Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

New dimension to the bilateral engegement


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- Contrasting India and China's engagement with West Asia

The article draws parallels in the past in India and China’s engagement with West Asia and contrasts it with the present approach adopted by China in dealing with the region.

Strategic autonomy

  • According to a former Foreign Secretary of India, Vijay Gokhale, the ideation of ‘strategic autonomy’ is much different from the Nehruvian era thinking of ‘non-alignment’.
  • Speaking in January 2019, Mr. Gokhale said: “The alignment is issue based, and not ideological.”

India’s engagement with West Asia

  • Pre-dating 2020, India’s outreach to West Asia sharpened since 2014.
  •  Oil-rich Gulf states looked at India as investment alternative away from the West to deepen their own strategic depth.
  • India also doubled down on its relations with the likes of Abu Dhabi and Riyadh, giving open economic and political preference to the larger Gulf region.
  • While engagements with Israel moved steadily forward, Iran lagged behind, constrained by U.S. sanctions, which in turn significantly slowed the pace of India-Iran engagements.

China’s engagement with West Asia

  • China’s overtures have been steadily more adventurous as it realises two major shifts that have taken place in West Asia.
  • First, the thinking in the Gulf that the American security safety net is not absolute.
  • Second, the Gulf economies such as Saudi Arabia, even though trying to shift away from petro dollar, will still need growing markets to sell oil to in the coming decade as they reform their economic systems.
  • The obvious two markets here are China and India.

Similarity in India and China’s approach to West Asia

  • Both India and China employed similar versions of ‘non-alignment’ thinking is in West Asia based on equitable engagement with the three poles of power in Saudi Arabia, Iran and Israel.
  • Both countries did it without getting involved into the region’s multi-layered conflicts and political fissures.
  • However, deteriorating U.S.-China ties, the COVID-19 pandemic that started in China, followed by the Ladakh crisis, is forcing a drastic change in the geopolitical playbooks of the two Asian giants, and, by association, global security architectures as well.

Changing approach of China

  •  A report in September shone a light on a $400 billion, 25-year understanding between Iran and China, with Beijing taking advantage of abandonment of the Iran nuclear deal.
  • China is no longer happy with a passive role in West Asia, and through concepts such as “negative peace” and “peace through development”.
  • In concert with tools such as the Belt and Road Initiative, Beijing is now ready to offer an alternative model for “investment and influence”.
  •  It remains to be seen, however, how China balances itself between the poles of power while backing one so aggressively.

Stability of the region and opportunity for India

  • From India’s perspective, the overt outreach to the Gulf and the ensuing announcements of multi-billion-dollar investments on Indian shores by entities from Saudi Arabia and the UAE is only New Delhi recognising the economic realities of the region. 
  • Despite entanglements in the Yemen war and general tensions between the Gulf states and Iran, the likes of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and so on have maintained relatively strong and stable economic progression.
  • Israel’s recent peace accords with the UAE and Bahrain add much further weight towards a more stable Gulf region — the caveats withstanding that the operationalisation of the accords is smooth and long-lasting.

Consider the question “Despite turbulence in the region, India’s engagement with West Asia has always been characterised by non-alignment and ethos of equitable engagement. In light of this, elaborate on India’s approach to the region and region’s importance for India.”


While in the recent past, the Indo-Pacific, with the development of the Quad, has taken centre stage, other geographies such as West Asia have also started to showcase bolder examples of New Delhi and Beijing’s metamorphosing approaches towards the international arena.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-United States

Incentives for furthering the India-US partnership are stronger than ever


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- India-US relations

Changing geopolitical factors have accelerated further the deepening of India-US ties. The article analyses the current circumstances and evolution of the bilateral relations.

Background against which 2+2 dialogue taking place

  • The 2+2 dialogue between India and the United States in Delhi this week marks an important moment in bilateral relations.
  • The 2+2 dialogue comes just three weeks after the foreign ministers of the Quad — or the Quadrilateral Security Framework — met in Tokyo.
  • It also takes place amidst a profound structural shift in great power politics as well as turbulence in the international economic order intensified by the coronavirus pandemic.
  • The dialogue follows India’s first-ever participation in a meeting of the exclusive Five Eyes grouping that facilitates intelligence-sharing among the US, Canada, UK, Australia and New Zealand.
  • A few days ago, Delhi announced the much-awaited expansion of the annual Malabar exercises to include Australia.

Background of the past engagements

  • Signing the historic civil nuclear initiative ended India’s prolonged atomic isolation in the world laid the outline of a broader framework for security cooperation.
  • Due to the deep divisions within the national security establishment, the leadership and some political constraints faced by the government, the coalition broke up.
  •  The focus was on keeping visible distance from the US in the name of non-alignment, strategic autonomy, and the quest for a multipolar world.
  • The relationship survived those years, thanks to the US’s perseverance.

3 Factors responsible for rapid progress in the US-India ties

1) Chines aggression on northern border

  • The huge military crisis on the northern borders with China that is well into the sixth month is the first factor.
  • In the past, India avoided closer security ties with the US in deference to Beijing’s sensitivities.
  • In contrast, the government now has refused to pay heed to Chinese sensitivities over its policy on security cooperation with the US.

2) Disruption caused by the corona pandemic

  • The coronavirus has sharpened the US debate on the dangers of excessive economic interdependence on China.
  • Meanwhile, India has begun to reduce its commercial ties to Beijing in response to the PLA’s Ladakh aggression.
  • This has created the conditions for a new conversation between India and the US on rearranging global supply chains away from China.
  • So, the Quad Plus conversations have drawn in Brazil, Israel, New Zealand, South Korea and Vietnam with a view to rearrange the global supply chain.

3) Focus on critical technologies

  • Third factor is critical technologies like artificial intelligence that promise to transform most aspects of modern life — including security, political economy and social order.
  • Delhi and Washington are now focused on finding ways to collaborate on the critical technologies of the 21st century and work with their partners in setting new global rules for managing them.


As the regional and global order faces multiple transitions, the incentives for Delhi and Washington to sustain and advance India-US partnership are stronger than ever before and will continue into the next administration.

Land Reforms

Reform land ceiling laws


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Soil degradation: Reasons and impact

Mains level : Paper 3- Land degradation and using land reforms to deal with it

Land ceiling laws, enacted to deal with the problems of a bygone era, remains unchanged even in most of the States. This has given rise to different problems. The article suggests the relaxation of the ceiling acts to deal with the problem of land degradation and water depletion.

Background of the ceiling laws

  •  India implemented land ceiling laws to deal with the ‘zamindars’ and impose landowning limits based on total production value of land—irrigated, grove, orchard, dry, etc.
  • Landholdings were scrutinised at individual and family level, and large farms were discouraged.
  • For most states, the ceiling ratio of dry-to-irrigated land is 3:1.

Issues with the ceiling laws

  • In 2020, State land laws remain unchanged, trapping farm families in a negative ownership trap.
  • As with each generation, the average landholding of individuals reduces.
  • Dropping farm incomes, higher inputs costs, low sale price, soil degradation and water depletion erode production and farm value.
  • A progressive farmer hits production saturation due to limited land.
  • Contract farming has been no consolation either.
  • The result is that the Indian farm size is very small, 86% under two hectares, and is decreasing as the average size of operational holding has declined to 1.08 hectares in 2015-16 versus 1.15 in 2010-11 (Agricultural Census 2015-16).
  • The government is reticent on the Economic Survey’s recommendations to increase land ceiling limits.
  • Recently, Karnataka rescinded land limit reforms.

How to deal with soil degradation and water depletion

  • 30% of India’s land is degraded, bad agri-practices threaten soil health, and water-guzzling crops like paddy, sugarcane, etc, have resulted in a water crisis in many places.
  • States must study soil conservation program of the US, which paid farmers subsidies for soil conservation or allowing land to be fallow.
  • States should incentivise farmers for agro-ecological plantations and agro-forestry by relaxing land ceiling limits for them.
  • State Acts may include organic plantations under exempt categories similar to tea/rubber plantations.
  • Native biodiversity based mixed orchards, from mahua to moringa, can be encouraged and exempted by state governments.
  • Policy change will have benefits—soil and water rejuvenation, increase in farmers’ incomes and new products for the free market.
  • The return of organic matter and biodiversity will sustain farmland productivity.
  • Plus APEDA predicts a $50 billion organic export 2030, but the cherry would be additional carbon credits.
  • If 10% of arable land converts to organic grove land, India will mitigate climate change and pollution.
  • Each hectare with 0.01% humus can store 80,000 litres of water. We need a central policy to bolster this drive.
  • Farmers may take over waste or degraded land, beyond land ceiling limits, and restore land as a carbon sink and produce more nutrition per acre.
  • As farmers will care for these lands, the government’s financial burden to restore wastelands will lessen.

Consider the question “Land degradation threatens India’s future if not dealt with in time. In light of this, examine the reasons for soil degradation and suggest the ways to deal with it” 


As a nation, we have a choice to steer the bigger farms towards agro-ecology or allow industrial farms to take over rural India. The government needs to bring out a fourth Ordinance to free the land for healing the Earth.




Agricultural Sector and Marketing Reforms – eNAM, Model APMC Act, Eco Survey Reco, etc.

Politics and economics of farm bills


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : MSP

Mains level : Paper 3- Delay in agri-reforms and politics

Reforms in agriculture have been overdue. But the passage of farm bills by the Parliament has evoked opposition from several stakeholders. However, the passage of bills by the Punjab Assembly is the first from any State Assembly. The article explains how politics dominates agriculture reforms and its implications for economic growth.

States trying the negate the farm bill passed by Parliament

  • By passing its farm bills, Punjab has become the first state to legislate to negate impact of legislation enacted by Parliament last month.
  • Other states like Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, could follow suit soon.
  • Notwithstanding whether President Ram Nath Kovind gives his assent to the state bills that undermine the central ones, the important issue is to determine how much of this conflict is about economics aimed at helping farmers and how much sheer politics.

Issues with Punjab’s farm bills

  • Punjab’s farm bills prohibit private players from buying wheat and paddy below the MSP even outside the APMC markets.
  • It doesn’t apply to other crops, say maize, cotton, pulses and oilseeds that are under the ambit of the central MSP system.
  • The point is that this pertains only to wheat and paddy.
  • The bill could even have been extended to milk and vegetables by declaring local MSPs for them, but it didn’t do that.
  • Because the state government knows full well that it will create a fiasco in agri-markets, which might boomerang on it politically.
  • Law for wheat and paddy will not help farmers as the Centre already buys more than 95 per cent of Punjab’s wheat and paddy at MSP through the Food Corporation of India (FCI) and state procurement agencies.

Economic roots of politics over MSP: Lessons from the past

  • Demand that MSP be made a legal instrument (rather than indicative) actually exhibit deep distrust of the private sector and markets.
  • In1972 government announced that the wholesale trade in wheat and rice (paddy) will be taken over by the government as traders were being unscrupulous in not giving farmers their due MSP and manipulating prices.
  • The first marketing season of the government takeover of wholesale wheat trade, in 1973-74, saw a major fiasco.
  • Market arrivals dropped, and wheat prices shot up by more than 50 per cent. It was a bitter lesson.

Long overdue reforms in agriculture

  • Economic reforms in 1991 took some time to yield results, but, by the 2000s, India was taking 7 per cent.
  • But even the 1991 economic reforms bypassed agriculture marketing reforms.
  • It was only in 2003, a model act on agri-marketing was circulated to the states.
  • But that model act did not go far enough.
  • From 2004 to 2014 government did not pursue any major agri-marketing reforms.
  • In food government enacted the National Food Security Act in 2013, giving 5 kg wheat or rice to 67 per cent of the population at Rs 2/kg and Rs 3/kg.
  • A high-level committee (HLC) under Shanta Kumar was formed in 2014 to restructure the grain management system.
  • The committee suggested major changes, including cash transfers in the public distribution system, and overhauling the FCI’s operations and free markets to make the system more efficient.
  • But the government could not undertake bold reforms, except some marginal tinkering of labour rules in the FCI.


The COVID-19 crisis opened a window of opportunity to reform the agri-marketing system. The government grabbed it — this is somewhat akin to the crisis of 1991 leading to de-licensing of industry. Patience and professionalism will bring rich rewards in due course, not noisy politics.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-United States

Why India should consider the next US administration’s approach to China


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- US Presidential election and Implications for India

Though it is the election held in the US for the election of the US President, it is closely followed throughout the world given the dominant position of that country in the world and impact of the US Presidents decision on the world. This article analyses the implications for India in both the scenarios re-election of Trump or Joe Biden winning the election.

Implications for India

  • Broader foreign policy decisions will have significant implications for India.
  • Particularly consequential will be how a second Trump administration or a Biden administration perceive and approach China and, relatedly, the question of America’s role in the world.
  • The outcome will depend on the choices that the next American president makes on key personnel and policies.

Analysing Trump administration’s approach to China from India’s perspective

  • The Trump administration’s more hawkish view of China broadly converges with Indian concerns about a rising China’s actions and intentions.
  • And it has facilitated the Trump administration to assign India an important role in its strategic framework, including through the Free and Open Indo-Pacific concept.
  • This has laid the basis for defence and security cooperation, helped to manage differences with Delhi on trade, Russia, Iran, and human rights, and vocal American support for India in the ongoing crisis with China.
  • Unlike India’s subtler approach to highlighting Beijing’s malign behaviour, the administration’s more explicit one has put a global spotlight on Chinese assertiveness.
  • However, there are aspects of President Trump’s China approach that have caused concerns in Delhi.
  • There has been concern about Trump striking a deal with Chinese leader Xi Jinping since summit in April 2017.
  • The administration subsequently pivoted to competition with China that summer.
  • Concerns have also been raised due to neglect in the Trump administration of developments related to Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Huawei/ZTE.
  • The other aspects of Trump’s China approach that have given Delhi pause are its ideological dimensions, as well as responses like tariffs that have hurt India too.
  • On the similar lines American withdrawal from international institutions and agreements that has served to benefit Beijing.
  • The China prism has had its limits — it has not, for instance, resulted in concessions to India on trade and immigration.

What would be Joe Biden’s to approach towards China and implications for India

  • And there is recognition among most Democrats that the US-China relationship today is different from what it was in 2009, 2012 or 2016.
  • An Obama administration China hand noted that opinion in the US on approach to China has “moved from balancing co-operation and competition, to competition and confrontation”.
  • But what a Biden administration sees as the terms of strategic competition with China and how it might choose to blend in cooperation will have implications for India.
  • Its outcome will depend in part on the president’s views, who holds key foreign and economic policy positions, as well as Beijing’s approach.
  • India will closely watch how Biden might respond to any overtures from Beijing.
  • It will particularly worry about any signs that Washington would be willing to limit competition or criticism in return for Chinese cooperation on certain administration priorities.
  • More broadly, it will look at whether Biden administration’s Asia policy derives from its China policy or vice versa.
  • Other aspects of Biden’s preferred approach might suit India, for instance:
  • 1) acting collectively with allies and partners rather than unilaterally,
  • 2) Not imposing tariffs that hit allies and partners along with China,
  • 3) Recommitting to international organisations in ways that could blunt Chinese influence.
  • India might also broadly approve of — and could benefit from — the 3Ds of a Biden foreign policy: Domestic (renewal), deterrence, and democracy.
  •  If a Biden administration sees engagement with China on climate change, global health security and non-proliferation as a priority that will complicate the Indian government’s options and require adjustments.
  • Moreover, with either Trump or Biden, foreign economic policy choices and budgetary ones for example, spending at home versus abroad will have crucial implications for India.


India will need to consider what America’s choice on November 3 will mean for American power and purpose — because assessments of that could determine how Beijing decides to act in the region and globally.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-United States

Importance of maritime domain for India and role of Quad in it


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Malabar Exercise, Quad

Mains level : Paper 2- Defining the roles and relations between Malabar and the Quad

While highlighting the importance of navy for India, the article examines the need to define the role and relation between the Quad and Malabar.

The salience of navy for India

  • It took confrontation in the Himalayas to bring focus on India’s maritime domain clearly indicates that the salience of maritime power is not yet understood in India.
  • On its northern and western fronts, India faces a formidable challenge and can at best hope for stalemate due to two factors :
  • 1) Economic, military and technological asymmetry between China and India.
  • 2) Active China-Pakistan nexus.
  • Attention has, therefore, been focused on the maritime domain, where it is believed that India may have some cards to play.
  •  While preparing to fight its own battles with determination, it is time for India to seek external balancing (read Quad) — best done via the maritime domain.

Evolution of Malabar Exercise

  • Above is the backdrop against which one must see the progressive evolution of Exercise “Malabar”,
  • At beginning, it was a bilateral event involving just the Indian and US navies.
  • It became tri-lateral with the inclusion of Japan in 2015.
  • And now it has transformed into a four-cornered naval drill that will also include Australia.
  • Apart from its geo-political significance for the Indo-Pacific, this development poses two conundrums.
  • Firstly, given the same composition, what is the distinction, now, between “Malabar” and the “Quad”?
  • Secondly, does Malabar 2020 mark the release of Australia from China’s thralldom?

Defining the roles and relation betwee Malabar and Quad

  • The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue or Quad has its roots in the Core Group of four senior diplomats representing the US, India, Japan and Australia.
  • The group was formed to coordinate relief efforts after the Great Asian Tsunami of December 26, 2004.
  • The present Quad has obviously retained this tradition and its members have neither created a charter nor invested it with any substance.
  • The Quad is 16 years old now, and Malabar 28.
  • Both have served a useful purpose, and a reappraisal of the roles and relationship of the Quad-Malabar concepts is, therefore, overdue.
  • Since it is India which faces a “clear and present danger”, it should boldly take the initiative to do so.

Need for the Indo-Pacific Concord

  •  In order to rein in China’s hegemonic urges, there is need for affected nations to come together to show their solidarity and determination in a common cause.
  • In this context, there is need to create a broad-based “Indo-Pacific Concord”, of like-minded regional democracies.
  • This should be an organisation with a maritime security charter, which has no offensive or provocative connotations.
  • Using the Quad and Malabar templates, a shore-based secretariat can be established in a central location like Port Blair, in the Andaman Islands, which would schedule and conduct periodic multinational naval exercises.
  • The exercises could be structured to hone the skills of participating navies in specialisations like humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, countering non-traditional threats, undertaking search-and-rescue operations and establishing networked maritime domain awareness.
  • The Concord could also designate forces to uphold maritime security or “good order at sea”.

What Australia joining Quad means

  •  The prospect of Australia belatedly joining the Quad is expected to reinforce the Quad and enhance its credibility.
  • But there are reasons for India to be circumspect it.
  • Memories are still alive of its past political ambivalence towards India, its criticism of our naval expansion and its vociferous condemnation of the 1998 nuclear tests.
  • Nor should one overlook Beijing’s recent influence on Australia’s foreign policy.
  • This influence on Australia’s foreing policy caused it to flip-flop over the sale of uranium to India as well as its peremptory withdrawal from the Quad in 2008.

Implications of singing of BECA with the U.S.

  • India signing the BECA (Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement) with the US last of the four “foundational agreements” would enhance interoperability between the respective militaries.
  • However, there is need to pay heed to two valid concerns:
  • 1) Regarding the possible compromise of information impinging on India’s security.
  • 2) Whether these agreements will barter away the last vestiges of India’s strategic autonomy.

Consider the question “The changing geopolitical equations has necessitated the formation of Indo-Pacific Concord by the democracies of the region.” In light of this, elaborate on India’s role in Quad and its implications for the region”


Indians, given our history, should never lose sight of the truism in international relations, that it is the unerring pursuit of national interests that guides the actions and policies of every nation.

Foreign Policy Watch: United Nations

Looking back at India’s journey at the UN


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level :

Mains level : Paper 2- India's journey at United Nations

The article examines India’s journey at the UN as it enters it 75year. It also analyses the challenges India faced at the UN and tracks India’s transformation from being an outlier to the high table.

Three phases of India’s presence at the UN

  • Seven and a half decades of India at the UN may be viewed with reference to roughly three distinct phases.

First phase: From independence to 1989

  • The first phase lasted until the end of Cold War in 1989.
  • During this phase, India had learnt to explore and enhance its diplomatic influence in easing armed conflicts in Asia and Africa by disentangling them from the superpower rivalry.
  • India also leaned that the UN could not be relied upon to impartially resolve vital security disputes such as Jammu and Kashmir.
  • India strove to utilise the UN only to focus on common causes such as anti-colonialism, anti-racism, nuclear disarmament, environment conservation and equitable economic development.
  • India seemed to claim the moral high ground by proposing, in 1988 three-phase plan to eliminate nuclear weapons from the surface of earth.
  • But it resisted attempts by neighbouring countries to raise bilateral problems.
  • Defeat in 1962 war against China meant a definitive redesign of the country’s diplomatic style to privilege bilateral contacts over the third party role by the UN.

Second phase: 1990s

  • The 1990s were the most difficult decade for India in the UN.
  • The 1990s were marked by the sudden end of the Cold War, the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the emergence of the United States as the unrivalled power.
  • Besides, the uncertain political climate along with the balance of payments crisis constrained the country’s capability to be active in various bodies, especially in the Security Council (UNSC) and the General Assembly.
  • There was a change in India’s foreign policy: At the UN as India showed pragmatism in enabling the toughest terms on Iraq even after Gulf War or in reversing position on Zionism as racism.
  • At the same time, growing militancy in Kashmir in the early 1990s helped Pakistan to internationalise the dispute with accusations about gross human rights violations by India.
  • India to seek favours from Iran and China in the Human Rights Commission to checkmate Pakistan.
  • The violation of the sovereignty principle by NATO intervention against Yugoslavia in 1999 without the authorisation of the UNSC deeply disturbed India.
  • At the same time call for an end to aerial attacks on Yugoslavia did not garner much support in the UNSC.
  • India’s diplomatic difficulties was exposed when it suffered a defeat in the hands of Japan in the 1996 contest for a non-permanent seat in the UNSC.
  • India resolutely stood against indefinite extension of the Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1995.
  • India strongly rejected the backdoor introduction for adoption of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in 1996.
  • It is against this background that India surprised the world in 1998 with its Pokhran nuclear weapon tests, ignoring the likely adverse reaction from the nuclear club.

Third phase: Rise in influence in 21st century

  • The impressive economic performance in the first decade of the 21st century due to economic liberalisation and globalisation policies, helped a great deal in strengthening profile.
  • This is only aided by its reliable and substantial troop contributions to several peacekeeping operations in African conflict theatres.
  • India has emerged as a responsible stakeholder in non-traditional security issue areas such as the spread of small and light weapons, the threat of non-state actors acquiring weapons of mass destruction, and the impact of climate change.
  • India has scaled up its contributions to development and humanitarian agencies, while India’s share to the UN assessed budget has registered a hike from 0.34% to 0.83%.
  • India’s successful electoral contests for various prestigious slots in the UNSC, the Human Rights Council, the World Court, and functional commissions of the Economic and Social Council indicates its growing popularity

Major unsuccessful initiatives by India

  • Two major initiatives India has heavily invested in are stuck:
  • 1) The draft Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism it drafted and revised with the hope of helping consensus.
  • It encountered reservations on provisions regarding definition of terrorist and the convention’s application to state armed forces.
  • 2) Second is the question of equitable expansion of the UNSC to enable India to attain permanent membership along with other claimants from Asia, Africa and Latin America.
  • The move has been stuck for more than 25 years because of a lack of unity among the regional formations.
  • It also includes opposition from some 30 middle powers such as Italy and Pakistan which fear losing out to regional rivals in the event of an addition of permanent seats.
  •  The only realistic possibility seems to settle for a compromise, i.e. a new category of members elected for a longer duration than the present non-permanent members without veto power.

Priorities at the UNSC as a non-permanent member

  • India’s future role will depend on its ability to deal  economic slowdown and a troubled relationship with China.
  • This is pertinent as India will soon begin its two-year term as a non-permanent UNSC member (January 1, 2021).
  • Its areas of priority will continue to be the upholding of Charter principles, act against those who support, finance and sponsor terrorists, besides striving for securing due say to the troop contributing countries in the management of peace operations.
  • It is reasonable to assume (based on earlier patterns) that India will work for and join in consensus on key questions wherever possible.
  • But it may opt to abstain along with other members including one or two permanent members.

Consider the question “Elaborate on the transformation in India’s role at UN. What are the challenges India may face as a non-permanent member of the UNSC” 


As a non-permanent UNSC member now, India needs to uphold the Charter principles in the backdrop of a turbulent world.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-United States

US Secretary of state Visit to India


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : CAATSA

Mains level : Paper 2- India-U.S. relations

Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo makes his way to India next week, exactly a week before the election. This article discusses the various aspects that could form the part of the discussion.

Difference in U.S’s and India’s position on Quad

  • He has stated that meeting in India “would include discussions about how free nations can work together to thwart threats posed by the Chinese Communist Party”.
  • Just a few weeks ago, at the Quad Foreign Ministers meeting, U.S. Secretary of State had called for collaboration to protect people and partners from the Chinese Communist Party’s exploitation, corruption, and coercion.
  •  In contrast, India has maintained that its membership of the Quad is aligned to its Indo-Pacific policy, and by no means directed against any country.
  • While Chines aggression is changing India’s priorities, any shift in India’s position on the Quad at the U.S.’s prompting must also benefit India.

What should be the part of U.S.-India collaboration

  • It is critical to study just how India hopes to collaborate with the U.S. on the challenge that Beijing poses on each of India’s three fronts: at the LAC, in the maritime sphere, and in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) region surrounding India.
  • On the maritime sphere, discussions will include strengthening ties in the Indo-Pacific, enhancing joint military exercises like the ‘Malabar’ and completing the last of the “foundational agreements” with the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geospatial Cooperation (BECA).
  • In Male, the U.S. has announced a defence agreement that will pave the way for a strategic dialogue.
  • And unlike in the past, India has not objected this agreement with Male for entering in its area of influence in the Indian Ocean Region, as it will allow the U.S. to counter Chinese influence there.
  • With Sri Lanka the U.S. is in discussions on infrastructure projects, and progress on its “Millenium Challenge Corporation” (MCC) offer of a five-year aid grant of about $480 million.
  • At a time when India is delaying Sri Lanka’s requests for debt relief, given its own economic constraints, the U.S. aid offer will be seen as one way of staving off China’s inroads into Sri Lanka.
  • Most important will be how the U.S. and India can collaborate on dealing with India’s most immediate, continental challenge from China: at the LAC.
  • Apart from enhancing and expediting U.S. defence sales to India, there is must the U.S. could promise to India.
  • The U.S. must also commit to keeping the pressure on Pakistan on terrorism, despite the U.S. need for Pakistan’s assistance in Afghan-Taliban talks.
  • A firm U.S. statement in this regard may also disperse the pressure the Indian military faces in planning for a “two-front” conflict with China.

Resolving other key issues with the U.S.

  • Resolution of Trade issues, an area the Trump administration has been particularly tough, and restoration of India’s Generalised System of Preferences status for exporters should also be priority.
  • The government could press for more cooperation on 5G technology sharing, or an assurance that its S-400 missile system purchase from Russia will receive an exemption from CAATSA sanctions.


By inviting Secretary of State this close to the U.S. elections, New Delhi has taken a calculated and bold gamble, however, our leaders must drive a harder bargain to consolidate the pay-offs from the visit.

Back2Basics: What is CAATSA?

  • The Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) is a U.S. federal law that imposes economic sanctions on Iran, Russia and North Korea.
  • The bill came into effect on August 2, 2017, with the intention of countering perceived aggressions against the U.S. government by foreign powers.
  • It accomplishes this goal by preventing U.S. companies from doing business with sanctioned entities.

Agricultural Sector and Marketing Reforms – eNAM, Model APMC Act, Eco Survey Reco, etc.

Promotion of nutri-cereals(Millet crop) in India


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Cereals producer states in India

Mains level : Paper 3- Encouraging cereals production in India to deal with the health issue

Promotion of millet crops serves the dual purpose of securing health and supporting farmers. This article explains the strategy adopted by the government to achieve the same.

Millet crops in India

  • The three major millet crops currently growing in India are jowar (sorghum), bajra (pearl millet) and ragi (finger millet).
  • India also grows a rich array of bio-genetically diverse and indigenous varieties of “small millets” like kodo, kutki, chenna and sanwa.
  • Major producers include Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Haryana.

Advantages of millet cultivation

  • Millets are good for the soil, have shorter cultivation cycles and require less cost-intensive cultivation.
  • These unique features make millets suited for and resilient to India’s varied agro-climatic conditions.
  • Millets are not water or input-intensive, making them a sustainable strategy for addressing climate change and building resilient agri-food systems.

Reasons for decline in millet production in India

  • In the 1960s before the Green Revolution, millets were extensively grown and consumed in India.
  • With the Green Revolution, the focus, rightly so, shifted to food security and high-yielding varieties of wheat and rice.
  • An unintended consequence of this policy was the gradual decline in the production of millets.
  • Millets were increasingly seen as “poor person’s food”.
  • The cost incentives provided via MSPs also favoured a handful of staple grains.

Health issues related to refined food

  • Along with declining millet production, India saw a jump in consumer demand for ultra-processed and ready-to-eat products, which are high in sodium, sugar, trans-fats and even some carcinogens.
  • This demand was again met by highly-refined grains.
  • With the intense marketing of processed foods, even the rural population started perceiving mill-processed rice and wheat as more aspirational.
  • This has lead us to the double burden of mothers and children suffering from micronutrient deficiencies and the astounding prevalence of diabetes and obesity.

Strategy for promotion of nutri-cereals

1) Rebranding the cereals as nutri-cereals

  • The first strategy from a consumption and trade point of view was to re-brand coarse cereals/millets as nutri-cereals.
  • As of 2018-19, millet production had been extended to over 112 districts across 14 states.

2) Incentive through hiking MSP

  • Second, the government hiked the MSP of nutri-cereals, which came as a big price incentive for farmers.
  • From 2014-15 to 2020 MSPs for ragi has jumped by 113 per cent, by 72 per cent for bajra and by 71 per cent for jowar.
  • MSPs have been calculated so that the farmer is ensured at least a 50 per cent return on their cost of production.

3) Providing steady markets through inclusion in PDS

  • To provide a steady market for the produce, the Modi government included millets in the public distribution system.

4) Increasing area, production and yield

  • The Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare is running a Rs 600-crore scheme to increase the area, production and yield of nutri-cereals.
  • With a goal to match the cultivation of nutri-cereals with local topography and natural resources, the government is encouraging farmers to align their local cropping patterns to India’s diverse 127 agro-climatic zones.
  • Provision of seed kits and inputs to farmers, building value chains through Farmer Producer Organisations and supporting the marketability of nutri-cereals are some of the key interventions that have been put in place.

5) Intersection of agriculture and nutrition

  • The Ministry of Women and Child Development has been working at the intersection of agriculture and nutrition by -1) setting up nutri-gardens, 2) promoting research on the interlinkages between crop diversity and dietary diversity 3) running a behaviour change campaign to generate consumer demand for nutri-cereals.

Consider the question “What are the reasons for decline in the millet production in India? What are the steps taken by the government to encourage its production?”


As the government sets to achieve its agenda of a malnutrition-free India and doubling of farmers’ incomes, the promotion of the production and consumption of nutri-cereals seems to be a policy shift in the right direction.

Higher Education – RUSA, NIRF, HEFA, etc.

The NEP 2020 must look beyond just data science and AI


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NEP 2020

Mains level : Paper 2- NEP 2020's focus on mathematical and computational thinking

The article deals with the issues with the emphasis on the coding instead of understanding the basic algorithmic process.

Issues with focusing on coding in NEP 2020

  • The National Education Policy 2020 (NEP) envisages putting greater emphasis on mathematical and computational thinking throughout the school years.
  • The framing in the NEP appears to put it at the same level of distinction as the more instrumental ‘coding’, and almost as a mere tool towards the utilitarian goals of artificial intelligence (AI) and data science.
  • An overemphasis on learning the nitty-gritty of specific programming languages prematurely — even from middle school — may distract from focusing on the development of algorithmic creativity.

What is coding?

Coding is basically the computer language used to develop apps, websites, and software. Without it, we’d have none of the most popular technology we’ve come to rely on such as Facebook, our smartphones, the browser we choose to view our favorite blogs, or even the blogs themselves. It all runs on code.

About computation and algorithms

  • Algorithmics is the abstract process of arriving at a post-condition through a sequential process of state changes.
  • It is among the earliest human intellectual endeavours that has become imperative for almost all organised thinking.
  • All early learning of counting and arithmetic is method-based, and hence algorithmic in nature, and all calculations involve computational processes encoded in algorithms.
  • The core algorithmic ideas of modern AI and machine learning are based on some seminal algorithmic ideas of Newton and Gauss, which date back a few hundred years.
  • Though the form of expressions of algorithms — the coding — have been different, the fundamental principles of classical algorithm design have remained invariant.

Algorithms in modern world

  • In the modern world, the use of algorithmic ideas is not limited only to computations with numbers, or even to digitisation, communication or AI and data science.
  • They play a crucial role in modelling and expressing ideas in diverse areas of human thinking, including the basic sciences of biology, physics and chemistry, all branches of engineering, in understanding disease spread, in modelling social interactions and social graphs, in transportation networks, supply chains, commerce, banking and other business processes, and even in economic and political strategies and design of social processes.
  • Hence, learning algorithmic thinking early in the education process is indeed crucial.

So, how coding is different from arithmetics?

  • Coding is merely the act of encoding an algorithmic method in a particular programming language which provides an interface.
  • AS computational process can be invoked in a modern digital computer.
  • Thus, it is less fundamental.
  • While coding certainly can provide excellent opportunities for experimentation with algorithmic ideas, they are not central or indispensable to algorithmic thinking.
  • After all, coding is merely one vehicle to achieve experiential learning of a computational process.

Way forward

  • Instead of focusing on the intricacies of specific programming languages, it is more important at an early stage of education to develop an understanding of the basic algorithmic processes behind manipulating geometric figures.
  • Indeed, this is a common outcome of the overly utilitarian skills training-based approaches evidenced throughout the country.


The NEP guideline of introducing algorithmic thinking early is a welcome step, it must be ensured that it does not degenerate and get bogged down with mundane coding tricks at a budding stage in the education process.

Cashless Society – Digital Payments, Demonetization, etc.

Analysing the success of NPCI


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : MDR, IMPS, RTGS, NEFT

Mains level : Paper 3- Role of NPCI in transforming digital payment infrastructure in India

The article tracks the evolution of digital payments system in India and the transformational role played by the NPCI in it.

Adoption of digital payments in India

  • Digital payments have found strong ground in India reducing all other modes of payments to the background.
  • Through a faster system of simultaneous debits and credits, the money value is transferred from one account to the other across banks.
  • With such versatility and ease of settling financial transactions, the growth of digital payments is going to be phenomenal, supported by banks and Fin-Tech companies.

Evolution of digital payments in India

  • A major thrust toward large value payments was effected through the Real Time Gross Settlement System, or RTGS, launched by the RBI in March 2004.
  • The large value payments on stock trading, government bond trading and other customer payments were covered under the RTGS.
  • It substantially reduced the time taken for settlements.
  • Around the same time, the RBI introduced National Electronic Funds Transfer, or NEFT to support retail payments.
  • Now, NEFT is available round the clock and RTGS will follow from December 2020 — only a few countries have achieved this.
  • These systems were seeded and reinforced with the setting up of the umbrella retail payments institution: National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI).
  • NPCI was set up by 10 lead banks at the instance of the RBI in 2009.
  •  The NPCI as a not-for-profit company

How NPCI transformed retail payment systems in India

  • The NPCI’s success against deeply entranced formidable international players, supported by innovative technology, viz. Unified Payments Interface (UPI) and Immediate Payment Service (IMPS), is well recognised by central banks in many other countries.
  • The Bank for International Settlements’s endorsement of the NPCI model in 2019 is a major accolade.
  • With digital payment being a public good like currency notes, it was necessary that the corporation was fully supported by the RBI and the government as an extended arm of the sovereign.
  • It was also necessary to contain expectations on profits, avoiding direct or indirect control by powerful private interests could dilute the public good character of the outfit.

Issue of converting NPCI into for-profit

  • Converting NPCI intro for-profit company will be a retrograde step with huge potential for loss of consumer surplus along with other strategic implications.
  • Instead the strategy should be to assist the NPCI financially, either by the RBI or the government, to provide retail payment services at reduced price (in certain priority areas).
  • This may also help support expansion of the payment system network and infrastructure in rural and semi-urban areas in partnership with Fin-Tech companies and banks.

Issue fo MDR

  • In Budget 2020-21, the government prescribed zero Merchant Discount Rate (MDR) for RuPay and UPI, both NPCI products.
  • Zero MDR on UPI and RuPay will help to popularise digital payments benefiting both customers and merchants.
  • There is justification in this zero MDR prescription by the government.
  • It is justified because depositors implicitly pay around 3% to banks as net interest margin, being the difference between saving and risk free bond rate, for enjoying certain payments services traditionally.
  • When banks enjoy such a huge amount of current account savings account (CASA) deposits, in return, is it not incumbent on them to provide such payment services?
  • The government left out other providers of digital payment products from this MDR prescription.
  • Taking advantage of this dichotomy, many issuing banks switched to mainly Visa and Master cards for monetary gains.
  • As customers were induced by such supplier banks, it created a kind of indirect market segmentation and cartel formation, though there is hardly any quality difference in payment products.
  • It may be noted that even the European Central Bank imposed a ceiling on MDR for all, protecting consumer interest.
  • It is hoped that the government will take corrective action in the next Budget to ensure a level playing field and to relieve the NPCI from such policy-induced market imperfection.

Pricing for digital payments

  • The ideal pricing for digital payments products should be based on an analysis of-(i) producer surplus (ii) consumer surplus (i.e. gain or loss of utility due to pricing) (iii) social welfare for which we need cost-volume-price data.
  • A factor which needs to be reckoned is the float funds digital payments allow (cash withdrawal is a drain on the banking system), which is a source of sizeable income for banks.
  • The RBI will do well to study and arrive at a rational structure of pricing including MDR (possibly also penalty on default by customer).

Consider the question “Elaborate on how the NPCI has been successful in transforming the digital payment landscape in the country through innovations? What are the challenges facing retail payments infrastructures?”


Given that the digital payment system is like a national superhighway, for which the government has a crucial role to play in protecting consumers against exploitation.

Back2Basics: RTGS and NEFT

  • With NEFT (National Electronic Funds Transfer)
    you can transfer any amount to the recipient’s account in a one-on-one transfer basis.
  • NEFT transactions don’t have a maximum limit for funds that can be transferred in a single day.
  • The NEFT system is available round the clock throughout the year on all days (24x7x365).
  • Funds are transferred in batches that are settled in 48 half-hourly time slots throughout the day.
  • There is no maximum or minimum limit on the amount of funds that could be transferred through NEFT.

RTGS (Real Time Gross Settlement)

  • Business owners can use RTGS when they need to transfer large amounts instantly.
  • One advantage that RTGS has over the other methods is the transaction speed, since the entire amount is transferred in real time.
  • The available hours for RTGS transactions vary based on the individual banks and their branches.
  • There’s a minimum limit of Rs. 2 lakhs for RTGS transactions, and there’s no maximum limit as such.

What is MDR?

  • The merchant discount rate (MDR) is charged to merchants for processing debit and credit card transactions.
  • To accept debit and credit cards, merchants must set up this service and agree to the rate.
  • The merchant discount rate is a fee, typically between 1%-3%, that merchants must consider when managing business costs

Defence Sector – DPP, Missions, Schemes, Security Forces, etc.

Issues with dilution of offset condition for defence procurement


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : The offset clause

Mains level : Paper 3- Implications of dilutions of offset clause in defence procurement

The ‘offset clause’ could help the country achieve the technological expertise and consequently self-reliance. However, India recently relaxed some norms in the policy. The article discusses the stated reasons for tweaking and its implications for the defence manufacturing industry in India.


  • Recently, the government diluted the “offset” policy in defence procurement, reportedly in response to a Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India’s report tabled in Parliament last month.

Let’s understand ‘offset’ policy

  •  In order to safeguard national interest, most countries restrict trade in defence equipment and advanced technologies.
  • Yet, for commercial gains and for global technological recognition, governments and firms do like to expand the trade through negotiated bilateral sales.
  • Restrictions are often imposed on the buyer country on use, modification and resale of such equipment and technologies.
  • The product and technology compel buyers to stick to them for: the advantages of bulk purchase, and dependence on the supplier for spares and upgrades.
  • The price and the terms of the contract often reflect the government’s relative bargaining strength and also domestic political and economic considerations.
  • Large buyers such as India seek to exercise their “buying power” to secure not just the lowest price but also try to acquire the technology to upgrade domestic production and build R&D capabilities.
  • The offset clause — used globally — is the instrument for securing these goals.

Changes in the offset policy

  • Initiated in 2005, the offset clause has following requirements:
  • 1) Sourcing 30% of the value of the contract domestically.
  • 2) Indigenisation of production in a strict time frame.
  • 3) Training Indian professionals in high-tech skills, for promoting domestic R&D.
  • However, the policy has been tweaked many times since.
  • According to the recent CAG report,  between 2007 and 2018, the government reportedly signed 46 offset contracts worth ₹66,427 crore of investments.
  • However, the realised investments were merely 8%, or worth ₹5,457 crore.
  • Reportedly, technology transfer agreements in the offsets were not implemented, failing to accomplish the stated policy objective.
  • Recently, the government has changed this policy further so that the offset clause will not be applicable to bilateral deals and deals with a single (monopoly) seller, to begin with.

Implications of the changes in offset policy

  • The dilution means practically giving up the offset clause, and a setback to India’s prospects for boosting defence production and technological self-reliance.
  • The government, however, has defended the decision by claiming a cost advantage.
  • Howver, price is but one of many factors in such deals, as explained above.
  • The higher (upfront) cost of the agreement due to the offset clause would pay for itself by: reducing costs in the long term by indigenisation of production and the potential technology spill-overs for domestic industry.
  • Hence, giving up the offset clause is undoubtedly a severe setback.

How did offset policy work for aerospace industry?

  • Despite the heft of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, India is a lightweight in global civilian aircraft manufacturing, as the public sector giant mostly devotes itself to defence production.
  • The National Civil Aircraft Development (NCAD) project — to come up with an indigenously designed Regional Transport Aircraft (RTA) — has remained a non-starter from day one.
  • However, with the introduction of the offset policy in 2005, things changed dramatically.
  • For contracts valued at ₹300 crore or more, 30% of it will result in offsets, implemented through Indian offset partners.
  • As aerospace imports rose rapidly, so did the exports via the offsets, by a whopping 544% in 2007, compared to the previous year.
  • By 2014, exports increased to $6.7 billion from a paltry $62.5 million in 2005, according to the United Nations Comtrade Database.
  • The offset clause enabled India to join the league of the world’s top 10 aerospace exporters; the only country without a major domestic aerospace firm.
  • However, exports reduced after the offset clause was relaxed, primarily when the threshold for the policy was raised from the hitherto ₹300 crore to ₹2000 crore, in 2016.
  • The offset exports fell to $1.5 billion by 2019.
  • The 2005 policy helped promote a vibrant aerospace cluster, mostly micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) around Bengaluru.

Consider the question “How far has the offset clause been successful in enhancing the domestic capabilities of India in defence manufacturing? What are the challenges in achieving the objectives of the policy?”


There are successful examples to draw lessons from, as the aerospace industry episode demonstrates. India needs to re-conceive or re-imagine the offset clause in defence contracts with stricter enforcement of the deals, in national interest, and in order to aim for ‘Atma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan’, or a self-reliant India.

Police Reforms – SC directives, NPC, other committees reports

Reforms police in India need


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- Police reforms

The article highlights the challenges facing the police force in India and suggests the measures to deal with them.

Urgency of the police reforms

  • In a well-ordered democracy, the police are supposed to be a disciplined force trained to uphold the law and enforce the functioning of democracy on constitutional lines.
  • However, police in India suffers from a triad of malaises:
  • 1) The lack of sensitisation of police personnel.
  • 2) Absence of accountability.
  • 3) Politicisation of the police.

Objectives of the reforms:

1) Police sensitisation about their role in society

  • The sensitisation module should aim at bringing about attitudinal change in police — especially pertaining to gender and power relations and police behaviour.
  • There has to be promptness of action and decency of behaviour.
  • They need to be trained in body language and strictly advised to refrain from abusive behaviour.
  • It is necessary to increase public confidence in the police by upgrading levels of police service delivery as well as by investigating and acting in cases of police misconduct.

2) Increasing accountability

  • Public confidence in police decreases when the public perceives that police abuses are not investigated effectively.
  • Enhancing accountability will improve police legitimacy and increase public confidence, which, in turn, will reinforce the integrity of the system.
  • The Police Ombudsman of Northern Ireland, the Danish Independent Police Complaints Authority are some examples of mechanisms for accountability of the police for acts of abuse of power.

3) De-politicisation of the police

  • Linked to accountability is de-politicisation of the police force.
  • This is a must for the effective functioning of the country’s criminal justice system.
  • The police, as the custodian of maintenance of law and order, must stay away from agenda-driven politics.

Need to resolve the structural issues

In order to achieve the above-stated objectives, structural issues within the force must be given priority.

1) Vacancies and fair representation to women

  • According to a report by Common Cause in 2019, the Indian police force is at only 77 per cent of its sanctioned strength.
  • India has 144 police personnel for one lakh population and, in some states, the figure is less than 100.
  • One in every five posts sanctioned in the Indian Police Service remains vacant.
  • In low and middle-rank posts, the vacancies of 5.28 lakh personnel account for nearly one-fourth of the total sanctioned strength of over 22 lakh.
  • A fully-staffed police force would only increase India’s police-to-population ratio to 185 against the UN recommended ratio of 222.
  • The police-to-people ratio should be improved by at least 50 per cent to meet the challenges faced by the force.
  • Women are grossly underrepresented in our police force at less than 7 per cent of our total police strength.
  • With the increase in the number of gender crimes, it has become a necessity to augment the strength of police by recruiting more and more women police personnel.
  • The situation in Uttar Pradesh is the worst where police are at roughly 50 per cent of sanctioned strength.
  • When the numbers are inadequate, police personnel are stretched, leading to shoddy policing.

2) Lack of in-service training

  • The existing police personnel are also not adequately trained. Less than 7 per cent police get in-service training.
  • Gujarat scores the lowest, with less than one per cent having received any in-service training.

3) Implementation of guidelines and recommendations

  • After the National Police Commission in 1977, several committees were set up, including the Gore Committee, Padmanabhaiah Committee and Malimath Committee.
  • These commissions and committees have made far-reaching recommendations.
  • The top police leadership should be selected by apolitical representatives and an impartial body as suggested by Dharma Vira Commission have farsighted implications.
  • It was a strong antidote to opportunistic appointments and transfers.
  • Recommendations of the commission, if implemented, along with the Supreme Court directives of 2006 by Justice Sabharwal, in true letter and spirit, will go a long way in police reform.

4) Reforms in criminal justice system

  • Reforms in the criminal justice system and separation of law and order from investigation and prosecution are the other areas that need the attention of the authorities.
  • These aspects have been highlighted by many commissions and committees constituted by the Centre.

Consider the question “What are the challenges facing the police force in the country? Suggest the measures to deal with these challenges.”


A new role and new philosophy have to be defined for the police to not only make it a capable and effective body but also one accountable to the law of the land and to the people whom they serve.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Bangladesh

Opportunities for India in Bangladesh’s economic success


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : BBIN, SAARC

Mains level : Paper 2- Economic progress of Bangladesh and its implications for the subcontinent

Bangladesh is expected to cross India in terms per capita income. This speaks volumes about the achievements of Bangladesh when contrasted with Pakistan. At the same time, it has several implications for the region. The elaborates on such implications.

What other countries can learn from Bangladesh

  • The International Monetary Fund’s latest World Economic Outlook published recently predicts that Bangladesh’s per capita GDP will overtake that of India this year.
  • The projected difference is rather small — $1,888 to $1,877 — and unlikely to last beyond this year.
  • International development institutions are convinced that the rest of the subcontinent and developing countries around the world can learn much from Dhaka’s experience — the so-called “Bangladesh model”.

5 Implications for the region

1) Rising global interest in the subcontinent

  • Rapid and sustained economic growth in Bangladesh has begun to alter the world’s perception of the subcontinent.
  • India and Pakistan dominated the region and other countries were considered small.
  • But Bangladesh was far from being small, demographically it’s  the eighth-largest nation in the world.
  • The economic rise of Bangladesh is changing some of that.

2) Changing economic weights of Bangladesh and Pakistan

  • This year, Bangladesh’s GDP is expected to reach about $320 billion.
  • The IMF did not have the 2020 numbers from Pakistan to report but in 2019, Pakistan’s economy was at $275 billion.
  • The IMF suggests that Pakistan’s economy will contract further this year.
  • Bangladesh has controlled its population growth and Pakistan has not.
  • Dhaka has a grip over its inflation and Islamabad does not.
  • There is no question that Pakistan’s negative geopolitical weight in the world will endure.
  • But Bangladesh’s growing economic muscle will help Dhaka steadily accumulate geopolitical salience in the years ahead.

3) Accelerate regional integration

  • Bangladesh’s economic growth can accelerate regional integration in the eastern subcontinent.
  • The region’s prospects for a collective economic advance are rather dim.
  • Due to Pakistan’s opposition to economic cooperation with India and its support for cross-border terror, the main regional forum for the subcontinent, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc), is dormant.
  • Instead of merely praying for the revival of Saarc, Delhi could usefully focus on the BBIN.
  • BBIN is sub-regional forum among Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal, activated in the middle of last decade — has not advanced fast enough.
  • It is time for Delhi and Dhaka to take a fresh look at the forum and find ways to widen the scope and pace of BBIN activity.
  • Meanwhile, there is growing interest in Bhutan and Nepal for economic integration with Bangladesh.

4) Increasing importance of Bangladesh in geopolitics of Indo-Pacific

  • The economic success of Bangladesh is drawing attention from a range of countries in East Asia, including China, Japan, South Korea, and Singapore.
  • The US, which traditionally focused on India and Pakistan, has woken up to the possibilities in Bangladesh.
  • Bangladesh does not want to get into the fight between Beijing and Washington, but the great power wooing of Dhaka is bound to intensify in the new geopolitics of the Indo-Pacific.

5) Development of India’s eastern and north-eastern states could accelerate

  • Bangladesh’s economy is now one-and-a-half times as large as that of West Bengal; better integration between the two would provide a huge boost for eastern India.
  • Also, connectivity between India’s landlocked Northeast and Bangladesh would provide a boost to the development of north-eastern states.
  • Delhi and Dhaka are eager to promote greater cooperation, but there has been little political enthusiasm in Kolkata.
  • In Assam, the issue of migration continues to impose major political constraints.

Way forward

  • Parliamentary approval of the boundary settlement in 2015, despite the opposition, was a step in the right direction from India.
  • So was the acceptance of the 2014 international arbitration award on the maritime boundary dispute between India and Bangladesh.
  • But the positive dynamic surrounding the bilateral relationship acquired a negative tone in the second amidst the poisonous rhetoric in India around the Citizenship Amendment Act.
  • There is much room for course correction in Delhi and to shift the focus from legacy issues to future possibilities.


Both the countries need to jointly develop and pursue with Dhaka an ambitious framework for shared prosperity.

Terrorism and Challenges Related To It

Security implications of Doha Accord for India


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Doha Accord

Mains level : Paper 3- Threat of terrorism

We have been spared of some unfortunate news of terrorist attacks in the recent past, however, it would be mistake to discount the threat posed by the terrorist organisations especially when we consider the backdrop of Doha Accord. The article deals with the threat of terrorism.

Declining support

  • Terrorist organisations like Taliban, al-Qaeda, Islamic State, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) have been dormant during a pandemic.
  • This is partly explained by the fact that open terror attacks have been reducing, presumably because:
  • 1) Terror outfits lack resources.
  • 2) Because of temporary loss of support from those normally hostile to the non-Islamic world and tolerant Muslims.
  • However, given their past resilience, they continue to pose threats to modern society, especially to India and its neighbourhood.

But threat persists

  • These terrorist organisations continue to be attractive to misguided youth in India whose loyalties are extraterritorial.
  • Their numbers may not be formidable, but they can cause a ripple effect that cannot be underestimated.
  • Terrorist cells are probably engaged in the quiet process of collecting resources for future lethal assaults against India and other countries in the neighbourhood.
  • Once the pandemic eases, we may see a resurgence of terror.
  • The aggravation of poverty in developing nations due to COVID-19 could offer a fertile ground for recruitment.
  • The al-Qaeda and the Islamic State are carrying out their recruitment undiminished by the problems posed by the pandemic.
  • Only these two outfits have an impressive global reach backed by global ambitions.

What are the implications of Doha Accord?

  • The Doha Accord signed this year between the Taliban and the U.S., which has brought about an improved relationship between the two.
  • The U.S. has agreed to a near-total withdrawal of its troops in return for the Taliban’s promise to preserve peace in Afghanistan.
  • The Taliban and the al-Qaeda need each other in many areas.
  • Both are friendly towards Pakistan and could pose a problem or two to India in the near future.
  • Many recent raids by the National Investigation Agency point to an al-Qaeda network in India.
  • Once the situation gets better, the al-Qaeda, in cahoots with other aggressive Islamic outfits in and around Pakistan, is bound to escalate the offensive against India.
  • This is one factor that makes the al-Qaeda and other terror outfits still relevant to India’s security calculus.

Consider the question “What are the implications of Doha Acord for India’s security architecture?”


The threat posed by the changing geopolitical landscape is bound to increase in the coming days and hence India should prepare itself to tackle the challenge.

Financial Inclusion in India and Its Challenges

[pib] Framework for Regulatory Sandbox


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Regulatory sandbox

Mains level : Paper 3- Regulatory sandbox

The International Financial Services Centres Authority (IFSCA) has introduced a framework for Regulatory Sandbox to tap into innovative Fin-tech solutions.

Try answering this simple question:
Q.What is Regulatory Sandbox? What are its salient features?

Regulatory Sandbox

  • A regulatory sandbox usually refers to live testing of new products or services in a controlled/test regulatory environment for which regulators may permit certain regulatory relaxations for the limited purpose of the testing.
  • The objective of the sandbox is to foster responsible innovation in financial services, promote efficiency and bring benefit to consumers.
  • It provides a secure environment for fintech firms to experiment with products under supervision of a regulator.
  • It is an infrastructure that helps fintech players live test their products or solutions, before getting the necessary regulatory approvals for a mass launch, saving start-ups time and cost.

Its inception

  • The concept of a regulatory sandbox or innovation hub for fintech firms was mooted by a committee headed by then RBI executive director Sudarshan Sen.
  • The panel submitted its report in Nov 2017 has called for a regulatory sandbox to help firms experiment with fintech solutions, where the consequences of failure can be contained and reasons for failure analysed.
  • If the product appears to have the potential to be successful, it might be authorised and brought to the broader market more quickly.

What is the new framework?

  • IFSCA has introduced a framework for “Regulatory Sandbox”.
    Under this Sandbox framework, entities operating in the capital market, banking, insurance and financial services space shall be granted certain facilities and flexibilities.
  • It will experiment with innovative FinTech solutions in a live environment with a limited set of real customers for a limited time frame.
  • These features shall be fortified with necessary safeguards for investor protection and risk mitigation. The Regulatory Sandbox shall operate within the IFSC located at GIFT City (Gandhinagar).
  • IFSCA shall assess the applications and extend suitable regulatory relaxations to commence limited purpose testing in the Sandbox.

Other propositions

  • As additional steps towards creating an innovation-centric ecosystem, the IFSCA has proposed the creation of an “Innovation Sandbox”.
  • It will be a testing environment where Fin-tech firms can test their solutions in isolation from the live market.
  • This would be based on market related data made available by the Market Infrastructure Institutions (MIIs) operating in the IFSC.
  • The Innovation Sandbox will be managed and facilitated by the MIIs operating within the IFSC.

Back2Basics: GIFT City, Gandhinagar

  • GIFT city is India’s first operational smart city and international financial services centre (much like a modern IT park).
  • The idea for GIFT was conceived during the Vibrant Gujarat Global Investor Summit 2007 and the initial planning was done by East China Architectural Design & Research Institute (ECADI).
  • Currently approximately 225 units/companies are operational with more than 12000 professionals employed in the City.
  • The entire city is based on concept of FTTX (Fibre to the home / office).The fiber optic is laid in fault tolerant ring architecture so as to ensure maximum uptime of services.
  • Every building in GIFT City is an intelligent building. There is piped supply of cooking gas. India’s first city-level DCS (district cooling system) is also operational at GIFT City.

What are District Development Councils (DDCs)?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : District Development Councils

Mains level : Paper 2- DDCs in J and K

The Centre has amended the Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj Act, 1989, to facilitate the setting up of District Development Councils (DDC).

Tap to read more about: Reorganization of J&K

What are DDCs?

  • DDCs structure will include a DDC and a District Planning Committee (DPC).
  • The J&K administration has also amended the J&K Panchayati Raj Rules, 1996, to provide for establishment of elected District Development Councils in J&K.
  • This system effectively replaces the District Planning and Development Boards in all districts, and will prepare and approve district plans and capital expenditure.

Composition of DDCs

  • Their key feature, however, is that the DDCs will have elected representatives from each district.
  • Their number has been specified at 14 elected members per district representing its rural areas, alongside the Members of
  • Legislative Assembly chairpersons of all Block Development Councils within the district.

Term of reference

  • The term of the DDC will be five years, and the electoral process will allow for reservations for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and women.
  • The Additional District Development Commissioner (or the Additional DC) of the district shall be the Chief Executive Officer of the District Development Council.
  • The council, as stated in the Act, will hold at least four “general meetings” in a year, one in each quarter.

What will be the process here onward?

  • The 14 constituencies for electing representatives to the DDC will have to be delimited.
  • These constituencies will be carved out of the rural areas of the district, and elected members will subsequently elect a chairperson and a vice-chairperson of the DDC from among themselves.

Within the third tier, where do the DDCs fit in?

  • The DDCs replace the District Planning and Development Boards (DDBs) that were headed by a cabinet minister of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • For Jammu and Srinagar districts, as winter and summer capitals, the DDBs were headed by the Chief Minister.

However, for Leh and Kargil districts, the Autonomous Hill Development Councils performed the functions designated for the DDBs.

How will DPC work, then?

  • For every district there will be DPC comprising MPs representing the area, Members of the State Legislature representing the areas within the District etc. among others.
  • The MP will function as the chairperson of this committee.
  • The committee will “consider and guide” the formulation of development programmes for the district.
  • It would indicate priorities for various schemes and consider issues relating to the speedy development and economic uplift of the district.
  • It would function as a working group for formulation of periodic and annual plans for the district; and formulate and finalise the plan and non-plan budget for the district.

Centre’s objective behind this new structure

  • The J&K administration in a statement said that the move to have an elected third tier of the Panchayati Raj institution marks the implementation of the entire 73rd Amendment Act in J&K.
  • The idea is that systems that had been made defunct by earlier J&K governments such as the panchayati raj system are being revived under the Centre’s rule in the state through the Lieutenant Governor’s administration.
  • In the absence of elected representatives in the UT, senior government officials argue that DDCs will effectively become representative bodies for development at the grassroots in the 20 districts of the UT.
  • They hope that this may draw some former legislators in as well.

President’s Rule

Issues related to the Office of Governor


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Constitutional provisions related to the Governor

Mains level : Paper 2- Misuse of discretionary power by the Governor

The article deals with the role of Governor in the state and issue of misuse of discretionary power vested in him.

Constitutional provision related to Governor

  • Various Raj Bhavans have become embroiled in controversies over the decade.
  • This is partly because the Constitution of India does allow a certain discretion to the Governor.
  • And a discretion invariably does get abused.
  • The framers of the Constitution had rejected an elected Governor because they were unambiguously clear that political power would only be vested with elected executives.
  • Yet, they were not inclined to put in a formal Instrument of Instructions for the Governors and were content to believe that political decencies and correctness would be observed both by the Governor and the Chief Minister.

As the distinguished constitutional expert, Nani A. Palkhivala explained it “the Constitution intended that the Governor should be the instrument to maintain the fundamental equilibrium of the people of the State and to ensure that the mandates of the Constitution are respected in the State”. 

Misuse of ‘discretion’ by Governors

  • As an appointee of the Union Government, the Governors have been prone to act on the instructions by ruling party at the Centre.
  • Inevitably the “discretion” in choosing a Chief Minister, or requiring a Chief Minister to prove his/her majority, or dismissing a Chief Minister, dissolving the legislature, recommending President’s Rule — came to be tainted with partisan political considerations.
  • More often than not, the governor’s discretion was abused, sometimes absurdly, even whimsically.
  • In the S.R. Bommai case, the Supreme Court did try through its judgment to prevent the misuse of power.


The guidelines given in the S.R. Bommai case should be adhered to by the Governor and should avoid conflict with the elected governments in the States.

Police Reforms – SC directives, NPC, other committees reports

Still awaiting police reform


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- Police reforms

The police have been in the news for incidents involving violence and killings. These instances points to the urgent need for the implementation of the Supreme Court directives given in the Prakash Singh case. The article deals with the issues of delay in the implementation.

Need for immediate remedial measures

  • Police has been in the news for incidents involving police brutalities like thrashing of a Dalit Ahirwar couple by the police Madhya Pradesh, torture and killing of father-son duo in Tamil Nadu and killing of gangster in UP.
  • These incidents and several others show that we need immediate remedial measures.

Past attempts for police reforms

  • The first serious attempt was when the National Police Commission (NPC) was set up in 1977.
  • The NPC submitted eight reports to the Ministry of Home Affairs between 1979 and 1981.
  • Seven of these reports were circulated to the States in 1983.

Prakash Sing Case

  • No action was taken on the reports of the reports until 1996.
  • In 1996 Prakash Singh, a retired IPS officer, filed a PIL in the apex court in 1996 demanding the implementation of the NPC’s recommendations.
  • In 2006, the Supreme Court issued a slew of directives on police reform.

Status of implementation of directives by Staes

  • The one directive that would hurt the most is the setting up of a State Security Commission (SSC) in each State.
  • State Security Commission would divest the political leaders of the unbridled power that they wield at present.
  • Of the States that constituted an SSC, only Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka have made SSC recommendations binding on the State government.
  • Only six States provided a minimum tenure of two years to the Director General of Police (DGP).
  • Many States have not implemented a single directive of the Supreme Court.

Way forward

  • Expecting political will to implement police reforms is difficult to come by, it is for the judiciary to step in and enforce the directives it had passed.
  • Fourteen years is too long a period for any further relaxation.
  • The Court has to ensure that its directives are not dismissed lightly.

Consider the question “What are the issues facing police administration? What are the reasons for lack of full implementation of the directives given by the Supreme Court in the Prakash Singh case?


A bold step towards bringing down crimes is possible only when the politicians-criminals-police nexus is strangled.

Analysing the trends in India’s population growth

The article analyses some trends in India’s population growth as found in the Sample Registration System Statistical Report (2018).


  • There have been some encouraging trends in India’s population in the Sample Registration System (SRS) Statistical Report (2018) and global population projections made by the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), US.

 Declining TFR

  • SRS report estimated the Total Fertility Rate (TFR), the number of children a mother would have at the current pattern of fertility during her lifetime, as 2.2 in the year 2018.
  •  It is estimated that replacement TFR of 2.1 would soon be, if not already, reached for India as a whole.
  • As fertility declines, so does the population growth rate.
  • This report estimated the natural annual population growth rate to be 1.38 per cent in 2018.
  • A comparison of 2011 and 2018 SRS statistical reports shows that TFR declined from 2.4 to 2.2 during this period.
  • Fertility declined in all major states.
  • In 2011, 10 states had a fertility rate below the replacement rate. This increased to 14 states.
  • The annual natural population growth rate also declined from 1.47 to 1.38 per cent during this period.

So, when will India’s population stabilise

  • Duet to population momentum effect, a result of more people entering the reproductive age group of 15-49 years due to the past high-level of fertility, population stabilisation will take some time.
  • The UN Population Division has estimated that India’s population would possibly peak at 161 crore around 2061.
  •  Recently, IHME estimated that it will peak at 160 crore in 2048.
  • Some of this momentum effect can be mitigated if young people delay childbearing and space their children.

Factors affecting fertility rates

  • Fertility largely depends upon social setting and programme strength.
  • Programme strength is indicated by the unmet need for contraception, which has several components.
  •  The National Family Health Survey (2015-16) provides us estimates for the unmet need at 12.9 per cent and contraceptive prevalence of 53.5 per cent for India.
  • Female education is a key indicator for social setting, higher the female education level, lower the fertility.
  • As the literacy of women in the reproductive age group is improving rapidly, we can be sanguine about continued fertility reduction.

Declining sex ratio at birth: Cause for concerrn

  •  The SRS reports show that sex ratio at birth in India, measured as the number of females per 1,000 males, declined marginally from 906 in 2011 to 899 in 2018.
  • Biologically normal sex ratio at birth is 950 females to 1,000 males. 
  • The UNFPA State of World Population 2020 estimated the sex ratio at birth in India as 910, lower than all the countries in the world except China.
  • This is a cause for concern for following 2 reasons:
  • 1) This adverse ratio results in a gross imbalance in the number of men and women.
  • 2) Impact on marriage systems as well as other harms to women.
  • Increasing female education and economic prosperity help to improve the ratio.
  • It is hoped that a balanced sex ratio at birth could be realised over time, although this does not seem to be happening during the period 2011-18. 


In conclusion, there is an urgent need to reach young people both for reproductive health education and services as well as to cultivate gender equity norms. This could reduce the effect of population momentum and accelerate progress towards reaching a more normal sex-ratio at birth. India’s population future depends on it.

Back2Basics: Total Fertility Rate and Replacement rate

  • Total fertility rate (TFR) in simple terms refers to total number of children born or likely to be born to a woman in her life time if she were subject to the prevailing rate of age-specific fertility in the population.
  • TFR of about 2.1 children per woman is called Replacement-level fertility (UN, Population Division).
  • This value represents the average number of children a woman would need to have to reproduce herself by bearing a daughter who survives to childbearing age.
  • If replacement level fertility is sustained over a sufficiently long period, each generation will exactly replace itself without any need for the country to balance the population by international migration.