Answers: Mains Marathon – UPSC Mains Current Affairs Questions – July 17, 2018

Mains Test Series


Q.1) “India, intrinsically, has all the characteristics needed to be among the world’s leading soft powers but has not been able to adequately leverage its ‘soft power’ in matters of foreign policy”. Explain

Answer: Soft Power refers to the ability co-opt rather than coerce as a means persuasion. India, with its civilizational values, history, spirituality and diversity has tremendous potential to tap into this intangible diplomatic tool. India has following characteristics that make it a leading soft power:-

  • Tourist places such as Taj Mahal, Lal Kila, Forts of Jaipur etc. have immense potential to attract international tourist in large numbers.
  • India is a birth place to several of the world’s great religions, namely Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism. India has a lot of potential to use this soft power to increase its cultural pull and to boost tourism.
  • Yoga and Ayurveda are India’s most-vaunted soft power export to other countries.
  • India’s healthcare system is one of the best in the world with affordable costs.
  • ‘Incredible India’ campaign has become more successful after the visa-on-arrival system.
  • Bollywood has been extremely popular across Africa, Middle East, Eastern Europe and South East Asia for decades.

However, the recent global soft power rankings by Portland USC report doesn’t feature India in the top 20. This is an unfortunate situation. The reasons for this failure are:

  • India’s soft power has mostly functioned independent of government policies
  • there is no backing of financial resources and a clear policy
  • India’s soft power seems to have limited geographical outreach
  • India also lacks the required infrastructure to promote tourism eg., lack of hygiene and infrastructural facilities at major tourism spots in India acts as a barrier. Slow implementation of infrastructure projects like Buddhist circuits and other tourism related
  • India’s cultural outreach initiatives, mostly led by ICCR lag behind British Council, Alliance Francaise, the Japan Institute and Chinese Confucius Institute.
  • India has to address deeper social issues in the society like sexual harassment and communal violence to present itself as a liberal democracy to global audience.

Thus, India has a lot to gain from its soft power resources to fulfil its super power ambition. Both USA and China, known as global powers today have reached these positions not just through hard power, but by exercising soft power on a strategic level. India has a lot to learn on this front.

Q.2) “Despite massive deforestation and diversion of forest lands, forest cover of India doesn’t reduce.” Critically evaluate the statement with reference to recent report of Forest Survey of India.

Answer: State of Forests Report 2017 reported a 1% increase in the country’s green cover. This increase is despite huge deforestation and evacuation for development projects across the country.

Some fundamental questions are thus raised over the authenticity of the rise in forest cover. These are:

  1. definition of forest cover – “forest cover”, according to FSI includes “all lands which have a tree canopy density of more than 10%”. But it fails to distinguish between native forests and man-made plantations like tea and coffee gardens as well as orchards. A difference in the estimate of forest cover between FSI and Global Forest Watch is presented below:

2. plantations – areas that have turned green are not necessarily natural forests. government plants the hardy teak or the softwood eucalyptus in plantations.Since 2003, India has lost over 1,000 sq km of dense forest every year, and compensated roughly half of that with plantations.

3. large scale deforestation – reported by several reports estimated that Indian government has, on an average, diverted 122 sq km of forests for development projects every year between 2014 and 2017.

4. does not tell quality of change– The estimation is flawed because it does not tell us what changes are taking place in what kind of forests

5. technology changes – technological advancement in satellite imaging technology like Resources at have represented every green area as forest cover. highly agricultural Punjab and Haryana have managed to add more than 1,000 sq km each of forests since the 1980s.

Although the report does not present an exact picture of the forest increase in India but it is not only a mere lie, due to the following reasons:

1. Although deforestation is taking place but government has provided protection to some of the very dense forest areas which have witnessed increase.

2. Although due to some developmental activities some of the forest areas are being cleared but by implementing compensatory afforestation scheme, trees are being planted outside of forests in ‘Trees outside Forests’ (TOF) category.

3. The 2017 survey incorporates 44 more districts across the country, which means that areas which were not surveyed before have now been included.

However, it has to be remembered that forest data is less than the sum of its parts. It is time for the FSI to consider reporting India’s green cover under more explicit categories, including plantations, orchards etc. It could also help to make the GPS data for each forest unit available for public audits.

 Q.3) Victory of Buxar not only made the English a great power in northern India but also contenders for the supremacy over the whole country. Discuss

Answer: Battle of Buxar was fought between East India Company and the combined armies of Mir Kasim, Shah Alam II, then Mughal emperor and Shuja Ud Daulah of Awadh. East India Company won decisively in the battle leading to gains for the company and devastating consequences for the country.

This victory not only made the English a great power in Northern India but also contenders for the supremacy over the whole country due the following reasons:

  • The biggest importance of this battle lay in the fact that not only the Nawab of Bengal but also the Mughal Emperor of India was defeated by the English, making them biggest power in northern India.
  • Emperor was made a mere ‘rubber stamp’ for granting farmans to British.
  • Under treaty of Allahabad, emperor issued a farman granting the diwani of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa to the East India Company in lieu of an annual payment of Rs 26 lakh.
  • Treaty turned Awadh into a buffer state against invasions of Afghans and Marathas.
  • Clive introduced dual government in Bengal in which both the diwani, i.e., collecting revenues, and nizamat, i.e., police and judicial functions, came under the control of the Company.
  • The Dual government in Bengal wreaked havoc in Bengal and consolidated the finances of the company. This also helped the British win decisively in the Carnatic wars and fund its further campaigns against Marathas.
  • It also proved the military superiority of the English and exposed the inherent weakness of the native force. Company troops became the power-brokers throughout Oudh as well as Bihar

Thus it is said that “the Battle of Buxar deserves far more credit than the battle of Plassey as the origin of the British power in India.”


Q.4) Though the treaty of Bassein did not hand over India to the company on a platter, it was a major development in that direction. Discuss.


Treaty of Bassein was signed by the Maratha ruler Bajirao II with the British in 1802, after he felt threatened due to an internal feud within the Marathas.

It was essentially a subsidiary alliance signed by the ruler with British. Under the treaty, the Peshwa agreed:

  • to receive from the Company a native infantry (consisting of not less than 6,000 troops), with the usual proportion of field artillery and European artillery men attached, to be permanently stationed in his territories;
  • to cede to the Company territories yielding an income of Rs 26 lakh;
  • to surrender the city of Surat;
  • to give up all claims for chauth on the Nizam’s dominions;
  • to accept the Company’s arbitration in all differences between him and the Nizam or the Gaekwad;
  • not to keep in his employment Europeans of any nation at war with the English; and

The significance of this treaty lies in the following gains by british:

  1. immense gains made by British in the form of control over Maratha territory
  2. the interference between rulers allowed British to dominate affairs of Marathas
  3. The company already had troops in Mysore, Hyderabad and Lucknow. Troops in Puna made easy to spread troops to any place.
  4. By providing for company’s mediation in all cases of disputes between the Peshwa & the Nizam, the British achieved another objective that the state of Hyderabad definitely passed under the company’s protection.
  5. In this sense, the Treaty of Bassein for the British was a wise, just & a polite measure. Though the Marathas rose up to fight this in the 3rd Anglo Maratha war, the damage has already been done and Marathas lost forever to the English.

However British had to still struggle to gain control over rest of India, reflected in the numerous peasants, tribal uprisings it had to contest before 1857.

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