The HINDU Notes – 17th October 2019 - VISION

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Thursday, October 17, 2019

The HINDU Notes – 17th October 2019

📰 ‘Xi mooted trilateral ties with India, Pak.’

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi says the nations should not be influenced by a third party

•Within days of the second India-China “informal summit”, Chinese Foreign Minister and State Councilor Wang Yi has said that Chinese President Xi Jinping had shared with Prime Minister Narendra Modi his vision for trilateral cooperation among Beijing, New Delhi and Islamabad.

•“In Chennai, President Xi Jinping had in-depth communication on the regional situation with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and encouraged all parties concerned to solve the current issues through dialogue,” Mr. Wang told presspersons who had travelled to India and Nepal to cover Mr. Xi’s October 11-13 visit.

•“President Xi Jinping stressed the Chinese side sincerely expects sound China-India relations, China-Pakistan relations and India-Pakistan relations, and expects to see all sides work together to promote regional peace and stability, and achieve common development and prosperity.”

•Advocating a trilateral approach, Mr. Wang said that none of the three countries — China, India or Pakistan — should target or be influenced by a “third party”.

•“China’s respective relations with India, Pakistan and other South Asian countries, with respective unique history and characteristics, can run in parallel and develop together, neither targeting any third party nor being influenced by a third party,” he said.

•In a veiled reference to Kashmir after India scrapped special status for Jammu and Kashmir, Mr. Wang said “the recent strained India-Pakistan relations and unrest and turbulence in the region have drawn grave concerns from the international community.”

In-depth communication

•“In Chennai, President Xi Jinping had in-depth communication on the regional situation with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and encouraged all parties concerned to solve the current issues through dialogue.”

•China’s top diplomat also spotlighted the fact that prior to his visit to India and Nepal, “President Xi Jinping listened to the views and propositions of the Pakistani side in his meeting with Prime Minister Imran Kha of Pakistan.” Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa, and head of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Lt. Gen. Faiz Hameed had arrived separately in Beijing between October 7 and 8 and departed just before Mr. Xi embarked for Chennai on October 11.

•“Both India and Pakistan are friendly neighbours of China, and the Chinese side hopes that the two countries can properly manage and control differences and improve their relations, “ Mr. Wang said.

•The Chinese Foreign Minister stressed that the Chinese President had elaborated on enhancing the “China-India Plus” formulation, which could be gradually expanded to cover other countries in South Asia, Southeast Asia and Africa on the basis of the existing “China-India-Afghanistan” cooperation.

📰 Agents of change: On investing in women’s education

There is evidence of the overall benefits that accrue from investing in women’s education

•If the evidence is clear and present, then not acting on it would be a chilling demonstration of inability and inefficiency, and the lack of will to bring about change. There should be no doubt that educating a woman serves a larger ameliorative purpose. The recently released Health Ministry survey that showed a direct correlation between the nutritional status of children and their mothers’ education is a further stroke for the case of women’s education. The Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey, which studied 1.2 lakh children between 2016-18, measured diet diversity, meal frequency and minimum acceptable diet as the three core indicators of nutritional deficiency among infants and young children. It demonstrated that with higher levels of schooling for a mother, her children received better diets. On two counts, meal diversity and minimum acceptable diet, and in terms of bolstering food with micro nutrients, the children of mothers with better education did well. The data is revelatory: Only 11.4% of children of mothers with no schooling received adequately diverse meals, while 31.8% whose mothers finished Class XII received diverse meals. While 9.6% of children whose mothers had finished schooling got minimum acceptable diets, only 3.9% of children whose mothers had zero schooling got such a diet.

•Development economists have long studied the role that education of girls plays in enabling them to emerge as agents of change. Empirical work in recent years, Nobel laureate Amartya Sen reasons, has clearly shown how the relative aspect and regard for women’s well being is strongly influenced by women’s literacy and educated participation in decisions within and outside the family. In the late 1990s, Tamil Nadu along with the Danish International Development Agency, launched a mass rural literacy project in Dharmapuri, then considered backward, riding largely on local leaders, most of them women. Evaluation showed overall salubrious effects on the community within a short while. Implemented largely through the employ of the local arts, one measure of success, as recorded then, was an increased outpatient attendance in primary health centres. There is a body of compelling evidence for the government to focus on improving female literacy. In Census 2011, the female literacy rate was 65.46%, much lower than for males, at 82.14%. States such as Kerala with a high literacy rate (male and female) also sit at the top of the table on development indicators. As former American First Lady Michelle Obama said, “Because we know that when girls are educated, their countries become stronger and more prosperous.” No other task can assume greater urgency for a nation striving to improve its performance on all fronts.

📰 The operative word must be bilateralism

Using their convergence of perception on many issues, India and the U.S. can work closely in reshaping the global order

•Global politics is changing at a fast pace. Thus a setting where there was a chariot of peace, joint co-operation, multilateralism and liberalism whose strings were controlled by institutions such as the United Nations, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the International Court of Justice has now become one of warhorses pulling in different directions to embrace unilateralism, protectionism and isolationism. The global order is now dipping into a vortex of disruptions largely caused by the United States, China and Brexit. India also stands at the crossroads in terms of its foreign policy approach. It has a crucial decision to make in terms of the journey ahead whether to: continue with its time-tested stable policy of non-alignment and strategic autonomy; join the bandwagon of unilateralism and be a permanent treaty ally of one of the superpowers, and, finally, embark upon a calculated trip with the objective of expansion in terms of forging new relations and exploring fresh territories by adopting a strategy of “multi-alignment and transactional autonomy”.

•The answers are complex. But one domain of foreign policy which requires a serious relook is the India-U.S. relationship because the backstage reality of a no-trade deal, and continuing U.S.-Pakistan bonhomie, among other irritants, have taken the wind out of the sails of the friendship between the leaders of the two nations as seen at the recent “Howdy Modi” event in Houston. Cross-currents in the India-U.S. relationship cannot be ruled out.

Contextualising ties

•India-U.S. ties have shades of the good, the bad and the ugly. The good is linked to historic terms, a key example being the India-U.S. civil nuclear deal, the ongoing defence cooperation of the past decade worth billions of dollars and the signing of three “foundational defence agreements”, i.e. the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement, the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement and the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation. The bad is current trade challenges, the U.S.’s hyphenation of India with China in its trade war and its call for the removal of the “developing country” tag assigned by the WTO. And the ugly is when during the 1971 war, the U.S. sent its fleet towards India to assist Pakistan.

•The good outweighs the bad and the ugly but a sense of the current mood at Capitol Hill that preceded the high-profile visit to Houston in September seems loaded with scepticism as far as India’s multilateral outreach is concerned, especially in connection with the procurement of defence material from Russia and some unreal expectations such as India having military boots on the ground in Afghanistan. In this context, before taking any decision on the future trajectory of India-U.S. dynamics, the Indian establishment must remain mindful of the unpredictability and inherent contradictions in U.S. foreign policy and, at the same time, capitalise on U.S. “isolationism and retrenchment” by maintaining its time-tested policy of “non-alignment and strategic autonomy”.

Points of concern

•The contradictions in the U.S.’s outlook are many. First, the recent and abrupt abandonment by the Trump administration of the Kurds who assisted the Americans in fighting the Islamic State both in terms of resources and manpower should serve as a warning sign to India in terms of its Afghanistan strategy. The current Indian dispensation must prepare for the eventuality of a sudden withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan which could lead to a complete takeover by the Taliban, with potential repercussions on India’s northern front. Second, with respect to Pakistan, there is confused signalling from the official “advisers” of the White House, often creating a fog of uncertainty over stated policy. For example, Jim Mattis, former U.S. Secretary of Defence has openly lambasted Pakistan (in his latest book) even as Mr. Trump who was till very recently calling Pakistan a “friend who he does not need” is now projecting Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan as his “friend in need” (on account of America’s Afghan ‘ejection plan’) without realising Pakistan’s bond with terrorism. Third, the U.S. campaigned for Iran’s nuclear deal in 2015, then withdrew itself from the accord in 2018 and has now adopted a blanket sanction policy qua any nation dealing in oil transactions with Iran. With such a track record what is the guarantee that the U.S., which now expects India to forego its age-old friendship with Russia, will not start transactions with them later, leaving India out in the cold?

•Despite these contradictions and challenges, a number of opportunities in the new world order await India. The Prime Minister must ensure that India-U.S. bilateralism survives the axe of unilateralism without sacrificing India’s “sweet spot” and tag of being “everyone’s friend”. Mr. Trump needs to realise that India at this juncture cannot afford to get derailed from the tracks of globalisation, regional alliances, trade opportunities and, at the same time, be convinced that India will never take sides hurting U.S. interests in real strategic and economic bilateral terms. When the U.S. withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty signed with Russia in 1987, the comment by U.S. Defence Secretary Mark Esper that the “U.S. is looking to deploy more missiles in Asia” has led to chatter about the start of another arms race. However, India cannot afford to get dragged into this and must focus on multi-alignment both with the U.S. and Russia especially in terms of getting a waiver under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act in purchasing the S-400 missile system from Russia.

Potential in trade

•On the trade front, India, instead of China, can be an effective supplier rather than being an outsourcing hub. With respect to the Indo-Pacific, the U.S. views it as a platform to contain China hegemony. India, on the other hand, sees it as an opportunity for economic expansion, with the U.S. being an equal partner. China’s cautious pragmatism along with assertiveness needs to be factored into the decision-making process of both New Delhi and Washington. What India and the U.S. could do is to forge a broad-based and productive political partnership. After all, mutual interdependence of countries is based on formal prerogatives of sovereign states. The convergence of perception between India and the U.S. on global and regional issues of common interest provides enormous opportunities for both countries to work closely in reshaping the global political order. The friendship has the potential to grow stronger by the day without sacrificing India’s global positioning at the altar of unilateralism.

📰 Peanut paste not a solution for severe malnutrition: study

‘Clean drinking water and sanitation are also important’

•Deaths due to severe acute malnutrition (SAM) in India could be at least a tenth of what was earlier believed, which implies that instead of taking emergency measures such as providing Ready To Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF), there needs to be a focus on non-food interventions such as sanitation, health, clean drinking water along with an emphasis on nutrition, suggests a new study published in a peer-reviewed medical journal on Wednesday.

•The paper, published in PLOS Medicine, provides new evidence at a time when inter-ministerial discussions are under way on formulating guidelines for nutritional management of SAM children and when policymakers and experts are divided on the issue of providing either RUTF or locally-made energy-dense food.

•During the study, the researchers observed 2,704 children in West Singbhum district in Jharkhand and Kendujhar district in Odisha, who were born between October 1, 2013 and February 10, 2015 and alive at six months of age. They were followed up at 9, 12 and 18 months.

•The research found that there were total 513 SAM children, of which six died — four within six months of the start of the episode, and two after six months. The fatality for SAM was 0.8% (4/513) within 6 months and 1.2% overall (6/513). These figures are much lower than the 10%-20% range for SAM fatality estimated by WHO and often cited by policy makers for prescribing remedial methods. Moreover, 99% of all children with SAM at 6 months of age (227/230) were alive 3 months later, 40% (92/230) were still SAM, and 18% (41/230) had recovered.

•“There are multiple attempts to show that Severe Acute Malnutrition is an acute emergency situation and that afflicted children will either die or never “recover” unless “magical therapeutic food” (RUTF) is provided. We have busted this myth. Mortality in SAM is very low over six months to one-year period and spontaneous recovery occurs in a substantial proportion. In fact, after 32 weeks of starting RUTF (given for 16 weeks), the recovery rates in our studies without CMAM are broadly comparable to any therapeutic food (augmented home based or RUTF, both of which are equal). Thus, the current Indian evidence indicates scare mongering over SAM is unwarranted. These children are not merely nutrition starved, but are hungry for development,” Professor H.P.S. Sachdev, a paediatric consultant at Sitaram Bhartia Institute for Science and Research, who co-authored the study, told The Hindu.

•Preventive measures, apt nutrition counselling, and care for illnesses are vital aspects of SAM management, he added.

•According to WHO, RUTF is a thick paste of peanuts, vegetable oil, sugar and milk powder and a complex of vitamins and minerals.

•The findings echo results from three other Indian studies, which found fatality rates for SAM to range between 2.7% to 5.2% among children older than 6 months.

•The study also explains that the most vulnerable children probably died before reaching six months, which is before a child begins complementary feeding along and treatment with RUTF becomes relevant. These deaths are due to pre-mature birth or low birth weight — factors that account for 46.1% of all deaths of children under five years in 2017.

•According to government data shared before Parliament, there were 93.4 lakh SAM children based on National Family Health Survey-4 conducted in 2015-2016.

📰 Indigenous breeds record marginal rise

Foreign cattle grew 32%, says Census

•The Centre’s drive to increase indigenous breeds of cattle seems to have had little impact among cows kept for dairy purposes, according to data from the 20th Livestock Census released on Wednesday. There are 4.85 crore desi (native) milch cows in the country, less than 1% higher than the 4.81 crore population in the last census in 2012.

•On the other hand, the milch population of exotic and crossbred cattle — including varieties such as Jersey or Holsteins which have much higher milk yields — saw a whopping growth of 32% over the last seven years, growing from 1.9 crore to 2.5 crore animals.

•Milch cattle are cows kept for the purpose of milk production. Among this category, therefore, foreign breeds now have a population that is more than half the population of desi breeds.

•The Rashtriya Gokul Mission, launched by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led (BJP) government in 2014, aimed to promote indigenous desi breeds. However, the total population of such cattle — male and female together, milk-producing or not — actually dropped 6% to 14.2 crore animals, while exotic and crossbred cattle saw an overall growth of almost 27% to 5 crore animals.

📰 Taking national data seriously

India must not trade away its national data rights at the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership negotiations

•In a digital economy, data is the central resource. The Prime Minister recently compared data to property at the advent of the industrial era. Data is being considered as a nation’s new wealth. How data will be employed fruitfully, and its value captured, will decide a nation’s rank in the emerging new global geo-economic and geo-political hierarchies. The global digital or artificial intelligence (AI) economy is currently a two-horse race between the U.S. and China. It is feared that all other countries, including the European Union (EU) and major developing countries such as India, will have to become fully digitally dependent on one of these two digital superpowers. This will considerably compromise their economic and political independence, something referred to as digital colonisation.

•The shift to digital power, and its concentration, is very evident. Seven of the top eight companies by market cap globally today are data-based corporations. A decade back, this list was dominated by industrial and oil giants. Almost all top digital corporations in the world are U.S. or Chinese.

Importance of data sharing

•All credible efforts to escape such a dismal situation, like in the French and the U.K.’s AI strategies, numerous EU documents, and India’s NITI Aayog’s AI strategy, focus on one central issue — more data-sharing within the country, and better access to data for domestic businesses. But how is this to be actually achieved when a few global digital corporations such as Google, Facebook, Amazon and Uber, continually vacuum out India’s and Indians’ data, and then by default treat it as their private property, including freely sending it abroad? French AI strategy calls for an aggressive data policy, and control on data outflows. NITI Aayog’s AI strategy has sought mandated sharing of data for social purposes.

•Appropriate data policies must ensure that the required data is actually available to Indian digital businesses. After all, most of this data in the first place is collected from Indian communities, artefacts and natural phenomenon, and is about them. Global corporations like to consider data as a freely shareable open resource till the data is out there, with the people, communities, outside ‘things’, etc. But the moment they collect the data, it seems to become their de facto private property and they refuse to share it, even for important public interest purposes.

•This lawless logjam can only be broken by asserting a community’s legal right over data that is derived from, and is about, the community concerned, or about ‘things’ that belong to it. This is the concept of community data inscribed in India’s draft e-commerce policy.

Community data

•To understand data’s value, and why a community should own data about itself, it helps to see data as the basis of detailed and deep intelligence about a community. We are careful in parting with personal data because it provides deep intelligence about us which can be used to manipulate us. Similarly, data about a group of people, even if anonymised, provides very wide and granular intelligence about that group or community. The very basis of a digital economy is to employ such data-based intelligence to reorganise and coordinate different sectors — think Uber in the transport sector and Amazon in consumer goods. But this data-based community intelligence can equally be used to manipulate or cause harm to the community, if in the hands of an untrusted or exploitative party. Such data-based harm could be economic — beginning with unfair sharing of the gains of digital efficiency, but also social, political security-related and military.

•It is for this reason that communities, including a national community, should effectively control and regulate intelligence about them. This requires effective community control over its data that produces such intelligence. A complex and gradual process of classification of various kinds of data, and developing governance frameworks around them, is required.

•A great amount of data would indeed be fully private to the corporation concerned. Public agencies and regulators may not be too bothered about how such private data is used, where it is moved to, etc. But a big part of data that comes into play in a digital economy is community data, which has to be treated carefully. In less important areas or sectors it may need no or very little regulation, but in other important areas, the community data concerned may require close regulation. This could be about accessing such data for social purposes, ensuring that important public interest is met in various uses of data, and to make data available to domestic businesses, to stimulate competition and for India’s digital industrialisation.

•All this requires India to preserve its data policy space. We have not even begun dealing with the very complex data policy issues, including data classification, data ownership rights, data sharing, data trusts, and so on. This is a task that India should urgently embark upon, in full earnest. There is no time to lose as global advantages and vulnerabilities in terms of a digital economy are fast being entrenched. This is very similar to how the Industrial Revolution triggered fundamental changes and new global power configurations in the 19th century.

Preserving data policy space

•News reports indicate that at the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership trade negotiations, being held with Association of Southeast Asian Nations, China, South Korea, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, India may accept free data flow clauses with some public policy exceptions.

•The history of trade agreements clearly show that such public policy exceptions almost never work, especially for developing countries. It needs to be understood that suitable data controls and policies are not to be exceptions but the mainstream of a digital economy and society.

•In signing on a free flow of data regime, however cleverly worded, India will largely end up ceding most of its data policy space, and data sovereignty. And with it, it will give up any chances for effectively using Indian data for India’s development, and for digital industrialisation to become a top digital power. It will effectively be laying the path for permanent digital dependency, with India’s data flowing freely to data intelligence centres in the U.S., and now some in China. From these global centres, a few global “intelligence corporations” will digitally, and intelligent-ally, control and run the entire world.

•With countries yet hardly clear about appropriate data policies, and the data-related requirements for digital industrialisation, it is not clear what the hurry is to sign global free flow of data agreements. The digital economy seems to be growing and flourishing very well even without such regimes.

•Disengaging from signing binding agreements on uninhibited data flows across borders does not mean that a country would simply localise all data. Some kinds of data may indeed need to be localised, while others should freely flow globally. It just means that a country retains complete data policy space, and the means to shape its digital industrialisation, and thus its digital future. Our understanding in these areas is just now beginning to take shape. It will be extremely unwise to foreclose our options even before we discover and decide the right data and digital polices and path for India.

📰 Not green, but greenwash

Technological solutions cannot combat ecological challenges

•From producing artificial meat to using renewable energy, businesses seem to be driven by concern for our planet. But are they really? Or is this all an attempt to gain a sense of credibility for a project otherwise driven by the mundane, old profit motive? In this age of misinformation, it can be difficult to distinguish between green and greenwash.

•In Mumbai, despite a sustained and widespread citizens’ campaign, the Aarey forest has been chopped down. Despite a number of alternative available sites for the Metro car depot, the agency has remained stubborn on the forest land. The push for the capital-intensive Metro has come at a time when the city’s bus service is in tatters. Still, it is argued that the Metro is the only option to improve the city’s public transport.

Addressing the ecological crisis

•Amidst the grief over the felling, there are some who are justifying the move. Their argument is that building a Metro will prevent an increase in emissions. They are comparing car and bus emissions saved by the building of Metro transport with the carbon absorbed by a forest. It is as though the sole purpose of a forest is to serve as a carbon sink for human emissions. Would the forest have been able to defend itself better had its carbon-absorptive capacity been higher? Or if the Metro could attract a smaller number of commuters away from private cars?

•Here you can see the cognitive failure at the heart of our ecological crisis. Public transport infrastructure does not absorb carbon dioxide. It cannot provide habitat, recharge groundwater, or safeguard our soil. The ecological crisis is much bigger than just carbon emissions. Apart from deteriorating air quality and climate, this is a crisis of many things: the loss of biodiversity, freshwater, soil, forests. It is a crisis of the loss of our souls.

•If we are to really address the ecological crisis, especially climate change, we need a fall in emissions, not a slower-than-projected rate of increase of emissions. It is only within the caged logical framework of slower than otherwise ever-increasing emissions that this argument has even the most limited merits. Still, those justifying the move make a leap of logic and compare the saved emissions against the graph of ever-increasing emissions from mathematical models (which have their own political-economic assumptions). But the only relevant graph to compare against is the rate at which carbon emissions must fall in order to avoid catastrophe.

•Lastly, we must ask a crucial question: does the Metro really replace cars? Or is the class of urban Indians who take the Metro not a few rungs below the ones who ride daily in cars? That is to say, isn’t it true that most of the car-owning metropolitan elites would not ride the subway with the public even if it was cost-effective? There isn’t much evidence that when a Metro arrives in a city or the bus system gets better, car sales drop. If the Metro really replaces cars, Metro infrastructure should take up the space that cars take up in the city’s landscape. But instead, the Metro consumes trees, soil and aquifers, even as we keep getting new flyovers and expressways. Are these going to be our ‘solutions’ to the ecological crisis? If so, let us prepare for new problems, especially air quality worsening further and the contribution towards climate change becoming yet greater.

•Unfortunately, it is easily forgotten that it is possible to keep increasing public transport and personal car transport at the same time. Indeed, that is exactly what has been happening. People in India have to travel more and more because jobs are being offered further and further from homes, since capital is being accumulated in a handful of metropolitan centres of wealth — by dispossessing the rest of the country. This process is also known by another name — ‘development’. And all political parties support it.

Opportunities in the marketplace

•Technological solutions work by effectively increasing the supply of goods and services. This increase may alleviate shortages for a brief time. Consumption rises, but does not abate in the long run. The greater supply is absorbed by the market. In an acquisitive society, demand takes no time to catch up with supply. Before the Asian Games in 1982, there were a handful of flyovers in New Delhi. People complained of traffic problems. Scores of new flyovers were constructed, felling thousands of trees in the process. In the end, traffic congestion grew much worse.

•Likewise, more fuel-efficient cars have meant that car owners take many more trips, in effect nullifying the saving of fuel from the technical innovation. This is the simple reason why any advocacy of a lasting technological solution to ecological challenges is only destined to set the stage for the next generation of ecological problems. Crucially, new problems also mean that innovative entrepreneurs get fresh opportunities in the marketplace. We forget that in the bargain we approach catastrophe quicker.

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