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September 2020

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

India needs an internationalism that is rooted in realism


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- Evolution of India's approach to Asian regionalism and internationalism

The article analyses India’s approach towards regional integration in Asian unity and internationalism and its consequences.

Clash between internationalism and nationalism

  • Three current developments reveal the clash between grandiose internationalism and the intractable nationalism.
  • 1) India pulled out of the military exercise of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, which was to herald a new era of Eurasian unity.
  • Sharpening contradictions between India and China comes in the way of uniting such a large geopolitical space.
  • 2) Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s claim to leadership of the Muslim world that has run into resistance from a large section of the Arab rulers.
  • 3) The tension between the globalism of the US foreign policy establishment and Donald Trump’s “America First” nationalism.

Internationalism and threats to it

  • Western liberalism has had more power than anyone else to promote internationalism.
  • But the liberal internationalist effort at constructing supra-national institutions now faces big setbacks.
  • The greatest resistance to the liberal internationalist vision has not come within the US.
  • Trump channelled the American resentments against the globalist excesses of the Wall Street, Washington and the Silicon Valley.

India’s nationalism

  • Indian nationalism was inevitably influenced by liberal internationalism, socialism, communism, pan-Islamism, pan-Asianism and Third-Worldism to name a few.
  • Both the Asian Relations Conference (Delhi 1947) and the Afro-Asian Conference (Bandung 1955) showed up the deep differences among the Asian elites.
  • India then turned its back on Asianism to claim the leadership of the broader Non-Aligned Movement.
  • After the Cold War, India re-embraced Asianism in the 1990s when it unveiled the Look East Policy.
  • India also joined the Asian regional institutions led by the Association of South-East Asian Nations.

RCEP joining issue

  • Few could have anticipated that Delhi would walk out of one of the most consequential agreements negotiated by the ASEAN — the RCEP — that sought Asia-wide economic integration.
  • Delhi believed that the contradiction between India’s domestic commercial interests and a China-led Asian economic regionalism was irreconcilable.

India’s approach toward Asian regionalism

  • Eurasian regionalism led by Moscow and Beijing is also facing tensions and there is deepening conflict between Indian and Chinese interests.
  • India’s diplomatic finesse on the SCO has become increasingly unsustainable after Chinese aggression in eastern Ladakh.
  • India underestimated the economic and political consequences of China’s rapid rise while seeking economic regionalism in East Asia and the multi-polar world with Russia and China.
  • India took a benign view of Chinese power and has been shocked to discover otherwise in 1962 and in 2020.


India today needs more internationalism, than less, in dealing with the Chinese power. But it must be an internationalism that is rooted in realism and tethered to India’s economic and national security priorities.

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

Thinking of new recovery path


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Extended producer responsibility

Mains level : Paper 3- Coupling growth and environmental protection

Growth and environmental protection are not the polar opposites of each other. The article analyses the issue of balancing the two and using pandemic as an opportunity to evolve novel recovery path.

Pandemic: opportunity to new recovery path

  • The pandemic presents an opportunity for us to think of a new recovery path, one that can decouple economic growth and environmental degradation.
  • It becomes more important as India sees opportunities on the global call to diversify the supply chain and its internal call for Atmanirbhar Bharat.
  • For that, we need to strengthen our production and manufacturing capabilities.

Issue of regulatory infrastructure

  • Monitoring and implementing environmental regulations is the biggest challenge we face.
  • Take the municipal solid waste rules.
  • Two decades after the regulations came into effect, their status not in good shape.
  • A comparatively recent regulation, centred around Extended Producer Responsibility, has also posed challenges in monitoring and implementation.
  • In a recent ruling, the judiciary not only ruled against the industry but also blamed officials responsible for implementing the regulations.

Focus on implementation and monitoring

  •  In the long run, diluting regulatory norms will create more adverse impacts resulting in greater community upsurge.
  • The focus has to be to improve the system’s capabilities to monitor and implement regulatory requirements.
  • There needs to be greater transparency and accountability; there is no dearth of technology to facilitate this.
  • The intention and capacity to take action, rectify and diffuse is critical.
  • The right ecosystem between the industry, community and regulator is crucial.
  • If the three stakeholders remain isolated and get activated only in a crisis, we will not make any progress towards solving the issue.

Way forward

  • We need to couple growth and environmental protection.
  • Environmental health will be the key enabler of socio-economic growth in the future.
  • Industry needs to realise that it is a part of an ecosystem and not at the centre of it.
  • Communities get impacted, either positively or negatively,  they need to empower themselves through education, so that they are not driven by the agenda of individuals with vested interests.
  • We have a challenge in implementing environmental regulations.
  • The community does not trust that the industry is meeting its compliance requirements, so, the regulatory system’s role is to improve this trust quotient.


As we plan our recovery past the pandemic, we have a good chance to create a new normal. We need to align towards a common cause and goals. We should not miss this chance.

Goods and Services Tax (GST)

GST reforms and compensation issue


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : GST

Mains level : Paper 3- GST compensation issue and reforms needed

The GST compensation issue raises the need for reform in the system. The article discusses this issue and suggests reform.


  • Three years ago, the Centre and the States of the Union of India struck a grand bargain resulting in GST.
  • The States gave up their right to collect sales tax and sundry taxes, and the Centre gave up excise and services tax. 

Issue of compensation

  • Consent of the states was secured by a promise of reimbursing any shortfall in tax revenues for a period of five years.
  • This reimbursement was to be funded by a special cess called the GST compensation cess. 
  • The promised reimbursement was to fill the gap for an assured 14% year on year tax growth for five years.

Why is the Centre denying GST compensation

  • As the economy battles a pandemic and recession, the tax collection has dropped significantly.
  • At the same time, expenditure needs are sharply higher at the State level.
  • Using an equivalent of the Force Majeure clause in commercial contracts, the Centre is abdicating its responsibility of making up for the shortfall in 14% growth in GST revenues to the states.

Why Central government is wrong in denying the compensation

  •  1) The States do not have recourse to multiple options that the Centre has.[like sovereign bond or a loan against public sector unit shares from the Reserve Bank of India]
  • 2) The Centre can get loans at lower rates of borrowing from the markets as compared to the States.
  • 3) In terms of aggregate public sector borrowing, it does not matter for the debt markets, nor the rating agencies, whether it is the States or the Centre that is increasing their indebtedness.
  • 4) Fighting this recession through increased fiscal stimulus is basically the job of macroeconomic stabilisation, which is the Centre’s domain.
  • 5) Using the alibi of the COVID-19 pandemic causes a serious dent in the trust built up between the Centre and States.
  • It will weaken the foundation of cooperative federalism.

Reforms needed

  • GST is a destination-based consumption tax, which must include all goods and services with very few exceptions.
  • That widening of the tax base itself will allow us to go back to the original recommendation of a standard rate of 12%, to be fixed for at least a five-year period.
  • Some extra elbow room for the States’ revenue autonomy could be allowed by States non VATable surcharges on a small list of “sin” goods.
  • In the long term there are many changes in consumption patterns, production configurations and locations, which cannot be anticipated and hence a static concept of Revenue Neutral Rate cannot be reference.
  • The commitment to a low and stable rate is a must.
  • We must recognise the increasing importance of the third tier of government. 
  • After 28 years of the 73rd and 74th Amendments, the local governments do not have the promised transfer of funds, functions and functionaries.
  • Of the 12% GST, 10% should be equally shared between the States and the Centre, and 2% must be earmarked exclusively for the urban and rural local bodies.
  • Fresh approach also calls for an overhaul of the interstate GST and the administration of the e-way bill.

Consider the question “Discuss the issue related to GST compensation to the States by the Central government. Suggest the measures changes in the GST regime to deal with flaws.”


GST is a crucial and long-term structural reform which can address the fiscal needs of the future, strike the right and desired balance to achieve co-operative federalism and also lead to enhanced economic growth. The current design and implementation has failed to deliver on that promise. A new grand bargain is needed.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Japan

Supply Chain Resilience Initiative (SCRI)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : SCRI

Mains level : Global trade tensions with China and its repercussions

With COVID-19 and trade tensions between China and the US threatening supply chains or actually causing bottlenecks, Japan has mooted the Supply Chain Resilience Initiative (SCRI) as a trilateral approach to trade, with India and Australia as the other two partners.

Q.Discuss the efficacy of the idea of Supply Chain Resilience Initiative (SCRI) initiaited by Japan.

What is Supply Chain Resilience (SCR)?

  • In the context of international trade, SCR is an approach that helps a country to ensure that it has diversified its supply risk across a clutch of supplying nations instead of being dependent on just one or a few.
  • Unanticipated events whether natural or man-made that disrupt supplies from a particular country or even intentional halts to trade, could adversely impact economic activity in the destination country.

What is Japan proposing?

  • The pandemic has brought into sharp focus the assembly lines which are heavily dependent on supplies from one country.
  • While Japan exported $135 billion worth of goods to China in 2019, it also imported $169 billion worth from the world’s second-largest economy, accounting for 24% of its total imports.
  • So, any halt to supplies could potentially impair economic activity in Japan.
  • In addition, the U.S.-China trade tensions have caused alarm in Japanese trade circles for a while now.
  • If the world’s two largest economies do not resolve their differences, it could threaten globalisation as a whole and have a major impact on Japan.
  • It is heavily reliant on international trade both for markets for its exports and for supplies of a range of primary goods from oil to iron ore.

Japan eyeing India as a partner for the SCRI

  • Japan is the fourth-largest investor in India with cumulative FDIs touching $33.5 billion in the 2000-2020 periods.
  • It accounts for 7.2% of inflows in that period, according to quasi-government agency India Invest.
  • Imports from Japan into India more than doubled over 12 years to $12.8 billion in FY19. Exports from India to the world’s third-largest economy stood at $4.9 billion that year, data from the agency showed.
  • It is a clear reflection that the two countries are unlikely to allow individual cases to cloud an otherwise long-standing and deepening trade relationship.

Where does Australia stand?

  • Australia, Japan and India are already part of another informal grouping, the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or the Quad, which includes the U.S.
  • Media reports indicate that China has been Australia’s largest trading partner and that it counts for 32.6% of Australia’s exports, with iron ore, coal and gas dominating the products shipped to Asia’s largest economy.
  • But relations including trade ties between the two have been deteriorating for a while now.
  • China banned beef imports from four Australian firms in May and levied import tariffs on Australian barley.

India’s stand to gain or lose

  • Following the border tensions, partners such as Japan have sensed that India may be ready for dialogue on alternative supply chains.
  • Earlier, India would have done little to overtly antagonize China. But an internal push to suddenly cut links with China would be impractical.
  • China’s share of imports into India in 2018 stood at 14.5%. It supplies dominate segments of the Indian economy.
  • Sectors that have been impacted by supply chain issues arising out of the pandemic include pharmaceuticals, automotive parts, electronics, shipping, chemicals and textiles.
  • Over time, if India enhances self-reliance or works with exporting nations other than China, it could build resilience into the economy’s supply networks.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

What is Carbon-14 (C14) Battery?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : C-14, Carbon Dating

Mains level : Scientific management of nuclear waste and its disposal

A California-based company has made a self-charging battery, which can run for 28,000 years on a single charge, by trapping carbon-14 (C14) nuclear waste in artificial diamond-case.

Try this PYQ:

Q.The known forces of nature can be divided into four classes, viz. gravity, electromagnetism, weak nuclear force and strong nuclear force. With reference to them, which one of the following statements is not correct?

(a) Gravity is the strongest of the four

(b) Electromagnetism act only on particles with an electric charge

(c) Weak nuclear force causes radioactivity

(d) Strong nuclear force holds protons and neutrons inside the nuclear of an atom.

What is C14?

  • Carbon-14 (14C), or radiocarbon, is a radioactive isotope of carbon with an atomic nucleus containing 6 protons and 8 neutrons.
  • There are three naturally occurring isotopes of carbon on Earth: carbon-12, which makes up 99% of all carbon on Earth; carbon-13, which makes up 1%; and carbon-14, which occurs in trace amounts.
  • Its presence in organic materials is the basis of the radiocarbon dating method pioneered by Willard Libby and colleagues (1949) to date archaeological, geological and hydrogeological samples.

C14 battery

  • The battery works by generating electricity on its own from a shower of electrons as a result of radioactive decay scattered and deposited in the artificial diamond-case.
  • The battery can be used in electric vehicles, mobile phones, laptops, tablets, drones, watches, cameras, health monitors and even sensors.
  • It is also said to be extremely safe and tamper-proof as it is coated with a non-radioactive diamond which prevents radiation leaks.

Best example of nuke waste recycling

  • It is estimated that 33 million cubic metres of global nuclear waste will cost over $100 billion to manage and dispose of.
  • And a lot of this waste is graphite that is one of the higher risks of radioactive waste and one of the most expensive and problematic waste to store.

Its applications

  • The company says its battery can be used to powerhouses, and that any excess electricity generated can be sold to the grid.
  • As the new battery need not be replaced, it can be installed in hard to reach places like pacemakers and implants, where a regular change of battery is not possible.
  • Another area of use is space electronics. The battery is said to power space equipment in rockets.
  • It can power the electrical needs of space crafts, like providing power to cockpits and assisting launch into the upper atmosphere.

Historical and Archaeological Findings in News

Renati Chola Era Inscription


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Renati Cholas, Chola Administration

Mains level : Not Much

A rare inscription dating back to the Renati Chola era has been unearthed in a remote village of Kadapa district of Andhra Pradesh.

Try this PYQ:

Q.In the context of the history of India, consider the following pairs:

Term: Description

  1. Eripatti: Land revenue from which was set apart for the maintenance of the village tank
  2. Taniyurs: Villages donated to a single Brahmin or a group of Brahmins
  3. Ghatikas: Colleges generally attached to the temples

Which of the pairs given above is/are correctly matched?

(a) 1 and 2

(b) 3 only

(c) 2 and 3

(d) 1 and 3

Who are the Renati Cholas?

  • The Telugu Cholas of Renadu (also called as Renati Cholas) ruled over Renadu region, the present-day Kadapa district.
  • They were originally independent, later forced to the suzerainty of the Eastern Chalukyas.
  • They had the unique honour of using the Telugu language in their inscriptions belonging to the 6th and 8th centuries.
  • The earliest of this family was Nandivarman (500 AD) who claimed descent from the family of Karikala and the Kasyapa gotra.
  • He had three sons Simhavishnu, Sundarananda and Dhananjaya, all of whom were ruling different territories simultaneously.
  • The family seems to have had its origin in Erigal in the Tunmkur district, situated in the border between Pallava and Kadamba regions.

About the inscription

  • The inscription so found was engraved on a dolomite slab and shale.
  • The inscription was written in archaic Telugu which is readable in 25 lines — the first side with eleven lines and the remaining on the other side.
  • It was assigned to the 8th Century A.D. when the region was under the rule of Chola Maharaja of Renadu.
  • The inscription seems to throw light on the record of a gift of six Marttus (a measuring unit) of land gifted to a person Sidyamayu, one of the Brahmins serving the temple at Pidukula village.
  • It says the people who safeguard this inscription for future generations will acquire the status of conducting Aswamedha Yajna and those destroying it will incur sin equivalent to causing death in Varanasi.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Russia

Exercise Kavkaz 2020


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Exercise Kavkaz 2020

Mains level : Not Much

India has turned down Russia’s invitation to participate in the multilateral defence exercise Kavkaz 2020.

Go through the list for once. UPSC may ask a match the pair type question asking exercise name and countries involved.

Exercise Kavkaz 2020

  • The Kavkaz 2020 is also referred to as Caucasus-2020.
  • The exercise is aimed at assessing the ability of the armed forces to ensure military security in Russia’s southwest, where serious terrorist threats persist and preparing for the strategic command-staff drills.
  • The main training grounds that will be involved are located in the Southern Military District.
  • The invitation for participation has been extended to at least 18 countries including China, Iran, Pakistan and Turkey apart from other Central Asian Republics part of the SCO.

Why didn’t India participate?

  • While it is learned that China has confirmed its participation, Pakistan is also likely to send its troops for the exercise.
  • In the response communicated to Russia, New Delhi cited Covid-19 as the official reason to skip ‘Exercise Kavkaz 2020’.
  • The move comes in the backdrop of a border standoff with China in eastern Ladakh.

Earlier instances

  • Exercise Tsentr last year had the participation of India, Pakistan and all Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) member-nations.
  • India had participated in SCO peace mission exercise in 2018, and in 2019, for the first time, was involved in a strategic command and staff exercise as part of Exercise Tsentr.

Historical and Archaeological Findings in News

[pib] Historic City of Hampi


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Hampi

Mains level : Vijayanagara Architecture

The Ministry of Tourism organised their latest webinar titled Hampi- Inspired by the past; Going into the future under Dekho Apna Desh Webinar series.

Try this PYQ:

Q.Building ‘Kalyaana Mandapas’ was a notable feature in the temple construction in the kingdom of-

(a) Chalukya

(b) Chandela

(c) Rashtrakuta

(d) Vijayanagara

Facts about Hampi

  • Its name is derived from Pampa which is the old name of the Tungabhadra River on whose banks the city is built.
  • In 1336 CE, the Vijayanagara Empire arose from the ruins of the Kampili kingdom.
  • It grew into one of the famed Hindu empires of South India that ruled for over 200 years.
  • The Vijayanagara rulers fostered developments in intellectual pursuits and the arts, maintained a strong military and fought many wars with sultanates to its north and east.
  • They invested in roads, waterworks, agriculture, religious buildings and public infrastructure.
  • The site used to be multi-religious and multi-ethnic; it included Hindu and Jain monuments next to each other.
  • The buildings predominantly followed South Indian Hindu arts and architecture dating to the Aihole-Pattadakal styles.
  • The Hampi builders also used elements of Indo-Islamic architecture in the Lotus Mahal, the public bath and the elephant stables.

Major attractions

  • One of the major attractions of Hampi is the 15th Century Virupaksha temple which is one of the oldest monuments of the town.
  • The main shrine is dedicated to Virupaksha, a form of Lord Shiva.
  • Hemkunta Hill, south of the Virupaksha temple contains early ruins, Jain temples and a monolithic sculpture of Lord Narasimha, a form of Lord Vishnu.
  • At the eastern end, there is the large Nandi in stone; on the southern side is the larger than life Ganesha.
  • Large single stone carvings seem to have been the fashion of the day in Hampi, for there is a large image of Narasimha (6.7m high), the half-lion half-man incarnation of God, as well as a huge linga.