Daily Mains Newsletter For UPSC
| RaghukulCS

09 July 2021 - Friday


Mains Value Addition

Mains Analysis

Topic No

Topic Name



Troubling prospects in Afghanistan

The Hindu


Let’s check and balance

Indian Express

Mains Value Addition

Cairn claims order to attach 20 India properties in Paris

Syllabus–GS 2: Health

Analysis: –

  • The Cairn Energy dispute with India over the settlement of a $1.2 billion award from The Hague, took a dramatic turn on Thursday, with the company saying it had secured a French court order allowing it to freeze at least 20 Indian properties in Central Paris.
  • The Government of India, however, denied all knowledge of the latest order. It said it had filed an appeal against the tribunal decision of the Permanant Court at The Hague delivered in December 2020.
  • “Government is trying to ascertain the facts, and whenever such an order is received, appropriate legal remedies will be taken, in consultation with its Counsels, to protect the interests of India,” a Finance Ministry statement said, stressing that no notice, order or communication had been received by the government from any French court.

Book Review: - Policymaker’s Journal: From New Delhi to Washington D.C. (Simon and Schuster India)

Analysis: –

  • Kaushik Basu’s latest book, Policymaker’s Journal: From New Delhi to Washington D.C. (Simon and Schuster India), is a diary covering two spells in policy realms.
  • Although the book claims to be just “impressions of the moment” jotted down at the time, insertions of later provenance detract in some cases from the immediacy of a true diary.
  • The entry for December 25, 2009 has an extended disquisition on Amartya Sen, doctoral guide and lifelong mentor of the author, who dined with the Basus that night. 
  • Kaushik Basu’s humour stems from a deliciously privileged sense of his own clarity of speech and thought, as he gazes at a world less blessed.
  • To quote from his first day in office as CEA: “The problem stems from the fact that I speak clearly. The art of political speech is to say things that sound meaningful but are impossible to pin down. No one can say what you said is wrong because no one can understand what you said.”

Mains Analysis

Troubling prospects in Afghanistan

Why in News?

Last week, on Friday, the United States handed over the Bagram airbase to the Afghan authorities, marking a symbolic end to its military presence, as U.S. forces complete their withdrawal well ahead of the September 11 deadline, announced by American President Joe Biden on April 14.

Syllabus— GS 2 International Relations

Background: –

  • A familiar air of uncertainty surrounds Kabul as the Afghans ponder over the future of their land, ravaged by conflict for nearly 50 years. Afghanistan’s immediate neighbours are now faced with a new challenge — how to persuade the Taliban against overplaying their military hand?

What goes wrong?

  • Over 2,400 US soldiers (plus 1,144 coalition forces) and 388 private military contractors have died in the war effort, which has cost $980 billion.
  • It also spent $143 billion on reconstruction, with roughly $90 billion going to the Afghan army, police, and other security forces, $36 billion going to governance and economic development, and the rest going to anti-narcotics and humanitarian relief efforts.
  • The Afghans are the ones who have paid the true price.
  • Approximately 50,000 Afghan civilians and nearly 70,000 Afghan security forces have died in the 20-year war (the majority in the last seven years); add another 60,000 Afghan Taliban, and the depth of the Afghan human loss becomes clear.

Positive impacts of the war –

  • There were 9,00,000 boys in school in 2001. Eight million children attend school now, with a third of them being girls.
  • Literacy has increased from 13% in 2002 to 35% today, while life expectancy has increased from 40 to 63 years.
  • Urbanisation is at 26%, while 70% of the population watches television. Paved roads have grown from 320 kilometres in 2002 to 10,000 miles presently.
  • From a high of 20%, infant mortality rates have dropped by more than half. A majority of Afghans have grown up in the post-Taliban era, with a median age of 18.5 years.

Legitimacy for Taliban –

  • The goal, according to US President George W. Bush, was to “create a stable, robust, and successfully governed Afghanistan that would not devolve into chaos.”
  • Shades of Vietnam began to emerge as the US turned from counter-terrorism to counter-insurgency.
  • When Hamid Karzai denounced the night-raids and cautioned the Americans to “either take the fight to the safe havens and sanctuaries across the Durand Line or make peace with the Taliban,” he saw the writing on the wall, but it only strained his relationship with the US.
  • Donald Trump, the president of the United States, saw himself as a dealmaker and began direct talks with the Taliban in 2018.
  • Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad (US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation) began by laying out four elements: a ceasefire, severing ties with al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, intra-Afghan peace talks, and the withdrawal of all foreign military forces, with the caveat that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.”
  • Within months, the Taliban had narrowed down the US demands until they achieved what they wanted: a pull-out schedule that was unrelated to the other considerations.
  • The U.S. ended up legitimising the Taliban at the expense of the government in Kabul that they had worked to create and support.
  • Over a third of Afghanistan’s 400 districts are controlled by the Taliban. Thirteen districts in Badakhshan, Takhar, Paktia, and Kandahar fell to the Taliban the day after the withdrawal from Bagram, bringing the total number of Taliban-controlled districts to 50 since May.

 Future Prospects –

  • As the reality of the US exit sets in, three elements will determine how events unfold by the end of 2021.
  • First, have the Taliban’s doctrinal colours changed? The US has been pressing this line in recent years, and Pakistan has been pushing it for much longer, but the Taliban leadership has provided no indication. The issue of Taliban unity is linked to this.
  • Second, is the Kabul regime capable of putting on a united front? The integrity of the Afghan security forces’ chain of command would be jeopardised if Kabul’s leaders and the government continue to snipe at each other.
  • If opportunistic politicians are enticed to make their own deals with the Taliban, the collapse will be hastened, and even Western aid will be cut off.

Pakistan Factor –

  • Third, Is Pakistan still seeking strategic depth in Afghanistan, or has it realised that a Taliban-controlled Kabul will serve as a magnet for both domestic and regional extremists?
  • Can it persuade the Taliban that until it shares power, its credibility would be jeopardised?



Way Forward: –

  • Austin S. Miller, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, indicated in a recent press conference, “Civil war is certainly a path that can be visualised if it continues on this trajectory.”Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation, warned on June 30, “The truth is, today the survival, security and unity of Afghanistan is in danger….”


  • Ironically, the most vocal critics of the U.S. overstaying in Afghanistan and hinting that the U.S. would never leave are the ones now blaming the U.S. for a hasty and irresponsible withdrawal.
  • In coming months, as uncertainties mount, there will be increasing Taliban presence in the countryside as the Kabul government concentrates on ensuring security in urban areas and of the road networks.
  • The Taliban military strategy has been to target districts that enable them to surround provincial capitals.
  • The clutch in the northeast including Badakhshan, Takhar, Kunduz and Baghlan enable them to control the Afghanistan–Tajikistan border and the Wakhan corridor that links to China.
  • In the east, they exert control in Ghazni, Zabul and Paktia while the Haqqani network is active in Khost and Paktika, and the IS-K in Nangarhar, Kunar and Laghman. Further south, the Taliban control large parts of Kandahar, Helmand and Farah.

Question: –

History tells us that in Afghanistan, there have only been winners and losers, seldom any lasting compromises.Illustrate the statement.

Let’s check and balance

Why in News?

In the wake of the second wave of Covid, our failure as a country to hold our government accountable is evident.

Syllabus—GS2: Civil Societies & NGOs

  • In the wake of the COVID 2nd wave, India’s failure to hold its govt accountable is evident.
  • The mainstream media had been failed to question govt on real ground issues.
  • Even the Civil society perhaps also needs to re-examine its role as it is failed in holding the govt accountable.

Civil Society in India:

  • India’s civil society composition
  • Actors-grassroots organizations that connect to last-mile & provide essential services.
  • Think tanks & academic institutions that churn out new policy ideas & generate evidence,
  • Advocacy organizations that amplify & build support for causes, & large impact funds.
  • For decades the successive govts have been wary of civil society & its energy.
  • Those govts have significantly curtailed the kind of activities that civil society actors engage in.

Its role & lacunas in Strengthening Governance:

  • Many donor organizations & Philanthropists are unable to support initiatives that strengthen India’s democracy & its accountability mechanisms due to fear of retribution.
  • On the civil societies front, many of them focus only on engaging with narrow policy problems to be able to measure impact & demonstrate quick wins, ignores the fact that those tweaks can never fundamentally alter India’s governance.
  • By ignoring the politic around the policy & focusing disproportionately on technocratic solutions, civil society had also missed the real issue.
  • Today civil societies are easily funded for a policy tweak rather than a campaign to reform institutions.
  • According to a McKinsey report, 90% of total donor interest in India was targeted towards primary education, healthcare & rural infra, leaving other major areas such as human rights & governance with minimal funding.
  • With the lack of strong push from civil society, India’s democratic institutions have no intrinsic incentive to reform which resulted in absence of an effective mechanism to hold the govt accountable in this gravest hour.
  • Even the Judiciary & Parliament has failed to perform their oversight duty indirectly or directly.
  • The pandemic gave voice & spotlight to many experts who have long been worried about the crumbling system of checks & balances in India’s democracy.

It is a serious time to do the following:

  • Re-examine parliamentary rules that heavily tilted in favor of govt,
  • Strengthen the hands of the judiciary,
  • Bolster federalism & the independent media by creating transparency in decision making.
  • University of Pennsylvania’s framework for High impact Philanthropy suggests that philanthropists need to fund initiatives
  • thatempower citizens
  • build fair processes
  • call for responsive policy
  • strengthen information & communication networksbolster social cohesion.

To give itself more space the civil societies has to do:

  • Fight on govt transgressions in the courts,
  • Building public opinion about the fruits of a well-functioning democracy,
  • Creating tools & fora that help citizens engage with policymaking more readily.

Way Forward

  • No matter how many small policy tweaks are made, how many platforms are built to deliver citizen services & how much evidence gather to solve specific development challenges, unless the political incentives to act in the people’s interest are preserved, the efforts will go in vain.
  • It is high time for civil society organizations to broaden their agenda to include issues that strengthen India’s institutions while demanding more transparency & accountability in all areas & levels of policymaking.


To not see the strengthening of institutions and the deepening of checks and balances as important areas of work is our collective failure, one we must address immediately.Discuss.

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