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13th August – Editorials/Opinions Analyses

Contents

  1. A self-reliant foreign policy
  2. More than a vaccine, it is about vaccination
  3. What is the Perseids meteor shower?
  4. Why anti-defection law has failed its purpose?
  5. Who is Assamese?

A SELF-RELIANT FOREIGN POLICY

Focus: GS-II International Relations

Introduction

Self-reliance is the theme of India’s 74th Independence Day.

  • This concept is commonly associated with the economy and production of key goods and services within the country in light of the global ‘supply shock’ caused by the pandemic, but it also has a parallel dimension in the domain of foreign policy.
  • If the domestic goal is to reduce dependence on imports for critical commodities, the foreign policy corollary is to recalibrate the time-tested axiom of ‘strategic autonomy’.

Flexibility: Instances of foreign help

  • During the 1962 war with China Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, had to appeal to the U.S. for emergency military aid to stave off the Chinese (despite the non-alignment movement).
  • In the build-up to the 1971 war with Pakistan, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had to enter a Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation with the Soviet Union to ward off both China and the U.S.
  • In Kargil in 1999, India welcomed a direct intervention by the U.S. to force Pakistan to back down.
  • In these circumstances India secured its freedom, sovereignty and territorial integrity by manoeuvering the great power equations and playing the realpolitik game.

It is important to note that – India is a sovereign country and Independent India has never been subordinated to a foreign hegemon. The treaties or agreements that India enters into does NOT make India any less autonomous.

The essence of self-reliance

In the threat environment marked by a pushy China, which the U.S. is now beginning to confront frontally, India should aim to stay as an independent power centre by means of intensified cooperation with middle powers in Asia and around the world.

Cannot go ‘All-in’ with the U.S.

For India, which values freedom, placing all its eggs in the U.S. basket to counterbalance China would be an error, as that can constrict India’s options in other theatres of national interest such as its ties with Iran and Russia and efforts to speed up indigenous defence modernisation.

Way Forward

  • Diversification is the essence of self-reliance.
  • A wide basket of strategic partners, including the U.S., with a sharper focus on constraining China, is a viable diplomatic way forward in the current emerging multipolar world order.
  • We are free and self-reliant not through isolation or alliance with one great power, but only in variable combinations with several like-minded partners.
  • It may be time to maximise its potential of ‘multi-vector’ foreign policy that India is familiar with.

In simple terms “multi-vector foreign policy” means the development of predictable and friendly relationships with all countries that play a significant role in global politics and represent practical interest for the country.

Example: Kazakhstan has a “multi-vector” foreign policy, i.e. a triangulation between the major powers of Russia, China and the US.

-Source: The Hindu


MORE THAN A VACCINE, IT IS ABOUT VACCINATION

Focus: GS-II Science and Technology

Introduction

  • Globally, innumerable vaccine trials are progressing; in India, two candidates have advanced considerably.
  • Gavi, the global vaccine alliance, created COVAX — a funding facility to ensure up-scaling vaccine production and its access to low income countries as soon as regulatory approvals emerge.
  • India’s Universal Immunisation Programme is a vaccine-delivery platform for children and pregnant women, funded by the central government but implemented by State governments.

Taking up Vaccines in Excess

Some wealthy nations made bilateral financial agreements with manufacturers in order to stockpile vaccines.

Global public good should not be hijacked by wealthy nations.

Define policy for clarity

  • The first step is policy definition leading to a plan of action blueprint. The time to create them is now — it costs nothing, but will save time when a vaccine becomes available.
  • Vaccine availability will be limited at first, when we must ensure that those on the priority list receive it.
  • Area-wise estimates of the numbers who need vaccination on a priority basis are necessary and it can be the duty of State governments to capture all such data.
  • All those who must rebuild essential activities, i.e. economic, educational, trade, transport, sociocultural and religious, must be protected.
  • With India’s notable representation in decision-making bodies of the World Health Organization, India is uniquely positioned to play a crucial role in advocating global eradication of COVID-19.

Getting a plan ready

  • We need a vaccine-delivery platform to fulfil all such needs.
  • A practical method is vaccination camps, supervised by a medical officer, staffed by health management and local government, and having the list of people who need vaccination.
  • Phase 3 trial is usually in healthy volunteers, hence efficacy and safety profile in others will not be available when a vaccine is rolled out.
  • Some countries require that a proportion of volunteers should be the elderly and the vulnerable so that senior citizens and those with co-morbidities are vaccinated by/on priority.
  • The vaccine regulatory agency should take a call on the special question of vaccine safety during pregnancy.

-Source: The Hindu


WHAT IS THE PERSEIDS METEOR SHOWER?

Focus: Prelims, GS-III Science and Technology

Introduction

The Perseids meteor shower is going to be active in August 2020, and the annual celestial event is considered the best meteor shower.

What are meteor showers?

  • Meteors are bits of rock and ice that are ejected from comets as they manoeuvre around their orbits around the sun.
  • Meteor showers are witnessed when Earth passes through the trail of debris left behind by a comet or an asteroid.
  • When a meteor reaches the Earth, it is called a meteorite and a series of meteorites, when encountered at once, is termed as a meteor shower.
  • As meteors fall towards the Earth, the resistance makes the space rocks extremely hot and, as meteorites pass through the atmosphere, they leave behind streaks of glowing gas that are visible to the observers and not the rock itself.
  • According to NASA, over 30 meteor showers occur annually and are observable from the Earth.

What is the Perseids meteor shower?

  • The Perseids meteor shower peaks every year in mid-August and was first observed over 2,000 years ago.
  • The Perseids occur as the Earth runs into pieces of cosmic debris left behind by the comet Swift-Tuttle.
  • The comet Swift-Tuttle takes 133 years to complete one rotation around the sun.
  • Every time comets come close to the sun, they leave behind dust that is essentially the debris trail, which the Earth passes through every year as it orbits around the Sun.

-Source: Indian Express


WHY ANTI-DEFECTION LAW HAS FAILED ITS PURPOSE?

Focus: GS-II Governance

Introduction

The anti-defection law is supposed to deter elected legislators from defecting from their political parties.

They can lose their seats in the legislature for defying their party, and if declared a defector, they cannot become a minister in a government for six months.

However, many recent events have raised concerns that MLAs and political parties have become adept at using and bypassing the anti-defection law.

Problems with laws

I- It only punishes MLAs for switching parties.

Political parties who are at the heart of our politics have no liability under the law. They benefit from defections and are often accused of enticing MLAs of rival parties to switch loyalties.

II- Limits are only on electoral spending by a candidate.

Limits on electoral spending apply only to candidates and Political parties can spend an unlimited amount on behalf of their candidates.

III- No restriction on political parties to give tickets to those facing Criminal Charges.

Individuals convicted with a prison term of over two years cannot stand for elections, but there is no restriction on political parties to give tickets to individuals who face criminal charges which are pending before courts.

Way Forward suggested

A lasting solution to the problem can come from the adherence by political parties to a code of conduct that takes into account the fundamental priorities and decencies that ought to govern the functioning of democratic institutions.

-Source: Indian Express


WHO IS ASSAMESE?

Focus: GS-II Governance

Introduction

  • The Assam Accord was signed at the end of a six-year agitation (1979-85) against illegal migration from Bangladesh.
  • In the context of the Accord, the question of who is Assamese stems from the language of Clause 6: “Constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards, as may be appropriate, shall be provided to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people.”

Those who Speak Assamese = Assamese?

  • The definition of “Assamese” cannot be so narrow as to mean only those who speak Assamese as their first language, as Assam has many indigenous tribal and ethnic communities with their own ancestral languages.
  • Thus, it was necessary to expand the definition of “Assamese” beyond the Assamese-speaking population.
  • Those not eligible for the safeguards under Clause 6 would clearly be from among the migrant populations

In this context who is a migrant?

  • In popular conversation, the idea of “indigenous” is taken to mean communities who trace their histories in Assam before 1826, the year when the erstwhile kingdom of Assam was annexed to British India.
  • Large-scale migration from East Bengal took place during British rule, followed by further waves after Independence.
  • The 1979-85 Assam Movement was triggered by fears that these Bengali Muslim and Bengali Hindu migrants would one day overrun the indigenous population, and dominate the resources and politics of the state.
  • During the agitation, the demand was for the detection and deportation of those who had migrated after 1951.
  • The Assam Accord was settled at a cut-off of March 24, 1971; anyone who arrived in Assam before that cut-off would be considered a citizen of India.
  • Because the Accord legalised additional migrants (1951-71) against the original demand of 1951, Clause 6 was incorporated as a safeguard for the indigenous people.

How has Clause 6 been taken up since?

The matter got urgency last year amid protests by the Assamese against the Citizenship Amendment Bill (now an Act) which makes it easier for certain categories of migrants to get Indian citizenship — the key here being Hindus from Bangladesh.

Committee recommendations

  • For the purpose of implementation of Clause 6, the proposed definition includes indigenous tribals, other indigenous communities, all other citizens of India residing in Assam on or before January 1, 1951 and indigenous Assamese — and their descendants.
  • In short, it covers anyone who can prove their presence (or that of their ancestors) in Assam before 1951.
  • As for safeguards, the committee has recommended reservations in legislature and jobs for “Assamese people”, and that “land rights be confined” to them.

Issues raised

  • Since the 1951 NRC is not available in several parts of the state, concerns regarding “How to prove that a person has been in Assam prior to 1951?” are raised.
  • Concerns are also raised regarding how pre-1971 migrants will be accommodated.

-Source: Indian Express

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