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The Hindu Analysis Free PDF Download

Date: 17 March 2020

A crisis-hit Iran at the crossroads

  • Iran: hardest-hit among the West Asian countries
  • 900 deaths and over 14,000 cases of infection
  • Iran has already approached the IMF for $5-billion in emergency funding to combat the pandemic.
  • U.S. Treasury: lifting some sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran to facilitate humanitarian trade such as the import of testing kits for COVID-19
  • 8|May|2020: second anniversary of the U.S.’s withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) or the “Iran Nuclear Deal”.
  •  Iran: it would resume its nuclear activities but had agreed to respect the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections and enhanced monitoring as part of its obligations under the additional protocol.
  •  Since July 2019, Iran has lifted all restrictions on its stockpiles of enriched uranium and heavy water.
  • The United Kingdom, France and Germany had invoked the JCPOA Dispute Resolution Mechanism (DRM) as early as in January this year.
  • With the next Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) set to take place in New York from April 27 to May 22, 2020, Iran’s threat to abandon the NPT if the European Union takes the matter to the UN Security Council (UNSC)
  • The U.S. continues to implement its “maximum pressure policy”.
  • China remains the only major country that continues to defy U.S. sanctions and buy oil from Iran.
  • Marine Security Belt: China, Iran and Russia

  • First round of Iran’s parliamentary elections in Februry: hardliners are firmly ensconced
  •  Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s initiative to develop a coordinated response to the pandemic in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation framework, indeed, sets a laudable example.
  • Much though will depend on Iran’s willingness to rein in its regional ambitions and desist from interference in the domestic affairs of others.

 Back to SAARC

  •  Coronavirus: has affected 1,75,250 people and claimed over 6,700 lives worldwide.
  • PM Modi’s decision to convene a SAARC video conference
  • Pandemics do not recognise political borders, and in times of trouble, reaching out to neighbouring countries is the most obvious course of action.
  •  COVID-19 emergency fund: India will contribute $10-million — as well as a decision on technical task forces.

  •  Afghanistan and Pakistan have specific challenges as they share long borders with Iran.
  •  Bhutan, the Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka worry about the impact on tourism, which is a mainstay of their economies.
  • Concerns
  • virus’s spread in the subcontinent


  •  Reviving the SAARC initiative, which countries in the region including Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bhutan have advised, will not be easy From virtual conferencing to real leadership

 New lease of life for SAARC

  •  The success of the Modi-SAARC initiative will largely depend on India — the dominant power of the region, in every sense.
  •  What is at test is India’s leadership, not Islamabad’s follies.
  • Formation of a Rapid Response Team (of doctors, specialists, testing equipment and attendant infrastructure) to be put at the disposal of the SAARC, at this moment of grave peril.
  •  This is a moment thus of a rare opportunity for India to establish its firm imprimatur over the region; and to secure an abiding partnership for our shared destiny.
  •  SAARC was born at a moment of hope in the 1980s; the idea was initiated by one of the most inscrutable leaders of the region, General Zia Ur Rehman of Bangladesh, who, met many of the other leaders personally and dispatched special envoys to the capitals of the countries of the region.
  • Dhaka’s persistence resulted in the first summit of the seven leaders of the region in 1985.
  •  In the nearly 35 years of its existence, even its champions will concede however that SAARC has, to put it euphemistically, not lived up to the promise of its founder.
  • South Asia is the world’s least integrated region; less than 5% of the trade of SAARC countries is within.
  •  A South Asian Free Trade Zone agreed on, in 2006, remains, in reality, a chimera.
  • Male Summit in 1997: Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had told I.K. Gujral in Punjabi: “I know you cannot give me Kashmir; and you know I cannot grab it from you; but let us just talk and move on.

 Fight for the finite

  • Demand in most sectors will continue to exceed supply in times of a pandemic.
  • Question: whether national and state health systems will be able to cope with ever-rising demands — for testing kits, for hospital beds, ventilators, why, even masks and hand sanitisers ???
  •  With India crossing 100 positive cases, it is impossible to ignore the question about whether the health system is robust enough to meet this emergency.
  • For years, India’s health expenditure as a percentage of GDP has been abysmal at about 1%.
  • As per the National Health Profile, 2019, collated by the Central Bureau of Health Intelligence unit of the Directorate General of Health Services, there has been no significant change in healthcare expenditure since 2009-2010.
  • The highest it has been in the decade is 1.28 % of the GDP, and hit the nadir at 0.98 % in 2014-2015.
  •  The report does record that per capita public expenditure on health in nominal terms went up from ₹621 in 2009-10 to ₹1,112 in 2015-16.
  •  WHO: out-of-pocket payments remain common in India, which in 2014, was estimated at 62% of total health expenditure.
  • A problematic testing strategy World Health Organization has been urging countries that have reported many laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases to become more aggressive in testing.
  • India continues to have among the lowest testing rates in the world.
  •  March 12, the Kerala Health Ministry issued revised testing guidelines based on current risk assessment: According to the guidelines, people with mild symptoms (low grade fever, mild sore throat, cough, rhinitis or diarrhoea) who have come from countries with ongoing COVID-19 local transmission and contacts of confirmed/suspect cases will not be tested for the virus.
  • Given that Kerala now has the capacity to test more samples each day, it is unclear why it has issued these revised guidelines.
  •  If this is an attempt to keep the numbers artificially low, it will prove counterproductive.
  • Since about 80% of those with COVID-19 exhibit only mild symptoms and recover without special treatment, not testing them would mean that a vast majority of cases will go undetected.
  • Stricter quarantining would be needed for symptomatic people.

 Closing the gender gap in science

  •  India celebrates National Science Day on February 28 every year to mark C.V. Raman’s discovery of the scattering of light.

2020’s Theme: Women in Science

  • Despite his progressive political and philosophical convictions, Raman was a traditionalist.
  •  Like many others of the time, he imbibed the sexist views that were part of society then.
  • Among his three women students, only Anna Mani was able to choose a scientific career, although she could not get a doctoral degree.
  •  Sunanda Bai was not awarded a PhD, and committed suicide for unknown reasons.
  •  Lalitha Doraiswamy left her studies and chose to marry Subramanyan Chandrasekhar, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1983.
  •  Why did these talented women fail to get their due?
  •  It would be interesting to contrast their journeys with the story of Janaki Ammal.
  • Ammal opted to pursue a Masters degree from the Michigan State University in the U.S. and continued her scientific career even after her return to India.
  • The success of Janaki Ammal, who chose to leave India, versus the stories of the other women tells us about lost opportunities.
  •  How do male colleagues behave today towards women working in labs today?
  • Have gender attitudes changed?
  • While cultural and social causes are considered the primary reasons for gender discrimination, at least in India, organisational factors have also played a big role in preventing gender parity in science.
  •  This can be changed if more women are given leadership positions.
  •  Lack of women leaders and women role models may be preventing more women from entering the field.
  •  However, the trouble starts after women obtain their educational qualifications.
  • The percentage of women in faculty positions drops to less than 20%; only a few reach the top positions of institutes and universities.
  • Including more women in science is not only important from the human rights perspective; it also impacts the quality of science and the advancement of society itself.
  •  The role of women engineers in the launch of the Indian Space Research Organisation’s second moon mission, Chandrayaan-2, is now legendary.
  • According to the Global Gender Gap Index 2020,a study covering 153 economies, India has slipped to the 112th spot from its 108th position in 2018.
  •  The report also says it would take nearly a hundred years to close the gender gap in various fields in India compared to the time it would take in other countries. The history of science shows that many revolutionary discoveries were made by women scientists.