QUESTION : How a recent power-sharing agreement in Afghanistan will impact Indian interests in Afghanistan. Critically analyse.
Topic -WAR AND TALKS
- Taliban ceasefire
WHY IN NEWS ?
- Taliban’s decision to cease fire for 3 days during Id-ul-Adha has come as a relief for Afghans who have seen unstopped violence despite a peace agreement between the insurgents and the U.S. This is the third official respite since the war started in 2001.
BACKGROUND OF THE DEAL :
- On 11 September 2001, terrorist attacks in America killed nearly 3,000 people. Osama Bin Laden, the head of Islamist terror group al-Qaeda, was quickly identified as the man responsible.
- The Taliban, radical Islamists who ran Afghanistan at that time, protected Bin Laden, refused to hand him over. So, a month after 9/11, the US launched airstrikes against Afghanistan.
- The US was joined by an international coalition and the Taliban were quickly removed from power. However, they turned into an insurgent force and continued deadly attacks, destabilising subsequent Afghan governments.
- Since then, the US is fighting a war against the Taliban.
- Donald Trump’s 2017 policy on Afghanistan, was based on breaking the military stalemate in Afghanistan by authorising an additional 5,000 soldiers, giving US forces a freer hand to go after the Taliban, putting Pakistan on notice, and strengthening Afghan capabilities.
- However, the US realised that the Taliban insurgency could not be defeated as long as it enjoyed safe havens and secure sanctuaries in Pakistan, the US changed track and sought Pakistan’s help to get the Taliban to the negotiating table.
- The negotiations began in September 2018 with the appointment of Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad to initiate direct talks with the Taliban. After nine rounds of US-Taliban talks in Qatar, the two sides seemed close to an agreement.
- Under the US-Taliban deal signed in February 2020, the Afghan government is supposed to release up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners while the insurgents would free about 1,000 Afghan security force personnel.
- The prison swap was delayed because of a political feud between President Ashraf Ghani and his rival Abdullah Abdullah. Subsequently, both leaders reached a power-sharing deal.
HISTORY OF INDIA-TALIBAN RELATIONS :
- India and the Taliban share a bitter history.
- IC-814 hijack in 1999 (India’s passenger plane was hijacked and taken to Kandahar in Afghanistan- under the control of Taliban) made India to release terrorists — including Maulana Masood Azhar who founded Jaish-e-Mohammed that went on to carry out terror attacks on Parliament (2001), in Pathankot (2016) and in Pulwama (2019).
- Also, the Taliban perceived India as a hostile country, as India had supported the anti-Taliban force after the 9/11 attacks.
- India never gave diplomatic and official recognition to the Taliban when it was in power during 1996-2001.
- However, as the Taliban’s role in Afgan peace process becomes inevitable, India started to make some strides towards the Taliban.
- Earlier, India was part of the Moscow-led talks with the Taliban in November 2018, which two former Indian diplomats attended as “non-official representatives”.
- India is now moving to diplomatically engage with the Taliban. India’s presence at the agreement-signing ceremony is the first sign of a possible diplomatic opening.
IMPACT OF DEAL ON INDIA :
- This deal alters the balance of power in favour of the Taliban, which will have strategic, security and political implications for India. The deal may jeopardise the key stakes of India in Afghanistan:
- India has a major stake in the stability of Afghanistan. India has invested considerable resources in Afghanistan’s development.
- India has a major stake in the continuation of the current Afghanistan government in power, which it considers a strategic asset vis-à-vis Pakistan.
- An increased political and military role for the Taliban and the expansion of its territorial control should be of great concern to India since the Taliban is widely believed to be a protégé of Islamabad.
- As Afghanistan is the gateway to Central Asia, the deal might dampen India’s interest in Central Asia.
- Withdrawal of US troops could result in the breeding of the fertile ground for various anti-India terrorist outfits like Lashkar-e-Taiba or Jaish-e-Mohammed.
- At present, hopes are high that the truce could be extended as Kabul and the insurgents are preparing to launch the intra-Afghan talks that were promised in the U.S.-Taliban deal.
- Both sides have now agreed to kick-start talks after Id and they could do it in a peaceful environment if the ceasefire is extended.
- When the U.S. entered into talks with the insurgent group, it did not insist on a ceasefire.
- So the Taliban continues to engage in war and talks simultaneously.
- S.-Taliban agreement was signed in February, according to which the U.S. agreed to pull out its troops in return for security assurances from the Taliban.
- The responsibility was on a weakened Afghan government to start talks even as the Taliban continued attacks.
- Taliban sees itself as the legitimate ruler of Afghanistan who have yet not recognised the country’s Constitution.
- The Taliban’s ceasefire is an opportunity to kick-start intra-Afghan peace talks.
SOURCE :THE HINDU (NOT EDITORIAL)
QUESTION : Explain the role of core sector in Indian economy as far as infrastructural development is concerned and mention their key challenges .
Topic- CORE SECTOR OUTPUT SHRINKS
- Core Sector of India
WHY IN NEWS ?
- The index of eight core industries dropped 15 per cent in June compared to a 22 per cent decline in May. It had declined 37 per cent in April. This is the fourth consecutive month of contraction in the core sector.
- The eight industries in the IIP index are coal, crude oil, natural gas, refinery products, fertiliser, steel, cement and electricity. These together have a 40 per cent weight in the Index of Industrial Production (IIP).
IMPORTANT POINTS TO BE NOTED :
- Contraction in Total Output:
- During April-June 2020, the sector’s output dipped by 24.6% as compared to a positive growth of 3.4% in the same period previous year.
- However, 15% contraction in June 2020 implies some economic recovery as in May 2020, the industries’ output contracted by 22%.
- Economists expect the negative trend to continue for at least two more months.
- Industry-wise Performance:
- The fertiliser industry is the only one which saw actual growth in June, with output rising 4.2% in comparison to June 2019.
- This, however, is lower than the May 2020 growth of 7.5%, but reflects the positive outlook in the agriculture sector where a normal monsoon is leading to expectations of a good kharif crop.
- Rest seven sectors – coal (-15.5%), crude oil (-6.0), natural gas (-12%), refinery products (-9%), steel (-33.8%), cement (-6.9%), and electricity (-11%) – recorded negative growth in June.
- The steel sector continues to remain the worst performer, with a 33% drop in production in comparison to the previous year.
IMPACT OF COVID-19 PANDEMIC OUTBREAK :
- The COVID-19 outbreak has also impacted the country’s exports growth, which dipped by a record low of 34.6% in March.
- These contractions may have a bearing on the country’s overall economic growth.
- Several multilateral agencies -including the IMF and World Bank, have significantly slashed India’s growth projection for 2020-21.
- Except for food and pharma companies, almost all the manufacturing units in the country are closed due to lockdown.
- Barring coal, all other sectors witnessed a sharp output contraction.
- Steel, natural gas, and fertilizers sectors, too, saw double-digit declines owing to factors like weak demand, labour constraints, and shortage of raw material.
INDEX OF INDUSTRIAL PRODUCTION :
- The Index of Industrial Production (IIP) is an index that shows the growth rates in different industry groups of the economy in a fixed period of time.
- It is compiled and published monthly by the National Statistical Office (NSO), Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation.
- IIP is a composite indicator that measures the growth rate of industry groups classified under:
- Broad sectors, namely, Mining, Manufacturing, and Electricity.
- Use-based sectors, namely Basic Goods, Capital Goods, and Intermediate Goods.
- The eight core sector industries represent about 40% of the weight of items that are included in the IIP.
- The eight core industries in decreasing order of their weightage: Refinery Products> Electricity> Steel> Coal> Crude Oil> Natural Gas> Cement> Fertilizers.
- Base Year for IIP calculation is 2011-2012.
SIGNIFICANCE OF IIP :
- IIP is the measure on the physical volume of production.
- It is used by government agencies including the Ministry of Finance, the Reserve Bank of India, etc, for policy-making purposes.
- IIP remains extremely relevant for the calculation of the quarterly and advance Gross Domestic Product (GDP) estimates.
CHALLENGES AHEAD :
- Much of agricultural output will depend on the monsoon staying its course.
- There is a danger to the farm sector, especially in western, central and northern India this year from locust swarms.
- The Food and Agriculture Organization had in its June 27 update warned that India wo uld need to remain on high alert through July for the possible arrival of swarms from northern Africa.
- Increase in diesel prices during past one month (Rs11/litre) increases the cost of cultivation
WAY FORWARD :
- The positive impact from unlock is not as strong as the negative impact of the lockdown. The government needs to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic on a priority to make economic recovery sustainable.
- However, there is a crucial need for more meaningful structural reforms to address long-term problems such as the private sector’s reluctance to invest.
- Improving physical infrastructure from transport systems to the power sector is essential.
- Attractive remuneration to motivate people to join the manufacturing sector.