council election has shown that creating a new leadership is difficult in situations as fraught as in the Valley. 
  • The BDC is elected indirectly; elected panchs and sarpanchs of a particular block of villages vote to elect one among them as the head of that block council. 
  • Almost a year after the last round of J&K panchayat polls, many of these representatives of the people at the bottom-most tier of electoral democracy continue to seek refuge, away from their villages. 
  • The persistence of fear underlines the questions of legitimacy about an electoral exercise at the end of which many seats lay vacant and most of those elected were elected unopposed.

What lies ahead

  • How the conversion of a state into two UTs resolves the 70-year-long troubled relationship between Kashmir and the rest of India, and between India and Pakistan over Kashmir. 
  • The recent killing of five migrant workers in Kulgam, on the heels of other deadly attacks on non-residents, shows that peace may remain elusive. 
  • Any efforts in the direction of development would need the participation of the people for whom this development is meant. 
  • The government needs to free the political leaders and workers who have been detained and allow people to freely express their views in the Valley.


The first step towards resolving a problem is to acknowledge it. Political alienation that has spread and deepened over generations is a large part of the crisis in Kashmir. Unless it is addressed politically, it will persist and continue to impose a heavy toll in the Valley, and the country.

History- Important places, persons in news

Explained: How to read Tipu Sultan’s place in history


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Anglo Mysore Wars

Mains level : Read the attached story


  • Karnataka CM has announced that his government is trying to remove Tipu Sultan’s history lessons from textbooks in the state.
  • It is held that Tipu used tyranny and cruelty against Hindus & Kannada rulers.
  • However the removal of Tipu from textbooks will fundamentally alter the history of early modern India.

Who was Tipu Sultan?

  • Tipu was the son of Haider Ali, a professional soldier who climbed the ranks in the army of the Wodeyar king of Mysore, and ultimately took power in 1761.
  • Tipu was born in 1750 and, as a 17-year-old, fought in the first Anglo-Mysore War (1767-69) and subsequently, against the Marathas and in the Second Anglo-Mysore War (1780-84).
  • Haider died while this war was on, and Tipu succeeded him in 1782.

Why remove his name?

  • The right wing activists has long underlined Tipu’s cruel treatment including torture, forced conversions, and the razing of temples in the course of his conquests, as the central feature of his personality.
  • In the hills and jungles of Kodagu on the Kerala-Karnataka border, as well as in Kerala, Tipu is not seen as a hero.

Reason lies in history

  • Both Tipu and his father Haider Ali had strong territorial ambitions, and invaded and annexed territories outside Mysore.
  • Haider annexed Malabar and Kozhikode, and conquered Kodagu, Thrissur and Kochi.Tipu raided Kodagu, Mangaluru, and Kochi.
  • Tipu’s keenness to subjugate Kodagu was linked directly to his desire to control the port of Mangaluru, on whose path Kodagu fell.
  • In all these places, he is seen as a bloodthirsty tyrant who burnt down entire towns and villages, razed hundreds of temples and churches, and forcibly converted Hindus.
  • The historical record has Tipu boasting about having forced “infidels” to convert, and of having destroyed their places of worship.

What is the counternarrative to this understanding of Tipu Sultan?

  • In this narrative, Tipu Sultan is the fearless “Tiger of Mysore”, a powerful bulwark against colonialism, and a great son of Karnataka.
  • He has been seen as a man of imagination and courage, a brilliant military strategist who, in a short reign of 17 years, mounted the most serious challenge the East India Company faced in India.
  • He fought the forces of the Company four times during 1767-99, and gave Cornwallis and Wellesley bloody noses before he was killed heroically defending his capital Srirangapatnam in the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War.
  • With Tipu gone, Wellesley imposed the Subsidiary Alliance on the reinstated Wodeyar king, and Mysore became a client state of the East India Company.

Tipu’s pioneering work

  • Tipu reorganized his army along European lines, using new technology, including what is considered the first war rocket.
  • He devised a land revenue system based on detailed surveys and classification, in which the tax was imposed directly on the peasant, and collected through salaried agents in cash, widening the state’s resource base.
  • He modernized agriculture, gave tax breaks for developing wasteland, built irrigation infrastructure and repaired old dams, and promoted agricultural manufacturing and sericulture.
  • He built a navy to support trade, and commissioned a “state commercial corporation” to set up factories.
  • Tipu battled nearly all powers in the region, irrespective of the faith of his opponents.

Secular Tipu

  • His army had both Hindus and Muslims, and among the populations that he slaughtered in Kerala, there were sizeable numbers of Muslims.
  • Just as there is evidence that Tipu persecuted Hindus and Christians, there is also evidence that he patronised Hindu temples and priests, and gave them grants and gifts.
  • He donated to temples at Nanjangud, Kanchi and Kalale, and patronised the Sringeri mutt.

Assessing Tipu’s reign

  • The existing narrative does not seek to whitewash or deny the accounts of Tipu’s brutality, but it does seek to understand these specific incidents within the larger historical context of late medieval and early modern India.
  • Tipu is only one of several historical figures about whom sharply differing perspectives exist.
  • This is because in much of India, history is frequently seen through ethnic, communal, regional, or religious lenses.
  • On the other hand, his destruction of temples and forced conversions of Hindus and Christians feeds into the right wing narrative of the tyrannical and fanatical ruler.
  • It is misleading to argue that if Tipu fought the British, it was “only to save his kingdom” — because so did every other pre-modern ruler, in India and elsewhere.


  • It is important to be aware that much of the criticism of Tipu is rooted in the accounts of those whom he vanquished — and of colonial historians who had powerful reasons to demonize him.
  • It serves no purpose to view Tipu’s multilayered personality through the prism of morality or religion.
  • It is not necessary that he be judged only in terms of either a hero or a tyrant.

J&K – The issues around the state

Bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Minutes of the bifurcation

Mains level : Administrative changes in J&K


  • The state of Jammu and Kashmir will be officially bifurcated into the Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh from today.
  • Beyond the symbolic importance October 31 is the birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel — the day will mark the beginning of the functioning of the two UTs at a bureaucratic level.
  • The period between August 5 and October 31 has been used by the state administration and the Home Ministry to put a basic bureaucratic structure in place to implement the J&K Reorganization Act.

Changes after Bifurcation

What happens on October 31?

  • In terms of events, the Lt. Governors of the two UTs will take oath of office along with the Chief Justice of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court.
  • Last week, the Union government appointed serving IAS officer of Gujarat cadre G.C. Murmu as the LG of Jammu and Kashmir, and retired bureaucrat of Tripura cadre Radha Krishna Mathur as LG of Ladakh.
  • On the ground, the two UTs will get their own Chief Secretaries and other top bureaucrats, their own police chiefs and key supervisory officers.
  • While Dilbagh Singh will continue to be DG of J&K police, an IG-level officer will head the police in Ladakh. Both forces will remain part of the J&K cadre which will eventually merge with the UT cadre.
  • For full-fledged bifurcation, the Reorganization Act gives a period of one year.
  • Reorganization of states is a slow process that at times can take years; issues relating to reorganization of erstwhile Andhra which was bifurcated into Andhra and Telangana in 2013, are still being brought to the Union Home Ministry for resolution.

What will happen to other officers already posted in the undivided state?

  • An apportionment of posts in both UTs has been done. While the bureaucratic structures are in place, the staffs of the state administration are yet to be divided.
  • The government had asked all staff to send in applications for their preferred posting between the two UTs. This process is still on.
  • The basic idea is to have minimum shifting between the two UTs, sources in the state administration said, with preference being given to regional affinities.
  • Those from Ladakh prefer being posted in the region and those from Kashmir and Jammu want to stay put.
  • The only issue is there aren’t enough Ladakhi staff to fill in all posts there. So some people from Jammu and Kashmir may have to go there.

What happens to the laws that governed the state of J&K?

  • Legislative restructuring is a work in progress, with a lot remaining to be done. While 153 state laws are to be repealed, 166 have been retained.
  • Then there is the cosmetic exercise of repealing Acts that mention “applicable to all of India but not the state of Jammu and Kashmir”.
  • As of now, the state administration has implemented all that is mentioned in the Reorganization Act as it is.
  • But it is also saddled with the massive legislative exercise of arriving at and making state-specific insertions into the 108 central laws that would now be applicable to the two UTs.

New laws

  • For example, the state used to have its own Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) which would now be replaced by the central CrPC.
  • Unlike the Ranbir Penal Code, which is practically a replica of the Indian Penal Code, Kashmir’s CrPC has many provisions different from the Central CrPC.
  • It will have to be seen if any modification needs to be done to suit the state. But a final decision in all these aspects would be taken by Delhi.
  • Similarly, there are state-specific insertions that may be done in laws relating to the protection of women and children that have been replaced by the POCSO Act of the Centre.
  • While the quota for economically weaker sections has already been added through an amendment, the Centre may want to make some insertions drawing from central Acts.

Which are the laws that may require state-specific insertions?

  • A major bone of contention with regard to the Juvenile Justice Acts of the Centre and the state is the age limit.
  • While the central Act takes those above the age of 16 as adults, the state Act’s age limit is 18.
  • The argument has been that given the special situation in Kashmir where teenagers are often found to be part of violent protests, the central Act could jeopardize the future of many.
  • As far as the state’s reservation laws are concerned, they do not recognise reservation according to caste.
  • The state has provided for region-wise reservation such as quota for those living near the LoC and the International Border and a quota for backward regions.
  • While the state population includes 8% SCs and 10% STs, there are regional differences such as Ladakh having no SC population but a high tribal population.

How will assets be shared?

  • A far more complicated task than sharing of assets is financial restructuring.
  • Because of the decision coming in August, the administration is saddled with a middle-of-the-year financial restructuring which is proving to be a massive bureaucratic exercise.
  • The government constituted a three-member advisory committee under the chairmanship of former Defence Secretary Sanjay Mitra to divide the assets and liabilities of the state between the two UTs. The committee is yet to submit its report.
  • Three more committees — on personnel, finance and administrative matters — were constituted at the state level for the purpose of reorganization.
  • The three committees are learnt to have completed their work but their recommendations have not been made public yet.
  • Notably, while the total budget for Union Territories is Rs 7,500 crore, the budget for Jammu and Kashmir is in excess of Rs 90,000 crore.
  • This could also necessitate continuance of the Kashmir division in the Home Ministry.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) System


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : AIP system

Mains level : Indigenization of defense production

  • DRDO is a step closer to boosting endurance of submarines with the indigenous Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) System.
  • It has successfully tested the operation of the indigenous land-based prototype.

Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) System

  • Air-independent propulsion (AIP) is any marine propulsion technology that allows a non-nuclear submarine to operate without access to atmospheric oxygen (by surfacing).
  • AIP is usually implemented as an auxiliary source, with the traditional diesel engine handling surface propulsion.
  • Most such systems generate electricity which in turn drives an electric motor for propulsion or recharges the boat’s batteries.
  • AIP can augment or replace the diesel-electric propulsion system of non-nuclear vessels.
  • It enables conventional submarines to remain submerged for longer duration.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Gill-Oxygen Limitation Theory


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Gill-Oxygen Limitation Theory (GOLT)

Mains level : Impacts of oceanic warming

  • Warming waters have less oxygen. Therefore, fish have difficulties breathing in such environments says a new study.

 Gill-Oxygen Limitation Theory

  • Among various ways in which climate change is impacting life on Earth, one has been to change the distribution of fish species in the oceans.
  • Scientists have predicted that the shift will be towards the poles. They have explained the biological reasons why fish species will follow that direction.
  • It stems from the way fish breathe which is described as the Gill-Oxygen Limitation Theory, or GOLT.

How does it work?

  • Warming waters have less oxygen. Therefore, fish have difficulties breathing in such environments.
  • Additionally, such warming, low-oxygen waters also increase fish’s oxygen demands because their metabolism speeds up.
  • This is because, as fish grow, their demand for oxygen increases.
  • However, the surface area of the gills (two-dimensional) does not grow at the same pace as the rest of the body (three-dimensional).
  • The larger the fish, the smaller it’s surface area relative to the volume of its body.
  • So, the fish move to waters whose temperatures resemble those of their original habitats and that satisfy their oxygen needs.


  • As the global sea surface temperature has increased by approximately 0.13°C per decade over the past 100 years, “suitable” waters are more and more found towards the poles and at greater depths.
  • This will cause some fish species to shift their distribution by more than 50 km per decade.

Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

Indian Human Brain Atlas


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : IBA100

Mains level : Brain Atlas

  • The International Institute of Information Technology (IIIT) in Hyderabad has built the first-ever Indian brain atlas.


  • This brain atlas was based on the Caucasian brain template. It is named as IBA100. Other brain atlases include Chinese, Korean and Caucasian.
  • The India-specific brain atlas was created by using the MRI scans of 50 individuals of different genders.
  • The Indian atlas was validated against other atlases for various populations.
  • The first digital human brain atlas was created by the Montreal Neurological Institute (MNI).

Indian brain is smaller

  • The researchers in IIIT have also revealed that the Indian brain is smaller compared to others.
  • It is smaller in height, width, and volume compared to the western and eastern populations.

Utility of the atlas

  • This study will help in the early diagnosis of brain diseases like Alzheimer’s.

[pib] National Pension Scheme


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : National Pension Scheme (NPS)

Mains level : Benefits and coverage of Pension Schemes in India

  • Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA) has now permitted Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) to enroll in National Pension Scheme (NPS) at par with Non-Resident Indians.

National Pension Scheme (NPS)

  • NPS is a government-sponsored pension scheme. It was launched in January 2004 for government employees.
  • It was extended to all citizens of Indian on voluntary basis from May 2009 and to corporates in December 2011 and to Non-Resident Indians in October 2015.
  • PFRDA is the statutory Authority established by an enactment of the Parliament, to regulate, promote and ensure orderly growth of the NPS and pension schemes to which this Act applies.
  • The scheme allows subscribers to contribute regularly in a pension account during their working life.
  • On retirement, subscribers can withdraw a part of the corpus in a lumpsum and use the remaining corpus to buy an annuity to secure a regular income after retirement.

Who can join NPS?

  • Any Indian citizen between 18 and 60 years can join NPS.
  • The only condition is that the person must comply with know your customer (KYC) norms.
  • An NRI can join NPS. However, the account will be closed if there is a change in the citizenship status of the NRI.
  • Now, any Indian citizen, resident or non-resident and OCIs are eligible to join NPS till the age of 65 years.


Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI)

  • After multiple efforts by leaders across the Indian political spectrum, a pseudo-citizenship scheme was established, the “Overseas Citizenship of India”, commonly referred to as the OCI card.
  • The Constitution of India does not permit full dual citizenship.
  • The OCI card is effectively a long-term visa, with restrictions on voting rights and government jobs.
  • An OCI is however entitled to some benefits such as a multiple-entry, multi-purpose life-long visa to visit India.
  • They are exempted from police reporting for any length of stay in the country.
  • They are also granted all rights in parity with NRIs except, the right to acquisition of agricultural or plantation properties.