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The Hindu Analysis Free PDF Download

Date: 22 April 2020

 

The fragile ceasefire in Syria’s Idlib war

  • United Nations Secretary-General __________ has requested warring nations to choose CEASEFIRE.
  • President of Syria Bashar al-Assad
  • Syria + Russia vs Turkey + Anti Syrian President force.
  • No one believes about the agreements longitivity.
  • The region was spared a Syrian offensive in 2018 on Turkey’s plea.
  • A Turkey-Russia agreement of 2018 established a demilitarised zone (DMZ) with terrorists, including the HTS, leaving this zone, while so-called moderate rebels had to withdraw heavy weaponry.

  • Syria and Turkey accused each other of violations, with Russia increasingly agitated due to drone attacks against its airbase in Latakia from Idlib-based jihadists.
  • With the rebels making territorial gains, Syria resumed its offensive in April 2019, retaking territory and targeting Saraqib that strides the M5 highway connecting Aleppo with Damascus.
  • The latest Russo-Turkish agreement reaffirms their ‘dedication to combat and eliminate all terrorist groups in Syria’.
  • Mr. Assad, recognised by the United Nations but not by the West
  • Assad is openly supported by few of the nations that recognise him, now controls some 70% of his country and wishes to secure the remainder, but his forces remain dependent on Russia in the air and Iran and Hezbollah on the ground.
  • He is in haste because his troops are exhausted by nine years of continuous fighting and he cannot count on Russian, Iranian and Hezbollah support much longer.
  • President Erdoğan wishes to play a lead role in the Arab world.
  • Mr. Erdoğan has leveraged the refugee problem to extract €4.5 billion from the European Union and uses the refugees continuously as a bargaining counter.
  • He also needs manageable ties with both Russia and the U.S. to play each off against the other.
  • The confrontation with Moscow four years ago led to severe economic difficulties for Turkey after Russian curbs on trade and tourism, which Mr. Erdoğan would not wish to have repeated.
  • The confrontation with Moscow four years ago led to severe economic difficulties for Turkey after Russian curbs on trade and tourism, which Mr. Erdoğan would not wish to have repeated.
  • Both countries also have a vested interest in the TurkStream pipeline conveying Russian gas to southern Europe.
  • Criticism of Mr. Erdoğan has lately emerged domestically but his position is solid provided he retains his army’s support by avoiding more casualties in Idlib.
  • Russia is now the country of first resort in Syria and its influence in the entire West Asian region has expanded remarkably in recent years.
  • The Americans are content to be bystanders in the belief that they will be the gainers whatever the Idlib outcome.
  • The Europeans have neither the will nor the means to affect developments, and the United Nations is continuing the thus-far futile enterprise of persuading the Syrian multi-party talks in Geneva to arrive at a new constitution to be followed by free elections.

 Non-essentials can wait

  • Centre’s last-minute reversal on non-essential items.
  • FACT: lockdown is aimed at restricting movement to the barest minimum in order to break the chain of transmission necessitates limiting exemptions.
  • Every additional product category would involve that many more people getting activated along the supply chain.
  • Among the sectors that can resume are agricultural and horticultural activities, banking, cargo transportation, construction, and manufacturing of specified goods including packaging material.
  • Is a packet of ‘essential’ cheese slices more vital than a ‘non-essential’ laptop for a person working from home or attending online classes?
  • Also, as the lockdown extends to over a month, what might have been non-essential initially might turn essential later.
  • Still, protecting lives must ultimately be prioritised over allowing commercial activity even when the line between ‘essential’ and ‘nonessential’ purchases remains a blur.

 Futures shock

  • Free-fall in oil prices.
  • On Monday, May futures for the West Texas Intermediate (WTI) U.S. crude plunged below zero to touch a historic low of -$40.32 a barrel.
  • Price war that saw key producers Saudi Arabia and Russia ramp up output even as demand continued to contract.
  • With storage for crude — on land or offshore in supertankers — nearing capacity or becoming prohibitively expensive, oil producers are going to have little option but to curtail output.
  • India has prudently been using the sharp fall in both crude prices and domestic demand to accelerate the build-up of its strategic reserve.
  • Also, rock-bottom oil prices risk damaging the economies of producer countries including those in West Asia, hurting inward remittances.
  • After the lockdown, the Centre ought to consider using this opportunity to cut retail fuel prices sharply by foregoing some excise revenue for a while in order to tease back momentum into the wider economy.

 The key strategy is fiscal empowerment of States

  • The scale of disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has never been seen before.
  • Lack of clarity on what will happen next.
  • It now appears that the lockdown will be lifted in stages and the recovery process will be prolonged.
  • Being closer to the people, the States have a much larger responsibility in fighting this war.
  • Public health as well as public order are ______ subjects in the Constitution.
  • The Centre under Entry 29 of the Concurrent List has the powers to set the rules of implementation.
  • BEST: better coordination between the Union and State governments instead of claiming credit and apportioning blame.
  • The acute shortage of protective gear, testing kits, ventilators and hospital beds has been a major handicap and the immediate task of States is to ramp up their availability and supply.
  • Relief and rehabilitation to vulneable section had to the focus.
  • The total public expenditures of Centre and States works out to a mere 1.3% of GDP.
  • The focus of “Ayushman Bharat” has been to advocate insurance rather than building wellness centres.
  • States have not been able to generate any revenue
  • In Karnataka for example, it is reported that as against the estimated ₹12,000 crore every month, the State may not be able to generate even ₹300 crore in April.
  • The war on COVID-19 can be effectively won only when the States are armed with enough resources to meet the crisis.
  • Therefore, it is important for the Central government to provide additional borrowing space by 2% of GSDP from the prevailing 3% of GSDP.
  • This is the time to fiscally empower States to wage the COVID-19 war and trust them to spend on protecting lives, livelihoods and initiate an economic recovery.

Putting the SAGAR vision to the test

  • In March 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited three small but significant Indian Ocean island states — Seychelles, Mauritius, and Sri Lanka.
  • During this tour, he unveiled India’s strategic vision for the Indian Ocean: Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR).
  • SAGAR seeks to differentiate India’s leadership from the modus operandi of other regionally active major powers and to reassure littoral states as India’s maritime influence grows.
  • As External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar signalled at the fourth Indian Ocean Conference in September last year, India’s SAGAR vision is intended to be “consultative, democratic and equitable”.

  • Founded in 1982, the IOC is an intergovernmental organisation comprising five small-island states in the Western Indian Ocean: the Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, Réunion (a French department), and Seychelles.
  • Over the years, the IOC has emerged as an active and trusted regional actor, working in and for the Western Indian Ocean and implementing a range of projects.
  • Following a request from New Delhi, the IOC granted observer status to India on March 6 at the Commission’s 34th Council of Ministers.
  • India’s recent admission as observer to the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) will put this vision to the test.
  • Since maritime security is a prominent feature of India’s relations with Indian Ocean littoral states, India’s interest in the IOC should be understood in this context.
  • However, India has preferred to engage bilaterally with smaller states in the region.
  • What India will not find in the IOC is a cluster of small states seeking a ‘big brother’ partnership.
  • In 2012, the IOC was one of the four regional organisations to launch the MASE Programme — the European Union-funded programme to promote Maritime Security in Eastern and Southern Africa and Indian Ocean.
  • Under MASE, the IOC has established a mechanism for surveillance and control of the Western Indian Ocean with two regional centres.
  • The Regional Maritime Information Fusion Center (RMIFC), based in Madagascar, is designed to deepen maritime domain awareness by monitoring maritime activities and promoting information sharing and exchange.
  • The Regional Coordination Operations Centre (RCOC), based in Seychelles, will eventually facilitate joint or jointly coordinated interventions at sea based on information gathered through the RMIFC.
  • The IOC has also wielded a disproportionate degree of convening power. In 2018 and 2019, it served as Chair of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS).
  • IOC held ministerial meetings in 2018 and 2019 on maritime security in the Western Indian Ocean, drawing state representations from the region plus major powers such as India, the EU, the U.S., the U.K., Australia, and Russia.
  • The IOC’s achievements offer an opportunity for India to learn, and also to support.
  • The IOC style of ‘bottom-up regionalism’ has produced a subregional view and definition of maritime security problems and local ownership of pathways towards workable solutions.
  • A 2019 policy brief published by the IOC (with inputs from this author), ‘Strengthening Maritime Security in the Western Indian Ocean’, sets out how the counter-piracy response off the coast of Somalia delivered unprecedented regional and international cooperation in the domain of maritime security.
  • The IOC has been seeking more sustainable ways of addressing maritime security threats in the region.
  • India has already signalled a strong interest in the work of the IOC through its request to be admitted as an observer.
  • With its observer status, India will be called upon to extend its expertise to the region, put its satellite imagery to the service of the RMIFC, and establish links with its own Information Fusion Centre.
  • As a major stakeholder in the Indian Ocean with maritime security high on the agenda, India will continue to pursue its interests and tackle maritime security challenges at the macro level in the region.
  • However, as an observer of the IOC, a specific, parallel opportunity to embrace bottom-up regionalism presents itself.

 Ill-equipped to deal with a crisis

  • India has invested very little in the type of science that is needed to meet contemporary environmental challenges.
  • COVID-19 may be its most severe environmental challenge so far, but India faces devastating challenges such as assaults on biodiversity, floods and unmitigated pollution every year.
  • Every disaster underlines national vulnerabilities, accentuated by inadequate science and research infrastructures.
  • In the daily White House press briefings, the two most prominent figures are noted epidemiologists Dr. Deborah Birx and Dr. Anthony Fauci.
  • India is a global superpower in information technology, yet it has few scientists or institutes systematically deploying ‘big data’ and informatics to understand large-scale environmental challenges, including infectious diseases.
  • India is a hotspot for emerging diseases — but to respond adequately, it urgently needs an expanded group of world-class specialists in this area.
  • Complex socio-environmental problems can only be addressed by integrating natural and social sciences to generate multidimensional knowledge.
  • The Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India, one of India’s most accomplished scientists, is playing a critical role in policy responses.
  • Directed by the Principal Scientific Adviser’s Office, and with the Prime Minister’s support, there are nine large national science missions in various stages of implementation. .
  • These include a mission in quantum computing and another in biodiversity and human well-being, with an important component on emergent infectious diseases.
  • India needs substantial investments in a science directed towards the well-being of all social sectors; a science for realising the UN SDGs; a science to build resilience against environmental disasters; and a science for healing humanity’s relationship with Nature to ward off biodiversity loss and mitigate climate change — the “epidemic” that has been around us for some time.
  • A recent editorial in this newspaper rightly pointed out that by saving biodiversity alone can we ensure a sustainable future for ourselves.
  • India aspires to be a $5 trillion economy. Such aspirations must envision a society that cherishes science and knowledge, enshrines equity, justice and decentralised governance, and respects our natural heritage.
  • We must ensure healthcare as an individual basic right — and Earthcare as a collective right.
  • A change in migrant policy
  • New narratives of mass exodus caused by demonetisation, violence against migrants, and the lockdown imposed to contain the spread of COVID-19.
  • What is common in these narratives is the decisive role played by the state or the lack of it.
  • Sectors such as construction, garment manufacturing, mining, and agriculture would come to a standstill without them.
  • The return of migrants brings to the source States an economic shock as there are no compensatory sources of livelihood.
  • The exodus of seasonal migrants creates apprehensions about the spread of the disease and runs counterproductive to the very purpose of a lockdown.
  • The pathetic working and living conditions of migrants defy the very idea of decent work and general security.
  • Despite the government’s good intentions, the package will not benefit seasonal migrants.
  • This workforce will remain largely deprived of the benefits under the present package at their destination places.
  • The State needs to think out of the box in delivering relief packages.
  • Disasters provide opportunities to correct structural wrongs.

NEWS

  • Huge spike in cases likely in Mumbai: Central panel
  • Maharashtra records 552 fresh cases
  • ICMR asks States to stop using rapid tests for the next 2 days
  •  Following reports of wide variations in results.
  •  If they were found to be not up to the mark, replacements would be sought from the manufacturers, ICMR spokesperson Dr. R.R. Gangakhedkar said.

  • Ministerial team waits as Centre-West Bengal face off
  •  Almost 30 hours after an Inter-Ministerial Central Team (IMCT) landed in Kolkata, the West Bengal government facilitated the visit of the members on Tuesday to take stock of the COVID-19 situation.
  •  The team remained at the BSF headquarters in the city and was unable to move out till late in the afternoon.
  • 2 Cong. rebels find a place in M.P. Cabinet
  • Cremations possible, but not immersions
  • 5 of those arrested for Moradabad attack test positive for COVID-19
  • CEC stuck in U.S. due to travel curbs
  • Gujarat sees 239 new cases, 19 deaths