24 Apr 2019: UPSC Exam Comprehensive News Analysis

April 24th 2019 CNA:-Download PDF Here

TABLE OF CONTENTS

A. GS1 Related
B. GS2 Related
INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
1. Sri Lanka links Easter blasts to Christchurch mosque attacks
2. India may stop oil imports from Iran
C. GS3 Related
D. GS4 Related
E. Editorials
INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
1. The permanence of Arab uprisings
2. A natural next step
3. How China is replacing America as Asia’s military titan
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
1. Outer space lessons
ECONOMY
1. Will India become a big importer of food?
F. Tidbits
1. ‘Price controls hurting FDI in medical devices’
G. Prelims Facts
1. Reang
2. Global Talent Competitiveness Index (GTCI)
I. UPSC Mains Practice Questions

A. GS1 Related

Nothing here for today!!!

B. GS2 Related

Category: INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

1. Sri Lanka links Easter blasts to Christchurch mosque attacks

2. India may stop oil imports from Iran

Context

  • Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said the country plans to increase imports from major oil producing nations other than Iran, indicating that it will be acceding to the U.S. plan to reduce Iran’s oil exports to zero

Details

  • The U.S. announced that it would be cancelling the waivers from sanctions it had granted eight countries, including India, allowing them to import oil from Iran. Following the revocation of this waiver, any country violating the ban would face U.S. sanctions.
  • The U.S. has made it clear that Indian companies that continue to import oil from Iran would face severe secondary sanctions, including being taken out of the SWIFT international banking system and a freeze on dollar transactions and U.S. assets.
  • The shortfall will be made from alternate supply sources available in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE and Mexico.

Stats

  • India was the second biggest buyer of Iranian crude oil after China.
  • It bought some 24 million tonnes of crude oil from Iran in the fiscal ended March 31 (2018-19). Iran supplied more than a tenth of its oil needs.
  • Iran in 2017-18 was its third-largest supplier after Iraq and Saudi Arabia and meets about 10 per cent of total needs.

India Iran relations could come under stress

  • India has, in effect, now decided to cave in to U.S. pressure on the issue less than a year after External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said that India would recognise only UN sanctions, not “unilateral” ones.
  • Any direct backlash from Iran for its decision will also jeopardise India’s other interests in the country, including its considerable investment in the Chabahar port, which India is building as an alternative route for trade to Central Asia.

Other Concerns

  • The big concern is that the substitute crude suppliers — Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, Nigeria and the US — do not offer the attractive options that Iran does, including 60-day credit, and free insurance and shipping.
  • In the larger picture, India isn’t just testing its traditional ties with Iran, but also giving in to President Donald Trump’s blatant bullying after his administration withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal.
  • During 2016-17, India imported oil at $47.6 a barrel. At current prices, India will have to spend at least $70 per barrel, which implies an annual outgo of an extra $30 billion.
    • It will damage the country’s s trade balance, and may force the government to bring back subsidies on petroleum products, such as diesel and petrol, as it happened from 2004-14. This can also throw India’s fiscal and trade deficit out of control.
  • Rupee: The currency could be impacted if the trade and current account deficits were to widen. An increase in the import bill will tend to put pressure on the rupee.
  • The projected drop in Iranian exports could further squeeze supply in a tight market — given the US has also sanctioned Venezuela, and the OPEC and allied producers including Russia have voluntarily cut output, which has pushed up oil prices more than 35% this year.

Strait of Hormuz: world’s most critical oil choke point

After the US said it would prevent five of Iran’s biggest customers — including India — from buying its oil, Tehran threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, a neck of water between its southern coast and the northern tip of the sultanate of Oman, and the lane through which a third of the world’s seaborne oil passes every day. It is a threat that Iran has made earlier, too — and this strategic area has seen several flashpoints erupt in Tehran’s fraught relationship with the West over the years.

  • Blocking them can lead to huge increases in energy costs and world energy prices.
  • Choke points are also the places where tankers are most vulnerable to pirates, terrorist attacks, political unrest, war, and shipping accidents.

  • Iran cannot legally close the waterway unilaterally because part of it is in Oman’s territorial waters
    • However, ships pass through Iranian waters, which Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Navy controls
  • Annual war games by Iran involve missile tests. The Guards have warned that the security of the US and US interests are in Iranian hands
  • The US fifth fleet in Bahrain protects commercial shipping in the area. The US has said closing the Hormuz Strait would amount to crossing a “red line”
  • Massive stakes give Iran leverage, but closing the Hormuz Strait will amount to an escalation with unknown fallout — this is one reason Iran has, in 40 years of hostility with the West, never yet acted on its threats to close the Strait.

What could have been done?

  • Instead of engaging in what appear to have been fruitless negotiations with the U.S. over the past year, India, China, the EU and other affected entities could have spent their time more productively in building a counter with an alternative financial architecture, immune to the U.S.’s arbitrary moves.

C. GS3 Related

Nothing here for today!!!

D. GS4 Related

Nothing here for today!!!

E. Editorials

Category: INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

1. The permanence of Arab uprisings

Note to Students: 
  • Although this article primarily focusses on the lessons learnt from the respective space programmes followed by the erstwhile Soviet Union and the United States of America, with a special emphasis on the times during the days of the Cold War, many of the points discussed here can help students in the Essay Paper as well as in GS- Paper 2 (International Relations).

What’s in the news?

  • Experts point out that eight years after protests swept through the Arab street toppling several dictators, anti-government demonstrations erupted in Sudan and Algeria in recent months.
  • As a matter of fact, in the month of April, 2019, both Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who had ruled Algeria for 20 years, and Omar al-Bashir, who had been at the helm in Sudan for three decades, quit amid public anger, reviving memories of the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings earlier.

Editorial Analysis:

  • It is important to note that when protests broke out in Tunisia in late 2010 and spread to other countries, there were hopes that the Arab world was in for massive changes.
  • The expectation was that in countries where people rose, such as Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Libya, Bahrain and Syria, the old autocracies would be replaced with new democracies.
  • However, except Tunisia, the country-specific stories of the Arab uprising were tragic.
  • These tragedies, however, did not kill the revolutionary spirit of the Arab youth, as the protests in Sudan and Algeria show.
  • Rather, there’s continuity from Tunis to Khartoum and Algiers.

Arab Spring: Taking a Look Back

  • It is important to note that the Arab uprising was originally triggered by a combination of factors. These factors are outlined as below:
  1. The economic model based on patronage was crumbling in these countries.
  2. The rulers had been in power for decades, and there was popular longing for freedom from their repressive regimes.
  3. More important, the protests were transnational in nature, though the targets of the revolutionaries were their respective national governments.
  4. The driving force behind the protests was a pan-Arabist anger against the old system. That’s why it spread like wildfire from Tunis to Cairo, Benghazi and Manama. They may have failed to reshape the Arab political order, but the embers of the uprisings appear to have survived the tragedy of ‘Arab Spring’.

Fertile Ground for an Arab Spring 2.0?

  • It is important to note that most Arab economies are beset with economic woes.
  • The rentier system Arab monarchs and dictators built is in a bad shape.
  • Arab rulers for years bought loyalty of the masses in return for patronage, which was then buttressed by the fear factor. This model is no more viable.
  • If Arab countries were shaken by the 2010-11 protests, they would be thrown into another crisis in 2014, with the fall in oil prices. Having touched $140 a barrel in 2008, the price of oil collapsed to $30 in 2016. This impacted both oil-producing and oil-importing countries.
  • Producers, reeling under the price fall, had cut spending — both public spending and aid for other Arab countries.
  • Further, non-oil-producing Arab economies such as Jordan and Egypt saw aid that they were dependent on drying up. In May 2018, there were massive protests in Jordan against a proposed tax law and rising fuel prices. Demonstrators left the streets only after Prime Minister Hani Mulki resigned, his successor withdrew the legislation and King Abdullah II made an intervention to freeze the price hike.

Regime changers:

  • In Sudan and Algeria, protesters have gone a step ahead, demanding regime change, like their comrades in Egypt and Tunisia did in late 2010 and early 2011.
  • Algeria, whose economy is heavily dependent on the hydrocarbon sector, took a hit after the post-2014 commodity meltdown.
  • Further, while GDP growth slowed from 4% in 2014 to 1.6% in 2017, youth unemployment soared to 29%.
  • This economic downturn was happening at a time when Mr. Bouteflika was missing from public engagement. A stroke had paralysed him in 2013. But when he announced candidacy for this year’s presidential election, seeking another five-year term, it infuriated the public.
  • In a matter of days, protests spread across the country, which culminated in his resignation on April 2, 2019.
  • Sudan’s case is not different. The northeast African country is also battling a serious economic crisis. Mr. Bashir and his military clique ruled the country through fear for three decades.
  • However, the split of South Sudan in 2011, with three-fourths of the undivided country’s oil reserves, broke the back of the junta.
  • Post-2014, Sudan fell into a deeper crisis, often seeking aid from richer Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and even Qatar, the Saudi bloc’s regional rival.
  • Inflation is at 73%. Sudan is also grappling with fuel and cash shortages.
  • Discontent first boiled over in the northeastern city Atbara in mid-December over the rising price of bread, and the protests soon spread into a nationwide movement.
  • Bashir tried everything he could to calm the streets — from declaring a state of emergency to sacking his entire cabinet — but protesters demanded nothing less than regime change. Finally the army stepped in, removing him from power.

Counter-revolutionaries:

  • Like in the case of 2010-11, the 2018-19 protests are also transnational — they spread from Amman to Khartoum and Algiers in a matter of months.
  • The pan-Arabist anger against national governments remains the main driving force behind the protests, which should set alarm bells ringing across Arab capitals. But in all these countries, the counter-revolutionary forces are so strong that protesters often stop short of achieving their main goal — a clear break with the past. They manage to get rid of the dictators, but the system those dictators built survives somehow, and sometimes in a moral brutal fashion. There are two main counter-revolutionary forces in these countries. The first are the main guardians of the old system, either the monarchy or the army. Tunisia is the only country where the revolutionaries outwitted the counter-revolutionaries. They overthrew Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s dictatorship, and the country transitioned to a multi-party democracy. In Egypt, the army made a comeback and further tightened its grip on the state and society through violence and repression. In Jordan, the monarch always acts as a bulwark against revolutionary tendencies.
  • The second are geopolitical actors. In Libya, the foreign intervention removed Muammar Qaddafi, but the war destroyed the Libyan state and institutions, leaving the country in the hands of competing militias.
  • Libya is yet to recover from the anarchy triggered by the intervention.
  • In Syria, with foreign intervention, the protests first turned into an armed civil war and then the country itself became a theatre of wars for global players.
  • In Yemen, protests turned into a sectarian civil conflict, with foreign powers taking different sides.
  • In Bahrain, Saudi Arabia made a direct military intervention, on behalf of its rulers, to violently end the protests in Manama’s Pearl Square.
  • The same could happen in Algeria and Sudan as well. In both countries, the army let the Presidents fall, but retained its grip on power, despite pressure from protesters. They don’t want regime change. They are dressing up the fall of the dictator as a revolution and selling it to the protesters, just as the Egyptian military did eight years ago.

Concluding Remarks:  

  • Experts point out that currently, Sudan faces the heat of geopolitical intervention as well.
  • As soon as the military council directly took power, Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E. and Egypt offered support to the military, at a time when protests continue in Khartoum demanding an immediate handover of power to a civilian government. The Saudis have also announced an aid package to the new junta, making it clear who they prefer.
  • This is the challenge before the Arab protesters. They are angry. They want the system to be changed. But they are the multitudes. There’s no vanguard of the revolution. While they keep rising up against the system, they are constantly being pushed back by the counter-revolutionaries.

2. A natural next step

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