22nd February 2020 : The Hindu Editorials Mains Notes : Mains Sure Shot
Question – In context of the U.S. Presidents visit to India, despite criticism of the Government for extravagant spending, reflect on the need for India – U.S. friendship.
Context – The U.S. President’s visit.
- There are a lot of contrarian (opposing opinions) about the U.S. President’s visit to India mainly because it is highly unlikely that India and the U.S. will sign any trade deal given the tariff hike by the U.S. on Indian goods and the counter tariffs in return. But the cost of the U.S. President’s visit to India is huge.
- But it is clearer than perhaps ever before in recent times, that New Delhi needs the continued support of the U.S. government on almost everything substantial that matters to India in its quest to be a power of substance in the international system.
- From a fairer trade regime; to accessing cutting-edge technology; to the fight against terrorism; to stabilising our region, New Delhi stands to benefit from constructive ties on all issues, given a more sensitive United States. India must therefore seek greater understanding and engagement with the U.S.
- Asymmetrical partnerships (i.e. partnerships between non-equal powers), as we know from history, are rarely easy. Partnerships with superpowers are even more difficult and requires some loss of dignity and autonomy for a greater good.
The importance of the United States for India:
- For comparison we can recall Winston Churchill’s wisdom, of presenting a frightening imagery of communism invading Europe, to convince the U.S. of the need of a special relationship across the Atlantic, after the Second World War with Britain. Else Britain would just be another city in Europe.
- Churchill realised on that fateful day in March 1946 in Fulton, Missouri, when he delivered his ‘Iron Curtain’ speech, the consequences of not arriving at a modus vivendi with the U.S. would be disastrous.
- Today, the Indo-Pacific has arrived at an ‘Iron Curtain’ moment in its history. Without the United States, the region could become willy-nilly part of a new Chinese tributary system; with a fully engaged United States, the region has at least the chance of creating a more organic rules-based order.
- Anti-Americanism, once the conventional wisdom of the Indian elite, seems outdated. New Delhi has, over the decades, gone on to align itself more closely with Washington. More important, outside the Left, both within India and in the U.S., the consensus across the mainstream of political opinion favours stronger relations between the two countries.
The trend of change from pro-Russia to pro-U.S:
- The change in trend began since 2008, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in a gesture that seemed uncharacteristic for him, effusively praised President George W. Bush and told him that the people of India “deeply love him”.
- The reason for the change in New Delhi ‘s geostrategic outlook can be summarised quickly. If the 1971 Friendship Treaty with the Soviet Union was a response to the continuing U.S. tilt towards Pakistan and the beginnings of a Washington-Beijing entente, at present, it is the prospect of a potentially hegemonic China in the Indo-Pacific region is helping to cement the relationship. Beijing has managed to alienate nearly all its neighbours and allies, except North Korea and Pakistan.
The deepened ties:
- The accomplishments that India-U.S. ties have made over the years, include a foundational military agreement that allows for the sharing of encrypted communications and equipment; a change in U.S. export control laws that places India in a privileged category of NATO and non-NATO U.S. allies; a new ‘2+2’ foreign and defense ministers dialogue; an exponential increase in U.S. oil exports to India; the inauguration of the first India-U.S. tri-service military exercise and an expansion of existing military exercises; the signing of an Industrial Security Annex that will allow for greater collaboration among the two countries’ private defense industries; the inclusion of India and South Asia in a U.S. Maritime Security Initiative.
- But still much work needs to be done for the two countries to fulfil the potential of the relationship, especially in the area of defence.
- This, together with other key issues including trade, is on the centrepiece of the Trump-Modi agenda for the visit.
- There is little doubt that whoever is the next occupant of the White House, a retreat from multilateralism (especially on trade-related issues) and concern about China will continue to be the two main pillars of contemporary American foreign policy.
- If for only those reasons, Mr Trump’s reason has undeniable significance.
- Despite trade deals taking a backseat it is advisable for India to maintain a cordial relationship with the U.S.
Note – there is an article on Criminalisation of politics. It has already been covered in detail. Refer to the article of 15th February.
Question – Comment on road accidents in India and suggest the way ahead.
Context – Thursday’s crash.
Why in news?
- Thursday’s crash that killed 19 bus passengers on a national highway at Tiruppur, Tamil Nadu.
An overview of road accidents in India:
- Every day, thousands board government-run and private buses for inter-city travel, placing their lives in the hands of transport operators and the authorities whose duty it is to guarantee road safety. Unfortunately, Central and State officials feel little compulsion to do their duty when it comes to road safety.
- A preliminary inquiry points to human error involving the container lorry driver who is suspected to have fallen asleep at the wheel. The probe is also looking at whether the container was overloaded, and lacked an assistant. It is reasonable to assume that a helper would alert a driver to danger.
- But whatever the proximate factors are, the Tiruppur crash highlights the gap that India must bridge before it can hope to bring down road fatalities by at least half during the current decade.
- In fact, India is committed to achieving such a reduction under the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, and the promise was reiterated by Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari recently, at the Third Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety, at Stockholm.
The most common reasons for road accidents in India:
- Crossing the speed limit
- Drunk driving
- Not following rules and regulations on road
- Driving on the opposite side on one-way
- The condition of roads
- Multitasking while driving
- The state of the vehicle
- Accident due to animals and,
- State governments responsible for enforcement remain apathetic and their derelict bureaucracies ignore safety laws in cities and highways.
- Trauma for families
- The economy is deprived of productivity and output.
- For every death attributable to trauma, three patients survive but are left permanently disabled. From mild to severe injuries, a road traffic crash can have a significant social and economic impact on the individual, family and the society. The impact of these injuries remains poorly measured in India.
The latest World Bank assessment:
- The latest World Bank assessment of India’s loss from road accidents, which was released at the Stockholm meet, points out that road users between 18-45 years constitute 69% of fatalities. Also, 54% of deaths and serious injuries occur mainly among vulnerable groups: pedestrians, cyclists and two-wheeler riders. In the Bank’s estimate, it will take an additional $109-billion of investment in 10 years to achieve a 50% reduction in road deaths.
Some steps taken:
- Gadkari has focused on removing dangerous ‘black spots’ on highways, making consultants and contractors liable for road conditions, and imposing stiffer penalties for traffic offences.
- The amended MV Act makes all this possible, but many State governments have baulked at enforcing it.
- It is imperative that the Centre forms an empowered Road Safety Board at the national level to advise States on all related concerns as envisaged under the MV Act, and makes State enforcement agencies accountable for safety.
- Also an intensive study needs to done on the causes and impact of road accidents on the society and economy.