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9 PM daily Current Affairs for UPSC| January 15, 2021

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GS Paper – 2

  • New opportunities for India in Afghanistan
  • Factsheet for administration of COVID-19 Vaccine released
  • UK  report classified India among ‘difficult four’ countries

GS Paper – 3

  • Need for social media Policies on hate and incitement

9 PM for Preliminary examination

New opportunities for India in Afghanistan

Source: click here 

Syllabus: GS 2 – India and its neighborhood

Synopsis: Change of power in the US has provided India with an opportunity to re-engage with Afghanistan. 

Introduction  

  • The National Security Advisor(NSA) Ajit Doval paid a 2-day visit to Kabul. It was the first trip to Afghanistan, by a top Indian official, since the start of Doha Talks between Taliban and Afghan republic representatives. 
  • Both sides discussed efforts for building regional consensus on supporting peace in Afghanistan and counter-terrorism cooperation. 

What has been the course of events in Afghanistan? 

  • The US has agreed to withdraw all its troops from Afghanistan after an agreement with the Taliban. 
  • Although the dialogues between the Taliban and the Kabul delegation were still ongoing, President Ashraf Ghani is suspicious of Taliban’s intentions. It is due to Taliban’s refusal of a ceasefire and a high level of violence. 

Now the Presidency in the US is changed. It will be tough foreign policy tasks for the Biden Administration, to take onward the Afghan process started under the Trump government.  

Why are India’s stakes in the Afghanistan Peace process? 

The main concern of India is linked to Pakistan’s involvement in the process;

  • First, Pakistan has been key to bring the Taliban to the talks table.  Thus, at present, it has an upper hand compared to India.
  • Second, Pakistan’s intelligence agency has friendly relations with the Taliban and the Haqqani network. 

What Opportunities does India have to increase its presence? 

The Change of power in the US has provided an opportunity to both India and the Afghan government, to raise apprehensions about the Afghan process to Washington. 

  • Firstly, Kabul will pressure for the conditions for talks that the Taliban must agree to a ceasefire. Afghan Foreign Minister is looking for India’s help in this.
  • Secondly, the new administration in the US is expected to be more sensitive to the concerns of other participants in Afghanistan. For example, concerns of women and rights groups about the return of the Taliban. 
  • Thirdly, External Affairs Minister of India said that Delhi might increase “military assistance” to Afghanistan. 

Way forward 

  • Now is the right time for India to increase its presence in the Afghan peace process. India should rethink the “temporary” closure of the Indian consulates in Afghanistan.

UK  report classified India among ‘difficult four’ countries

Source: Indian Express 

GS2: Effect of Policies and Politics of Developed and Developing Countries on India’s interests, Indian Diaspora. 

Synopsis: The report released by the Royal Institute of International Affairs (UK) recommends an arm’s length relationship with India due to rise of religious intolerance. 

Back ground 

  • Recently, the Royal Institute of International Affairs (UK) have proposed a blueprint titled “Global Britain, Global Broker”, for Britain’s future foreign policy after Brexit. 
  • As a matter of concern for India, the report has paid less attention to India’s role in the futuristic vision of a “Global Britain”. 
  • The report has classified India as one of the “difficult four” countries along with Russia, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. India will be counted among the UK’s “rivals” or “awkward counterparts”. 

What was the reason given in the report for classifying India as one of the “difficult four” countries? 

The report highlights two major issues for that 

  • First, according to the report the rise of Hindu nationalism in India is weakening the rights of Muslims and other minority religious groups. 
  • This rise in intolerant majoritarianism is damaging the vision of a secular, democratic India envisioned by Nehru. 
  • Second, the report labels India as half-hearted supporter of liberal democracy and a country with mixed approaches to human rights abuses. 

Why the report’s criticism towards India is meaningless? 

Criticism of India over growing religious intolerance and the suppression of critique and dissent is not a surprise. Most of the diplomats from various countries have consented regarding this. For example, the Canada has voiced against the Kashmir internet shut down.  

But second criticism is particularly pointless. Despite being the world’s largest democracy, labelling India as a half-hearted supporter of liberal principles and institutions abroad is not correct, because, 

  • India for long been unwilling to step up on the global stage to the responsibilities of “committed democracies” due to uneven playing field in today’s international order. 
  • The 21st century Global order produces unevenly distributed rights, obligations, and burdens for post-colonial nations and the principle of equality and sovereignty of states still remains as a myth. 
  • Even today, the post-colonial states such as India, do not enjoy full political and economic independence on how they make decisions at home, nor in their efforts to shape the agendas of international institutions. 

Thus, 2nd criticism of India can be precisely summarised in the words of Former Indian foreign secretary and national security advisor Shivashankar Menon. He said, “Encouragement by western international partners for India to “behave responsibly” usually means doing what they would like us to do”. 

 What is the way forward for India? 

  • First, India need not look into the issue of UK distancing from India too seriously. No nation today can move forward without factoring in India. Even the report has highlighted this. 
  • Second, India’s high-profile international activity in the next 2 years as elected member of the UN Security Council and as host of the 2023 G20 Summit should be effectively used to leverage India’s positions of influence in the international sphere.  
  • Third, India needs to build on the critical and normative resources to inspire greater equality, legitimacy and inclusivity in the international sphere.  

Factsheet for administration of COVID-19 Vaccine released

Source: Indian Express 

Gs2: Issues Relating to Development and Management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health 

Synopsis: Government has releasedVaccine Fact sheet that contains guidelines for administering both vaccines (Covaxin and Covishield). 

Background 

  • Union Health Ministry has sent a comprehensive fact sheet for both vaccines (Covaxin and Covishield) to all states and immunisation officer.  
  • The Centre has also asked the states and immunisation officers to disseminate the fact sheet to all programme managers, cold chain handlers, and vaccinators before the rollout. 

What is this fact sheet? 

The fact sheet contains the general guidelines that should be followed during the initial phase of the Covid-19 vaccination drive, while vaccinating the priority group (3 crore people). 

The fact sheet contains the guidelines on the following aspects 

    • Physical specifications such as dosage, cold chain storage requirements. 
    • Specific guidelines on contraindications (a factor due to which the vaccine is to be withheld to certain categories of people)  
    • Guidelines on adverse events   
    • Details on special precautions. 

Now we will examine in detail, the exceptions, precautions, and possible adverse events that are mentioned in the fact sheet. 

First, the general guidelines in the fact sheet contain the following directives to ensure that proper care is taken while administering the vaccine. 

    • Only people over the age of 18 years are eligible for vaccination. 
    • Since 2 doses of vaccines are required per person, every Person should be administered the same vaccine in both the dosage. It is to deal with the issue of possible interchangeability. 
    • While administering the vaccine to a person with a history of any bleeding or coagulation disorder, platelet disorder, clotting factor deficiency, or coagulopathy, it should be done with caution. 
    • Both Vaccines have to be stored at +2°C to +8°C and needed to be protected from light. If it is found frozen it has to be discarded. 

Second, the specific guidelines on contraindications. The three categories of people for whom the vaccine should not be administered. They are, 

    • Persons who have shown a history of an allergic reaction. 
    • People who show an immediate or delayed onset of an allergic reaction to vaccines or injectable therapies, pharmaceutical products, and food items. 
    • Pregnant and lactating women 

Third, guidelines on temporary contraindications. 3 categories of persons for whom vaccination is to be deferred for four-eight weeks. They are, 

    • Persons showing active symptoms of SARS-CoV-2 infection. 
    • Covid-19 patients who have been treated with anti-SARS-Cov-2 monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma. 
    • Acutely unwell and hospitalised patients (with or without intensive care) due to any illness. 

Fourth, the fact sheet under not contraindicated, specifically mentions that persons suffering from following health conditions can get vaccinated. However, the response to the Covid-19 vaccine may be less in these individuals. They are; 

    • Persons with a past history of Covid-19 infection. 
    • Persons with a history of chronic diseases and comorbidities (cardiac, neurological, pulmonary, metabolic, and malignancies). 
    • Persons with immunodeficiency or HIV, and patients on immune suppression due to “any condition” can be administered with the Covid-19 vaccine.  

Fifth, the fact sheet has also separately mentioned the Possible Adverse Reactions for both the vaccines along with the required precautions to be taken during the adverse reaction. 

Guidelines provide the list of mild adverse events and rare adverse events that may follow the vaccination from both Covishield and Covaxin. It also provides for the precautions and medication that will be required in the above cases.  

For example; In case of Mild adverse events for Covishield like myalgia (deep muscle pain), malaise (a feeling of overall discomfort), common painkiller paracetamol may be used. 

How Covid-19 vaccines administered in other countries have performed till now? 

Though the overall performance is found to be safe so far, there were few adverse events recorded in a small section of the population. For example, in the case of the US,  

  • The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), monitoring by the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System detected 21 cases of anaphylaxis (a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction that occurs rarely after vaccination) out of a reported 1,893,360 first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. 
  • Whereas in the case of Modern’s mRNA vaccine, which was authorized for emergency use in the US, the CDC said data is still limited.

Need for social media Policies on hate and incitement

Source- The Indian Express

Syllabus- GS Paper III (role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges)

Synopsis- Social media platforms need clear policies on which they commit to a consistent refusal to help heads of state incite violence.

Introduction- On January 6, when the extremists stormed the United States Capitol building, Trump’s social media accounts were active and communicating.

  • After this incident, social media companies blocked particular communications including videos of the speech, and then suspended Trump’s accounts.
  • Eventually, Trump was barred from using Facebook and Twitter.

How a ban on Trump has been justified by companies?

Soon after the ban, Critics pointed out that social media companies should not “censor” a president for making ‘Politically biased decisions’.

As per social media companies, Trump did not stop at expressing dissatisfaction about the electoral outcome. But he chose to insist that the election was “stolen”, calling for action. This took his speech beyond the realm of political opinion into the realm of incitement. Thus,

    • A head of state cannot be allowed to incite violence.
    • If restrictions were not enforced, Social media would have amplified the incitement, given the connection between his words and the violence.
    • Moreover, Trump has access to the mass media, thus it doesn’t affect his freedom of expression.

Challenges in front of Social Media Companies:

The First challenge is regarding what to allow on the platform

    • Social Media platforms have a major impact on public life, thus platforms ought to follow international human rights law, especially the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
      • For example; they must ensure they do not facilitate genocides such as the Rohingya genocide in Myanmar.
    • On the other hand, Social Media need to ensure democratic debates on the imp. Issues like the COVID-19 virus, vaccines, abortion, Kashmir, LGBTQ rights, or marital rape.

The Second challenge is linked to the speaker

    • Barring a whistle-blower would have more impact compared to the head of state. Because Whistle-blower has no access to mass media.
    • In contrast, a head of state like Trump who is barred from social media has access to the mass media.

The third challenge is regarding the measurement of communication effectiveness

It also varies depending on the speaker and the audience.

    • Incitement by a head of state is more dangerous than incitement by a powerless, ordinary individual because an influential speaker is much more likely to actually incite violence.
    • A powerful leader can persuade his followers that it is acceptable and even righteous to engage in violence.

Why a policy is required?

  • Earlier in mid-2020, Facebook refused to regulate the US President’s inflammatory posts due to its “newsworthiness” exception.
  • Earlier, while Twitter suspended another account posting copies of Trump’s tweets for glorifying violence, left the president’s tweets up. This was because of Twitter’s exception for public or elected officials’ speech which is seen as being in “public interest”.
  • Now, these platforms have taken a step against incitement once the election result is confirmed.

Way Forward

Social media needs to deal with this kind of issue in future very seriously. The platforms like Facebook and Twitter (Fourth Pillar of Democracy) should not be circulating speech that is very likely to cause violence. They need clear policies in which they commit to a consistent refusal to help heads of state incite violence.


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