29th January 2020 : The HIndu Editorials Notes : Mains Sure Shot
Question – Present an analysis of the global and domestic issues and concerns.
Context – The increasing volatilities worldwide.
The global picture/ external scenario:
- Geopolitical fault-lines had widened in 2019 and they continue to be so.
- America’s leadership of the world came under increasing threat from countries such as China.
- The future of the United Kingdom, under the shadow of Brexit, remains unclear.
- Europe seems to be in eclipse. Latin and Central America are in turmoil.
- In Asia, Afghanistan appears to be at a crossroads in its history.
- Instability plagues Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Egypt.
- Civil war conditions prevail in many regions. Violent protests raged in many domains, including Hong Kong, once a symbol of “One Country Two Systems”.
- Existing threats to the security of nations remains unchanged, even as offensive cyber-attacks became the new weapon of choice in many situations.
- As 2020 progresses, geopolitically, this is perhaps the most troubled time in recent history, given the looming spectre of an all-out war between Iran and the United States. Exertion of “maximum pressure” by the U.S. to minimise Iran’s influence and reduce its support to proxies in the region and elsewhere, combined with Iran’s only slightly less provocative posture as seen towards the end of 2019, had resulted in a major stand-off by the beginning of 2020.
- Following the assassination of Qasem Soleimani, one of Iran’s top Generals and Commander of its Qods Force, and several of his associates, in a U.S.-directed air strike in the vicinity of Baghdad Airport, the extent of fury in Iran and Iraq, and to a large extent across the entire Muslim world, has been intense. This has put both the region and the world in grave jeopardy.
On the domestic front:
- 2020 has just begun, 2019 was a mixed bag.
- India appears reasonably well-positioned to deal with some of the other internal threats, including insurgencies in the North-east, Naxalite violence, and terrorism.
- Political tensions had intensified in the first half of the year in view of the General Elections in April-May.
- In February 2019, a relative calm that had existed on the terror front since November 2008 — though in the intervening years, terror attacks of a lesser magnitude had taken place — – had been shattered when a suicide bomber (owing allegiance to Pakistan’s Jaish-e-Mohammed), carried out a massive explosive attack on a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) convoy in Pulwama, killing 44 personnel.
- In retaliation, India carried out an aerial strike on a JeM training camp in Balakot, inside Pakistan, causing unspecified damage, the first time since 1971 that India had used air power to attack targets inside Pakistan. It briefly raised the spectre of a direct confrontation with Pakistan.
- In the second half of 2019, the Government embarked on two controversial pieces of legislation. In August 2019, Parliament diluted Article 370 of the Constitution, and carved out two Union Territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh from the erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir.
- In the final weeks of 2019, the Government initiated the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, which is implicitly seen as linked to a National Register of Citizens, though the Government (after having indicated at one point about such linkage). It provoked widespread protests on the ground that the legislation violated some of the basic precepts of the Constitution, and applied the test of religion, to exclude (Muslim) refugees from neighbouring countries such as Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, from being given Indian citizenship.
On the neighbourhood front:
- India’s foreign policy challenges remain very considerable. India-Pakistan relations remain frozen, even as Pakistan continues to make overtures to the U.S., and further cements its relationship with China at one level and Saudi Arabia at another. Sino-Indian relations continue to be riddled with numerous problems. The vexed Sino-Indian border dispute remains in deep freeze.
- China, meanwhile, has embarked more aggressively on establishing its leadership across Asia; in the shadow play for influence across parts of Asia, including South Asia, China seems to be gaining at India’s expense.
- But India’s attempts at creating a supportive environment in its immediate neighbourhood in 2020 remains challenging.
- While relations with the Maldives improved during the past year, the advent of a new Government in Sri Lanka, headed by the Rajapaksas, does not augur too well for India. Relations with Bangladesh appear satisfactory on the surface, but underlying strains are emerging.
- Relations with the United Arab Emirates are better than at any time previously, but the India-Saudi Arabia relationship can at best be termed uncertain.
- Relations with Iran are likely to become highly problematic, in view of India’s “tilt” towards the U.S., and the open hostility on display currently between Iran and the U.S.
- India again will need to find solutions to quite a few thorny problems. Removing tight controls in J&K and restoring civil liberties there, including the release of senior political leaders, will require very deft handling, given the “pressure cooker” atmosphere that prevails. India will also need to watch out for a very different type of agitation in J&K, something between “civil disobedience” and an “intifada type” struggle.
- The fallout of protests over the CAA has the potential to become India’s most serious threat in decades.
- For several months now, the country has witnessed the slowing down of the economy and India’s growth story appears set to lose much of its shine. A sustained below 5% GDP growth could become a recipe for disaster. Already, India is being mentioned as among 2020’s top geopolitical risks.
- Given the total impact of the various aspects, those in charge would do well to be aware of and prepare for the major problems that lie ahead. The digital revolution that is under way and the awesome power of Artificial Intelligence, Machine-Learning, Quantum Computing and Bio-Technology may not be enough in the circumstances.
Note – Today’s other articles on coronavirus and National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) have already been covered.