Editorials/Opinions Analysis For UPSC 16 May 2023
- Strategic-economic blocs simply tighten the leash
- How Regenerative Agriculture Can Prevent Soil Decay
- The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a trade agreement with China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and the ten-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), was terminated by India in November 2019.
- Skip ahead to 2023, and India is now joining the United States-led Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF), along with many of the same nations, with China replaced by the United States.
GS Paper-2: Bilateral, Regional, and Global Groupings and Agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests
In light of India’s prior withdrawal from the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), critically evaluate the effects of India’s probable participation in the U.S.-driven Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF) on its economic policies and prospects going forward. (250 Words)
The deep sea and the devil
- The development of a strategic partnership with the United States is India’s top foreign policy aim, according to The Devil and the Deep Sea.
- India is now in a challenging situation as a result of the ongoing deterioration in its relations with China.
- While having a strategic alliance with the United States is important, India must be careful to avoid becoming economically reliant on it.
- Economic Challenges with China and the U.S.: India is worried about becoming economically dependent on China because of the inexpensive Chinese goods that are flooding the Indian market and may have a detrimental effect on the manufacturing sector.
- In the meantime, India has substantial difficulties due to the U.S.-related economic problems, particularly in the areas of agriculture, intellectual property, labour, environmental standards, and the digital economy.
- The IPEF Proposal and Traditional Trade Deals: As trade agreements advance, problems including intellectual property, services, investment, domestic regulation, digital, and labour and environmental norms are beginning to take centre stage. Instead, tariffs are no longer the primary concern.
- The U.S.’s IPEF proposal, which fully eliminates the tariff component of traditional trade accords and focuses on these other areas, is an illustration of this trend.
- Traditional trade agreements in the US, however, are likely to encounter legislative obstacles.
- In response, the United States has promoted tariff-free trade agreements as a novel kind of win-win economic cooperation to counteract opposition to free trade agreements from many nations, including India.
- The IPEF’s unclear jargon and Economic Impact: o The IPEF plan uses ‘new age’ jargon that results in unclear wording that might be challenging to understand.
- The plans’ economic consequences may not be obvious to many people, but it is obvious to the American strategists who came up with them.
- According to early expert evaluations, the IPEF would result in a total control over the economies of the participating nations, giving the U.S. a decisive advantage.
- Creating an Economic-Strategic Block:The IPEF aims to create an economic and strategic bloc that revolves around the US but excludes China. The plan intends to establish a cohesive economic framework that would provide domestic policies supporting a nation’s own industrialisation very little room. One of the many components of the IPEF concept that contribute to achieving systemic integration is tight supply chain integration.
The Potentially Hazardous Language in the IPEF Trade Agreement:
- Developing country trade negotiators have honed their skills to spot issues in traditional free trade agreements, but they find it challenging to understand and respond to the sophistry in the IPEF’s language.
- The IPEF is scheduled to be concluded by November 2023, despite real engagements only beginning late last year.
- The full consequences of this phrase will only become apparent in the long run as a result of the hurry to adopt the trade agreement using what appears to be innocent language that will ensnare nations in long-term economic commitments with limited room for policy-making.
The IPEF is supported by four pillars:
- supply chains, commerce, a clean economy, and a fair economy.
- India has joined the other three pillars out of fear of falling into a trap, but it has not yet joined trade, despite strong pressure to do so.
- Being a part of the trade pillar is the worst, but the other pillars also help to create tough, innovative, non-tariff economic designs and institutions.
The Implications of IPEF:
- Giving up the ability to regulate Big Tech could have unintended repercussions;
- The IPEF could have considerable effects on agriculture, notably with relation to genetically modified seeds and foods.
- India’s capacity to build a thriving domestic ecosystem in developing fields like the digital economy and green products may be hampered by the IPEF, which might also damage India’s ability to maintain a competitive advantage in manufacturing owing to unfair labour and environmental regulations.
- The IPEF presents a strategic conundrum for India. On the one hand, the programme might contribute to improving India’s relations with the US. However, it can also be detrimental to India’s economy.
- Before making a choice, the Indian government must carefully consider the advantages and disadvantages of the IPEF.
Regenerative agriculture is viewed as a solution to India’s water and land degradation problems, which are brought on by unsustainable farming practises that fuel climate change.It provides a means of enhancing smallholder farmers’ financial security while restoring the health and fertility of the land.
GS Paper-3: Conservation, Environmental Pollution and Degradation, Environmental Impact Assessment.
In this discussion, we will examine the difficulties encountered by Indian agriculture as a result of soil degradation and water scarcity, and we will assess the efficacy of regenerative agriculture in addressing these issues. Look at how regenerative agriculture might help India’s smallholder farmers.
- It will be difficult to attain land-degradation-neutrality by 2030 because more than 29% of India’s total acreage (328.7M hectares) is deteriorated.
- It takes 500–1000 years for 1 inch of topsoil to grow due to soil erosion caused by agriculture; the water issue is getting worse in nearly 17 Indian states and union territories that have been deemed to be “over-exploited.”
- According to Falkenmark’s Water Stress Index, 76% of Indians experience water scarcity, with agriculture being the primary culprit and utilising up to 91% of freshwater.
- Ecological poverty, which is defined as the absence of a natural resource base that is environmentally sound and essential for human existence and development, could impede India’s progress in eradicating income poverty.
- Smallholder farmers, who make up 86% of Indian farmers and have 1.08 hectares of land on average, are especially susceptible to ecological poverty.
- India’s agricultural industry has seen negative total earnings over the previous two decades, making it challenging for small farmers to embrace climate-resilient technologies.Soil degradation and loss of soil organic carbon are common due to unsustainable practises like deforestation, overgrazing, monoculture cropping, and heavy use of chemical fertilisers and biocides.
- These practises also increase greenhouse gas emissions, which are of concern to scientific organisations like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as agriculture already accounts for 25–30% of global GHG emissions.
Regenerative agriculture is one possible fix
- There is growing agreement among soil experts that regenerative agriculture has a huge potential to improve the productivity and health of soil in damaged landscapes while also providing smallholder farmers with financial rewards.
- Studies have shown that a 1-percent increase in soil organic matter per 0.4 hectares (ha) enhances water storage capability by more than 75,000 litres, improving soil health and nutrient-holding capacity.
- Regenerative farming practises can dramatically raise soil organic carbon reserves, according to evidence from many field tests conducted throughout the world.
- Through its National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture, the Indian government has started pushing a number of regenerative agriculture ideas as part of its commitment to combating climate change.
- Regenerative agriculture is a farming method that aims to improve soil fertility, sequester atmospheric carbon dioxide, increase biodiversity, and improve water and energy management.
- It is becoming more standardised thanks to third-party certifications like regenagri and Regenerative Organic Certified®.
- Regenagri has brought regenerative practises to 1.25 million acres of land and was created by Solidaridad and Control.Additionally, food companies like Unilever and Nestle are creating their own regenerative agriculture standards.
Regenerative agriculture soil carbon credits debates
- Regenerative agriculture has been discussed as a viable means of storing carbon in the soil, and it may provide soil carbon credits.
- While some studies have cast doubt on the resilience of soil organic carbon (SOC) and the efficacy of satellite-based monitoring techniques, multiple scientific papers indicate that agricultural sequestration has a potential worldwide capacity of 1.5 gigatons of carbon (GtCO2) per year.
- If techniques like composting, tree cropping, and the use of biochar are used, this potential may be even greater.
- Regenerative agriculture is an essential weapon in combating climate change since it has the capacity to remove 100-200 GtCO2 by the end of the century, which is several times greater than the amount of emissions today.
Benefits for small farmers in India include:
- It enhances agricultural output, lowers costs due to decreased use of fertilisers and pesticides, and aids in soil restoration.
- Farms that have healthier soils are better able to withstand droughts and severe rains.
- The rapidly growing markets for voluntary carbon credits provide small farmers alternative sources of revenue.
- In order to support smallholders’ inclusive growth, FMCG businesses are giving collaborations with new suppliers who already employ regenerative practises top priority.
Obstacles to regenerative agriculture and possible solutions include the following:
- Lack of Fair-Trade Mechanisms for SOC Trading: o The first obstacle to regenerative agriculture is the lack of Fair Trade mechanisms for trading soil organic carbon (SOC), which would guarantee farmers a fair price.
- These systems should determine a minimum price that equals the project’s average costs plus a “Fairtrade Premium” to pay for initiatives that support farmers’ efforts to practise regenerative agriculture.
- India’s Revised Carbon Credit Policy: Export Prohibition: This policy could restrict possibilities for smallholder farmers.
- In particular, after accepting lower prices for decades to maintain steady consumer prices, these farmers may suffer again if they are not permitted to export carbon credits at higher prices.
- Certification Costs for Regenerative Agriculture: o Smallholder farmers may be discouraged from participating due to the high certification costs associated with regenerative agriculture and carbon verification.
- The government may think about extending subsidies for smallholder farmers to certification organisations affiliated with India’s official certifying agency for certifications, the Quality Council of India.
- Multiplication of Disparate Regenerative Standards: o The credibility of the regenerative agriculture movement and smallholder farmers may be harmed by the proliferation of disparate regenerative standards.
- To prevent misunderstandings and preserve credibility, a set of shared principles for regenerative agriculture standards, their certification procedures, methods, and tools must be developed with an emphasis on the benefits to farmers and the environment.
- Regenerative agriculture has the potential to address a variety of issues, including soil health, food security, climate resilience, biodiversity, and climate change mitigation.
- We don’t have much time to regenerate and revitalise our land and prevent the depletion of water resources, thus Indian agriculture stakeholders must rethink agriculture as it was done in the 1960s, which brought about the Green Revolution.
- Regenerative agriculture, on the other hand, benefits people, the environment, and the bottom line.