23th October 2020 Editorial analysis
(The Hindu+ The Indian express)
> Drive a harder bargain at the Delhi meet – At the 2+2 Ministerial forum, India must ensure that its gamble with Trump’s regime so close to the U.S. election pays off (Written by Suhasini Haider)
Mains (GS-II : Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests)
[This article talks about how politics and elections play role in shaping foreign policy – in context with India]
- In August 2016 just before the United States presidential election India discussed about the Paris Climate Change Agreement, with the U.S. urging India to sign it at the earliest.
- The statement they issued included the U.S.’s [developed countries] commitment to mobilise $100 billion per year by 2020 as part of a Green Climate Fund (GCF) to help developing countries such as India.
- While New Delhi could have chosen to wait for the results of the U.S. elections but India did not.PM announced that India would ratify the UN climate protocol on October 2, to mark Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday.
- Months later, on June 1, 2017, the new U.S. President, Donald Trump, announced that the U.S. would exit the Paris agreement, and also revoked U.S. promises towards the GCF, calling it “very unfair”.
How India is facing same circumstances now?
- As the U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, makes his way to India next week, history may just be repeating itself. This time, Mr. Pompeo is coming exactly a week before the election, and his brief is clear: to ensure that New Delhi makes a strong, public, strategic commitment to the U.S. on its plans in the Indo-Pacific.
- At the Quad Foreign Ministers meeting in Tokyo, Mr. Pompeo had said that as partners in this Quad, “it is more critical now than ever that we collaborate to protect our people and partners from the Chinese Communist Party’s exploitation, corruption, and coercion.”
- But in contrast to this Prime Minister Narendra Modi stated at the Shangri La dialogue, in June 2018 “by no means…directed against any country”. (but this scenario can change now due to Chinese aggression)
How conditions are uncertain & mostly depend on who wins the American presidential election?
- It is by no means clear that Mr. Trump will win the presidential elections or that Mr. Pompeo will remain in that spot.
- all presidential polls for the U.S. electoral college point to a probable win for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
- Even if Mr. Trump does win the election, it remains to be seen how far he will take ties with China to
the brink once he dusts off his campaign rhetoric.
- In the event Mr. Biden wins the election, India will hardly have endeared itself to the incoming administration by making strong statements of solidarity with Trump policy, strategic or otherwise.
What will be the most probable discussion in Pompeo’s visit?
- On the maritime sphere, discussions will no doubt include strengthening ties in the Indo-Pacific & enhancing joint military exercises like the ‘Malabar’.
- Completing the last of the “foundational agreements” with the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geospatial Cooperation (BECA).
- On the SAARC region, Mr. Pompeo is speaking with his feet, given that his travels will take him to Male and Colombo as well. In Male, the U.S. has already announced a defence agreement that will pave the way for a strategic dialogue. (unlike in the past, New Delhi has not objected to ceding space in its area of influence in the Indian Ocean Region, as it will allow the U.S. to counter Chinese influence there.)
- With Sri Lanka too, the U.S. has a pending defence agreement, but more importantly, discussions on infrastructure projects, and progress on its “Millennium Challenge Corporation” (MCC) offer of a fiveyear aid grant of about $480 million, that is meant to offer alternatives to the Rajapaksa government, will be key. (given India’s own economic constraints, the U.S. aid offer will be
seen as one way of staving off China’s inroads into Sri Lanka.)
What should South block & India must keep in mind?
- Commitments made by Mr. Pompeo during his India visit could thus be assessed better in a similar
visit made even a week later, once the election results are more clearly known.
- South Block must consider carefully just what it discusses and projects from the meeting with Mr. Pompeo and U.S. Defence Secretary Mark Esper as they arrive for the Third IndiaU.S. 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue.
- China has gone from being the “Elephant in the Room” (as Stephen Biegun described it) to becoming an agenda item on the table.
- It is critical to study just how India hopes to collaborate with the U.S. on the challenge that Beijing poses on each of India’s three fronts: at the LAC, in the maritime sphere, and in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) region surrounding India.
- Finally, and of most interest, will be how the U.S. and India can collaborate, if they can, on dealing
with India’s most immediate, continental challenge from China: at the LAC.
What we can expect from US?
- Mr. Pompeo must, for example, commit to keeping the pressure on Pakistan on terrorism, despite the U.S. need for Pakistan’s assistance in Afghan-Taliban talks. A firm U.S. statement in this regard may also disperse the pressure the Indian military faces in planning for a “two-front” conflict with China.
- Mr. Pompeo should be pushed on resolving trade issues with India, an area the Trump administration has been particularly tough.
- Commit to restoring India’s Generalised System of Preferences status for exporters.
- The government could press for more cooperation on 5G technology sharing, or an assurance that its S400 missile system purchase from Russia will receive an exemption from CAATSA.
- By inviting Mr. Pompeo this close to the U.S. elections, New Delhi has taken a calculated and bold gamble. Unlike the experience of 2016, however, our leaders must drive a harder bargain to consolidate the payoffs from the visit.
> Sooner, better Indigenously developed tests will allow scaling up of efforts to detect infections.
Mains (GS-III : Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and
developing new technology)
[This article talks about importance of two indigenously developed tests for COVID-19]
- The ICMR’s approval, recently, of two indigenously developed tests that are rapid, low cost and have
high sensitivity and specificity provides the much needed boost to scale up daily testing without diluting accuracy.
- The low sensitivity of rapid antigen tests has meant that even people with symptoms were being handed out a negative result nearly half the time, leading to undetected cases.
Why is it necessary?
- With unrestricted movement, businesses opening up, the festival season beginning and winter around the corner, the requirement for a rapid, low cost test with high accuracy is crucial in checking the virus spread through early detection and repeated testing of even asymptomatic cases.
About newly developed test:
- While the low sensitivity of rapid antigen tests arises from not isolating the viral RNA from the swab samples and amplification of the DNA before detection, the two indigenously developed tests follow these two vital steps, the reason why the sensitivity and specificity are far superior to that of the rapid antigen tests.
Why India is still relying on rapid antigen test?
- Both the tests developed locally do require minimum laboratory infrastructure to isolate the viral
RNA from the samples. For that reason, India has to still rely on rapid antigen tests in rural areas that have no laboratory infrastructure.
How the new discovery can change the testing conditions? (advantages)
- Having locally developed tests with higher accuracy will now help States to offer tests on demand — as required in a September 4 ICMR advisory — while keeping costs low.
- The tests developed by the Indian institutions, once commercially available, can readily replace the rapid antigen tests in places where such laboratory infrastructure is in place.
- Rapid antigen tests will become less important even in rural areas once research institutions succeed in developing protocols and tests for using saliva rather than swabs, and do not require isolation of viral RNA from patient samples before amplification and detection.
- Relying on saliva samples would mean non invasive sample collection, and probably even self collection.
- Thus, the reliance on trained personnel would reduce and also minimise the risk of health workers getting infected.
> At 75, the UN needs a rebirth – There must be a global push against the rules that have privileged rule of the few over the many. (Written by Sreeram Chaulia, Dean, Jindal School of International Affairs)
Mains (GS-II : Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting
[This article talks about necessity of reforms in United nations]
- October 24 marks the diamond jubilee of the United Nations. But far from joyous celebration, it is an occasion to sombrely reflect on why the UN is stagnating at 75 and how it can regain its lost lustre.
What is the issue?
- The UN represents hopes of a peaceful and just world order through multilateral cooperation, abidance by international law, and uplift of the downtrodden.
- On the other, the institution has been designed to privilege the most powerful states of the post World War II dispensation by granting them commanding heights over international politics via the undemocratic instruments of veto power and permanent seats in the Security Council (UNSC).
Are there any arguments supporting this concentration of power in the UN?
- If the great powers of that period were not accommodated with VIP status, we may have seen a repeat of the ill fated League of Nations.
- Keeping all the major powers inside the tent and reasonably happy through joint control over the UNSC was intended to be a pragmatic step to avoid another world war.
- Presumably, the collective command model of big powers built into the UNSC is one of the reasons why there has been no third world war.
Why this model did not work?
- This model has also caused havoc. Almost immediately after the UN’s creation, it was pushed to the verge of irrelevance by the Cold War, which left the UN little room to implement noble visions of peace, development and human rights.
- In the U.S. led ‘new world order’ of the 1990s, it appeared as if the problem of ‘power’ cutting out ‘principle’ had been resolved under the benign hegemony of a Washington that would be the
flag-bearer of UN values. However, that golden age of the UN was too deceptive to last.
What UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres say about the condition?
- He has labelled the present peaking of geopolitical tensions as a “great fracture”.
- He also said that “we have essentially failed” to cooperate against the immediate global threat of the pandemic.
- He has also rekindled the old maxim, “The UN is only as strong as its members’ commitment to its ideals.”
Why reforms are necessary?
- We are now past the unipolar moment and the ghosts of the Cold War are returning in complex multisided avatars.
- The phrase ‘new Cold War’ is in vogue to depict the clash between China and the U.S. Tensions involving other players like Russia, Turkey, Iran and Israel in West Asia, as well as between China and its neighbours in Asia, are at an all time high.
- The recrudescence of the worst habits of competitive vetoing by P5 countries has prevented the UNSC from fulfilling its collective security mandate.
- At the core of the paralysis of the UN is the phenomenon of P5 countries (China, France, Russia, the
U.K., and the U.S.) blocking reforms.
The way forward:
- Procedures based on the discriminatory original sin of superior prerogatives to P5 countries have to be discarded.
- If a simple majority voting method could replace the P5 consensus method, the obstacles to UNSC reforms would reduce.
- On the 75th anniversary of the UN, there must be a global push against ossifying ‘rules’ which have privileged ‘rule’ of the few over the many.
- That is the only way to restore some balance between ‘power’ and ‘principle’ and ensure a renaissance of the UN.
> Healthy and wise – Promotion of the production and consumption of nutri-cereals is a policy shift in the right direction. (Written by Ananya Awasthi, assistant director, Harvard School of Public Health-India Research Center.)
Mains (GS-II : Issues related to hunger, malnutrition, health)
[This article talks about the importance of millets in fighting against the malnutrition.]
- Recently the insights shared by Prime Minister on World Food Day are worth taking.
- One of the most important highlights from the speech was the focus on the production of millets, also now known as “nutri-cereals”.
- Giving examples of nutri-cereals like jowar, bajra and ragi, PM also shared how the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has endorsed India’s call for declaring 2023 as the “International Year of Millets”.
Which millet crops are grown in India?
- The three major millet crops currently growing in India are jowar (sorghum), bajra (pearl millet) and ragi (finger millet).
- Along with that, India grows a rich array of bio-genetically diverse and indigenous varieties of “small millets” like kodo, kutki, chenna and sanwa.
What are the advantages of millets?
- High in dietary fibre, nutri-cereals are a powerhouse of nutrients including iron, folate, calcium, zinc, magnesium, phosphorous, copper, vitamins and antioxidants.
- They are not only important for the healthy growth and development of children but have also been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes in adults.
- millets are good for the soil, have shorter cultivation cycles and require less cost-intensive cultivation.
- These unique features make millets suited for and resilient to India’s varied agro-climatic conditions.
- Moreover, unlike rice and wheat, millets are not water or input-intensive, making them a sustainable strategy for addressing climate change and building resilient agri-food systems.
Why millet production remained unfocused?
- With the Green Revolution, the focus, rightly so, was on food security and high-yielding varieties of wheat and rice.
- An unintended consequence of this policy was the gradual decline in the production of millets.
- Unfortunately, millets were increasingly seen as “poor person’s food” in contrast to the consumer perception around more refined grains like rice and wheat.
- The cost incentives provided via MSPs also favoured a handful of staple grains.
- India saw a jump in consumer demand for ultra-processed and ready-to-eat products, which are high in sodium, sugar, trans-fats and even some carcinogens. This need was again met by highly-refined grains.
About the new strategy of government for millets:
- The first strategy from a consumption and trade point of view was to re-brand coarse cereals/millets as nutri-cereals. As of 2018-19, millet production had been extended to over 112 districts across 14 states.
- The government hiked the MSP of nutri-cereals, which came as a big price incentive for farmers. MSPs have been calculated so that the farmer is ensured at least a 50 per cent return on their cost of production.
- to provide a steady market for the produce, the government included millets in the public distribution system.
- The Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare is running a Rs 600-crore scheme to increase the area, production and yield of nutri-cereals.
- The government is encouraging farmers to align their local cropping patterns to India’s diverse 127 agro-climatic zones.
- Provision of seed kits and inputs to farmers, building value chains through Farmer Producer Organisations and supporting the marketability of nutri-cereals are some of the key interventions.
- The Ministry of Women and Child Development has been working at the intersection of agriculture and nutrition by setting up nutri-gardens, promoting research on the inter-linkages between crop diversity and dietary diversity and running a behaviour change campaign to generate consumer demand for nutri-cereals.
- As the government sets to achieve its agenda of a malnutrition-free India and doubling of farmers’ incomes, the promotion of the production and consumption of nutri-cereals seems to be a policy shift in the right direction.
- For our part, we can begin the jan andolan by taking small steps towards choosing healthier foods, which are good for the environment and bring economic prosperity to our farmers.