9 PM Daily Brief – June 16th,2020

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GS-2

  1. Need to build trust: India-Pakistan relations
  2. Significance of West Asia for India
  3. India –China relations – Non-Alignment is the key

GS-3

  1. On ICMR antibody test study

9 PM for Preliminary examination

FACTLy


1.Need to build trust: India-Pakistan relations

Source: The Hindu

Syllabus: GS 2-India and its neighbourhood- relations

Context: There has been increased shelling and retaliation along the Line of Control.

Worsening relations between India and Pakistan:

  • Increased ceasefire violation: Ceasefire with Pakistan along the Line of Control is not working.
  • Three soldiers have died due to shelling in the Poonch sector in the recent past.
  • In May,therewere small arms firing across the Pir Panjal range (which fronts the Kashmir Valley)
  • Problems regarding staff posted in missions:
  • Both are unable to adhere to reciprocal protocols regarding staff: The two personnel from the Indian mission are missing from Islamabad.
  • India expelled two Pakistan High Commission officials on charges of espionage.

These disruption along with the dilution of Article 370 and the COVID-19 lockdown should be addressed with urgency.

Need of the hour by India:

  • Safety of civilians: The government needs to build bomb shelters for civilians until normalcy returns.
  • Ensuring safety of diplomatic personnel: India must take steps to ensure its diplomatic personnel are spared from such harassment.
  • Serious engagement with Pakistan: To ensure safety of staffs, working in Pakistan.
  • Temporarily maintaining essential missions: India need to reduce its number of personnel in such missions as there are travel curbs and less face to face requirement.

Way Forward

India needs to re-engage with Pakistan and end the ceasefire violations along the border.

2.Significance of West Asia for India

Source: The Hindu

Syllabus: GS 2-Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

Context: Analysing the importance of the West Asia/Gulf region for India and its foreign policy.

Importance of West Asia:

  • Indian Diaspora: An estimated figure of close to nine million Indians work in West Asia.
  • Remittances:
    • It sendback more than 56% of India’s annual infusion of $80 billion in remittances.
    • The UAE alone is responsible for $19 billion in remittances, being the third largest trade partner of India after the United States and China.
  • Energy Security: 
    • India gets around 60% of its hydrocarbon from West Asia.
    • On an annualisedbasis, India saves up to $1.35 billion for each $1 drop in oil prices.
    • The softening oil prices have helped cushion the impact of the national lockdown on the balance of payments.
    • India has also taken advantage of the low prices to build up its strategic reserves.

The COVID-19 has caused stress to all economies of the world including West Asia and India.

Effect of COVID-19 on India-West Asia:

  • Repatriation of Indians:India had repatriated a large number of its citizens under Vande Bharat Mission, a majority of whom are expected to be from the West Asia region.
  • Crash of Oil prices: 
    • It was triggered by expectations of oversupply following a dispute on output caps between Saudi Arabia and Russia.
    • It was further worsened by the crash in demand due to COVID-19 which will carry massive costs to the West Asian economies and to foreign workers employed there.
    • According to a 2019 U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council report, the UAE’s hospitality sector itself contributes 4.6% of the country’s GDP, making nearly 600,000 jobs that are mostly fulfilled by foreign workers. Some reports suggest that up to 30% of these jobs could be lost.
  • Reverse migration of Indian blue-collar workers:
    • Reason: The infrastructure development projects in oil-rich States are stalled due to COVID-19.
    • India will share the brunt in terms of loss of trade revenue and remittances.
    • The return of semi-skilled and skilled workers into an economy may become a point of worry as India is already suffering from huge unemployment.
    • Shrunk in investments of West Asia: 
    • The major sovereign wealth funds and other financial institutions in West Asia have been hit hard by COVID-19.
    • Example of Saudi Arabia: The COVID-19 has affected its major projects such as the $500 billion mega-city of Neom planned on the coast of the Red Sea.

India has taken some steps to reduce effects of such problems.

Steps by India to improve economy:

  • Positive message to West Asian investors: India is well-placed to attract a significant amount of capital from West Asia such as reports of investment by UAE’s Mubadala and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF).
  • Mitigating Reverse migration:The government has launched the Skilled Workers Arrival Database for Employment Support (SWADES) to capture the skills profile of returning workers and house them in a central portal that can be accessed by Indian and foreign companies.
  • Attracting long term capital: The government has set up an empowered group headed by Cabinet Secretary to take necessary steps to attract FDI into India.
  • Example: The $50 billion mega-refinery project in Maharashtra. Saudi Aramco and the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company have committed to investing $25 billion in the project. There is a need for Fast-track resolution of endless litigation that has been bothering the sale of a major stake of Mumbai airport by GVK to a consortium that includes the UAE sovereign fund and Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA).

Way Forward

A strong and positive message by New Delhi is crucial to the region’s investors for addressing the distress caused by the COVID-19.

3.India –China relations – Non-Alignment is the key 

Source – The Hindu

Syllabus – GS 2 – Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

Context – Recently Chinese soldiers have moved into Indian territory across the Line of Actual Control (LAC) which demands analysis of this situation from all perspectives.

India-China Border 

India-China border is divided into three sectors– The middle sector is the least disputed sector, while the western sector witnesses the highest transgressions between the two sides.

Line of Actual control

  1. LAC is only a concept– The border is not fully demarcated, and the LAC is neither clarified nor confirmed by the two countries. This has led to different perceptions of the LAC for the two sides, and soldiers from either side try to patrol the area up to their perception of the LAC.
  2. Chinese assertiveness– A higher number of transgressions in Ladakh and Sikkim in May,2020 indicates that the Chinese soldiers are coming to the Indian side more often now, and their movements are being observed and recorded by the Indian soldiers which is escalating the situation on border.

Reasons for large scale movement by China in Ladakh and Naku la of Sikkim :

  1. Infrastructure building by India– China is responding to India’s efforts to bolster border infrastructure in Ladakh after the completion of the Darbuk-Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldie (DSDBO)  road (near the confluence of Shyok and Galwan rivers).

  1. Pre-emptive step– Chinese army is physically changing the ground position and preventing our troops from undertaking regular patrolling in the area.
  2. Diverting attention from Internal dynamics– The political pressure from all the countries regarding China’s effort to contain COVID has led to disturbance in internal politics as well. The Hong Kong protests have also questioned the central authority.
  3. Discouraging Investment in India– Due to disruption in supply-chain amid the COVID pandemic and the flight of MNC’s from China has increased possibility of these companies to settle in India. Such border disruptions usually discourage the investors as there will be lack of stability and peace in country.
  4. India’s alignment with USA – A few instances could be highlighted to confirm the perception that India tends to side with the U.S. and against China whenever there is a conflict of interest between the two.
    • India is today a member of the Quad (the U.S., Japan, Australia and India) which has a definite anti-China connotation.
    • S. President Donald Trump’s latest step of redesigning the G-7, including countries such as India (India has conveyed its acceptance), but excluding China, provides China yet another instance of India and China being in opposite camps.
  1. India- China relationship– Following instances prove that relations between the two countries have been steadily deteriorating.
    • India is against China’s Belt Road Initiative (BRI). India also loses no opportunity to declaim against the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). China further views India’s assertions regarding Gilgit-Baltistan, as an implicit attack on the CPEC, China’s flagship programme.
    • Amid COVID crises, India was one of the earliest countries to put curbs and restrictions on the Chinese foreign direct investment.

Implications of the transgressions

  1. Updationin the Standard Operating Procedure – The established SOPs and drills have not worked this time and new drills will be required as the situation on the ground has changed.
  2. Unreasonable concessions by India– Due to increased Chinese pressure, India might resolve the border issue by going soft on China in international institutions like World Health Assembly.
  3. Wider confrontation or possibility of war– Faced with the disaster of the Great Leap Forward in 1960’s, and increasing isolation globally, Mao in 1962 chose to strike at India rather than confront Russia or the West. History can repeat itself in 2020 also.

Way Forward –India has consistently followed a different policy in the past, and it is advisable that it remains truly non-aligned and not become part of any coalition that would not be in India’s long-term interest.

4.On ICMR antibody test study

Source: The Hindu

Syllabus: GS-3- Science and Technology

Context: The results of a serological test conducted across 69 districts by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) have indicated that the confirmed numbers of COVID-19 infections reported from the RT-PCR tests are likely an undercount. 0.73% of the population, examined for antibodies produced specifically for SARS-CoV-2 via an ELISA test, had evidence of past exposure to the virus.

Different types of Tests used for Covid-19 diagnosis

There are mainly two types of tests being used for Covid-19 diagnosis

  • Genetic test/Molecular Test:This test is done using the conventional real-time Reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test. It is a method of testing by taking a nasal/throat swab from a patient. It involves extracting ribonucleic acid or RNA, which is the genetic material of the virus. If it shares the same genetic sequence as SARS-CoV-2 virus, then it is deemed positive.
  • Serological Test/Antibody Testing:It is a blood/serum/plasma test to detect the presence of antibodies against a microorganism. In the case of Covid-19 these antibodies are usually IgM (the first antibody that the body makes) and IgG antibodies. These antibodies when detected in the strip give a colored response. The symptomatic individual then can be confirmed using the molecular test.

ELISA Test: ELISA stands for enzyme-linked immunoassay. It is a commonly used laboratory test to detect antibodies in the blood.

Pooled Testing:

It is a procedure where individual specimens (e.g., urine or blood) are combined into a common pool.

  • If the pooled test turns out to be positive, individual samples are tested. If there’s no positive result, all individual samples in the pool are regarded as negative.
  • This type of testing helps to reduce the cost of screening many individuals for infectious diseases and can help in tracing asymptomatic cases of the disease, thereby tracking community transmission.

Comparison between Serological Test and Genetic Test: 

  • Serological tests help detect and trace past infections while genetic tests can only identify infections that are active.
  • Serological tests are relatively cheaper than genetic tests and are portable, administered on-site and provides quick answers.
  • Serological or antibody tests are not as accurate as the PCR tests.

India’s Response to Covid-19 Pandemic

Testing strategy: India has been testing

  • All symptomatic contacts of laboratory-confirmed cases.
  • All asymptomatic individuals who have undertaken international travel in the last 14 days.
  • All hospitalized patients with Severe Acute Respiratory Illness

Issues with testing strategy: Testing has been uneven across the states. Some States such as Maharashtra and Gujarat have tested at a higher rate (tests per million population) than many others but have not increased the overall testing to account for the relative rise in the size of the outbreak. In some states like Telangana and West Bengal, testing has been low.

Lockdown: Starting from 24th March, a series of 4 lockdowns were announced (till June) to restrict the movement and prevent the gathering of people.  The announced lockdowns, and suspension of public transport, closure of public places and offices were aimed at reducing the growth rate of the virus, and help ‘flatten the (transmission) curve’.

Issues with lockdown: In the short-term, the lockdown strategy slowed down the rise in Covid cases. However, it had a detrimental effect on the economy. Further, its uneven implementation in urban areas where physical distancing is a difficult, made it unsuitable for continuation.

Conclusion: The ICMR antibody test study has highlighted the need for more testing, and better contact tracing. More testing will give a clearer the picture is on who is infected and thus who needs to be isolated, and thus help contain the Covid-19 outbreak.


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