Evaluate the Ladakh crisis, keep China at bay
Why in News
- For more than a year, the standoff between India and China at Eastern Ladakh region didn’t find any signs of resolution.
- No output came from the series of talks held by the two nations over the issue. It is resulted in lowering the bilateral relations between two countries. Recently, India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar has made clear, the relationship is conditional on quietude on the border.
- China continues to reinforce its troops, talks going fruitless, more broadly, the IndiaChina bilateral relationship has ruptured.
- Now, the External Affairs Minister of India has made clear, the relationship between Indo-China is conditional on quietude on the border.
The Ladakh crisis offers New Delhi three key lessons in managing the intensifying strategic competition with China.
- Revamping strategies
- First, military strategies based on denial are more useful than strategies based on punishment.
- The Indian military’s standing doctrine calls for deterring adversaries with the threat of massive punitive retaliation for any aggression, capturing enemy territory as bargaining leverage in postwar talks.
- But this didn’t deter China from launching unprecedented incursions in May 2020, and the threat lost credibility when retaliation never materialized.
- But the Indian military’s highwater mark in the crisis was an act of denial which served to deny the key terrain to the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA), and gave the Indian Army a stronger defensive position from which it could credibly defend a larger segment of its front line.
- By bolstering India’s defensive position, rather than launching an escalatory response, such a strategy is also more likely than punishment to preserve crisis stability.
- Over time, improved denial capabilities may allow India to reduce the resource drain of the increased militarization of the LAC.
- Political costs
- The second key lesson of Ladakh is that China is more likely to be deterred or coerced with the threat of political costs, rather than material costs.
- India successfully raised the risks of the crisis for China through its threat of a political rupture, not military punishment.
- A permanently hostile India or an accidental escalation to conflict were risks that China, having achieved its tactical goals in the crisis, assessed were an unnecessary additional burden while it was contending with the instability of its territorial disputes and pandemic response.
- The corollary lesson is that individual powers, even large powers such as India, will probably struggle to shift Beijing’s calculus alone.
- To the extent that China adjusted its position in the Ladakh crisis, it did so because it was responding to the cumulative effect of multiple pressure points — most of which were out of India’s control.
- Against the rising behemoth, only coordinated or collective action is likely to be effective.
- Indian Ocean Region is key
- The third lesson of Ladakh is that India should consider accepting more risk on the LAC in exchange for long-term leverage and influence in the Indian Ocean Region.
- At the land border, the difficult terrain and more even balance of military force means that each side could only eke out minor, strategically modest gains at best.
- The Ladakh crisis, by prompting an increased militarization of the LAC, may prompt India to defer long overdue military modernization and maritime expansion into the Indian Ocean.
- India has suffered unequal strategic costs from the Ladakh crisis.
- Chinese troops continue to camp on previously Indian controlled land, and worse, India may jeopardize its long-term leverage in the more consequential Indian Ocean Region.
- But if India’s leaders honestly and critically evaluate the crisis, it may yet help to actually brace India’s long-term position against China.
GS PAPER – III
Energy Transition: No rush for India on net zero
Why in News
- There has been hitting arguments going on these days on why India should join the net-zero or carbon-neutral coalition of countries, implying that, by 2050, the net carbon emissions of these countries would be balanced by carbon sequestration and removal to the same extent, thus contributing net-zero carbon to the environment.
- This would help the world keep the rise in temperatures to within 1.5`C of the pre–Industrial Revolution temperature, thereby preventing catastrophic climate change.
- Europe, Japan and South Korea have announced net zero by 2050, and China before 2060.
Net- Zero Emission
- The power generation capacity in the country is about 380 GW, of which about 62% is thermal (mainly coal, 53% of total).
- India is abundant in coal and adopting a net-zero carbon goal by 2050 would mean abandoning action based on its abundant resource and, therefore, may be a sub-optimal strategy.
Traditional reasons behind not adopting the net-zero by 2050.
- Though India is the third-largest carbon emitter in the world, after China and the US, Indian per-capita carbon emissions are an eighth of those of USA and less than a third of China.
- The developed countries have used the emissions route to development, while India is still developing.
- Any pre-mature adoption of the net-zero emissions target will mean that a vast proportion of India’s population would continue wallowing in poverty for generations to come.
- Finally, any substantive compensation mechanism from the developed world to the developing world in terms of finances and technology has not materialised.
- So, it may be unethical for the developed world to insist on premature adoption of net-zero targets by India.
India’s role in Preservation of Environment
- India is already among the very few countries in achieving the voluntary Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) as part of the Paris Accord (Conference of Parties 21, or COP 21, Paris, 2015).
- This includes decreasing the carbon intensity of its GDP by 33-35% compared to 2005 levels by 2030.
- Also, the non-fossil fuel capacity of the total electricity capacity of the country would have to go up to 40% by 2030 and the country has accordingly planned for renewable capacity of 450 MW by that year.
- As solar power achieves grid parity and more the renewable energy (RE) transition in the country is already helping achieve India’s voluntary obligations aimed at preventing disastrous climate change.
- It would also help in improving the cost-competitiveness of the Indian economy as the price of RTC renewable power is about half of the average cost of supply of power in the country.
- However, this relentless rise of renewables has thrown up a number of challenges, which would become more acute as the proportion of RE in the total electricity mix increases.
Challenges in rise of Renewable Energy
- One of the most important challenges is the increasing financial unsustainability of the power distribution sector, dominated by the public sector distribution companies (discoms).
- As competition in power distribution increases because of the coming of age of RE, the largest and the best consumers of the discoms would start to source power from the RE sources, using open access in power distribution, because that would be more cost effective.
- This would lead to decreasing demand of power from the and commensurate lower capacity utilization (plant load factor is already below 54% currently) in the power generation sector.
- However, since the discoms have already entered into long-term power purchase agreements with mainly thermal and coal-based power generating companies, they would have to pay the fixed cost of power, further adversely affecting their financials.
- This would lead to more stranded thermal power assets, adding to the non-performing asset (NPA) problem of the banks, the cost of which would ultimately devolve on the government.
- Continuing with coal-first strategy (because of our resource endowments) would mean loss of cost competitiveness and increasing financial unsustainability of the sector.
- Also, there would be increasing challenges to financing new coal-based power plants by financial institutions owing to environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations.
- On the other hand, pushing more RE (say, tidal power and offshore wind) based on subsidies would make the discoms more financially unsustainable.
- The optimal strategy may be to stop all subsidies for all sources of power (including large hydro, where the capital costs are estimated at over Rs 10 crore per MW) and let market forces take charge.
- If this means that more RE comes onstream, because of its increasing cost competitiveness, with consequential adverse impact on conventional coal-based power—in Britain, the share of electricity generated by coal fell from 40% in 2013 to 2% in H1 2020 (The Economist)—so be it.
This strategy would also imply that there is no forced adoption of net-zero commitments by 2050 by India.