The HINDU Notes – 30th April 2018 - VISION

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Monday, April 30, 2018

The HINDU Notes – 30th April 2018

📰 Substance and optics of the summit

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has a short window to build on the positive outcomes of the Wuhan meeting

•The recently concluded ‘informal’ summit meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Wuhan was more about optics than substance. That doesn’t take away from the fact that the summit was a much-needed one and has added to the ongoing attempts to bring the bilateral relations between the two Asian giants back on track. Most of all, the Wuhan summit has underlined the necessity of an entente cordiale between the two countries, which have become increasingly distrustful of each other. In that sense, Wuhan was about the desire to return to the negotiating table, not about negotiating anything specific. It is, therefore, important to consider the timeline.

The run-up to Wuhan

•India-China relations have been under great stress in recent years. The 2017 military standoff at the Doklam tri-junction and the war of words that followed vitiated a relationship that was already reeling under a great deal of pressure. The Wuhan summit should be viewed in the context of this vitiated atmosphere and a strong desire for stability and rapprochement. Both sides had emerged bruised from the Doklam standoff, and having sold their preferred versions of how the standoff ended for domestic political purposes, the desire to stabilise the relationship was visible since late last year.

•In December, the two Foreign Ministers met in New Delhi followed by a meeting between China’s then state councilor Yang Jiechi and Mr. Modi’s National Security Adviser, Ajit Doval, again in New Delhi. Then in February this year, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale visited China. The Wuhan summit was preceded by the visits of Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to China for Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meetings.

•These hectic diplomatic activities were accompanied by a clear change of tone in Beijing and New Delhi, reflecting a positive rethink on bilateral ties and a desire to avoid future military standoffs.

The electoral schedule

•Notwithstanding the India-China rapprochement that was achieved in Wuhan, it is important to notice the significance of the timing of the summit. The fact that the meeting had no pre-defined agenda and was called ‘informal’ indicates that it was crucial for domestic political messaging too. Clearly, Mr. Modi needed this meeting more than Mr. Xi did given how the former would need a calm and peaceful India-China border as he leads his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) into the general election. Consider this: India-Pakistan relations are nowhere near normal, India’s neighbourhood policy is in doldrums (despite the recent overtures towards Nepal) and India-China relations have been becoming difficult. While tensions with Pakistan wouldn’t be costly for the BJP from an electoral point of view, a ‘failed China policy’ could potentially be used by the Opposition to take on Mr. Modi in the context of the BJP’s unsuccessful policy towards the neighbourhood. China is unlike India’s other neighbours. It is India’s biggest trading partner, and in many ways unavoidable from an economic and geopolitical point of view. The Wuhan summit — and the warmth and chemistry between the two leaders — also needs to be viewed in this context.


•The summit’s outcomes may have been limited but are very valuable to stabilise the relationship. The most significant outcome pertains to the contested border. In Wuhan, Mr. Modi and Mr. Xi “underscored the importance of maintaining peace and tranquility in all areas of the India-China border region… To this end, they issued strategic guidance to their respective militaries to strengthen communication in order to build trust and mutual understanding and enhance predictability and effectiveness in the management of border affairs”, and “directed their militaries to earnestly implement various confidence building measures agreed upon between the two sides”.

•This basically means that the two countries have realised that local military activities on the border and tactical factors can have strategic and political implications — and that not everything that happens on the India-China border between the two militaries is politically sanctioned. That border tensions, which often occur without the explicit directives of the central leaderships, can potentially derail the relationship is an important realisation and the two sides should be credited for addressing it.

•For sure, this is not a new realisation. In 2013, New Delhi and Beijing signed the border defence cooperation agreement which aimed at maintaining peace along the Line of Actual Control. In 2015, during Mr. Modi’s visit to China, the two countries further agreed to “carry out annual visits and exchanges between the two Military Headquarters and neighbouring military commands, endeavour to operationalise the hotline between the two Military Headquarters, expand the exchanges between the border commanders, and establish border personnel meeting points at all sectors of the India-China border areas”. Many of these suggested measures have not yet been implemented, most notably, the hotline between the two military headquarters.

•Moreover, lower-level military contacts that have been put in place have not been able to reduce friction, as was evident during Doklam. Given that the two countries recognise the importance of controlling local military standoffs, it is important that they update the 2013 defence cooperation agreement as well as set up the hotline.

•Meanwhile, the proposed joint economic project in Afghanistan could be instrumental in mitigating the trust deficit between the two sides. China is acutely aware of the potential Pakistani negative response to India-China cooperation in what Pakistan considers to be its sphere of influence. However, if China can persuade Pakistan to see the utility of India-China (and potentially Pakistan) collaboration in Afghanistan, it could promote trust and cooperation all around. More significantly, if China and India can cooperate in Afghanistan, they can certainly do so in other parts of the neighbourhood. In that sense, then, India, instead of being agitated about Chinese ‘encroachments’ into its traditional sphere of influence, should consider joint India-China projects in the region.

Going forward

•Notwithstanding the positive outcome of the Wuhan summit, it must be asked whether the summit has come too late in Mr. Modi’s current term as Prime Minister to herald a new beginning between India and China, especially on the border question. China watchers argue that the broad contours of a India-China border agreement have been worked out during the 20 rounds of talks at the Special Representatives level. However, an agreement can only be arrived at a higher political level. While Mr. Modi and Mr. Xi, both with strong domestic political standing, would be able to reach such an agreement, and use it to further consolidate their domestic appeal, will Mr. Modi take that gamble? If not, weren’t the ministerial visits that were already taking place and Mr. Modi’s upcoming visit to China in June for the SCO summit enough to sustain the thaw? The answer perhaps lies in Mr. Modi’s keen eye for the optics and its domestic political utility.

📰 Pyongyang’s next steps

Why North Korea is likely to use the Indian nuclear deal model in negotiations

•North Korea and South Korea have jointly declared that the Korean War will be finally over. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who met for the first time on Friday, have pledged to ensure peace, prosperity and the unification of the Korean peninsula. Optimistic phrases such as “a new history begins now” and “the Korean people cannot remain separated” were used and the mood was one of optimism and restrained joy. In the light of these developments, it seems certain that the summit between the U.S. and North Korea will take place as scheduled.

Pitch for equality

•But the differences between Mr. Kim and Mr. Moon on the question of denuclearisation are evident. While Mr. Moon emphasised that complete denuclearisation was essential for peace, Mr. Kim did not utter the “D” word. The unrehearsed gesture by Mr. Kim of inviting Mr. Moon to cross over to the North for a moment in response to the former crossing over to the South (at the Military Demarcation Line which separates the two Koreas) was a clear indication of the need for equality between them. North Korea will seek parity with South Korea in terms of nuclear security and well-being, which is hard to accomplish in the short term.

The Indian template

•Denuclearisation is key to the whole process as it means different things to different people. For the U.S., the models are Iraq, Libya and the former republics of the Soviet Union, which surrendered their nuclear assets in return for peace and normalisation. But North Korea seems to have another model in mind; an Indian model nuclear deal in which it gets recognised as a “technologically advanced responsible state” on the basis of certain strategic assurances.

•But unlike India, the track followed by all the three Kims appeared clumsy and foolish ever since North Korea sought to leave the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) regime. The posture was of threat and arrogance rather than peace or reconciliation. The direct threat that they faced from the U.S., South Korea and Japan must have resulted in the aggressive approach, but now that North Korea has established its nuclear capability, it is inclined to negotiate its way into removing sanctions and shaping its future. In fact, it seems to be following India’s choreography in shaping its nuclear policy.

New Delhi’s trajectory

•India’s nuclear test of 1974 was as shocking to the world as the North Korean tests of later years, but India went about it in stages, by serving notice on the world that it was keeping the nuclear option open in the face of a direct nuclear threat from China since 1964 and the danger of China passing on nuclear secrets to Pakistan. But international reaction was fierce, even from Moscow, and no amount of explanation that the explosion was for peaceful purposes cut ice.

•No serious discussion had ever taken place with the U.S. or the international community on India’s concerns till New Delhi established beyond doubt that India had crashed irreversibly into the nuclear club. The U.S., which initially had refused to be dragged into a discussion and only wanted to punish India, entered into the most detailed and intricate Jaswant Singh-Strobe Talbott dialogue for two years and ended up in an understanding in 2000 and a nuclear deal in 2005. Mr. Kim is obviously hoping to reach a similar agreement with the U.S. to legitimise his nuclear arsenal and earn a designation similar to India’s “technologically advanced responsible state”.

•In a way, Mr. Kim has gone further than India by suspending all missile tests and taking steps to shut down a nuclear test site, to which the U.S., South Korea and China have reacted positively. The timing is crucial as he is due to meet U.S. President Donald Trump by June.

•North Korea must be aware that soon after the Indian nuclear tests of 1998, U.S. President Bill Clinton had made an offer to India that he would refrain from imposing sanctions under the Glen Amendment if India agreed forthwith to sign and ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. Mr. Kim has anticipated the demand and declared cessation of all tests.

•Now the only demand that the U.S. can make, apart from verifying Mr. Kim’s claims, is to eliminate North Korea’s nuclear arsenal. Here again Mr. Kim is likely to use the Indian model to bargain for normal relations with the U.S. on the basis of guarantees such as minimum deterrence, non-first use, no tests and commitment to nuclear disarmament in keeping with global developments. The U.S. has sought to pre-empt such moves by saying there was a “bright path available to North Korea when it achieves denuclearisation”.

•The big question is whether a moratorium on testing and nuclear restraint will secure for North Korea a place in the nuclear mainstream. Trust and confidence in India as a responsible state, the promise of nuclear trade, close cooperation in defence and a foreign policy consistent with the ideals of the free world were the elements that led to the historic nuclear deal. Even in the case of India, some of these benefits did not materialise for various reasons. With that experience, the U.S. would be far more reluctant to make any concessions to North Korea without an agreement on denuclearisation. The forthcoming negotiations will prove whether the Indian model will help North Korea in restoring peace in the Korean Peninsula and having a cooperative relationship with the U.S. and the rest of the world. Some amount of domestic reform at home, in terms of civil liberties, would help North Korea make its case better.

📰 Wisdom at Wuhan

PM Modi and President Xi change the tenorof India-China ties. They must build on it

•For an “informal summit”, the Wuhan meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping appeared to cover much ground over the two days — in terms of public appearances and in the two statements issued. Most of their conversations were unstructured, at informal events where they were accompanied only by translators. There was just one delegation-level meeting. The statements denoted the wide range of subjects discussed, from bilateral to regional and global challenges. On the bilateral front, they decided to “issue strategic guidance to their militaries to strengthen communication”, essentially to avoid another Doklam-like confrontation. Both sides addressed measures to better balance the ballooning trade deficit of about $52 billion (of about $84 billion bilateral trade), mostly by encouraging agricultural and pharmaceutical exports to China. Mr. Modi and Mr. Xi discussed a joint project in Afghanistan. Finally, they attempted to reduce the heat over unresolved issues and so-called “irritants” in the relationship, such as China’s block on India’s NSG membership bid or the UN’s terror designation for Pakistan-based groups, and India’s opposition to the Belt and Road Initiative or its use of the Tibet issue. For this, existing mechanisms of dialogue will be strengthened, not allowing broader bilateral movement to be hit.

•Such a conciliatory approach from Delhi and Beijing has been evident over the last few months of preparation for the Wuhan meeting, with both sides turning down the post-Doklam rhetoric. While their previous meetings, in 2015, 2016 and 2017, were preceded or overshadowed by a military standoff or Chinese army intrusion, this time the air has been relatively calm. The message from Wuhan is an overarching one: that despite bilateral and geopolitical differences, India and China can resolve differences peacefully and through prolonged dialogue. Despite hundreds of years of engaging each other, the two neighbours have been to war only once; since the Agreement on the Maintenance of Peace and Tranquility was signed in 1993, neither side has fired a weapon along the 3,500-km boundary, which is largely undemarcated. And despite both countries’ atomic weapons arsenals, parleys have never carried even a hint of the nuclear overhang. The Wuhan summit has recommitted India and China to managing bilateral relations in a manner that creates the conditions for the “Asian Century”, and Mr. Modi and Mr. Xi are well-placed to proceed along that path. Much will depend on whether the Wuhan understanding can prevent skirmishes and misunderstandings becoming standoffs, as in the past. The test of that begins now.

📰 India, Pak. to take part in war games

Counter-terror drill planned in Russia

•In a first, arch rivals India and Pakistan will be part of a multi-nation counter-terror exercise in Russia in September, which will also be joined by China and several other countries.

•The military exercise will take place under the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, a China-dominated security grouping which is increasingly seen as a counterweight to NATO.

•Officials said the military drill would be held in the Ural mountains of Russia, and almost all SCO member countries will be part of it.

Fight against terror

•They said the main aim of the exercise, Peace Mission, will be to enhance counter-terror cooperation among the eight member countries.

•The officials said India’s participation in the exercise was confirmed by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman during an SCO Defence Ministers’ meeting in Beijing last week.

A first

•It will be for the first time since Independence that India and Pakistan will be part of a military exercise, though the armies of the two nations have worked together in U.N. peacekeeping missions, they said.

Summit in Shanghai

•The SCO was founded at a summit in Shanghai in 2001 by the Presidents of Russia, China, Kyrgyz Republic, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. India and Pakistan were admitted as observers of the grouping in 2005. Both the countries were admitted as full members of the bloc last year.

📰 An antidote to virtual toxicity

How good journalism can help tackle disinformation

•A regulatory framework that balances free speech and accountability is one of the hallmarks of a mature democracy. In this context, the latest recommendations by the European Commission (EC) to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions to tackle online disinformation is a fine document that refrains from any overreach that would undermine free expression. It assumes significance in the light of the latest study on press freedom by Reporters Without Borders in which India is placed at a low 138 out of 180 countries. The report says: “With Hindu nationalists trying to purge all manifestations of ‘anti-national’ thought from the national debate, self-censorship is growing in the mainstream media and journalists are increasingly the targets of online smear campaigns by the most radical nationalists, who vilify them and even threaten physical reprisals.”

Present news ecology

•In India, the present information ecology is vitiated by many factors: undue pressure on mainstream news organisations and journalists, strategic deployment of trolls, planting suspicion regarding legitimate reports by indulging in whataboutery, and amplifying disinformation through social media networks. Whenever the issue reaches a tipping point, the government comes up with restrictive mechanisms which not only fail to curb the spread of disinformation but end up hurting the dissenting voices more, like the now-repealed Section 66A of the Information Technology Act. India is also one of the few countries where defamation is both a civil and a criminal offence.

•How did Europe manage to deal with this issue without taking away the rights of citizens? What were the parameters used by the technical team that worked on this subject? I met a member of the team, Rasmus Nielsen, Director of Research at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism and Professor of Political Communication at the University of Oxford, to understand the team’s approach. He listed out some of the basic tenets that the team used to formulate its response. The first was to not give power to either governments or private companies to manage political debate. Second, the three most harmful contents — child pornography, hate speech and incitement of violence — are dealt with by existing laws and it is a question of political will to implement the laws. There is no need to create new laws. The third was the question of process: is there substantial qualitative judgment about what is desirable, good, and of poor taste? “In a diverse society, to have prescriptive and categorical ideas about these issues is not desirable. We need to have space for voices that are not desirable for many and yet not illegal. One of the good ideas of the EU approach was not to rush for a restrictive regulation but try to understand the digital environment first. It is amazing how little we know about the digital world and yet we want to come up with rules to regulate this space. The biggest challenge was to deal with the opacity of technology companies,” he said.

•The EC notes that “given the complexity of the matter and the fast pace of developments in the digital environment, the Commission considers that any policy response should be comprehensive, continuously assess the phenomenon of disinformation, and adjust policy objectives in light of its evolution. There should be no expectation that a single solution could address all challenges.”

Role of platform companies

•The business model of platform companies, which collect data for monetisation, is central to the crisis. Hence, the EC recommendation focusses more on the role of platform companies. It demands a more transparent, trustworthy and accountable online ecosystem in which “it is necessary to promote adequate changes in platforms’ conduct, a more accountable information ecosystem, enhanced fact-checking capabilities and collective knowledge on disinformation, and the use of new technologies to improve the way information is produced and disseminated online.”

•One of the areas where the EC communication makes a breakthrough is to come up with protocols that harness technologies across platforms “to play a central role in tackling disinformation over the longer term”. Central to this idea is “to invest in high-quality journalism”. In other words, it says that good journalism is the antidote to a toxic virtual space.

📰 On a wing and a prayer

Can India make commercial planes? In a decade or two, it could, with serious funding, govt. incentives

•India is poised to become the world’s third-biggest aviation market in seven years with more than 20% growth, after China and the U.S.

•To meet demand, Indian carriers have placed orders for 1,000 aircraft worth more than Rs. 10 lakh crore; and, more than 6,000 planes would be needed by 2050. In 2017, Indian carriers flew 117.18 million domestic passengers marking an 18% growth over 2016.

High growth

•This market is to grow to 250 million by FY23, according to CAPA, an aviation advisory firm. Boeing has forecast that the Indian market would need 2,100 new planes valued at $290 billion by 2036. Airbus has said the Indian civil aviation market will grow by 8.1% for next 20 years which is above the world average of 4.4%.

•Union Minister for Civil Aviation Suresh Prabhu had said last week a task force would soon be set up for the manufacture of commercial planes in India. The move is intended to encourage local manufacture, create jobs and prevent the outflow of foreign exchange. Is India, a country whose per capita GDP is $1,700 (lower than China’s $8,123), capable of manufacturing high-end planes? There has been no emphatic ‘yes’ from any quarter, but that it can produce a viable aircraft in the future is something analysts agree upon.

•Kapil Kaul, director and CEO, South Asia, CAPA said, “India’s ambition to develop a viable civil commercial aircraft is in the right direction but intent doesn’t [seem] serious as of now.”

•“Subject to serious funding commitment and leadership to head the development programme, we can expect an outcome by 2030-35,” he said. To deliver a successful and viable commercial aircraft programme ‘is very difficult but not impossible’.

•“You need large funding in R&D, global partners and the highest commitment by the government. Chinese and Russian civil aircraft programmes are yet to take off except in their home countries. HAL has failed in delivering commercial aircraft,” he said.

•In India, only Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd., the public sector unit, has forayed into the manufacture of the 19-seater Dornier 228 which can be deployed in regional sectors. Similarly Taneja Aerospace has been assembling planes for years but with limited commercial success.

•What is needed a serious and time-bound approach to encourage and develop a viable and futuristic aircraft manufacturing programme to at least reach the level achieved by Brazil which has developed and sustained the Embraer programme, breaking the glass ceiling.

•“If Brazil can develop a viable aircraft manufacturing programme, India also can,” Mr. Kaul said.

•“We must manufacture aircraft. But can we do it?” asked Jitender Bhargava, civil aviation analyst and former director at Air India.

•“We don’t have the work culture to produce aircraft of international standards. The culture within the country does not inspire confidence. HAL has not made any significant headway in 30 years. It is a good thing for India to have aspirations but we need lot of investment and hard work,” Mr. Bhargava said.

‘Iran’s base better’

•He said India had to graduate in a calibrated manner because of its work culture. “To start with, let’s have world-class MROs which are globally competitive and then graduate to aircraft manufacturing,” he said.

•Mark Martin, founder & CEO, Martin Consulting, said “We don’t have the aerospace grade of suppliers in India. Iran has far better local supplier base. Brazil developed its aerospace programme in the ’80s. In fifty years, our expertise is nearly zero. We need to be aerospace grade ready.”

•Mr. Martin said the Centre’s goal was difficult but the country ‘can get there’. “It will take 30 years to create the ecosystem. We should be realistic rather than playing rhetoric and sounding propagandist.”

•Amber Dubey, partner and India head, aerospace and defence at KPMG, said. “The government needs to enforce a robust government-private collaboration to take Indian aerospace manufacturing to the next level.

•“Even the biggest aerospace powers do not have any aircraft that is 100% built in their country. The level of sophistication and specialisation that exists in aerospace requires sourcing of components and subsystems from all across the world.”

•“The focus has to be on making world-class aerospace components and then graduating to aircraft assembly,” Mr. Dubey said.

•So far, the world has had only two major manufacturers of commercial planes and less than a handful making small aircraft. This speaks volumes for the entry barrier to successfully make and sell planes.

China began in the 1980s

•However, Sweden, Japan, Brazil and China have sustained their aerospace industries in the face of competition from the big two.

•“China started investing in its aerospace ecosystem in the ’80s, when it started manufacturing the MD-82, the results of which we are seeing today in the form of COMAC C919, ARJ-21 and the AVIC AG600,” Mr. Dubey said.

•“Indian OEMs, if any, may take 2-3 decades to match that. The government will need to provide fiscal and monetary incentives to facilitate local design and manufacturing.”

•Component manufacturing in India is currently limited to a few players who have become reliable suppliers for global OEMs. The Tatas, UTAS, Dynamatic and Aecus are examples.

•In the private sector, the Mahindra group manufactures aircraft, but abroad.

•S.P. Shukla, group president, aerospace and defence, Mahindra Group said, “We have created a 250,000 sq ft facility near Bengaluru which produces parts, components and sub-assemblies supplied to all major global aircraft OEMs. In fact, this facility also supplies a large proportion of aero structures, sub-assemblies and components for our aircraft – Mahindra Airvan.”

•“We have to bear in mind the complexity involved in the design, development and production of a complete aircraft, which makes it important to proceed in a phase-wise manner to build capability. Therefore, we are looking to build all round capabilities in the aerospace sector for parts, aero structures, electronics, simulators, system integration of complete aircraft, etc. and are working to build an ecosystem for the aerospace industry in India,” he added.

•The Tata Group has also invested in aerospace. Tata Advanced Systems is into aerostructures. With three programmes in operation, it aims to become a global supplier of choice for OEMs. The company is assembling Sikorsky S92 helicopter cabins and has a joint venture with Lockheed Martin for assembly of C-130J Empennage and centre Wind-box.

•Anther Tata Group company TAL Manufacturing Solutions makes floor beams for Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner aircraft.

•Ansuman Deb, analyst, ICICI Securities, said, “The government is now providing the right impetus to address this growth.” The broad roadmap, he said, comprises three elements: to expand airport infrastructure; the Make in India incentive for manufacturing in India; and, to revitalise the MRO industry in India through fiscal incentives.

📰 Foreign fund flow till Apr. the lowest since 2011

Impact of higher oil prices, Indian banking system’s struggle with note ban, bad loans and polls among reasons, say analysts

•The current calendar year has been the worst, till date, for Indian stock markets in seven years in terms of flows from foreign investors who are often considered as the prime drivers of any liquidity-driven equity rally.

•Data showed that foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) had put in only Rs. 8,460 crore this year till date in equities, the lowest in the January-April period since 2011 when overseas investors were net buyers at only Rs. 4,712 crore.

•Since then, FPIs, on an average, had invested Rs. 40,000 crore each year between 2012-2017.

•Incidentally, in the first four months of 2013, FPIs were net buyers at more than Rs. 60,000 crore.

•According to market participants, the sluggish flows this year can be attributed to the overall bearish sentiments towards emerging markets with India being no exception. “The overall emerging market pack is slightly out of favour due to a combination of geopolitical and economic factors and India cannot be an exception,” said U.R. Bhat, managing director, Dalton Capital Advisors India.

Trade war

•“There are tensions in West Asia, potential trade war concerns are escalating between the U.S. and China, oil prices are hovering around $75 levels plus dollar is strengthening,” explained Mr. Bhat. “So, the uncertainties are at dramatically high levels and it is impacting foreign flows into emerging markets. Investors believe they can make more money investing in the U.S. as the interest rate there is also rising.” In the current calendar year, FPIs were net buyers at Rs. 13,781 crore in January but turned sellers in February at Rs. 11,423 crore.

•Thereafter, March saw a reversal with net buying of Rs. 11,654 crore. In April [till 27], FPIs were net sellers at Rs. 5,552 crore.

•According to EPFR Global, a foreign fund tracker, India equity funds saw more money flow out despite a growth rate that was higher than that of China.

•Government data showed that the Indian economy grew 7.2% in the quarter ended December 31 while the Chinese economy expanded by 6.8%.

•“The impact of higher oil prices on the country’s current account deficit and inflation rate, the Indian banking system’s struggles with demonetisation, scandals and bad loans and a government looking ahead to next year’s general election have all taken a toll on investor sentiment,” said EPFR Global in its latest report.

📰 Crying need to secure uncharted cyber frontiers

•Recently, I was in the U.K. and chanced to see street-side graffiti that had some interesting cybersecurity tips . “Think B4 you click that link,” said one . “When you go online, think twice. Getting bullied isn’t nice,” said another .

•My thoughts went back to a McAfee survey that pointed out that of the Indian children active on social media, 69% have published photos, 58% have posted their email address and 44% would meet or have met someone in person that they first met online. I have been alarmed at the lack of cybersecurity savviness in our tech-smart children. As my mind churned ideas on what needed to be done for them, it also shifted gears to emerging threats of ‘cyberterrorism’ that are poised to make critical infrastructure and networks vulnerable — through data theft, source code manipulation and undetected access. With the Internet of Things enabling cross-networking of personal data and devices, it adds frightening dimensions to the security landscape.

India’s vulnerability

•As the world’s second-largest digital nation, India’s biggest risk in 2017, according to the FICCI–Pinkerton India Risk Survey 2017, was in the area of ‘information and cyber insecurity’ for business operations.

•The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology reported that India witnessed more than 27,000 cybersecurity incidents in the first half of 2017 — through ransomware attacks, website intrusions or defacement, phishing attacks and data breaches.

•India was the third-worst affected country during the WannaCry ransomware attacks in May 2017. In June 2017, operations at one of the three terminals in India’s largest port, Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust near Mumbai, was disrupted due to the Petyacyberattack. In October 2017, Seqrite Intelligence Labs discovered an advertisement announcing secret access to the servers and databases of over 6,000 Indian organisations.

•So, how can we protect Indian business against cybercrimes? First, India’s existing cybersecurity policy of 2013 needs to be made more robust to push back digital intrusions at all levels. A national cybersecurity agency needs to be set up to develop appropriate strategy and action plans. Close partnership between government and private enterprises can ensure that best practices on security and intelligence on intrusions are comprehensively shared to build better incident response capabilities. Creating a national gold standard for hardware and software adherence to highest safety protocols is also important.

•Businesses must enhance technological and investigative capabilities through research, development and intelligence sharing. Equally important are building competencies to develop advanced solutions in business continuity, risk analysis, operating systems, firmware and cyberforensics.

•Business is closely woven with the fabric of society, right down to digitally aware children and young adults. And that brings me to where I started. An estimated 100 million children in India are expected to access the Internet by 2018. Three themes of security awareness are critical: knowledge, responsibility and privacy: What can and should not be shared?

•How do they choose who they interact with online? What can be the consequences of their actions? How can they safeguard themselves from the big, bad cyberwolves? We need to teach children cyberdefense from the school age.

•It is an area of great corporate social responsibility, relevant for meaningful engagement of our young. It is also a great way of touching the lives of communities in which we operate.

The opportunity

•Globally, about 4 billion people are projected to be online by 2020. Gartner estimates worldwide enterprise spending on information security (including advanced network and security analytics, machine learning technologies, training and user behaviour) will touch about $113 billion by 2020.

•Cyber as a war zone is becoming increasingly real — and everything from social media to mobile phones now have a cyber impact that we cannot shrug off. A seismic shift to smarter cybersecurity is the need of the hour.

📰 Food first

There is no substitute for hot-cooked mealsto address poor child nutrition

•The central principle that should guide the Centre in improving maternal and child nutrition is that early childhood is the foundation for the health and well-being of an individual. Tinkering with the existing national programme of providing hot-cooked meals to children three to six years old, and take-home rations for younger children and pregnant and lactating mothers is fraught with danger. Attempts to substitute meals or rations with factory-made nutrients will inject commercialisation into a key mission, and upset the nutritional basis of the scheme. Good sense has prevailed, and the newly-formed inter-ministerial National Council on India’s Nutrition Challenges has chosen to continue the current practice, overruling the Minister for Women and Child Development, Maneka Gandhi, who proposed distribution of packaged nutrients to beneficiaries. Raising nutritional standards for young children has become a policy imperative only in recent years, with the National Food Security Act, 2013, incorporating the mandate in Schedule II, and the Supplementary Nutrition (Integrated Child Development Services Scheme) Rules, 2017, laying down entitlements. Food and Public Distribution Minister Ram Vilas Paswan’s emphasis on strengthening these legal guarantees by providing more nutritious hot-cooked meals and rations with the help of local self-help groups is to be welcomed. If the ICDS scheme, now called the Anganwadi Services Scheme, is to achieve better outcomes, it must focus on the provision of physical infrastructure and funding, besides closer monitoring of the nutrition mission. Theoretically, the mission covers every child, but in practice it is not accessible to all.

•When the Centre recently launched POSHAN Abhiyaan, an integrator that will build capacity among nutrition workers, it acknowledged that while official data show a reduction in some of the depressing aspects of women and child health, the ground reality is far from comforting: the National Family Health Survey-4 shows a drop in underweight and stunted children under five years of age compared to the previous survey, but the absolute numbers are still high. An estimated 35.7% children are underweight and 38.4% are stunted in that age group. The body mass index of 22.9% women aged 15-49 indicates chronic energy deficiency. These figures should cause alarm that even after a long period of robust economic growth, India has not achieved a transformation. To accelerate the pace of progress, POSHAN Abhiyaan should rigorously measure levels of access and quality of nutrition, and publish the data periodically. It should be pointed out that NFHS data show several States performing worse than the national average. In a recent report, Nourishing India , the NITI Aayog refers to acute malnutrition levels of about 25% in some States. There is no quick fix, and the answer to better nutrition lies in fresh, wholesome and varied intake.

📰 Nutrition panel drops Maneka proposal

Nutrition panel drops Maneka proposal
Rejects idea to replace ready-to-eat food rations with energy-dense nutrient packets for beneficiaries

•The National Council on Nutrition (NCN) has unanimously rejected Union Minister for Women and Child Development (WCD) Maneka Gandhi’s proposal to replace ready-to-eat food as take-home dry rations with energy-dense nutrient packets which could be mixed with food for anganwadi beneficiaries.

•The council has also directed that pilot projects be conducted in 10 select districts on cash transfers instead of take-home rations — Ms. Gandhi has opposed the idea on the grounds that there is no guarantee that beneficiaries would use the money for food.

•The National Council on India’s Nutrition Challenges, headed by Vice-Chairman of the NITI Aayog Rajiv Kumar, was constituted in January to provide policy directions to address nutritional challenges in the country and review programmes on a quarterly basis. It held its first meeting on April 18. According to the minutes of the meeting, accessed by The Hindu, “The council had received a reference from the Honourable Minister of WCD (Maneka Gandhi) with respect to administration of supplementary nutrition, i.e. its composition and delivery.”

PMO decision

•However, the minutes record that, “The Chairman [Nutrition Council] drew attention to the PMO’s decision in this regard and the need for continuance of the existing practice of hot cooked meals for children (3-6 years) age group and take-home rations (THR) for children (6 months-3 years) and pregnant women and lactating mothers as decided by the State governments in conformity with the National Foods Security Act, 2013, and the Supplementary Nutrition Rules, 2017. The view was endorsed unanimously by the council.”

•Significantly, Minister of Consumer Affairs and Food and Public Distribution Ram Vilas Paswan, who was present at the meeting, also differed with Ms. Gandhi’s proposal. According to the minutes, Mr. Paswan emphasised the importance of empowering anganwadi workers to ensure proper delivery of services as well as engaging local self-help groups to ensure “region-location based recipe and dietary diversification.”

•The Hindu had reported on April 12 on differences between Ms. Gandhi and officials of her Ministry over the issue of take-home rations. While the Minister is in favour of factory-made and energy-dense nutrient packets, which can be delivered by postmen, officials in her Ministry proposed food items such asdalia (broken wheat) and khichdi ( rice and lentil stew) prepared with local ingredients and sourced from self-help groups.

•Ms. Gandhi had then told this paper, “I want pre-mix made by machines and by State governments. Let us look at giving nutrients in a safe manner. These can be in powdered form and mixed with regular meals. The take-home ration given today is an ugly, non-nutritious mix. Let us stop thinking of giving food and instead think of giving nutrition.” She added that 30 such packets could be dispatched to a beneficiary for the entire month through the postal department.

•As a result of the disagreement within the Ministry, two different nutrition guidelines were prepared — one by Ms. Gandhi and another by officials in the WCD Ministry — and sent to the NITI Aayog, ahead of a meeting of the Nutrition Advisory Technical Board on January 24.

Local participation

•At the April meeting, the council also agreed to involve mothers of anganwadi beneficiaries for preparation of meals “to ensure quality and encourage jan bhagidari (public participation).”

•As part of the Integrated Child Development Scheme, anganwadi beneficiaries between the age of six months and three years as well as pregnant women and lactating mothers are entitled to take-home rations, which includes wheat, soya and sugar.

📰 Australia pledges half a billion to restore Great Barrier Reef

Conservationists say not enough is being done to move away from fossil fuels

•Australia pledged Aus $500 million ($379 million) in new funding to restore and protect the Great Barrier Reef on Sunday, in what it said would be a game-changer for the embattled natural wonder.

•The World Heritage-listed site, which attracts millions of tourists, is reeling from significant bouts of coral bleaching due to warming sea temperatures linked to climate change.

•It is also under threat from the coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish, which has proliferated due to pollution and agricultural run-off. The predator starfish feeds on corals by spreading its stomach over them and using digestive enzymes to liquefy tissue.

•Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said it was the “largest ever single investment — to protect the reef, secure its viability and the 64,000 jobs that rely on the reef”.

•“We want to ensure the reef’s future for the benefit of all Australians, particularly those whose livelihood depends on the reef,” he said.

•The reef is a critical national asset, contributing Aus$6.4 billion a year to the Australian economy.

•Canberra has previously committed more than Aus$2 billion to protect the site over the next decade, but has been criticised for backing a huge coal project by Indian mining giant Adani nearby.

•With its heavy use of coal-fired power and relatively small population, Australia is considered one of the world’s worst per-capita greenhouse gas polluters.

•Canberra insists it is taking strong action to address the global threat of climate change, having set an ambitious target to reduce emissions by 26 to 28% from 2005 levels by 2030.

•Mr. Turnbull said part of the money will be used to mitigate the impacts of climate change, but gave no details.

•Conservationists said while the funding was “an important step”, the biggest threat to the reef was global warming and not enough was being done to combat it by embracing clean energy.

Global warming

•“Science is well aware of what’s killing the coral. It’s the excess heat from burning fossil fuels,” said Bill McKibben, founder of the global grass-roots climate movement

•“To simultaneously promote the world’s biggest coal mine [Adani] while pretending to care about the world’s largest reef is an acrobatic feat only a cynical politician would attempt.”

•Australian Conservation Foundation chief Kelly O’Shanassy agreed.

•“Our elected representatives can’t have it both ways,” she said. “Climate change is the number one threat to the Great Barrier Reef and only concerted action to cut pollution will fully protect it.”

•The bulk of the new funding was earmarked to improve water quality by changing farming practices and adopting new technologies and land management.

•“The money will go towards improving water quality, working with farmers to prevent sediment, nitrogen and pesticide run-off into the reef,” said Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg.

•“It will ensure that we tackle the crown-of-thorns... and use the best available science to ensure our coral is resilient to heat and light stress.”

At the micro-level

•He said the government would work with traditional Aboriginal owners, the tourist industry, farmers and scientists, to save the reef, calling the commitment “a game-changer”.

•Earlier this month, scientists said the site suffered a “catastrophic die-off” of coral during an extended heatwave in 2016, threatening a broader range of reef life than previously feared.

•A study in the journal Nature said some 30% of the reef’s coral perished, the first of an unprecedented two successive years of coral bleaching along the 2,300-km reef.

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