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The national security discourse is changing

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR)

Mains level : Paper 3- Interplay between national security and domestic policies

Context

From a rising China to the pressures of climate change; from the challenges of counter-terrorism to the COVID-19 pandemic (the four Cs), the old order is collapsing much faster than the ability of nations to create the foundations of a new one.

The reduced difference between the domestic and foreign policy of the  U.S.

  • The idea that foreign and domestic policies are tightly intertwined is not a novel one.
  • All serious grand strategic thinking in democracies looks for sustenance in popular public support.
  • A process that was started by former U.S. President Donald Trump has been taken forward by the Biden Administration.
  • Asserting that “foreign policy is domestic policy and domestic policy is foreign policy,” the new administration has suggested that their task is to re-imagine American national security for the unprecedented combination of crises they face at home and abroad.
  • These crises include the pandemic, the economic crisis, the climate crisis, technological disruption, threats to democracy, racial injustice, and inequality in all forms”.
  • There is a growing bipartisan acknowledgment in the U.S. today that the requirements of American national security today are different from what they were during the Cold War.
  • Today’s strategic environment requires a different response for national security: one that shores up domestic industrial base helps in maintaining pre-eminence in critical technologies, makes supply chains for critical goods more resilient, protects critical infrastructure from cyberattacks and responds with a sense of urgency to climate change.

Indian situation: Dependence on the external supply chain is the national security challenge

  • In India too, there is greater recognition of the challenges emanating on national security from domestic vulnerabilities.
  • Dependence on Chinese manufacturing: One of the most significant consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic has been to reveal how deeply India has been dependent on Chinese manufacturing for critical supplies.
  • At a time when Indian armed forces were facing the People’s Liberation Army, this exposed India to a new realization that dependence on overseas supply chains is a national security challenge of the highest order.
  • Dimensions of national security: The Indian Army chief has argued that “national security comprises not only warfare and defence but also financial security, health security, food security, energy security, and environmental security apart from information security”.

Way forward for India

  • Shore up domestic capacities: India has since moved towards increasing domestic capacities in critical areas and also started looking at free trade agreements through a new lens.
  • Whole-of-government approach: Army Chief had suggested that instead of viewing national security “primarily from the perspective of an armed conflict, there is a need to take a whole-of-government approach towards security”.
  • Investment in armed forces: The Army chief has pointed out that investment in the armed forces contributes to the national economy.
  • Therefore, indigenization of defence procurement provides an impetus to indigenous industries, aid to civil authorities, or Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR).
  • Demand for hi-tech military products by the armed forces helps entire industries.
  • Transportation and logistics capacities of the armed forces are acting as force enablers for the Government in times of emergencies.

Consider the question “The idea that foreign and domestic policies are tightly intertwined is not a novel one. In light of this, examine the challenges facing India’s national security that are linked with its domestic vulnerability. Suggest the ways forward.”

Conclusion

As nations across the world reconceptualise their strategic priorities, policymakers will need to think more creatively about the roles of various instruments of statecraft. National security thinking is undergoing a shift. India cannot be left behind.

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Foreign Policy Watch: India-Afghanistan

The fall of Afghanistan, the fallout in West Asia

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Geopolitical dynamics with Taliban's formation of legitimate govt

Three weeks after they walked into Kabul without any resistance, the Taliban now has announced an interim Council of Ministers.

Chord with Pakistan: Crowing of its puppets

  • Pakistan appears to have got its way. This government formation has tightly controlled the head of its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
  • Afghanistan’s acting PM is Mullah Hassan Akhund, a close associate of former Taliban founder Mullah Omar.
  • Abdul Ghani Baradar is his deputy, but again, this could be a token position.
  • Baradar had been arrested in 2010 by the Pakistanis for pursuing a dialogue with the Hamid Karzai government without Pakistani sanction and jailed for eight years.
  • Pakistan’s true proteges are Sirajuddin Haqqani, the acting interior minister, and Mohammed Yaqoob, the acting defence minister, a son of Mullah Omar, who is also close to Haqqani.

The West Asian players

Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Iran have been direct role-players in Afghan affairs for over 25 years.

  • Sheikhdom involvement: In the 1990s, the first two were supporters and sources of funding for the Taliban, while Iran was an antagonist. After 9/11, all three countries became deeply involved with the Taliban. Since 2005, the Gulf sheikhdoms have contributed millions of dollars to different Taliban leaders and factions.
  • Iran’s defiance of the US: Iran began a substantial engagement with various Taliban leaders from 2007 and provided funding, weapons, training and refuge when required. It wanted the Taliban to maintain pressure on the U.S. forces to ensure their speedy departure from the country.
  • Regional competition: In the 2010s, when the US began to engage with Iran on the nuclear issue, Saudi Arabia became more directly involved in Afghan matters to prevent Iran’s expanding influence among Taliban groups. Thus, besides Syria and Yemen, Iran and Saudi Arabia have also made Afghanistan an arena for their regional competitions.
  • Earliest acknowledgment of the Taliban: In 2012, Qatar, on U.S. request, allowed the Taliban to open an office in Doha as a venue for their dialogue with the Americans. This has made Qatar an influential player in Afghan affairs, with deep personal ties with several leaders, many of whom keep their families in Doha.

Competitions for influence

The low-key reactions of the Gulf countries to recent developments in Kabul reflect the uncertainties relating to the Taliban in power.

Nature of the govt: Their ability to remain united, their policies relating to human rights, and, above all, whether the Taliban will again make their country a sanctuary for extremist groups.

Fractionalization within terror groups: The country already has several thousand foreign fighters, whose ranks could swell with extremists coming in from Iraq and Syria, and threaten the security of all neighbouring states.

Three sets of regional players are active in Afghanistan today:

  1. Pakistan-Saudi coalition: This has been the principal source of support for the Taliban-at-war. They would like to remain influential in the new order, but neither would like to see the Taliban revert to their practices of the 1990s that had justifiably appalled the global community.
  2. Turkey and Qatar: They represent the region’s Islamist coalition and, thus, share an ideological kinship with the Taliban. Both would like to see a moderate and inclusive administration.
  3. Iran: While many of its hardliners are overjoyed at the U.S. “defeat”, more reflective observers recall the earlier Taliban emirate which was viscerally hostile to Shias and Iran. Iran also sees itself as the guardian of the Tajik, Uzbek and Hazara minorities in the country.

Options Available: The outlook for security

Linking with Israel-Palestine Conflict: The region now has two options: one, an Israel-centric security order in which the Arab Gulf states would link themselves with Israel to confront Iran. This is being actively promoted by Israeli hawks since it would tie Israel with neighbouring Arab states without having to concede anything to meet Palestinian aspirations.

Comprehensive regional security arrangement: The other option is more ambitious: The facilitators and guarantors of this security arrangement are likely to be China and Russia: over the last few years, both have built close relations with the major states of the region. i.e., Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Consensus to ward away the US

  • The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states led by Saudi Arabia lifted the over three-year blockade of Qatar.
  • The discussions between Iran and Saudi Arabia and plans are in place for the next meetings.
  • Turkey has initiated diplomatic overtures towards Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
  • None of these initiatives involves the Americans.

Conclusion: A new order is in making

  • These developments suggest that the germ of a new regional security order in West Asia is already sown in fertile ground.

Way forward for India

  • The Indian policies are at a crossroads. Continued bandwagoning with the US makes no sense.
  • Indian diplomacy should harmonize with the regional capitals, including Beijing, which can be a natural ally on issues of terrorism.
  • The bottom line is that India’s vital interests remain to be secured.
  • Demonizing the Taliban can only be counterproductive.

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Foreign Policy Watch: India – Germany

 How India and Germany can work together to tackle climate change?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : India-Germany relations

Both nations, India and Germany with innovative economies and many highly-trained people can tackle the climate challenge.

India-Germany Relations: A backgrounder

Freedom struggle: Subhas Chandra Bose, a prominent freedom fighter for Indian independence, made a determined effort to obtain India’s independence from Britain by seeking military assistance from the Axis powers. The Indische Legion was formed to serve as a liberation force for British-ruled India principally made up of Indian prisoners of war.

Diplomacy: India maintained diplomatic relations with both West Germany and East Germany and supported their reunification in 1990. Contrary to France and the UK, Germany has no strategic footprint in Asia.

Past contentions: Germany condemned India for liberating Goa from Portuguese rule in 1961 and supported Portugal’s dictatorial regime under Salazar against India. It was critical of India for intervening in the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War.  It rejected India’s 1998 nuclear tests.

Quest for UNSC: India and Germany both seek to become permanent members of the UNSC and have joined with Japan and Brazil to coordinate their efforts via the G4 collective.

Cultural ties: Germany has supported education and cultural programs in India. Germany helped establish the IIT Madras after both governments signed an agreement in 1956 and increased its cooperation and supply of technology and resources over the decades to help expand the institution

Trade and investment: Germany is India’s largest trading partner in Europe. Germany is the 8th largest foreign direct investor (FDI) in India.

Common concerns

  • In South Asia and Europe, we have become used to extremely hot weather, flooding, dramatic depletion of groundwater tables, and drought.
  • The EU has adopted an ambitious Green Deal to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and to decouple economic growth from the consumption of natural resources.

Why the two?

  • India is one of few countries that looks set to deliver on the national goals it set itself as part of the Paris agreement.
  • Compared to other G20 countries, its per capita emissions are very low.
  • Germany recently adopted laws on reducing greenhouse gases more quickly, achieving climate neutrality by 2045 and stopping the use of coal for electricity production by 2038.

Collaborated efforts to date

  • In 2015, India’s PM and Germany’s Federal Chancellor agreed to further strengthen the two countries’ strategic partnership.
  • On this basis, Germany and India have succeeded in building up a cooperation portfolio worth almost 12 billion euros.
  • Already, nine out of 10 measures support climate goals and SDGs together.

Indo-German development cooperation focuses on three areas:

  1. Transition to renewable energies
  2. Sustainable urban development and
  3. Sustainable management of natural resources

What does Germany have to offer?

  • As a pioneer of the energy transition, Germany is offering knowledge, technology transfer, and financial solutions.
  • The pandemic has shown global supply chains are vulnerable.
  • Yet, when it comes to agriculture and natural resources, there are smart solutions that are being tested in India and Germany for more self-reliance, including agroecological approaches and sustainable management of forests, soils, and water.
  • Experience in India has shown that these methods also boost incomes for the local population and make them less dependent on expensive fertilizers, pesticides and seeds.

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ISRO Missions and Discoveries

Tasks accomplished by the Chandrayaan-2

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Chandrayaan-3 Mission

Mains level : Accomplishments of India's Lunar Mission

The failure of Chandrayaan-2, India’s second mission to the Moon, to make a soft landing on the lunar surface had led to much disappointment.  But that did not mean the entire mission had been wasted.

Chandrayaan-2: A quick recap

  • Chandrayaan-2 consisted of an Orbiter, Lander and Rover, all equipped with scientific instruments to study the moon.
  • The Orbiter would watch the moon from a 100-km orbit, while the Lander and Rover modules were to be separated to make a soft landing on the moon’s surface.
  • ISRO had named the Lander module as Vikram, after Vikram Sarabhai, the pioneer of India’s space programme, and the Rover module as Pragyaan, meaning wisdom.

Utility of the Orbit

  • The Orbiter part of the mission has been functioning normally. It is carrying eight instruments.
  • Each of these instruments has produced a handsome amount of data that sheds new light on the moon and offers insights that could be used in further exploration.

Some of the most significant results so far:

(a) Water

  • The presence of water on the Moon had already been confirmed by Chandrayaan-1, India’s first mission to the Moon that flew in 2008.
  • Using far more sensitive instruments, the Imaging Infra-Red Spectrometer (IIRS) onboard Chandrayaan-2 has been able to distinguish between hydroxyl and water molecules and found unique signatures of both.
  • This is the most precise information about the presence of H2O molecules on the Moon to date.
  • Previously, water was known to be present mainly in the polar regions of the Moon.
  • Chandrayaan-2 has now found signatures of water at all latitudes, although its abundance varies from place to place.

(b) Minor elements

  • The Large Area Soft X-ray Spectrometer (CLASS) measures the Moon’s X-ray spectrum to examine the presence of major elements such as magnesium, aluminum, silicon, calcium, titanium, iron, etc.
  • This instrument has detected the minor elements chromium and manganese for the first time through remote sensing, thanks to a better detector.
  • The finding can lay the path for understanding magmatic evolution on the Moon and deeper insights into the nebular conditions as well as planetary differentiation.
  • CLASS has mapped nearly 95% of the lunar surface in X-rays for the first time.
  • Sodium, also a minor element on the Moon surface, was detected without any ambiguity for the first time.

(c) Study of Sun

  • One of the payloads, called Solar X-ray Monitor (XSM), besides studying the Moon through the radiation coming in from the Sun, has collected information about solar flares.
  • XSM has observed a large number of microflares outside the active region for the first time.
  • This has great implications on the understanding of the mechanism behind the heating of the solar corona, which has been an open problem for many decades.

Utility of this Data

  • While the Orbiter payloads build upon existing knowledge of the Moon in terms of its surface, sub-surface and exosphere, it also paves the path for future Moon missions.
  • Four aspects — mineralogical and volatile mapping of the lunar surface, surface and subsurface properties and processes involved, quantifying water in its various forms across the Moon surface, and maps of elements present on the moon — will be key for future scope of work.
  • A key outcome from Chandrayaan-2 has been the exploration of the permanently shadowed regions as well as craters and boulders underneath the regolith, the loose deposit comprising the top surface extending up to 3-4m in depth.
  • This is expected to help scientists to zero in on future landing and drilling sites, including for human missions.

Who is going to use it?

  • Some key future Moon missions that hope to make use of such data include the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)-ISRO collaboration Lunar Polar Exploration (LUPEX) mission scheduled for launch in 2023/2024.
  • Its aim is to obtain knowledge of lunar water resources and to explore the suitability of the lunar polar region for setting up a lunar base.
  • NASA’s Artemis missions plan to enable human landing on the Moon beginning 2024 and target sustainable lunar exploration by 2028.
  • The Chinese Lunar Exploration Programme too plans to establish a prototype of the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS) at the lunar south pole and build a platform supporting large-scale scientific exploration.

What was missed because of the crash-landing?

  • The most obvious miss has been the opportunity to demonstrate the technology to make a soft landing in outer space.
  • The lander Vikram and rover Pragyaan were carrying instruments to carry out observations on the surface.
  • These were supposed to pick up additional information about the terrain, and composition, and mineralogy.
  • While the instruments onboard the Orbiter is making “global” observations, those on the lander and rover would have provided much more local information.
  • The two diverse sets of data could have helped prepare a more composite picture of the Moon.

Future with the Chandrayaan-3

  • ISRO scientists maintain that the accident was caused by a relatively small error that has been identified and corrected.
  • But, to demonstrate this technology all over again, ISRO would have to send a fresh mission, Chandrayaan-3, planned for next year.
  • It is expected to have only a lander and rover, and no Orbiter.

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RBI Notifications

[pib] Account Aggregator Network (AAN): A financial data-sharing system

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Account Aggregator Network (AAN) and its regulation

Mains level : Account Aggregator Network (AAN)

The Account Aggregator system in banking has been started off with eight of India’s largest banks. In this newscard, we shall learn it in a FAQ manner.

What is an Account Aggregator?

  • An Account Aggregator (AA) is a type of RBI regulated entity (with an NBFC-AA license) that helps an individual securely and digitally access and share information from one financial institution they have an account with to any other regulated financial institution in the AA network.
  • Data cannot be shared without the consent of the individual.
  • There will be many Account Aggregators an individual can choose between.
  • Account Aggregator replaces the long terms and conditions form of ‘blank cheque’ acceptance with a granular, step by step permission and control for each use of your data.

How would it improve an average person’s financial life?

  • India’s financial system involves many hassles for consumers today.
  • This includes sharing of physical signed and scanned copies of bank statements, stamp documents, or having to share your personal username and password to give your financial history to a third party.
  • The AAN would replace all these with a simple, mobile-based, simple, and safe digital data access & sharing process.
  • This will create opportunities for new kinds of services — eg new types of loans.
  • The individual’s bank just needs to join the Account Aggregator network.

How is AAN different to Aadhaar eKYC data sharing?

  • Aadhaar eKYC and CKYC only allow sharing of four ‘identity’ data fields for KYC purposes (eg name, address, gender, etc).
  • Similarly, credit bureau data only shows loan history and/or a credit score.
  • The AAN allows sharing of transaction data or bank statements from savings/deposit/current accounts.

What kind of data can be shared?

  • Today, banking transaction data is available to be shared (for example, bank statements from a current or savings account) across the banks that have gone live on the network.
  • Gradually the AA framework will make all financial data available for sharing, including tax data, pensions data, securities data (mutual funds and brokerage), and insurance data will be available to consumers.
  • It will also expand beyond the financial sector to allow healthcare and telecom data to be accessible to the individual via AA.

Can AAs view or ‘aggregate’ personal data? Is the data sharing secure?

  • Account Aggregators cannot see the data; they merely take it from one financial institution to another based on an individual’s direction and consent.
  • Contrary to the name, they cannot ‘aggregate’ your data.
  • AAs are not like technology companies which aggregate your data and create detailed profiles of you.
  • The data AAs share is encrypted by the sender and can be decrypted only by the recipient.
  • The end to end encryption and use of technology like the ‘digital signature’ makes the process much more secure than sharing paper documents.

Can a consumer decide they don’t want to share data?

Yes. Registering with an AA is fully voluntary for consumers.

  • If the bank the consumer is using has joined the network, a person can choose to register on an AA, choose which accounts they want to link, and share their data.
  • A customer can reject a consent to share request at any time.
  • If a consumer has accepted to share data in a recurring manner over a period (eg during a loan period), it can also be revoked at any time later as well by the consumer.

Duration of the data shared

  • The exact time period for which the recipient institution will have access will be shown to the consumer at the time of consent for data sharing.

How can a customer get registered with an AA?

  • One can register with an AA through their app or website.
  • AA will provide a handle (like username) which can be used during the consent process.
  • Today, four apps are available for download (Finvu, OneMoney, CAMS Finserv, and NADL) with operational licenses to be AAs.
  • Three more have received in principle approval from RBI (PhonePe, Yodlee, and Perfios) and may be launching apps soon.
  • A customer can register with any AA to access data from any bank on the network.

Does a customer need to pay the AA for using this facility?

  • This will depend on the AA. Some may charge a small user fee.
  • Some AAs may be free because they are charging a service fee to financial institutions.

What new services can a customer access if their bank has joined the AA network of data sharing?

The two key services that will be improved for an individual is access to loans and access to money management.

  • If a customer wants to get a small business or personal loan today, there are many documents that need to be shared with the lender.
  • This is a cumbersome and manual process today, which affects the time taken to procure the loan and access to a loan.
  • Similarly, money management is difficult today because data is stored in many different locations and cannot be brought together easily for analysis.
  • Through Account Aggregator, a company can access tamper-proof secure data quickly and cheaply, and fast track the loan evaluation process so that a customer can get a loan.
  • Also, a customer may be able to access a loan without physical collateral, by sharing trusted information on a future invoice or cash flow directly from a government system like GST or GeM.

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Textile Sector – Cotton, Jute, Wool, Silk, Handloom, etc.

PLI Scheme for Textiles

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : PLI scheme for various sectors

Mains level : Textile sector of India

The Union Government has approved Production Linked Incentive (PLI) Scheme for Textiles.  This move is a part of the overall announcement of PLI Schemes for 13 sectors made earlier during the Union Budget 2021-22.

What is PLI Scheme?

  • As the name suggests, the scheme provides incentives to companies for enhancing their domestic manufacturing apart from focusing on reducing import bills and improving the cost competitiveness of local goods.
  • PLI scheme offers incentives on incremental sales for products manufactured in India.
  • The scheme for respective sectors has to be implemented by the concerned ministries and departments.

Criteria laid for the scheme

  • Eligibility criteria for businesses under the PLI scheme vary based on the sector approved under the scheme.
  • For instance, the eligibility for telecom units is subject to the achievement of a minimum threshold of cumulative incremental investment and incremental sales of manufactured goods.
  • The minimum investment threshold for MSME is Rs 10 crore and Rs 100 crores for others.
  • Under food processing, SMEs and others must hold over 50 per cent of the stock of their subsidiaries, if any.
  • On the other hand, for businesses under pharmaceuticals, the project has to be a greenfield project while the net worth of the company should not be less than 30 per cent of the total committed investment.

What are the incentives involved?

  • An incentive of 4-6 per cent was offered last year on mobile and electronic components manufacturers such as resistors, transistors, diodes, etc.
  • Similarly, 10 percent incentives were offered for six years (FY22-27) of the scheme for the food processing industry.
  • For white goods too, the incentive of 4-6 per cent on incremental sales of goods manufactured in India for a period of five years was offered to companies engaged in the manufacturing of air conditioners and LED lights.

What is in the box for Textiles?

  • The PLI scheme for textiles aims to promote the production of high value Man-Made Fibre (MMF) fabrics, garments and technical textiles.
  • Any person or company willing to invest a minimum of Rs 300 crore in plant, machinery, equipment and civil works (excluding land and administrative building cost) to produce products of MMF fabrics, garments and products of technical textiles will be eligible.
  • Investors willing to spend a minimum of Rs 100 crore under the same conditions shall be eligible.

Benefits offered

  • PLI scheme for Textiles will promote production of high value MMF Fabric, Garments and Technical Textiles in country.
  • The incentive structure has been so formulated that the industry will be encouraged to invest in fresh capacities in these segments.
  • This will give a major push to the growing high-value MMF segment which will complement the efforts of the cotton and other natural fiber-based textiles industry.
  • This will help to generate new opportunities for employment and trade, resultantly helping India regain its historical dominant status in global textiles trade.

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Back2Basics: India’s textile sector

  • The textile industry in India traditionally, after agriculture, is the only industry that has generated huge employment for both skilled and unskilled labour.
  • The domestic textiles and apparel industry contributes 5% to India’s GDP, 7% of industry output in value terms, and 12% of the country’s export earnings.
  • The textile industry continues to be the second-largest employment generating sector in India. It offers direct employment to over 35 million in the country.
  • India is first in global jute production and shares 63% of the global textile and garment market. India is second in global textile manufacturing and also second in silk and cotton production.
  • 100% FDI is allowed via automatic route in textile sector.