Daily Editorial Analysis for 21st February 2020

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  5. Daily Editorial Analysis for 21st February 2020

Rise and Rise of India’s Neighbourhood First Policy

Paper: II

For Mains: Bilateral, Regional and Global Groupings and Agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.

Context of News:

  • India neighborhood first policy has been on the march right from the Gujral Doctrine of unilateral concession. This is How India Plans to Keep Its Neighbours Away from China’s Influence.Present government administration’s “neighbourhood first” policy shows the South Asian country’s attempt to counter the Chinese Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) and to maintain strong regional influence.
  • Shortly after being reelected, PM Modi visited two neighbouring countries the Maldives and Sri Lanka, in his first trip abroad. Later he also visited Bhutan. This was an attempt to pursue closer relations with these three countries.

Country wise Neighborhood policy:

  • Maldives: Critical Node in India’s Maritime Strategy
  • India-Maldives relations, which faced rough storms and were almost broken during the tenure of former President Abdullah Yameen, have only recently been restored, under the Solih regime. In fact, the Solih government has propounded an “India first” policy, focused on “re-igniting the India-Maldives friendship” and “exploring new avenues while strengthening existing links.”
  • Though such a pronouncement certainly does not imply a break of engagement with Beijing, it does exude a political bonhomie that should be leveraged by New Delhi to both solidify the relationship as well as achieve its regional objectives.
  • Sri-Lanka and India: In Solidarity against Terror
  • The visit of Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa to India in February marked the beginning of a new chapter in ties with a friendly neighbour, one with which India has close historical bonds straddling culture, religion, spirituality, art and language
  • Prime Minister Modi’s daylong stopover in Sri Lanka was high in symbolism, mainly meant to offer India’s solidarity and support in combating the menace of terrorism, after Sri Lanka faced violent terrorist attacks on Easter Sunday this year. Modi was the first foreign leader to tour Sri Lanka after the incident.
  • India’s relations with Bangladesh
  • India’s relations with Bangladesh under Modi and Sheikh Hasina have evolved into a model partnership, consolidated by high-level exchanges, mutual trust and enhanced cooperation on security matters. Incidents of border firing, though rare, have an adverse fall-out on public perception and need to be handled with sensitivity.
  • India Nepal Relation:
  • Countering hard power by projecting soft power: In contrast to China’s efforts to muscle its way into Nepal, Modi’s current, well-received visit to the Himalayan nation seeks to emphasize India’s historically close cultural, religious, and people-to-people relations with Nepal.
  • Modi’s emphasis on culture, democracy and development was aimed at reaching out to the Nepalese people as well as politicians, underlining the vast commonalities between the two countries, against the backdrop of India’s strategic rival China making deep inroads into Nepal.
  • India Bhutan Relation:
  • The India-Bhutan friendship runs deep, with growing cooperation in the vital hydro-power sector providing it a fresh impetus. Notably, the centrepiece Mangdechhu project (750 MW) was completed on schedule last year. The introduction of the RuPay card in Bhutan and elsewhere in the neighbourhood will further cement economic and people-to-people ties.

Reasons for India to attach importance on its “neighborhood first” foreign policy:

  • India is a geographic hub in South Asia, bordering almost all countries in the region. If other South Asian countries adopt “neighborhood first” policy like India, the move would reinforce India’s central position in South Asia.
  • Majority of South Asian countries were British colonies. Some independent countries which have never been colonies were once to some extent dominated by the UK in terms of diplomacy.
  • After becoming independent, India took over most territories of the British colonists and also wanted to inherit the vast influence and leadership that the UK once had. The map of India today is still the same as the one drawn by the British people. Even the Indian army, when planning its sphere of action, often goes the way of the British Empire.
  • India shares many similarities with other South Asian countries with regard to culture, language, religion and customs. India believes that it is not only the geographic and political hub, but also a cultural centre in the region. Except for Islam, other religious cultures originated in India.

Way Forward:

  • Given the perennial image of India as a “big brother” in the region and its perceived interference in the affairs of its smaller neighbors coupled with China’s increasing forays into India’s traditional sphere of influence, the task is cut out for India’s foreign policy mandarins under Modi 2.0. How to create incentives for its neighbors to appreciate its positive intervention in their economic and political affairs without overplaying its hand will remain a prominent foreign policy challenge for India.
  • In economic terms, it would entail creating a web of relationships of economic interdependence between India and its immediate and extended neighborhood. In political terms, it would mean creating space to build and maintain political assets in these countries that are well disposed to working with India. In the coming years, how New Delhi leverages its material and ideational resources in sync with its political and economic strategies in the neighborhood in order to maintain peace and stability will be key.

Gearing up to fight the next big viral outbreak

GS Paper: III

Topic: Science and Technology- Developments and their Applications and Effects in Everyday Life.

Prelims: Corona virus.

Mains: Condition of Indian Public machinery to tackle health crisis like coronavirus

What’s the News?

The World Health Organization (WHO)’s Global Health Security Index finds that no country is adequately prepared.

Global Health Security Index:

  • It assesses 195 countries across six categories — prevention, early detection, rapid response, health system quality, standards, and the risk environment.
  • India is ranked 57th. That the country scores around the global average is no comfort, because the global average is a low 40.2 out of 100, and India’s score is 46.5.
  • India is ill-prepared to deal with the new strain of coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) that is causing worldwide panic.
  • Policymakers must take forceful action to prevent the spread of the new virus and heed the urgent warnings of global public health professionals about new pathogens.


  • Coronavirus is a member of a family of viruses that include severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), which caused major outbreaks in 2003 and 2012, respectively.
  • Corona viruses are named for the spikes that protrude from their membranes, which resemble the sun’s corona.
  • Common signs of infection: Fever, cough, gastro-intestinal symptoms, pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure, which can even lead to death.
  • No vaccine or antiviral drugs available for these viruses. Symptoms can be treated.

Indian scenario:

  • Health expenditure by the government in India is less than 1.5% of Gross Domestic Product, which is low for a middle-income country.
  • Spending at that level limits, among other things, the availability of health professionals during crises. According to WHO, India has only 80 doctors per 1,00,000 people.
  • India’s health status is being worsened by climate shocks. An HSBC study of 67 countries ranks India as the most climate-vulnerable one because of the impact of severe temperature increases and declines in rainfalls.
  • The effects of such occurrences are magnified by the high density of the country’s population, the sheer number of people in harm’s way, and the high incidence of poverty.
  • Research is increasingly connecting global warming to vector-borne viruses.

Bio-diversity link:

  • It emanated in a market where wild animals were sold — highlights the biodiversity link. Nearly two-thirds of known pathogens and three-quarters of newly emerging pathogens are spread from animals to humans.
  • This dangerous trend for disease spillovers from animals to humans can be traced to increased human encroachment on wildlife territory; land-use changes that increase the rate of human-wildlife and wildlife-livestock interactions; and climate change.
  • Protecting the precious biodiversity should be a priority.

Kerala’s experience with the deadly Nipah virus:

  • It showed the value of investing in education and health over the long term.
  • The availability of equipment for quick diagnosis, measures to prevent diseases from spreading, and public information campaigns all helped to keep the mortality rate from the Nipah virus relatively low.
  • Having capable public health professionals helped in the information exchange with WHO and other international bodies.

Lesson of the global financial crisis 2008:

  • Countries need to conduct regular stress tests on their financial systems for their preparedness to deal with health emergencies.
  • Each State in India should do this to expose crucial gaps in areas such as adequacy and supply of diagnostic equipment, health facilities, hygienic practices, and prevention and treatment protocols.


  • Policymakers must take forceful action to prevent the spread of the new virus and heed the urgent warnings of global public health professionals about new pathogens.
  • More outbreaks are likely in the future; the best response is better preparedness.

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