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weekly analysis

The Weekly Analysis – Edition 42

There are two aspects to the news- knowing the headline and understanding the intricacies of it. We at The Connectere focus on both. While The First Forum edition gives a brief about the headlines, The Weekly Analysis Edition is meant to educate the reader on what do various news mean and what are their intricacies. This initiative is meant to educate the reader on how to understand the important news. In the Forty Second Edition we are covering the following news:

  1. India-Nepal relations in a new transition
  2. INDIA – SRI LANKA TIES
  3. What challenges are left behind by Trump for the Biden era?
  4. What does India’s move in Kabul mean?
  5. India’s Vaccine Diplomacy

India-Nepal relations in a new transition

India is comfortable with some changes as its Nepal policy is heading towards deeper engagement with all sections.
The Key highlights of the meeting included various aspects such as strengthening ties. Both countries explored ways to further strengthen the traditionally close and friendly ties. Both sides also discussed several areas of cooperation including in the area of connectivity, economy and trade, power, oil and gas, water resources, political and security issues, border management, development partnership, tourism, culture, education and capacity building. Taking in account, the milestone achieved by the Motihari-Amlekhganj petroleum product pipelines, both discussed the expansion of the pipeline to Chitwan and the establishment of a new pipeline on the eastern side connecting Siliguri to Jhapa in Nepal.
Both sides welcomed the completion of the work on first passenger railway line between India and Nepal from Jaynagar to Kurtha via Janakpur and noted that operating procedures for commencement of ttrain services were being finalized. Other cross-border rail connectivity projects, including a possible Raxaul-Kathmandu broad gauge railway line, were also discussed.
As the meeting proceeded, discussion on cross border movement of people and goods was done. The recently inaugurated Integrated Check Posts(ICP) at Birgunj an Biratnagar have helped in seamless movement of people and trade between the two countries. Both sides welcomed the commencement of construction of third ICP at Nepalgunj.
Discussions were held on expediting joint hydropower projects, including the proposed Pancheshwar Multipurpose Project, which have numerous benefits for the people. India conveyed that it would undertake two more cultural heritage projects in Nepal namely the Pashupatinath Riverfront Development and the Bhandarkhal Garden restoration in Patan Durbar in Lalitpur in Nepal with great assistance.
One main factor noted was the close cooperation between the two sides in combating Covid-19 pandemic in the region. Nepal congratulated India on the remarkable success in production of Covidshield and Covaxin vaccines in India and requested for early provisions of vaccine to Nepal.
Both sides also exchanged views on international, regional and sub-regional cooperation. Nepal expressed support for India’s permanent membership of an expanded UN Security Council to reflect the changed balance of power.

INDIA – SRI  LANKA TIES

Recently, the Government of Srilanka decided to rebuild a demolished memorial at Jaffna University after the High Commissioner of India’s concerns.The demolition of a memorial paying tribute to Tamil civilians killed during the civil war between LTTE and the Sri Lankan Army in 2009 has brought attention to unaddressed issues of minority rights of Tamilians in Srilanka again in the India-Srilanka relations. The key ideas discussed were issues of Tamilians in Srilanka
Denial of Citizenship: The problem of the Srilankan Tamils began earlier than the 1950s. After independence in 1948 the Srilankan government felt that the Tamils were not Srilankan because they had Indian ancestry. The majority of the Tamils were denied Srilankan citizenship due to which most of the Tamils continued to live in poverty in the tea estates of Srilanka.
Linguistic Discrimination: The conflict between Sinhalese and Tamils in Sri Lanka started in 1956 when Sinhala was made the official language by the country’s President and large scale discrimination began against the Tamils.
Religious Discrimination: The discrimination against the Tamil population continued throughout the 1960s as Buddhism was given the primary place in the state and the number of Tamils employed by the state and admitted into institutions of higher learning was greatly restricted.
Intensified Movements: During this period the Tamils responded to their oppression largely through a political and a non-violent protest movement. In the 1970s, however, there was an increased trend towards Tamil separatism and militancy that gave rise to a terrorist organization called LTTE.
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE): It was formed in 1976 as the self-styled “national freedom movement of the people of Tamil Eelam” and began a guerilla war on the government and administration. It undertook numerous terrorist activities in Srilanka especially against the Sinhalese and executed the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi (the ex Prime Minister of India). After a long strife, and millions of casualties, the civil war with LTTE ended in 2009. India played an important role in helping Srilankan to uproot terrorism from its homeland.
The concerns for India are Rehabilitation of Refugees: A lot of Srilankan Tamils who evaded from Srilankan civil war (2009) are seeking refuge in Tamil Nadu. They are not returning in fear of being targeted again. It is a challenge for India to rehabilitate them.
Sentiments of Indian Tamils: A number of protests and criticism is drawn at the end of Indian Government for overlooking the plight of Srilankan Tamils to maintain good relationship with Srilanka.
Strategic interests vs Tamil question: Often India has to trade off on the question of Tamilian minority rights over strategic issues to protect its economic interests in its neighborhood and to counter Chinese influence in Indian Ocean.

What challenges are left behind by Trump for the Biden era?

Recently, the world witnessed Joe Biden being sworn in as the 46th President of the United States of America and as America prepares for the transition from the tumultuous era of Trump to what many hope would be a more sedate and serious, there is much nervousness about the challenges in future.
Mr. Biden will neither have complete autonomy from his predecessor nor a clean slate from which his policy options might emerge. He will have to respond to an America which Trump has transformed and an international environment, which, too, has been changed in the last few years, partly by Mr. Trump’s policy choices. Trump’s continuing support base will constrain the ability to usher in the transformational agenda and this would make it all the more difficult to govern from the middle ground of American politics.
This will have grave implications for Mr. Biden’s foreign policy approach as well. In a number of his foreign policy statements, Mr. Biden has harked back to Obama-era policies but the world has moved on and it is not readily evident if the Obama-era template can actually work in a world fundamentally disrupted by forces in the post Obama era. Mr. Biden has an ambitious restorationist agenda wherein he wants the U.S. to rejoin multilateral institutions, work closely with allies and partners, as well as build America’s domestic capacities. In an interesting intervention recently, former Secretary of State warned that the Biden administration should not return to the old Iranian nuclear deal of 2015 as it can spark an arms race in West Asia;his argument being that with Iran’s nuclear capabilities grown and a new window of opportunity with the Abraham Accords, today’s West Asia is not what it was in 2015. The convergence between Israel and Sunni Arab states against the perceived Iranian threat has led to the creation of a new axis with far-reaching implications for the region’s future. So, while Mr. Biden may like to revive the old Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), other stakeholders are signalling that they are not interested.
A big votary of the Paris climate accord, one of the first priorities for Mr. Biden would be to bring the U.S. back to the agreement but the lack of a considerable majority in the U.S. Senate will be a hindrance inbringing a major shift. Mr. Biden has also expressed his desire to reform the World Trade Organization and appoint members to its Appellate Body, but that would be difficult to accomplish given the new power equations and the growing clout of non-western states.
While there will be a lot of talk for a greater transatlantic partnership, to what extent the countries will be able to coordinate their actions on trade and technology remains an open question. Mr. Trump’s tariff war against China would also be difficult to scale back, especially as China has made it clear that it is in no mood to initiate structural reforms demanded by Washington.
Even in his last few days, Mr. Trump did not shy away from ratcheting up the pressure on China by continuing to blacklist Chinese companies from U.S. markets and by new policy moves on key issues such as Tibet and Taiwan. With his moves, Mr. Trump has severely restricted Mr. Biden’s space for manoeuvre — he can either continue with Trump-era policies or face political backlash for being soft on China. The Trump legacy will continue to haunt Mr. Biden long after his predecessor has left the White House.

What does India’s move in Kabul mean?

India’s decision to support the Afghan government, at a time when Ashraf Ghani is weak, is intriguing. India’s national security adviser undertook a visit to Kabul last week soon after external affairs minister promised more military support to Afghanistan. Whatever India offers is unlikely to tilt the military balance in Kabul’s favour then why is India opting to intensify support for the Afghan government?
With negotiations between Kabul and the Taliban in Doha gridlocked, intensification of fighting on the ground, including targeted assassinations of civilians, flourishing factionalism within Kabul, lack of clarity on how US President-elect Joe Biden will proceed with the withdrawal, and an assertive Pakistan, the main question facing India is how long can the President withstand these pressures?
The central driving force is India’s desire to ensure a strategic balance between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Given the power asymmetry between these two countries, such a balance, from an Indian viewpoint is to enable Kabul to influence the terms of talks with Pakistan-supported forces such as the Taliban. New Delhi has found determined allies in Ghani and the Vice-President but there is no guarantee that this approach will yield results because given India’s mounting security challenges with both Pakistan and China, there are valid concerns about India losing ground entirely if Kabul collapses. History offers clues to better understand India’s decision.
In February 1989, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi dispatched the then chief of India’s external intelligence agency, AK Verma, to assess the longevity of the Najibullah government, which was under pressure from Mujahideen attacks. He said that Najibullah can last “indefinitely” with Soviet support. Meanwhile, India had begun outreach to different Mujahideen factions and found a surprising convergence of interest. It helped India embrace the new realities after Najibullah’s ouster in 1992 when Soviet support ended. For now, there is no evidence that India’s unofficial outreach to the Taliban and vice-versa has generated an understanding of that sort but in any case it’s unlikely to be made public by either side.
Overt engagement with India will complicate the Taliban’s relations with Pakistan when it can least afford this. For India, overt diversification risks expediting Ghani’s political collapse instead of ensuring an internal balance within Afghanistan. India’s decision to support Ghani is a sign that there are no endgames for India in Afghanistan. Thus, it would rather accept a setback in its pursuit of a balance between Kabul and Islamabad and securing the few gains that Afghanistan has made over the last two decades, instead of coming across as an opportunist.
The other aspect of India’s decision has a sharper edge. On August 15, 1975, India received a strategic shock in the form Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s assassination in Bangladesh. The rise of the pro-Pakistan army chief Ziaur Rahman as president in Dhaka generated tremendous anxiety in New Delhi. In response, R&AW recommended that the political leadership take all feasible measure to “soften up areas which are contiguous to Indian territories” and sought re-appraisal of relations with Pakistan. To relieve Pakistani pressure on India through Bangladesh, R&AW thought it was necessary “to intensify pressure on Pakistan through Afghanistan”.
Given India’s security challenges today, it’s entirely possible that the national security adviser’s visit is a signal to Pakistan that the latter is likely to inherit a costly, violent  mess in Afghanistan if it continues to pursue revisionism. This is supported by India’s belief that even if the US leaves completely, neither Iran nor Russia, despite their alliance with China and engagement with the Taliban, would prefer an Islamic Emirate in Afghanistan — offering India space to manoeuvre, and influence the outcome of the Afghan war(s) over the next six-to-12 months.

India’s Vaccine Diplomacy

New Delhi in a well appreciated move has started sending out COVID 19 vaccines to neighbouring nations in South Asia and other countries that have asked for help from India. In doing so New Delhi has fulfilled its role as a responsible nation and has paved way for a new kind of diplomacy. As of now, India has shipped vaccines to Maldives, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Myanmar.
India has an upper hand in terms of its advanced cutting edge healthcare in the private sector, India attracts thousands of people from all across South Asia for medical treatment due to the affordability aspect. Medicines manufactured in India have a good reputation across South Asia. It was hence quite obvious that the South Asian Nations would look up to India to supply the vaccines especially when one of the vaccines has been manufactured in partnership with Oxford University. In their recent visits to these nations External Affairs Minister had extended assurances on the possibility of supply of vaccines from India.
Even though India is supplying the vaccines free of cost as of now, there is a possibility that the South Asian Nations could enter into an agreement with India for the future supply of vaccines.
In order to have any lasting value for Delhi’s relationships with its neighbours, it is important that India refrains from chest thumping a saviour complex. It would be equally unwise to make this yet another contest between India and China.
It is the responsibility of all nations with the capacity and capability to manufacture vaccines to provide other nations with the vaccines and not look at it another profit making venture. It is in times like these that humanity and unity is put to test, the virus is as dangerous for anyone else as it is for you. So, while it is important that you provide your own citizens with vaccines you have a humane responsibility towards the other nations too.

 

 

 

The First Forum

The First Forum – Edition 78

The First Forum is an initiative that focuses on covering the latest happenings in a brief format. This is in lieu of the importance of knowledge about current happenings in this fast-changing world.
In the Seventy Eighth- Edition of The First Forum we would be covering the following topics:
1. Politics
2. Science and Technology
3. Business
4. Economics
5. Finance

(By Divyansh Gupta, Ayush Harlalka and Creamy Garg)

weekly analysis

The Weekly Analysis – Edition 41

There are two aspects to the news- knowing the headline and understanding the intricacies of it. We at The Connectere focus on both. While The First Forum edition gives a brief about the headlines, The Weekly Analysis Edition is meant to educate the reader on what do various news mean and what are their intricacies. This initiative is meant to educate the reader on how to understand the important news. In the Forty First Edition we are covering the following news:

  1. What’s the cure for financial stress?
  2. Farm agitation lies in political domains; not judiciary’s strong suit
  3. A Second Impeachment?
  4. Targeting the Hazaras

What’s the cure for financial stress?

The latest Financial Stability Report put out by the RBI does assert that the worst is behind us, in judging the pandemic’s impact, but adds that recovery path remains uncertain. According to the report, timely measures across monetary, liquidity and banking regulatory domains have kept the financial system smoothly functioning for now.
However, the current, restraint-induced easing of risk indicators would reverse when regulation normalises and the only way to avert a serious financial problem is for the economy to grow robustly. In such a scenario, fresh revenue and earnings will enable companies to service their loans. This calls for bold fiscal support to boost growth.
The report asserts that credit support packages would need to be relaxed in a calibrated fashion, hence, it calls for focused financial development and risk-mitigation efforts to better manage economic recovery and it also states that while performance indicators and asset quality of scheduled commercial banks have improved of late, the capital ratios could change in a non-linear fashion due to uncertainties in recovery.
The gross non-performing assets of scheduled commercial banks have come down to 7.5% as of September, and net NPAs have declined to 2.1%. This is credible but mostly due to regulatory forbearance. Another point of interest is the sharp drop in the slippage ratio to 0.15, which shows new accretion to NPAs in a quarter as a ratio of standard advances in the beginning of the quarter. The need of the hour is sector-specific policy initiatives to boost performance in the corporate sector, including in travel, tourism, hospitality and real estate, and improve incomes of households. We need bold, concerted action.

protest

Farm agitation lies in political domains; not judiciary’s strong suit

The Supreme Court is set on a pretty rare path for judiciary with its decision to stay on the implementation of the three farm laws, while setting up an expert committee to hold talks with stakeholders. The Apex court has been voicing its unhappiness with the government’s mishandling of the farm agitation at Delhi’s borders since December and has expressed concern for the physical and mental health of protesters and lack of wide consultations while tabling the bills. However, the noble intent on all these aspects can’t detract from the constitutional scheme of separation of powers.
The political and socio-economic issues driving the farm agitation are the executive’s headache. The justiciable elements in this include competence of Parliament to legislate on agriculture, undermining of state levies on farm trade, and denying farmers right to judicial recourse for enforcement of contracts. Suspending laws passed by Parliament requires invoking legal and constitutional principles at the outset so courts have ordinarily let laws be or allowed governments to hold them in abeyance while hearing legal challenges against them.
Originally, the SC expert panel’s mandate to talk with farmers was a parliamentary committee’s remit, bypassing which damaged the government politically. The experts may inform SC about qualitative aspects of the new farm policy but those are choices best left to governments. Judiciary acting on experts’ policy advices can complicate the situation where some farmers demand repeal and others offer support because the expert committee’s report and its negotiations deciding the fate of laws or the course of agitations can send subversive signals too.
The take-charge attitude on the farm agitation is at odds with the passivity in determining constitutionality of recent anti-interfaith marriage laws, CAA, or even the sedition law. In sedition the narrow guardrails erected by SC are frequently disregarded when authorities haul up citizens for dissent. Laws that smack of executive overreach are always primary candidates for SC scrutiny. In contrast, stepping out of its judicial comfort zone to quell agitations without the executive’s resources is a needless risk.

 

A Second Impeachment?

US President Donal Trump, not for long might I add, is all set to make history. And we must all, some if not all, should be happy about it. The 45th President of the United States of America the pioneer for growth and development is set to be impeached twice. A week after he incited mobs of loyalists to storm the capitol and hinder the congressional proceedings while the senate sat down to confirm Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States of America, people have called this Trump’s betrayal of the United States.
The Congress this week returned to a heavily fortified capitol which was protected by thousands of security troops and sat down to debate on an article of impeachment that accuses the President of inciting an insurrection that led to rampage by his supporters. It would not be wrong to add that President Trump has robbed America of the values it stood for, he made the sacrifices of those that died during the civil war almost worthless. Calling him a tyrant would not be too much and this great nation can no longer look away and can no longer forgive the President for the sins that he has committed and for the absolute misuse of power. The power vested in the President expects him to uphold and protect the constitution of this great nation, but when he calls a fair election fraudulent, takes the matter into his own hands when the court could no longer help him and sets mobsters on the senate he blatantly abuses that same constitution that granted him that power.
The damage done throughout the years of the Trump Presidency poses a challenge for President elect Joe Biden because all the damage done might not really be reparable. What would be interesting and important to see would be how would Joe Biden go about correcting the errors President Trump committed and if he can uphold the sanctity of the constitution.

Targeting the Hazaras

The Hazaras from Pakistan are a Shiite community and have been at the receiving end of the atrocities of the Islamic State of Pakistan which is a Sunni majority nation. They have been targeted not only in Pakistan but also in neighbouring Afghanistan. Last Saturday, Pakistan’s Hazaras finally ended a protest and agreed to bury the bodies of 11 coal miners from the community killed by the Islamic State on January 3. The stir came to an end only after Prime Minister Imran Khan visited the mourners in Quetta and promised compensation for the dead.
Around 1773, the regions of Hazarajat were annexed and made part of the Afghan empire under a Pashtun ruler. The Sunni Muslim majority under the Pashtun ruler resulted in further marginilisation of the Shiite Hazara community, to the extent that in the 18th and 19th century, they were forced to leave fertile lowlands in central Afghanistan and make the dry, arid mountainous landscape their new home. In the 19th century, the Hazara community constituted approximately 67 per cent of Afghanistan’s total population.
Since then, primarily due to violence, oppression and targeted massacres, that number has come down to a little as 10 to 20 per cent of the population now. The attacks reached a crescendo in 2013, when three separate bombings killed more than 200 people in Hazara neighbourhoods of Quetta. In the aftermath of this incident, the Shia community in Pakistan had erupted in anger over the Pakistani government’s lack of protection of the city and had refused to bury the dead till the government made steps to improve security. The Sunni militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claimed one of the three deadly attacks.

 

 

 

 

The First Forum

The First Forum – Edition 77

The First Forum is an initiative that focuses on covering the latest happenings in a brief format. This is in lieu of the importance of knowledge about current happenings in this fast-changing world.
In the Seventy Seventh – Edition of The First Forum we would be covering the following topics:
1. Politics
2. Science and Technology
3. Business
4. Economics
5. Finance

(By Divyansh Gupta, Ayush Harlalka and Creamy Garg)

weekly analysis

The Weekly Analysis – Edition 40

There are two aspects to the news- knowing the headline and understanding the intricacies of it. We at The Connectere focus on both. While The First Forum edition gives a brief about the headlines, The Weekly Analysis Edition is meant to educate the reader on what do various news mean and what are their intricacies. This initiative is meant to educate the reader on how to understand the important news. In the Fortieth Edition we are covering the following news:

  1. Two Covid-19 vaccines approved but 69% Indians still hesitant to take the vaccine, reveals survey
  2. FSSAI Slashes limit for transfat in food
  3. Qatar and Saudi Arabia reconciliation – exhaustion or compromise?
  4. Global economy in the new decade
  5. The Antithesis of Democracy

Minamata Disease

Two Covid-19 vaccines approved but 69% Indians still hesitant to take vaccine, reveals survey


The Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) gave a green signal to Oxford-Astrazeneca’s and Serum Institute of India’s Covishield, along with Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin last week. Covishield has been authorised for emergency use only and final contours are reportedly being worked out as it is yet to fulfil additional conditions.
The big question, however, is how many Indians are ready to take the vaccine?
As per latest survey by an online platform, 69 per cent reported that they are in no rush to take a vaccine against coronavirus. The question ‘The first Covid-19 vaccine in India now stands approved. What will be your approach in taking this vaccine’ received 8,723 responses and only 26 per cent of citizens said they will get the vaccine shot as soon as it becomes available.
Since October 2020, the platform has been collecting responses from citizens to know their approach on taking the Covid-19 vaccine, aimed to understand if the percentage of reluctance or hesitancy has increased, reduced or remains unchanged.
With vaccine makers Pfizer and Moderna announcing success on efficacy results, the aggregate percentage of citizens in India hesitant about the vaccine reduced to 59 per cent in the November survey.
The vaccine developed by Oxford-AstraZeneca via Serum Institute came as hope for India. A survey by LocalCircles, however, showed a dramatic increase in the percentage of citizens to 69 per cent who were hesitant to take a vaccine against coronavirus.
Citizens belief that enough information is not available when it comes to vaccine side-effects, efficacy from trials, which combined with declining caseloads in India are top reasons why people are hesitant to take the Covid-19 vaccine.
Few experts warn of lack of transparency regarding the approval process, too, with DCGI not taking any questions from media when announcing the approval of Covishield and Covaxin on January 3, 2020, is of concern.
Earlier, when the Serum Institute was conducting trials for Covishield, a participant who undertook the trial had alleged that the vaccine was causing him serious side-effects, both neurological and psychological.
The Serum Institute dismissed these claims as “oblique pecuniary motive” maintaining that the participant’s suffering was independent of the vaccine trial he underwent and threatened to seek damages for malicious allegations in excess of Rs 100 crores (20 times the damages claimed by the participant). All such issues have led to a level of distrust amongst citizens.

organic food

FSSAI Slashes limit for transfat in food

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has capped the amount of trans fatty acids in oils and fats to 3 percent for 2021 and 2 percent by 2022. From the current permissible limit of 5 percent through an amendment to the FSSAI regulations.
It was not the first time the regulatory body took this move. It was in 2011 that India first passed a regulation that set a TFA limit of 10% in oils and fats, which was further reduced to 5% in 2015.  The revised regulation applies to edible refined oils, vanaspati, margarine, bakery shortenings and other mediums of cooking such as vegetable fat spreads and mixed fat spreads.
Trans-fat or trans-fatty acids are a form of unsaturated fat. Artificial trans-fat are created in an industrial process that adds hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid. Since they are easy to use, inexpensive to produce and last a long time, and give foods a desirable taste and texture, they are still widely used despite their harmful effects being well-known.
Some well associated risk of TFA include higher risk of heart disease, the risk of type 2 diabetes, weight gain and abdominal fat and lastly behavioural irritability and increased general aggression.

Steps Taken by FSSAI:-

  • Heart Attack Rewind- the 30 second public service announcement that will help support FSSAI’s global target of eliminating trans-fat in India by the year 2022, a year ahead of the global target by the WHO for complete elimination of trand-fat.
  • Eat Right Campaign- launched in July 2018. Edible oil industries took a pledge to reduce the levels of salt, sugar, saturated fat and trans-fat content by 2% by 2022.
  • Swasth Bharat Yatra- an initiate started under the “Eat Right” campaign is a Pan-India cyclothon to engage citizens on issues of food safety, combating food adulteration and healthy diets.

Qatar and Saudi Arabia reconciliation – exhaustion or compromise?

The recent Gulf Cooperation Council summit saw Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman and his Qatari counterpart Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani finally willing to resolve their differences but there was no mention of concessions, or further ultimatums, such as those that had led to the rift. The reconciliation seemed borne more of exhaustion than compromise and the end to it all more about the incoming US president than regional politics.
Wins from the three year dispute, which saw Saudi Arabia, and the rest of the GCC oust Qatar from the alliance, are hard to define – not so the cost, both economically and politically; while Qatar bore the burden of the former, Saudi Arabia shouldered much of the latter.  However, the final toll has fallen on the very issue that the Saudi-led sanctions aimed to safeguard – Gulf solidarity.
When the heir to the Saudi throne, together with the UAE ruler, moved against Qatar in late 2017, the charge sheet against it was long. They, and other GCC members, as well as Egypt, accused their neighbour of backing Iran’s ambitions, and supporting Islamist groups. A growing alliance with Turkey was also seen as a threat, and the removal of a Turkish garrison from Qatar listed as another demand. Qatar, the smallest – and richest per capita – of the Gulf states had long tried to position itself as a go between on regional issues. It contested that its relations with Iran and support for Islamist groups should be viewed through that prism. Qatar and Turkey became closer than ever over the last 3 years. Together with the remnants of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, in exile in Turkey, they became the linchpin of an axis. In Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Doha, state media helped deepen the enmity.
Over the past year, Riyadh had led attempts to break the ice. However after Biden’s election win last November, resolving the Gulf dispute became a priority. Qatar could do without further headaches and also benefit from a diplomatic reset. And, as talk in the summit turned to fraternal bonds and common foes, there was no attempt to grandstand by either side. State media in Qatar had dutifully changed its tune. A cooperation agreement was signed in private unlike the public shaming of 2017. Wounds however, remain raw and it remains to be seen whether rallying against a common foe – Iran will be enough to overcome a spat. A fear remains that the detente may only tape over a fault-line that has deepened over 3 unnecessary years.

Global economy in the new decade

Looking back at the past few decades, it’s clear that economic upheavals have often been succeeded by promising periods of reinvention and revival. For instance, the devastations of the Great Depression of 1929 and the World War II were followed by several decades of prosperity in the Western world. Then, following the global financial crisis of 2008, there was an expectation that nations would move towards more social democracy. Instead, the last decade has witnessed bailouts for the corporates and banks, on one hand, and austerity for the people, on the other. The pandemic has raised a question whether the economic shock of the Covid-19 pandemic will herald a renewed economic thinking that has been long overdue in this new decade.
In the latter half of the previous decade global real wage growth has fluctuated between 1.6% and 2.2% as per International Labour Organisation statistics. During this period, average global GDP growth fluctuated between 2.3% and 3.3% implying that the labour share in global income has been declining. In fact, the real wages have been barely keeping pace with the contribution of the labour to the overall output. Needless to say, the global economy is in dire need of fresh ideas.
The consequences of such trends are not just economical but also political. When the rise in real wages falls behind output growth and productivity numbers, it implies that capital owners are commanding a larger share. Consequently, the sections in society that can afford to invest in capital assets can accumulate income and wealth at a faster pace. As the focus on development remains on aggregate gross domestic product numbers, these underlying trends of growing inequality remain unnoticed until they surface in different and dangerous ways. The previous decade was jammed with such outcomes on the political front and the general feeling of discontentment with the prevailing economic order led to the emergence of populist leaders like Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro.
The pandemic has further worsened the situation – the economic shock caused due to the lockdowns is estimated to leave over 100 million people in developing countries on the verge of extreme poverty and the social discontentment from such an outcome will be unprecedented. It has also taught the world valuable lessons. First, it has highlighted the importance of the competent governance and responsible public investment in ensuring equitable outcomes. Second, the abrupt pause in global flows of goods and people due to the pandemic has allowed nations to reconsider their movement towards hyper-globalisation and lastly, it has proven that the world can unite behind a global threat and work together for solutions to combat them.
The need for a fresh developmental outlook that is more equitable and sustainable has become more crucial than ever.

The Antithesis of Democracy

When does the idea of a democracy fail? When the people refuse to believe in the elected representatives or when the same elected representatives refuse to acknowledge the power of the people who are the most important pillar of the democracy. Wednesday morning saw would some describe as the darkest day in American political history. Violent mobsters stormed into Capitol Hill to protest against the 2020 presidential election, where the elected representatives of the government had gathered to confirm the election of Joe Biden as the US President. President Trump’s refusal to acknowledge the results of the election even after a recount confirmed Joe Biden’s victory. The President of the United States of America is elected to protect the constitution of the United States and not to blatantly misuse and abuse the powers vested in him/her by the constitution.
Let me define democracy for you, this is just to reiterate what a democracy stands for, a democracy is a form of government of the people, by the people and for the people. It becomes important then that the elected representatives realize the power of the people and respect the decisions made by the public in a free and fair election. Inciting the general public with false rumours to ensure that you remain in power is the failure of the idea of a democracy. This is the antithesis of democracy.
Let us also look at India, a trend can be observed in the world’s largest democracy, where the countries’ single largest party, although acknowledges their defeat in an assembly election but forms a coalition with other minority parties and attempts to form the government overnight or horse, trades MLAs leading to a breakdown of an already running government.
The want and desire to remain in power leading to an absolute disregard of the wants of the public that allowed you to have power in the very first place is the abuse of democracy we refer to. This simply gives power and opportunity to other such mobsters and political groups to storm through the senate at their own will and disrupt the proceedings of the government because they were manipulated. It becomes equally important to say that to protest, peacefully, is the right of the people in a democracy in order to express discontent with the government but that does not give you the power to put lives in danger. As much as it is the responsibility of the government to uphold the ideas of a democracy, it is equally important that the people be circumspect at all times.

The First Forum

The First Forum – Edition 76

The First Forum is an initiative that focuses on covering the latest happenings in a brief format. This is in lieu of the importance of knowledge about current happenings in this fast-changing world.
In the Seventy Sixth – Edition of The First Forum we would be covering the following topics:
1. Politics
2. Science and Technology
3. Business
4. Economics
5. Finance

(By Divyansh Gupta, Ayush Harlalka and Creamy Garg)

weekly analysis

The Weekly Analysis – Edition 39

There are two aspects to the news- knowing the headline and understanding the intricacies of it. We at The Connectere focus on both. While The First Forum edition gives a brief about the headlines, The Weekly Analysis Edition is meant to educate the reader on what do various news mean and what are their intricacies. This initiative is meant to educate the reader on how to understand the important news. In the Thirty Ninth Edition we are covering the following news:

  1. Explore Utilisation of fly ash in cement plant: NGT
  2. The global angle to the farmer protests
  3. India-Bangladesh bilateral ties in 2020
  4. Why India should hold its ground before China
  5. China’s 5G Approach To Control the World

Explore Utilisation of fly ash in cement plant: NGT

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed a Faridabad based thermal power plant to explore utilisation of fly ash in cement plants and also directed the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to monitor whether covering of the ash dump meets scientific environmental norms.
There are two aspects here, one is utilization of fly ash for which the ministry of environment also has norms laid down and secondly the scientific filing of the fly ash pond and the degraded land is extremely important because fly ash has toxic substance in it which is dangerous for environment.
To understand the relevance and importance of this step, let’s understand fly ash first. Fly ash is produced by thermal power plants which use coal as fuel, and the Indian coal has a high ash content due to which this environmental hazard becomes a serious issue for a nation like India.  Depending upon the source and composition of the coal being burned, the components of fly ash vary considerably, but all fly includes substantial amounts of- Silicon Dioxide, Aluminium oxide and calcium oxide.
Fly ash is a major source of PM 2.5 and black carbon. It becomes air borne, and gets transported to radius of 10 to 20 kms. It can settle on water and other surfaces. It will contaminate water and soil systems.  Fly ash contains heavy metals from coal. The wet disposal of Fly ash results in leaching of toxic heavy metals in ground water system. The destruction of mangroves, drastic reduction in crop yields are a bi-product of this ash.
We cannot stop thermal power plants and hence production of fly ash. Indian coal has much more ash content than other countries quality-wise. Diverse approaches that can be implemented include washing coal at its origin, promoting R&D for increasing efficiency of power plants to help reduce ash generation and 100% efficient utilization of fly ash.
It can also be used as a replacement for some of the Portland cement contents of concrete. In view of its alkalinity and water absorption capacity, may be used in combination with other alkaline materials to transform sewage sludge into organic fertilizer or biofuel. Fly ash is used as an agent for acidic soils, as soil conditioner. It is also used for stabilization of soft soils.
To facilitate 100% ash utilization by all coal based thermal power plants, a web portal for monitoring of fly as generation and utilization data of Thermal Power Plants and a mobile based application titled “ASHTRACK” has been launched by the Government that will help to establish a link between fly ash users and power plants executives for obtaining fly ash for its use in various areas.

protest

The global angle to the farmer protests

It is not just domestic firms that are potential beneficiaries of the new farm laws; foreign agribusinesses are a danger too.
Diversion of land away from food crops to commercial crop and thus it could affect India’s food security. It could also expose the Indian farmers to the exploitation by the global MNCs. It would weaken the procurement and distribution of food grains and thus lead to income poor support for the farmers.
It’s in one way a conspiracy by the developed countries to break the public procurement infrastructure of developing countries because they cannot grow tropical grains which are in high demand in their countries, so they want it to be imported from developed countries. They want to get into contract farming and for them the doors are getting open additionally there is a question on agriculture subsidy, the agricultural product of developed nations are highly subsidised because there are less number of farmers and it takes only less than one percent of total government expenditure in india and other developing countries government subsidy is a large portion of government expenditure but since large population is involved in agricultural activity, the subsidy do not come anywhere near to what is given to the farmers of developed nation.
The ongoing farmers’ protest against the Modi government’s new agricultural laws isn’t just a battle to secure a legal guarantee for minimum support price, or seek repeal of the three legislations. The battle is also to stop India’s rich capitalists from smuggling out farmers’ labour power without paying the cost – and there are several reasons why farmers from the Sikh community are at the forefront.
The Sikh farmers of Punjab were the first to grasp the danger when Parliament passed the three controversial bills in a great hurry, without a discussion or taking farmers’ unions into confidence.

India-Bangladesh bilateral ties in 2020

A major diplomatic achievement of Bangladesh in 2020 was the further consolidation of bilateral ties with India. Indian Prime has described Bangladesh as a “key pillar” of India’s ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy during a virtual summit on December 17. The two leaders inaugurated a key rail link between Haldibari and Chilahati, which was defunct since the India-Pakistan war of 1965 and with this new development, tourists from Bangladesh will be able to visit places like Darjeeling, Sikkim, Dooars, with ease. At the end of the summit, in a joint statement, Modi assured that vaccines would be made available to Bangladesh as and when produced in India.
Bangladesh was apparently upset following the roll out of the NRC in Assam. But it was assured that the updation of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) will have no implications for Bangladesh, asserting that it is a process that is entirely internal to India.
The political landscape in 2020 was largely dull unlike the usual scenario in previous years in the highly polarised South Asian nation of Bangladesh. However, the relationship between Bangladesh and China developed further in 2020, especially on the commercial and economic fronts. At the same time, India’s commitment to promptly deliver to Bangladesh the COVID-19 vaccines and to remove non-tariff barriers reset the positive course of bilateral ties which both the capitals have repeatedly called “rock solid”, have also contributed to stronger ties between the nations.
The COVID-19 pandemic slowed down Bangladesh’s economic growth it was able to escape a contraction in 2020. The global health crisis also affected Bangladesh’s garment industry, which accounts for 11% of the country’s GDP and employs around 4.4 million people.
The year 2021 will be a significant one for Bangladesh as it will celebrate the 50th year of its independence. Prime Minister Modi is likely to visit Dhaka in March 2021 to join the celebrations that also marks 50 years of Bangladesh-India diplomatic relations.
During the summit, both prime ministers expressed satisfaction over the current state of bilateral relations based on shared bonds of history, culture, language, and other unique commonalities that characterize the partnership and they emphasised that bilateral relations are based on fraternal ties and reflective of an all-encompassing partnership based on sovereignty, equality, trust and understanding that transcends a strategic partnership. If China is trying to gain any sort of traction with Bangladesh then it helps India to have strong bilateral ties with her.

 

Galwan Valley

Why India should hold its ground before China

The pandemic has caused anti-China sentiment to soar worldwide and as such the rivalries got enhanced. It has also highlighted the need for diversified sources of vital supplies such as pharmaceuticals and rare earths, prompting countries to accelerate geo-political realignments and develop new supply chains.
For India especially, in 2021 proficient diplomacy accompanied by a firm resolve not to yield ground on issues of sovereignty and national interest will be necessary because an aggressive China, a hostile China-Pakistan relationship and the growing strategic cooperation between Russia and China will all be central to India’s strategic policy.
How the China-US relationship, most crucial today, evolves during Joe Biden’s term will be minutely watched. If US eases any of the policies followed by the earlier two US administrations, then it’ll make China more aggressive. Biden and his nominees have also indicated that with China they would prefer talks to confrontation to which Beijing has responded positively. It would appear that they wish to repair Sino-US ties even though the differences undoubtedly exist. Thus far, China’s aggressive foreign policy, its efforts to establish dominance over the South China Sea and the degree of military pressure, is limited by US policy. Additionally, Beijing is upgrading relations with Moscow to form a strong pro-China power bloc in Asia.
Capitals in Asia, and some in Europe, will also closely watch if America reduces its security presence in the Indo-Pacific or decreases engagement with the Quad, and whether it dilutes support to Taiwan, Japan and the Philippines on security issues. Many Chinese experts believe that Beijing wields considerable influence among the US power elite, which will again be revived and apparently, China is establishing contacts with persons close to the Biden camp and point to Beijing’s longstanding financial links with the Democrats.
For India, China is the biggest military, diplomatic, economic and environmental challenge, encroaching on India’s strategic space to establish itself as the pre-eminent power in Asia. China’s leadership will increasingly harden India’s position and pressures, like the ongoing military confrontation, will continue until Beijing perceives India is willing to bow down to its decree. Beijing will also try to persuade Biden to soften US policy towards Pakistan.
As India strives to ensure good relations with the US and Russia and revive its economy, it’s important that it does not yield ground to China and assertively raises issues impacting its national interests.

China’s 5G Approach To Control the World

The world stands at an important threshold today, the year is about to end, we have found a cure for the Coronavirus and even though there is a new strain of the virus, the war against the virus might finally have a solution. While one war seems to have found an end, we might be getting ready for a different war and this too might be in unchartered territory-the 5G war. Nations are ready with 5G technology and many of them are ready to invade markets where 5G has not been heard of yet, no doubt the advent of this new technology will bring out many benefits but it also carries with it many hidden hazards primarily to data privacy and security.
The recent news of China and Nepal agreeing to increase the height of Mount Everest by three metres reveals that it could lead to an invasion by Chinese 5G technology. Such capability has the ability to control Nepal’s mountaineering and tourism industry. The launch of 5G in Nepal would mean that Nepal’s business interests could pass into Chinese control. Real-time information on weather, routes, map/terrain details, logistics and rescue programmes, etc, could be based on Chinese 5G, thus making locals or visitors to Nepal dependent on it. China is also a major stakeholder in Mount Everest since it lies on their common border. A related development of infrastructure along the borders, where most mountaineering sites are, could make Nepal’s borders vulnerable and damage its tourism industry. With lower incomes, the tourism industry might get lured into Chinese cheap loans, leading to a strategic debt trap. The ramifications of such developments for India can only be imagined.
Chinese companies have made huge investments across the world to spread a 5G network that will encompass the planet — a “digital encirclement of the world”. Combined with the BRI (Belt and Road Initiative), this encirclement would be complete. Intrinsic to the BRI is the fact that Chinese companies will build the digital infrastructure. Militaries who do not have indigenous 5G capabilities for IOT platforms and who allow Chinese 5G, could then become hostage to Chinese technology, as seen during the pandemic. The CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor) is a clear example of how easy it is to encircle a country. Pakistan is today a virtual vassal state of China.
With this China furthers its control of the world and deepens its ability to cause disruptions to the global economy with all of the world’s data at its fingertips. It becomes essential that India gets its timing right, the implementation of 5G in India could make India a good alternative to China.

 

 

 

The First Forum

The First Forum: Edition 75

The First Forum is an initiative that focuses on covering the latest happenings in a brief format. This is in lieu of the importance of knowledge about current happenings in this fast-changing world.
In the Seventy Fifth- Edition of The First Forum we would be covering the following topics:
1. Politics
2. Science and Technology
3. Business
4. Economics
5. Finance

(By Divyansh Gupta, Ayush Harlalka and Creamy Garg)

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