International Relations

India and Neighborhood

  • Maritime Policy of India Need a Long Term Vision

    Synopsis: Maritime policy of India lacks a long-term vision to counter China’s expansionist designs in the Indo-Pacific. There have been a lot of issues with previous maritime policies, resulting in a huge gap between India & China’s current maritime capabilities.

    • Today, China has not only overtaken the US Navy in numbers, but it is also the world’s top ship-producing nation. It has the largest merchant navy, coast-guard and fishing fleet/maritime militia in the world.
    • An economically strong, expansionist, and militaristic China is a concern. Because it will use the Maritime Silk Route initiative to expand its sphere of influence and ensure dominance in the Indo-Pacific.
    • The PLA Navy’s crucial role in this endeavor relies on its formidable maritime/industrial capabilities.
    • On the other hand, the maritime sector in India is characterized by inefficiency & long -term vision.
    Gap b/w India & China’s maritime capabilities

    China laid down its first indigenous aircraft carrier in 2015 and commissioned it in 2018. Work on India’s first indigenous aircraft-carrier commenced in 2009 and, in 2021, the ship awaits completion.

    Evolution of India’s maritime policy and issues involved
    • Sagarmala: India launched its first “maritime modernization” plan -“Sagarmala”, in 2003, almost simultaneously with China. The plan was announced with the stated objective of ensuring that all major ports would be connected to the Golden Highway Quadrilateral through a network of expressways. It will facilitate country-wide goods traffic to-and-from ports. It was abandoned within months, following the declaration of the general election.
    • National Maritime Development Plan (NMDP): Then in 2005, Sagarmala was replaced with the National Maritime Development Plan (NMDP). This plan remained confined to modernization of port infrastructure and enhancement of rail-road connectivity to these ports.
      • Seven years after its commencement, the Lok Sabha was informed that only 82 of the 276 projects had been completed. While 30 had been dropped and 66 were still in the planning stage.
    • Maritime Agenda 2020: In 2011, the government decided to abandon the NMDP-2005. It was replaced with a new 10-year plan titled Maritime Agenda 2010-2020 (MA-2020). While the Sagarmala-2003 and NMDP-2005 were focused mainly on port modernization and enhancing rail-road connectivity, MA-2020 had a much broader scope. It envisaged an outlay of Rs 5 lakh crore to achieve huge leaps in shipping tonnage, shipbuilding, and coastal trade, apart from ports, cargo handling, and other capacities. But, MA 2020 suffered from two problems:
      1. Firstly, it had set extremely unrealistic targets; aiming to increase in just 7-8 years shipbuilding capacity by five times. It will enhance cargo throughput in Indian ports by four times.
      2. Secondly, it showed clear signs of confusion regarding its objective. It cited as “a roadmap to guide this ministry” in one place, while at other places it cited itself as “more an agenda for consideration, rather than agenda for action”.
      3. Thus, MA-2020 also failed to achieve anything of substance before it was overtaken by the next plan.
    • Revival of Sagarmala: The next government that came to power in 2014 followed the earlier practice, and having terminated MA-2020, revived the Sagarmala project.
      • Like all its predecessors, Sagarmala-2015 also focusses on modernizing ports and enhancing connectivity.
      • This version of Sagarmala was better as it had a structured, progress-monitoring framework.
      • However, data from the Ministry of Shipping’s Sagarmala Project Tracker, updated until September 2019, shows a project completion rate no better than past trends.
      • While the plan aimed to create 40 lakh direct jobs and 60 lakh indirect jobs, in 2019, the government admitted that only 10,000 jobs had been created.
    Maritime policy of India - upscProblems with India’s maritime sector 
    • Excessive focus on port connectivity: The exclusive focus of successive governments on port development has led to gross neglect of other critical components of India’s maritime capability.
      • These include merchant shipping, shipbuilding, ship repair, seabed exploration, and fisheries, etc. All of these have implications for India’s maritime security as well as its “blue economy”.
    • Initiating programs with inappropriate aims, choosing unrealistic targets
    • Abandoning/renaming projects and not ensuring faithful implementation
    • Major ports are overloaded and inefficient
    • Dying shipbuilding industry: India’s contribution to commercial shipbuilding globally is less than 1% today, which is far lower than the 3.5% achieved in 2007-12. Only 20 of the country’s 25 shipyards — big and small, private or state-owned — are functional.
    • Inadequate merchant fleet: India’s imports of crude oil, LPG, food, coal and fertilizer supplies, which constitute the country’s commercial security, are all carried on foreign-owned shipping vessels for an estimated freight bill of $52 billion in value annually.
    • Seabed exploitation yet to take off
    • Backward fishing industry

    What needs to be done?

    India should evolve a National Strategy for the maritime sector for the next 50 years. This maritime policy should receive Parliament’s approval to ensure its survival through changes of government.

    The naval power is going to play a decisive role in the India-China rivalry. But this can only happen with the backing of a strong maritime sector.

    Also read: Maritime security and connectivity in Indo-Pacific

    Source: The Indian Express

  • Lessons and Challenges for India after a Year of Galwan Clash

    Synopsis: Ladakh crisis has highlighted that India needs to focus on its land borders. Also, it should use its limited resources for military modernisation instead of focusing on maritime ambitions in the Indo-Pacific.

    • It has been one year since the Line of Actual Control (LAC) witnessed violent clashes in Galwan valley in Ladakh.
    • Although both India and China gave gallantry awards to the fallen soldiers, the details about the incident have not been made public so far.
    How the government response can be measured?
    1. Firstly, lack of political accountability.
      • No official briefing about the situation in Ladakh has taken place in the last 13 months.
      • The Government’s political strategy was basically based on denial.
    2. Secondly, the official excuse given was operational security, but the actual reason was to avoid political embarrassment for the government.
      • There is no record of the Cabinet Committee on Security being convened to discuss the border situation, and that is why the PM being held responsible in the view of the public for the setback.
    3. Thirdly, it highlighted the failure of diplomacy and foreign policy.
      • The crisis in Ladakh erupted months after the second informal summit with the Chinese President at Mamallapuram, Tamil Nadu.
    What is the current scenario in Ladakh?
    1. Firstly, the current situation is not militarily certain in Ladakh.
      • There has been continued deployment of 50,000-60,000 soldiers.
    2. Secondly, China still holds a strategic advantage.
      • The Chinese are present on the Indian side of the LAC in Gogra, Hot Springs and Demchok especially Depsang Plains.
    3. Thirdly, the Indian Army is holding weak position in negotiation during the talks with the PLA.
    4. Fourthly, China has become a bigger security threat for India than Pakistan.
    5. Lastly, the Ladakh crisis has also exposed India’s military weakness, especially in case of two front war.
    What are the major implications of Ladakh crisis?
    • India opened back-channel talks with Pakistan which led ceasefire on the Line of Control.
    • The Ladakh crisis has also led the Government to relook external partnerships. For instance, as per U.S. military officials, it has provided intelligence and logistics support to the Indian forces in Ladakh.
    • India has recognized China as a larger neighbour with better force and better technology.
    • The crisis has reduced the military importance of the Quad, as India refused to do joint naval patrolling with the U.S. in the South China Sea.
    What are the major challenges present in front of India?
    • Firstly, it is difficult for India to counter Chinese influence in South Asia due to the mishandling of second wave of Covid-19.
    • Secondly, the Chinese challenge to India is much economic than geopolitical.
      • For instance, after the border crisis and restrictions on Chinese companies, China displaced the U.S. to become the biggest trade partner in 2020-21.
      • India is dependent on China for medical equipment to fight the pandemic.
    • Thirdly, Chinese incursions have shown that deterrence has failed. Further, India has learnt that it can no longer have simultaneous competition and cooperation with Beijing.
    • Lastly, it will be difficult for India to take sides in a new Cold War between the U.S. and China and protecting its strategic sovereignty.

    India needs to reset its foreign policy choices as they will have a significant impact on the future of global geopolitics.

    Source: The Hindu

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  • Pakistan Passes Bill to let Jadhav Appeal
    What is the News?

    Pakistan’s Parliament has passed the International Court of Justice (Review and Reconsideration) Bill of 2020.

    About the International Court of Justice (Review and Reconsideration) Bill of 2020:
    • The bill provides the right of appeal to death-row prisoner Kulbhushan Jadhav against the death sentence.
    • The bill was passed after the International Court of Justice(ICJ) in its verdict had asked Pakistan to provide a credible review opportunity to Jadhav.
    What was the issue?
    • Kulbhushan Jadhav is an Indian National. He was arrested in 2016 by Pakistan on charges of spying and sentenced to death in 2017.
    • India has rejected the charges leveled against the navy officer. Further, it said that he was kidnapped by Pakistani operatives from the Iranian port of Chabahar where he was running a business.
    • He was sentenced to death by the Pakistani Military Court.
    • Hence, India approached the ICJ against Pakistan for denial of consular access to Jadhav and challenging the death sentence.
    • In 2019, the ICJ had ruled that Pakistan must undertake an effective review and reconsideration of the conviction and sentence of Jadhav and also to grant consular access to India without further delay.
    What would have happened if Pakistan had not passed this bill?
    • If Pakistan had not passed this bill, India would have gone to the UNSC and could have moved contempt proceedings against Pakistan in the ICJ.
    Are decisions of the ICJ binding?
    • Judgments delivered by the ICJ in disputes between States are binding upon the parties concerned.
      • Moreover, the judgements are final and without appeal. If there is a dispute about the meaning of a judgment, the only possibility is for one of the parties to make a request to the Court for an interpretation.
    • As regards advisory opinions, it is usually for the United Nations organs and specialized agencies requesting them to give effect to them or not.

    Source: PIB


  • Dismal Healthcare systems in South Asia needs attention


    The second wave of pandemic highlighted the lacunas in the healthcare systems in South Asia. The situation now demands the replacement of short term measures with a well-thought-out vision and political commitment for long-term healing.


    The pandemic managed to penetrate across the countries due to the dismal state of health infrastructure and reluctance to enhance public health care spending. For example,

    • India recorded 4,529 deaths from COVID-19 on 18th May 2021. It is the highest daily death toll recorded in the world, beating 4468 deaths recorded by the US in January 2021.
    • The virus has consolidated itself in other South Asian countries as well.
      • Sri Lanka added 78,218 cases in May.
      • Pakistan crossed over 200 daily deaths in April, its highest since the pandemic started.
      • Bangladesh detected the highly contagious Delta variant of Covid-19
    • The consolidation of the virus has been attributed to the dismal state of healthcare systems in South Asian countries.

    Read Also :-What are the issues facing Indian Economy?

    Dismal State of Healthcare systems in South Asia:
    • Funding: The Indian government spends around 1.4 % of its GDP on public healthcare. There is a lack of prudent expenditure towards public health in other south Asian nations as well.
    • Doctor to Population Ratio: In India, there are only 0.08 doctors per 1000 population in the public health sector. But the WHO standard is 1 per 1000 population. Pakistan and Bangladesh also have less than one doctor per 1000 population.
    • Bed Availability: India has only half a bed available for every 1,000 people. Similarly, Bangladesh and Pakistan have a bed to patient ratio of 0.8 and 0.6 respectively.
    • Out of Pocket Expenditure: The ideal out-of-pocket expenditure should not surpass 15% to 20% of the total health expenditure. However it is 62.67%, 73.87% and 56.24% for India, Bangladesh and Pakistan respectively.
    Other factors behind the spread of the virus in South Asia:
    • First, superspreader events in India gave a lucrative opportunity for the spreading of the virus
    • Second, the citizens violated the Covid protocols by disregarding social distancing, not wearing masks etc.
    • Third, the logistical mismanagement in the countries delayed the accessibility of vaccines and other life-saving drugs.
    • Fourth, the increase in health expenditure remained well below the desired levels. For instance, Pakistan’s defence budget was increased by 12% in 2020-21 to reach $7.85 billion. On the other hand, the spending on health remained around $151 million.  

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    Way forward:
    • The South Asian countries can learn from the Bhutan Model. There has been only 1 death and 1724 cases of Covid-19 in the country. 
      • Its success is owed to a well-funded and prepared public health system with stringent measures, responsible citizenship, and an accountable government.
    • There is a need to enhance public expenditure, especially towards rural healthcare. In Rural India, the poor health care system enhanced the hardships of people –
      • Patients were treated on the hospital floor for lack of beds, 
      • Some had to walk hundreds of miles just to reach a hospital and 
      • Many were compelled to resort to homemade concoctions and local quacks
    • The South Asian nations can also take lessons from the Southeast Asian countries including Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia etc. 
      • They prioritised investments in healthcare systems while broadening equitable access through universal health coverage schemes.

    Read Also :-Lessons for the health sector

    Source: The Hindu

How to Read International Relations for UPSC IAS 

International Relations (IR) is the most dynamic and challenging subject in the UPSC and IAS preparation. It is the part of UPSC Mains syllabus– General Studies Paper II. This subject is unavoidable as every year UPSC asked questions of around 100 marks in General Studies Paper-II.

Why this subject is important: International Relations for UPSC helps us to understand evolution of India’s foreign policy, India’s relations with other countries in the world, changes happening in international arena and India’s roles and responsibilities (COVID-19 Situation and India’s support to its neighbor through Vaccine Maitri Initiative), roles and responsibilities of India towards major international organization.

In this article we will discuss about the study approach of International Relations for UPSC which includes overview of the syllabus, plan to read International Relations, how to make notes, what all are important for International Relations and International Affairs.

Approach towards International Relations for UPSC: The most difficult question for all the UPSC aspirants is how to read International Relations so that they can understand the subject and score well in the exam. The answer lies in the term itself. International Relations simply means India’s relations with major countries in the world (including neighboring countries). So, students must try to understand India’s relations, its roles and responsibilities towards the world.

  • Read the syllabus:Before starting the subject, you must have the command over the UPSC Mains syllabus for International Relations. You should refer the syllabus word by word, line by line. This will create the foundation.
UPSC Mains- General Studies Paper II· International relations

· Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

· India and its neighborhood- relations

· Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate

· Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests

· Indian diaspora


  • Refer Previous Years’ UPSC Mains Question Paper: Unlike other subjects, where it is recommended to complete one reading of the syllabus, then refer the previous years’ questions, different strategies work for International Relations. In this subject, you must see the past year’s questions before starting your study. Those questions will give you great knowledge about the nature and demand of the questions. It will also help you in your newspaper reading.
  • Read one newspaper daily: Newspaper will give you knowledge about current events in the world. International Relations for UPSC is a dynamic topic. Newspaper will help you in preparing India’s foreign policy. The Hindu is one of the best newspapers which covers in details India’s relations with other nations. It also strengthens the different perspective of India towards the current happenings and what steps India should take as a world leader to improve the relations. Columns of The Hindu cover these topics in details. Ultimately, the analytical skills of the students will increase and gradually their answers will also improve. The demand of the UPSC in International Relations subject is that, aspirants should think like a diplomat. Daily newspaper reading will give you that skill.
  • Build the foundation:If you will study International Relations for UPSC without knowing the background like events that took place after independence era, the cold war and non-alignment time, Wars between India and Pakistan and China and Pakistan, Fall of the USSR, incident of 9/11 and what all happened after that, then you will not be able to understand why such things are happening now, reasons behind them. Knowing background will help you to co-relate the news.
  • Notes making from the newspaper:Notes making is unavoidable in case of International Relations. But here is trick. You cannot simply write down in your copy what all are important for International Relations for UPSC. You should make notes country wise. For example, if there is news regarding Bilateral relations between India and USA, then you must make comprehensive notes of it. It should include background, economic relations, cultural relations, defense relations, opportunities and challenges for India. Likewise, they should cover all counties’ bilateral relations with India. International Relations also mean bilateral relations between two major countries of the world. For example, USA and Russia. So, you should also put focus on news related to that and make notes for that.
  • Refer one good monthly current affairs magazine:It is very important to read one monthly current affairs magazine. Sometimes, we miss some topics in the newspaper or we fail to understand what article is trying to tell us. It happens with most of us because of the tedious language the author use. Current affairs magazine of a good institute covers all the news and articles and explain that in simple language. It becomes easy for students to read and revise them.
  • Miscellaneous sources to refer: You can refer frontline magazine. Official Website of The Ministry of External Affairs is also very helpful. Pax Indica – Shashi Tharoor, India’s Foreign Policy: Coping With The Changing World – Muchkund Dubey are good books on foreign policy. You can read them if possible.
  • Some important topics: These topics you must cover thoroughly and make notes on those topics.
    • India and its relations with its neighbors like Bangladesh, Pakistan, Bhutan, Afghanistan, Myanmar, China, Sri Lanka, and Nepal
    • India’s opportunities and contribution to various organizations including the United Nations, ASEAN, G20, G7, GCC, EU, World Bank, IMF, SAARC, etc.
    • Relationship between India and other international regions like Central Asia, USA, Middle East, Africa, Europe, Russia etc.
    • India’s relations with the affluent nations of the world, like Germany, Japan, USA, etc.
    • India and the 5 UNSC members i.e., USA, China, France, Russia and UK.
  • Cover important organizations: You must cover important organizations which are important from the India’s perspective. Some of them are:
    • United Nations
    • International Monetary Fund
    • World Health Organization
    • World Bank
    • European Union
    • League of Nations
    • G20
    • G7 etc.
  • Answer writing practice:Once you understand the subject, you should immediately start writing answers on a daily basis. In starting you can write answers of past years’ questions. And gradually you can speed up the process. Daily practice will increase the quality and areas covered. The more dynamic your answers will be, the more marks you will get.
  • Revise the notes properly and keep updating that: It is important to revise the notes prepared by notes regularly. Along with that, you should also update the notes according to happenings in the world. For example, India’s role as a leader during COVID-19 pandemic.

In all your preparation journey of International Relations for UPSC, you must think like a diplomat try to increase the dimensions as much as possible. It will help you in your answer writing.