It has not provoked a fierce nationalistic backlash in response to a foreign leader’s insult.
Worsening pollution in northern parts of the country - stubble burning + Dussehra festivities
His criticism of India and China is also incongruent as they have pledged to implement the Paris Agreement while Mr. Trump has pulled the U.S. out of the pact.
Sensors of the Central and State Pollution Control Boards and other private stations across the north currently show PM2.5, or fine particulate matter levels, in the very unhealthy or even hazardous bands.
Bad air quality - shorter lifespan
India is seeking to address its chronic air quality crisis partly by raising emission standards and fuels.
National air quality standard for annual average PM2.5 is 40 mcg per cubic metre, which is four times the WHO limit.
America is losing the Cold War with China (ToI)
Writing recently Robert Zoellick, former US trade representative, observed that President Donald Trump was losing his new ‘Cold War’ with China as he had failed to reduce the trade deficit with it and did not lead US allies in pursuit of common interests.
Presidential candidate Joseph Biden has promised that if elected, he would build a “united front of US allies and partners to confront China’s abusive behaviours”.
Are the US allies willing to confront China in security and economic domains?
Germany, Japan, Asean and many other countries have a robust economic relationship with China.
EU countries do not have any adverse security relationship with China.
Italy, Greece, several Central and East European members of EU are tied with China in Belt and Road and other advantageous initiatives.
Trust of allies in Europe and East Asia in the US has waned after Trump’s erratic leadership.
Trump’s tariffs on China’s exports did not produce the desired impact.
Will the new US president be able to persuade his partners to impose common tariffs or sanctions on China?
China is expected to grow by 2% in 2020 while most other major economies would contract.
The rising China poses an immediate challenge to the territorial integrity and security of many countries; its unfair policies have aided China’s rapid economic development at the expense of others.
China has resorted to punitive attacks against South Korea, Japan and Australia and recently India for not following its diktat.
The free world has to come together to push back China’s aggression to safeguard their societies.
India with its growing economy, large professional armed forces and a determination to resist China’s onslaught, could be a strong partner to push back China’s abusive behaviours.
The US will have to assist in rebuilding the economic resilience, military and technological capabilities of India and other countries at China’s periphery, in this common pursuit.
SAARC must watch divisive neo-imperialism | Pioneer
The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was created in 1985 to promote economic development and social progress in South Asia.
At present, it has eight member countries, namely Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
India was the Chair of the SAARC Summit in 2007 and this was arguably the most productive session that the group ever witnessed.
The launching of negotiations to bring services into the South Asia Free Trade Area (SAFTA).
The unilateral granting of zero duty access by India to SAARC Least Developed Countries (LDCs)
The formal induction of Afghanistan into SAARC as the eighth member
The setting up of the South Asian University
The establishment of the SAARC Food Bank
The SAARC Development Fund
The signing of the Convention on Mutual Assistance on Criminal Matters
The momentum generated was carried forward by the SAARC summit held in Colombo in 2008.
The economic and social welfare of a country is greatly advanced if it interacts as part of a regional bloc rather than individually.
The emergence of a number of regional blocs in Asia, Africa and the US is evidence of this reality.
An integrated regional economy accelerates the fiscal growth of member countries through the advantages of geographical proximity and economies of scale.
Furthermore, member countries enjoy better leverage in dealing with the global systems of finance, investment and trade.
A regional bloc also provides a stabilising cushion from the destabilising fluctuations in the global economy.
Regional cooperation is pivotal for prosperity in South Asia.
Economic synergy often leads to solution of disputes, including political differences.
However, intra-regional trade among SAARC countries is at present less than five per cent, while it is 62 per cent in the European Union, 55 per cent in the North American Free Trade Area and 35 per cent in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
SAFTA is the first step towards a more intense synergy, which should ultimately lead to a South Asian Union and a single currency.
The solution to our common predicament requires peace and an atmosphere of dialogue and cooperation rather than of conflict and confrontation.
Peace is essential for national as well as regional prosperity.
While defence is an element indispensable in uncertain circumstances, detente stands for dialogue, arms control, the exchange of views at all levels and alternative thinking.
Europe has now progressed beyond “defence and detente” and has entered the path of effective regional integration.
Experience has shown that bilateral agreements between countries of South Asia are mutually beneficial.
The Indo-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement became operational in 2000 and produced good results within a short period of time.
The Indo-Nepal Trade Treaty, too, is a good example of bilateral cooperation between two countries. India has now bilateral agreements with Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
Unless trade ties between India and Pakistan are normalised, South Asian economic cooperation will not succeed.
The normalisation of economic relations between the two countries is indeed crucial for the success of SAARC.
The Governments of India, Pakistan and other countries of SAARC ought to join hands across national borders and religious differences, agree on zero tolerance towards every form of extremism and terrorism and redress the grievances of the disaffected and marginalised.
They must beware the machinations of neo-imperialism and its strategy to divide and rule.
Governments apart, civil society, intelligentsia, the business community and the non-governmental organisations must all emphatically promote awareness about the need and advantage of regional cooperation.
There ought to be a much greater interaction between civil society and the political class across the different countries of South Asia.
Regrettably, such an interaction is minimal.
South Asia continues to have the highest number of people in the world living below the poverty line, outstripping sub-Saharan Africa in this regard.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) points out that among the 154 countries for which data are available, 28 did not attain any of the three objectives which the international community gathered at the World Education Forum had agreed should be achieved by all nations by 2015.
The three goals are: universal primary education, free schooling of acceptable quality and the removal of gender disparities in education.
All the countries of South Asia with the exception of Sri Lanka are among these 28 countries.
Regrettably, the subcontinent invests more in armaments than in social infrastructure.
India and Pakistan spend more than three times as much on weaponry as they do on education or health.
Women at the heart of recovery
India’s fight against COVID-19 is at a critical juncture.
The recovery is offering India two golden opportunities:
To build climate resilience for the most vulnerable by ensuring that stimulus measures are green.
To meaningfully address long-standing gender equality issues.
Fragile health systems and frontline health workers are overburdened and lives and livelihoods impacted.
The poor, Adivasis, migrants, informal workers, sexual minorities, people with disabilities and women all face a greater brunt than most.
Beyond this, the causes and effects of climate change — stressed agriculture, food insecurity, unplanned urban growth, thinning forest covers, rising temperatures and shrinking water resources — have also hit vulnerable groups disproportionately.
Greater demands of unpaid care work during the pandemic and rising rates of reported violence are a stark reminder of the work that remains to be done.
According to the India Voluntary National Review 2020, female labour force participation rate for the 15-59 age group is showing a declining trend and stands at 25.3%.
This is one of the lowest rates in the world.
The Indian government has invested nearly $22.5 billion in COVID-19 recovery.
Strengthening social protection using targeted and appropriate fiscal and policy measures is a good start.
Aligning these recovery packages with India’s commitments on climate change by investing in green jobs will improve lives and make our planet healthier.
These green investments ought to be reflected across agriculture, urban planning, energy and the health sectors and in climate-resilient civil works, including under MGNREGA.
Women, particularly those from indigenous and marginalised communities, play a significant yet unsung role in various sectors.
Comprising more than 50% of the agricultural labour force, and nearly 14% of all entrepreneurs, women’s relationship with the environment and the informal economy can be a useful lever of action to transform the lives and livelihoods of their families and communities.
Disha, a UNDP initiative supported by the IKEA Foundation, has reached one million women and girls with skills and livelihood opportunities.
These investments energise local economies, reduce carbon emissions, enhance climate resilience and disrupt social norms and behaviours that restrict women’s participation in the workforce.
Creating the right financial incentives, fostering sustainable public-private partnerships and enabling women entrepreneurs to access markets, training and mentoring will be critical in scaling up these approaches.
The Asian Development Bank projects that India’s GDP growth rate will rebound to 8% in 2021-22.
Putting women at the heart of this recovery will make it faster, just and inclusive.
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EAM Dr. S Jaishankar meets his US counterpart Mike Pompeo in New Delhi
Yesterday, EAM S. Jaishankar congratulated his Austrian counterpart & people of Austria on their National Day