The Hindu Editorial Summary

Editorial Topic : Antarctic Tourism

 GS-2 Mains Exam : IR

Revision Notes

Question : Analyze the environmental concerns associated with the dramatic increase in Antarctic tourism. How do human presence, invasive species, and ship traffic impact the fragile ecosystems of Antarctica?


Last month, the 46th Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM-46) took place in Kochi, Kerala, spotlighting the ongoing debate over Antarctic tourism. The meeting aimed to establish a regulatory framework for tourism activities, but it ultimately did not arrive at a definitive solution. This outcome underscores the intricate challenges of managing tourism in Antarctica, a region governed by international consensus and facing rapid environmental changes.

Key Facts and Figures:

  • ATCM-46 (April 2024): Highlighted ongoing debate on Antarctic tourism and failed to establish a definitive solution.
  • Tourist Surge: Dramatic increase from a few thousand in the early 1990s to over 100,000 in 2022-23.
  • Major Source Countries: US and China account for more than 40% of tourists.
  • IAATO Estimates: 1,18,089 tourists visited Antarctica in 2023-2024.
  • Tourism Activities: Wildlife observation, photography, mountain climbing, and skiing.

Environmental Concerns:

  • Increased human presence disrupts wildlife and fragile ecosystems.
  • Risk of introducing invasive species.
  • Ship traffic pollutes pristine waters.
  • Tourism contributes to global carbon footprint.
  • Climate change amplifies these issues and opens new areas to tourism, further threatening ecosystems.

Regulatory Framework Gaps:

  • Antarctic Treaty (1961): Prioritizes peaceful use and scientific research but lacks specific tourism regulations.
  • Madrid Protocol: Offers broad environmental guidelines but lacks specifics for tourism management.
  • IAATO (Industry Body): Lacks enforcement power and its guidelines are seen as inadequate by many.
  • ATCM Decision-Making: Requires consensus from all parties, slowing progress and allowing national interests to hinder action.
  • Geopolitical Climate: Further complicates international cooperation.

Positive Developments:

  • ATCM-46 established a working group to develop a comprehensive tourism framework.
  • India has been vocal about addressing tourism’s impact and enacted its own Antarctic Law in 2022.

The Way Forward:

  • Prioritize science-based decision-making for sustainable tourism.
  • Engage all stakeholders: scientists, industry, policymakers, and the public.
  • Ensure Antarctica remains a pristine wilderness for future generations.
  • Recognize the potential benefits of responsible tourism.




The Hindu Editorial Summary

Editorial Topic : Laws on Mercenaries in War Zones

 GS-2 Mains Exam : IR

Revision Notes



Question : Discuss the legal and ethical challenges posed by the involvement of mercenaries in armed conflicts. How do the limitations of the existing international legal framework impact the prosecution and accountability of mercenaries?


  • June 11, 2024: MEA acknowledges deaths of 2 Indian nationals recruited by Russian Army in Ukraine conflict.

MEA’s Response:

  • Press note advising caution for Indians seeking employment in Russia.
  • March 2024: CBI filed FIR against 15 individuals & 4 companies for alleged trafficking of Indians to Russia.
  • May 2024: CBI reported 4 arrests in the case.

Who are Mercenaries?

  • International Humanitarian Law (IHL) distinguishes between combatants and mercenaries.
  • Combatant: Member of armed forces of a party to the conflict.
  • Mercenary: Recruited from a 3rd party state, motivated by personal gain.
  • Article 47 of Additional Protocol I to Geneva Conventions (API): 6 conditions define a mercenary:
    1. Specially recruited for armed conflict.
    2. Takes direct part in hostilities.
    3. Primarily motivated by personal gain (excessive financial compensation).
    4. Not a national or resident of a party to the conflict.
    5. Not a member of a party’s armed forces.
    6. Not sent by a non-party state on official duty.

Legal Status of Mercenaries:

  • Not entitled to prisoner-of-war status under Geneva Conventions.
  • Can be prosecuted for war crimes or other grave breaches of IHL.
  • May face charges under domestic laws of the detaining nation.
  • Must still be treated humanely under IHL.

Limitations of Existing Regime:

  • Lack of clear, universal definition of a mercenary.
  • Domestic laws often don’t criminalize mercenary activity.
  • API definition excludes foreign military personnel integrated into another state’s forces (e.g., Gurkhas in British Army).
  • No clear mechanism to hold accountable foreign advisors and trainers.
  • Rise of private military and security companies (PMSCs) blurs the line with mercenaries.
    • PMSCs offer services from combat to logistics.
    • Legal framework surrounding PMSCs is less defined.

Way Forward for India:

  • Develop robust policy framework to address distress migration and human trafficking.
  • Two-pronged approach:
    • Long-term: Address economic factors driving migration.
    • Immediate: Educate public and implement pre-travel vetting for conflict zones (e.g., Russia, Ukraine).
  • Consider pre-travel approval from MEA for travel to Russia.
  • Learn from Bangladesh’s “Dhaka Principles for Migration with Dignity” (2012) for ethical recruitment.
  • Follow Nepal’s example of banning citizen travel to war zones for employment (implemented in January 2024).

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