DAILY MAINS CURRENT AFFAIRS (UPSC) |15 Dec 2020| RaghukulCS

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  • DAILY MAINS CURRENT AFFAIRS (UPSC) |15 Dec 2020| RaghukulCS
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DAILY MAINS CURRENT AFFAIRS (UPSC) |15 Dec 2020| RaghukulCS

UPSC Online Editorial Analysis


 

Editorial

Title:India and a new tech order

Written by:C. Raja Mohan

Topic in syllabus:Bilateral, Regional and Global Groupings and Agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.(GS-2)

Analysis about:This editorial talks about why India must actively participate in new technology coalitions to secure its geopolitical interests.

Introduction:

  • Like-minded countries” must come together to cope with emerging global challenges, including the governance of emerging technologies that are reshaping relations within and among societies.
  • India traditionally relied on multilateral approaches to govern advanced technologies or chose isolation when the rules did not suit it.
  • The time is now ripe for Delhi to consider coalition-building as a major tool of its tech-diplomacy.

Why there is an impetus for technological coalition?

  • The discourse on technological coalitions is not taking place in a political vacuum, but amidst the growing apprehensions about China’s use of newly acquired technological muscle in support of its expansionist aims.
  • Technology issues are now quite central to the current contestation between the US and China.
  • Reducing economic and, especially, digital dependence on China has also become an important objective for India, as Delhi navigates the deeply troubled relationship with Beijing.
  • India has figured quite prominently in the US and Western discourse on building new coalitions to promote and regulate advanced technologies.
  • The size of India’s market as well as its technological capabilities make it an attractive partner in the effort to build “technology coalitions of the capable and willing”.

Coalition strategies of Trump& Biden:

  • Trump’s coalition-building was rooted in scepticism about the efficacy of multilateral institutions like the World Trade Organisation and World Health Organisation in dealing with a rising China.
  • Trump trashed traditional alliances like the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, he devoted much energy to the consolidation of the Quad, or Quadrilateral Security Framework, that brought Australia, India, Japan and the US together.
  • Trump also sought to develop the idea of a “Quad Plus” that brought additional countries ranging from Brazil to South Korea and Vietnam and Israel to New Zealand to discuss the coordination of national responses to the pandemic. This included the idea of developing trusted global supply chains that are not vulnerable to Beijing’s weaponisation of economic interdependence.
  • Trump actively mobilised US allies and partners to shun China’s telecom companies in the rollout of 5G or “fifth-generation” wireless technology and promoted the idea of a coalition of “clean networks” that would shun harmful software and apps from China.
  • Trump expanded the ambit of the Anglo-American intelligence-sharing alliance called Five Eyes (US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand) by initiating consultation with Japan and India on addressing the tension between encryption, privacy and law enforcement.
  • Trump, had invited India, Australia and South Korea to the G-7 summit that was to be held in the US this year, before the pandemic compelled its postponement.
  • Restoring multilateralism, is among Biden’s top priorities.
  • Biden has promised to reverse Trump’s decision to walk out of the 2015 Paris Accord on climate change on his first day at the White House.
  • Biden also promised to convene a “Democracy Summit” early on in his tenure that would deal with multiple objectives, including the promotion of human rights and protection of democracies from new digital technologies.

How can we look at these differences in their policies?

  • This difference is likely to be less important when we look at Washington’s longer-term record.
  • The US has worked with multiple formats to achieve its technological objectives. In the nuclear arena, for example, the US negotiated arms control agreements with its main rival, the Soviet Union, during the Cold War.
  • At the same time, Washington worked in multilateral forums to produce the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and exclusive groupings like the Nuclear Suppliers Group to regulate the flows of civil nuclear technology.
  • In other words, the form depends on the function.

How other countries building technological coalitions?

  • Britain has been discussing the merits of a “Democracy Ten” that brings India, South Korea and Australia with the G-7 to build telecom products to reduce the current global reliance on China.
  • The US strategic community is debating variations on the idea of an alliance between techno-democracies — or plural societies with strong technological capabilities.
  • The European Union has offered to rebuild the transatlantic alliance with a special focus on technological cooperation.
  • Amidst the growing recognition of the danger of China-led global regimes on technology, Brussels has offered what has been described as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform the relationship between Europe and America.
  • Earlier this year, France and Canada launched the Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence to promote responsible development and use of AI. India was among the 15 founding members.

What are such coalition that India is not a party?

  • “Digital Nations” that was founded in 2014 by Britain, Estonia, Israel, South Korea and New Zealand. The group wants to mobilise digital technologies to enhance the quality of life for their citizens.
  • “Artemis Accords” that were launched in October by the Trump administration. These agreements outline a set of principles for the cooperative and transparent exploration of outer space.

India’s coalition efforts:

  • In the last few years, India has taken the lead in promoting the International Solar Alliance and the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure.
  • India is also now a member of the Wassenaar Arrangement that regulates the flow of dual-use technologies and the Missile Technology Control Regime.

The way forward:

  • Delhi needs to appreciate the value of issue-based coalitions in producing more productive outcomes in the technological arena. Such coalitions will complement India’s traditional focus on multilateralism.
  • Delhi can secure its economic, political and security interests through active participation in the new technology coalitions.

Editorial

Title:Firing a warning shot across big tech’s bows

Written by:Jayati Ghosh taught economics at theJawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

Topic in syllabus:Disaster and Disaster Management.(GS-3)

Analysis about:This editorial talks about how India and China are placing the Himalayan region at great risk by planning hydropower projects.

Introduction:

  • A rash of lawsuits and regulatory moves in the United Statesand Europe against the big non-Chinese digital companies (particularly Facebook, Amazon, Appleand Google) suggest that the daysof their easy expansion in an unregulated environment may becoming to an end.

Companies and allegations against them:

  • In October2020, the U.S. Department of Justice brought a lawsuit against Google formisusing its dominant position assearch engine by underminingcompetitors; favouring its own
    content in search results; doingdeals with other companies to become the default search engine inmany browsers and devices; andthen using data on its users andcompetitors to reinforce its dominance and get even more revenuefrom advertising.
  • in early December, theU.S. Federal Trade Commission(FTC) and 48 states, the District ofColumbia, and Guam, sued Facebook, accusing it of abusing its marketpower in social networking tocrush smaller competitors. Thespecific instances of Facebook’sacquisitions of WhatsApp and Instagram were cited, which apparently resulted from concerns thatthe growing popularity of theseplatforms could break the company’s hold on social media.
  • A U.S.House Committee Report that led up tothe lawsuits has major indictmentsof Amazon and Apple as well.Amazon “functions as a gatekeeper for e­commerce”, reducingcompetition and thereby alsoharming consumers. It has exploitative relationships with other sellers on the platform, which “live infear of the company” and whichAmazon refers to as “internal competitors”.
  • Sellers are not allowedto contact shoppers directly, oftenlimited in their ability to sell on other platforms, face “strong­armtactics in negotiations” and haveto choose between getting “atrocious levels of customer service”or better service for a fee.
  • Apple also favours its own appsand seeks to put rivals at a disadvantage on its products and leaves
    developers with little choice forreaching consumers. Like Google,it levies high commission fees (of
    30%) that end up being charged onconsumers.

How these monopolies affect consumers?

  • The dangers of these aggressive monopolies are not confined to the competitors — users also suffer
    because of fewer options and weaker privacy controls.
  • All these companies hoard the data they collect,which increasingly covers all aspects of their users’ lives.
  • All sorts of use can bemade of data: marketing and targeted advertising, influencing andmanipulating political outcomes,targeting individuals based on particular criteria, enabling surveillance by both governments andprivate agencies.

The relevance of Indian angle:

  • More than 400 million ofWhatsApp’s estimated 2 billion users are in India;
  • Amazon hasaround one third of the share ofonline retail in India, neck andneck with Flipkart that was recently acquired by Walmart;
  • India isFacebook’s largest single market,with around 270 million accounts;
  • Google completely dominates thesearch engine space in India, andmost smartphones in India are Android based.

Issues related to India:

  • Now Facebookand Google are collaborating withIndia’s largest telecom company —Reliance Jio owned by Mukesh Ambani — to create a single gatewayfor Indians providing everything from information, newsmedia and entertainment to dailypurchases of groceries and sundry other services.
  • Apart from theirmarket dominance, another concern is the cosy relationship these companies have established withthe ruling party in the country,and the willingness to adopt different standards of fact checkingand privacy in India, so as to benefit the powerful.
  • India stilldoes not have a privacy law, eventhough the Supreme Court declared privacy to be a fundamentalright some time ago. Even the proposed Bill is extremely weak without adequate safeguards.

Conclusion:

  • It is timefor Indians to wake up and realisethat anti­trust regulation and public control over digital companies—including home-grown ones— have become critical for them.

Editorial

Title:Green over brown

Topic in syllabus:Conservation, Environmental Pollution and Degradation, Environmental Impact Assessment. (GS-3)

Analysis about:This editorial talks about the importance of green investment for India.

Introduction:

  • India asserted at the virtual Climate Ambition Sum­mit Paris Agreement, that it is well on its way to not just it, co-convened by the UN to mark five years of thefulfilling its national pledge on emissions reduction, butexceeding the commitment.

Performance of India &the validation by UNEP:

  • The performance, outlined by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, rests primarilyon the estimated present reduction of emissions intensity by 21% over 2005 levels (the goal is between 33%and 35% of GDP by 2030), and the twin pillars of renewable energy and higher forest cover.
  • The Emissions Gap Report 2020 of the UNEP includes Indiaamong nine G20 members who are on track to achievetheir unconditional commitments under the Paris pact,based on pre­COVID­19 projections.

Pandemic – an opportunity:

  • The brief reduction in global GHG emissions brought about by thepandemic has given all countries an opportunity to review their development trajectories.
  • The unprecedented event has enabled them to deploy an extraordinaryfiscal stimulus for rehabilitation of economies — estimated at $12 trillion globally — making green growth apossibility.
  • India faces a particular challenge, in movingits pandemic rehabilitation spending away from traditional brown sector policies aligned with fossil fuel useto green territory.

Carbon Sink – opportunities and challenges:

  • According to the national pledgeunder the Paris Agreement, will serve as a carbon sinkof 2.5 bn to 3 bn tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent by2030.
  • This is a key goal, given that it has multiple benefits, protecting biodiversity, influencing the climate system and providing resources for communities. But it isfraught with uncertainty. The Centre has questionedthe veracity of State afforestation data and said only afourth of the claims they made were deemed credible.
  • Without a cohesive policy on verifiable afforestation, the carbon sink approach may yield poor dividends, with questions hanging over the spending.

The way forward:

  • Achieving 100 gigawatts of solar power capacity withinthe overall renewables goal, from 36 GW now, needs asteep scale up that must actively promote rooftop solarinstallations.
  • Transport related emissions,which are a major component of the whole, have risensharply in the unlock phase of the pandemic as peopleprefer personal vehicles, hence we need to reorder cities for cycling and pedestrianisation.
  • Large­scale agriculture insurance against climate disasters also needs attention.
  • In the year that remains before countries meet at theUN Climate Change conference in Glasgow in 2021, India needs to focus on future emissions and plan greeninvestments that qualify for global climate funding.

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