The Supreme Court on Wednesday admitted a petition filed by the Ministry of Defence (MoD)seeking to exempt armed forces personnel from the ambit of a Constitution Bench judgment of 2018 that decriminalised adultery. One of the chief reasons given by the government for seeking exemption is, incidentally, that “there will always be a concern in the minds of the Army personnel who are operating far away from their families under challenging conditions about the family indulging in untoward activity.” A three-judge Bench led by Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman said the plea had to be considered by a Constitution Bench because the original verdict, striking down Section 497 (adultery) of the Indian Penal Code, was pronounced by a five-judge Bench in September 2018. The court referred the case to the Chief Justice of India to pass appropriate orders to form a five-judge Bench to clarify the impact of the 2018 judgment on the armed forces. The government said in the petition that personnel of the Army, Navy and the Air Force were a “distinct class”. They were governed by special legislations, the Army Act, the Navy Act and the Air Force Act. Adultery amounted to an unbecoming conduct and a violation of discipline under these three Acts. These special laws imposed restrictions on the fundamental rights of the personnel, who function in peculiar situation requiring utmost discipline. The three laws were protected by Article 33 of the Constitution, which allowed the government to modify the fundamental rights of the armed forces personnel. The judgment of 2018 created “instability”. It allowed a personnel charged with carrying on an adulterous or illicit relationship to take cover under the judgment. “In cases of adultery, even if there is a charge against the accused, an argument can be raised that we are circumventing the law and what could not be done directly is being done directly through these Acts,” the Ministry said. ‘Distinct class’ Discipline necessary for the performance of duty, crucial for national safety, would break down. The provisions of the Acts should be allowed to continue to govern the personnel as a “distinct class”, irrespective of the 2018 judgment. It said the court would not, at the time, have been apprised of the different circumstances under which the armed forces operated. “One has to remember that the armed forces exist in an environment wholly different and distinct from civilians. Honour is a sine qua non of the service. Courage and devotion to duty even at the risk to one's life is part of the unwritten contract governing the members of the armed forces,” the Centre said. Besides, the government pointed out that unlike Section 497, the provisions of the three Acts did not differentiate between a man and a woman if they were guilty of an offence. “De hors 497, the Army would equally proceed against a female subject to the Act, if she enters into an adulterous/illicit relationship,” it said. Civil remedy The government also highlighted that the court, despite striking down adultery as a crime, had held that it was “undoubtedly a moral wrong qua the family and the spouse”. The judgment had further recognised that civil remedy existed as adultery remained a ground for divorce. The 2018 judgment had concluded that the law, through Section 497 IPC, cannot “command” married couples to remain loyal to each other for the fear of penal punishment. “Two individuals may part if one cheats, but to attach criminality to infidelity is going too far,” the judgment said in 2018. Section 497 treated a married woman as the commodity of her husband. Adultery was not a crime if the cuckolded husband connived or consented to his wife’s extra-marital affair. Section 497 treated a married woman as her husband’s “chattel”. The provision was a reflection of the social dominance of men prevalent 150 years ago, the court had noted. “Husband is not the master... Obituaries should be written of these historic perceptions,” it had said. A five-judge Bench, last year, dismissed petitions to review the 2018 judgment. Source: The Hindu 📣CIVIL SERVICE TIMES is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@LearnFromSuperbIAS) and stay updated with the latest.
India and the world in 2021: A year to engage and assert
In April 1963, about six months after the 1962 war with China, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru wrote an article in Foreign Affairs magazine, titled ‘Changing India’. He conceded that there was a need to “adjust our relations with friendly countries in the light of the changing actualities of the international situation… the Chinese, ‘devious and deceptive’ as they have proved to be, required that India pay ‘considerably more attention to strengthening her armed forces’.” This task would need “external aid in adequate measure”, he wrote. As India bids adieu to a disruptive year that challenged its diplomatic and military standing, and enters a new one fraught with challenges, it could borrow from Nehru’s words. A reflection of events shows India faced seven hard realities in 2020, and has to deal with six challenges and opportunities in 2021. Hard realities: 2020 #1: China aims for top According to the Chinese Zodiac, 2020 was the Year of Rat. According to legend, in a competition held by the Jade Emperor to decide the zodiac animals, the quick-witted Rat asked the Ox to carry him across the river and jumped down before the Ox crossed the finish line, so the Rat became the first of the Zodiac animals. In 2020, Beijing tried to behave much like the proverbial Rat. A country which, under President Xi Jinping since 2013, had been consolidating its global influence, saw an opportunity in a world distracted with the pandemic. While it was targeted initially for being the source of the coronavirus, Xi’s regime turned around and started to flex its muscle in the region. The Indo-Pacific was its playground, where Chinese naval or militia forces rammed a Vietnamese fishing boat, “buzzed” a Philippines naval vessel, and harassed a Malaysian oil drilling operation. It even tried to arm-twist Australia through trade curbs. And since May, Chinese troops have altered the status quo along the border with India, claimed the lives of 20 Indian soldiers, and violated every agreement to maintain peace. So, while it was infected with the virus first, it claimed to be the first to overcome it, and to recover — as did the proverbial Rat. #2: ‘Trump Americans’ Over the last four years, the US vacated the leadership space at the world stage under the Donald Trump Administration. It walked out of or weakened almost a dozen multilateral bodies or agreements, from the Iran deal to the WHO. While Beijing moved in to claim space, the Trump Administration did one thing right — it targeted China and the Communist Party of China for disrupting the global order. Once Joe Biden takes over as President, the US is expected to reclaim the space vacated by Trump. But, as former Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale has pointed out, the US will be defined by “Trump Americans”. “Going forward, America will not be defined by the Democrats or by the Republicans. It will be defined by the Trump Americans… Beyond the optics, the Trump Americans, who are the new political base, will still shape American policy irrespective of who the president is,” he wrote in The Indian Express on November 5. #3: Acceptance for Taliban Having invaded Afghanistan 19 years ago trying to root out the Taliban, the US finally made peace with them in February as it looks to exit. For India, this meant a beginning of the process of re-engaging with the Taliban, and New Delhi reached out with External Affairs minister S Jaishankar’s attendance through virtual mode and a senior Indian diplomat in Doha. Signalling long-term commitment to Afghanistan’s future — under Taliban or other political forces — India has committed $80 million, over and above its $3 billion commitment in the last two decades. This means New Delhi too is finally looking at the Taliban as a political actor, although it is controlled by the Pakistan militaryt. #4: Middle East equations The US-brokered rapprochement between Israel and four Arab countries — the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan — reflected the changing landscape in the region. With Saudi Arabia and Iran competing for leadership, along with Turkey, in the Islamic world, there have been growing calls for ties with Israel. New Delhi has been ahead of the curve, cultivating ties with Israel as well as Saudi-UAE and the Iranians with deft diplomacy. But it has to be careful to not let its gains get impacted by polarising politics at home — be it through the CAA-NRC or religious fault-lines. #5: Russia-China bonding Brewing for the last three decades, ties between Russia and China got closer in 2020. India has always felt that it was the West, with its approach towards Russia after the annexation of the Crimea in 2014, that has pushed Moscow towards a tighter embrace of Beijing. This has been possible also due to the US’s anti-Chinese rhetoric, collapse of oil prices and Russia’s dependence on Chinese consumption. India has strong ties with Russia, and Moscow was the venue for all the India-China official and ministerial conversations over the border standoff. But, it has taken note of Moscow’s position on the Quad and Indo-Pacific, a near-echo of Beijing’s stance. #6: Assertive neighbours The year began with Bangladesh asserting itself on CAA-NRC, and then Nepal claiming territory and issuing a new map. It brought home the reality that neighbours are no pushovers. By the end of the year, New Delhi had moved to build bridges with both, wary of an active Beijing. Bangladesh pushed back, and India did not notify the CAA rules. Nepal reached out at the highest level. India also watched closely the US and Chinese forays with Maldives and Sri Lanka. India appears to have made peace with the involvement of the US in Maldives, and that of Japan in Sri Lanka and Maldives. # 7: Aspirational India Through 2020, India’s public articulation of “self-reliance” and refusal to sign trade pacts with RCEP countries was widely perceived as “isolationist” and “inward-looking”. India did step up to supply medicines and protective kits to more than 150 countries, but did not come across as the global leader the world needed at this time. Lack of resources, a contracting economy and its populist politics made it come across as an aspirational power. LIMITED TIME OFFER: ENROLL NOW AND GET 65% DISCOUNT 2021: Challenges, opportunities #1: Countering China India’s response to the border standoff has been guided by a thinking that one has to stand up to the bully, but that has come at a cost: soldiers braving the harsh winter and military assets deployed on land, in air and at sea. The standoff has reinforced Nehru’s belief in 1963 that India needs “external aid in adequate measure”. India will need continuing support from the US, Japan, Australia, besides Europe leaders such as France, Germany and the UK. #2: High table at UN As India enters the UN Security Council as a non-permanent member for the eighth time, stakes are high in the wake of this leadership contest between China and the rest of the world. India will have to take positions on issues it had carefully avoided — from Tibet to Taiwan, from Iran-Saudi rivalry to the refugee crisis between Bangladesh and Myanmar. While cross-border terrorism is one of the top concerns and India will work towards isolating Pakistan further, a limited fixation on the western neighbour would distract from India’s aspirations of being a global leader. #3: Friendship with US Much is expected from the Biden Administration for building on Indo-US ties, but a lot will depend on how the US views China in the larger scheme of things. Moves towards a possible US-China trade deal will be watched by South Block closely. One of the key tests will be the future of Quad, and the Indo-Pacific strategy of the new administration. New Delhi will build on its deepening strategic and defence ties with the US, and would want to resolve trade and visa issues. #4: Wooing Europe As the UK and the EU agree on a deal, India will look ahead to negotiating a deal with the UK and a long-pending one with the EU. For a start, it has invited British PM Boris Johnson as Chief Guest for Republic Day. In May, there is a possibility of an India-EU summit. Already, France and Germany have come up with their Indo-Pacific strategy, and a potential European strategy is a possibility, but a EU-China trade deal would be dissected by Indian negotiators. #5: Engaging with neighbours China’s growing economic footprint in India’s neighbourhood is a concern. While it is being played out in Nepal, India will also watch China’s moves in the rest of the subcontinent. Its moves in Iran, too, were closely watched, and as Presidential elections take place in Iran this year, stakes for engagement will be high. One of the important aspects of 2021 is that, while there is a churning in Nepal, almost every South Asian country has had elections in the last couple of years. That means the governments in these countries are stable. As the world emerges from the pandemic, New Delhi has a lot to gain from what could be “vaccine diplomacy” with neighbours in 2021 — supplying vaccines either free or at affordable costs. #6: Global, not just aspirational For long, India has played the role of an emerging power — with ambitions to play the role of a global power. In 2021, New Delhi will host the BRICS summit, and start its preparations for the G-20 summit in 2023. And the India-Africa Forum summit, which could not be held in 2020, could be held in 2021 or later. New Delhi has opportunities to articulate and be vocal on issues that matter to the world, and be proactive to further its interests. As India looks ahead in 2021, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar may have taken a leaf out of Nehru’s playbook. In his book The India Way: Strategies for an Uncertain World, he sums up India’s foreign policy goals in this age of disruption, “Many friends, few foes, great goodwill, more influence. That must be achieved through the India Way.” In the Chinese Zodiac, 2021 is the Year of the Ox — considered productive for those who are “hardworking and methodical” and “fully feel the weight of their responsibilities”. It is “a year when it is necessary to redouble the efforts to accomplish anything at all”. That could well be the Indian strategy in the new year, as it navigates a post-Covid-19 future. Source: The Indian Express 📣CIVIL SERVICE TIMES is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@LearnFromSuperbIAS) and stay updated with the latest.
Our misshapen federalism is not about Centre vs states, but co-produced by political culture in both
Federalism in India reminds one of the grinning Cheshire cat in Alice in Wonderland. At one point the cat disappears and all that remains is the grin, an enigmatic trace of doubtful significance. Federalism is such a vanishing act. The truth, however, is that there never has been a serious principled constituency for federalism in India. Let us examine the sources of federalism scepticism. The Indian Constitution was designed to be opportunistic about federalism. As BR Ambedkar had put it, “India’s Draft Constitution can be both unitary as well as federal according to the requirements of time and circumstances.” As he went on to say, “Such a power of converting itself into a unitary state, no federation possesses.” The ideological underpinnings of this flexible federalism are still the default common sense of Indian politics. The imperatives of security, state building, and economic development are always allowed to trump federal pieties. Four things sustain federalism. But, in retrospect, they turned out to be very contingent political foundations for federalism. The first was a genuine concern about whether a centralised state could accommodate India’s linguistic and cultural diversity. The States Reorganisation Act and the compromises on the issue of languages was a victory for federalism. It allowed India to use federalism to accommodate linguistic diversity. But ironically, it is precisely because this issue got defused through intelligent compromise that it is no longer a potent force in Indian politics. All governments that have wanted to undermine federalism, including the BJP, are often careful about not undermining this compromise. Since only an identity-based politics in a state can be a genuine threat to the Centre, taking that off the political agenda actually gives the Centre a freer hand on other aspects of federalism. So long as regional linguistic identities are not threatened there is no natural source of resistance to centralisation. The second underpinning of federalism is actual distribution of political power. The rise of coalition governments, economic liberalisation, regional parties, seemed to provide propitious ground for political federalism. But one must not overestimate the commitment to federalism in that period of fragmentation. Political federalism is quite compatible with financial, and administrative centralisation. But what fragmentation of power effectively meant was that each state could bargain for certain things; or very strong leaders could veto central proposals. It is striking that the period of fragmented power, strong chief ministers, did nothing to strengthen the institutions of federalism, for example, by making the council of chief ministers a more robust forum. “Federalism for me but not for thee” — this can be evidenced in the bifurcation of erstwhile Andhra, which was done against the resolution of the state legislature, and in Kashmir which was stripped of statehood. No chivalrous federalism warriors reached for their swords to defend the principle that a state can’t be extinguished without its own consent. Regional parties do not necessarily imply a coalition for federalism. In the current farmers’ agitation, these contradictions are on full display. The federalism argument against the farm bills is the strongest legal argument. But you cannot both ask for a Central MSP guarantee and defend federalism at the same time. For its part, the central government itself allowed provisions that enable states to suspend labour laws if necessary, but is unwilling to do that in the case of agriculture. The third thing that sustains federalism is the political and institutional culture. But alas, the culture of both the BJP and the Congress was, to put it mildly, committed to the most extreme interpretation of flexible federalism, including procedural impropriety to oust opponents. The only thing that might have changed significantly in the political culture is what Neelanjan Sircar and Yamini Aiyar call attribution effects in politics. Because of the increasing presidentialisation of national politics, a single-party dominance with powerful messaging power, and change in forms of communication, the attribution of policy successes or failures might change, diminishing the stature of chief ministers considerably. The other source of institutional culture might be the Supreme Court. But there is little in the Court’s conduct that allows us to predict where it might come down on federalism issues. To be fair, there was mostly a bi-partisan consensus on honouring the technical recommendations of institutions like the Finance Commission, and we will have to see if this last bastion of formal impartiality is eroded. The fourth thing that sustained federalism was what Louise Tillin has brilliantly analysed as “asymmetrical federalism” — special exemptions given to various states. But asymmetrical federalism has always been subject to three pressures. For Kashmir, asymmetrical federalism came to be seen as the source, not the resolution, of the security threat. Even in the North-east, local conflicts within the scheme of asymmetrical federalism and a discourse of security allowed the Centre to step in. And increasingly, there will be pressure on the question: Which laws under asymmetrical federalism are compatible with Article 14 of the Indian Constitution? Other ironies abound. The most far-reaching change in the Indian Constitution on federalism was GST. It does increase centralisation in the system. But no matter what one thinks of GST, warts and all, it is a product of the cooperation of the states, who still have a significant role in shaping it. The states did push back against the possibility of the Centre reneging on its commitment on payments. But except in the case of financial meltdown at the Centre which seriously affects all states, there will not be much pushback. So states will also use their autonomy selectively. Most states are reluctant to honour more decentralisation within, to rural and urban bodies. Again, ironically, BJP-ruled states like Haryana and Madhya Pradesh are jumping on the bandwagon for local domicile-based reservation in the private labour market. These are against the party’s own obsession of “one nation, one everything,” but also in contravention of basic constitutional principles. It is true that the Centre disproportionately controls resources in India; but very few states have shown a zeal to increase their own financial headroom by utilising whatever powers they might have on taxation. So flexible federalism will be bent in all kinds of ways. But it is important to remember that this mess is not a product of Centre versus states. It has been co-produced by a political culture in both Centre and the states. Few are losing sleep over federalism, perhaps because there is only the mysterious grin, but no cat to bell. Written by Pratap Bhanu Mehta Source: The Indian Express 📣CIVIL SERVICE TIMES is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@LearnFromSuperbIAS) and stay updated with the latest.
Trilateral meet held after 6 years, looks beyond maritime security
AFTER THE Quad grouping, India on Saturday revived the Indian Ocean troika with Sri Lanka and Maldives to promote “meaningful cooperation” in the Indian Ocean region on “maritime security”, as Beijing’s aggressive behaviour in the Indo-Pacific has caught global attention. Mauritius and Seychelles joined as observers through virtual mode. In a shift from the past, the National Security Advisors of India, Sri Lanka and Maldives decided — after their in-person trilateral meeting in Colombo — to broad-base the maritime security dialogue and include “terrorism”, “radicalisation”, “extremism”, “drugs”, “arms and human trafficking”, “money laundering” and “cybersecurity” as they decided to cooperate in these areas of common concern. This is the first time that NSA Ajit Doval participated in the trilateral dialogue as the group has not met since March 2014. This mechanism has been revived after six years – past meetings were held in Maldives (October 2011), Sri Lanka (July 2013) and India (March 2014). Sources told The Indian Express that it was Doval’s initiative to include “common security threats” of terrorism and extremism among other areas, and Sri Lanka’s Defence Secretary Maj Gen (Retd) Kamal Gunaratne and Maldives Defence Minister Mariya Didi readily agreed. Past joint statements after the trilateral meeting were limited in their scope, as they did not mention terrorism – they discussed maritime security, maritime domain awareness and illegal maritime activities. “The Sri Lankan establishment has put terrorism high on agenda, following the Easter bombings last year. So, there was a common understanding on the issue of expanding the scope of the dialogue,” a source told The Indian Express. The deputy NSAs have been tasked to carry forward the agenda discussed at the meeting, and they will meet twice a year. A joint statement issued after the meeting on Saturday said the “past deliberations and outcomes have helped the three countries in improving close coordination in maritime security of the region. These were supplemented by deputy NSA level meetings for sustained engagements and implementation of the discussions at the NSA level meetings”. It said that “recognising the significance of the forum for promoting meaningful cooperation in the Indian Ocean region on common issues pertaining to maritime security, the three countries took stock of the current maritime security environment in the region, and discussed mutual cooperation in the areas of maritime domain awareness, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, joint exercises, capacity building, maritime security and threats, marine pollution and maritime underwater heritage.” This is important since India has been concerned over the increased aggressive behaviour by China in the Indo-Pacific region, especially this year, in the middle of the pandemic. New Delhi wants all the neighbouring maritime neighbours to be on the same page on the issue of Beijing’s assertive and proactive actions in the Indian Ocean region, sources said. “They agreed to further strengthen cooperation in dealing with these challenges to ensure peace and security in the region for common benefit. The three countries also exchanged views on common security threats and agreed to broad-base cooperation by expanding the scope to improve intelligence sharing and include issues like terrorism, radicalisation, extremism, drugs, arms, human trafficking, money laundering, cybersecurity and effect of climate change on maritime environment,” the statement said. Senior officials from Seychelles and Mauritius joined the trilateral meeting through video-conferencing, as they were invited as “observers”. External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar is in Seychelles to meet the new political leadership, as India develops a strategically-important project on the Assumption island. The joint statement said the heads of delegations “agreed to meet regularly to share, discuss and ensure timely implementation of the decisions taken in the meeting”. “They also decided to hold deputy NSA level working group meetings, biannually for cooperation at operational level,” it said. Doval, who arrived in Colombo on Friday, met Maldives Defence Minister Didi and discussed deepening the bilateral partnership. On Saturday, he called on Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and had a “productive” discussion with him. Eye on China Sensing Beijing’s aggression in the region and beyond, New Delhi sent NSA Ajit Doval to Colombo to build a strategic coalition with maritime neighbours in the Indian Ocean region. The group will be tested in the coming months as Beijing makes its moves. Source: The Indian Express 📣CIVIL SERVICE TIMES is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@LearnFromSuperbIAS) and stay updated with the latest.
The room where Radcliffe drew the lines of India’s partition
Praveen Siddharth (private secretary to the President of India) It is Tuesday and our weekly afternoon ritual in the cabinet room of the Rashtrapati Bhavan begins. Seated around a majestic rectangular hardwood table that can easily accommodate 50 people, we are gathered for a staff meeting. The agenda for today’s meeting is displayed on a large LCD screen placed at the far end of the table. Sometimes, the topic of discussion concerns an upcoming visit of a head of state. But, normally, the discussions are less exciting but equally important, such as administrative issues of the vast President’s estate or upkeep of the grand main building and its numerous rooms. Fifteen minutes into the meeting, green tea and samosas are wheeled in, providing a welcome diversion. The meeting persists with the speaker oblivious to the excitement caused by the entrance of the liveried attendants. The long table soon sees a flurry of activity with the clanging of silverware and clinking of cups. As I sip my tea, I marvel that this was the same table on which history had been written. Or rather, drawn up. In 1947, the cabinet room had served as the final venue for the Radcliffe commission, set up to demarcate the boundaries between India and East and West Pakistan. At that time, large detailed maps had been laid out in the space now invaded by teacups and plates, holding leftover crumbs. Men sat down in meetings across this table agonising over a thin pencil line, whose shape decided the destiny of millions across the subcontinent. The man in the hot seat then was Sir Cyril Radcliffe, a British lawyer who had never set foot in Asia before. He was brought in by the Viceroy Lord Mountbatten to do the inglorious job of dissecting India. As the poet WH Auden wrote: “But in seven weeks it was done, the frontiers decided; A continent for better or worse divided. The next day he sailed for England, where he quickly forgot; The case, as a good lawyer must” (Partition, 1966). Sipping my tea, I hoped history and the poets would judge us, sitting here today in the same room, more kindly. Meetings are a remarkably enduring aspect of government life. They have been taking place regularly in the cabinet room for almost a century. Previously, this room was known as the council room and had served as the meeting room for the Viceroy’s executive council, the de jure cabinet. There was rarely an Indian face then. The table in the room was the battleground across which Indians tried to wrest the governance of the country inch by inch. Gradually, more Indians were included in the council until 1946, when the interim government began to function with just the Governor-General and the Commander-in-Chief remaining British. Today, only familiar faces are seen in the room and all are assuredly Indian. Like an old warhorse that has seen its share of battles, the table rests, having witnessed the sun set over the empire. As the discussions continue, my eyes wander to the walls of the room. And these walls are like none you would have ever seen. Large maps of the subcontinent are painted on them but not the boring kinds thrust on every schoolchild. These are painted in bright colours with playful cartoons marking out important towns and sights. Sir Edwin Lutyens initially had planned to paint more sedate and ornate maps inspired by the Galleria delle Carte Geografiche (gallery of maps) in the Vatican, painted by geographer Ignazio Danti between 1580 and ’83. He proposed the name of MacDonald Gill from London for the job. In a letter to the Viceroy, Lutyens wrote about the British graphic designer and cartographer: ‘…had a long experience at such work and is now engaged on some of the Empire Board maps’. But MacDonald Gill sent an estimate of Rs 19,000 for the job which was a princely sum in 1930. Meanwhile, Percy Brown, who had retired as the principal of the Government school of Art in Calcutta in 1927 and was serving as the Curator of the Victoria Memorial hall, offered to paint the room with Indian painters and craftsmen for half the price. Between June and October of 1930, the paintings on the walls of the cabinet room were brought to life by Indian painters hired by Brown, most of whom had never travelled beyond their own country. Yet, I can’t help but wonder how many dreams these walls have given wings to. The walls continue to maintain their magical spell over me and I can’t seem to peel my eyes off them. There are magnificent sea dragons, resplendent tigers, moustachioed men peering into the horizon, alluring sea nymphs and fleets of camels. Etched on the north walls of the room is the air route from Delhi to London with halts at Gwadar, Alexandria, Athens and Belgrade. Each of these cities is represented by a charming motif. The maps don’t just reveal places, they magically transport me there. One moment I am part of a group of nomads leading their yaks across the Taklamakan and the next I am face to face with a Naga warrior in his tribal attire. Turning my gaze, I heroically escape bandits prowling above the Arabian lands to board a waiting seaplane that flies me over the Sphinx. Just like that, the whole room comes alive with a kaleidoscope of lands and marvels. And I am no longer bound by the agenda of the 3 pm meeting. Meanwhile, in another world, the meeting draws to a close. Papers are gathered and laptops shut. My small seaplane sputters and smoke billows out of the rotors. As the lights in the cabinet room are turned off, I get out of my seaplane and wait patiently for it to be Tuesday once more. Source: The Indian Express 📣CIVIL SERVICE TIMES is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@LearnFromSuperbIAS) and stay updated with the latest.
The transport sector in India contributes one-third of the total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, within which the lion’s share is that of road transport. Prime minister Narendra Modi, in his recent speech, emphasised electric mobility and hydrogen as fuel as two of the seven key pillars of India’s energy strategy. Over the years, the government has made concerted efforts to tackle vehicular emissions with policies steps and programmes such as the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric Vehicles (FAME I) scheme, FAME II, tax benefits, etc. As of October 20, 50 buses running on hydrogen spiked compressed natural gas (H-CNG) have been deployed in a six-month pilot project in Delhi. Unlike the global trend of blending hydrogen with CNG, these buses will run on a new technology patented by the Indian Oil Corporation Limited that produces H-CNG (18% hydrogen in CNG) directly from natural gas, without having to undertake expensive conventional blending. This compact blending process provides a 22% reduction in cost as compared to conventional blending. In comparison to CNG, H-CNG allows for a 70% reduction in carbon monoxide emissions and a 25% reduction in hydrocarbon emissions. The new H-CNG technology requires only minor tweaks in the current design of CNG buses. Although the current pilot phase of H-CNG buses is a step in the right direction, it should perhaps be considered as a stop-gap arrangement, at least until a cost-effective variant of green hydrogen blended fuel is discovered, which would address emission mitigation and will also be more economical. While hydrogen-spiked CNG provides an innovative alternative to hydrogen-blended CNG, the fact remains that the fuel is still being produced from natural gas, ie, a fossil fuel. Typically, hydrogen can be produced in one of three ways, i.e., from fossil fuels (grey hydrogen), through carbon capture utilisation & storage (CCUS) application and fossil fuels (blue hydrogen), or by using renewable energy (green hydrogen). In the case of green hydrogen, electricity generated from renewable energy is used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. This is by far the cleanest and perhaps the most expensive method of producing hydrogen at the moment. Majority of the hydrogen production in India takes place via fossil fuels and is used primarily in the chemical and petrochemical sectors. From a commercial viability standpoint, when deciding on shifting towards cleaner fuel alternatives, two primary contenders come to mind—battery-operated electric vehicles (BEV) and hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV). Notwithstanding the various benefits of hydrogen FCEVs over EVs in terms of reduced refuelling time (5 minutes versus 30-40 minutes with fast charges), higher energy density, longer range, etc, what one needs to focus on is the entire life cycle of these vehicles as opposed to restricting the analysis to just the carbon-free tailpipe emissions. According to a recent report by Deloitte (2020) on hydrogen and fuel cells, the lifecycle GHG emissions from hydrogen FCEVs ranges between 130-230 g CO2e per km. The lower end of the range depicts the case of hydrogen production from renewables while the higher end reflects the case of hydrogen production from natural gas. The corresponding life cycles GHG emissions for BEV and internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles range between 160-250 g CO2e and 180-270 g CO2e respectively. It is equally important to take cognisance of the fact that not all aspects of hydrogen as a transportation fuel paint a pretty picture. For instance, the cost of lithium ion-based battery-operated vehicles has been reducing while hydrogen fuel cell technology is still in its nascent stages and is relatively quite expensive. According to a study undertaken by Volkswagen, which compares BEVs and hydrogen FCEVs, it is claimed that in the case of the latter, roughly 45% of energy is lost during the electrolysis process. Moreover, out of the remaining 55% energy that survives the process, another 55% is lost during the conversion of hydrogen into electricity within the vehicle. To put things in perspective, this implies that a hydrogen-run vehicle achieves an energy efficiency rate of 25-35%, which may vary based on the model. This analysis has been conducted with regard to passenger cars, and the results may differ in the case of heavy-duty vehicles. However, given that these are early days, one can be hopeful that we will be able to achieve economies of scale and attain cost reductions. This is in line with the report by the Hydrogen Council (2020) on hydrogen cost competitiveness that states scaling up and augmenting fuel cell production from 10,000 to 200,000 units can deliver a 45% reduction in the cost per unit. Similarly, the versatility of hydrogen allows for complementarity across its numerous applications. Moreover, based on the numbers quoted by this report, fuel cell stacks for passenger vehicles are expected to exhibit learning rates of 17% in the coming future. The corresponding figures for commercial vehicles stand at 11%. According to estimates by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) (2020), some of the findings of green hydrogen projects under construction in Australia, China and Spain have been presented in the accompanying graphic. Efforts are underway in India, and the research activities pertaining to hydrogen have been compiled and recently released in the form of a country status report. Adoption of hydrogen has seen several supporters in the country. In their quest for becoming carbon neutral by 2035, Reliance Industries plan to replace transportation fuels with hydrogen and clean electricity. Similarly, the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) is considering setting up a green hydrogen production facility in Andhra Pradesh. The ministry of road transport and highways issued a notification proposing amendments to the Central Motor Vehicles Rules (1989) to incorporate safety standards for hydrogen fuel cell technology vehicles. As per a policy brief issued by TERI, demand for hydrogen in India is expected to increase 3-10 fold by 2050. Against this backdrop, the future of hydrogen, particularly green hydrogen, looks promising in India. Source: Financial Express 📣CIVIL SERVICE TIMES is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@LearnFromSuperbIAS) and stay updated with the latest.
Economic geography central to India’s regional inequality woes
Is regional inequality in India actually a problem of economic geography? There are two good reasons to revisit this question right now. First, the past few years have seen renewed rumblings about how some states are benefiting at the expense of others. The ongoing national election has been free of such issues, but the next one will be fought under the shadow of the delimitation that is due in 2026, and which could redistribute political power to the North while economic power gets concentrated in the South. Second, this year marks the tenth anniversary when economic geography entered mainstream policy debates across the world, thanks to the decision by the World Bank to devote its 2009 edition of the World Development Report to the issue of reshaping economic geography. The intellectual roots of the new economic geography can be traced back to landmark papers by Paul Krugman, especially the 1991 paper titled Increasing Returns And Economic Geography. Krugman himself built on some of the earlier insights from Avinash Dixit and Joseph Stiglitz. The 2009 edition of the World Development Report runs into more than 400 pages and covers a lot of territory. One key idea in the 2009 report is worth using to frame the question of regional divergence in India. The World Bank used alliterative elegance to identify the key dimensions of economic development—density, distance and division. The three capture the human, physical and political aspects of economic geography. This framework is useful when thinking about the economic challenges of the Gangetic plain. The Northern states are densely populated. But this density has clearly not provided the economies of scale to promote rapid economic growth. One problem is that the dense population in the Gangetic plains is not clustered in large cities. Prateek Raj of the Indian Institute of Management in Bengaluru has written about the metropolis vacuum in the Hindi speaking states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, which together have 500 million residents (bit.ly/2UOS2Kv). “The glaring absence of a major metropolitan center in the region has forced young people to migrate away from the small towns and move to other cities in the West and the South," he argues. Then there is the challenge of distance, or more generally market access. The states along the Indian coast have been better able to take advantage of the opportunities provided by globalization. The rise of the Pearl River Delta in China is very similar. It is impossible to reduce physical distance, but economic distance can be reduced through better transport networks. China has begun doing this through massive investments in high-speed trains and intercity highways. India has not paid enough attention to building such infrastructure, especially a better railway network that connects the hinterlands to the coastal areas. The challenge of political division is usually more applicable to trade between countries, but there were trade barriers between states till recently. The move to the goods and services tax (GST) finally integrates India into a single market—a free trade agreement that the country has signed with itself. Much of the immediate GST debates have been naturally focussed on tax rates and tax collections. How GST helps the large states of the North will be worth watching, especially since it is a tax on consumption rather than production. The World Bank had said in 2009 that the hierarchy when it came to regional inequality is that distance is the most important factor, followed by density and finally division. It also optimistically added: “As incomes increase, living standards converge between places where economic mass has concentrated and where it has not, but not before diverging." How does such convergence take place? Essential household consumption converges first, access to public services converges next, and wages and income converge last. The population in the Gangetic plain is too large—nearly a fourth of the entire Indian population—for mass migration to be a viable option. That would entail too many political risks. Policymakers would do well to look at the challenge through the prism of economic geography—density, distance, division. This does not mean the deeper issues such as institutional decline or poor governance in some of these states do not matter. But encouraging the growth of new metropolitan centres, transport infrastructure to improve market access and more trade within different regions of the country have to be part of the solution. The optimistic view is that regional inequality will eventually shrink as economic growth spreads across India. The pessimistic view is that regional inequality will grow to an extent when federal tensions become a threat to unity. Political leaders in both the leading and laggard states need to see that the first option is the one to pursue because the second will be a human disaster. The principles of economic geography can play a part when it comes to thinking about the possible solutions. Source: LIVE MINT 📣CIVIL SERVICE TIMES is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@LearnFromSuperbIAS) and stay updated with the latest.
How sea level rise could impact millions of people, cost billions of dollars.
In a study published Thursday in the journal Scientific Reports, researchers predict that by 2100, the global population potentially exposed to episodic coastal flooding will increase from 128-171 million to 176-287 million. The value of global assets exposed to these episodes is projected to be between $6,000-$9,000 billion, or 12-20 per cent of the global GDP. What are the findings of the study? The researchers note that sea-level rise (SLR) is a “well accepted” consequence of climate change. Their study has found that globally, of the 68 per cent area that is prone to coastal flooding, over 32 per cent can be attributed to regional SLR. This, they say, will significantly increase coastal flooding by 2100. What is regional SLR? Because sea level rise is not uniform across the world, there is a need to differentiate regional SLR from the global rates. For instance, the gravitational pull of the polar ice sheets has different effects on sea levels in different parts of the world, which means regional SLR can be higher or lower than the global SLR. Relatively too, regional SLR can be higher or lower. For instance, according to an article published in Yale Environment 360, SLR in places such as Scotland, Iceland and Alaska could be significantly less than the regional SLR for eastern US. Their results indicate by the year 2100, for most of the world, flooding incidents that are typically associated with a 1 in a 100-year event could occur as frequently as 1 in 10 years, “primarily as a result of sea level rise.” As per this assessment, 0.5-0.7 per cent of the world’s land area is at a risk of episodic coastal flooding by 2100, impacting 2.5-4.1 per cent of the population, assuming there are no coastal defenses or adaptation measures in place. How much of a threat is sea level rise? Last year in September, Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo announced that the country’s capital would be relocated from Jakarta to the province of East Kalimantan on the lesser populated island of Borneo. The relocation was meant to reduce the burden on Jakarta, which has been facing problems such as poor quality air and traffic gridlocks, and is particularly prone to flooding. It is also the largest Indonesian city with a population of 1 crore. It is located on the North West coast of the most populous island in the world, Java. The combination of climate change and heavy congestion continues to bury Jakarta, the “world’s fastest-sinking city”, by about 25 cm into the ground every year. The situation looks grim for India’s financial capital Mumbai as well. As per some projections, climate change is expected to inundate significant sections of Mumbai by 2050, impacting millions of people. Other cities that regularly feature in the lists endangered by climate change include Guangzhou, Jakarta, Miami, and Manila. IPCC projections too maintain that SLR is going to accelerate further and faster in the coming years. Some of the expected impacts of SLR over the course of the century include habitat contraction, loss of functionality and biodiversity and lateral and inland migration. What are some ways of protecting against sea level rise? Indonesia’s government launched a coastal development project called a Giant Sea Wall or “Giant Garuda” (Garuda is the name of a bird from Hindu mythology and is Indonesia’s national symbol) in 2014 meant to protect the city from floods. In a paper that was accepted for publication earlier this year in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, researchers proposed an extraordinary measure to protect 25 million people, and important economic regions of 15 Northern European countries from rising seas as a result of climate change. They suggested a mammoth Northern European Enclosure Dam (NEED), enclosing all of the North Sea. The idea involved construction of two dams of a combined length of 637 km to protect Northern Europe against “unstoppable” SLR. They also identified other regions such as the Persian Gulf, the Mediterranean Sea, the Baltic Sea, the Irish Sea, and the Red Sea that could benefit from similar mega enclosures. A Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate, published last year by the IPCC, noted that “well-designed coastal protection” could both “reduce expected damages” and “be cost efficient for urban and densely populated… areas”. Source: NASA, The Indian Express 📣CIVIL SERVICE TIMES is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@LearnFromSuperbIAS) and stay updated with the latest.
How the US counts its votes in the presidential election, and why it’s taking so long.
As the US election verdict remains inconclusive with key swing states still individually counting votes, we take a look at how the world’s oldest democracy counts their votes, and the reason behind the delay in the results. So, how are elections supervised in the US? In the US, all elections — federal, state, and local — are directly organised by the ruling governments of individual states. According to the White House website, the US Constitution and laws grant the states wide latitude in how they administer elections, resulting in varying rules across the country. In many US states, the responsibility of conducting elections falls on the state’s secretary of state — a politician who in some states is directly elected and in others appointed by the state governor. How is the election process different from India? In India, the Constitution under Article 324 provides for a separate rule-making Election Commission that is independent of the executive in government. Set up in 1950, it is charged with the responsibility of conducting polls to the offices of the President and Vice President of India, to Parliament, and to the state Assemblies and Legislative Councils. In India, the ECI has been devised as an apolitical body — a key priority of the country’s founding leaders. Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, while introducing Article 324 in the Constituent Assembly on June 15, 1949, said, “the whole election machinery should be in the hands of a Central Election Commission, which alone would be entitled to issue directives to returning officers, polling officers and others”. So, US states vary widely when it comes to key electoral practices such as vote counting, postal voting and drawing constituencies. Often, individual states are accused of providing an unfair advantage to one political party through practices such as gerrymandering. During the Jim Crow era (late 19th century-early 20th century), states in the American South actively disenfranchised Black people– a practice that was largely curbed by the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Why counting votes in Election 2020 is taking time Although most US states allow electronic methods, paper ballots are the norm across the country. Ahead of counting comes a stage called processing, which involves checking signatures, verifying documentation, and perhaps even scanning the ballots. Counting votes is a separate, and later, process. Each state has its own date for starting in-person or mail-in voting, deadline for receiving the mail-in ballots, processing the ballots, and tabulating votes. To take two examples: In Arizona, mailing of ballots started on October 7, accepted until Election Day, and counting has been on since October 20; in Ohio, processing started on October 6, mail-in ballots can be received up to November 13 but they must be postmarked by November 2, and counting started on November 3. As counting entered its third day in the United States, Indians on social media expressed their admiration for the Election Commission of India, attempting to draw a comparison between the two nations although the processes are quite different. Former Union minister Milind Deora tweeted, saying: “We Indians should be proud of our Election Commission for overseeing 650 parties, 8,000 candidates & 603 million voters in 2019!” Source: The Indian Express 📣CIVIL SERVICE TIMES is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@LearnFromSuperbIAS) and stay updated with the latest.
98.6 degrees Fahrenheit is no longer the normal human body temperature.
For several years now, doctors and researchers have known that 98.6°F is not really the gold-standard “normal” body temperature it was once considered to be. Studies in the US and Europe have found average body temperatures declining over time. But does this trend also hold good outside of high-income countries? Indeed, body temperatures have declined in an indigenous rural population in Bolivia, a 16-year study has fund. Published in Science Advances, the study also looks at possible reasons that may have caused this decline among people in general. What is the case for and against taking 98.6°F as “normal” body temperature? The German doctor Carl Reinhold August Wunderlich, who in 1851 pioneered the use of the clinical thermometer, took over a million measurements of 25,000 patients, and published his findings in a book in 1868, in which he concluded that the average human body temperature is 98.6°F. In recent years, however, different studies have found the human body temperature averaging out differently, including at 97.7°, 97.9° and 98.2°F. One of the largest such studies, published last year, found that body temperatures among Americans have been declining over the last two centuries. So, what does the new study add? In previous studies, the reasons for declining body temperatures were not clear, nor was it known whether a temperature below 98.6°F is “normal” outside of high-income countries. The new study made 18,000 observations of body temperature in 5,500 individuals among the Tsimane, an indigenous population in the Bolivian Amazon. “The Tsimane are indigenous forager-horticulturalists who inhabit a tropical environment rife with diverse pathogens — from familiar ones like a cold or pneumonia, to less familiar, like hookworm and tuberculosis,” lead author Michael Gurven, an anthropologist at University of California, Santa Barbara, said by email. Greater exposure to infection can lead to higher inflammation, which is turn can lead to a higher body temperature. “From earlier studies, we also know that Tsimane experience higher inflammation due to this high infectious burden. And so we expected to find that body temperatures would be higher among Tsimane than they are in the US, UK and Germany,” Gurven said. Instead, the study found, average body temperatures among the Tsimane have fallen by 0.09°F per year; they average roughly 97.7°F today. This decline in less than two decades, the researchers noted, was about the same as that observed in the US over two centuries. What could be the reasons for this? The study looked at a number of hypotheses about factors that may be causing the decline of body temperature among people in general, and tested these against their findings among the Tsimane. BETTER HEALTHCARE: One hypothesis is that improved hygiene and healthcare in high-income population groups have led to fewer infections over time and, in turn, to lower body temperature. While the Tsimane live a rural lifestyle with a relatively low access to healthcare, they do have better access than they did two decades ago. Indeed, some infections were found to be associated with higher body temperature. But when the statistical model adjusted the temperature findings for infection, it found that reduced infection alone could not explain the declines. “This is to say that the decline in body temperature over the duration of the study is not altered by considering patient characteristics, including their medical diagnoses,” Gurven said. LOWER INFLAMMATION: People use anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen more frequently than earlier. Again, even after accounting for biomarkers of inflammation, body temperature declines over time remained among the Tsimane. BRIEFER ILLNESS: Since people have greater access to treatment, has it reduced the duration of infection? That was another hypothesis the study tested. The findings among the Tsimane, indeed, were consistent with this argument. If a study participant had a respiratory infection in the early stages of the 2002-18 study, it led to having a higher body temperature than the temperature if they had the same infection more recently. BODIES WORKING LESS: Another hypothesis is that people are healthier, so their bodies might be working less to fight infection. Also, our bodies may not have to work as hard as before in order to regulate internal temperature, because of air-conditioning and winter heating. The Tsimane do not use such advanced technology, but do have more access to clothes and blankets. So, what are the implications? Together, the findings underline that there is no single cause that could explain the decline. The researchers said it’s likely a combination of factors — all pointing to improved conditions. The researchers do not expect their findings to influence how doctors use body temperature readings in practice. Doctors already acknowledge there is no universal ‘normal’ body temperature for all people at all times. Among its limitations, the study used the same type of thermometer, but not the same thermometer over the entire 16 years. In the earliest study years, the sample size was smaller. The study did not account for pregnancy or lactation, or the time of day when body temperatures were recorded. Source: The Indian Express 📣CIVIL SERVICE TIMES is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@LearnFromSuperbIAS) and stay updated with the latest.
What is a bulk drug park, and why does Himachal want one?
Himachal Pradesh is one of the states vying for the allotment of a bulk drug park under a central government scheme announced earlier this year for setting up three such parks across the country. The state government has identified around 1,400 acres in Una district and sent a proposal to the Centre seeking grant to set up a bulk drug park there, Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur informed a group of drug manufacturers Thursday. What is a bulk drug park, and why is Himachal keen to build one? The Indian Express explains: What are bulk drugs or APIs? A bulk drug, also called an active pharmaceutical ingredient (API), is the key ingredient of a drug or medicine, which lends it the desired therapeutic effect or produces the intended pharmacological activity. For example, paracetamol is a bulk drug, which acts against pain. It is mixed with binding agents or solvents to prepare the finished pharmaceutical product, ie a paracetamol tablet, capsule or syrup, which is consumed by the patient. What are KSMs and DIs? APIs are prepared from multiple reactions involving chemicals and solvents. The primary chemical or the basic raw material which undergoes reactions to form an API is called the key starting material, or KSM. Chemical compounds formed during the intermediate stages during these reactions are called drug intermediates or DIs. India has one of the largest pharmaceutical industries in the world (third largest by volume) but this industry largely depends on other countries, particularly China, for importing APIs, DIs and KSMs. This year, drug manufacturers in India suffered repeated setbacks due to disruption in imports. In January, factories in China shut down when the country went into a lockdown, and later, international supply chains were affected as the Covid pandemic gripped the entire world. The border conflict between India and China exacerbated the situation. All these factors pushed the Indian government to call for greater self-reliance across all industries, and in June, the department of pharmaceuticals announced a scheme for the promotion of three bulk drug parks in the country. What will a bulk drug park look like, and what does the scheme offer? A bulk drug park will have a designated contiguous area of land with common infrastructure facilities for the exclusive manufacture of APIs, DIs or KSMs, and also a common waste management system. These parks are expected to bring down manufacturing costs of bulk drugs in the country and increase competitiveness in the domestic bulk drug industry. The Centre’s scheme will support three selected parks in the country by providing a one-time grant-in-aid for the creation of common infrastructure facilities. The grant-in-aid will be 70 per cent of the cost of the common facilities but in the case of Himachal Pradesh and other hill states, it will be 90 per cent. The Centre will provide a maximum of Rs 1,000 crore per park. How will the Centre select the three parks? Several states including Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Haryana, Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Telangana have expressed interest in the scheme, and are likely to send their respective proposals. A state can only propose one site, which is not less than a thousand acres in area, or not less than 700 acres in the case of hill states. The proposals should contain the estimated cost, feasibility studies, environmental risk assessment etc. A project management agency, nominated by the department of pharmaceuticals, will examine these proposals and make recommendations to a scheme steering committee, which will then approve the proposals. How strong is Himachal’s case? The state is keen to attract investment to strengthen its economy and generate employment. It organised a global investors’ meet last year, and has introduced reforms such as a single window clearance and online approval system for industrial units. Himachal jumped nine places in this year’s ease-of-doing-business rankings declared by the Centre last month, securing the seventh position in the country. According to the state government, Himachal already has Asia’s largest pharma manufacturing hub, that is the Baddi-Barotiwala-Nalagarh industrial belt, and the state produces around half of India’s total drug formulations. Chief Minister Thakur claimed that Himachal offers power and water at the lowest tariffs in the country, and the state also has an industrial gas pipeline. Source: The Indian Express 📣CIVIL SERVICE TIMES is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@LearnFromSuperbIAS) and stay updated with the latest.
US-India defence relationship reflects alignment on security issues of mutual concern
This week, the US and India held the third annual 2+2 ministerial dialogue in New Delhi, demonstrating the strength of the bilateral relationship even during these unprecedented times. The dialogue comes at a consequential moment for our two countries as we forge ever-closer ties to promote a common vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific region. Fifteen years after the signing of the US-India Defence Framework, the pace of our growing defence cooperation is such that we are achieving new milestones every year. This year is no exception as we announced the conclusion of the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement, the last of four defence “enabling” agreements, which together facilitate closer military cooperation and interoperability. The elevation of the US-India defence relationship to a “Major Defence Partnership” in 2016 was a milestone that set our bilateral defence cooperation on a new trajectory. In the years since, we have increased the scope and complexity of exercises, expanded mutual logistics support, and established secure communications between our forces, facilitating closer collaboration on shared security interests, particularly in the maritime domain. We saw evidence of this deepening partnership this past July as our navies conducted a combined naval transit of the Indian Ocean, and last November as we completed our first-ever tri-service exercise, Tiger Triumph. In February, President Trump and Prime Minister Modi announced a vision for a Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership, a sign that the bilateral relationship had reached new heights. This upward trajectory should not come as a surprise. As the world’s oldest and largest democracies, the United States and India have a special role among free societies. The United States and India share a similar vision of the Indo-Pacific based on a shared commitment to a rules-based order that respects the sovereignty of all countries and ensures freedom of navigation and overflight. The recent acceleration in the US-India defence relationship reflects our alignment on security issues of mutual concern, and a recognition that only by working together — and with like-minded partners — can we address the formidable challenges we face today and those we expect in the future. This alignment exists not only in concept, but in our strategy. The 2018 National Defense Strategy identified the “reemergence of long-term, strategic competition” as the central challenge to prosperity and security, and called for expanding alliances and partnerships in the Indo-Pacific region. The same year, Prime Minister Modi announced India’s Act East Policy, which calls for greater Indian involvement in promoting “SAGAR” — the Security and Growth of All in the Region. In poetic fashion, sagar is the Hindi word for ocean — a fitting allusion to India’s status as the largest economy and military in the Indian Ocean region. We welcome this expanded role for India in promoting regional stability and defending the principles that have helped so many in this region to rise and prosper. Under this policy, India has deepened bilateral defence relations with Southeast Asian countries, while preserving ASEAN centrality. India has also strengthened its ties to like-minded countries, such as the United States, Japan, Australia and France. Earlier this year, India signed Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreements with both Japan and Australia, facilitating shared logistics between its militaries — a critical enabler for cooperation across such a vast region. And just this month, India invited the Royal Australian Navy to participate in the annual US-India-Japan Malabar naval exercises in November. The increased scope and pace of Quadrilateral activities reflects a clear strategic convergence among the four countries, and a strong reminder of the importance of fostering a resilient network of like-minded partners in a complex region. Looking to the future, there are many opportunities for further growth in the defence partnership. We are expanding dialogue on emerging threats in the cyber and space domains, and will continue seeking broader collaboration between our defence innovation communities. We are also looking to expand cooperative capacity building efforts with partners across the region to ensure they are equipped with the tools they need to protect their sovereignty. To this end, we support India’s greater involvement in promoting maritime security in Southeast Asia, including upholding international law and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. Finally, we hope to deepen our interoperability with India through the sale of even more high-end systems such as unmanned aerial systems, fighter aircraft, and air and missile defence capabilities. Under the 2+2 framework, the US and India are strengthening one of the most consequential partnerships of the 21st century. Just as investments in previous years have set the foundation for the accomplishments we can claim today, our ongoing efforts will carry forward the momentum for even stronger ties in future years. At its full potential, our partnership can serve as a source of strength and inspiration for the region and the world, highlighting the benefits of freedom and inclusion over approaches that rely upon coercion and intimidation. Source: The Indian Express 📣CIVIL SERVICE TIMES is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@LearnFromSuperbIAS) and stay updated with the latest.