14 Nov 2018: UPSC Exam Comprehensive News Analysis

TABLE OF CONTENTS

A. GS1 Related
GEOGRAPHY
1. ‘Gaja’ landfall likely tomorrow
B. GS2 Related
GOVERNANCE
1. SC refuses to stay Sabarimala ruling
INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
1. Sri Lanka court stays dissolution, snap elections
C. GS3 Related
ECONOMY
1. Is crop insurance scheme losing steam?
2. New index to check ease of doing agri-business
3. After IL&FS, SEBI tightens norms for raters
D. GS4 Related
E. Editorials
INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
1. See Sri Lanka’s national crisis for what it is
2. Four corners
F. Tidbits
1. Uttar Pradesh Cabinet nod for Faizabad name change
2. Avni: ‘two chances to tranquillise missed’
G. Prelims Fact
1. GSAT-29
2. Dudhwa Tiger Reserve
H. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions
I. UPSC Mains Practice Questions 

A. GS1 Related

Category: GEOGRAPHY

1. ‘Gaja’ landfall likely tomorrow

Context:

A deep depression over southeast Bay Bengal has intensified into a cyclonic storm, named ‘Gaja’, and is expected to hit the northern coast of Tamil Nadu between Karaikal and Cuddalore on the 15th of November, bringing heavy rainfall accompanied by wind speeds up to 100 kmph.

Details:

  • The cyclonic storm is expected to bring heavy rainfall in a few places across seven districts with gale winds.
  • It was said that the system had slowed down as it was caught between two anti-cyclonic circulations in the upper air level. Now, it has picked up pace and is moving at a speed of 12 km per hour. It is expected to bring heavy to very heavy rain in Cuddalore, Karaikal, Nagapattinam, Ramanathapuram, Thanjavur, Thiruvarur and Pudukottai.
  • After it makes a landfall, the system’s remnant is likely to emerge as a low pressure area over southeast Arabian Sea 
  • Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) latest launch of latest communication satellite GSAT-29, scheduled for Wednesday (14th) at 5.30 PM, may have to be postponed in light of cyclonic storm ‘Gaja’ which is slowly heading towards the coastal regions of Tamil Nadu.

IMD Warning:

  • The IMD has warned of damage in the seven districts when the landfall happens.
  • Seawater intrusion may occur to a height of 1 metre.
  • While coastal dwellers have been asked to move to safer places, other residents in the affected areas are advised to remain indoors.
  • Fishermen warned to stay ashore.

B. GS2 Related

Category: GOVERNANCE

1. SC refuses to stay Sabarimala ruling

Context:

The September 28 verdict by a five-judge constitution bench headed by then Chief Justice Dipak had lifted the bar on entry of women aged between 10 and 50 into the temple.

Background:

  • The Constitution Bench of the court, in a majority of 4:1, upheld the 12-year-old PIL petition filed by Indian Young Lawyers Association challenging the prohibition of women aged between 10 and 50 from undertaking the pilgrimage.
  • Three of the judges on the Review Bench — Justices Rohinton Nariman, D.Y. Chandrachud and A.M. Khanwilkar — were part of the original majority judgment. Justice Chandrachud, in his separate opinion, had compared the prohibition against women to the abolished practice of untouchability.
  • Only Justice Indu Malhotra, the fifth judge on the Review Bench, had dissented on September 28, declaring the ban to be an “essential practice”. She held that imposing the court’s morality on a religion would negating the freedom to practise religion according to one’s faith and beliefs.
  • The Bench found that a restriction on a woman solely based on her menstrual status was a smear on her individual dignity.
  • The court said, “treating women as the children of a lesser God is to blink at the Constitution”.
  • It was a “form of untouchability” abolished decades ago and the ban on women was derogatory to equal citizenship, the Supreme Court held.
  • However,  it had been opposed strongly in the state, with devotees claiming it flouted centuries-old traditions of the temple.

Concerns:

  • There are apprehensions that the review petitions would become infructuous once women aged between 10 and 50 enter the temple this pilgrimage season.
  • There are also concerns that there could be violence against women pilgrims during the coming season.

 Details:

  • The Supreme Court said that all the review petition along with pending application will be heard in Open Court on the 22nd of January, 2019. It has also made it clear that there is no stay on the judgement issued on the 28th of September.
  • The refusal to stay the judgment would mean that worshippers, both men and women of all ages, can still undertake the pilgrimage when the temple re-opens on November 16 evening for Mandala Pooja.
  • The pilgrimage season would end on January 20 after the Makaravilakku festival.

Category: INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

1. Sri Lanka court stays dissolution, snap elections

Context:

Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court stayed President Maithripala Sirisena’s dissolution of Parliament and restrained the Election Commission from preparing for snap elections.

Background:

Details:

  • President Sirisena’s November 9 decision to dissolve Parliament came shortly after his party publicly admitted to lacking a majority in the House, heightening a political crisis that began on October 26.
  • In a snap move, Mr. Sirisena fired his PM Wickremesinghe, installed former President Mahinda Rajapaksa in his place, and swiftly swore in a “new cabinet”, in the face of strong local and international criticism.
  • In exactly two weeks, Mr. Sirisena dissolved Parliament, preventing a vote on the House to test the rival camps’ claims to majority.
  • Almost all political parties, except those aligned to the Sirisena-Rajapaksa front, petitioned the Supreme Court, challenging the “illegal” action. One independent election commissioner joined them.
  • After hearing 11 petitioners and respondents for two days, the top court suspended until December 7, the proclamation issued by Mr. Sirisena last week sacking the legislature and calling for elections on January 5.
  • The Attorney General responded invoking the President’s plenary powers in the Constitution to argue that his actions were constitutional.

C. GS3 Related

Category: ECONOMY

1. Is crop insurance scheme losing steam?

Context:

A reply to RTI states that more than 84 lakh farmers, which is around 15% of the total farmers insured in the first year of the Union government’s ambitious Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana in 2016-17, withdrew themselves from the scheme in 2017-18.

Details:

  • The withdrawal includes 68.31 lakh farmers from the four Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled States of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.
  • The crop insurance companies, including Reliance, ICICI, HDFC and IFFCO, among others, have registered a total profit of around ₹15,795 crore since the launch of the scheme, though the final profit margins could change since the insurance claims for 2017-18 Rabi crops are yet to be estimated. 
  • Though the insurance companies made several thousand crore rupees profit in the first year of the launch of the scheme, they suffered losses in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh the same year.
  • Panipat-based RTI activist P.P. Kapoor, who sought the information from the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, alleged that the crop insurance scheme was a “fiasco” as shown by the figures and aimed at benefiting the private insurance companies in the name of farmers. He said the government would have done better to directly help the farmers than route it through the insurance companies.

Know more about Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana: Click here

2. New index to check ease of doing agri-business

Context:

The Centre expects to roll out a new Ease of Doing Agri-Business Index early next year, which will rank the States on the basis of such reforms, as well as their investment in agriculture, increased productivity, reduction of input costs, and risk mitigation measures.

Details:

  • The Agri Ministry will consider rewarding the higher performing States both in absolute and incremental terms by linking the performance with allocation from flexi funds made available in various flagship schemes of the ministry.
  • NITI Aayog already brings out an Agricultural Marketing and Farm Friendly Reforms Index, rating States on their implementation of such reforms. In the initial edition of that Index in 2016, Maharashtra stood first in the rankings, followed by Gujarat.
  • The proposed index has a wider ambit, but the focus is still on reforms, with marketing reforms (25%) and governance and land reforms (20%) carrying almost half of the weight of the parameters in its scoring system.

Parameters on which the states will be rated:

  • Success in reducing the cost of farm inputs (20%) by distributing soil health cards and encouraging organic farming and micro-irrigation.
  • Risk mitigation measures such as crop and livestock insurance carry a 15% weightage.
  • Increased productivity would carry a 10% weightage.
  • Investment in agriculture will also carry a 10% weightage

However, the concept note says that the parameters are process-oriented, and are meant to evolve as and when new reforms or initiatives are proposed.

What is the need for a new index to check ease of doing agri-business?

  • As agriculture is a State subject, the success of policies and reform initiatives proposed at the Centre is dependent on implementation by the States. “To ensure that reform agenda of the government is implemented at a desired pace by all State governments, there is a need to develop a competitive spirit between the States.
  • The committee set up to recommend strategies to double farmers income by 2022 had also suggested that States should be ranked based on their reform and governance record.

3. After IL&FS, SEBI tightens norms for raters

Context:

Largely based on the learnings from the IL&FS episode, which has affected the overall liquidity scenario, especially in the non-banking financial company (NBFC) segment, SEBI enhanced the quantum of disclosures by introducing additional norms.

Details:

  • (SEBI) has tightened the disclosure norms for credit rating agencies (CRAs) that will now have to take into account various factors such as including asset-liability mismatch, liquid investments, cash flows and capital infusion from parent or group entities while performing any rating action.
  • The circular said,
    1. When a rating factors in support from a parent/group/ government, with an expectation of infusion of funds towards timely debt servicing, the name of such entities, along with rationale for such expectation needs to be disclosed.
    2. When subsidiaries or group companies are consolidated to arrive at a rating, list of all such companies, along with the extent (e.g. full, proportionate or moderate) and rationale of consolidation needs to be provided.
  • SEBI has also made it mandatory for rating agencies to disclose full list of subsidiaries or group companies if such entities form part of the consolidated ratings.
  • SEBI also mandated Credit Rating Agencies to include a specific section on “liquidity” to highlight parameters like cash balances for servicing maturing debt obligation.

With credit ratings threatening to disrupt markets, the systemic issues with rating agencies needed to be urgently fixed. Enhanced disclosures on parent support, approach towards consolidation and liquidity will give investors more clarity on the rating drivers and assist in their own analytics.

 Read more about IL&FS issue: Click here

D. GS4 Related

Nothing here for today!!!

E. Editorials

Category: INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

1. See Sri Lanka’s national crisis for what it is

(India and the Neighbourhood; India- Sri Lanka Relations)

The News:

  • Recently, Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena sacked Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and appointed Mahinda Rajapaksa, his political rival until the day before, as the new Prime Minister.
  • Experts believe that this is a surprising move which Mr. Sirisena made in order to resolve a deepening political dispute between himself and Mr. Wickremesinghe.
  • However, this act has only pushed Sri Lanka into an unprecedented constitutional crisis, beginning a potentially dangerous phase of an on-going three-cornered power struggle among three leaders.
  • At the centre of the crisis is the lack of clarity as the new Prime Minister seems to have been appointed without a constitutionally valid vacancy for the position.

The crux of the constitutional dispute:

    • It is important to note that the constitutional provision that Mr. Sirisena has cited in the official letter to Mr. Wickremesinghe does not grant the President authority to remove a Prime Minister from office.
  • Section 42(4) of the Constitution merely enables the President to appoint a PM.
    • The President has taken the position that since he is the appointing authority, he also has the implicit power to sack the PM.
  • It is important to note that the PM is not a public servant who can be sacked by the appointing authority at his will. It is a constitutional office with protection from the executive. This is the crux of the constitutional dispute.
  • Experts point out that the entire operation of altering the composition of the government seems to have been executed in a great hurry and in secrecy.
  • Further, there is also a lack of clarity as to whether Mr. Sirisena’s letter (removing Mr. Wickremesinghe) had actually reached him by the time Mr. Rajapaksa was sworn in. This has led some commentators to call it a ‘constitutional coup’.

Position Adopted by Mr. Wickremesinghe:

    • The position by Mr. Wickremesinghe aggravates the seriousness of this constitutional dispute. Dismissing the constitutional validity of the presidential action, Mr. Wickremesinghe has argued that he still commands a majority in Parliament.
    • His line of argument is that only Parliament has the constitutionally sanctioned authority to decide whether he could continue in office as PM or not.
  • It also suggests that as long as there is no no-confidence motion passed in Parliament against him and the cabinet, his position as PM cannot be invalidated by the President at his will.
  • Mr. Wickremesinghe has also cited the fact of having defeated a no-trust motion brought against him a few months ago, and that situation, of Parliament’s majority expressing faith in him, remaining unaltered.

19th Amendment to Sri Lanka’s Constitution:

  • It is important to note that the 19th Amendment to Sri Lanka’s Constitution, passed in 2015 under the joint political leadership of both Mr. Sirisena and Mr. Wickremesinghe.
  • It curtailed powers of the President under the 1978 Constitution (the original) as well as the 18th Amendment passed in 2010. Among the presidential powers taken away by the 19th Amendment, which is valid, is the one pertaining to the President’s powers over the PM.
  • The 19th Amendment, which created a dual executive, made the PM’s position secure from the arbitrary actions of the President. Thus, the office of the PM falls vacant only under limited circumstances.

These circumstances include:

  1. Death,
  2. voluntary resignation,
  3. loss of support in Parliament,
  4. rejection by Parliament of the budget, and
  5. ceasing to be an MP are these circumstances. Sacking by the President is certainly not in this list.
  • By this change, the 19th Amendment has also restored the Westminster framework of relationship between the head of state, the PM, and Parliament.
    • All these make the constitutionality as well as democratic legitimacy of the actions of Mr. Sirisena less than clear.
    • An argument put forward on behalf of the President is that when the United People’s Freedom Alliance, which was a partner in the so-called unity government, informed the Speaker that it was leaving the ruling coalition, the cabinet automatically stood dissolved, thereby creating a vacancy for the office of the PM.
  • However, this is not an argument derived from any explicit provision of the Constitution. It is merely a political argument. What it does is no more than confirm that the composition of the coalition government was altered. It does not automatically lead to the loss of constitutional validity of the cabinet and the position of the person holding the office of the PM.

Areas which need clarity:

    • In Mr. Sirisena’s address to the nation, he did not clarify the constitutional issue at hand.
    • He cited political and personal reasons as to why he could not partner with Mr. Wickremesinghe as the PM.
    • However, his assertion that he acted fully in accordance with the Constitution is only a claim. It awaits clarification.
  • What is in dispute is not the total breakdown of relationship between the two leaders, leading to a collapse of their coalition. What is in doubt is the constitutionality of a series of actions by Mr. Sirisena.
  • Further, if the series of actions by Mr. Sirisena is valid at all, they set a bad precedent for future constitutional governance in Sri Lanka. It is believed that contrary to the letter and spirit of the 19th Amendment, no PM will be secure in his/her position against arbitrary dismissal by the President. These circumstances also warrant judicial intervention to resolve the constitutional doubt.

A Look at the Current Situation:

  • Recently, President Maithripala Sirisena dissolved the Sri Lankan Parliament and called a snap general election for January 5, 2019.
  • The announcement came within hours of his party spokesman publicly admitting to lacking a majority in Parliament. Mr. Sirisena’s front was aiming for a majority to push its controversially installed Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa through the legislature.
  • Resisting Mr. Sirisena’s move, Mr. Wickremesinghe maintained that he was the legitimate Prime Minister and challenged Mr. Rajapaksa to a vote in Parliament to test their claims to majority.
  • Mr. Sirisena had earlier suspended Parliament until November 16, 2018 possibly to muster strength for his front, but summoned the House for November 14, 2018 amid growing pressure.
  • Experts point out that both decisions of Mr. Sirisena, i.e.
    a) sacking Mr. Wickremesinghe and
  • b) dissolving Parliament, have raised serious questions about constitutional validity.
  • As for the dismissal of Mr. Wickremesinghe, the 19th Amendment removed the President’s authority to arbitrarily sack his Prime Minister.

It is important to note that under the Constitution, the Prime Minister’s office does not fall vacant unless in circumstances of his death, voluntary resignation or loss of majority in a crucial vote in Parliament.

  • Further, since none of these is true in the current situation, a new appointment by the President is constitutionally ruled out.

Conflicting Interpretations of the Constitution?:

  • Some lawyers even point to a discrepancy between the English and Sinhala texts of the Constitution and claim the President, as per the Sinhala version, still has the power to remove a Prime Minister.
  • Other constitutional lawyers have argued that while there is a discrepancy in language and framing, the import and essence of the Sinhala text is consistent with that in English, especially when read along with the rest of the Constitution in Sinhala.
  • On the dissolution of Parliament, the President does not have the powers to dissolve Parliament within four-and-a-half years of its convening, unless requested by two-thirds of its members, as per the 19th Amendment.
  • The President’s side has invoked Article 33(2) C that lists the powers to summon, prorogue and dissolve Parliament, in addition to his existing powers.
  • Nevertheless, critics have noted that while the Article is a general enumeration of his powers, it is the 19th Amendment’s specific provision that must prevail in such a situation.

Editorial Analysis:

    • Further, in an important development, the Supreme Court on 13th November 2018 suspended the dissolution of Parliament until December 7, 2018.
    • Experts believe that while the power struggle will continue, it is to the credit of the democratic regime change in January 2015, that was ironically led by Mr. Sirisena, that Sri Lanka’s governing institutions have resisted the authoritarian power inherent in the executive presidency.
    • Looking back, Sri Lanka’s liberal democratic turn in January 2015 was too good to be true, particularly when authoritarian populist regimes were steadily rising the world over.
  • It was Mr. Rajapaksa, who had further entrenched the executive presidency including by removing its two-term limit and later maneuvered the impeachment of a Supreme Court Chief Justice.
  • However, his moves were dislodged by a broad array of political forces.
  • It is believed that Mr. Sirisena re-joining Mr. Rajapaksa has once again sparked the reductive analysis of power play over Sri Lanka involving China, India and the U.S. in the Indian Ocean.
  • Such lazy analysis fails to consider the political consequences of prolonged and flawed neoliberal policies and political-economic changes.
  • It is also important to note that the Sirisena-Rajapaksa camp claims that the sale of Sri Lanka’s assets to China and India and the Free Trade Agreement with Singapore over the last few years by the United National Party (UNP), led by ousted Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, have undermined sovereignty and triggered an economic crisis.

A Look at Internal Politics:

  • It is important to note that the UNP claims to have a monopoly on western friendship and bringing in foreign investors. It paints a picture of international isolation and a Western aid strike if Mr. Rajapaksa returns, but does not reflect on how its own policies have led the country here.
  • However, this trend plays out differently within Tamil politics.
    For example, narrow Tamil nationalists in Jaffna and the Tamil diaspora see the emergence of an anti-west government as an opportunity to mobilise international opprobrium. They continue to dream of international intervention, ignoring local realities and political dynamics.
  • These fears of external intervention and trust in international support are more for ideological manoeuvring. In reality, it is national politics, power consolidation and negotiations with external actors which have determined Sri Lanka’s international relations.
  • From a historical point of view, Sri Lanka’s tensions with external powers — except for the Indian debacle in the 1980s — have rarely led to punitive measures and damaging sanctions. Nevertheless, confrontational rhetoric has helped nationalist governments mobilise popular support.

International Pressures acting on Sri Lanka:

    • Sri Lanka’s decade-long contentious engagement, on war-time abuses, at the UN Human Rights Council is a case in point.
    • While the U.S. mobilised resolutions to rein in Mr. Rajapaksa, who was tilting towards China and Iran, he politically gained from the condemnation in Geneva, projecting himself as a defender of war heroes from international bullies.
  • Sri Lanka’s deteriorating balance of payments and external debt problems are also pertinent. While there is much talk of the debt trap by China, in reality, only 10% of Sri Lanka’s foreign loans are from China.
  • It is important to note that close to 40% of external debt is from the international markets, including sovereign bonds, of which an unprecedented $4.2 billion in debt payments are due next year (2019).
  • Here the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) vocal position in relation to its agreement with Sri Lanka from June 2016, and the rating agencies’ projections on Sri Lanka are crucial to roll over loans.
  • Ultimately, the flows of such capital have little do with diplomatic relations, but depend on national stability and strength, including the political will to ensure budget cuts and debt repayment.
  • It is important to note that during his earlier stint in power, Mr. Rajapaksa called the bluff of international economic isolation after a most horrendous war.
  • Despite western opposition, with authoritarian stability, he had few problems mobilising loans from the global markets and international agencies such as the World Bank, and for that matter an IMF Stand-By Arrangement.
  • On the economy front, it is important to note that Sri Lanka’s economy is not immune from global forces. However, changes to the global economic order, rather than the instrumental moves of any one global power, are what trouble Sri Lanka.
  • Further, declining global trade with increasing protectionism has foreclosed possibilities of export-led development. Experts believe that this reality has completely escaped Sri Lanka’s neoliberal policymakers, whether from the UNP, or earlier under Mr. Rajapaksa.

Concluding Remarks

    • In conclusion, experts believe that the political flux over the past two weeks was the culmination of a bitter power struggle between Mr. Sirisena and Mr. Wickremesinghe within the ruling coalition.
    • The two leaders, from traditionally rival parties and with incompatible ideologies, had joined hands to form the government in 2015, ousting Mr. Rajapaksa.
    • Further, in about three-and-a-half years, they fell apart. Amid the pressure of a Rajapaksa comeback , Mr. Sirisena chose to side with him.
    • It is important to note that the conduct of elections will depend on the Election Commission’s position on the development and possible legal hurdles, since Mr. Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP) has vowed to move the Supreme Court on the “illegal” dissolution of Parliament.
  • Also, from the time the 19th Amendment capped the Presidency at two terms, Mr. Rajapaksa has been eager to return as Prime Minister.
  • But he is now with Mr. Sirisena, who brings with him at least part of his unpopular coalition government’s incumbency. Mr. Wickremesinghe, on the other hand, is faced with a dual challenge. These challenges are as follows:
  1. some within his party have been demanding a new leader for some time,
  2. while those backing him are aware of his falling political stock amid a growing economic crisis.
  • Some experts also suggest that Mr. Wickremesinghe should realise that he is partly to blame for the political imbroglio.
  • His inability to establish a stable working relationship with the President to run the coalition government, casual disregard for the popular mandate he and Mr. Sirisena jointly won in 2015 for corruption-free governance and politics, lackadaisical attitude to constitutional reform and reconciliation, and gross neglect of popular demands for better economic governance have severely eroded his popular standing.
  • The biggest political irony is this. The collective failure of Mr. Sirisena and Mr. Wickremesinghe to be faithful to the 2015 mandate has now brought Mr. Rajapaksa back to power on the invitation of one party in a coalition which dislodged him from power.
  • It is believed that whatever turn the crisis may take, Sri Lanka’s fragile process of democratic recovery is in peril.
  • Finally, while many of Sri Lanka’s neoliberal policies, including trade liberalisation, privatising medical education, sale of sovereign bonds and the controversial port city-cum-international financial centre in Colombo, were products of the Rajapaksa government, today the Rajapaksa camp claims to guard Sri Lanka from a neoliberal attack on sovereignty. It is also important to note that the economic vision of Mr. Rajapaksa is of a populist variety.
  • Further, it is credible economic alternatives with a democratic vision that will arrest the slide towards authoritarian populism. During this time of crisis, the prevalent discourse of international interests deflects such alternatives.
  • The UNP and its allies should be challenged on their blunders with the economy and failure to find a constitutional-political solution, including the abolition of the executive presidency.
  • The debate in Sri Lanka limited to personalities, corruption and geopolitics needs to shift with the public putting forward powerful demands of democratisation and economic justice. Otherwise, the thin wall of defence provided by the Parliament and the courts could crumble, and the deepening political and economic crisis may pave the way for authoritarian consolidation.

2. Four corners

(India and the Neighbourhood; Quad members)

Larger Background:

A Note on the Indo-Pacific Region:

  • The Indo-Pacific region is a geostrategic and geo-economic concept that has been gaining significance in the realm of geopolitics for some time now.
  • Geographically, it refers to the area which covers the Eastern Coast of Africa through Indian Ocean and Western Pacific Ocean.
  • The Indo-Pacific region is at the heart of India’s engagement with the world. India’s engagement with the region, encompasses many of the world’s most dynamic economies.
  • The very concept of the “Indo-Pacific” was popularized by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during his 2007 “Confluence of the Two Seas” speech to the Indian Parliament.
  • As a matter of fact, the Japanese PM’s speech went further, urging  the United States, Australia, Japan, and India to venture into a quadrilateral security dialogue. This group has been informally termed as “the Quad”.
  • In recent times, while delivering the keynote address at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, Prime Minister Modi also placed this region at the heart of India’s engagement with the world. As a matter of fact, the use of term “Indo-Pacific”, as opposed to the term “Asia Pacific” previously, by the Trump administration, acknowledges a certain historical reality and a current day reality- that South Asia and in particular, India plays a key role in the Pacific, in East Asia and Southeast Asia.
  • The government of India has over the past few years, renewed India’s Look East Policy (LEP) into an ‘Act East Policy’, this change in outlook seeks to increase the people-to-people contact and connectivity in the region, and at the same time, seeks to play a larger and active role in this vital region.

Geostrategic Significance

  • The region represents the centre of gravity of the world’s economic, political and strategic interests. Being rich in natural resources, especially hydrocarbons, there is a natural competition for resources by the littorals of this region. Further, the region consists of many of the world’s vital choke points for global commerce, including the Straits of Malacca which is very critical for the growth of world economy. It is noteworthy that the geographical extent of the Indo-Pacific has never been clearly defined collectively by regional powers, and remains open to interpretation. Broadly, the term “Indo-Pacific”, refers to all countries bordering the Indian and Pacific oceans.
  • It is important to note the driving factors that has led to focus shifting towards the Indo-Pacific region. One of the main reasons have been the aggressive policies adopted by China, which over the last few years, have invited criticism from many littoral nations of the Indo-Pacific, an example being  building artificial islands in the South China Sea. Over and above this, China has established its first overseas military base in Djibouti.
  • China is planning to open a new naval base next to Pakistan’s China-controlled Gwadar port. Further, China has leased several islands in the crisis-plagued Maldives, where it is set to build a marine observatory that will provide subsurface data supporting the deployment of nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSNs) and nuclear-powered ballistic missile subs (SSBNs) in the Indian Ocean.

A Brief Note on the Initiatives taken by Government of India:

  • There have been visits made by important officials from India to the East African and West Asian littorals- for example, President Ram Nath Kovind’s visit to Mauritius and Madagascar last month. Such initiatives can also be looked upon as India’s response to China’s challenge.
  • The President of India committed a $100 million line of credit for defence procurement by Mauritius. India is developing a new airstrip, along with jetty facilities on the islands of Agaléga, perhaps for future use by the Indian Navy.
  • With reference to Madagascar, the President promised greater cooperation in the “blue economy” domain- this includes, the promotion of sustainable fisheries, maritime connectivity, marine resource management, ecotourism, and pollution control.
  • For Mozambique, the government of India will be increasing the training of military personnel and upgrade defence equipment and infrastructure, including medical facilities and hydrographic surveying of Mozambique waters.
  • Further, the presence of ASEAN leaders at the Republic Day celebrations held on 26th Jan, 2018 was a truly significant sign of the increasing ties that India is pursuing particularly in Southeast Asia.

US-India Relations

  • The Barack Obama administration, gave much emphasis to the ‘Pivot to Asia’ strategy. Currently, under the Trump administration, the phrase ‘free and open Indo-Pacific’ replaces the idea of ‘Pivot to Asia’.
  • This 21st century partnership must take into account each country’s economic trajectory, political values and strategic posture. The Indo-Pacific will be the region in which this partnership can truly be leveraged to the fullest possible extent. It is important to note that the US has been a principal architect and the traditional guarantor of a liberal economic and maritime order in the Indo-Pacific.
  • The Malabar exercise, conducted annually, which now formally includes a third partner, Japan, is another key feature of military cooperation, improving coordination and interoperability. Further, adding to these efforts are the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA), which will create maritime logistic links, and a white shipping agreement which promotes regional maritime domain awareness. The signing of COMCASA agreement during the inaugural 2+2 dialogue between India and the U.S. bears further testimony to the growing closeness between the two countries.
  • Apart from these convergences, it is suggested that India and the US must also collaborate to promote a market-driven blue economy as a framework for growth and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region, especially keeping in mind that this region is home to abundant supply of hydrocarbons, minerals, and food resources. Further, it has also been suggested that through direct investments in Indian efforts, such as in identified coastal economic zones and India’s Sagarmala initiative, and participation in regional groupings like the Indian Ocean Rim Association, the US can support regional collaboration in the Indo-Pacific region.
  • As China seeks to increasingly expand its political and military influence in the region under the aegis of the Belt and Road Initiative, it is imperative to formulate a rules-based order for the region. To ensure this takes place, states must work together to forge a more inclusive approach towards an emerging regional architecture. It is in this respect, that the India-US partnership has an important role to play. The American vision of the Indo-Pacific Economic Corridor supplements India’s Act East policy. Further, India-US cooperation in physical and soft infrastructure can a) link cross-border transport corridors b) assist in creating regional energy connections and c) foster greater people-to-people interactions.

Editorial Analysis:

    • Officials from the ‘Quadrilateral’ grouping of India, Australia, Japan and the U.S. are scheduled to meet in Singapore on 14th November, 2018.
    • Experts believe that their challenge will be to accurately describe their common agenda.
    • It is important to note that the Quad is billed as four democracies with a shared objective to ensure and support a “free, open and prosperous” Indo-Pacific region.
    • Experts believe that during this round, the four countries are expected to discuss infrastructure projects they are working on, and building humanitarian disaster response mechanisms.
  • Further, over the past few months, India and Japan have announced they will combine efforts on a number of projects in South Asia, including bridges and roads in Bangladesh, an LNG facility in Sri Lanka and reconstruction projects in Myanmar’s Rakhine province.
  • As a matter of fact, Australia has unveiled an ambitious $2 billion project to fund infrastructure and build maritime and military infrastructure in the Pacific region, on which it is willing to cooperate with other Quad members.
  • The four countries are expected to talk about regional developments, including elections in the Maldives, the collapse of the government in Sri Lanka and the latest developments in North Korea.
  • Experts believe that with Quad talks being held on the sidelines of the East Asia summit, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership summit and the ASEAN-India informal summit, discussions will include some of the overlapping issues among these groupings.

Concluding Remarks

  • Experts believe that despite the potential for cooperation, the Quad remains a mechanism without a defined strategic mission.
  • It is important to note that in 2007, when the grouping was first formed following cooperation after the 2004 tsunami, the idea was to better coordinate maritime capabilities for disaster situations.
  • When the idea of this grouping was revived in 2017, the grouping seemed to have become a counter to China’s growing inroads into the region, despite denials that any particular country had been targeted.
  • Even a common definition of the geographical area encompassed has yet to be found. While Washington sees the U.S. and India as “bookends” of the Indo-Pacific, India and Japan have included the oceans up to Africa in their definition.
  • Experts point out that the entire focus on the Indo-Pacific makes the Quad a maritime, rather than land-based, grouping, raising questions whether the cooperation extends to the Asia-Pacific and Eurasian regions.
  • As a matter of fact, even on maritime exercises, there is a lack of concurrence. India has not admitted Australia in the Malabar exercises with the U.S. and Japan, despite requests from Canberra, and has also resisted raising the level of talks from an official to the political level.
  • Experts believe that the fact that India is the only member not in a treaty alliance with the other Quad countries will slow progress somewhat, although each member is committed to building a stronger Quadrilateral engagement.
  • Lastly, it it believed that the outcome of the third round in Singapore will be judged by the ability of the group to issue a joint declaration, which eluded it in the first and second rounds.

F. Tidbits

1. Uttar Pradesh Cabinet nod for Faizabad name change

 

  • The Uttar Pradesh Cabinet approved a proposal to change the name of Faizabad district to Ayodhya, a week after Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath made the announcement on the eve of Diwali.
  • The government note on the name change said the proposal of the district magistrate was “justified” on the basis of “facts” that Ayodhya had been the capital of the legendary “Ishvaku dynasty” and the birthplace of Lord Ram.
  • “Ayodhya has been the capital of many states and dynasties across time. In far away lands as well, this land has been identified as Ayodhya,” the note said.

2. Avni: ‘two chances to tranquillise missed’

 

  • Maharashtra government had permitted a hunter to kill the tigress- Avni. The tigress, which is believed to have attacked and killed 13 people, was shot dead in Yavatmal, its habitat on the 2nd of November by a civilian hunter with a team of Forest Department officials.
  • Deputy Conservator of Forests (DSF) Pandharkawada, wrote in a letter to the CWW that Two golden opportunities to execute the Chief Wildlife Warden’s (CWW) order — to tranquilise Avni, the tigress, in a very prompt and scientific way was missed.

Details:

  • The power to declare a tiger as man-eater is vested with chief wildlife conservator of the state.
  • Only when the attack is confirmed as deliberate one and there are instances of more than one deliberate attacks the tiger can be declared as Man eater.

G. Prelims Fact

1. GSAT-29

 

  • India’s heavy-lift rocket Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV-Mk III) is set to put into orbit GSAT-29. GSAT- 29 is a communication satellite for high quality Internet services.
  • It will be the second developmental flight of GSLV-Mk III rocket with a rated carrying capacity of four tonnes.
  • The rocket will carry GSAT-29 weighing 3,423 kg (just over 3.4 tonnes) and sling it into Geo Transfer Orbit (GTO). Then the satellite will be lifted to the final Geo Stationary Orbit (GSO) at a height of 36,000 km from the earth.
  • With a design life of 10 years, the GSAT-29 satellite carries Ka/Ku-band high throughput communication transponders intended to meet the communication requirements of users including those in remote areas.

2. Dudhwa Tiger Reserve

 

  • The Dudhwa Tiger Reserve is a protected area in Uttar Pradesh that comprises the Dudhwa National Park, Kishanpur Wildlife Sanctuary and Katarniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary.
  • It shares the north-eastern boundary with Nepal, which is defined to a large extent by the Mohana River. The area is a vast alluvial floodplain traversed by numerous rivers and streams flowing in south-easterly direction.
  • In 1987, the Dudhwa National Park and the Kishanpur Wildlife Sanctuary were brought under the purview of the ‘Project Tiger’ as Dudhwa Tiger Reserve. The Katarniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary was added in the year 2000.
  • It is one of India’s 47 Tiger Reserves
  • The protected area is home for tigers, leopards, Asiatic black bears, sloth bears, Swamp deer, rhinoceros, elephants, cheetal, hog deer, barking deer, sambar, wild boar and hispid hare.

H. Practice Questions for UPSC Prelims Exam

Question 1. Consider the following statements regarding the Swarajists:
  1. They were headed by C.R Das and Vallabhbhai Patel.
  2. They wanted the nationalists to boycott the Legislative councils.
  3. They formed the Congress-Khilafat Swarajya Party.
  4. They rejected the idea of working as a group within Congress

Which of the above statement/s is/are correct?

  1. I, II and III only
  2. I and III only
  3. III only
  4. III and IV only

See

Answer
Question 2. Which of the following pairs is/are correctly matched?

                 Spacecraft                       Planet

  1. Juno                                   Saturn
  2. Cassini                               Jupiter
  3. Mangalyaan                      Mars

Select the correct answer using the codes given below:

  1. 1 and 2 only
  2. 3 only
  3. 1, 2 and 2
  4. None of the above

See

Answer
Question 3. With reference to ‘Internet of Things (IoT)’, sometimes seen in the news, which of the 
following statements is/are correct?
  1. IoT generally refers to scenarios where network connectivity and computing capability extends to objects, sensors and everyday items.
  2. IoT devices and services can serve as potential entry points for cyber-attack and expose user data to theft.
  3. IoT amplifies concerns about the potential for increased surveillance and tracking

Select the correct answer using the codes given below:

  1. 1 and 2 only
  2. 2 and 3 only
  3. 3 only
  4. 1, 2 and 3

See

Answer
Question 4. Consider the following statements:
  1. Surcharge is tax on tax
  2. Cess in charge on the tax

Which of the following is/are NOT correct?

  1. Only 1
  2. Only 2
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. None of the above

See

Answer

I. Practice Questions for UPSC Mains Exam

  1. Fake news is a growing threat to peaceful Society. What are the possible implications? Also, suggest measures taken by MNC’s to help address the issue.
  2. The Look East policy of India existed implicitly even before it was made explicit, by its cultural and Trade relations. Analyze.

Also, check previous Daily News Analysis

 

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