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January 2020

Issues related to Economic growth

 [op-ed of the day] The convergence of rich nations with the rest has gone off track


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 3- Globalisation-Convergence of the rich and the poor economies- hopes and the reality.


Sound policies are needed to put emerging economies back on a higher growth path and ameliorate regional inequalities.

The theory of convergence

  • The theory of convergence is one of the most powerful and noblest ideas in economics.
    • What is it? It is the concept that other things being equal, poorer economies should catch up with richer ones so that inequality between the rich and the poor attenuates, and conceivably even disappears over time.
  • Capital is more productive in poor economies: The premise driving convergence is that capital (whether physical or human) is more productive in poor economies than rich ones due to what economists call “diminishing marginal productivity”.
    • In layman’s terms, a small amount of investment yields a greater increase in output where there is less capital than where there is more.
    • Lesser the development more the development: Even more simply, the rate of return on investment is inversely related to the level of economic development.
  • Experience of Japan and Germany after WW 2: The experience of advanced economies gave economists reason to be optimistic that convergence occurs according to the script.
    • Thus, the devastated economies of Europe, along with Japan, quickly caught up with the advanced economies that had not been ravaged by World War II, most notably, the US.
    • Germany and Japan closing the gap: At the end of the war, with their capital stocks destroyed, Germany and Japan were much poorer than the US; by the 1960s, they had closed the gap.

Globalisation and the unfulfilled hopes of convergence

  • Replication of the rise of Japan and Germany? At one time, it appeared that the same play was at work between emerging economies and advanced economies.
    • Rise of India and China: Economies such as China and India, as well as others, were far outstripping the growth rates of the US and other rich economies,
    • Hope of closing gap: India and China gave hope that at least the more rapidly growing of the emerging economies would close the gap with the rich world within decades rather than centuries.
  • Adoption of technology at low cost: There was presumed to be an additional powerful force working toward convergence.
    • Poorer economies are, almost by definition, far away from the technological frontier at which the richest economies operate.
    • There is thus ample room to absorb newer technologies at relatively low cost and in a relatively short span of time, without encountering slowing growth like the rich economies,
    • In simpler terms, it is difficult and costly to innovate the latest Apple iPhone, but relatively easy to reverse engineers at least some of Apple’s technology.

Reality: Convergence is faltering

  • Recent evidence suggests that convergence is faltering.
  • World Bank report of retarding convergence: A recent World Bank report documents a worrying slowdown in productivity growth in emerging economies, significantly retarding convergence.
    • Lower productivity: The report’s calculations suggest that emerging economies have 14% lower productivity than they would have had if previous trends of high productivity growth were maintained.
    • Lower commodity exports: For commodity exporters, this is a whopping 19%.
  • The silver lining for faltering economies: According to the World Bank, the main driver of falling productivity are-
    • Insufficient investment in physical and human capital.
    • Insufficient mobility of machines and workers from less productive to more productive sectors of the economy.
  • India’s case: The Indian case clearly bears this out, with languishing investment and unfinished productivity-enhancing reforms, especially in the country’s labour market, being the key culprits behind the sharp slowdown in growth.

Way forward

  • Repair financial systems: Governments, including India’s, need to do the heavy lifting of repairing damaged financial systems overladen with bad debt.
  • Restore fiscal rectitude.
  • Inflation focused monetary policy: Ensure that monetary policy remains focused on stable inflation rather than being excessively loose as a risky substitute for structural reforms.
  • Reforms: Press ahead with unfinished reforms to capital, land and labour markets.
  • Address the regional disparities: There is a further critical dimension in the case of large multi-region economies such as India.
    • Not only has convergence been faltering between nations, but it has also been faltering between the richer and poorer regions of large nations such as India.


The data does not present an epistle of despair, but of hope. The pursuit of sensible and conventional sound economic policies ought to put emerging economies as a group back on a higher growth trajectory. Convergence may yet end up being a parable of promise rather than a fable of folly.


Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

[op-ed snap] The hype over hypersonics


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Avangard-HGV

Mains level : Paper 3- Hypersonic Glide Vehicle, whether India go for developing it- and challenges to Indian security.


Russia announced that its new hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV), Avangard, had been made operational.

What HGV is and where the US and China stand

  • What is HGV and what is it capable of?
    • Speed over 5 Mach: A hypersonic delivery system is essentially a ballistic or cruise missile that can fly for long distances and at speeds higher than 5 Mach at lower altitudes.
    • Invulnerable to interception: This allows it to evade interception from current Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD).
    • High manoeuvrability: It can also execute a high degree of manoeuvres.
    • Avangard-Developed by Russia: Russia claims that this HGV can fly at over 20 times the speed of sound.
    • Invulnerable to interception: and is capable of such manoeuvring as to be invulnerable to interception by any existing and prospective missile defence means of the potential adversary.
  • China and the U.S. are also close on the heels: The U.S. has moved from the research to the development stage.
    • Where China stands: China demonstrated the DF-17, a medium-range missile with the HGV, at the military parade in October 2019.
  • What were the reasons for the development: The U.S. walked out of anti-ballistic missile treaty in 2002, prompted by the U.S. exit from the treaty and fear of the U.S. anti-ballistic missile defence system.

How would hypersonics complicate the security concerns?

  • First complication-Increase in the possibility of miscalculation: These missiles are being added to the military capabilities of countries that possess nuclear weapons.
    • For these nations, the concern is always an attack on nuclear assets to degrade retaliation
    • Destination ambiguities: Another layer of complication is added by the fact that these missiles bring in warhead and destination ambiguities.
    • Increasing tendency to assume worst: In both cases, when an adversary’s early warning detects such missiles headed in its direction, but cannot be sure whether they are conventional or nuclear-armed, nor ascertain the target they are headed towards, the tendency would be to assume the worst.
    • For an adversary that faces a country with a BMD but itself has a small nuclear arsenal, it would fear that even conventionally armed hypersonic missiles could destroy a portion of its nuclear assets.
    • The tendency to shift to trigger-ready postures: The tendency could then be to shift to more trigger-ready postures such as launch on warning or launch under attack to ostensibly enhance deterrence.
    • Risk of miscalculation: But such shifts would also bring risks of misperception and miscalculation in moments of crisis.
  • Second complication-Offence defence spiral: According to reports, the U.S. has begun finding ways of either strengthening its BMD or looking for countermeasures to defeat hypersonics, besides having an arsenal of its own of the same kind.
    • Possibility of arms race: The stage appears set for an arms race instability given that the three major players in this game have the financial wherewithal and technological capability to play along.
    • This looks particularly imminent in the absence of any strategic dialogue or arms control.
  • Third complication-Possibility of the arms race into outer space: A third implication would be to take offence-defence developments into outer space.
    • Sensors are already placed into space: Counter-measures to hypersonics have been envisaged through the placement of sensors and interceptors in outer space.
    • While none of this is going to be weaponisation of outer space would, nevertheless, be a distinct possibility once hypersonic inductions become the norm.


The induction of this technology would likely prove to be a transitory advantage eventually leading nations into a strategic trap. India needs to make a cool-headed assessment of its own deterrence requirements and choose its pathways wisely.

[op-ed of snap] The four phases of constitutional interpretation


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 2- Evolutionary phases through which the interpretation of Constitution by judiciary passed.


The ways in which the Constitution of India is interpreted has undergone changes through four phases.

Constitution-An Ambitious political experiment

  • Indian Constitution was an ambitious political experiment for the following reasons-
    • Universal Adult Franchise: India began its journey with the universal adult franchise.
    • Federalism: Federalism in a region consisting of over 550 princely States.
    • The promise of Equality: The Constitution was a sort of social revolution in a deeply unequal society with the promise of equality.
    • Unique constitutional design: it was equally a unique achievement in terms of constitutional design.

The first phase of interpretation-Focus on text

  • A textualist approach-focusing on the plain meaning of the words: In its early years, the Supreme Court adopted a textualist approach, focusing on the plain meaning of the words used in the Constitution.
    • K. Gopalan v. State of Madras (1950) was one of the early decisions in which the Court was called upon to interpret the fundamental rights under Part III.
    • The leader of the Communist Party of India claimed that preventive detention legislation under which he was detained was inconsistent with Articles 19 (the right to freedom), 21 (the right to life) and 22 (the protection against arbitrary arrest and detention).
    • Fundamental rights separate from each other: The Supreme Court decided in A. K. Gopalan case that each of those articles covered entirely different subject matter, and were to be read as separate codes rather than being read together.
  • Unlimited Amendment Power: In its early years, the Court read the Constitution literally, concluding that there were no limitations on the Parliament’s power to amend the Constitution.

The second phase of interpretation-Focus on ‘basic structure’

  • Appeals to the structure and coherence: Appeals to the text of the Constitution were gradually overtaken by appeals to the Constitution’s overall structure and coherence.
    • Limited Amendment Power-Kesavananda Bharati case: In the leading case of Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala(1973), the Court concluded that Parliament’s power to amend the Constitution did not extend to altering its “basic structure”.
    • What is the “Basic Structure”: The basic structure is an open-ended list of features that lie within the exclusive control of the Court.
    • When Parliament attempted to overturn this decision by amending the Constitution yet again, the Court, relying on structuralist justifications, decisively rejected that attempt.
  • Key takeaways from Kesavananda Bharati case
    • Limited Amendment Power: In this case, the Court pronounced that Parliament’s power to amend the Constitution is not unlimited.
    • Fundamental rights as a cohesive bill of rights: In this phase, the Court also categorically rejected the Gopalan approach in favour of a structuralist one.
    • Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India (1978):  Through decision, in this case, the Court conceived of the fundamental rights as a cohesive bill of rights rather than a miscellaneous grouping of constitutional guarantees.
    • Incremental interpretation of Right to Life: The right to life was incrementally interpreted to include a wide range of rights such as clean air, speedy trial, and free legal aid.
    • Courts playing role in governance: The incremental interpretation of Article 21 paved the way for the Supreme Court to play an unprecedented role in the governance of the nation.
  • What was common in the first two phases?
    • Interpretation done by Constitutional Benches: That significant decisions involving the interpretation of the Constitution were entrusted to Constitution Benches (comprising five or more judges of court) and were carefully (even if incorrectly) reasoned.
    • Little scope for precedential confusion: There was limited scope for precedential confusion, since matters which had been decided by Constitution Benches and which demanded reconsideration were referred to larger Constitution Benches.

Third Phase of interpretation-Eclecticism

  • Different opinions on the same issues: In the third phase the Supreme Court started to give different opinions on the same issues-i.e. it engaged in eclecticism.
    • Lesser reasoning: The Court often surrendered its responsibility of engaging in a thorough rights reasoning of the issues before it.
    • Two factors underpinned this institutional failure.
  • First-Change in the structure of the SC: The changing structure of the Court, which at its inception began with eight judges, grew to a sanctioned strength of 31; it is currently 34.
  • It began to sit in panels of two or three judges, effectively transforming it into a “polyvocal” group of about a dozen sub-Supreme Courts.
  • Second-expansion of own role by the SC-The Court began deciding cases based on a certain conception of its own role -whether as a sentinel of democracy or protector of the market economy.
  • The focus of the judgement on the result rather than reason: This unique decision-making process sidelined reason-giving in preference to arriving at outcomes that match the Court’s perception.
  • Consequences of the eclecticism
    • Rise of doctrinal incoherence and inconsistency: The failure to give reasons contributed not only to methodological incoherence but also to serious doctrinal incoherence and inconsistency across the law.
    • Conflicting decisions and interpretations: This approach can be best described as panchayati eclecticism, with different Benches adopting inconsistent interpretive approaches based on their conception of the Court’s role, and arriving at conclusions that were often in tension with one another.
    • Decision detached from precedents and established methods: The imagery that panchayati eclecticism is meant to invoke is that of a group of wise men and women (applying the analogy, sub-Supreme Courts), taking decisions based on notions of fairness that are detached from precedent, doctrine and established interpretive methods.

Fourth phase- based on the purpose

  • Purpose of enactment of the Constitution as critical: In the fourth phase, the Court has acknowledged as critical to its interpretive exercise the purpose for which the Constitution has been enacted.
  • The realisation of revolutionary and transformative potential: The Court is now beginning to interpret the Constitution in accordance with its revolutionary and transformative potential.
    • Renaissance in decisions: With about a dozen significant Constitution Bench decisions from the Supreme Court since September 2018, there has been a renaissance in decision-making by Constitution Benches.
    • The most important decisions of this period include-
    • Court’s decisions striking down Section 377 and the criminal offence of adultery.
    • And including the office of the Chief Justice of India within the scope of the Right to Information Act.


With the interpretation process entering in the fourth phase-realising the purpose of enactment of the Constitution- Indian judiciary is on the right track, however, facets of phase 3 continue to linger on it. The Supreme Court must avoid getting in phase three mode to in order to realise the purpose it was entrusted with.





Women empowerment issues – Jobs,Reservation and education

Explained: Why are there more men than women in the field of STEM?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NA

Mains level : Women in STEM

Across the world, there are more men who are active in science, technology, engineering and medicine (STEM) than women. Of the 866 Nobel winners so far, only 53 have gone to women.

Sociology behind the gender-divide

  • Research shows that when men and women apply for jobs — be in the labour market, or in places where high level qualifications are demanded, men candidates engage in self-promotion, and are boastful while equally qualified women are more ‘modest’ and ‘undersell’ themselves.
  • Even in groups and situations where men and women are present as colleagues, the views of women are either ignored or listened to less seriously than those of men.
  • As a result, women tend to underestimate their ability relative to men, especially in public settings, and negotiate less successfully.

Why this imbalance?

The authors suggest three socio-psychological reasons, namely:

  1. masculine culture
  2. lack of sufficient early exposure to computers, physics and related areas compared to boys in early childhood and
  3. gender gap in self-efficacy

Stereotypes and role models

I] Masculine culture

  • The masculine culture is due to stereotyping that men are fitter for certain jobs and skills than women, and that women are more ‘delicate’, ‘tender’ and thus unfit for ‘hard’ jobs.
  • In addition, there are not enough female role models whom women may admire and follow.

II] Lack of exposure

  • The lack of exposure in early childhood to certain fields and the supposed stereotyping of computer field practitioners as ‘nerds’ with social awkwardness would seem to have played a role from women shying away into other fields.

III] Gender gap in self-efficacy

  • The ‘gender gap in self-efficacy’ appears to have arisen as a result of the above two, and leads to a worry in girls’ and women’s minds as to ‘whether I am really only fit for certain ‘soft’ fields and jobs or a feeling of diffidence.
  • This is clearly a reflection and product of masculine culture.
  • But then, even when we turn to life sciences, where both men and women compete for positions and career advancements in universities and research labs, this gender disparity is glaring.

India is no better

  • The men rule roosts here too in India. India has been a patrilineal society with the notion that women need not take on jobs, and that this notion has only recently been revised.
  • Women form only 10-15% of STEM researchers and faculty members in the IITs, CSIR, AIIMS and PGIs.
  • In private R & D labs, there are very few women scientists.

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

Biorock technique for Coral Restoration


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Biorock Technique, Coral Bleaching

Mains level : Coral restoration measures

The Zoological Survey of India (ZSI), with help from Gujarat’s forest department, is attempting for the first time a process to restore coral reefs using biorock or mineral accretion technology.

What is Biorock Technique?

  • Biorock is the name given to the substance formed by electro accumulation of minerals dissolved in seawater on steel structures that are lowered onto the sea bed and are connected to a power source, in this case solar panels that float on the surface.
  • The technology works by passing a small amount of electrical current through electrodes in the water.
  • When a positively charged anode and negatively charged cathode are placed on the sea floor, with an electric current flowing between them, calcium ions combine with carbonate ions and adhere to the structure (cathode).
  • This results in calcium carbonate formation. Coral larvae adhere to the CaCO3 and grow quickly.
  • Fragments of broken corals are also tied to the biorock structure, where they are able to grow at least four to six times faster than their actual growth as they need not spend their energy in building their own calcium carbonate skeletons.

Significance of the move

  • The technology helps corals, including the highly sensitive branching corals, to counter the threats posed by global warming.
  • In 2015, the same group of ZSI scientists had successfully restored branching coral species (staghorn corals) belonging to the family Acroporidae (Acropora formosa, Acropora humilis, Montipora digitata) that had gone extinct about 10,000 years ago to the Gulf of Kachchh.


Coral Bleaching

  • The stunning colours in corals come from a marine algae called zooxanthellae, which live inside their tissues.
  • This algae provides the corals with an easy food supply thanks to photosynthesis, which gives the corals energy, allowing them to grow and reproduce.
  • When corals get stressed, from things such as heat or pollution, they react by expelling this algae, leaving a ghostly, transparent skeleton behind.
  • This is known as ‘coral bleaching’. Some corals can feed themselves, but without the zooxanthellae most corals starve.

Higher Education – RUSA, NIRF, HEFA, etc.

Global Talent Competitiveness Index (GTCI) 2020


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : GTCI 2020

Mains level : Unemployment in India

What is the news: The Global Talent Competitiveness Index (GTCI) was recently published.

Performance Analysis

  • India has climbed eight places to 72nd rank in the GTCI which was topped by Switzerland, the US and Singapore.
  • Sweden (4th), Denmark (5th), the Netherlands (6th), Finland (7th), Luxembourg (8th), Norway (9th) and Australia (10th) complete the top 10 league table.
  • In the BRICS grouping, China was ranked 42nd, Russia (48th), South Africa (70th) and Brazil at 80th position.
  • This year’s GTCI report explores how the development of AI is not only changing the nature of work but also forcing a re-evaluation of workplace practices, corporate structures and innovation ecosystems.

About the GTCI report

  • It was started in 2013 and is an annual benchmarking report that measures the ability of countries to compete for talent, their ability to grow, attract and retain talent.
  • Theme for 2020 was ‘Global Talent in the Age of Artificial Intelligence’. It explores how the development of artificial intelligence (AI) is not only changing the nature of work but also forcing a re-evaluation of workplace practices, corporate structures and innovation ecosystems.
  • Inequality: The report noted that the gap between high income, talent-rich nations and the rest of the world is widening. More than half of the population in the developing world lack basic digital skills.
  • About GTCI Report: It is launched by INSEAD, a partner and sponsor of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Davos, Switzerland recently.
  • INSEAD is one of the world’s leading and largest graduate business schools with locations all over the world and alliances with top institutions.
  • The report, which measures countries based on six pillars:
  1. enable
  2. attract
  3. grow
  4. retain talent
  5. vocation and technical skills
  6. global knowledge skills

Historical and Archaeological Findings in News

Nagardhan Excavations


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Vakataka Dynasty and important rulers

Mains level : Life and society during Vakataka period


  • Recent archaeological excavations at Nagardhan near Nagpur have provided concrete evidence on the life, religious affiliations and trade practices of the Vakataka dynasty that ruled parts of Central and South India between the third and fifth centuries.
  • After a 1,500 year-old sealing was excavated for the first time, a new study in Numismatic Digest has tried to understand the Vakataka rule under Queen Prabhavatigupta.


  • Nagardhan is a large village in Nagpur district, about 6 km south of Ramtek taluka headquarters.
  • Archaeological remains were found on a surface spread over a 1 km × 1.5 km area. The researchers excavated the site during 2015-2018.
  • The existing village sits on top of the ancient habitation. The Nagardhan Fort stands south of present-day Nagardhan village.
  • This was constructed during the Gond Raja period and later renovated and re-used by the Bhosales of Nagpur during the late 18th and 19th centuries.

Importance of the excavation

  • Very little was known about the Vakatakas, the Shaivite rulers of Central India between the third and fifth centuries.
  • All that was known about the dynasty, believed to hail from the Vidarbha region, was largely through some literature and copperplates.
  • There were assumptions that the excavated site of Nagardhan is the same as Nandhivardhan, the capital city of the eastern branch of the Vakatakas.
  • It was after archaeological evidence from here that Nagardhan was understood to have served as a capital of the Vakataka kingdom.

The seals so found

  • It is the first time clay sealings have been excavated from Nagardhan.
  • The oval-shaped sealing belongs to the period when Prabhavatigupta was the queen of the Vakataka dynasty.
  • It bears her name in the Brahmi script along with the depiction of a conch.
  • The presence of the conch, scholars say, is a sign of the Vaishnava affiliation that the Guptas held.
  • The sealing was traced on top of a mega wall that researchers now think could have been part of a royal structure at the capital city of the kingdom.

Who was Queen Prabhavatigupta?

  • The copperplate issued by Queen Prabhavatigupta starts with a genealogy of the Guptas, mentioning the Queen’s grandfather Samudragupta and her father Chandragupta II.
  • These are strong indicators of Vaishnava signatures on the royal seals of the Vakatakas reiterate that Queen Prabhavatigupta was indeed a powerful woman ruler.
  • Since the Vakataka people traded with Iran and beyond through the Mediterranean Sea, scholars suggest that these sealings could have been used as official royal permission issued from the capital city.
  • Besides, these were used on documents that sought mandatory royal permissions.

Why are the findings on Queen Prabhavatigupta significant?

  • Scholars say Queen Prabhavatigupta was among a handful of women rulers in India to have reigned over any kingdom during ancient times.
  • The Vakataka rulers were known to have forged several matrimonial alliances with other dynasties of their times.
  • One of the key alliances was with Prabhavatigupta of the mighty Gupta dynasty, which was then ruling north India. The Guptas were way more powerful than the Vakatakas.
  • After marrying Vakataka king Rudrasena II, Prabhavatigupta enjoyed the position of Chief Queen.
  • When she took over the Vakataka kingdom, after the sudden demise of Rudrasena II, her stature as a woman Vakataka ruler rose significantly.
  • This is evident from the fact that the sealings were introduced and issued during her period as a ruler, that too from the capital city of Nagardhan.

Why is the sign of Vaishnava affiliation important?

  • The Vakataka rulers followed the Shaiva sect of Hinduism while the Guptas were staunch Vaishnavites.
  • Excavators say that many religious structures indicating affinity to the Vaishnava sect, and found in Ramtek, were built during the reign of Queen Prabhavatigupta.
  • While she was married into a family that belonged to the Shaiva sect, the queen’s powers allowed her to choose a deity of worship, that is, Lord Vishnu.

What else has been excavated from Nagardhan so far?

  • Earlier results from the excavations here had traced evidence in the form of ceramics, ear studs of glass, antiquities, bowls and pots, a votive shrine and tank, an iron chisel, a stone depicting a deer, and terracotta bangles.
  • Some terracotta objects even depicted images of gods, animals and humans, along with amulets, scotches, wheels, skin rubbers and spindle whorls.
  • An intact idol of Lord Ganesha, which had no ornaments adorned, too was found from the site.
  • This confirmed that the elephant god was a commonly worshipped deity in those times.
  • On the means of living of the Vakataka people, researchers found animal rearing to be one of the main occupations.
  • Remains of seven species of domestic animals — cattle, goat, sheep, pig, cat, horse and fowl — were traced in an earlier study by the team.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

Oslo Peace Accord


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Oslo Peace Accord, West Bank

Mains level : Palestine & Israel conflicts


Palestinian officials threatened to withdraw from key provisions of the Oslo Accords, which define relations with Israel, if U.S. President Donald Trump announces his Middle East peace plan next week.

The Oslo Peace Accord

  • The Oslo Accords were a landmark moment in the pursuit of peace in the Middle East.
  • Actually a set of two separate agreements signed by the government of Israel and the leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)—the militant organization established in 1964 to create a Palestinian state.
  • The negotiations between Israel and the PLO that ultimately led to the Oslo Accords began, in secret, in Oslo, Norway, in 1993.
  • The Oslo Accords were ratified in Washington, D.C., in 1993 (Oslo I) and in Taba, Egypt, in 1995 (Oslo II).
  • Sometimes called Oslo II, the interim agreement set out the scope of Palestinian autonomy in the West Bank and Gaza.
  • The interim pact was only supposed to last five years while a permanent agreement was finalised but it has tacitly been rolled over for more than two decades.

A final nail in the coffin

  • World powers have long agreed that Jerusalem’s fate should be settled through negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
  • The Palestinians see east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state and believe Trump’s plan buries the two-state solution that has been for decades the cornerstone of international Middle East diplomacy.

History- Important places, persons in news

Operation Alberich


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Operation Alberich

Mains level : Treaty of Versailles and WWI

The recently released ‘1917’ movie tells the story of two British soldiers during the WWI in Operation Alberich, the strategic retreat in which their troops were taken back to the Hindenburg Line in 1917.

What was Operation Alberich?

  • Operation Alberich is considered among Germany’s most important operations on the Western Front in 1917, as well as one of its most extreme due to the ‘scorched earth’ policy employed.
  • In World War I (1914-18), the Allied Powers — principally France, the British Empire, Russia, Italy, Japan, and the US (after 1917) — fought and defeated the Central Powers — mainly Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Turkey.
  • The war caused destruction and suffering on unprecedented levels, and only led to a bigger conflict, World War II, two decades later in 1939.
  • The war manoeuvre involved the systematic destruction of 1,500 square kilometres of French territory by the German army after it decided to retreat to a newly constructed defence line.
  • The German army leadership had decided that the war must shift temporarily to the shorter and more easily defensible Hindenburg Line. The Operation took place in February and March 1917.

Course of action

  • The shortening of the war front was drastic, and is considered the war’s biggest military construction project.
  • The planning for the approximately 130-km Hindenburg Line began in September 1916, and much of it was completed in four months from October — using 5,00,000 tonnes of rocks and gravel, over 1,00,000 tonnes of cement, and 12,500 tonnes of barbed wire.
  • The scorched earth policy, which laid to waste entire villages, roads, and bridges, was meant to destroy anything that the Allies could find useful.
  • The Operation saw the complete evacuation of the area’s civilian population.


  • The move is regarded as a tactical success for the Germans, as it took the Allies by surprise and delayed their advance, but is criticised for the disproportionate destruction that it caused.
  • It is considered a propaganda disaster for Germany, and was presented by the Allies as an example of “Hun barbarism”.
  • At the Treaty of Versailles, which was signed after the war, the Allies used Alberich to legitimize their claims for punitive reparations from Germany.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-SAARC Nations

Sagarmatha Sambaad


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : SAARC, Sagarmatha Sambaad

Mains level : Fading relevance of SAARC


Nepal has invited the PMs of India and Pakistan along with several other heads of government and heads of state for the Sagarmatha Sambaad.

Sagarmatha Sambaad

  • Sagarmatha Sambaad is a multi-stakeholder, permanent global dialogue forum initiated by the Government of Nepal.
  • It is scheduled to be held biennially in Nepal.
  • The Sambaad (dialogue) is named after the world’s tallest mountain Sagarmatha (Mount Everest).
  • The Everest is also a symbol of friendship and is meant to promote the notions of common good and collective well-being of humanity.
  • The first episode of the Sambaad is scheduled to be held from 2 to 4 April 2020 by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Nepal).
  • The theme of the first Sambaad is “Climate Change, Mountains and the Future of Humanity.”


  • This is the first ever multi-stakeholder dialogue and a biggest diplomatic initiative in Nepal’s recent history.
  • India and Pakistan have been caught up in a cycle of hostility, which had prevented Islamabad from hosting the SAARC Summit in 2016.
  • The Kathmandu event aims to draw all the SAARC leaders and provide an opportunity to break the ice.
  • India had accused Pakistan of cross border terrorism while boycotting the Islamabad summit leading to its cancellation.