3rd January 2020 : The Hindu Editorials Notes : Mains Sure Shot 

No. 1.

Question – The relative decline in America’s power coupled with the rise of new and old powers point to a structural churning in the post-Cold War order. Elaborate.(250 words)

Context – The position of the United States and the changing international order.


At present:

  • The U.S. is the world’s mightiest military power and arguably the centre of the post-Soviet world order.
  • In the 1990s, the U.S.’s dominance was at its peak with international and multilateral organisations getting overshadowed by its pre-eminence. In 2001, after the September 11 terrorist attacks, it got international support for its war in In 2003, the U.S. went ahead with the plan to bomb Iraq despite the UN opposition, reminding the world of imperial invasions.
  • But the global situation is different, and more complex today.

An overview:

  • If we look at the global politics in 2019, it was marked with protests.
  • Angry crowds, especially the youth, revolted against the establishment in several parts of the world — from Santiago to Hong Kong, Beirut and New Delhi.
  • But the year also saw some defining trends in geopolitics as well such as China’s growing assertiveness both in trade and foreign policy, Iran’s dangerously aggressive, yet calculated, behaviour, and the rise of Turkey as a new power pole in West Asia.
  • The most important of them all, however, was the relative decline in America’s power, which was manifested through a number of crises during the year.

U.S and the world order at present:

  • The world order at present is very volatile. U.S. which was till now the core i.e. the most dominant power in world politics is now on the verge of a relative decline, while the countries on the periphery i.e. those countries which at one point of time were unconditionally accepting the hegemony of the U.S. are raising their voice against it, challenging its position as the supreme player in the world order.
  • This is proved by three events/ developments in 2019:
  1. S. and Afghan experience – The U.S. went to Afghanistan in October 2001, with a vow to destroy al-Qaeda and topple the Taliban regime. Seventeen years later, the U.S., desperate to get out of a stalemated conflict, started direct negotiations with the Taliban. The talks almost led to a settlement last year, with both sides agreeing to a draft agreement under which the U.S. would pull out most of its troops from Afghanistan in return for assurances from the Taliban that it would not allow Afghan soil to be used by transnational terrorists.
  • The whole Afghan experience shows how the U.S. botched up the war. The U.S. has a superior hand in conventional warfare. But winning a war abroad is not just about toppling a hostile regime, but also about stabilising the country after the regime is toppled. The U.S., history shows, is good at the former but fares poorly in the latter. It is now left with no other option but to reach an agreement with the Taliban for a face-saving exit.
  • It is a total failure of the U.S. that despite a long drawn war, it is having to negotiate with the same powers it wanted to eradicate and more so it is leaving the country in such a way that it would leave Kabul’s fragile, faction-ridden government exposed to the Taliban insurgency, just like the Mohammed Najibullah government was left to the Afghan Mujahideen in 1989 after the Soviet withdrawal.
  • The Soviet Union disintegrated in two years, and Najibullah’s government collapsed after a few months. The fate of Afghanistan after U.S. withdrawal is yet to be seen.
  1. The daring of Iran – the U.S.-Iran tensions was triggered by President Trump’s unilateral decision to pull the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear deal in 2018. Mr. Trump’s plan was to put “maximum pressure” on Iran through sanctions and force Tehran to renegotiate the nuclear deal. But Iran countered it through “maximum resistance”, instead of its usual giving in.
  • Not only that, in the year 2019 saw Iran repeatedly provoking the U.S. and its allies.
  • It shot down an American drone over the Gulf in June, captured a British tanker in July and is believed to have either carried out or orchestrated multiple attacks on oil tankers that pass through the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow waterway that connects the oil-rich Gulf with the Arabian Sea through the Gulf of Oman.
  • In September, two Saudi oil facilities came under attack, which temporarily cut the kingdom’s oil output by half. Iran was blamed for the attacks. The attacks on Saudi facilities challenged the post-war partnership between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia that guaranteed American protection to the kingdom. Still, the only counter-measure the U.S. took in response to Iran’s growing provocations was imposing more sanctions.
  • Though this doesn’t directly show America’s weakness but it definitely shows U.S.A.s failure in all the wars that it started in the dawn of the 21st century be it Afghanistan, Iraq or Libya. This shows the U.S.’s inability to shape outcomes of the wars it launches and this is acting as a deterrent against its own war machines.
  1. The crack in NATO and Turkey – Turkey, the second largest military in NATO, purchased S-400 missile defence system from Russia, NATO’s primary enemy and the main geopolitical rival of the U.S., despite protests from the West. The U.S. expelled Turkey from the F-35 stealth fighter programme and has threatened to impose sanctions for the deal. It says Russia could use the system radars to spy on the F-35 jets. Turkey didn’t give in.
  • It now says it could buy Su-57 jets from Russia if the U.S. does not lift the ban on F-35 sales. Moreover, in response to sanctions threats, Turkey has vowed to shut two U.S. bases in the country, which would mean a split within NATO.


  • These incidents do not mean that the U.S.’s dominance over global politics is over. But they do show that America’s long wars and its inability to shape post-war outcomes are impacting its stature in an international system that centres around it.
  • If one translates Immanuel Wallerstein’s world systems theory into geopolitics, the U.S., the core of the strategic world system, is facing revolts in the periphery. If in the 1990s and early 2000s, the periphery continued to be dependent on the core and thereby sustained what Wallerstein called the “unequal exchange” between the two, the sands are shifting now. And this is happening at a time when new economic powers (China, for example) are on the rise and an old military power (Russia) is making a comeback.

Way forward:

  • If the U.S. wants to maintain its hegemonic position in the current international order, it needs to revise its old strategies like maximum resistance and move to more unique ones.
  • It also has to learn to handle not only wars but also post-war developments. Just fighting a war is not the end of things, the real game begins after that.


  • The relative decline in America’s power coupled with the rise of new and old powers point to a structural churning in the post-Cold War order. In the world system, the core has never been static. Hegemony of a single power is temporary. This leaves hope for other fast growing powers like India to aspire and be the core in the future.



No. 2.

Question – Swachh Survekshan should go beyond symbolism and adopt sustainability. Comment.(200 words)

Context – The Swachh Survekshan 2020.


  • Sanitation and public health are responsibilities of State governments, and it is no secret that they have spectacularly failed at managing growing volumes of municipal and hazardous waste. The problem has only been compounded by the absence of plans that take a holistic view of housing, sanitation, water supply, waste management and transport.

What is Swachh Survekshan?

  • Swachh Survekshan (Cleanliness survey) is an annual survey of cleanliness, hygiene and sanitation in cities and towns across India. It was launched as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, which aims to make India clean and free of open defecation by 2 October 2019.
  • The first survey was undertaken in 2016 and covered 73 cities (53 cities with a population of over a million, and all state capitals); by 2019 the survey had grown to cover 4237 cities and was said to be the largest cleanliness survey in the world. The surveys are carried out by Quality Council of India.
  • As an idea, it aimed at unleashing the competitive spirit among States.

Was the survey satisfactory?

  • The idea of competition and competitive spirit driving cleanliness and waste management may seem appealing, but in reality, the problems confronting urban India require large-scale infrastructure creation, full adherence to legal requirements on waste management, and transparent technical audits.
  • Many cities remain clueless on handling their waste, one shocking example being the rising mountain of garbage at the Ghazipur landfill in Delhi.
  • Ironically, Bhopal, which figures among the top five cleanest cities under the just-released list, continues to live with the effects of the gas disaster of 1984. Ranks and prizes clearly cannot solve the national waste management crisis.

Survekshan 2020 target:

  • Looking ahead to the next edition of the Survekshan, the Urban Affairs Ministry has identified ambitious targets: “100% processing and safe disposal of waste, complete faecal sludge and septage management, and wastewater treatment and reuse.” These are major tasks. The Ministry has also sanctioned funds under the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) to help States set up facilities necessary to manage waste.

But what needs to be done:

  • States should ask for extended funding under such schemes to create the infrastructure for a future-focused clean-up and, simultaneously, institute measures to reduce waste.
  • Overall the emphasis worldwide is on creating a circular economy centred at the principle of material recovery from all kinds of waste, reuse, recycling and reduced pressure on natural resources. A sound ranking of cities and towns would naturally give the highest weightage to this dimension of sustainable management, replacing symbolism with an environmentally sound approach.
  • Such rigour in policy formulation can make the Centre’s goal of eliminating single-use plastic by 2022 seem more realistic, and industry would find a compelling reason to switch to alternatives. Retooling Swachh Survekshan 2020 to go beyond perception management and adopt sustainability is essential to make it a genuine contest.

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