Roundup of the week (March 20 – March 26)

  1. Terrorist attack in Brussels

Attacks by ISIS on airport and metro station came close on the heels of massacre in Paris (nov 2016). Also, they came 4 days after lone surviving mastermind of Paris attacks was apprehended by Police. It clearly shows that ISIS is demonstrating that it is capable of striking at will.

But why Brussels?

  1. Symbolism- Brussels is headquarters of NATO as well as European Union.
  2. Divided nation– Belgium is divided b/w French (Walloon actually) and Dutch (Flemish actually) speaking population. In almost all walks of public life there’s compromise. Flemish don’t/ can’t vote for Walloon candidates, so accountability is not to the whole populace but to the linguistic community
  3. Weak institutions – Divided accountability results in weak institutions, intelligence sharing is particularly poor.
  4. Marginalized Muslim population– about 7% of Belgian population is Muslim, most of which lives in ghettos, breading discontent. <You can say that, this is the most imp cause and should have been the first point but many commentators have begun to argue that poverty is not the main cause of terrorism> 

You can read more about why Belgium in this The Hindu Oped  <not recommended for exams, can safely avoid thia>

In per capita terms, Belgium has supplied most foreign fighters to ISIS.

So why is ISIS striking western capitals?

  1. Russian and American airstrikes have shrunk ISIS territory in Iraq and Syria. By striking they are taking battle to European heartland.
  2. They get media coverage, shows them winning, helps attract more recruits
  3. Terrorism is to spread terror and this helps spread terror and panic.
  4. It also leads to further polarization of society, backlash against ordinary Muslims, helps their propaganda that Muslims all over the world are being persecuted, helps in recruitment.

Read this The Hindu editorial- Message is Brussels attack

But why are so many foreign fighters joining ISIS?

Around 5000 foreign fighters (500 of them from Belgium) have left comfort of their homes and traveled 1000s of mile to join marauding army of ISIS in the hope of achieving salvation.

  1. Std response of jhola chaap JNU wallahs– high poverty, unemployment rate among Muslims. Lack of integration, Ghettoisation, marginalization of whole community which breeds discontent leading to them joining terrorist organizations. <read this Praveen Swami oped to know why Jholachaaps are wrong>
  2. Sleek propaganda / psych war by ISIS– by selectively quoting verses from Quran and Hadith, they make faithfuls belief that it was the right course of action which would take them to Jannat. That is what God ordered.
  3. Seduction of violence for a higher cause– violence leading to spiritual redemption

But didn’t president Obama vow to defeat and ultimately degrade ISIS? What needs to be done now?

You all know what happened to Obama’s red lines on chemical weapons use in Syria. Don’t take him seriously (just kidding).

USA and Russia did launch airstrikes and it has resulted in containment and shrinkage of ISIS territory in middle east but problem is made worse by the raging civil war in Syria and sectarian strife in wider middle east in which Russia and USA are on the opposite sides of the spectrum. While USA along with sunni Arab monarchs and Turkey wants regime change in Syria, Russia is on the side of regime in Syria. No coordinated strategy against ISIS is possible in this context resulting in ISIS being still able to recruit more and more foreign fighters.

What needs to be done-

  1. Recognize ISIS as the major and primary threat and converge on the strategy to defeat ISIS. Gradual transition of power in Syria <unlikely to be done, Saudis and Turkey won’t agree though Syrian peace process presents an opportunity>.
  2. Problem has to be tackled at the source i.e Syria and here support of Syrian army and govt would be necessary <again Syrian peace process assumes importance>
  3. For launching Jihad by Khalifa <which Abu Baghdadi claims himself to be>, territory is required,. If ISIS is defeated from Syria, in strict theocratic sense, there can’t be any Khilafat, attraction of ISIS which increase after the declaration of Khaliphate will come down.
  4. Counter radicalisation/ deradicalisation strategy- This war is war of ideas. It can’t be won with bombs and bullets. We will have to present a counter narrative which is equally exciting, equally sleek and is drawn from same religious scriptures.
  5. In this counter narrative, role of Muslim clergy becomes important. They will have to drive home the moderate interpretation of Quran everyday, not just when a terrorist attack occurs. <Listen to Tahir Ul Qadri’s speech at Sufi conference>
  6. And yes it goes without saying-better jobs, better education, better integration and no backlash when such attacks happen <terrorists want to polarise the society>

India has just taken the right step by organizing the World Sufi Conference which highlighted moderate and liberal aspect of Muslim tradition.  PM showered praise on Sufism and spoke about how it has contributed to a spirit of peace and harmony.

2. Russian troop withdrawal from Syria

Putin announced this on 14th march <not exactly this week but RSTV discussion occurred on Sunday>. So what’s going on in Putin’s mind?What does it mean for regime in Syria and Syrian peace talks?

  1. Russian intervention has changed the balance of power in Syria. Regime which was losing territory when Russia moved in has now regained control.
  2. By withdrawing it’s troops Russia is also sending Assad signals to engage in peace talks.
  3. Putin has also once again brought Russia as a major player in international politics which western countries did not accept after fall of Soviet Union.

Make no mistake, Russia has kept all it’s naval presence in Mediterranean, air force is still operating from Latakia airbase to preclude any chances of West declaring unilateral no fly zone over Syria.

You all know, this conflict has a sectarian shia-sunni dimension. So question for you- Name Shia majority countries of this world. Answer in comments.

Read this Hindu Editorial – An opportunity for peace in Syria and Watch this RSTV discussion

3. Solar panel Dispute – India and WTO

Dispute has been going on for quite some time. Basically to promote clean energy and manufacturing in India, GOI decided to buy powers from solar power generators (of course at better terms) but with the condition that they have to source (buy) solar cell and solar modules from Indian vendors i.e there was domestic content requirement (DCR). Uncle Sam (USA) did not like this , not one bit and complained in WTO.

USA’s arguments – which were ultimately accepted by WTO dispute settlement body-

  1. DCR violates Trade related Investment measures (TRIMs) provisions
  2. DCR violates national treatment clause <once a product has entered a country, it will be treated the same as domestic product regardless of where it comes from>, non discrimination clause
  3. That it has resulted in injury to US manufactures <exports to India went down by 90%)

India’s response – rejected by WTO

  1. It’s for govt procurement which is outside the scope of WTO agreements – rebuttal– govt was procuring electricity not solar modules, solar cells on which there was DCR
  2. General exception clause-necessary to secure compliance with its domestic and international law obligations relating to ecologically sustainable development and climate change. rebuttal- 1st there is no such obligation, 2nd, you can secure such compliance with imported solar modules
  3. Only 5% of total power requirement was under this rule

Now India has decided to appeal against the verdict of dispute settlement body.

Let’s understand in brief how WTO dispute settlement works

  1. You don’t like what other country is doing, raise a complaint with WTO
  2. 1st step is mediation, talk with the other country, see if problem can be resolved
  3. No resolution, a dispute settlement panel is formed, hears both parties, gives it’s verdicts
  4. Not satisfied with it’s orders, appeal with the appellate body, decision is final
  5. What if country doesn’t comply with the orders? well there’s very little that WTO can do. Other country is free to take retaliatory measures.

Talks of promoting clean energy <100k MW solar>, sustainable development in this question is pure BS. You agree to play by rules, so play by rules. If you don’t like them in the light of changed circumstances, negotiate and change the rules. <btw, can you tell us the break up of india’s clean energy target, how much grid connected solar, off grid, roof top, wind, bio-fuel etc? Answer in comments.>

4. Real Estate Regulation Bill

This bill which has now become an act basically tries to do a few things-

  1. Establish a real estate authority and tribunal
  2. Developers, brokers and projects all three have to register with the authority
  3. Transparency – disclosing all the details of the project like carpet ares etc and no change w/o buyer’s permission (2/3rd)
  4. Escrow account- 70% funds locked in to prevent diversion
  5. Penalty for delays

So far so good but what this act doesn’t do is that it does not impose time limits for clearances, no single window clearance. It would only result in more babugiri, more corruption and ultimately project cost will increase.

Root of the problem is over-regulation. Although land and real estate are bought and sold all the time, India doesn’t have a functioning market for land and real estate. The high prices in real estate are a reflection of an artificial scarcity caused by over-regulation, as well as bad regulations, by multiple agencies. The builder-babu-politician nexus is a corollary of this distorted environment.

Another issue is that it’s a concurrent list subject and many states which already have their acts will drag their feet.

5. Nepal PM’s special mission to China and signing of Transit agreement

That Nepal-India ties are going through a very difficult phase after the promulgation of constitution and Madheshi blockade (which Nepal termed as blockade by India) is no secret. Anti-India sentiments have reached feverish pitch in Nepal <Nepali nationalism is built on Anti-Indianism>.

To put the relations on an even keel Nepal PM visited India ahead of China but significant differences remain, especially on the question of Madhesi rights in Nepal and was reflected in the inability of the two sides to issue a joint statement at the end of Oli’s visit last month.

Now Nepal has signed following deals with China

  1. landmark transit agreement that will allow Nepal to use Chinese ports to import goods from third countries
  2. assist Nepal in the exploration of hydrocarbon resources and expand the use of solar energy
  3. agreements on building of multiple train routes connecting Nepal with China’s key production centres is also in the pipeline (not signed yet)

Should India be worried?

  • India would not worry good neighborly relations b/w Nepal and China. After all, even India is courting Chinese investments. But if it impinge on our security interests India will be worried.#
  • As far as trade and transit is concerned, 98 per cent of Nepal’s third country trade goes through India and to the port of Kolkata,
  • India at present has two rail lines under construction and three more are being planned to increase Nepal’s trade ties.
  • India agreed on giving dedicated access to Nepal to the port of Vizag.

Delhi’s problem then is less about coping with China’s grand strategy (one belt one roda, ending India’s influence in south Asia) than overcoming the entrenched distrust of India in Kathmandu and bringing greater purpose to economic engagement with Nepal.

6. Update on Adahar bill discussed in last round up

Let me summarise him for those of you who don’t like his ranting

  1. Not a money bill– to arbitrarily declare something a money bill is to subvert the spirit of the Constitution. This bill will set a horrendous precedent for ways of bypassing the Rajya Sabha. The solution to legislative logjam cannot be subversion of the representative scheme bequeathed to us.
  2. On privacy- The national security exceptions in the bill are too broad. It negates all protections the bill seemingly provides
  3. Even if you want to keep national security exception, this can not be left entirely to the bureaucracy and executive when they themselves will not be under any system of accountability
  4. Aadhaar will give the ability to link different databases biometrically. To protect privacy, each such database will need additional locks. Linking databases should need consent from multiple key-holders subject to legislative oversight and judicial redress. It would require overarching privacy legislation.
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By Root

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