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29th December 2020 – Editorials/Opinions Analyses

Content

  1. Dealing with India’s two-front challenge
  2. War and words
  3. Reforms with the future and farming needs in mind

Editorial: Dealing with India’s two-front challenge

Context:

  • India’s military was firmly of the view that a collusive China-Pakistan military threat was a real possibility, and we must develop capabilities to counter this challenge.

Relevance:

  • GS Paper 2: India and its neighbourhood
  • GS Paper 3: Border Areas (security challenges and management thereof); Security forces & agencies (mandate); Role of External State & Non-State actors in creating internal security challenges.

Mains Questions:

  1. A politically-guided doctrine and comprehensive military capability are needed to deal with the China-Pakistan threat. Discuss 15 Marks
  2. It is important to remember that China, a rising and aggressive, superpower next door, is the bigger strategic threat for India, with Pakistan being a second-order accessory to Beijing’s ‘contain India strategy’. Discuss, 15 Marks

Dimensions of the Article:

  • What is two front war?
  • Border issues with China
  • Border issues with Pakistan
  • China-Pakistan military links
  • Measures to deal with two front challenges:
  • Way Forward:

What is two front War?

According to military terminology, a two-front war occurs, when opposing forces encounter on two geographically separate fronts. The forces of two or more allied parties usually simultaneously engage an opponent in order to increase their chances of success. The opponent consequently encounters severe logistic difficulties as he is forced to divide and disperse his troops, defend an extended front line and is at least partly cut off from access to trade and exterior resources. However, by virtue of the central position he might possess the advantages of the interior lines.

  • India’s relations with Pakistan and China have for many decades been uneasy and, in fact, greatly disturbed by unsettled border feuds. The discord with Pakistan is by far the more complicated one, because both parties claim exclusive sovereignty over an entire historic region, the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • India and China have, despite more than a dozen rounds of border talks and the uneasy Line of Actual Control, as yet failed to negotiate a conclusive agreement. For decades, the Indian press and media have pointed at political tensions and deteriorating relations with China, caused, among other things, by occasional Chinese military incursions into Indian-controlled territory.
  • In 2013 the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a series of high-profile infrastructure development projects in Pakistan was established. Chinese-Pakistani cooperation proved to be a success and a modern infrastructure had emerged within six years and by 2019 focus has shifted to the next phase. CPEC has disclosed its programs for concrete economic development and employment creation.
  • According to an Indian army general in 2018, war on multiple fronts was “very much in the realm of reality”, as the consequence of ideas of isolation and concerns about the clandestine strategic commitment of China and Pakistan, as the Congress in Beijing has provided assistance to Pakistan’s nuclear weapon and missile programmes.

Border issues with China

  • Border dispute at Aksai Chin, Arunachal Pradesh, Doklam etc. with sporadic aggression.
  • Large scale smuggling of Chinese electronic and other consumer goods take place through these border points even after designated areas for border trade.
  • Inadequate infrastructure due to difficult terrain. However, China has undertaken a large-scale effort to upgrade air, roads and rail infrastructure, as well as surveillance capabilities near to the border.
  • Multiple forces along Indian border (for e.g.- ITBP, Assam rifles, Special frontier force) as opposed to single PLA commander on Chinese side.
  • Water-sharing issue as China is building dams on its side reducing water flows on our side.

Border issues with Pakistan

  • Border dispute at Sir Creek and Kashmir.
  • River water sharing issue at Indus river.
  • Infiltration and Cross-border terrorism. targeted to destabilize India. Recently BSF detected a fifth (since 2012) cross- border tunnel in the forest area of Jammu.
  • Diverse terrain including desert, marshes, snow-capped mountain and plains makes border guarding difficult.
  • Time & cost overruns in infrastructure projects due to unforeseen. circumstances& natural calamities.
  • Other issues include drug smuggling, fake currency, arms trafficking.
  • The situation along the Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan has been steadily deteriorating. Between 2017 and 2019, there has been a four-fold increase in ceasefire violations. Some media reports had indicated that Pakistan had moved 20,000 troops into Gilgit-Baltistan, matching the Chinese deployments in Eastern Ladakh.

China-Pakistan military links

The Sino-Pakistan relationship is nothing new, but it has far serious implications today than perhaps ever before. China has always looked at Pakistan as a counter to India’s influence in South Asia.

  • Over the years, the ties between the two countries have strengthened and there is a great deal of alignment in their strategic thinking. Military cooperation is growing, with China accounting for 73% of the total arms imports of Pakistan between 2015-2019.
  • In his remarks on the Shaheen IX Pakistan-China joint exercise between the Pakistan Air Force and People’s Liberation Army Air Force, the Pakistan Chief of Army Staff said, “The joint exercise will improve combat capacity of both air forces substantially and also enhance interoperability between them with greater strength and harmony.
  • China’s Support to Pakistan: Through investments (e.g. CPEC), and supporting Pakistan on various issues like on Kashmir in UNSC, on terrorism, on NSG etc. has emboldened Pakistan to continue its policy of asymmetric warfare against India.

Measures to deal with two front challenges:

Border Management:

  • Creating infrastructure: India is also constructing some critical bridges to cut down time for troop movement such as Dhola- Sadiya bridge.
  • India has joined hands with Japan to aggressively develop infrastructure projects in North east to contain China.
  • Army infrastructure projects within 100 Km of LAC have been exempted from forest clearance.
  • To expedite border road construction, Ministry of Defence has decided to delegate administrative and financial powers to the Border Roads Organisation (BRO).
  • Following Pathankot terrorist attack, MHA sanctioned implementation Comprehensive Management System (CIBMS) to establish an integrated security system at borders providing all-round security even in adverse climatic conditions.
  • The Centre has decided to deploy Indian special forces unit National Security Guard (NSG) commandos in J&K to fortify counter terror operations by training J&K police and other paramilitary forces in room intervention, anti-terror skills, overseeing anti-hijack operations etc.

Dealing with Pak- sponsored terrorism

  • Military Efforts: India has conducted strikes on terror camps in 2016 and 2019. Also, the state has launched the Mission All Out to liquidate all the terrorists in the Jammu and Kashmir.
  • Economic Efforts: Indian government has withdrawn “Most Favoured Nation” or MFN status accorded to Pakistan.
  • Strategic Shift: India made an unprecedented direct reference to Baloch freedom struggle in the PM’s Independence Day speech.
  • Diplomatic Efforts
    • All major countries including America, Russia, France, U.K and Australia have supported India on its counter-terror activity. Saudi Arabia and Organization of Islamic Countries also supported India’s stand on terror.
    • India has started to completely utilize its share of water under the Indus Water Treaty, by building dams in Jammu and Kashmir.
    • In 2016, after the Uri Attack, India successfully isolated Pakistan in the 19th SAARC summit. Since then, no SAARC meeting has happened.
  • International Measures on Terrorism: India has been pushing for the adoption of universal definition of terrorism and steps needed to tackle it under the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT).

Created the Post of Chief of Defence Staff:

  • The post of Chief of Defence Staff created in the rank of a four-star General with salary and perquisites equivalent to a Service Chief.
  • CDS will act as the principal military adviser to the defence minister on all tri-services matters. The three Chiefs will continue to advise Defence Minister on matters exclusively concerning their respective Services.
  • CDS will not exercise any military command, including over the three Service Chiefs, so as to be able to provide impartial advice to the political leadership.
  • He will serve as the permanent chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee (CoSC) which comprises the three service chiefs.
  • As the Permanent Chairman of Chiefs of Staff Committee, CDS will perform the following functions:
    • CDS will administer tri-services organisations including those related to Cyber and Space.
    • Be a member of the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) chaired by the Defence Minister and the Defence Planning Committee headed by National Security Advisor
    • Function as the Military Adviser to the Nuclear Command Authority.
    • Implement the five-year Defence Capital Acquisition Plan (DCAP) and the two-year roll on Annual Acquisition Plans as a follow up of the Integrated Capability Development Plan.

Diplomacy is crucial:

  • To begin with, New Delhi would do well to improve relations with its neighbours so as not to be caught in an unfriendly neighbourhood given how Beijing and Islamabad will attempt to contain and constrain India in the region.
  • The government’s current engagement of the key powers in West Asia, including Iran, should be further strengthened in order to ensure energy security, increase maritime cooperation and enhance goodwill in the extended neighbourhood.
  • New Delhi must also ensure that its relationship with Moscow is not sacrificed in favour of India-United States relations given that Russia could play a key role in defusing the severity of a regional gang up against India.
  • The quadrilateral security dialogue (India, Australia, Japan and the U.S) and the Indo-Pacific seem to form the mainstay of India’s new grand strategy, there is only so much that a maritime strategy can help ease the Sino-Pakistan pressure in the continental sphere.

Way Forward:

It is important to remember that China, a rising and aggressive, superpower next door, is the bigger strategic threat for India, with Pakistan being a second-order accessory to Beijing’s ‘contain India strategy’. New Delhi would, therefore, do well to do what it can politically to reduce the effect of a collusive Sino-Pakistan containment strategy aimed at India.


Editorial: War and words

Context:

  • Talks on Taliban’s terms will halt Afghanistan’s slow progress toward peace and stability.

Relevance:

  • GS Paper 2: Effect of Policies & Politics of Developed and Developing countries on India (India’s interests, diaspora).

Mains Questions:

  1. The talks are vital to finding a lasting solution to the conflict. But it should not be on the Taliban’s terms, which could erase whatever little progress Afghanistan has made since the fall of the Taliban. Discuss. 15 marks

Dimensions of the Article:

  • What is Afghanistan Peace Talk?
  • What is Afghan Peace Process?
  • What is Afghan- Taliban Issue:
  • Provisions of the US Taliban Agreement
  • Present issues related to Afghan Peace Process:
  • Way Forward:

What is Afghan Peace Process?

The Afghan peace process comprises the proposals and negotiations in a bid to end the ongoing war in Afghanistan. Negotiations and the peace movement intensified in 2018 amid talks between the Taliban, which is the main insurgent group fighting against the Afghan government and American troops; and the United States, of which thousands of soldiers maintain a presence within the country to support the Afghan government.

  • The Afghan peace process comprises the proposals and negotiations in a bid to end the ongoing war and conflict involving the Taliban in Afghanistan.
  • In February, 2020, US president has struck a peace deal with the Taliban (see box) on the issues of counterterrorism and the withdrawal of U.S. and international troops. The intra Afghan talks were part of the deal.
  • Though the deal was to be held in march-April 2020, it got delayed due to disagreement on mutual release of prisoners by both Taliban and Afghan Government.

What is Afghan- Taliban Issue:

  • The Taliban emerged in the early 1990s following the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan, before the demise of the Soviet Union.
  • Following terrorist attacks in the United States (US) in 2001, the U.S., together with its NATO allies led a military campaign against Al Qaeda and the Taliban government in Afghanistan that harboured and supported it.
  • The US engagement has continued for nearly 20 years, but without a clear victory over the Taliban.
  • In the intervening time, an elected Afghan government has replaced the Taliban, and most measures of human development have improved. But approximately a third of Afghanistan is still a “contested” area.

Provisions of the US Taliban Agreement

  • Withdrawal of foreign forces: The United States agreed to reduce its number of troops in the country from roughly 12,000 to 8,600 within 135 days.
  • Release of prisoners: The deal also provides for a prisoner swap.
  • Recognition to Taliban: The US will move to the United Nations Security Council to remove Taliban members from the sanctions list.
  • Counter terror measures: The Taliban would prevent any terror group from using Afghanistan to threaten the security of US and its allies.
  • Intra-Afghan Negotiations: will be started among all the stakeholders of the Afghan society and the Taliban would commit towards it.

Present issues related to Afghan Peace Process:

  • Violence continuing unabated: In the first six months of 2020, almost 1,300 civilians, and more than 3500 Afghan National Defense and Security Forces have been killed in Afghanistan, according to the United Nations.
  • Threat to human rights: There are serious concerns considering the Taliban’s track record in relation to human rights, especially violence against women and Shi’as and Hazaras was widespread under the Taliban regime.
  • The Taliban wants to reimpose its version of Islamic law as the country’s system of governance. The armed group has, however, given vague comments on adopting a less strict stance towards women and social equality than during their 1996-2001 rule.

Way Forward:

India reiterated its long-held support for an “Afghan-led, Afghan-owned, and Afghan controlled” peace process. Also, India had laid down some red lines for the process-.

  • All initiatives and processes must include all sections of the Afghan society, including the legitimately elected government.
  • Any process should respect the constitutional legacy and political mandate.
  • Any process should not lead to any ungoverned spaces where terrorists and their proxies can relocate.

Editorial: Reforms with the future and farming needs in mind

Context:

  • Those who oppose these Acts have focused mainly on threats and adverse effects and refrained from talking about the potential benefits of the new Acts; they are also ignoring the reasons for changing the regulatory system of agriculture.

Relevance:

  • GS Paper 3: Storage, transport & marketing of agro-produce and related issues & constraints; Economics of animal-rearing, Farm subsidies and MSP and issues therein (direct and indirect);

Mains Questions:

  1. If the Farm Acts are implemented in the right spirit, they will usher in the transformation of the rural economy. Critically Discuss. 15 Marks
  2. The policy reforms undertaken by the central government through these Acts are in keeping with the changing times and requirements of farmers and farming.

Dimensions of the Article:

  • Majors objections related to Farm Laws.
  • Basis of Reforms
  • Impacts of these reforms
  • Way Forward

Majors objections related to Farm Laws:

The major objections and fears relating to the new Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act are that:

  • The Agricultural Produce Market Committees (APMC) will be eventually closed,
  • The Minimum Support Prices (MSP) will be stopped,
  • Corporates will take over agriculture trade, and farmers’ land will be taken over by powerful corporates.

Basis for reforms:

  • LPG Reforms: The major policy reforms of 1991 did not cover agriculture. Because of this, the gap in the agri-income of a farmer and that of a non-agriculture worker increased from Rs 25,398 in 1993–94 to Rs 54,377 by 1999–2000. In the next ten years, the income of a non-agriculture worker exceeded that of a farmer by Rs 1.42 lakh.
    • The favourable effects of the 1991 policy reforms on the non-agriculture sector and the growing disparity between agriculture and non-agriculture incomes caught the attention of some experts and they started speaking about the need for reforms in the agriculture sector.
  • Demand-Supply Mismatch: The second reason relates to imbalance between domestic demand and supply. India is accumulating a large surplus of some commodities and at the same time importing huge quantities of edible oil and pulses. Even the import of fruit and vegetables, which can be grown in the country and fetches good income, has been increasing. The reasons are the poor state of market facility, post-harvest infrastructure, and logistics and high risks in returns from oilseeds and pulses.
  • Poor Export Competitiveness: According to the emerging scenario of demand and supply, India will be required to sell 20–25% of the incremental agri-food production in overseas markets in the coming years. This is not possible in the “business as usual” setting, which involves a long chain of intermediaries, small market lots, and high transaction costs.
  • Poor Crops Diversification: Agricultural segments such as horticulture, milk and fishery––where market intervention by the government is either nil or very little––show 4–10% annual growth. Compared to this, the growth rate in cereals––where MSP and other interventions are quite high––remained 1.1% after 2011–12. This clearly indicates that in recent times liberalized markets are more favourable to agricultural growth than government support and intervention in markets.
  • Dominance of small holdings: India is dominated by small holdings that typically have small surpluses. Most of these farmers lack scale, resources, and the ability to take price risk to go for high-value crops. It is not economically viable for them to take a few kilos of fruit and vegetables to the market as these crops mature in lots. If such farmers get markets close to production, like milk collection centres, and have price assurance, they will be encouraged to diversify towards high-value crops.
  • Poor Infrastructure: Despite the development of communication, road networks and other trade infrastructure, agri-markets remain fragmented––somewhere glut and price crash, somewhere shortage and high prices. There is also poor integration of prices between the harvest and lean months. Farm to retail price difference shows unjustified spread. The reason is low investments in storage and warehouses and dominance of local traders in the market.
  • Poor growth of food processing Industries: The growth of food processing needs to be accelerated to (I) match with the rising demand; (ii) pull agri-diversification; and (iii) create more jobs in the rural economy. For this, processors need raw material of desired quality and at the desired time. Buying so many small lots of different quality in scattered markets adds to the cost of raw materials. This requires new arrangement and partnership between processors and producers.
  • Lack of commercialization and specialization: with the rise in specialization and commercialization of agriculture, most of the output of several crops produced in a state is consumed outside than within it. This supports efficient and barrier-free interstate trade in the spirit of one nation one market.

Impact of these Farms Laws:

The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce Act

  • It offers farmers the choice to sell their produce within APMC markets or outside them; to private channels, integrators, FPOs, or cooperatives; through a physical market or on an electronic platform; and directly at farm or anywhere else.
  • It has no intent or provision to tamper or dilute MSP and poses no threat by itself to APMC markets.
  • The real threat to APMC mandis and their business is from excessive and unjustified charges levied by states in these markets.
  • The new FPTC Act will only put pressure on APMC markets to become competitive.
  • Discussions with mandi officials revealed that a maximum of 1.5% of total charges, including market fee and commission for arthiyas, is sufficient to maintain and run mandi operations.
  • This will not wean away traders from APMC markets as they will get the benefit of mandi infrastructure, bulk produce in one place and save the cost required for individual transactions outside the markets.
  • States that are really interested in farmers’ welfare should do away with unjustified and excessive mandi charges and keep them below the reasonable level of 1.5% including commission etc.
  • There is a strong case for states to run APMC system as infrastructure service for farmers without charging market fee in their interest.
  • This will ensure healthy competition between APMC mandis and other channels permitted under the new Act with significant gain to farmers.

The Farmers’ Empowerment and Protection Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act covers two aspects:

  • Provision for guaranteed price and input and technical services to farmers by registered individual, firm, company, cooperative society, etc., under a mutually acceptable agreement between the farmer and sponsor prior to production.
  • This Act intends to insulate interested farmers, especially small farmers, against the market and price risks so they can go for the cultivation of high-value crops without worrying about the market and low prices in the harvest season.
  • If a farmer is interested, they can also get technical services and inputs from the sponsor. There is nothing in the Act beyond these two provisions.
  • The Act does not require any farmer to go for this agreement; the decision is left entirely on the farmer.
  • The Act prohibits the farming agreement to include the transfer, sale, lease, mortgage of the land or premises of the farmer. All apprehensions about this Act relate to corporate farming, which is totally different and not allowed in any state of India.
  • The PAFS Act is inclined towards farmers. No party is bound to continue with the agreement beyond the agreed period.
  • The Act will promote diversification, quality production for premium price, export and direct sale of produce with desired attributes to interested consumers.

The Essential Commodities Act:

  • The modification specifies transparent criteria in terms of price trigger for imposing ECA rather than leaving it to arbitrary decisions by bureaucrats to invoke the Act.
  • The power of the government to impose ECA remains intact as has been seen in the decision to impose stock limit on onions after the modification in ECA.
  • There is nothing in this modification against farmers. On the contrary, the modification sets a much higher limit for rise in producer prices before the government takes action on stock limits.
  • The modification in ECA will attract much-needed private investments in agriculture from input to post-harvest activities

Way Forward:

In a nutshell, the three policy reforms undertaken by the Central government through the three new Acts are in keeping with the changing times and requirements of farmers and farming. If they are implemented in the right spirit, they will take Indian agriculture to new heights and usher in the transformation of the rural economy. The reforms have generated optimism for India to become a global power in agriculture and a powerhouse for global food supply. The reforms carry the seed for farmers’ prosperity and transformation of the rural economy and to make it a growth engine of the Indian economy.

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