‘Why no Parliament debate on NEP?’

Paper:

Mains: General Studies- II: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations.

Why in News:

The Union Cabinet has approved the new National Education Policy. While the New National Education policy has been largely welcomed, concerns have been raised for not having presented it before the Parliament for discussion before approval.

Challenges:

  • It has been opined that the challenge of revising the 1986 policy is to ensure aspiration is matched by implementation.
  • Education being a concurrent subject and most of the states having their own school boards, state governments would have to be brought on board for effective implementation of the policy.
  • Critics point out that the goal of a 50% gross enrolment ratio in higher education and 100% in secondary school education could be tough since it is currently 25.8% in higher education & 68% in Class 9.
  • It is pointed out that more tangible and realisable targets should have been set for research.
  • Total investment on research and innovation in India declined from 0.84% of GDP in 2008 to 0.6% in 2018.
  • There are currently only 15 researchers in India per 100,000 of the population, compared with 111 in China.
  • Concerns are being raised as the policy is silent about the upgrade of school infrastructure and shortage of qualified and trained teachers.
  • Placing the burden of pre-primary education on the overstretched, under-funded and under-equipped anganwadis could prove to be disastrous.

China conducts drills in South China Sea

Paper:

Mains: General Studies- II: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations.

Why in news:

Despite growing tensions in the contested waters of the South China Sea, Beijing recently conducted high-intensity naval exercises there.

Key Details:

  • China is locked in disputes with neighbours including India, Japan and Vietnam.
  • China’s expanding military presence in the region has worried several of its neighbours.
  • It has infuriated other nations by building artificial islands with military installations in parts of the sea.

Global Reaction:

  • The U.S. declared Beijing’s claims to most of the sea illegal, ramping up support for Southeast Asian nations with claims to parts of it.
  • It has vowed to stand up against Beijing’s territorial claims to much of the South China Sea, including the contested Paracel Islands.
  • The U.S. regularly conducts so-called “freedom of navigation operations” in the South China Sea in order to stand up to Beijing.
  • Australia has also rejected Beijing’s territorial and maritime claims in the sea, saying there was no legal basis for several of China’s claim

Clarifying LAC could create new disputes: Chinese envoy

Paper:

Mains: General Studies- II: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations.

Why in News:

China’s Ambassador to India, Sun Weidong has asserted that China was not in favour of resuming the process of clarifying the Line of Actual Control (LAC) because it could create new disputes.

Key Details:

  • According to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), there has been some progress made towards complete disengagement along the LAC, but the disengagement process has as yet not been completed.
  • The Senior Commanders of the two sides will meet in the near future to work out steps in this regard.

Concerns:

  • India has been particularly worried after the Indian Army reported that the Chinese PLA had not yet withdrawn troops from several face-off points.
  • India is also worried as China has not yet shown signs of thinning out the large number of troops it deployed in the recent past, in the depth areas on its side of the LAC – the de facto border between the two nations.
  • With no settled border between the two nations, the LAC in the western sector and the McMahon Line in the eastern sector serve as the de facto boundary between the two nations.
  • The two sides, however, have mutually conflicting perceptions about the alignment of both the lines, which often lead to soldiers of the Indian Army and the Chinese PLA transgressing the LAC into each other’s territory.

Where does the Line of Actual Control lie?

  • The LAC lies east of the confluence of the Galwan and Shyok rivers in the valley, up to which both India and China have been patrolling in recent years.
  • After the June 15 clash, however, China has claimed that the entire valley lies on its side of the LAC.

Territorial claims and LAC claims

  • They are not the same. The distinction between territorial claims and LAC claims is sometimes blurred.
  • The LAC refers to territory under the effective control of each side, not to their entire territorial claim. For instance, India’s territorial claims extend 38,000 sq km on the other side of the LAC across all of Aksai Chin, but the LAC India observes runs through the valley.

1996 Agreement

  • The 1996 agreement is on Confidence-Building Measures in the Military Field along the Line of Actual Control in the India-China Border Areas.
  • Article VI (1) of the 1996 agreement says “With a view to preventing dangerous military activities along the line of actual control in the India-China border areas… Neither side shall open fire, cause bio-degradation, use hazardous chemicals, conduct blast operations or hunt with guns or explosives within two kilometres from the line of actual control. This prohibition shall not apply to routine firing activities in small arms firing ranges.”
  • However, it is Article VI (4) that is more applicable in the current instance: “If the border personnel of the two sides come in a face-to-face situation due to differences on the alignment of the line of actual control or any other reason, they shall exercise self-restraint and take all necessary steps to avoid an escalation of the situation. Both sides shall also enter into immediate consultations through diplomatic and/or other available channels to review the situation and prevent any escalation of tension.”

2005 Agreement

  • In Article 1: “the two sides will resolve the boundary question through peaceful and friendly consultations. Neither side shall use or threaten to use force against the other by any means”.
  • The 2013 Agreement on Border Defence Cooperation also stated that neither side shall use its military capability against the other.

Possible factors for Chinese aggression:

India’s border infrastructure:

  • India has been strengthening its border infrastructure along the LAC.
  • The strengthening of the Darbuk-Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldi road may have angered the Chinese. The Chinese demand in the ongoing negotiations is also premised on India stopping its infrastructure development.

Change in the status of J&K:

  • One popular argument is that China’s move is driven by local factors such as India’s decision to change the status of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. Read more on this in the article, Article 370.

Bilateral tensions:

  • The relations between the two countries have been steadily deteriorating.
  • India has been against China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). China further views India’s assertions regarding Gilgit-Baltistan as an implicit attack on the CPEC.
  • India has put curbs and restrictions on Chinese foreign direct investment.

China’s internal dynamics:

  • The internal pressures that have been generated within China — in part due to the COVID-19 pandemic, are also influencing Chinese behaviour.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic is the most serious health crisis that China has faced since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. The Chinese economy has been on the downslide which is also contributing to increasing political pressure on the country’s leadership.
  • The coupling of political and economic tensions has greatly aggravated pressures on Chinese leadership and the rising tide of anti-China sentiment the world over has further worsened matters.
  • Chinese aggression has been observed not only along the LAC but also in the South China Sea. This might indicate a deliberate planning on the part of the Chinese leadership to divert attention from domestic issues.

India’s alignment with the U.S.:

  • While India professes to be non-aligned, it is increasingly perceived as having aligned with the U.S.
  • India’s United States tilt is perhaps most pronounced in the domain of U.S.-China relations. Recent instances are often highlighted to confirm the perception that India tends to side with the U.S. and against China whenever there is a conflict of interest between the two.
  • An evident degree of geopolitical convergence also exists between the U.S. and India in the Indo-Pacific, again directed against China.
  • India is a member of the Quad (the U.S., Japan, Australia and India) which has a definite anti-China connotation.
  • The U.S. President’s proposal of redesigning the G-7, including countries such as India (India has conveyed its acceptance), but excluding China, provides China yet another instance of India and China being in opposite camps.
  • India is being increasingly projected as an alternative model to China, and being co-opted into a wider anti-China alliance which China clearly perceives as a provocation.

India’s traditional clout in its neighbourhood was slipping:

  • For India, tensions with Pakistan have been high keeping the troops occupied in the border areas.
  • Nepal raised boundary issues with India.
  • Sri Lanka is diversifying its foreign policy and China is making deep inroads into that region.
  • Bangladesh was deeply miffed with the Citizenship Amendment Act.
  • Even in Afghanistan, where Pakistan, China, Russia and the U.S. are involved in the transition process, India is out.

A confluence of all these factors, which point to a decline in the country’s smart power, allowed China to make aggressive moves on the LAC.

Concerns:

  • Though the LAC has never been demarcated there had not been previous incidents in the valley. By now staking a claim to the entire Galwan Valley and up to the confluence of the rivers, China is, in India’s view, unilaterally altering the LAC.
  • This goes against the 1993 Border Peace and Tranquility Agreement (BPTA), under which India and China agreed to strictly respect and observe the LAC between the two sides.

Undemarcated borders:

  • The alignment of the LAC has never been agreed upon, and it has neither been delineated nor demarcated.
  • There is no official map in the public domain that depicts the LAC. The current understanding of the LAC reflects the territories that are, at present, under the control of each side, pending a resolution of the boundary dispute.

Difference in claims:

  • For the most part, in the western sector, the LAC broadly corresponds with the border as China sees it. However, India and China do not agree on the alignment of the LAC everywhere.
  • Differences in perception, particularly in 13 spots in the western, middle and eastern sectors of the border, often lead to what are called “face-offs”, when patrols encounter each other in these grey zones that lie in between the different alignments. Some of these areas are Chumar, Demchok and the north bank of the Pangong Lake in the western sector, Barahoti in the middle sector, and Sumdorong Chu in the east.

Chinese tactics:

  • China has in several territorial disputes, intentionally left its claims ambiguous.
  • The Chinese haven’t stuck to their previously agreed positions. China’s alignments of the LAC have kept changing.
  • The border skirmishes along the Line of Actual Control seem to be indicative of the Chinese approach to use the border problem to pressurize India on other issues.

Where did we go wrong?

  • Refusal to respond once the issue was discovered.
  • Loss of nerve in backing the ground troops.
  • Sharing the harsh ground reality with the nation.
  • The general public was not informed about Chinese aggression.
  • Though it is true that sharing every detail in the public domain is not possible when it comes to negotiating sensitive issues of national security.
  • Indeed, the solution to the current crisis, and the disengagement that is needed urgently at various points along the LAC, can make progress only through diplomacy. At the same time, a blanket of silence hardly serves the government’s interests.
  • The absence of timely and credible information will only fuel speculation and alarm.
  • The statement from the highest administrative office has to be clear without any ambiguity.
  • There has been an obsession concerning the threat from Pakistan, ignoring the Chinese hostility and timely moves.

Intelligence Failure

  • The principal responsibility for intelligence assessment and analysis concerning China rests with the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) and India’s external intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW), and to a lesser extent, the Defence Intelligence Agency.
  • R&AW’s lack of domain expertise and inadequacy of China specialists might also have been a contributory factor.
  • Lack of long-term foreign policy foresight combined with intelligence failure to anticipate the Chinese incursion is a factor.

Summit diplomacy

  • “Summit conferences apply to the meeting of heads of government of the leading powers in an effort to reach broad measures of agreement”.

Why are there more summits?

  • The rise of summitry is a consequence of the paucity of resources of smaller nations who are less able to finance and sustain a vast diplomatic service and thus rely on summits for representation and negotiation.
  • It will speed up the process as heads of countries are directly negotiating.

Concerns

  • The preference given recently to summit diplomacy over traditional foreign policy-making structures proved to be a severe handicap.
  • Summit diplomacy cannot be a substitute for carefully structured foreign office policymaking.
  • Summits put professional diplomats briefly into the shade.
    • India believed the tensions between India and China were diffused after the Doklam crisis as we had meetings at the highest level in Wuhan and Mamallapuram.
    • Personal bonhomie with leaders will not result in friendly ties with countries.

What’s next?

  • Bilateral relations in other areas will be under considerable strain. Soft landings cannot be expected.
  • No leadership-level contact between the top leaders of the two countries can be anticipated in the near term.
  • Indian businesses in China and Chinese business operations in India can expect the going to be tougher than before. The scenario of trade and investments could encounter similar obstacles.
  • In areas that impinge on national security, as in the cyber field and in telecommunications, and in technologies that enable spying and surveillance (5G, for instance), stringent controls, exclusions and clampdowns can be expected in the treatment and the entry of Chinese companies in India.

Should India remain Non-Aligned?

  • The circumstances that led to the India-China war of 1962 offers an analysis of the Chinese approach.
  • Faced with the disaster of the Great Leap Forward and increasing isolation globally, the Chinese chose to strike at India rather than confront Russia or the West.
  • This is not the time for India to be seen as the front end of a belligerent coalition of forces seeking to put China in its place.
  • India has consistently followed a different policy in the past, and it is advisable that it remains truly non-aligned and not become part of any coalition that would not be in India’s long-term interest.
  • It will be in India’s economic and strategic interests to align with the US and the Western world which will remain together despite the fissures under Trump. India needs investments, technology, and a manufacturing ecosystem to employ millions of its young population and improve its living
  • It requires advanced weapons and technologies for its military.
  • India is ambitious and wants to be a great power and the US and the Western world recognise this and are willing to partner India.
  • The US is in talks with India to restructure Global Supply Chains. The US is encouraging its companies to look at India as an alternative to China.
  • This presents a big opportunity for India whose continental size, large market, young and skilled labour, and shared values with the West makes it an attractive destination. In fact, an alliance of democracies could crystallise with economic cooperation at its core.
  • Defence ties between the two have been cemented with increasing weapons sales and important defence agreements.
  • There are regular bilateral and multilateral military exercises and dialogues on economic and strategic cooperation.
  • On the other hand, Beijing wants to keep India boxed into South Asia, and tries to keep it off balance using Pakistan to which it supplies arms and supports. It has made inroads into the region using the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
  • It continues to block India’s membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and continues to needle New Delhi in the UNSC over Kashmir.

Conclusion:

  • India needs to be prepared, continue to build roads and improve the infrastructure along the border, to keep itself ready to deal with any contingency.
  • India must improve the military capacity of the tri-service Andaman and Nicobar Command given its immense geostrategic value, as it overlooks Asia’s maritime strategic lifeline and the world’s most important global sea lane.

SC looks to save both animals and crops

Paper:

Mains: General Studies-III: Technology, Economic Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management

Why in news:

The Supreme Court has underlined the urgent need to find an alternative to killing marauding wild animals as vermin even while protecting crops from them.

Concerns:

  • Human encroachments into forests are driving wild animals away from their natural habitats, forcing them to foray into human settlements for food.
  • Man-animal conflict on the rise is leading to both killing of wildlife and crop loss.

Vermin:

  • Vermin refers to pests or animals which spread diseases or destroy crops or livestock.
  • In India, Section 62 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 empowers the states to send a list of wild animals to the Centre requesting it to declare them vermin for selective slaughter.
  • The Centre is empowered to declare wild animals other than those listed in Schedules I & II to be vermin for a specified area and period.
  • The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 divides species into ‘schedules’ I to V. Schedule I members are the best protected.

Man-Animal Conflict

  • Man, animal conflict is expected to grow as humans are entering areas meant for wildlife for commercial activities further diminishing their habitat.
  • This raises questions of development at the cost of environment, with little to mitigate the larger issue of lost ranges and blocked corridors for these wandering elephants.
  • Shrinking ranges and feeding grounds for elephants cause serious worry, because the animals look for soft landscapes adjoining forests such as coffee, tea and cardamom estates, and in the absence of these, wander into food-rich farms falling in their movement pathways.

Way forward

  • We are at conflict with wildlife; we have to find a way to co-exist, as animals too have a right to live. Consideration for wildlife while planning infrastructural projects and financial allocations for mitigation measures are needed to address the issue.
  • A sensible course open to conservation-minded governments is to end all intrusion into the 5% of protected habitats in India, and draw up better compensation schemes for farmers who lose crops to animals.
  • A culture shift to protect, rather than prospect, would genuinely enrich people and save biodiversity.

Parliamentary panel to discuss draft EIA

Paper:

Mains: General Studies-III: Technology, Economic Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management

Why in news:

The Parliamentary Committee of Science and Technology headed by Former Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh will deliberate on the subject at its meeting.

Background:

Former Environment Minister had raised objections to the draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification 2020 based on the following arguments.

  • The provision of post-facto approvalfor projects goes against the principle of assessment prior to environment clearance.
  • The draft notification reduces public participation in the environment clearance processby lessening the notice period for public hearings and doing away with the need for public hearings for a large category of projects.
  • The provisions also give the Union government full powers to appoint the State Environmental Impact Assessment Authority thus affecting the principle of cooperative federalism.
  • The proposed changes seem to promote unrestrained development by way of cutting down on environmental regulations. This approach could have a detrimental impact on the health and welfare of the people and go against the vision of ensuring development that is sustainable.

Environment Impact Assessment:

  • Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Act is the law that governs how the threat posed by large infrastructure projects to the environment ought to be evaluated.
  • It is a process of evaluating the likely environmental impacts of a proposed project or development, taking into account inter-related socio-economic, cultural and human-health impacts, both beneficial and adverse.
  • EIA is basically a tool used to assess the positive and negative environmental, economic and social impacts of a project. This is used to predict the environmental impacts of a project in the pre-planning stage itself so that decisions can be taken to reduce the adverse impacts.

Public Hearing Process in the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Act:

  • The public hearing process is considered a key component of the EIA.
  • An organisation has to submit a detailed plan, as part of the EIA process, that details the nature, need, potential impact and remedial measures, if their proposed infrastructure project threatens to significantly impact a region.
  • As part of the process, representatives of the company, State and district administration representatives must discuss the environment impact management plan, record objections from residents of the region and submit these to a committee of experts, constituted by the Union Environment Ministry, who will then take a holistic view of the comments and the management plan and decide on whether to accord clearance to the project.
  • While expert committees constituted by the MoEF appraise projects, those below a certain size are appraised by State-level authorities called the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA).
  • In 2016, the Ministry further delegated the authority to grant clearances for up to five hectares of individual mining lease of minor minerals and 25 hectares in clusters, to the DEIAA, or District Environment Impact Assessment Authority.

Key Details:

  • The draft EIA notification proposes to be an update to the EIA of 2006.
  • Over the years, several provisions in the EIA 2006 have been challenged in the National Green Tribunal (NGT) and led to the MoEF modifying the rules. The EIA 2019 aims to accommodate all these revisions.
  • EIA of 2006 specifies a minimum of 30 days for people to respond. The current version of the update, which will likely become law soon, gives a “minimum of 20 days” of notice period.
  • It also requires that the public-hearing process be wrapped up in 40 days, as opposed to the existing norm of 45 days.
  • Authorities were earlier mandated to monitor projects for compliance with environmental norms every six months. It has now been proposed to relax the monitoring frequency to once a year.