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Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

A phantom called the Line of Actual Control with China

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Ladakh Region, Pangong Lake.

Mains level : Paper 2- Border issue between India and China

Yet again, India and China are engaged in a standoff on the border. But why the issues persist even after four agreements with a view to solve the boundary problem? This article explains the problem in wording of the agreement. And also explains the lack of intent from China’s part.

Four agreements: vision of progress or strategic illusion?

  •  At the heart of India’s and China’s continued inability to make meaningful progress on the boundary issue are four agreements.
  • Those agreements were signed in September 1993, November 1996, April 2005 and October 2013 — between the two countries.
  • Ironically, India and China keep referring to these agreements as the bedrock of the vision of progress on the boundary question.
  • Unfortunately, these are deeply flawed agreements.
  • And also make the quest for settlement of the boundary question at best a strategic illusion and at worst a cynical diplomatic parlour trick.

Let’s look into LAC provision in 1993 and 1996 agreements

  • According to the 1993 agreement, “pending an ultimate solution”, “the two sides shall strictly respect and observe the LAC between the two sides No activities of either side shall overstep the LAC”.
  • Further, both the 1993 and the 1996 agreement—on confidence-building measures in the military field along the LAC— say they “will reduce or limit their respective military forces within mutually agreed geographical zones along the LAC.”
  • This was to apply to major categories of armaments and cover various other aspects as well, including air intrusions “within ten kilometres along the LAC”.

Okay, but where is the LAC?

  • The specification of this phantom LAC as the starting point and the central focus has made several key stipulations and articles of the four agreements effectively inoperable for more than a quarter of a century.
  • In fact, many of the articles have no bearing on the ground reality.
  • Article XII of the 1996 agreement, for instance, says, “This agreement is subject to ratification and shall enter into force on the date of exchange of instruments of ratification.”
  • It is not clear if and when that happened.
  • Nowhere in the 1993 agreement is there the provision to recognise the existing lines of deployment of the respective armies, as they were in 1993.
  • The agreement does not reflect any attempt to have each side recognise the other’s line of deployment of troops at the time it was signed.
  • That would have been the logical starting point.
  • If both armies are to respect the LAC, where is the line?
  • The ambiguity over the LAC has brought a prolonged sense of unease and uncertainty and thus exponentially contributed to the military build-up in those areas.
  • The absence of a definition of this line allows ever new and surreptitious advances on the ground.

What could have been done?

  • Had the 1993 agreement begun the exercise with the phrase “pending an ultimate solution, each side shall strictly respect and observe the line of existing control/deployment” instead of the “LAC”, it would have been more possible to keep the peace.
  • In such a case there would have been two existing lines of control on the map — one for the physical deployment of the Chinese troops and the other for the physical deployment of the Indian troops.
  • This would have rendered the areas between the two lines no man’s land, and would have ensured that the two armies were frozen in their positions.

The issue of two LAC in the eastern and western sector

  • The LAC is two hypothetical lines in the following two sectors-
  • 1) In the eastern sector, where the Chinese have not accepted the loosely defined McMahon line which follows the principle of watershed.
  • 2) The western sector, which is witnessing another episodic stand-off.
  • The first is what Indian troops consider the extent to which they can dominate through patrols, which is well beyond the point where they are actually deployed and present.
  • The second is what the Chinese think they effectively control, which is well south of the line they were positioned at in 1993.

Why map exchange didn’t happen for the western sector?

  • It is in this theatre of the militarily absurd that we should look at the outcome of the attempted exchange of maps in the western sector.
  • It is the sector where this round of confrontation continues between India and China.
  • This came after the exchange of maps in the middle sector.
  • In the middle sector, divergences were the least, i.e., the existing line and the Chinese and Indian idea of the LAC were more or less the same (in 2002).
  • The Foreign Secretary India and the head of the Chinese delegation, met in New Delhi in 2003 for sharing the map of the western sector.
  • It had been agreed that both sides would exchange maps to an agreed scale on each side’s perceptions of the location of the LAC in the western sector.
  • The idea was to superimpose the maps to see where the perceptions converged and, crucially, where they diverged.
  • Due to the contentious nature of the sector, it would provide a starting point, not the end point, to discuss how to reconcile divergences presumed to be significant, given Chinese military behaviour on the ground there.
  • Each side handed over its map to the other.
  • But, head of the Chinese delegation gave it a long, hard look, and wordlessly returned it.
  • They provided no reason for their action.
  • The meeting effectively ended there.

Consider the question “Examine the reasons for the persistent nature of the India-China border issue.”

Conclusion

By disregarding the map, China is not bound in any way by New Delhi’s perception of the LAC, and therefore does not have to limit liberty of action. This was evident then and is especially evident now. Because the nature of the terrain, deployment, and infrastructure and connectivity asymmetries in the border areas continue to be so starkly in China’s favour that it is clear that the Chinese are in no hurry to settle the boundary question. They see that the cost to India in keeping this question open suits them more than settling the issue.

Oil and Gas Sector – HELP, Open Acreage Policy, etc.

Is India prepared for crude oil eventualities?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Import of crude oil and its proportion in total consumption.

Mains level : Paper 3- Energy security.

The era we are living in is reigned by the uncertainties. And the oil market is not immune to these uncertainties. Against this background, India’s energy security is discussed in this article. Switching to the “just in case” needs with respect to crude oil is suggested by the author. But, that would require capital. So, how could the problem of capital be solved? Read the article to know…

Switching from just in time to just in case

  • The post-COVID “world (will be) switching from just in time to just in case”  said economist Alan Kirman.
  • This is more so for the Indian petroleum sector.
  • The decision-makers of this sector should switch to a “just in case” policy mode.

Oil market: Land full of uncertainties

  • The oil market is in no man’s land. Few speak with conviction about its future trajectory.
  • Last month, it dropped into negative territory for a day in the USA.
  • But today the price of the same crude quality is above $30/barrel.
  • If one reads the commentary of experts, some predict that prices will soon cross $50/barrel while some predict price-crash to below $20/barrel.
  • The fine print of these reports is always caveated with the disclaimer, “it all depends” on one or more of the comparably uncertain variables.
  • These variables include economic growth, geopolitics — US-China relations, the timing of the development of an anti-COVID vaccine or a combination of all these variables.
  • The fact is no one really knows how the petroleum sector will fare in the “new normal” of the post-COVID world.

The problems policy-makers face: some known, some unknown

  • Policy-makers know that irrespective of the twists and turns in the petroleum market, India will need fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas) to drive its economic growth for at least the next decade, if not longer.
  • And that a sizeable percentage of these requirements will have to be imported.
  • The country does not have the geology to expect gushers especially in an environment of volatile (and relatively low) oil prices.
  • What must also be discomforting is the “known unknown” of the post-COVID stress.
  • They know that COVID has knocked the props from under the Indian economy.
  • They also know that every petroleum company, irrespective of whether it is in the private or public sector, will face an increasingly uncertain and challenging future business environment.
  • What they do not know is the nature of these challenges, and therefore, the conditions, sine qua non, for managing them.

Let’s look at some facts and figures of India’s crude oil requirements

  • India consumes around 50,00,000 barrels of crude oil every day.
  • Of that, it imports approximately 45,00,000 barrels/day making the country the third-largest crude market in the world.
  • Every month, on average, 70 loaded VLCC (very large crude carriers ) — accounting for 10 per cent of the global tanker market — bring crude oil to India.
  • Approximately 60 per cent of this oil is discharged in and around the Jamnagar area and then carried by pipelines to refineries in Jamnagar, Mathura, Panipat, Bina and Bhatinda.
  • And 50 per cent or so is sourced from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Abu Dhabi, Iran and Iraq.
  • It is against this background of post-COVID uncertainties and above facts India should consider switching to “just in case” policy mode.

Why should India consider switching to “just in case” policy mode?

We should analyse this by considering two scenarios

  • ONGC/OIL are strategically important PSUs.
  • Few have questioned the support to these two companies and the importance of harnessing our indigenous oil and gas reserves.
  • Until now, this support has been premised on the view that oil supplies are relatively scarce and that prices will trend upwards.

1) Low oil prices scenario

  • 1) We now need to ask: What if, “just in case” the oil market is structurally oversupplied and prices fall to such low levels that it makes no commercial sense for ONGC/OIL to expend public resources on “ high risk, high cost” exploration?
  • Oil and gas are, after all, tradables and can be purchased on the high seas.
  • Should they not, given this possibility, contemplate redefining their core purpose and perhaps pivot away from oil and gas towards clean energy?

2) Choking of supply lines scenario

  • Looked at through a different lens but with a “just in case” mindset, the preponderance of crude supplies sourced from countries facing deep political, economic and social tensions raises the question:
  • What if these domestic problems choked our access?
  • How would we manage the disruption?
  • Our decision-makers have worried about supply security for decades.
  • But the circumstances created by COVID are new.
  • The issue of strategic reserves could, for instance, acquire a different hue.
  • We have currently 11 days of reserve cover (5.33 million tonnes) with plans to increase it to 24 days (11.83 million tonnes).
  • Were we to decide to build up these reserves to levels comparable to other countries of between 70 to 100 days of import cover, the issue would be capital.
  • Given the slowdown of the economy and the pressures on the exchequer, the government would not have the financial resources to invest in the creation of additional facilities.
  • The only way this financial hurdle could be overcome is if the government and the private sector invest jointly.
  • This collaborative option would have to be considered to counter the “just in case” contingency of prolonged and major disruption.
  • And if indeed such an option were acceptable, it could be extended to cover trading, crude purchases, co-freighting, subject of course to anti-trust and competition rules.

Consider the example to understand the importance of “just in case” thinking

  • An example to embed the importance of “just in case” thinking can be drawn from the geopolitics of our neighbourhood.
  • What if the relations between India/Pakistan/China took an ugly turn?
  • What security measures should we contemplate to protect the petroleum assets located in Mumbai and Jamnagar?

Consider the question “Over the decades, India has been grappling with the issue of energy security. With the rising uncertainties around the world, the issue has gained more prominence. In light of this, suggest the ways to tide over the disruption in oil supplies.”

Conclusion

In the backdrop of COVID, when all hands on decks are needed to tackle the “urgent” task of reviving the economy, the government must not, in the process, lose sight of the “importance” of creating, if nothing else, the mindset of preparedness to respond to “just in case outcomes”.

Coronavirus – Economic Issues

Using COVID crisis to reorient India towards reforms

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Provision for various sectors in stimulus package

Mains level : Paper 3-Comparison of of stimulus package of India with other economies.

Following the announcement of relief and stimulus package, the debate began over its various aspects. This article assesses the various aspects of the package and draws comparison with the package announced by the other countries. So, how does India fare compared with other countries?

Fiscal component of  stimulus package

  • According to the IMF-PT (policy tracker), the fiscal component of the Indian package is estimated to be at least 3.5 per cent of GDP as expenditure for poor households, migrant workers and agriculture.
  • There is an additional 0.5 per cent of GDP for states to spend unconditionally, bringing the fiscal package excluding loans to businesses to at least 4 per cent of GDP.
  • The support for businesses (MSMEs) is estimated to be 2.7 per cent of GDP.
  • Of this, at least 2 per cent of GDP is in the form of 100 per cent credit guarantees and equity infusion.

Comparison with major emerging economies

  • Among major developing economies, only Brazil -8 per cent of GDP– and Peru -7 per cent of GDP– have a fiscal stimulus higher than the 5 per cent level for India.
  • The Brazil estimate includes about 3 per cent of GDP as working capital loans to businesses and households.
  • The fiscal support level for some important emerging economies is — China 2.5 per cent of GDP and Indonesia 3.5 per cent.

Why it is difficult to segregate the stimulus package?

  • While comparing the fiscal stimulus packages across countries, it is important to understand that such packages are in the nature of additional spending and tax reliefs.
  • Which can work directly through aggregate demand or indirectly by mitigating risk and enhancing access to fund.
  • Access to fund is ensured in the nature of credit guarantees to financial institutions and non-financial enterprises
  • A large number of fiscal stimulus packages announced by different countries contain credit guarantees to financial institutions, SMEs, and agriculture.
  • Hence, it is difficult to segregate fiscal stimulus into its pure and impure components.
  • Most economists, and international organisations, recognise that fiscal stimulus consists of both the pure and impure.
  • And includes three broad items — a direct “above-the-line” component, a “below-the-line” component and guarantees of various forms primarily credit.
  • The choice of using only one component of the fiscal stimulus is selective and highly inappropriate.

India as a positive fiscal stimulus outlier

  • To put the packages into perspective, the average of all fiscal measures in the G24 developing economies is equal to 3.6 per cent.
  • No matter how the calculation is done, India is a positive fiscal stimulus outlier; by IMF-PT calculations.
  • The stimulus is close to the largest among major emerging market economies.

So, how much rich countries are spending?

  • The rich nations are spending more — they can afford to. Japan announced what may be the upper limit to the expansion — 21.1 per cent of GDP.
  • However, this does include large elements of loans and credit guarantees.
  • Through a combination of several fiscal measures (tax deferrals, credit guarantees, etc.) the US has pledged close to 13 per cent of GDP.
  • The European Union, on average, has pledged 4 per cent of GDP.
  • The average for advanced countries is around 6 per cent of GDP.

Significance of monetary policy change made by RBI

  • The monetary policy change in India is quite significant.
  • The change paves the way for internationally competitive monetary policy.
  •  That is, real interest rates comparable to those prevalent in competitor economies.
  • The repo rate now stands at 4 per cent, with inflation well contained.
  • This is substantially a much different, and much-improved RBI response than that what occurred in 2008-09.
  • At that time, as a monetary counter to the financial crisis, the RBI reduced the repo rate by 425 basis points to 4.75 per cent.
  • This was done over seven months and the prevailing CPI inflation rate was 10 per cent.

Economic reforms as a part of stimulus package

  • India has announced several economic reforms as a part of the stimulus package.
  • These are long-awaited — freeing up of the labour market, allowing farmers to sell their produce and land to who they choose, removal of archaic laws like the Essential Commodities Act, with the promise of more to come.
  • This is not an empty promise — the Centre will advance another 1.5 per cent of GDP to states to expand spending.
  • This advance will be conditional on them for undertaking long-pending reforms.
  • The Indian fiscal package is reformist, well-disciplined and provides focused support; and if needed, there is still room for additional measures.

Conclusion

The Indian fiscal package is reformist, well-disciplined and provides focused support; and if needed, there is still room for additional measures. We should use the crisis to re-orient India towards its long-awaited destiny.

Telecom and Postal Sector – Spectrum Allocation, Call Drops, Predatory Pricing, etc

What is the National Numbering Plan?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : TRAI, National numbering plan

Mains level : National numbering plan

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has recommended that a new National Numbering Plan be issued at the earliest so that a uniquely identifiable number can be provided to every subscriber in India.

The TRAI and Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal are quite often seen in the news.  Most recent was the dispute risen due to AGR dues.

TRAI has a wide range of jurisdiction over Telecoms. Keep a track on all such news.

National Numbering Plan

  • The management of numbering resources is governed by the National Numbering Plan.
  • The Department of Telecom administers the numbers for fixed and the mobile networks based on the ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU-T) recommendations.
  • TRAI has recommended automated allocation of numbering resources be done using number management system software to speed up the process

Broadly, the TRAI has recommended:

  • switching to an 11-digit mobile number,
  • reallocation of mobile numbering resources surrendered by operators who have shut shop and
  • prefixing zero for all mobile calls made from fixed line

Issues with 11 digit number

  • TRAI said that some serious problems are anticipated with a change in the mobile number from 10 to 11 digits.
  • Migrating to 11 digits would require widespread modifications in the configuration of switches involving cost.
  • This would also cause inconvenience to the customers in the form of dialling extra digits and updating phone memory.
  • This could lead to more dialling errors, traffic, and loss of revenue to telecom operators.

Still, why need a plan as such?

  • The total number of telephone subscribers in India stands at 1,177.02 million with a teledensity of 87.45% at the end of January 2020.
  • This increasing digitization would pave the way towards the dream of digital India and mobile economy.
  • Thus, it has become necessary to review the utilization of numbering resources in the country.
  • Considering the above scenario the implementation of the TRAI’s recommendation with solutions to possible issues would help for sustainable growth of the telecommunication services.
  • Hence TRAI needs to review the utilization of the numbering resources and make some policy decisions to ensure that adequate resources are available for sustainable growth of the telecom services.

Back2Basics: Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI)

  • The TRAI is a statutory body set up under section 3 of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Act, 1997.
  • It is the regulator of the telecommunications and its tariffs in India.
  • The TRAI Act was amended by an ordinance, effective from 24 January 2000, establishing a Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) to take over the adjudicatory and disputes functions from TRAI.
  • TRAI regularly issues orders and directions on various subjects such as tariffs, interconnections, quality of service, DTH services and mobile number portability.

G20 : Economic Cooperation ahead

G-7

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : G-20, G-7 members

Mains level : Significance of the these groups of counries and their say in global economy

Calling the existing Group of Seven (G-7) club a “very outdated group of countries”, US Prez. Trump said that he wanted to include India, Russia, South Korea, and Australia in the group.

Note the members of G7 and G20. UPSC may puzzle you asking which G20 nation isn’t a member of G7.

The Group of 7

  • The G-7 or ‘Group of Seven’ includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
  • It is an intergovernmental organisation that was formed in 1975 by the top economies of the time as an informal forum to discuss pressing world issues.
  • Initially, it was formed as an effort by the US and its allies to discuss economic issues.
  • The G-7 forum now discusses several challenges such as oil prices and many pressing issues such as financial crises, terrorism, arms control, and drug trafficking.
  • It does not have a formal constitution or a fixed headquarters. The decisions taken by leaders during annual summits are non-binding.
  • Canada joined the group in 1976, and the European Union began attending in 1977.

Evolution of the G-7

  • When it started in 1975—with six members, Canada joining a year later—it represented about 70% of the world economy.
  • And it was a cosy club for tackling issues such as the response to oil shocks.
  • Now it accounts for about 40% of global gdp.
  • Since the global financial crisis of 2007-09 it has sometimes been overshadowed by the broader g20.
  • The G-7 became the G-8 in 1997 when Russia was invited to join.
  • In 2014, Russia was debarred after it took over Crimea.

Expelling Russia

  • The G-7 was known as the ‘G-8’ for several years after the original seven were joined by Russia in 1997.
  • The Group returned to being called G-7 after Russia was expelled as a member in 2014 following the latter’s annexation of the Crimea region of Ukraine.
  • Since his election in 2016, President Trump has suggested on several occasions that Russia be added again, given what he described as Moscow’s global strategic importance.

Why Trump wants to expand the G7 group?

1.Joint  front against China

  •  The expanded G7 is seen as an attempt by the US to form a joint front against China.
  • The US President has stepped up his criticism of the Asian powerhouse over a range of issues, from initially holding back information on the coronavirus outbreak to its actions on Taiwan and changes in Hong Kong’s special status.

2.Pressure  from G7 countries

  • Another reason is Trump has faced heat from other G7 members in the last two summits, for various controversial decisions taken by him such as pulling out from trade deals, the Iran nuclear deal as well as the Paris climate pact.
  • Trump’s “America First” policy and his attacks on key US allies over various trade and economic issues have created faultlines within the grouping.

3.Add more weight to the grouping’s profile. 

The participation and eventual inclusion of Australia, South Korea, Russia (not favoured by the UK) and India could certainly add more weight to the grouping’s profile.

Why G7 needs a revival?

  • The rise of India, China, and Brazil over the past few decades has reduced the G-7’s relevance, whose share in global GDP has now fallen to around 40%.

Relevance of G7 for India

  • India will get more voice, more influence and more power by entering the G7.
  • After UN Security Council (UNSC), this is the most influential grouping.
  • If the group is expanded it will collectively address the humongous issues created by the Wuhan virus,
  • Diplomatically, a seat at the high table could help New Delhi further its security and foreign policy interests, especially at the nuclear club and UN Security Council reform as well as protecting its interests in the Indian Ocean.

Challenges in India’s entry

1.Lack of consensus:

  • The decision to expand the grouping cannot be taken by the US alone.
  • Other members such as the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Canada, have to not only agree to Trump’s proposal to expand the grouping but also on the new members that he wants to add, said a diplomatic source of one of the G7 member countries.

2.Upset China:

  • China is upset at the plans to expand the G7, stating that such actions will result in the creation of a “small circle” against Beijing and thus such a plan is “doomed to fail”.
  • China will put pressure on G-7 countries

Discipline China, not isolate it

  • Trump’s motivation in expanding the G-7 to include India and Russia while keeping China out is transparent.
  • If keeping China out was not the intention, the G-7 could easily have dissolved themselves and revitalised the presently inert G-20.
  • There are, of course, good reasons why Xi Jinping’s China requires to be put on notice for its various acts of omission and commission and disrespect for international law.
  • However, disciplining China is one thing, isolating it quite another.
  • If the new group is viewed as yet another arrow in the China containment quiver, it would place India and most other members of the group in a spot.
  • Everyone wants China disciplined, few would like to be seen seeking its isolation.
  • Asia needs a law-abiding China, not a sullen China.
  • Japan and Australia, have serious concerns about China’s behaviour.
  • But they may not like the new group to be viewed purely as an anti-China gang-up.
  • That may well be the case with South Korea too.
  • Indeed, even India should tread cautiously.
  • India has more issues with China than most others in the group, spanning across economic and national security issues and yet it should seek a disciplined China, not an isolated one.

So, what should be on the agenda of the new group?

  • The proposed expanded G7 group should define its agenda in terms that would encourage China to return to the pre-Xi era of global good behaviour.
  • The G-7 came into being in the mid-1970s against the background of shocks to the global financial and energy markets.
  • The G-12(proposed expanded group)  would come into being against the background of a global economic crisis and the disruption to global trade caused both by protectionism and a pandemic.
  • The two items on the next summit agenda would have to be the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the rising tide of protectionism and mercantilism and the global economic slowdown.
  • The summit will have to come forward with some international dos and don’ts to deal with the challenge posed by these disruptions.
  • New rules should apply to both the US and China: These new rules of international conduct would have to apply to both China and the US.
  • Widening the agenda: To be able to alter China’s behaviour without isolating it, the expanded group will have to widen their agenda.
  • Widening involves going beyond the purely economic issues that the G-7 originally focused on, and include climate change, health care and human rights.

Back2Basics: The G-20

  • The G-20 is a larger group of countries, which also includes G7 members.
  • The G-20 was formed in 1999, in response to a felt need to bring more countries on board to address global economic concerns.
  • Apart from the G-7 countries, the G-20 comprises Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, and Turkey.
  • Together, the G-20 countries make up around 80% of the world’s economy.
  • As opposed to the G-7, which discusses a broad range of issues, deliberations at the G-20 are confined to those concerning the global economy and financial markets.
  • India is slated to host a G-20 summit in 2022.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

THAAD defence system

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : THAAD defence system

Mains level : THAAD and its features to define geopolitics

China has issued a statement reiterating its long-standing objections to the presence of the US THAAD missile defence system in South Korea.

Try this question from CSP 2018:

Q. What is “Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD)”, sometimes seen in the news?

(a) An Israeli radar system

(b) India’s indigenous anti-missile programme

(c) An American anti-missile system

(d) A defence collaboration between Japan and South Korea

What is THAAD?

  • THAAD is an acronym for Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, a transportable, ground-based missile defence system.
  • It is coupled with space-based and ground-based surveillance stations, which transfer data about the incoming missile and informs the THAAD interceptor missile of the threat type classification.
  • THAAD is alarmed about incoming missiles by space-based satellites with infrared sensors.
  • This anti-ballistic missile defence system has been designed and manufactured by the US company Lockheed Martin. South Korea is not the only country with the THAAD missile defence system.
  • It has been previously deployed in the UAE, Guam, Israel and Romania.

The South Korea-China controversy over THAAD

  • In South Korea, the THAAD missile defence system is operated by the US army stationed in the country.
  • The US had previously announced that the deployment of this missile defence system was a countermeasure against potential attacks by North Korea, particularly after the country had engaged in testing ballistic missiles.
  • In 2017, matters escalated in the Korean Peninsula after North Korea test-fired a few missiles in the direction of US bases in Japan.
  • Following this incident, the US amended its plans and moved the systems to its army base in Osan, South Korea while the final deployment site was being prepared.
  • These moves by the US and by extension, South Korea, particularly angered China.

China’s reservations against THAAD

  • China’s opposition has little to do with the missiles itself and is more about the system’s inbuilt advanced radar systems that could track China’s actions.
  • The controversy also has much to do with the geopolitics and complex conflicts in East Asia, with the US having a presence in the region particularly through its many military bases in Japan and South Korea.
  • According to some observers of East Asia, China believes the US exerts influence over South Korea and Japan and may interfere with Beijing’s long-term military, diplomatic and economic interests in the region.
  • The US and South Korea have consistently maintained that these missiles are only to counter potential threats by North Korea.
  • South Korea also issued a statement saying the number of missiles had not increased but had only been replaced with newer versions.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-United States

The 5G Club ‘D10’

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : D10 Club

Mains level : Not Much

Britain said that it was pushing the U.S. to form a club of 10 nations that could develop its own 5G technology and reduce dependence on Huawei.

We can expect prelims question asking the purpose of the D10 group like-

Q. The D10 Club recently seen in news is a- Environment NGO/ Group of Democracies/ etc.

The D10 Club

  • The Britain is proposing a ‘D10’ club of democratic partners that groups the G7 nations with Australia and the Asian technology leaders South Korea and India.
  • It would include G7 countries – UK, US, Italy, Germany, France, Japan and Canada – plus Australia, South Korea and India.
  • It is aimed for channelling investments into existing telecommunication companies within the 10 member states.
  • The group aim to create alternative suppliers of 5G equipment and other technologies to avoid relying on China.

Ruling out Huawei

  • Britain has allowed the Chinese global leader in 5G technology to build up to 35% of the infrastructure necessary to roll out its new speedy data network.
  • But their PM Boris Johnson was reported to have instructed officials to draw up plans to cut Huawei out of the network by 2023 as relations with China sour.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

In news: Dibru-Saikhowa National Park (DSNP)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Dibru-Saikhowa National Park

Mains level : NA

The Oil India Ltd (OIL) leak in Assam has contaminated water bodies that flow into the Maguri Motapung Beel, a large wetland, and the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park (DSNP).

Try this PYQ from CSP 2019:

Q. Which of the following are in Agasthyamala Biosphere Reserve?

(a) Neyyar, Peppara and Shendurney Wildlife Sanctuaries; and Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve

(b) Mudumalai, Sathyamangalam and Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuaries; and Silent Valley National Park

(c) Kaundinya, Gundla Brahme-swaram and Papikonda Wildlife Sanctuaries; and Mukurthi National Park

(d) Kawal and Sri Venkateswara Wildlife Sanctuaries; and Nagarjunasagar-Srisailam Tiger Reserve

About Dibru-Saikhowa National Park

  • DSNP is a national park in Assam located in Dibrugarh and Tinsukia districts.
  • It was designated a Biosphere Reserve in July 1997 with an area of 765 sq.km.
  • The park is bounded by the Brahmaputra and Lohit Rivers in the north and Dibru river in the south.
  • It mainly consists of moist mixed semi-evergreen forests, moist mixed deciduous forests, canebrakes and grasslands.
  • It is the largest Salix swamp forest in north-eastern India, with a tropical monsoon climate with a hot and wet summer and cool and usually dry winter.

New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Species in news: Band-tail Scorpionfish

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Band-tail scorpionfish

Mains level : NA

A rare band-tail scorpionfish was recently found in the Gulf of Mannar.

A stand-alone species being mentioned in the news for the first time (and that too from Southern India) find their way into the prelims. Make special note here. Usually, note the species and its habitat location (IUCN status if available), in the purview of a generic prelims question.

Band-tail scorpionfish

  • The band-tail scorpionfish (Scorpaenospsis neglecta) camouflages within the seagrass meadows.
  • It is well-known for its stinging venomous spines and ability to change colour.
  • The fish has the ability to change colour and blend with its surrounding environment to escape from predators and while preying.
  • The fish is called ‘scorpionfish’ because its spines contain neurotoxic venom.