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Editorials/Opinions Analysis for UPSC – 05 January 2022

Contents

  1. India’s rights record, America’s blinkered vision
  2. Entering another Covid year, R-value over 1 in big cities

India’s rights record, America’s blinkered vision

Context:

The current Indian government has been remarkably successful in maintaining cordial Indian relations with Washington under United States President Joe Biden, yet, there are some wrinkles such as the U.S. Report on Human Rights Practices criticizing India and CAATSA sanctions on India’s S-400 purchase, that need to be ironed out.

Relevance:

GS-II: International Relations (Foreign Policies affecting India’s Interests)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. U.S.-India relations
  2. Democratic Values in India-US Relations
  3. America’s blinkered vision
  4. What are the concerns associated with the US?
  5. Way Forward

U.S.-India relations

  • The U.S.-India partnership is founded on a shared commitment to freedom, democratic principles, equal treatment of all citizens, human rights, and the rule of law.
  • The United States and India have shared interests in promoting global security, stability, and economic prosperity through trade, investment, and connectivity.
  • The United States supports India’s emergence as a leading global power and vital partner in efforts to ensure that the Indo-Pacific is a region of peace, stability, and growing prosperity.
  • The strong people-to-people ties between our countries, reflected in a four million-strong Indian American diaspora, are a tremendous source of strength for the partnership.
  • In December 2019, the United States hosted the second 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue in Washington led by the U.S. Secretaries of State and Defense and their Indian counterparts, at which both sides reaffirmed India’s status as a Major Defense Partner and deepened cooperation on maritime security, interoperability, and information sharing.
  • While the 2+2 serves as the premier dialogue mechanism between the United States and India, there are more than thirty bilateral dialogues and working groups, which span all aspects of human endeavor, from space and health cooperation to energy and high technology trade.
  • These include the U.S.-India Counterterrorism Joint Working Group, which was established in 2000 and is among our oldest government to government dialogues, as well as the Strategic Energy Partnership, Cyber Dialogue, Civil Space Working Group, Trade Policy Forum, Defense Policy Group and many more.

Democratic Values in India-US Relations

  • The United States is understanding of India’s broad downgrades in indicators used to gauge democratic norms and human rights.
  • It can be said that the world’s two most powerful democratic powers are India and the United States and both parties have highlighted the importance of common principles in strengthening India-US ties.
  • The question of values sparked suspicion that Washington would try to exert pressure on New Delhi in response to perceived threats to India’s democratic fabric.
  • In the unusual position of Chinese authoritarianism and Indian democracy, there have been doubts regarding India’s usefulness as a US ally in battling China.
  • Experts argue that the US should not engage in India’s domestic affairs and have begun to argue that the US should confront the Indian administration more forcefully on problems of democracy and human rights.

America’s blinkered vision

The U.S. can perceive India to be in a downgraded state with respect to democratic norms and human rights, as:

  1. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has for successive years recommended that India be listed as a ‘country of particular concern’ due to its treatment of Muslims and Christians.
  2. The U.S. State Department’s Country Report on Human Rights Practices itself recorded “significant human rights issues” in India. It includes extrajudicial killings, torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, violence against minorities, unjustified harassment of journalists, and censorship and blocking of websites.
  1. Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index placed India at number 142.
  2. In the Open Doors World Watch List, India is listed fourth for ‘severe’ Christian persecution, behind Syria, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia.
  3. India is rated poorly by the U.S.-based Freedom House which called it ‘partly free’.
  4. Sweden’s V-Dem Institute dubbed India as an ‘electoral autocracy’.

However, the U.S. government has chosen to ignore all these findings to the dismay of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and activists due to the positioning of India as an indispensable partner for the US.

What are the concerns associated with the US?

  • Unfair West-dominated English-medium news ecosystem: Western countries can direct unjust criticism towards their opponents using this dominant media system. Many times other countries have tried to create rival media platforms, however, they have failed to compete.
  • Dubious Sanctions: Unilateral sanctions based on uncertain international laws have been the West’s instrument of choice for penalising political adversaries. For instance, Threats of “massive consequences and severe economic cost” against Russia by G7 countries and the European Union.
  • Selective criticism: A boycott of the Winter Olympics in China by irrelevant western officials was promoted. However, the Football World Cup in Qatar was not opposed, even though, it is an absolute monarchy where there are scant civil and political rights, workers’ rights are negligible and homosexuality is deemed illegal.
  • Flaws within the U.S.: U.S tries to protect fundamental rights in other countries, whereas, in the last 12 months, its police have murdered 37 African-American people per million against 15 per million whites. African-Americans comprise only 13% of the population.

Way Forward

  • India, the world’s most populous democracy, is dedicated to representative government and the rule of law.
  • The alliance between the United States and India is built on common ideals such as democracy, pluralism, and the rule of law.
  • A slew of economic, security, and geopolitical initiatives are in the works, including groundbreaking ideas for civilian nuclear cooperation.
  • The increasing convergence of strategic interests between India and the U.S. would promote global peace and stability.

-Source: The Hindu


Entering another Covid year, R-value over 1 in big cities

Context:

In terms of daily detections of Covid-19 cases, India on the last day of 2021 finds itself in a situation similar to the one in 2020. And yet, the situation in India today is very different from what it was a year ago.

Although the government has not described it as such, there are now unmistakable signs as of January 2022 that India has entered the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Relevance:

GS-III: Disaster Management

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. With respect to the pandemic, how is the beginning of 2022 different from 2021?
  2. Signal for increasing cases – R-value explained
  3. How is R-value calculated and how accurate is it?

With respect to the pandemic, how is the beginning of 2022 different from 2021?

  • Towards the end of 2020 December, cases were on the downward slope after the peak of the first wave in September 2020. However, now (December 2021) the cases are rising, Covid curbs are in force at many places, and Indians are looking at 2022 with anxiety and trepidation.
  • Another major difference is that: India had not begun vaccinating its population in December 2020, however, India ended December 2021 on a great note by crossing the milestone of 145 crore Covid-19 vaccinations.
  • In the summer of 2021, there was the possibility that central and state governments could have been caught off-guard by the suddenness, magnitude, and ferocity with which the infection surged. However, for the Summer months of 2022, India is entering the surge more than a month after the countries in the West and has had time to plan and prepare an adequate response to prevent not just the loss of lives but also economic disruptions.
  • Since the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, which is driving the latest round of infections, is producing only mild cases, India may have to deal mainly with a surge in cases, not necessarily loss of lives.
  • Also, it is reassuring the No country in which Omicron is currently rampaging, as of January 2022, has seen a significant rise in the Covid death rate.

 

Signal for increasing cases – R-value explained

  • R-Value, also known as R0-Value, R Factor or number, it is the effective reproductive number of a virus.
  • It is the number of people an infected person will pass on the virus to.
  • For example: If measles – a highly contagious infectious disease – has an R number of 10 in populations without immunity, this means every infected person will spread the virus to 10 others, on average, who will then infect 10 more and so on.
  • During the second wave, when COVID-19 spread was rampant across India, scientists had estimated that the overall R-value in the country to be 1.37 from March 9-April 21. It declined to 1.18 between April 24 and May 1 and further to 1.1 between April 29 and May 7.
  • As of January 2021, Kerala has an R-Value of 1.11.

How is R-value calculated and how accurate is it?

  • It is difficult to capture the moment when a person catches the infection. Almost always, infections are detected with a delay.
  • So, scientists work backwards to collect the data related to the spread of a virus – such as the number of people dying, admitted to hospital or testing positive for the virus over time.
  • This data is used to estimate how easily the virus is spreading.
  • Initially, the R-Value was used to understand whether a population was growing or not within geography. Scientists later deployed the same method to know the viral spread.
  • Some scientists have argued against relying only on R-Value to decide when to impose restrictions, saying R-Values are only an indication of the spread and it has a time lag. The virus could be moving at a faster pace than this modelling would suggest.
  • There are two other ways, they say, that should also be considered in addition to the R-Value. One is the severity of the infection and the other is the number of cases.

Why is R-value of more than 1 dangerous?

Because this indicates that every infected person is spreading the virus to more than one person, resulting in a continuous increase in viral cases.

Authorities all over the world try to bring the value of R to less than one to control the movement of a virus and eventually stop the outbreak.

-Source: Indian Express

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