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May 2020

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Tracking Chinese diplomacy


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Afro-Asian conference.

Mains level : Paper 2- Rise of China and changes in diplomacy.

We are no stranger to the assertive nature of China in geopolitics. But had it always been the same? This article captures the transformation of the nature of Chinese diplomacy. Two personalities that had a profound impact on the nature of the diplomacy of that country are Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping. Each of them imparted special characteristic to diplomacy. Now, that all seems lost from present China. Read the article to know about the contribution of two personalities and trends in Chinese diplomacy now.

Zhou Enlai: Preference for Persuasion and compromise

“All diplomacy is a continuation of war by other means.” – Zhou Enlai

  • If Mao Zedong represented the crude face of Chinese communism, then Zhou was the epitome of its refinement.
  • Zhou preferred to seduce his opponents through word and gesture in the pursuit of national self-interest.
  • Force was used rarely, and only when all other means of persuasion failed.
  • So, amid Korean War in 1950, when the U.S. Army crossed into North Korea, Zhou Enlai delivered message against crossing 38th Parallel through Indian Ambassador, instead publicly declaring this.
  • He chose to give diplomacy a chance.

Role in First Indochina War

  • In 1954, the Chinese made their entry onto the world stage in Geneva.
  • The Vietnamese were winning against the French in the First Indochina War.
  • And the Americans were preparing to intervene fearing that another “domino” would fall to communism.
  • China’s self-interest lay in ending this war while denying the U.S. a foothold in its backyard.
  • Zhou’s strategy was to undermine western unity.
  • His watchwords were persuasion and compromise.
  • He even gave “face” to the French who had just lost to the Vietnamese in the battle of Dien Bien Phu, by travelling the “extra mile” to meet Prime Minister of France to secure the peace.

Low profile at Afro-Asian Conference in Bandung

  • In 1955, at the Afro-Asian Conference in Bandung, Zhou used the same tactics to pursue another objective: Developing relations with leaders of the Afro-Asian countries.
  • He deliberately kept a low profile, allowing Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Indonesian President Sukarno to take the lead.
  • His tactic, he reported to Mao, was “not to be involved in provocative or disruptive debate”.
  • His guidance to his team was to “strive to expand the united front of the world peace force.
  • He also instructed the team to create conditions for establishing diplomatic work or diplomatic relations between China and a number of Afro-Asian countries.

So, how Zhou shaped China’s foreign policy?

  • Zhou’s style of diplomacy came to define Chinese foreign policy over the next half-century.
  • The strategy was consistent: avoid isolation, build solidarity with non-aligned countries, divide the West.
  • The tactics were called ‘united front’ — isolate the main threat by building unity with all other forces.
  • Under Zhou, diplomats of calibre kept handled the task of diplomacy with skill and held firm even in storms like the Cultural Revolution.
  • When the tide rose, these diplomatic fishermen gathered the fish — expanding China’s global presence and gaining international acceptability.
  • When it ebbed, they saw to it that the ship remained firmly moored.
  • They navigated the Cold War, playing the Soviets against the Americans.
  • To relieve pressure, Zhou opened border talks with the Soviets and channels to the U.S.
  • Public animosity did not deter him from turning on the full extent of his diplomatic skills on either Alexei Kosygin or Henry Kissinger.
  • In February 1972, he persuaded U.S. President Richard Nixon to abandon Taiwan.
  • It was a staggering act of diplomacy.

Deng Xiaoping: hide our capacities and bide our time

“Observe calmly; secure our position; cope with affairs calmly; hide our capacities and bide our time; be good at maintaining a low profile; and never claim leadership.”

  • In the 1980s, Deng Xiaoping took up the reins.
  • Deng supplemented Zhou’s strategy with a “24-Character Strategy” of his own(the above quote).

Character of Chinese diplomacy in Deng Xiaoping’s time

  • “24-Character Strategy” became the ‘mantra’ of Chinese diplomacy.
  • Chinese diplomats measured their words and kept their dignity.
  • They projected power but rarely used more words than needed.
  • They were masters of their brief because Zhou had taught them that the real advantage in negotiations was to know more than the other side.
  • They flattered acquaintances, calling them “old friends”.
  • They built relationships by making it a point to engage the less friendly interlocutors with greater courtesies than friends.
  • Behind closed doors, they were tireless in reducing opposition through negotiation.
  • And skillfully in putting the onus of responsibility for failure on the other party.
  • And occasionally, they would hold out a veiled threat with a look of concern rather like an uncle anxious to save you from embarrassment.
  • But they rarely offended.

Tumultuous period of 1980s and 1990s and entry into WTO

  • The 1980s and 1990s were the peak for Chinese diplomacy.
  • The U.S. President George Bush and Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev visited China.
  • They normalised relations, settled borders and won hearts and minds through general financial help.
  • So effective was Chinese diplomacy that the Americans even broke their own sanctions imposed after the 1989 ‘Tiananmen Incident’, within a matter of four weeks.
  • A decade later, the U.S. and the European Union bought into Chinese assurances that it would soon transition to a market economy.
  • And helped steer China into the World Trade Organization.

After Deng Xiaoping: Arrogance and threats in diplomacy

  • Deng died in 1997. China prospered just as Deng had imagined.
  • It began to occupy centre stage in world diplomacy, but the basics of Chines diplomacy started changing
  • A new generation of diplomats, with knowledge of the English language and a careerist mindset, has started to destroy the foundations set down by Zhou and Deng.
  • Arrogance has replaced humility.
  • Persuasion is quickly abandoned in favour of the stick when countries take actions contrary to Chinese wishes.
  • The Chinese pursue unilateralism instead of compromise in the South China Sea.
  • In place of ‘united front’ tactics, they are bent on creating irritations simultaneously with multiple China neighbouring countries.
  • Avenging the ‘Century of Humiliation’ that endured in the hands of western imperial powers from roughly 1839-1840 to 1949 is on their mind now.
  • To avenge that they adopt a one-size-fits-all approach.
  • But they forget that much of the world has done nothing to China and, indeed, shares a similar historical experience.
  • Statements of fact or reasoned opinion are seen by them as insult or humiliation.
  • Foreign governments are educated about their responsibilities in managing the media and the narrative, even as the Chinese manipulate the same media to serve their purposes.
  • They expect to receive gratitude for everything they do, including handling COVID-19, as if it was only done with the foreigner in mind.
  • The veneer of humility has thinned.
  • The reserves of goodwill are fast depleting. The ship seems to be adrift at sea.

Questions related to China has been a recurrent theme in the UPSC papers. Consider the question asked in 2017  “China is using its economic relations and positive trade surplus as a tool to develop potential military power status in Asia. In light of this statement discuss its impact on India and her neighbours.”


In the post-pandemic world, India and the rest of the world will have to reckon the role played by China in the pandemic. In such a changing scenario India will do well to take note of the changing trends of Chinese diplomacy.

Coronavirus – Economic Issues

Exploring the avenues to fill the budgetary gaps


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Investment rate, purchasing power

Mains level : Paper 3- Option to raise the money for package.

What are the options available with the government to fill up the budgetary gaps created by the stimulus package? Well, one seems to be exercising its disinvestment or privatisations plans. But like always disinvestment comes with its own set of issues. The next could be raising the taxes and duties on the fuels. But this will defeat the very purpose of the package. Third option is borrowing. But borrowing in the external currency is another problem story. Let’s figure this all out with this article….

Containing the fiscal deficit through privatisation

  • Government is apparently hopeful that money could come partly from the new privatisation programme.
  • Finance Minister recently said that privatisation — a policy that has already gained momentum in the last budget, would now be the order of the day.
  • According to the new Public Sector Enterprises Policy (PSEP), a list of strategic sectors will be notified where there will be no more than four public sector enterprises.
  • The PSEP is a strategic move intended to rationalise the public sector.
  •  Before the COVID-19 crisis, the government needed the privatisation money partly because its revenue from GST among other things was declining.
  • And this void could only partly be filled by alternative sources of tax revenues such as that on fuel.
  • Today, the government needs this money in order to contain the fiscal deficit.
  • So, the privatisation programme has suddenly been expanded.
  • The Centre has set a budget target of Rs 2.1 lakh crore from disinvestment in the current fiscal year.

Progress made so far on disinvestment process

  • Towards the end of 2019, the government approved the privatisation of BPCL and the Shipping Corporation of India.
  • In addition to selling stakes in the Container Corporation of India, THDC and NEEPCO.
  • The government had initially planned to complete its “strategic disinvestment” in BPCL and Air India by the end of this fiscal year.
  • It now wants it completed earlier. Some estimate say that the government’s disinvestment in BPCL, SCI and CONCOR could fetch it Rs 78,400 crore.
  • Should India’s flying Maharaja also find a buyer, the government could raise over Rs 1,05,000 crore.

Issues with privatisation

  • The revenue from privatisation is a one-off benefit and generally, only profit-making units are sold at a good price.
  • Privatisation is a two-way street — it requires a buyer and a seller. Who will be the buyers?
  • Excessive political interference with the private sector makes owning an ex-government entity risky.
  • A handful of Indian capitalists who are already at the helm of oligopolies may be in a position — financially and politically — to buy the big PSUs.
  • If they were allowed to grow even more by acquiring public entities, sectors of the economy would be under the influence of quasi-monopolies.
  • This could foster crony capitalism and may even result in the making of oligarchs.

Where else can the government find the money it needs?

1. Increasing tax and duties on fuel

  • Government has already increased the excise duty on petrol and diesel by Rs 3 per litre — the steepest hike since 2012.
  • The government imposed additional taxes while global crude oil prices fell.
  • As oil prices can only go up after the last round of negotiations between Russia and Saudi Arabia, the Indian government will not be in a position to use this source of revenue again.
  • Such a move would contradict the very idea of a relief and stimulus package anyway. Why?
  • An increase in the excise duty or tax would affect purchasing power, when the package is supposed to help the poor and to boost demand.
  • Low demand and lowest investment rate:  Even before the present crisis, industrialists complained that 25 per cent of their productive capacity was idle.
  • And that’s why their investment rate had never been this low, in the 21st century at least.

2. Borrowing money and issues with it

  • Even if some privatisation helps India financially, it seems that the country will need to borrow money.
  • External borrowing, however, is problematic. There are three issues with external borrowing-
  • 1) The only way governments pay back external borrowings is by wisely using borrowed capital to drive high GDP growth and generating revenues.
  • Which is unlikely to happen any time soon as a recession is round the corner.
  • 2) The rupee is at its lowest level compared to the US dollar.
  • Any more devaluation will only make it harder for the government to pay back its debt.
  • Since external borrowings must be paid back in borrowed currency, exports and foreign reserves or gold reserves are generally the only two reliable options.
  • The third one being borrowing more to pay back the previous debts — a slippery slope to pay government debt.
  • However, India should account for the inevitable global slump in international demand and a consequent drop in its exports.
  • Other countries may also move towards “atmanirbharta” and over-regulate imports.
  • 3)  Indian industries are already a bit debt-laden.
  • Following factors compelled industries to resort to overseas borrowing-
  • i)The risk in the banking sector, tight liquidity in debt markets,
  • ii) Comparatively lower international borrowing rates
  • iii) The RBI’s ECB rationalising measures.
  • More overseas borrowing, combined with the industry’s high debt status, could lead to rating agencies downgrading India’s investment prospects — deterring foreign investments in the process.

3. Foreign reserves and other options

  • On the positive side, India’s foreign reserves stand at an all-time high which could be strategically used to finance its needs.
  • The rest may have to come from privatisation, taxation, loans and more international aid.
  • Already, India is receiving more funds from the World Bank, the ADB and the Japanese ODA.
  • India may help others, but it needs aid too.

Consider the question- “The government had to declare the relief and stimulus package in the wake of corona crisis. This expenditure leads to budgetary gaps. What are the options with the government to close this gap? Examine the issues associated with these options.”


The government must weigh each option with due consideration and explore all the possible avenues. Options like privatisation or borrowing must be exercised with caution. As these decisions could have severe consequences for the economy in the future.








Terrorism and Challenges Related To It

Terrorism and its ideologies


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 3- Terrorism and related issues

Pakistan is a unique country in the sense that it is both a victim and the perpetrator of terrorism. This article explains the situations which made Pakistan home to the terrorism. So, why some terrorist organisations turned against Pakistan? What are the ideologies followed by various terrorist organisation and how it makes a difference in their functioning? Read to know…

Terrorism paradox of Pakistan: Both Victim and perpetrator

  • This Terrorism paradox can be traced to the deliberate policy of the Pakistani state to create and foster terrorist groups in order to engage in low-intensity warfare with its neighbours.
  • Pakistan first operationalised this strategy in regard to Afghanistan in 1973.
  • And intensified it with the cooperation of the U.S. and Saudi Arabia after the Marxist coup of 1978 after which USSR entered Afghanistan.

Soviet withdrawal and rise in insurgency in Kashmir

  • The Soviet withdrawal in 1989 left the Pakistani military with a large surplus of Islamist fighters that it had trained and armed.
  • Islamabad decided to use this “asset” to intensify the insurgency in the Kashmir Valley.

Radicalisation of Pakistani population

  • The decade-long Afghan “jihad” in Afghanistan had also radicalised a substantial segment of the Pakistani population.
  • Radicalisation was intense in the North-West Frontier Province and Punjab.
  • Sectarian divisions were also on the rise not only between Sunnis and Shias but also among various Sunni sects.
  • The division was intense between two Sunni sects-the puritanical Deobandis and the more syncretic and Sufi-oriented Barelvis.
  • In the process, a number of homegrown terrorist groups emerged that the Pakistan Army co-opted for its use in Kashmir and the rest of India.
  • But, it soon became clear that Pakistan had created a set of Frankenstein’s monsters some of whom turned against their creator.
  • The Musharraf government, under American pressure, decided to collaborate with the latter in the overthrow of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.
  • This resulted in some of the terrorist organisation turning against Pakistan.

Monsters who don’t spare even its creator

  • The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which has ideological affinity with the Afghan Taliban.
  • The TTP and its affiliates have fought pitched battles with the Pakistan Army in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and parts of the NWFP.
  • Also, the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) has not hesitated to launch terrorist attacks on targets within Pakistan as well, especially against the Shias and Sufi shrines.

Did all terrorist organisation turn against Pakistan?

  • No!
  • Consider the case of ‘loyalist’ LeT.
  • Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), is a classic example of a “loyalist” terrorist organisation that has played by the rules set by the Pakistani military.
  • It only launches attacks on targets outside Pakistan, primarily in India.
  • As the evidence in the case of the Mumbai carnage of 2008 clearly indicates LeT operations are coordinated with the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
  • ISI provides it with intelligence and logistical support in addition to identifying specific targets.
  • This is why the LeT and its front organisations have continued to receive the military’s patronage and unstinting support.
  • Consequently, its leader, Hafiz Saeed, was until recently provided protection by the Pakistani state.

Ideological differences

  • Both the LeT and the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) have been engaged in attacks on Indian targets identified by Pakistan’s ISI.
  • The difference between LeT and JeM lies in the fact that while the LeT is more pragmatic and less ideological.
  • The JeM is highly ideological and sectarian.
  • JeM draws its ideological inspiration from a very extreme form of Deobandi puritanism.
  • That extreme form considers all those who do not believe in its philosophy beyond the pale of Islam.
  • For many JeM diehards, these include not only Shias and Barelvis but also the Pakistani state and the Pakistani military.
  • LeT on the other hand does not consider Muslims of different theological orientations as non-believers and therefore legitimate targets of attack.
  • This relatively “liberal” interpretation is related to the fact that LeT draws its ideological inspiration from the sect called the Ahl-e-Hadis, which composes only a small proportion of Pakistan’s Muslim population and cannot afford to engage in sectarian conflict.
  • Moreover, it draws its membership from different Muslim sects including the Sufi-oriented Barelvis and the puritanical Deobandis.
  • Both these factors drive LeT toward greater tolerance in sectarian terms and to eschew intra-Islamic theological battles.
  • Its primary goals are political; above all, driving India out of Kashmir.
  • This jells well with the objectives of the Pakistani military and makes LeT and Hafiz Saeed, favourites of the Pakistani establishment.

Consider the question asked by UPSC in 2017-“The scourge of terrorism is a grave challenge to national security. What solution do you suggest to curb this growing menace? What are the major sources of terrorist funding?


The fact that using terrorist outfits for state objectives is a highly risky business whose blowback cannot be predicted and can have very negative consequences for the stability of the state itself.


The Crisis In The Middle East

Israel swears in ‘Unity Government’


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : West Bank and its location

Mains level : Unity Government

Israel’s Parliament swore in its new unity government led by PM Netanyahu and his former rival Benny Gantz, ending the longest political crisis in their nation’s history.

The strategic location of Gaza strip, West Bank, Dead Sea etc. creates a hotspot for a possible map based prelims question.  Consider this PYQ from 2015 CSP:

Q. The area known as ‘Golan Heights’ sometimes appears in the news in the context of the events related to:

a) Central Asia
b) Middle East
c) South-East Asia
d) Central Africa

What is a Unity Government?

  • A national unity government, government of national unity (GNU), or national union government is a broad coalition government consisting of all parties (or all major parties) in the legislature.
  • Such a coalition is usually formed during a time of war or another national emergency.
  • A general coalition government is a form of government in which political parties cooperate, reducing the dominance of any one party within that “coalition”.

Practice question for mains:

Q. Discuss the role and significance of Leader of Opposition and the Opposition Party and their constructive criticism in a Parliamentary form of government.

What is the Israeli deal?

  • Israel’s unity government starts work amid the coronavirus pandemic and after a political crisis that saw three inconclusive elections and left the country in political limbo for more than 500 days.
  • The coalition government was agreed last month between veteran right-wing leader Netanyahu and the centrist Gantz, a former army chief.
  • The incoming government has aimed to apply Israeli sovereignty over West Bank settlements.
  • The govt. now aims to push on with controversial plans to annex large parts of the occupied West Bank.


  • Netanyahu said that it’s time to apply the Israeli law and write another glorious chapter in the history of Zionism citing the issue of Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory.
  • Such a move is seen likely to cause international uproar and inflame tensions in the West Bank.
  • The region is home to nearly three million Palestinians and some 400,000 Israelis living in settlements considered illegal under international law.


West Bank Annexation plans

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss plans to annex parts of the West Bank.

The strategic location of Gaza strip, West Bank, Dead Sea etc. creates a hotspot for a possible map based prelims question.  Consider this PYQ from 2015 CSP:

Q. The area known as ‘Golan Heights’ sometimes appears in the news in the context of the events related to:

a) Central Asia
b) Middle East
c) South-East Asia
d) Central Africa

Where is West Bank Located?

  • The West Bank is located to the west of the Jordan River.
  • It is a patch of land about one and a half times the size of Goa, was captured by Jordan after the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.
  • Israel snatched it back during the Six-Day War of 1967 and has occupied it ever since.
  • It is a landlocked territory, bordered by Jordan to the east and Israel to the south, west, and north.
  • Following the Oslo Accords between the Israeli government and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) during the 1990s, part of the West Bank came under the control of the Palestinian Authority.
  • With varying levels of autonomy, the Palestinian Authority controls close to 40 percent of West Bank today, while the rest is controlled by Israel.

Back2Basics: Gaza Strip

  • The Gaza Strip is a small boot-shaped territory along the Mediterranean coast between Egypt and Israel.
  • A couple of years later in 2007, Hamas, an anti-Israel military group, took over Gaza Strip. The militia group is often involved in violent clashes with the Israeli Defence Forces.
  • While Palestine has staked claim to both territories — West Bank and Gaza Strip — Israel’s objective has been to keep expanding Jewish settlements in these regions.

Citizenship and Related Issues

Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) Visa Issue


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : OCI, PIO

Mains level : Citizenship related issues of Indian Diaspora

In a bid to allay fears of the OCI cardholders over the temporary suspension of their long-term visas, the Ministry for External Affairs has said the government will soon take an appropriate decision.

UPSC may ask a statement based question in prelims considering various privileges of the OCI cardholders.

What is the issue?

  • A large number of Indian citizens whose children are OCI cardholders and several people of Indian-origin having the card are unable to travel to India, even for emergency reasons, because of the temporary suspension of their long-term visa.

Who is an Overseas Citizen?

  • An OCI is a category introduced by the government in 2005.
  • Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) of certain categories as specified in the Citizenship Act, 1955 are eligible for being OCI cardholders.
  • Some of the benefits for PIO and OCI cardholders were different until 2015 when the government merged these two categories.
  • The MHA defines an OCI as a person who was a citizen of India on or after January 26, 1950; or was eligible to become a citizen of India on that date; or who is a child or grandchild of such a person, among other eligibility criteria.
  • According to Section 7A of the OCI card rules, an applicant is not eligible for the OCI card if he, his parents or grandparents have ever been a citizen of Pakistan or Bangladesh.

Privileges to an OCI

  • OCI cardholders can enter India multiple times, get a multipurpose lifelong visa to visit India, and are exempt from registering with Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO) no matter how long their stay.
  • If an individual is registered as an OCI for a period of five years, he/she are eligible to apply for Indian citizenship.
  • At all Indian international airports, OCI cardholders are provided with special immigration counters.
  • OCI cardholders can open special bank accounts in India, they can buy the non-farm property and exercise ownership rights and can also apply for a driver’s license and PAN card.
  • However, OCI cardholders do not get voting rights, cannot hold a government job and purchase agricultural or farmland.
  • They cannot run for public office either, nor can they travel to restricted areas without government permission.


Explained: How an Indian citizen is defined

J&K – The issues around the state

Jammu and Kashmir notifies amended domicile certificate rules


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : New domicile rules for Jammu and Kashmir.

The J&K administration has notified the J&K grant of domicile certificate procedure rules 2020 and set a fast track process in motion to issue the certificates within a stipulated time of 15 days.

Practice mains question:

Discuss how the new domicile rules for the UT of Jammu and Kashmir would enable its full integration with the mainstream India.

New domicile rules

  • Domicile certificates have now been made a basic eligibility condition for appointment to any post under the Union Territory of J&K following the amendments in the previous Act.
  • These rules provide a simple time-bound and transparent procedure for issuance of domicile certificates in such a manner that no category of person is put to any inconvenience.
  • There is a timeline of 15 days for issuance of certificates. Under the amended rules, eligible non-locals can also apply for the certificate.
  • To make the process transparent and time-bound, any officer not able to issue the certificate would be penalized ₹50,000. The amount would be recovered from his salary.
  • The new process will allow West Pakistan refugees, safai karamcharis and children of women who married non-locals to apply for jobs here.

Who can avail the domicile certificates?

  • All Permanent Resident Certificate holders and their children living outside J&K can apply for the certificates.
  • Kashmiri migrants living in or outside J&K can get domicile certificates by simply producing their Permanent Residence Certificate (PRC), ration card copy, voter card or any other valid document.
  • A special window is also provided to migrants who have not registered with the Relief and Rehabilitation department.
  • Bonafide migrants can apply with the Relief and Rehabilitation department by providing documents like electoral rolls of 1988, proof of registration as a migrant in any State in the country or any other valid document.

Earlier Criteria for Domiciles

Satisfying any of the criteria mentioned below, a person would be deemed as a domicile of the UT of Jammu and Kashmir:

  • A person who has resided for a period of 15 years in the UT of J&K or
  • A person who has studied for a period of seven years and appeared in Class 10th/12th examination in an educational institution located in the UT of J&K
  • Someone who is registered as a migrant by the Relief and Rehabilitation Commissioner (Migrants)
  • Children of Central government officials, All India Services, PSUs, autonomous body of Centre, Public Sector Banks, officials of statutory bodies, Central Universities, recognised research institutes of Centre who have served in J&K for a total period of 10 years
  • Children of such residents of J&K who reside outside J&K in connection with their employment or business or other professional or vocational reasons but their parents fulfil any of the conditions provided

Job criteria for new domiciles

  • The domiciles will be eligible for the purposes of appointment to any post carrying a pay scale of not more than Level 4.
  • The Level 4 post comprises positions such as gardeners, barbers, office peons and waterman and the highest rank in the category is that of a junior assistant.
  • The reservation for domiciles would not apply to Group A and Group B posts, and like other UTs, recruitment would be done by the UPSC.

Must read:

[Burning Issues] J&K New Domicile Rules

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Afghanistan

Afghan Power-Sharing Deal


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Afghan peace process

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and political rival Abdullah Abdullah have signed a power-sharing agreement two months after both declared themselves the winner of last presidential election.

Practice question for mains:

Q. India’s reluctance to enter into talks with the Taliban in Afghan peace process needs a rethink. Comment.

The Deal

  • The deal calls for Abdullah to lead the country’s National Reconciliation High Council and some members of Abdullah’s team would be included in Ghani’s Cabinet.
  • Ghani would remain President of the war-torn nation.
  • The Reconciliation Council has been given the authority to handle and approve all affairs related to Afghanistan’s peace process.

Why such a deal?

  • Afghanistan has been in political disarray since the country’s Election Commission in December announced Mr. Ghani had won the September 28 election with more than 50% of the vote.
  • Abdullah had received more than 39% of the vote, according to the EC, but he and the Elections Complaint Commission charged widespread voting irregularities.
  • Ghani and Mr. Abdullah both declared themselves president in parallel inauguration ceremonies in March.
  • The discord then prompted the Trump administration to announce it would cut $1 billion in assistance to Afghanistan if the two weren’t able to work out their differences.

Role of the US

  • A peace agreement between the U.S. and the Taliban signed February 29 calls for U.S. and NATO troops to leave Afghanistan.
  • It was seen at the time as Afghanistan’s best chance at peace in decades of war.
  • Since then, the U.S. has been trying to get the Taliban and the Afghan government to begin intra-Afghan negotiations, but the political turmoil and personal acrimony between the two impeded talks.

Also read:

Afghan peace and India’s elbow room


[Burning Issue] The US-Taliban Peace Agreement

Renewable Energy – Wind, Tidal, Geothermal, etc.

Etalin Hydro Electric Project


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Biogeographic Zones, Etalin Hydro Electric Project

Mains level : India's border infrastructure

A group of conservationists has written to the Environment Ministry seeking rejection of the approved Etalin Hydro Electric Project in the Dibang Valley district of Arunachal Pradesh.

Make a note of major dams in India along with the rivers, terrain, major Wildlife sanctuaries and national parks incident to these rivers.

Etalin Hydro Electric Project

  • Etalin HEP is a 3097 MW project based on the river Dibang.
  • It is envisaged as a run of the river scheme on rivers Dri and Tangon in the Dibang Valley District of Arunachal Pradesh.
  • Dibang is a tributary of the Brahmaputra River which flows through the states of Arunachal Pradesh and Assam.
  • The project is being executed through the Etalin Hydro Electric Power Company Limited, a JV company of Jindal Power Limited and Hydro Power Development Corporation of Arunachal Pradesh Limited.
  • It is expected to be one of the biggest hydropower projects in India in terms of installed capacity.

Issues with the Project

  • The Project falls under the richest bio-geographical province of the Himalayan zone and would be located at the junction of major biogeographic zones like Palaearctic Zone and Indo-Malayan Zone.
  • It would involve the clearing of 2.7 lakh trees in “subtropical evergreen broad-leaved forest and subtropical rain forests”.
  • Underscoring the inadequacy of the Environment Impact Assessment report on Etalin, the conservationists said observations by wildlife officials were ignored.
  • These include the threat to 25 globally endangered mammal and bird species in the area to be affected.

Back2Basics: Biogeographic Zones

  • A biogeographic realm or ecozone is the broadest biogeographic division of Earth’s land surface, based on distributional patterns of terrestrial organisms.
  • These zones delineate the large areas of the Earth’s surface within which organisms have been evolving in relative isolation over long periods of time.
  • They are separated from one another by geographic features, such as oceans, broad deserts, or high mountain ranges that constitute barriers to migration.
  • Originally, six biogeographic regions were identified: Palearctic (Europe and Asia), Nearctic (North America), Neotropical (Mexico, Central and South America), Ethiopian/Afrotropic (Africa), Oriental/Indo-Malayan (Southeast Asia, Indonesia) and Australian (Australia and New Guinea).
  • Currently, eight are recognised since the addition of Oceania (Polynesia, Fiji and Micronesia) and Antarctica.

Swachh Bharat Mission

[pib] Star Ratings of Garbage Free Cities


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Star Ratings of Garbage Free Cities

Mains level : Success of SBM

The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) has released the Star rating of garbage-free cities for the assessment year 2019-2020.

Practice question for mains:

Q. Discuss how the Swachh Bharat Mission has become a people’s movement in India. Also, discuss how it has managed to instill a behavioural change amongst the citizens.

About Star Rating Protocol

  • The Star Rating Protocol was launched by the MoHUA in January 2018 to institutionalize a mechanism for cities to achieve Garbage Free status and to motivate cities to achieve higher degrees of cleanliness.
  • The protocol has been devised in a holistic manner including components such as the cleanliness of drains & water bodies, plastic waste management, managing construction & demolition waste, etc.
  • While the key thrust of this protocol is on Solid waste management(SWM), it also takes care of ensuring certain minimum standards of sanitation through a set of prerequisites defined in the framework.
  • The new protocol considers ward-wise geo-mapping, monitoring of SWM value chain through ICT interventions like Swachh Nagar App and zone-wise rating in cities with a population above 50 lakh.

Performance of cities

  • Accordingly, as per the 2020 survey, 6 cities have been graded 5 stars, 65 Cities rated 3 Star and 70 Cities rated 1 Star.

5 Star Cities

ULB Name State Final Rating
Ambikapur Chhattisgarh 5 Star
Rajkot Gujarat 5 Star
Surat Gujarat 5 Star
Mysore Karnataka 5 Star
Indore Madhya Pradesh 5 Star
Navi Mumbai Maharashtra 5 Star

Assessment under the protocol

  • To ensure that the Protocol has a SMART framework, the MoHUA has developed a three-stage assessment process.
  • In the first stage, ULBs populate their progress data on the portal along with supporting documents within a particular timeframe.
  • The second stage involves a desktop assessment by a third-party agency selected and appointed by MoHUA.
  • Claims of cities that clear the desktop assessment are then verified through independent field-level observations in the third stage.


  • This certification is an acknowledgement of the clean status of Urban Local Bodies and strengthened SWM systems as well as a mark of trust and reliability akin to universally known standards.

Back2Basics: Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM)

  • SBM is a nation-wide campaign in India for the period 2014 to 2019 that aims to clean up the streets, roads and infrastructure of India’s cities, towns, urban and rural areas.
  • The objectives of Swachh Bharat include eliminating open defecation through the construction of household-owned and community-owned toilets and establishing an accountable mechanism of monitoring toilet use.
  • Run by the GoI, the mission aims to achieve an “open-defecation free” (ODF) India by 2 October 2019, the 150th anniversary of the birth of Mahatma Gandhi by constructing 90 million toilets in rural India.
  • The mission will also contribute to India reaching Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6), established by the UN in 2015.
  • It is India’s largest cleanliness drive to date with three million government employees and students from all parts of India participating in 4,043 cities, towns, and rural areas.
  • The mission has two thrusts: Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (“gramin” or ‘rural’), which operates under the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation; and Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (‘urban’), which operates under the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs.