Editorials/Opinions Analysis For UPSC 24 August 2023
- Navigating Geopolitical Crossroads: India’s Problem
- Himalayan States: Environmental and Development Issues
Navigating Geopolitical Crossroads: India’s Problem
The BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) summit, which will take place in Johannesburg from August 22 to August 24, will serve as a critical evaluation of Indian diplomacy and offer light on probable future geopolitics. India must choose between a world system dominated by the West or China, or try to strike a balance between the two.
Relevance: GS Paper 2- International Relations
How does the BRICS meeting act as a crucial geopolitical litmus test for Indian diplomacy, pointing to possible future course changes? (150 Words)
BRICS’s Challenges and Future Prospects
- It’s debatable if the BRICS will be able to dramatically alter the nature of the world economy. It shows little interest in establishing economic pacts among its members, and its historical capacity to influence world geopolitics may be exaggerated. Additionally, it doesn’t particularly draw investment as a whole. At the moment, the BRICS appears to be more reactive and revisionist than proactive and objective in its goals.
- The BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) grouping has a particularly large gap between aspiration and reality. The BRICS lack a solid foundation while being initially meant as a challenge to the world order, trying to alter development and power relations. Its original goal was to balance the West, but it lacked a common foe or similar morals. While positioning itself as a platform for alternative development strategies, it did not offer any specific proposals for replacing the current global system. A temporary socialisation mechanism independent of the West was supplied by the early enthusiasm around its founding in 2009 during the global economic crisis, but the BRICS are now troubled by the lack of a defined mission.
- Rebalancing away from the Western-dominated developmental order is an important notion, but recent events have made it more challenging. Due to the conflict between geopolitical and economic rebalancing, which is bringing nations into the orbit of the West, the call for rebalancing now includes China. Concerns concerning strategic alignment with China itself as well as the West are raised by China’s ascendancy.
- The BRICS’ development strategy is still in its infancy. This argument, which was initially intended to fight the West’s asymmetric influence in development, has become more urgent as a result of the West’s selfish actions during situations like the COVID issue and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The BRICS nations’ argument for expansion is, however, undermined by their lack of coordination.
A major worldwide challenge is climate change
- The efforts of poor nations to finance the climate are not coordinated. It’s interesting to note that, with institutional systems failing, the outcome now depends on creative actions in the US and China. The endeavour to rebalance power in favour of developing nations is made more difficult by this dynamic.
- The BRICS are constrained. The BRICS’ potential to promote indebted development, multilateralism, and climate action is restricted by China’s position and the breakdown of the free trading system, and there is no consensus on currency issues. With the exception of China, BRICS countries struggle to cooperate in research and innovation, and the alternative institutions the BRICS wanted to establish have not been successful in coming into existence.
- The BRICS, which were once intended to be a force for rebalancing, are today used more for diplomatic engagement and socialisation. Global stability is at danger as great power competition heats up. The BRICS lacks the Non-Aligned Movement’s influence, and its potential to provide a remedy is overwhelmed by its function as a sign of global dysfunction.
Possible effects on international politics
The BRICS has the potential to develop into a force that may affect the course of global politics, though. Recent geopolitical upheavals and difficulties the UN system is facing have given the BRICS newfound relevance. Compared to the UN Security Council and the G-7, it has a wider global representation, but it trails behind the G-20, which is dominated by the West. As a result, the decisions made by the BRICS during the summit and afterwards may have significant effects on the global order.
A Different Route to Global Governance: BRICS
- Filling the Vacuum of Western-Led Global Governance: The current system of global governance is undemocratic, leaving a hole that organisations like the BRICS may fill, but its effectiveness may be in doubt. About 40 nations have expressed interest in joining an expanded BRICS, which reflects a pervasive unhappiness among global South nations with their place in the world.
- Addressing Middle and Regional Power Underrepresentation: In the midst of the geopolitical unrest around the world, countries with moderate power and regional sway are weighing their options. These countries could use forums like the BRICS to influence international geopolitical issues and navigate them. China’s rising prominence and the war in Ukraine have given the BRICS a new lease on life.
- Promoting Honest Dialogue on Global concerns: Many nations, particularly those in the global South, frequently experience exclusion from conversations about important global concerns like cybersecurity and climate change. Platforms like the BRICS provide the adaptability required to properly address these concerns.
India’s Difficult Problem
- Uncertain geopolitical position: For India, the current geopolitical environment throughout the world poses challenging options. Where India fits into the larger scheme of things is uncertain. In Western perspectives, India’s participation in BRICS and the SCO is frequently linked to its position on the Ukraine conflict and its confrontation with Russia. It is difficult to balance participation in the Quad, G-20, G-7, BRICS, SCO, and the global South at the same time.
- Managing Geopolitical Faultlines Against the Rise of China: Due to its historical, developmental, and geographical linkages to BRICS, SCO, and the global South, India’s geopolitical situation is complicated. The G-20, G-7, and the Quad are also aligned with it structurally and aspirationally. In order to avoid becoming a victim of escalating geopolitical contestations, New Delhi must act as both a bridge and a balanced participant while straddling this rising faultline.
Rising Blocs and the Challenge of Multipolarity
- rise of Competing Blocs: The rise of competing blocs is a major worry in the changing global geopolitics. The organisations that China and Russia are a part of may clash with the current quo, which is being governed by the US and its allies, as their interests align. A multipolar world founded on equity, inclusiveness, and representation has long been a cause for India.
- Managing the China Factor: In the midst of this, India must constantly evaluate if its efforts to create a multipolar world unintentionally aid China’s ascent to global dominance. Alternative forums are necessary in a multipolar world, but these very venues can increase China’s dominance and make it difficult for India to compete. In a strange way, supporting non-Western institutions might advance China’s revisionist aim.
The Decisions India Will Face
The creation of a more inclusive and representative system of global governance ought to be India’s main objective. It must engage with Eurocentric forums like the UNSC and G-7 while controlling China’s influence in non-Western fora. Finding this balance guarantees the protection of India’s national interests while advancing a more democratic global order.
In terms of global governance, a group of imperfect institutions that take into account the realities of the time have more potential than a single imperfect organisation that is out of step with the times. Hegemonic dominance is preferable to flaws in international politics. India’s role should be standing up for itself in international forums without supporting any one political group.
Himalayan States: Environmental and Development Issues
Discussions on whether the delicate Himalayan ecosystem can tolerate fast development have been sparked by recent natural disasters like landslides, cloudbursts, and subsidence. It explores the intricate interaction between environmental issues and development goals in the Himalayan states, looking at various justifications, difficulties, and potential solutions.
Relevance: GS Paper3- Environment – Sustainable development
Consider the environmental impact of Himalayan hydropower projects as you analyse their contribution to energy security. Consider the 2013 floods in Uttarakhand as a case study. How can energy requirements be met without endangering the Himalayan ecosystem? (250 Words)
Development versus protecting the environment
- Environmental Implications: The Himalayan region supports a sizable population and promotes economic growth thanks to its intricate network of rivers, which includes the Ganges, Indus, and Brahmaputra. Recent disasters, however, have highlighted how urgent it is to give environmental preservation precedence over unrestrained development. Disasters like the Joshimath subsidence could increase the area’s susceptibility, highlighting the negative effects of development on the ecosystem.
- The Environmental Impact of Development: Mining operations, riverbank encroachment, and ongoing dam construction have raised environmental concerns.The Ganga River is seeing “bumper to bumper development” with almost 70 projects now underway or planned. Many projects lack thorough environmental impact analyses, which raises concerns about their sustainability. Alarmingly, a large number of dams are being constructed alongside rivers like the Ganga, potentially altering their flow and resulting in irreparable ecological harm. An additional sign that the complex equilibrium of natural forces has been upset is the occurrence of a glacial lake outburst flood (GLOF) in 2021, which is characterised by the descending of boulders and other mountainous debris. As a result, the effects of this disruption are currently being seen throughout the Himalayan States.
A blessing or a curse for hydropower?
- Energy Security vs. Environmental Fragility: The Himalayan countries’ energy mix heavily relies on hydropower, which is frequently hailed as a renewable energy source. However, there is debate concerning the building of hydropower facilities in areas with unstable geology. A Supreme Court committee blamed hydropower dams in part for the 2013 Uttarakhand floods. Particularly in light of shifting energy demands, the environmental effects of these initiatives must be balanced against their energy benefits.
- Conservation vs. Development Solar power and other alternative energy sources are becoming more prevalent as hydropower’s share in India’s energy mix decreases. Meeting energy needs while protecting fragile ecosystems is a difficult balance that must be struck in order to balance development with environmental preservation. The Char Dham Highway project serves as an example of the difficulties associated with building infrastructure in environmentally sensitive places. It is anticipated to make it easier for military personnel to travel to India’s border with China. According to an environmentalist who served as the chair of a panel established by the Supreme Court to look into the project, felling trees increases already-present risks like landslides.
Complexities of geopolitics: Limits and Climate Change
- Because the Himalayas act as geopolitical borders between countries, shared resources like water are a sensitive topic. The eight countries in the Himalayan region have agreed to work together on climate change initiatives. However, it is frequently suggested that geopolitical reasons and a feeling of mistrust hinder the effectiveness of collaboration and information exchange about issues like river flows. Existing tensions are made worse by climate change, which amplifies conflicts over resources. The problems in the region are made even more complex by the interplay of geopolitical and environmental issues.
- The Himalayas are home to several countries where water is persistently scarce. The World Bank estimates that each American has access to about 2.3 million gallons of regenerative freshwater resources yearly. In contrast, Pakistan has fewer than 79,000 gallons of renewable freshwater resources per person, China has 528,000 gallons, and India has 264,000 gallons. The rivers that run through these politically unstable areas are under increased pressure due to the growing need for water to support the growth of metropolitan centres, agricultural operations, and industrial operations.
Waste, Sustainable Development, and Tourism
- The Tourism Boom and Its Effects on the Environment Millions of tourists visit the Himalayan region every year, bolstering economies there while also producing a lot of rubbish. The number of tourists visiting the United States is predicted to climb significantly from the recorded figure of 100 million in 2018 to reach 240 million annually by the year 2025. The delicate environment of the Himalayas may suffer if the problem of solid waste disposal is not handled in a scientific way, which the nation cannot afford. Given that these mountain ranges are the main sources of all large glacial rivers, it is not difficult to imagine the potentially terrible outcomes that may result. Increased pollution, deforestation, and infrastructural expansion are results of the influx of tourists. To maintain vulnerable ecosystems while balancing tourism-driven expansion and environmental sustainability, novel waste management practises and laws are required.
- Regulation and Preservation: It’s crucial to regulate activities in the area with an emphasis on preserving valley vegetation cover to lessen the effects of climate change. A considerable concern has been expressed about the probable depletion of over 60% of the water sources in the Indian Himalayan region, according to a research published by NITI Aayog in 2018. Therefore, maintaining a significant plant cover in the Himalayan region is essential. It is advised that the top section of the Himalayan valleys be declared as an eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) in order to solve this issue. These essential habitats could be safeguarded by proposed eco-sensitive zones. A comprehensive strategy that takes into account ecological fragility and long-term viability is needed to address the garbage produced by both urban and tourist populations.
The Himalayan states are at a turning point, trying to balance ambitions for growth and environmental preservation. While hydropower may help with energy security, its effects on the environment must be carefully considered. To address the effects of climate change, cooperation amongst adjacent nations is crucial. Sustainable policies are necessary to maintain the delicate balance between tourism-driven growth and environmental preservation. The Himalayan states must map a course through this difficult terrain that protects their delicate ecosystems for future generations.