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GS: 2


International relations:

Tibet is not a card(The Hindu Opinion)

Context

Recent calling off major events of Tibetan community example, like cancellation of the 7th World Parliamentarian’s Convention on Tibet (WPCT), which had been planned for April 26-28 in Delhi

Author’s view

India shouldn’t use Tibetan refugees in India as a card in its relations with China

Why using the Tibetan card is not a correct strategy?

  • Tibet had no role in deteriorating relations with China: Ties between New Delhi and Beijing have deteriorated over the past few years for a number of reasons unconnected to the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan population in India
  • Changing ground realities in Tibet
    • Development of Tibetan cities: The landscape of Tibet, now crisscrossed with railway lines, super-speed highways, tunnels and airports, has changed drastically in the past two decades e.g. Beijing-Lhasa railway line, the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) now sees many more such engineering marvels (albeit at the cost of its environment), and downtown Lhasa has all the trappings of a modern city
    • Demographic shift in Tibet (Increasing Chinese influence): With Beijing populating areas with majority ‘Han’ Chinese workers, encouraging mixed marriages, and mainstreaming Chinese culture into the region
    • Decreasing outflow of Tibetan refugees to India: The outflow of refugees from Tibet has been curtailed by the Chinese authorities over the last decade, mainly by convincing Nepal to close a popular route and the once bustling informal trade route between India and Tibet has also dried up
  • New Generations born in India unaware of situation in Tibet: New generations of Tibetans born in India are brought up as exiles, without a real sense of what Tibet may actually be like, should they ever return
    • Weak relations with India: The government’s attitude towards giving them citizenship has been stern, although it lost its case in the Delhi High Court (Namgyal Dolkar v. Government of India) and must give citizenship to all Tibetan refugees born between 1950 and 1987, the cut-off year.
  • Uncertain future of Tibetan leadership: During his lifetime, the Dalai Lama has been a unifying force, guiding the community through their struggle in a peaceful manner, while accepting an autonomous Tibet as a part of China but after him, the direction the community takes will be of vital interest to India as well

What India needs to do?

  • There is an urgent need for community outreach, surveys and a referendum, if necessary, to map what the Tibetan community in India wants in its future.
  • For those who want to make India a permanent home, especially those in the new generation, India must reconsider its citizenship laws.
  • Above all, the Indian foreign policy establishment needs to stop seeing the Tibetan population in India as a strategic tool

Conclusion

In short, the idea that India holds the “Tibet card” is out of step with all the shifts on the ground, and the government needs a proactive policy that takes into account these new realities.

Donald Trump and the art of breaking a deal(The Hindu Opinion)

Context

With anti-Iran people getting key posts in the U.S. President’s team, the nuclear deal with Iran becomes the target

A difficult choice

  • Under U.S. law, the deal has to be certified every 90 days by the President. Mr. Trump has grudgingly certified compliance twice since his election but didn’t certify it the third time
  • So Mr. Trump faces a difficult choice here.
    • In less than two months, he will have to decide either to live with the agreement or pull the U.S. out of it.
    • The rising anti-Iran rhetoric, new actions and the rejig at the White House all suggest that the latter may happen.

Rationale behind the nuclear agreement with Iran

  • To stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons
  • The only alternative to a diplomatic deal to stop Iran going nuclear was war, which would have been disastrous as Iran is a much stronger and more networked country than, say, Iraq or Libya. Closer cooperation between the U.S. and Iran has other benefits as, for e.g. both countries have a shared interest in stabilising Afghanistan and Iraq and defeating the Taliban and the Islamic State.

Irrational Trump administration

  • Undoing previous policy decisions: Trump wants to undo most of his predecessor’s policy achievements

Example: He withdrew the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Paris climate deal. The Trump administration imposed tighter sanctions on Cuba last year

  • Iran, the chief troublemaker in West Asia: Trump’s world view, Iran is the troublemaker-in-chief in West Asia

Example: In the initial months of his presidency, Mr. Trump had travelled to Saudi Arabia where he joined a summit of mostly heads of Sunni nations to hit out at Iran

  • Disrupting power dynamics in West Asia: In Mr. Trump’s view, or in the view of America’s West Asia allies such as Saudi Arabia and Israel, the nuclear deal allows Iran to join the diplomatic and economic mainstream of the region
    • This has upset the existing power dynamics in West Asia
    • The Saudis and the Israelis are as much afraid of an Iran with nuclear power as they are of an Iran as a non-nuclear regional power.

Fickle superpower: Not an easy way forward

  • If U.S. could pull out of the nuclear deal the Europeans are unlikely to follow suit, at least for now
  • The U.S. could impose fresh sanctions on Iran, but the possibility of the UN Security Council backing the sanctions is negligible
  • So the immediate consequence would be further diplomatic isolation of Washington damaging the U.S.’s reputation as a dealmaker

Conclusion

While one President went to the extent of signing an agreement with a hostile nation, the next President is determined to undo it! How would it encourage other countries such as North Korea to trust diplomatic engagement with the U.S.?

Myanmar, India mull building cross-border oil pipeline(Economic Times)

What has happened?

India has proposed to build a pipeline from the country’s east coast to deliver oil products, mainly diesel, to Myanmar, a Myanmar government official said on Friday.
Working group formed

A working group has been formed by Myanmar and India to look at issues such as security, land and oil storage, and how to price the fuel and the oil’s specification

Main imports from Singapore
Myanmar currently imports about 100,000 barrels per day (bpd) of diesel and gasoline mainly from Singapore, and produces only 12,000 bpd of oil locally.

High land costs an issue

The country has invited investors to build refineries but high land cost is one of the main issues to overcome

Indian Constitution and Polity:

Office-of-profit issue: Delhi HC reinstates 20 AAP MLAs(The Hindu)

What has happened?

The Delhi High Court on Friday quashed a notification issued by President Ram Nath Kovind disqualifying 20 AAP MLAs for holding offices of profit as Parliamentary Secretaries.

HC Observed

The opinion of the Election Commission of India to the President to disqualify the legislators was “vitiated and bad in law for failure to comply with the principles of natural justice”

Arguments by the Court

EC Failed to give oral hearing to MLAs

The High Court noted that the poll panel failed to give oral hearing and opportunity to address arguments on merits to the AAP MLAs before arriving at its opinion that they held ‘office of profit’.

HC order to EC

What is meant by office of profit held under the government: It remanded the matter back to the Election Commission to first decide the “all important and seminal issue; what is meant by the expression ‘office of profit held under the government’.”

Re-examine the factual matrix: The court told the poll panel to then “re-examine the factual matrix to decide whether the petitioners (MLAs) had incurred disqualification on appointment as Parliamentary Secretaries, without being influenced by the earlier order or observations on the said aspect in this order”.

Controversial clause

  • The Delhi government, led by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, appointed the parliamentary secretaries attached to government ministries after coming to power in March 2015.
  • However, a constitutional clause prohibits legislators or parliamentarians from holding any position with monetary or other benefits. Known as ‘office of profit’, the clause is aimed at reducing conflict of interest situations for public representatives.
  • The government had claimed that the appointments would facilitate a smooth functioning.

Muslim parties want review of 1994 ruling(The Hindu)

What has happened?

Almost 24 years after the Supreme Court said a mosque has no “unique or special status” and is not an essential part of the practice of Islam and namaz, Muslim parties involved in the Ramjanmabhoomi title dispute want the court to first reconsider its stand before going ahead with the hearing in the Babri Masjid case.

A look back: Ismail Faruqui vs Union of India 

  • The 24-year-old Ismail Faruqui vs Union of Indiacase dealt with the acquisition of 67.703 acres of land in Ayodhya after the demolition of the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992
  • In 1994, the Supreme Court observed that “Muslims can offer prayer anywhere, even in the open”
  • A mosque cannot restrict the state’s sovereign power to acquire land for an “undoubted national purpose.”
  • The Supreme Court went on to distinguish between places of worship with “particular significance”, which have to be treated reverentially, and “ordinary places of worship”

Illogical step

Illogical to compare places of worship: Who will decide that this place of worship is more significant than another? All are equal. All places are of equal significance according to the advocate of the Muslim parties.


GS: 3


Economy:

Task force seeks import curbs on rubber(The Hindu)

What has happened?

The first meeting of the joint task force set up to study the problems faced by rubber farmers in Kerala has decided to work on increasing the production incentive for farmers and curbing the import of rubber

Call for Centre’s help

The meeting also called for support from the Central government to prevent farmers from giving up rubber cultivation against the backdrop of high input costs and slump in prices of rubber

Rubber as an agricultural crop

One of the major items that was taken up for discussion at the meeting was to consider rubber as an agricultural crop rather than a commercial produce, paving the way for the declaration of minimum support price and financial support under the income doubling scheme for farmers.

State’s demand

  • State representatives on the task force highlighted the need to include rubber in the livelihood security box under trade treaties to protect the interests of the large number of small and marginal farmers in the sector.
  • They also called for a total ban on import of cup lump rubber, stringent standards for imported rubber and steps to prevent dumping of cheap rubber products.

Plantation subsidy

The meeting discussed in detail the need to revise plantation subsidy, extend the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) to the plantation sector and promote the use of rubber as an additive for bitumen.

Rising risks(The Hindu Opinion)

What has happened?

This week the Fed raised its benchmark short-term interest rate by 25 basis points to 1.50-1.75%, the highest in a decade. While this is only the sixth rate increase since the financial crisis of 2008 — which pushed central banks to cut interest rates to historic lows — it portends further increases in global interest rates

LIBOR at its highest

(LIBOR)The London Interbank Offered Rate, which is the rate at which international banks lend to each other and serves as a benchmark for lending rates, has risen for more than 30 consecutive sessions and is at its highest since the financial crisis. Its effect has spilled over into other markets, including the corporate debt market.

Risk of default of private borrowers increased

Rising rates amid improving global economic growth could adversely affect the capacity of private firms to service their debt

Overseas investors might take money out of India

India, which could be hit by fund outflows as overseas investors look homeward to benefit from the rising rates, would do well to take precautionary steps.

‘Escalation of U.S.-China trade war may hit recovery’(The Hindu)

Global economy has much at stake, says Raghuram Rajan

Global economic recovery could be hit if the trade war between the U.S. and China escalates, renowned economist and former Reserve Bank of India Governor Raghuram Rajan said on Friday.

Better to stay away from trade war

Dr. Rajan, professor of finance at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, advised that one should stay away from a trade war particularly at a time when the economy the world over was in the process of recovery.

Internal security:

Centre issues notice to Cambridge Analytica(The Hindu)

What has happened?

The government has sent a notice to U.K.-based Cambridge Analytica — accused of misusing data of 50 million Facebook users — asking it to disclose if data of Indian users was used, and to name the entities that used their services

Accused of misusing data of 50 million Facebook users

The firm has been asked to reply by March 31.

Six Questions

The notice addressed to Cambridge Analytica seeks immediate response to six questions, including:

  • Whether they have been engaged in any assignment to utilise data of Indians from the above cited breach?
  • Who are the entities that have engaged them for the above? They have also been asked to clarify how they came to be in possession of such data? And was consent taken from the individuals?
  • How such data collected was used? Was there any profiling done on the basis of such data?

Science and Technology:

Listen to the survivor(Indian Express)

What has happened?

At the recent End TB India Summit in New Delhi, India’s prime minister declared its intention of eliminating the disease by 2025 —five years ahead of the global target. While the world applauded, those on the frontlines of India’s tuberculosis (TB) epidemic wondered if this indeed was possible anytime soon.

Question raised

Why our current approaches to addressing TB remain disempowering and paternalistic, ignoring its multiple dimensions?

  • Stigma and shame: The disease remains highly stigmatised, and the TB-affected are forced into shameful silence due to mistaken perceptions about this disease
  • Role of the other sectors: TB affects everyone, but partnerships to tackle it with communities, the private sector and other stakeholders remain weak
  • Patient’s perspective needs to be taken into consideration: A patient’s dependence on the system is complete, though patients are expected to follow rules and meet the expectations set by others. Their needs, perspective and demands (if any) remain unarticulated.

Solutions presented

Listening to TB survivors and affected communities:  They are wise in ways that doctors are not and can tell us exactly what they need to fight TB

Free access:  Irrespective of where they seek care, all Indians should have access to free and accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. 

Dignity and respect: India should work to provide efficient care with dignity and respect

Upfront DST (drug susceptibility) for all patients:  With a missing million TB cases, and rising multi drug resistance (MDR), all TB patients will need an upfront drug susceptibility test (DST), to rapidly identify MDR TB and more severe forms of DR TB

Individualised regimens of treatment: Treatment should move away from standardised regimens to individualised regimens, choosing only drugs to which we know the bacteria is sensitive to

Availability of new drugs: We also need to urgently make available, under controlled conditions, new drugs that have the potential for curing the most resistant TB strains.

Involvement of the private sector: The government must give up its ambivalence and actively engage the private sector. That is where India’s real TB battle will be fought

Conclusion

In the end, our inability to act in time, will not just devastate India today but its future. It’s time to move beyond the rhetoric and seek participation from those that can help. India’s TB affected are speaking up and telling us what to do. Are we listening?

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