9 PM Daily Brief – September 18th, 2020

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Here is our 9pm current affairs brief for you today

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  1. QUAD grouping – India, Japan, US and Australia.
  2. Unilateral response of federal governance during Covid-19
  3. Data insecurity


  1. Climate change and India

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1.QUAD grouping – India, Japan, US and Australia.

Source – The Hindu

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

Context- As India faces China’s challenge over the ground situation at the Line of Actual Control [LAC], the Quadrilateral will be useful but it will not be the answer to the challenges India is facing.

What is QUAD grouping?

  1. The quadrilateral formation includes– Japan, India, United States and Australia.
  2. Purpose– All four nations find a common ground of being the democratic nations and common interests of unhindered maritime trade and security.

What is the significance of QUAD?

  1. India can use these partnerships for internal balancing and to build India’s own capabilities.
  2. QUAD is an opportunity for like-minded countries to share notes and collaborate on projects of mutual interest.
  3. Members share a vision of an open and free Indo-Pacific.
  4. Discuss cooperation on counter-terrorism, mentoring, assistance in disaster relief, airtime security, cooperation, development, finance and cyber security efforts etc.
  5. QUAD can shape the future balance of power, even the present balance of power and try to restore deterrence in Asia, in the Indo-Pacific.

Is QUAD grouping helping India to counter China’s aggregation at the LAC?

  • No, India’s presence in the QUAD will not deter china or the PLA from the transgressing the boundary as QUAD is not an alliance and will be fairly of limited use.
  • However, to some extent, India may get support in matters like intelligence inputs or credible supplies of military hardware, but largely on its own when it comes to dealing with the Chinese challenge along the land border.

What are the different border hostilities china is involved in?

Beijing has been acting assertively on multiple fronts-

  1. India- China border conflict– India’s brawl with China in Ladakh’s Galwan valley began as a military standoff in early May.
  2. China- Bhutan border conflict– In 2017, ties between Bhutan and China flared up when Beijing tried to construct a road in Doklam, to which India objected. This resulted in a military standoff between two nuclear- armed nations that lasted for about 2 months.
  3. China- Nepal border conflict– China’s state- run Television Network claimed the Mount Everest as part of China and not Nepal.
  4. China’s Maritime Conflict- [with Taiwan, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Vietnam and Japan] – The South China Sea is one of the most important maritime trade routes with annual trade worth of $ 3.5 trillion. Due to the deep resources, China has been claiming the waters based on “historic rights”.

How does India’s membership in multilateral grouping like SCO, BRICS and RIC work with being part of the four-nation Quadrilateral?

Multilateral grouping like RIC, BRICS and SCO provides a good rationale for more proactive engagement in the QUAD setting.

India’s motives for being a part of multilateral grouping are-

Keep Russia on its side for defence and strategic reasons.

India does not want to leave a platform to the rivals [China and Pakistan].

These are the only few platforms to resolve or try to manage some contradiction with rivals.

Way forward-

India has to work with the like-minded countries, and that includes the U.S., Japan, Australia and many other countries. At the same time, need to recognize that what could achieve through the QUAD is limited; it’s still work in progress. So, much more effort needs to be put in, to flesh out the idea of QUAD and to see how it can become an effective lateral grouping.

2.Unilateral response of federal governance during Covid-19

Source- The Indian Express

Syllabus- GS 2- Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure, devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein.

Context- India’s response to the Covid- 19 pandemic reflects the power, problems and potential of federalism in the country’s polity.

What was the recent debate on the distribution of powers under the Seventh Schedule of Constitution?

Debate- If the Union government should contribute for health because it is nationally important, why should states not contribute for defence?

What is the prime focus of centre and state in response to the pandemic?


  • Achieving economies of scale in vaccine procurement,
  • Knowledge production for setting standards and
  • Guidelines for the states and mitigating inter-state externalities.


  • Health crisis– States continue to play the dominant role in the execution of the actual response to the health crisis. In other words, the fundamental principles of comparative advantage prevailed, but they were organised on the basis of certain functional roles and responses.

Thus, in spite of health being a state subject, the response to collective threats linked to the subject required some kind of organisation of federal responsibilities on a functional basis.

How can coordination between Centre and States be sustained on a long-term basis?

  1. A typical response is to recommend shifting subjects to the Concurrent List to enable an active role for the Centre.
  • This is how the High-Level Group, constituted by the 15th Finance Commission, recommended shifting health from the State to the Concurrent List.
  • A similar recommendation was made earlier by the Ashok Chawla Committee for water.
  1. States needs to play a dominant role during such pandemic and the Centre must expand its role beyond the mitigation of inter-state externalities and address the challenges of security and sustainability.

For Instance-

  • The GST reformsare the most recent instance of such reworking of the Centre- state roles for a greater and collective goal.

Thus, the country’s response to the pandemic has shown that carving out roles through consensus can address new challenges to federal governance.

Way Forward

The country needs consensus- building between the centre and the states. It has to allow sustained dialogue and deliberation. It is the time to revisit the proposal for an elevated and empowered Inter- State Council.

3.Data insecurity

Source: Indian Express

Syllabus: Gs2: Important Aspects of Governance, Transparency and Accountability

Context: Recently, the government has set up an expert committee under the National Cyber Security Coordinator to examine the implications of digital surveillance on the privacy and personal data of Indian citizens.

Why committee was set up?

  • Recent cause:An investigation by The Indian Express revealed how a Shenzhen-based big data firm, with links to the Chinese government, was systematically tracking over 10,000 prominent Indian citizens
  • Digitalisation: The world is increasingly digital world where large quantities of seemingly unrelated data can be amassed and then deployed for other purposes.
  • Unrestricted use of personal data:Personal data being compromised and finding its way into jurisdictions over which there is no control.
  • Era of actionable intelligence”: The scale at which the targeted tracking of Indian citizens is being undertaken from politicians, to bureaucrats, industrialists and civil society alludes to the possibility of this threat materialising.
  • To protect democracy: In a liberal open democracy, data security concerns should be articulated and addressed in a transparent manner.
  • Right to privacy: In the age of data there is need that the individual concerned have say over the flow of information.
  • Data security: The concerns over data security are also in line with apprehensions that led to the Indian government’s decision to ban Chinese apps.
  • Global issue:US President’s stance on TikTok underlines growing concerns across the world.

What the government should do?

  • The government must frame a strategy to deal with the issue of data surveillance at multiple levels.
  • Adopt norms of cyber hygiene.
  • Enforce strict protocolson what information key government functionaries can share on social media platforms.
  • Build the institutional capacityrequired to pre-empt disinformation campaigns which the collected information could be deployed for.
  • Build hybrid warfare strategy to avoid social disharmony which discredit leadership and undermine institutions.
  • Place a robust personal data protection framework with explicit provisions for seeking consent on data sharing and for examiningand monitoring flow of information to third parties.

The necessary regulation needs to be made to protect individual rights after consulting all stakeholders and accountability must be assigned.

4.Climate change and India

Source: The Hindu

Syllabus: GS-3- Environment

Context: The UN Secretary General has asked India to reduce emissions by 45% by 2030.

How did the UN put pressure on India?

  • Move in climate diplomacy: At the Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), in New Delhi, it called on India to make no new investment in coal after 2020.
  • While releasing the latest climate report of the World Meteorological Organization,it asked China and India too to reduce their emissions by 45% by 2030, at par with the developed countries.
  • The advice was delivered after it was evident that India, with the lowest per capita income among the G-20, is undergoing the worst economic contraction .

How is India’s track record in climate change?

  • Country’s renewable energy programme is aspiring while its energy efficiency programme is delivering,especially in the domestic consumption sector.
  • India is one of the few countries with at least 2° Celsius warming compliant climate action, and one of those currently on track to fulfilling their Paris Agreement commitments.
  • Despite the accelerated economic growth of recent decades India’s annual emissions, at 0.5 tonnes per capita, are well below the global average of 1.3 tonnes per capita.
  • China, the United States and the European Union (EU) are the three leading emitters in absolute terms, whose per capita emissions are higher than this average.
  • Collective emissions:India’s contribution by 2017 was only 4% for a population of 1.3 billion, whereas the European Union, with a population of only 448 million, was responsible for 20%.

What then lies behind the UN chief’s call to India to set aside coal right away?

  • The developed nations (excluding Russia and east Europe) have reduced their annual emissions by only 1.3%, according to the UNFCCC between 1990 and 2017.
  • This amounts to practically nil, given the unavoidable errors in such accounting.
  • The global North has concealed the reality of its continued dependence on oil and natural gas, both equally fossil fuels, with no timeline for their phase out.
  • Their commitments into the future set the world on a path for almost 3°C warming, they have diverted attention by uncertain talk of “carbon neutrality” by 2050.

What has been the First World’s strategy?

  • The first world countries have turned to pressure the developing countries to bear the brunt of climate mitigation. Their strategies include :
  • The demonising of coal mining and coal-based power generation
  • Promoting claims that immediate climate mitigation would miraculously lower domestic inequalities
  • Ensuring climate adaptationand promoting Third World natural resources as active sites of moderation and not adaptation
  • Promoting theories of “de-growth”or the neglect of industrial and agricultural productivity for the pursuit of climate change mitigation.
  • All of these are accompanied by increasing appeals to First World financial and development institutions to force this agenda on to developing countries.
  • The UN secretary has rarely called out the U.S. for its withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, or called out the EU nations for their long-term reliance on gas and oilwhile hiding behind their irresistible pretentious focus on coal.
  • The UN Secretary has been promoting the agenda of carbon neutrality by 2050as national level goals applicable to all, without any reference to global and international equity and the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities in climate action.

What will be the consequences if India indeed ceases all coal investment from this very year?

  • Currently, roughly 2 GW of coal-based generation is being decommissioned per year, which indicates that by 2030, India will have only 184 GW of coal-based generation.
  • Meeting the 2030 electricity consumption target of 1,580 to 1,660 units per person per year, based on the continuation or a slight increase of the current decadal growth rate, will require anywhere between 650 GW to 750 GW of renewable energy. 
  • Currently, manufacturing growth powered by fossil fuel-based energy is itself a necessity, both technological and economic, for the transition to renewables.
  • 70% to 80% of all generation capacity is possible through renewables depends on technology development which includes improvements in:
  • The efficiency of conversion of energy from its source into electricity.
  • The management of the corresponding electricity grids.
  • The advancement in storage technologies.
  • Dependence on external sources: Lacking production capacity in renewable energy technologies and their large-scale operation, deployment on this scale will expose India to increasing and severe dependence on external sources and supply chains.

Way forward 

  • The UN Secretary General, taken all together, amounts to asking for the virtual de-industrialisation of India, and stagnation in a low-development trap for the vast majority of its population.
  • India must unanimously reject the UN Secretary General’s call and restate its long-standing commitment to an equitable response to the challenge of global warming.

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