In Focus: Smog @UpscExpress

In Focus: Smog

  • Very simply, smogis a type of air pollution that reduces visibility.
  • The term “smog” was first used in the early 1900s to describe a mix of smoke and fog, when smoke came from burning of fossil fuels like coal in thermal power plants.

Sulphurous Smog

  • It is also called “London smog”.
  • It results from a high concentration of sulphur oxidesin the air and is caused by the use of sulphur-bearing fossil fuels, particularly coal.
  • This type of smog is aggravated by dampness and a high concentration of suspended particulate matter in the air.

Photochemical Smog

  • Another type of smog is photochemical smog.
  • Photochemical smog is produced when sunlight reacts with nitrogen oxides (NOX) and at least one volatile organic compound (VOC) in the atmosphere.
  • Nitrogen oxides come from car exhaust, coal power plants, and factory emissions.
  • VOCs are released from gasoline, paints, and many cleaning solvents.
  • When sunlight hits VOCs and NOX, they form a combination of airborne particles and ground-level ozone which is called as smog.
  • Impact of Photochemical Smog:
    • The photochemical smog causes a light brownish coloration of the atmosphere, reduced visibility, plantdamage, irritation of the eyes, and respiratory distress. 
    • Ozone in the lower levels of troposphere can damage lung tissue, and it is especially dangerous to people with respiratory illnesses like asthma.
    • It can also cause itchy, burning eyes.
    • Smog is unhealthy to humans and animals, and it can kill plants.
    • It makes the sky brown or gray and reduces visibility.

In Focus: Smog Towers

  • A smog tower is a structure designed to work as a large-scale air purifier.
  • Smog towers are fitted with multiple layers of filters which trap fine dust particles suspended in the air as it passes through them.
  • Air is drawn through fans installed at the top of the tower, passed through filters, and then released near the ground.

Examples of Smog Towers:

  • Smog towers have been experimented with in recent years in cities of Netherlands, China, South Korea and Poland.
  • First Smog Tower of World
    • The first such tower was erected in 2015, in Rotterdam, Netherlands, created by Dutch artist Daan Roosegaarde.
    • It is a 7 metre-high ‘smog free tower’ which can filter 30,000 cubic metres of air per hour around it.

  • Smog Towers of China
    • Beijing has a smog tower.
    • Smog tower of Xian- The University of Minnesota has helped design a 100-metre high permanent smog tower in the Chinese city of Xian. This tower was completed in 2017, and is said to be the world’s biggest air purifier.

  • Delhi’s Smog Tower at Lajpat Nagar
    • The first ‘smog tower’ was installed at Lajpat Nagar Central Market of Delhi
    • It became operational in January 2020.
    • This smog tower has a height of around 20 ft.
    • It is estimated to purify the air within a circumference area of almost 500 meters to 750 meters. The purifier aims at treating 2,50,000 to 6,00000 cubic meter air per day and release fresh air in return.

About: Delhi’s Pollution Problem

  • Delhi and its suburbs have ranked among the most polluted cities in the world frequently since 2014, when the WHO declared Delhi the most polluted city in the world.
  • Pollution levels in Delhi increase dramatically during winter- on some days to nearly 10 times above the limits prescribed by WHO, posing a serious risk to vulnerable and also healthy populations.
  • However, an assessment by the CPCB shows that Delhi’s air quality has been improving every year since 2016, even as it remains above acceptable limits, as a result of the pollution control measures being taken
  • Causes of Air Pollution in Delhi
    • Delhi’s air pollution is largely because sources of emissions from construction work, industrial and vehicular pollution in and around the city.
    • The situation is aggravated at the start of winter by smoke from stubble-burning in northwestern states, coupled with unfavourable meteorological conditions, such as calm winds, low temperatures, and fewer sunny days.

  • Measures Taken for Mitigating Air Pollution in Delhi
    • Persuading farmers in Punjab and Haryana to use mechanical alternatives to stubble-burning.
    • Closure of thermal power stations in Delhi.
    • Making industries use piped natural gas, in addition to control measures taken under the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) when pollution levels spike.

Effectiveness of Smog Towers

  • Experts have claimed that the smog towers in Delhi would create “clean air zones” in the city.
  • An estimate made of their impact on air quality shows a tower would reduce 50% of the particulate matter load in an area of 1 kilometre in the direction of the wind, as well as 200 metres each along the sides of the tower and against the direction of the wind.
  • Delhi’s Environment Department is of the view these smog towers may not be useful for the whole city, but they can be useful in creating ‘clean air area’ zones in different parts of the city.
  • Another expert panel set up by the Centre’s Department of Science and Technology had estimated that 213 smog towers may be required across the whole city of Delhi.

Distrust towards Chinese interference in Arctic an opportunity for India Editorial 21st Oct’19 FinancialExpress

Headline : Distrust towards Chinese interference in Arctic an opportunity for India Editorial 21st Oct’19 FinancialExpress

Details :

Significance of Arctic:

  • Arctic is a resource-rich area.
  • With the melting of the sea ice, proposed sea and land routes are strategically emerging in the region.

The Arctic Circle (Organization):

  • As the Arctic has suffered from a lack of global awareness and a lack of effective governance, the Arctic Circle organization was established in 2013.
  • The Arctic Circle is a quasi-government body that works with the Icelandic government to create the largest, unique and open Arctic platform for international dialogue and cooperation on the future of the Arctic.

Arctic Circle Assembly:

  • The annual Arctic Circle Assembly is a meeting place for over 2,000 delegates from 60 odd countries.
  • The Assembly does not uphold any specific embodied mandates, but is key in setting the trends and priorities for the increasingly challenging future in all the eight Arctic nations, plus the countries that border them.

The Arctic Council:

  • The Arctic Council is the intergovernmental forum established by the eight Arctic nations.
  • The eight Arctic nations are Russia, Canada, the Kingdom of Denmark (including Greenland and the Faroe Islands), Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and the United States.

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China’s interest in the region is concerning for many:

  • At a recent Arctic Circle Assembly, apart from representations from Iceland, the USA followed by Norway, Canada, Russia and the UK had the highest number of attendees.
  • China’s presence was substantive in the sessions at the recent assembly. China, though not an Arctic nation, has designated itself to be one.
  • However, it was looked at with suspicion by some participating countries.
    • For example, Greenland (Denmark) expressed deep distrust towards China’s investment in its aviation sector.
    • Also, China’s leading role in the establishment of new routes in the region—notably the Polar-Silk route and the Belt and Road Initiative was a subject of discussion by the academics.

India’s Arctic scientific programme:

  • India has had a vibrant Arctic scientific programme since 2008.
  • It has been striving for scientific leadership for many decades now—the commencement of the Antarctic programme, way back in 1982, was a significant step towards this.
  • India’s competence in scientific research helped the nation gain the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting membership, and, thereon, the Arctic Council observer status in 2013. This has been renewed again in 2019.
  • This competence also beckons collaborative international research augmentation and enhanced expertise in global science.
  • India’s India’s nodal institute in this regard is the National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research, Goa.

Apart from scientific research, India has shown little interest in the region:

  • India is not an Arctic nation, or even a ‘near-Arctic’ one.
  • India seems to have little business interest in the resource-rich area, and the proposed strategic sea and land routes do not seem to excite India enough.

Further involvement in the region needs active interest from Indian ministerial bodies:

  • Despite India’s scientific advancement, positioning itself for further involvement calls for an active interest from ministerial bodies.
  • Although, India has been partnering with Russia for oil and gas in the high Arctic, the recent Arctic Assembly saw no participation from the sector.

Resource exploitation in the Arctic:

  • The Arctic Council, being the intergovernmental body of Arctic nations, concerns itself with all issues (except military security).
  • However, it does not prohibit commercial exploitation of resources in the Arctic. It simply mandates sustainability, “without harming the interests of local populations and in conformity with the local environment”.

In this context, the region needs a new direction:

  • The Arctic has been opened up for exploration and resource exploitation.
  • Already experts are warning of the Chinese interest here which claims the Arctic belonged to its ‘right-holders’.
  • In this context, there is the need for an aggressive and need-based directive.
  • The Arctic needs a new direction—scientific expertise, investment in oil and gas sector, infrastructure investment, new fishery technologies and skilled human capital are all being urgently sought.

India could look to get involved in giving the Arctic a new direction:

  • India is capable of helping with expertise, manpower and investment.
  • For this, India’s various policy bodies and industry federations need to strategise and devise a new and challenging roadmap for interventions in the region.
  • With a quiet acceptance of India in the global fora and increasing distrust towards Chinese investments, it is an opportune time for India to show its indelible Arctic leadership to the world.

Importance:

GS Paper II: International Relations

Section : Editorial Analysis

For Naya Kashmir Editorial 6th Aug’19 IndianExpress

Headline : For Naya Kashmir Editorial 6th Aug’19 IndianExpress

Details :

Kashmiri leaders also sought progress:
  • Naya Kashmir was a memorandum that Kashmiri leader Sheikh Abdullah submitted to the King of erstwhile Kashmir kingdom Maharaja Hari Singh in 1944.
  • It outlined a plan to convert J&K from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional democracy, called for universal franchise, freedom of expression and press, ability of women to work in all trades and professions, and a detailed economic plan.
  • That vision of social justice, economic progress and poverty reduction wasn’t achieved, and is highly relevant for Kashmir today.
Low economic complexity in Kashmir:
  • Kashmir is an economic infant with low economic complexity.
  • Government finances poor:
    • The state accounts for less than 0.7 per cent of India’s GDP.
    • The fiscal deficit is more than twice the prescribed ratio and government debt is 50 per cent of GDP.
    • Private Credit to GDP is less than Bihar and the J&K Bank is a shame.
  • Hardly any private sector:
    • More than 30 per cent of families directly work for the government.
    • There is no wage premium in handicrafts; carpet weavers get Rs 150 a day while construction labour costs Rs 600 per day (and comes from outside the state).
    • Less than five per cent of fruits and nuts are processed.
    • Private investment last year was less than Rs 1,000 crore.
    • There is only one listed company and only one company with a paid up capital of Rs 10 crore.
    • There is no employer in the Kashmir Valley who pays provident fund and no private employer with more 1
    • Their 28 employment exchanges cost almost Rs 50 crore a year to run and have given few jobs to anybody in a decade.than 500 formal employees.
The real Kashmiri aspirational Youth hoping for progress:
  • Most Kashmiri elites have economically diversified away from the Valley but the masses can’t exit.
  • The masses have lost their voices because of Kashmir’s economic infancy and democracy controlled by few politicians.
  • While the political royalty speaks about the threats to civilisation, the Kashmiri youth, which is more skilled, entrepreneurial, and aspirational than the past generations, is looking for progress.
Economic complexity needed in kashmir:
  • Such a situation is hardly fertile soil for economic vibrancy.
  • Some economists say that the only predictor of sustained economic success is economic complexity.
  • Kashmiris should spend the next decade creating the economic complexity that blunts passions by creating interests (jobs, skills, enterprises, assets, income, growth).
What should be done?
  • A 10-year strategy for education, employment and employability that leverages India’s economic complexity is the need of the hour.
  • Kashmir needs a new skill university that spreads higher education with employability.
  • We should convert Hari Niwas into a world class hotel management institute in partnership with ITE Singapore or EHL Lausanne.
  • We must double the direct flights and directly connect Srinagar to Jammu and Delhi with a three-hour and 12-hour train.
  • We need revamped employment exchanges that operate a digital job site that offers job matching, assessments, apprentices, and online degrees.
  • Massive funds must be committed to infrastructure and cluster creation.
  • We need a massive design and distribution mission for handicrafts and fruits that raises the realisation of actual producers.
  • Most importantly, we must get the huge, skilled, and motivated Kashmiri diaspora to return and reduce informal self-employment by creating more formal wage employment.
Conclusion:
  • India and J&K are tremendously and permanently intertwined.
  • When one does well, the other does well.
  • And when we both do well, we are unstoppable.
Importance:
GS Paper III: Economy
Section : Editorial Analysis

Jammu and Kashmir: Article 370, Article 35(A), Resolutions, Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill and all other developments

Headline : J&K loses its special status, divided into two UTs

Details :

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The News:

  • In a historic decision, the Indian government has changed the terms of engagement with Jammu and Kashmir by doing away with the special status enjoyed by the state under Article 370scrapping Article 35A and splitting the state into two UTs of J&K and Ladakh.

 

Background: Special status to Jammu and Kashmir

  • Following an invasion from tribesmen and Army men from Pakistan, Raja of J&K Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession (IoA) with India on October 26, 1947.
  • Governor General Lord Mountbatten accepted it with following conditions:
    • Powers to the parliament to legislate in respect of J&K only on Defence, External Affairs and Communications.
    • Clause 5 of IoA: It cannot be varied by any amendment of the Act or of Indian Independence Act unless such accepted by the king by a supplementary Instrument.
    • Clause 6 of IoA: It disallowed the making of laws to acquire land in the state for any purpose but permitted the king to do so for the Dominion of India for a law applicable to the state.
    • Clause 7of IoA: No future Constitution of India (which was still to be written) could be imposed on the state.
  • In 1950, in the original Constitution of India, J&K was listed as a Part B state, along with theother princely states that had merged by Instruments of Accession, and Hyderabad and Mysore.
  • Party B states were then abolished and J&K was by an amendment of the Constitution put into Article 1 as India’s 15th state and irrevocably part of the “territory of India”.
  • India’s stated policy regarding IoA was that wherever there was a dispute on accession, it should be settled in accordance with the wishes of people (Plebiscite).
  • In 1975, Sheikh Abdullah came to an agreement with Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. As per the agreement, in return for giving up his demand for a plebiscite, special status for J&K was allowed to continue and Sheikh Abdullah became chief minister.
  • Jammu and Kashmir enjoyed special status under Article 370 of the Constitution of India.

Article 370:

  • Article 370 was incorporated in Part XXI (temporary provisions with respect to the State of Jammu and Kashmir) of the Constitution.
  • As a result of Article 370, Jammu and Kashmir had its own Constitution, and all laws passed by Parliament will not be applicable to the State, unless the State government gives its concurrence.
  • It lays down that only two Articles would apply to J&K: Article 1, which defines India, and Article 370 itself.
  • The President is empowered to decide what provisions of the Constitution of India would be applicable to the State and what are the exceptions, but with the State government’s concurrence.
  • The Union of India could legislate/act only in defence, foreign affairs and communications.

Procedure for removal of Article 370:

  • This Article describes it as a temporary provision .
  • Article 370(3) permits deletion by a Presidential Order, which has to be preceded by the concurrence of J&K’s Constituent Assembly.
  • However, the J&K constituent Assembly was dissolved on January 26, 1957.
  • In the absence of the assembly, the governor’s consent is considered to fulfil the requirement.

Article 35A:

  • Article 35A stems from Article 370 and was incorporated in the constitution by a presidential order under article 370 in 1954 on the advice of the Cabinet.
  • Article 35-A provides special rights and privileges to permanent residents of Jammu & Kashmir.
  • Article 35A gives the J&K Legislature, full freedom to decide the ‘permanent residents’ of the State and grant them special rights and privileges in:
    • State public sector jobs
    • Acquisition of property in the State
    • Scholarships and other public aid and welfare programs
  • The provision also provides that any act of the State legislature coming under the ambit of Article 35A cannot be challenged for violating the Indian Constitution or any other law of the land.

Note: Article does not figure in the text of the Constitution of India, but figures only in the J&K’s Constitution.

 

News Summary:

  • The Union Home Minister introduced, two special resolutions and a Bill creating the Union Territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh through the Rajya Sabha.

 

Resolution 1: Constitution (Application to Jammu & Kashmir) Order, 2019

  • The President used his powers under Article 370 to issue the 2019 Order, which will supersede the previous Presidential Order of 1954.
  • The new order makes the entire Constitution of India applicable to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. This means it effectively ends the special status that had been granted to J&K by stating that all the provisions of the Indian Constitution, as also its amendments, shall now apply to the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • Article 35A, making distinction between the permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir and the outsiders, will also cease to have any effect.
  • Under Clause 1 of Article 370, President made all provisions of the Constitution effectively applicable to J&K.

Resolution 2: Repeal of Article 370 of the Constitution of India {Ref. Article 370 (3)}

  • Under article 370(3), there is a provision that President, on recommendation of the Parliament, has the power to amend or cease the implementation of article 370, through a public notification.
  • Rather than abrogating or repealing Article 370, govt has essentially read down its provisions.
  • The provisions of Article 370 will cease to exist from the date the President of India issues a notification after the Lok Sabha passes the resolution.

Changes under Article 367:

  • All references to the ‘Sadar-i-Riyasat’, acting on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers, will be construed as references to the Governor of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • All references to the State government shall mean “the Governor”.
  • The reference to the “Constituent Assembly” in a proviso to Article 370 (3) has been amended to read “Legislative Assembly of the State”.

 

Bill: The Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill

  • The Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Bill, 2019, will bring about the following changes:
  • Two Union Territories to be formed out of the State of Jammu and Kashmir:
    • UT of Ladakh (Kargil and Leh district)
    • UT of Jammu and Kashmir (all other districts of the state of J&K).
  • Both UTs to have Lieutenant Governor, for now Governor will act as both.
  • While the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir will have a legislature, the one in Ladakh will not.
    • Four sitting Rajya Sabha members of the state will become MPs of UT of J&K.
    • Five Lok Sabha seats to go to the UT of J&K.
    • Legislative Assembly of UT of J&K will have 107 seats to be chosen through a direct election.
    • One Lok Sabha seat to go to the UT of Ladakh.
    • 24 seats in PoK will be vacant.

Note: This is the first time after the 1956 states’ reorganisation that a full-fledged state has been relegated to a UT (or two).

 

Changes after the development:

  • All the provisions that formed the basis of a separate “Constitution” for Jammu and Kashmir stand abrogated.
  • All the provisions of the Constitution of India, shall apply to Jammu and Kashmir too.
  • J&K will now have no separate flag or Constitution.
  • Tenure of assembly will be for 5 years, not 6.
  • Indian Penal Code will replace Ranbir Penal Code (that is currently applicable there).
  • People from other states are now eligible to purchase land and properties.
  • Non-permanent residents can permanently settle in state.
  • Outsiders can now be employed in state govt and companies and be eligible for scholarships in state-run educational institutions.
  • RTI Act will be applicable in J&K.

 

The decision on J&K expected to be challenged in SC

  • The Indian government passed a resolution seeking to undo J&K’s special status with a simple majority, even as it was widely believed that Article 370 could be “scrapped” only by a Constitution amendment bill needing a two-thirds majority.
  • It did so by using a provision in Article 370 itself even as it fully anticipates that the presidential notification will be challenged in the Supreme Court.
Section : Polity & Governance

International Organisations and Reports: Annual report of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict.

Headline : India protests over UN chief’s report

Details :

In News:

  • The United Nation has recently released its Annual report of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict.
  • India is disappointed with the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for including in the report situations in India that are neither armed conflicts nor a threat to international security.

 

About Annual report of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict.

  • The present report covers the period from January to December 2018, was submitted pursuant to Security Council resolution 2427 (2018).

UN Resolution 2427In 2018, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution aimed at a framework for mainstreaming protection, rights, well-being and empowerment of children throughout the conflict cycle.

  • The report highlights global trends regarding the impact  of  armed  conflict  on  children  and  provides  information  on  violations committed as well as related protection concerns.
  • The present report also include a list of parties that, in violation of international law, engage in the recruitment and use of children, the killing and maiming of children, rape and other forms of sexual violence against children, attacks on schools and/or hospitals and attacks or threats of attacks against protected personnel,1and the abduction of children.

Highlights of the Report:

  • Violence against Children: More than 12,000 children were killed or maimed in around 20 conflict situations of 2018. Children continue to be used in combat, particularly in Somalia, Nigeria and Syria. They also continue to be abducted, to be used in hostilities or for sexual violence,
  • Sexual Violence against children: Some 933 cases of sexual violence against boys and girls were reported, but this is believed to be an under-estimate, due to lack of access, stigma and fear of reprisals.
  • Overall decrease in attacks on schools and hospitals: Attacks on schools and hospitals have decreased overall, but have intensified in some conflict situations, such as Afghanistan and Syria, which has seen the highest number of such attacks since the beginning of the conflict in the country.
  • Access to education: Mali provides the most serious example of children being deprived of access to education, and the military use of schools.
  • Detention and release of children involved in conflict: Rather than being seen as victims of recruitment, thousands of children around the world were detained for their actual or alleged association with armed groups in 2018 (in Syria and Iraq), the majority of children deprived of their liberty are under the age of five.
  • Increase in number of children benefiting from release and reintegration: The number of children benefiting from release and reintegration support, however, rose in 2018 to 13,600 (up from 12,000 in 2017).

Recommendations given:

  • All parties to conflict must refrain from directing attacks against civilians, including children, as peace remains the best protection for children affected by armed conflict.
  • Parties to conflict must protect children and put in place tangible measures to end and prevent these violations.
  • The nations to work with the UN to help relocate foreign children and women actually or allegedly affiliated with extremist groups, with the best interests of the child as the primary consideration.
  • Increased resources and funding to meet the growing needs, as more children are separated from armed groups.

 

About India in the report:

  • India was mentioned under a section of the report titled “Situations not on the agenda of the Security Council or other situations”.
  • The report mentions terrorist groups in Jammu & Kashmir and Maoist groups elsewhere that recruit child fighters, children killed in these areas, and sexual violence against them, although India is not in armed conflict.
    • According to the report, terrorist groups operating in Jammu and Kashmir and Maoists groups elsewhere have recruited children as fighters.
    • It also added that children continued to be killed or injured in operations by the security forces in Jammu and Kashmir and in areas of Maoist activity.
    • The report noted that there were reports of sexual violence against girls by security forces in Kashmir citing the Kathua rape case.

 

India’s Objections to the Report:

  • India has strongly expressed its disappointment over the report.
  • The section on “Situations on the agenda of the Security Council”, which conforms to its mandate, deals with countries like Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya and the Democratic Republic of Congo, which are in a civil war situation that overwhelms the nations. (This section also included Israel and Palestine territories.)
  • The inclusion of India and countries like Thailand and even Pakistan in an added section appears to be arbitrary because it places them on the same level as those countries covered by the Council mandate.
  • However, at the same time the report ignored countries in Central America, for example, where violence has led to an exodus of thousands of children escaping the brutalities.
  • Such attempt to expand mandate in a selective manner to certain situations only politicises and instrumentalises the agenda, obfuscating and diverting attention from the real threats to international peace and security.
Section : International Relation

About Consular access, Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (VCCR)

Headline : Consular access to Kulbhushan Jadhav: What ICJ ordered; Pakistan has ‘offered’ to India

Details :

In News:

  • Pakistan has offered India consular access to Kulbhushan Jadhav, the India who’s been in jail in Pakistan since 2016.
  • India is “evaluating” the Pakistani proposal which comes with some strict conditions.

Background:

  • Kulbhushan Jadhav is a former Indian Navy officer, who was arrested by Pakistani officials in 2016, on suspicion of spying and obstructing activities against the country.
  • Claiming that Jadhav was an Indian spy, the Pakistani military court sentenced him to death.
  • However, India insists that Jadhav was kidnapped from Iran where he had business interests after retiring from the Navy and that he has no links with the government.
  • As a last resort of appeal, India went to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which stayed the execution.
  • India accused Pakistan of violating the Vienna Convention by failing to provide Jadhav with consular access, as well as breaking human rights laws.
  • On 17 July 2019, International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered Pakistan to undertake an “effective review and reconsideration” of Jadhav’s conviction and sentencing, and grant consular access to him without delay.
  • The ICJ also upheld India’s stand that Pakistan is in egregious violation of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, 1963.

 

What is the concept of “consular access”?

  • Consular access simply means that a diplomat or an official will have a meeting with the prisoner who is in the custody of another country.
  • The Diplomat will first confirm the identity of the person, and then will ask some basic questions on his treatment in the custody and about his needs.
  • Depending on the response, the diplomat/official will report back to his/her government, and the next steps will be initiated.
  • The principle of consular access was agreed to in the 1950s and 60s.

 

About Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (VCCR)

  • The Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (VCCR) is an international treaty that defines consular relations between independent states and was framed in 1963, at the height of Cold War.
  • During the Cold war era, “spies” from the US and USSR were caught in each other’s countries and across the world, and the idea was to ensure that they were not denied consular access.
  • All countries agreed to the principle, and more than 170 have ratified the Vienna Convention, making it one of the most universally recognised treaties in the world.
  • The object and purpose of the Vienna Convention is to contribute to the development of friendly relations among nations.
  • Under Article 36 of the VCCR,
    • At the request of a detained foreign national, the consulate of the sending State must be notified of the detention “without delay”.
    • The consulate has the right “to visit a national of the sending State who is in prison, custody or detention, to converse and correspond with him and to arrange for his legal representation”.

Challenges in the implementation of the treaty:

  • The ability of a consulate to provide effective aid has been heavily dependent on the prompt receipt of information of the detention, and timely access to the detainee.
  • No time interval is indicated for granting consular access.
    • However, consular access must be provided in all cases where a foreigner is “arrested or committed to prison or to custody pending trial or is detained in any other manner”, regardless of the circumstances or charges.

 

News Summary:

  • After the ICJ verdict, Pakistan has finally offered India consular access to Kulbhushan Jadhav.
  • Pakistan’s Proposal: Pakistan has laid down 3 conditions for consular access to Jadhav:
    • The presence of a Pakistani official in the room where Indian officials will speak to Jadhav.
    • The room to have CCTVs
    • Sound recording facilities in the room.
  • Pakistan’s proposal violative of Article 36, 1 para (a) of VCCR:
    • According to Article 36, 1 para (a) of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (VCCR): Consular officers shall be free to communicate with nationals of the sending State (India) and to have access to them.
    • Nationals of the sending State (Kulbhushan Jadhav) shall have the same freedom with respect to communication with and access to consular officers of the sending State (India).
    • The conditions being laid down by Pakistan are violative of that spirit of free access to Jadhav.
  • India is evaluating the Pakistan proposal in light of the ICJ judgment and will maintain communication with Pakistan on this through diplomatic channels.
  • While Islamabad has given a date and time, it is unlikely that India would accept such a monitored meeting.
Section : International Relation

Significance of US Federal Reserves rate cut and its impact on India

Headline : Significance of US Federal Reserves rate cut and its impact on India

Details :

In News:

  • The US Federal Reserve has recently announced a quarter-percentage-point cut in interest rates, the first rate cut by the US central bank in 11 years.

About US Federal Reserves rate:

  • The fed funds rate is critical in determining the U.S. economic outlook.
  • It controls short-term interest rates including banks’ prime rate, most adjustable-rate and interest-only loans, and credit card rates.
  • The 2008 recession caused the Federal bank to lower its benchmark rate to 0.25% which is effectively zero.

News Summary:

  • The central bank of U.S. reduced its benchmark rate which affects many loans for households and businesses by a quarter-point to a range of 2% to 2.25%.
  • The Fed has also signaled a readiness to lower borrowing costs further if needed.
  • It is the first rate cut since December 2008 during the depths of the Great Recession, when the Fed slashed its rate to a record low near zero and kept it there until 2015.
  • This move comes despite a strong US economy and indicators such as job market data showing renewed buoyancy.

Reason cited for rate cut:

  • To counter threats ranging from uncertainties caused by trade wars, chronically low inflation and a dim global outlook.

Repercussions on Indian Economy:

Negative Impacts

  • Increased Trade deficit:
    • Lower interest rates and a weaker dollar also means stronger gold. From the Indian point of view greater investment demand for gold can surface putting pressure on a trade deficit.
  • Decrease in demand for Indian products:
    • A rate cut cycle means a weaker dollar, as the dollar weakens due to lower growth tendencies, the rupee has tended to strengthen.
    • This will slower demand from Indian exporters due to lower global growth and thus will further increase current account deficit (CAD).

Positive Impact

  • More investment in emerging economies like India:
    • Emerging economies such as India tend to have higher inflation and thereby higher interest rates than those in developed countries such as the US and Europe.
    • As a result, Foreign Investment Inflows would want to borrow money in the US at low-interest rates in dollar terms and then invest that money in bonds of emerging countries such as India in Re terms to earn a higher rate of interest.
    • When the US Fed cuts its interest rates, the difference between interest rates of the two countries increases, thus making India more attractive for the currency carry trade.
Section : Economics

India and Pak Relation: In Brief : Cross-LoC trade, Intra Kashmir Trade Report

Headline : Explained: LoC trade, in perspective

Details :

Context of the topic:

  • Last week, the government of India suspended the cross-LoC trade, alleging misuse of the facility by individuals linked to terrorist groups

 

Theme of the topic:

  • The topic gives a brief account of information about the History of the cross-LoC trade and its objective.

 

Historical background of the Cross-LoC trade

  • The cross-LoC trade between Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and also the cross LoC bus service, these two measures were started in 2005 as “Kashmir specific confidence building measures” and to improve India-Pakistan relations.
  • In October 2005, two crossing points, Srinagar-Muzaffarabad at Uri, and Poonch-Rawalakot at Chakan da Bagh, were opened for trade.

  • However, the Mumbai attacks, 2008 put a hold on India-Pakistan relations, but the cross-LoC trade remained unaffected by that.

 

Issues in trade

  • The agreement was for zero duty trade for a list of 21 items.
  • Traders on both sides struggled through currency and communication issues, which led to the formation of the Intra Jammu & Kashmir Chamber of Commerce & Industry (IJ&KCCI).

 

Trade Suspension:

  • Last week, the government of India cited malpractice and the involvement of terrorist groups in the trade and thus suspended the LoC trade.

 

The Intra Kashmir Trade Report:

  • In 2011, a report called Intra Kashmir Trade,was jointly prepared by the Delhi-based IPCS, Conciliation Resources of London, and the Islamabad-based Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency.
  • According to the report, cross border trade could be insulated from the India-PAkistan relationship, and has been establishing a “bottom up” approach to peace-building.
  • Trade has also attracted divided families and some former combatants and thus provided them an alternative non-violent option for change and conflict transformation.

Note: The cross Loc trade holds much symbolic value in Jammu & Kashmir more than its value in currency terms.

Section : International Relation

North Korea and USA Relation : Current

Headline : After unsuccessful summit with Trump, North Korean Kim Jong Un is again using military optics

Details :

The news

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is returning to his military optics two months after his unsuccessful summit with the US President.

 

Background

  • North Korea’s quest for a nuclear weapon can be traced back decades to the Korean War.
  • Ever since the Korean War, North Korea always assumed that the US would attack them any day and wipe them out and hence began development of Nuclear weapons.
  • Initially North Korea promised of peaceful use of nuclear energy and signed NPT in 1985 but later it was suspected that it is trying to develop nuclear weapons.
  • Negotiations began with North Korea and by October 1994 a deal known as the Agreed Framework was achieved.
  • Again in 1998, North Korea test-fired an intermediate-range missile but talks with the U.S. continued.
  • In October 2006, the situation reached a dangerous new stage with North Korea’s first nuclear test.
  • Between 2013 and 2016, North Korea held three more nuclear tests.
  • In September 2016, North Korea claimed to test its first hydrogen bomb.
  • In 2017, North Korea successfully test-fired it’s first intercontinental ballistic missiles and again claimed to successfully test a hydrogen bomb.
  • Later, South reached out to North Korea for winter Olympics and the tensions relieved a with the indications that the North was willing to talk with the U.S.
  • In 2018, Kim Jong Un invited the US President to meet for negotiations about North Korea’s nuclear program.
  • In late March 2018, the meeting held between North Korea and the US.
  • On April 20, North Korea announced that it would suspend nuclear and missile testing, and shut down the site where its six previous nuclear tests were carried out.
  • Trump and Kim held a second summit in Hanoi, Vietnam on 27th and 28thFebruary, 2019.
  • However, both delegations left from meeting with no deal or agreement signed…

 

Summary of the news

  • North Korean leader expressed deep disappointment with inflexible demands by the US in Hanoi summit.
  • This unsuccessful summit is the reason why North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is cautiously returning to its military optics, which is reflected by the following postures-
    • Kim paid a surprise visit to an Air Force base to inspect fighter combat readiness.
    • He supervised a new type of tactical guided weapon.
    • Kim is also about to visit Russia later this month at the invitation of President Vladimir Putin.
  • Kim has also asked the US to come up with a more mutually acceptable negotiation strategyuntil the end of this year.
  • North Korea wants lifting of the sanctions over its development of nuclear weapons and missiles capable of reaching the US mainland.
  • In the meantime Kim is maintaining his self-imposed moratorium on its nuclear tests and long-range missile launches.

 

The U.S and North Korea’s position on the issue

  • Kim claims he still has a good personal relationship with the US president but is frustrated with Trump’s top advisers.
  • North Korea wants replacement of dialogue counterpart Pompeo for maturely communicating.
  • The US president has also indicated that he wants a third summit.
  • However, there are growing worries due to the mismatched demands between the US and North Korea over sanctions relief and disarmament.
  • Washington won’t allow the North Korea’s desired sanctions relief until it commits to verifiably destroy his nuclear facilities, weapons, and missiles.
  • North Korea is also not willing to give away an arsenal, as they are considered as their strongest guarantee of survival.

 

The South Korea’s role in the matter

  • South Korea has played the role of mediator in initiating talks between US and North Korea.
  • Since, North Korea’s first summit with the US, South Korea and US have renamed and scaled back their joint maneuvers.
  • However, since the second summit in Hanoi, North Korea has been openly critical of South Korea and its President’s role of middleman.
  • North Korea has alleged South Korea of adhering too closely to his American allies, as South Korea has dragged his feet on inter-Korean projects due to the sanctions from US.
  • South Korean president want to continue on the inter-Korean infrastructure projects that would provide the North Korea to develop its infrastructure but Washington wants South Korea to stick to sanctions.

 

Role of Russia in the matter

  • Russia has been outsider over the past years even though North Korea held multiple summits with the leaders of China, the United States, and South Korea.
  • However, the upcoming visit of North Korean leader to Russia is leading to some speculations.
  • It is suspected that Russia could provide important political cover or economic aid for North Korea.
  • If Russia jumps into playing a bigger role in the issue, it could be a biggest challenge for the US.

 

Section : International Relation

Pakistan’s economy and IMF’s help

Headline : Either way, the news is bad Editorial 20th Apr’19 TheHindu

Pakistan’s economy in free-fall:

Pakistan’s economy is in ruins, with almost every indicator deteriorating substantially.

  • Inflation: Inflation, at 9.4%, is at its highest level in five-and-a-half years and is likely to rise to double digits for the months ahead.
  • Currency depreciation: The Pakistani rupee continues to lose value regularly, which adds to further inflation especially with the oil price on the way up.
  • Fiscal Deficit: The fiscal deficit is about to hit more than 6% of GDP, and even a cut in development expenditure will not stop this, as defence spending and interest payments continue to rise.
  • Exports: Pakistan’s exports have been stuck at around $26 bn for years, despite the 35% devaluation of the rupee over one year.
  • Debt: The government owes power producing companies huge amounts of money, and interest rates are also going up making the cost of business even more uncompetitive.
  • Falling GDP growth: The State Bank of Pakistan recently lowered the expectations of the GDP growth for the current fiscal year to an eight-year low, to around 3.5%, an estimate. The expected growth as per the IMF and the World Bank is a dismal 2.9% for the current fiscal year, and expected to fall further over the next three years.

Economic Mismanagement:

  • A major reason why the economy has taken such a sharp plunge, is the economic mismanagement by the government.
  • On top of that, political leaders have been high on rhetoric and display of pride rather than reaching out to IMF for a major structural adjustment loan.

 

Reaching out to the IMF now:

  • While Pakistan managed to secure some loans from friendly countries to avoid IMF (and thereby also avoid structural reforms to the economic management), it is not sustainable.
  • It is increasingly apparent that Pakistan now has to reach out to IMF.
  • Any IMF help will come with implementation of strict conditionalities and adjustment programme.

Earlier help came easy due to US backing:

  • This will be the 13th IMF rescue package for Pakistan’s governments and its elites in less than four decades.
  • Each time there is an economic crisis in Pakistan created due to mismanagement, the IMF and World Bank saved them, as U.S. supported it due to its geostrategic position and importance to them (especially vis-a-vis Afghanistan).

Now Pakistan isolated:

  • As global power shifts and the region changes, Pakistan’s position and importance in it have also fallen. The US has refused to support Pakistan’s economy especially in light of its support to terrorist groups operating from its soil.

 

IMF help will come with strict oversight on economic management:

  • Under the new IMF programme, Pakistan is expecting to receive between $6-$10 bn.
  • However, the IMF will also ensure austerity, stabilisation and will cut the growth rate further.
  • It will insist on further devaluation of the rupee, causing greater inflation, and will insist on raising utility prices.
  • Thus, things will get worse for Pakistanis (in the short term), including further economic slowdown, fewer jobs and high and rising inflation.

IMF will also force Pakistan to open up on its debt-heavy deals with China:

  • Another major problem in making a deal this time has been the IMF’s insistence that Pakistan reveal the financial deals made with China, including financial loans, as well as the $60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

 

Conclusion:

  • If Pakistan doesn’t take the IMF loan, it is in a mess as its economy is in deep trouble.
  • If it takes the loan from IMF, it will again be in a mess due to strict conditionalities imposed by the IMF.

 

Importance:

GS Paper II: International Relations

 

Section : Editorial Analysis