International groupings and agreements
- The BRICS grouping indisputably named Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) as terror organizations
- This move emphasizes a shift in China’s situation with regard to ties with Pakistan
Which organizations have been designated as terrorist organizations?
- A joint communiqué released at the BRICS summit further listed the following as terrorist organizations:
o The Taliban
o Al-Qaeda and its affiliates,
o The Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement
o The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan
o The Haqqani network
What is the status of UN labeling on these organizations?
- The move definitely gives a green signal to impose a UN ban on Masood Azhar as an international terrorist
- The formulation adopted at the BRICS summit would strengthen the fight for banning terrorists and terror groups at the UN
- The BRICS leaders called for greater efficiency in designation of terrorists and terror groups by the United Nations Committee on terrorism.
- The joint statement censured “all terrorist attacks worldwide,” including attacks in BRICS countries.
Rearranging the BRICS: (Indian Express, Editorial)
The forum is less about ideological posturing, more about repositioning India in changing great power equations.
India and neighbors
Raja Mandala: Rearranging the BRICS
Building a multipolar world is one of the central themes of India’s foreign policy and BRICS has been the main forum for the pursuit of that objective. But China’s rapid rise has compelled India to rethink the need and virtues of multipolar world
Why is China a problem for India?
- China has encroached into and reduced India’s space in the Subcontinent and also in the India Ocean.
- It has become a lot more insistent and dominant in the bilateral disputes with India.
- BRICS as a whole is been working towards the construction of a “multipolar world”, which for long, was the code word for hedging against American unilateralism.
- But now with China’s rising dominance in the world map and with its bullish attitude towards India; construction of “multipolar Asia” or “balancing China” is turning out to be equally important.
What is the historical background?
- After the Cold War, India faced a twin challenge – (i) the collapse of the Soviet Union and (ii) re-engaging of India with the United States and the West in order to adapt to the globalizing world.
- But at the same time, India was apprehensive about the West’s interventionist policies especially on issues like – human rights, Kashmir and nuclear non-proliferation.
- To be able to bear the brunt of negative impact of its fall out from the unipolar world, India chose to attach itself with Russia’s banner for a great “strategic triangle” of eastern powers, involving Russia, China and India, to resist America’s growing power in the post-Cold War world.
- This pairing up on part of India, caused serious tension in its engagement with the great American powers.
- Indian leaders would stand up in Washington and talk of a “natural alliance” with the sole super power, America. At the same time, India would sit down with Russia and China to call for a “multipolar world.
- More than the evident hypocrisy, the problem was about managing multiple contradictions that India was facing with post-Cold War.
- The strategic triangle involving India, China and Russia eventually expanded into the BRICS with the inclusion of Brazil and South Africa.
What were the challenges faced by India owing to its engagement in BRICS?
- As two more countries, joined the forum, the internal environment within the BRICS changed, but the external environment altered the dynamics of the BRICS nation within itself and also with the world and posed a lot many challenges for India.
- The rise of China dramatically altered the orientation of the BRICS. China’s massive economic weight in the forum — its GDP is now more than twice that of the other four members put together.
- Thus, the internal balance in the BRICS has changed in favour of Beijing.
- For Russia, BRICS was a way of creating political leverage against the United States and the West, but China saw it as an instrument to expand China’s own global economic influence.
- The apprehension towards the US led-globalization was one of the major factor for India to vouch for multipolar world, but now its struggling to come in terms with the China led-globalization.
- China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which has become the main vehicle for China’s economic power projection, has added to India’s concerns about China’s rise.
- India’s engagement in BRICS and its simultaneous deepening strategic partnership with the United States and Japan looked like a friendly peace-preferring gesture from India, till there was no major tensions between the great powers – US, Russia, China and Japan.
- It has become difficult for India to maintain its “multi-alignment” as the great power harmony was followed by renewed tensions between them.
What has been India’s strategy towards the issue?
- In the past, India preferred BRICS over the partnership with the West.
- At current, it is more inclined towards judging issues by their magnitude and implications for India’s national interest rather than following a presumed ideological correctness and thereby not choosing a side and maintaining a dynamic stand.
- Given the warmth between Russia and China and both the countries willingness to cut deals with the US on their own terms, India’s concern is now less towards ideological posturing and more about repositioning its position in changing great power equations.
What does this changing scenario imply for India?
- India will have to stand up and also stand against (if required) China where necessary and at the same time, cooperate with it wherever possible.
- India has to rescue its long-standing partnership with Russia but should also remain aware that Russia has its own imperatives.
- It also has to continue deepening strategic ties with the United States but at the same time acknowledge America’s sharp internal divisions.
- India also has to gear itself to be prepared to face or undergo compulsions to arrive at compromises with a rising China.
Thus, it’s a transition time for India where it is altering its worldview towards unsentimental realism.
Science and Tech
Down but not out: (The Hindu, Editorial)
The recent launch of Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) was a failure. It was carried by PSLV-C39 rocket. The failed PSLV attempt to launch the navigation satellite would not affect the future missions.
What is the Issue?
The PSLV-C39 rocket carrying the eighth satellite of the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) had a normal lift-off and flight events but ended in an unsuccessful mission.
Why did PSLV-C39 rocket fail?
The heat-shield failed to separate, resulting in the satellite separation occurring within the shield. This resulted in the failure of the rocket.
What are the major learning from the failure?
- The failed mission serves as a reminder that utmost care and scrutiny are required before every single launch.
- This is the first time since 1997 that ISRO has had a failed launch. It had a spree of 37 straight successful PSLV launches.
- Navigation satellite ‘IRNSS-1H’ was meant to augment the existing seven satellites of the NavIC constellation to give India its own GPS services on a par with the US and Russia. It was thus a missed opportunity.
What is the impact of the failure?
- The failure of the mission is disheartening as the IRNSS-1H satellite was jointly assembled and tested by ISRO and a Bangalore-based private company, the first time a single private company, rather than a consortium, was involved in building a satellite.
- The space organization has thrown open its doors to private companies to build as many as 18 spacecraft a year beginning mid or end-2018.
- The IRNSS-1H satellite was launched as a replacement for the IRNSS-1A satellite, which became in operational in terms of surveillance following the failure of all three atomic clocks.
What is the possible result of the failure?
- With the failure of this mission, India will have to wait for some more time before the next mission to send a replacement for the IRNSS-1A satellite is ready.
- The IRNSS was created so that the country would not need to rely on American-based GPS data — the encrypted, accurate positioning and navigation information provided by the system will make Indian military operations self-reliant.
Pollution and conservation
Delhi’s air pollution puzzle: (Live Mint, Editorial)
According to a WHO report, Delhi has the worst air quality among the megacities (cities with the population of at least 14 million)
What does the WHO report say?
- There were 4.24 million deaths globally in 2015 attributable to PM2.5 (fine particulate matter with a diameter less than 2.5 micrometer)
- India accounted for 26% of the total deaths globally- 1.09million
- Among the megacities, Delhi has the worst air quality
What is the existing framework to tackle air pollution in Delhi?
- A graded response action plan was enforced on 12th January 2017.
- The plan describes a series of measures to be implemented by the court-mandated, Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) in coordination with relevant state agencies.
- Based on the air quality the grades have been classified as Emergency, Severe, Very Poor and Moderate poor.
- It is the first legal framework for coordination among Delhi’s various pollution controlling agencies and its neighbouring states.
What was the need to devise such a plan?
- In November 2016, Delhi was engulfed in a toxic smog when the PM2.5 level rose to 999 micrograms (mg)/metre cube (m3) — much higher than the Indian ambient air quality standard of 60mg/m3, and the WHO standard of 25mg/m3—on a 24-hour average basis.
- This led to widespread public protests.
- In 2016, the supreme Court had termed Delhi’s air “a public health emergency “and had asked the Union government to prepare a graded response action plan specifically for the city
What is the need to have coordination with neighbouring states to curb air pollution in Delhi?
- The sources of PM2.5 air pollution in Delhi are both internal and external
- The contribution of the neighbouring states of Rajasthan, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab to Delhi’s air pollution is mainly due to the burning of crop residue.
- The contribution is variable and depends on the time of the year. It varies from 26% during winters to 12% during summers
What does ‘graded response’ to air pollution mean?
A graded response lays down stratified actions that are required to be taken as and when the concentration of pollutants, in this case particulate matter, reaches a certain level.
Which other cities have tried such a system?
What are the measures recommended in the ‘Graded response action plan’ for Delhi?
- Traffic rationing schemes
- Ban on construction activities and banning diesel generators if the air quality hits the “severe” mark (PM2.5>250 mg/m3),
- Other measures include: closing brick kilns, stone crushers, hot mix plants and intensifying public transport services and increasing the frequency of mechanised cleaning and sprinkling of water on roads
How far has the graded response action plan been successful in Delhi?
- Official data from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) indicates that the air continues to be unhealthy in Delhi even after the ‘graded response action plan’ was launched.
- Air quality in Delhi has failed to meet National PM2.5 health standards and WHO air quality guidelines of PM2.5
What are the reasons for the failure of the graded action programme?
The CPCB and State Pollution Control Boards (SPCB) face institutional, technical and manpower constraints.
- Manpower shortage: All SPCBs have a combined manpower shortage of 35% to 40%. This hampers the ability of the EPCA to enforce the plan.
- Technical issues:
- Delhi has 15 air pollution monitoring stations manned by the CPCB, of which only 10 are functional. Many of these are not properly calibrated and there are quality concerns on the data they generate.
- Lack of well equipped air pollution forecasting Platform
- Lack of coordination among the agencies of Delhi and its neighbouring states