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UPSC Online Editorial Analysis


Title: Redrawing the lines (Indian Express) | Is India facing two front threat? (The Hindu)

Written by: Syed Ata Hasnain – The writer, a former corps commander of the Srinagar-based 15 Corps, is chancellor, Central University of Kashmir. | Lieutenant General D.S. Hooda (retd.) (a former Northern Army Commander) & Harsh V. Pant (Director, Studies at the Observer Research Foundation and Professor of International Relations, King’s College London)

Topic in the syllabus: Security challenges and their management in border areas. (GS-3)

Analysis about: These articles talks about the challenges India is facing on either side of the border by China & Pakistan.


  • Locations of the disputed region-


  • Recently we lost an officer and two jawans and neutralised three terrorists. That led, a week later, to the triggering of some of the most intense exchanges of fire on the LoC all along the Kashmir frontier extending into the Poonch sector.
  • While the India China stand­off continues in eastern Ladakh, the Line of Control (LoC) is yet again on the boil.

What is the possibility of a two­-front war with Pakistan and China?

  • There are less chances as per Mr. Hooda.
  • Earlier, the military and political establishment felt that we could stave off any military action from China through political and diplomatic action. That if conflict was imminent, it was most likely to happen with Pakistan.
  • Because of our conventional superiority, we could handle that front(Pakistan) quite easily.
  • But The threat from China has become more real than it was in the past.

A two front war would mean a failure of Indian diplomacy. Where does the current stand­off put that situation?

  • Mr. Pant don’t particularly see this as being a problem — that Indian diplomacy failed and therefore this happened. Indian diplomats and military strategists recognise the challenge.
  • The issue is that we now have in China a regime that believes its time has come and also believes
    that India is taking certain steps that are important to be countered in real time.
  • The combination of these variables means that Indian diplomacy and military thinking will
    have to evolve more rapidly than we had earlier assumed.

In case of escalation, what are India’s strengths and weaknesses?

  • In case there is a two front conflict or threat, we will need to designate a primary and secondary
    theatre based on who presents the greater danger. We can’t have matching strengths on both the fronts.
  • Strengths-
    • High altitude areas are not easy for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to apply major force because of logistical and terrain constraints.
    • The Air Force has a geographical advantage over the PLA Air Force and has also built a fairly strong strategic airlift capability.
    • Our Navy has a significant edge over the PLA Navy in the Indian Ocean and there is pretty good maritime domain awareness.
  • Weaknesses-
    • China has a much greater military potential.
    • The PLA also has a technology edge in some very critical areas like ballistic missile, electronic warfare, cyber, air defence, etc.
    • Despite all our efforts, there are shortfalls in infrastructure along the northern borders.

Will the CPEC emerge as a major point of friction with Pakistan and China?

  • According to Mr. Pant Yes, CPEC has already emerged as a major variable in terms of how we define our relationship with both Pakistan and China.
  • We always knew that China and Pakistan were getting closer, but with CPEC, a new dimension has been added to that relationship.
  • And the more China feels vulnerable in the CPEC, the more open and explicit its policies have become vis-à-vis India. This has also allowed India to be more open about its policies with China.

In the evolving security and diplomatic architecture in the Indo-­Pacific, how will the geopolitics of the three play out?

  • China is now a very important player in the global matrix. So, India will have to take that factor into account.
  • However, we are also seeing that China is facing an intense backlash across the world post COVID­19, post the kind of aggressive postures it has adopted.
  • So, there are opportunities there as well for India to build relationships with countries, which perhaps look at the world through a similar prism.
  • E.g. Quad has been revived, the Australians have been invited to Malabar, the U.S.­-India relationship has achieved a new dynamic with all the foundation agreements now being signed.
  • Ultimately, India will have to fight its own battles. But if you have partners that are out there to support you, that always is a value add.
  • India was hesitant in articulating some policies, it is less hesitant today. Now that India is coming
    out very vocally about where it stands on a number of these issues, perhaps we will see a greater degree of alignment among major powers.

Do measures like increased military cooperation, exercises, logistic agreements dissuade China from doing something more aggressive?

  • Mr. Pant don’t think the challenge of China and how it needs to be managed is going to go away soon. So, we are looking at some of these partnerships that India had now getting operationalised in real time.
  • That will have a bearing on how China views the world. The Chinese have been very sensitive about the Quad and Indo-Pacific.
  • They were insistent that Indo-­Pacific as a narrative should not really catch up.
  • Now they have lost that battle, because the Indo-­Pacific is widely accepted as a framework through which you look at the region and at the maritime dynamic.

There is now a new dynamic and a new normal on the LAC. How is it going to go forward once this stand­off is over?

  • Even if the current crisis is resolved peacefully, it is not possible that we are getting back to the status quo as it existed.
  • We are going to see greater militarisation along the LAC.
  • Greater distrust is going to now be the new normal for the next few years, at least until such time, if at all, we can put in place new protocols, new agreements, get a degree of trust again between the two militaries.
  • Not only in Ladakh, we will see it all along the LAC in Sikkim and even Arunachal Pradesh.
  • The power differential between India and China is only set to grow in the future.

What are the concerns about Pakistan Issue?

  • In security issues involving Jammu & Kashmir (J&K), events move at breakneck speed and with great intensity, drawing media attention in Delhi and elsewhere. These events vanish just as soon as they come.
  • They are, many a time, seasonal and calendar-based, making them seem predictable and therefore less significant.
  • The result is that public and institutional memory of them is poor, making quick meaningful assessments difficult and often ending in transactional and routine conclusions.

What are positives things for India?

  • The leadership of terrorists is virtually non-existent with many areas being served by rookie local terrorists.
  • With terrorist strength reduced due to failed infiltration and poor recruitment, networks that support terror under strain with their finances stretched, the challenge for the separatists and their sponsors is intense.
  • There are no foreign mujahideen available; the launch pads have only some Pakistani fighters but the vigil by the Indian Army is intense and the counter infiltration measures are not easy to get past.
  • There is desperation across the LoC to do something to keep the proxy war alive in J&K.
  • There is the Rashtriya Rifles deployment to contend with as also a much more vigorous CRPF, all backed by the redoubtable J&K Police.
  • The Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) has found its energy and is moving with focus towards its aim of removing the Pakistan Army’s hand from governance.

How China can be a threat with Pakistan?

  • Up in the north, China’s PLA had perceived a cakewalk in terms of military coercion of a stretched Indian Army, to rein in the galloping strategic confidence of India after 2014.
  • With the PLA’s strategic objectives not achieved and clearly unlikely to be achieved unless it decides to deploy a far higher quantum of troops, China is seeking options for a drawdown without loss of face.
  • Pakistan’s collusion can help if the situation in J&K is taken to a higher pitch of resistance and turbulence.
  • India’s role in the emerging world order is likely to be of much significance, which China would like to see diluted; Pakistan is a partner in achieving that intent. The way to achieving this lies through J&K and Ladakh.

What is necessary for India?

  • At the strategic level, there needs to be greater dialogue between the civil and military leaderships to see how this can be bridged.
  • Even our strategic and doctrinal thinking of how we are going to handle a two front threat if it
    comes requires very extensive debate between the political leadership and military leadership.
  • If the CPEC is the fulcrum around which a China Pakistan collusion is emerging or will emerge in the future, then India needs to have countervailing mechanisms in place.
  • Advantage gained by India in either of the standoffs with China or with Pakistan will go far in enhancing its international role, its worth for the US and its allies, and its future standing.
  • A larger consultative approach under these circumstances is the way forward.


Title: India’s mask of economic liberalism is off

Written by: Prabhash Ranjan (a senior assistant professor of law at South Asian University.)

Topic in the syllabus: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth, development and employment. (GS-3)

Analysis about: This editorial talks about how the trade protectionism seems to be the official policy of Indian government.


  • India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar recently disap­proved of free trade and globalisation.
  • The Minister said, “the effect of past trade agreements has been to de­industrialise some sectors.”
  • The fact that these observations were made just a day after 15 countries of the Asia Pacific region
    signed, on November 15, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement, the largest regional trading arrangement, is no coincidence.

Rhetoric versus reality:

  • By refusing to sign RCEP India is now truly at the margins of the regional and global economy.
    • By not being part of any major FTA, India cannot be part of the global value chains.
    • India’s competitors such as the East Asian nations, by virtue of they being embedded in mega­ FTAs, are in a far superior position to be part of global value chains and attract foreign investment.
  • Has India embraced the economic openness that Mr. Jaishankar laments about?
    • According to the WTO, India’s applied most favoured nation import tariffs are 13.8%, which is the highest for any major economy.
    • Likewise, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, on the import restrictiveness index, India figures in the ‘very restrictive’ category.
  • In blaming FTAs for the woes of India’s manufacturing, the External Affairs Minister is contradicting his own government’s economic survey presented earlier this year, which concluded that India has benefitted overall from FTAs signed so far.
    • The real problem of the Indian industry is the lack of competitiveness and absence of structural reforms.
  • In criticising economic openness and globalisation, the External Affairs Minister wholly ignored the fact that India has been one of the major beneficiaries of economic globalisation — a fact attested by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
    • Poverty in rural and urban India, which stood at close to 40% in 2004­05, almost halved to about 20% by 2011­12. This was due to India clocking an average economic growth rate of almost 8% with international trade being a major engine of progress.


  • The Prime Minister’s desire to make India a global destination for foreign investment is an unreal dream because it is not good to expect foreign investors to be interested about investing in India if trade protectionism is the government’s official policy.


Title: Partnership in progress

Written by: Gurjit Singh (The writer is former Ambassador to ASEAN.)

Topic in the syllabus: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests. (GS-2)

Analysis about: This editorial talks about how East Asia Summit signals India to pursue bilateral pacts with ASEAN countries.


  • The East Asia Summit:
    • Since its establishment, ASEAN has held the central role and leadership in the forum.
    • EAS meetings are held after the annual ASEAN leaders’ meetings, and plays an important role in the regional architecture of Asia-Pacific.
    • The East Asia Summit (EAS) is the main summit in the Indo-Pacific region, where all the powers that be gather annually in November.
    • It is a leaders-led forum with informality built into it. It is usually held just after the second ASEAN summit of the year when the ASEAN also meets its dialogue partners, including India.


  • In the virtual format, EAS loses that informality which is its hallmark. Leaders made prepared statements with no scope of informal chatting. As the EAS coincided with Diwali, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had domestic commitments which kept him away and India was represented by the External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar.

What happened in the recent summit?

  • Though the main threat in the region is from China, this is rarely discussed openly in deference to ASEAN views.
  • The promise held out at the September EAS Foreign Ministers meeting that “the free-flowing constructive dialogue on strategic issues amongst Leaders at the EAS in order to reinforce strategic trust and to address common challenges” would strengthen EAS was lost.
  • The Hanoi Declaration for the 15th Anniversary of EAS has a mere 12 paragraphs. This is because China, backed by Russia, introduced several ideas at the drafting stage which queered the pitch. To remove these, other substantive ideas were dropped, leading to an innocuous document.

Change in the EAS & the China factor:

  • The situation emanating from the pandemic was the immediate focal point and the Chinese conundrum was ignored by the EAS documents. One has to read between the lines of Dialogue Partner statements, including India’s, to find some criticism of China. The informal consultations at physical summits allowed a greater voicing of concern regarding China.
  • Traditionally, security aspects have been confined to informal discussions while the functional aspects have dominated documents.
  • Over the years, EAS has been looking more at non-traditional threats including illegal fishing, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief (HADR), migration and the like.
  • In the absence of taking on the Chinese dragon, the focus has been on emphasising ASEAN centrality.

Why it has been emphasised that the ASEAN centrality is under challenge?

  • the reiteration in various documents this time gives the impression that the centrality of ASEAN is actually under challenge.
  • This is mainly because China has dealt with the ASEAN countries individually rather than as a bloc. The Quad is also contacting interested ASEAN countries individually.
  • The way ASEAN operates, it becomes necessary for partners to act separately, like in the Indo Pacific and the Quad. T
  • hese detract from ASEAN’s centrality, which is truly not what it used to be even if every dialogue partner continues to mention it.
  • The EAS provides ASEAN with an opportunity to become more realistic but internal dissensions over China wither its resolve.
  • Interestingly, Chinese PM Li Keqiang was the one asking ASEAN to conclude the Code of Conduct on the South China Sea.

Areas of interests for India:

  • The leader’s statement on the regional economy mentions the WTO but not RCEP as it seeks a transparent, non-discriminatory and stable trade and investment environment to promote regional value chains (RVCs).
  • This is probably in deference to India which has opted out of RCEP but is interested in being a part of the RVCs.
  • Other areas of interest for India emanating from the leaders documents are regional connectivity with a perceptible shift to the maritime sphere, macroeconomic and financial stability efforts in which India has not so far played a major role.

How is India beneficial for ASEAN?

  • India has a role in the ideas behind the statement on marine sustainability since it has dealt with illegal fishing and related issues and could become a part of the proposed regional cooperation for mobility of skilled labour and services. These need to be better covered by a reviewed India-ASEAN FTA.
  • India has an important role envisaged in the statement on dealing with epidemics, both in its ability to provide capacity building and crucial manufacturing bases for pharmaceuticals as part of resilient supply chains for medical supplies in the region. These need to be leveraged directly with ASEAN countries.


  • The India-Japan-Australia and India-Australia-France agreements to pursue value chains in the region can draw sustenance from these documents and move ahead with interested ASEAN countries since, like China, India too will now put priority to bilateral relationships with select ASEAN countries while maintaining its overall commitment to ASEAN as a community.

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