The HINDU Notes – 03rd June 2020 - VISION

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Wednesday, June 03, 2020

The HINDU Notes – 03rd June 2020

📰 Trump invites Modi for G-7 summit

Leaders discuss tensions along LAC

•U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday invited Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the next G-7 summit to be hosted by the U.S.

•Both the leaders also discussed the current tensions along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) near Ladakh and the COVID-19 pandemic.

•“President Trump spoke about the U.S. Presidency of the Group of Seven, and conveyed his desire to expand the ambit of the grouping beyond the existing membership, to include other important countries including India. In this context he extended an invitation to Prime Minister Modi to attend the next G-7 Summit,” said a government press release.

•Sources here indicated that India is studying the gesture and will examine if the invite is aimed at making India a permanent part of the global high table at the G-7 or its redesigned shape as G-11.

•In the next three years, India is expected to play a key role in global diplomatic arena because of its three-year term at the executive board of the World Health Organization which is a crucial responsibility because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

📰 Seizing the moment at the WHO

As WHO executive body chair, India will have to navigate the power landscape with candour and tact

•On May 22, 2020, Harsh Vardhan, Minister of Health and Family Welfare, was elected the Chair of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) executive board. The 34-member body is tasked with implementing the decisions of the recently concluded World Health Assembly (WHA). The elevation affords India an important platform to steer the global public health response to COVID-19. It also comes at a time when the WHO is being rocked politically as never before.

•On May 18, U.S. President Donald Trump wrote a letter to the WHO Director-General, threatening to make permanent his temporary funding freeze as well as reconsider the U.S’s membership in the organisation if the latter did not commit to major substantive reforms within 30 days. Earlier that morning by contrast, at the WHA plenary, Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged $2 billion to fight the virus, pair up 30 African hospitals with domestic counterparts, accelerate the building of the Africa Centers for Disease Control headquarters, and ensure that vaccine development in China, when available, would be made a global public good.

India’s policy approach

•As WHO executive body chair, India will have to navigate this treacherous power landscape with candour and tact. Five elements should inform its policy approach. First, India must insist that epidemic prevention and control remain the international community’s foremost priority. As the virus’ chain of transmission is broken, the focus should shift to identifying the animal-to-human transmission origins of SARS-CoV-2. China shares an important interest in facilitating international access to investigate COVID-19’s zoonotic origins; Wuhan and other previously infected zones could yet be susceptible to the risk of viral reintroduction.

•Next, India should lean on the WHO secretariat to fast-track the “impartial, independent, and comprehensive review” of the WHO’s – and China’s – early response to the outbreak. The review’s findings should illuminate best practice and highlight areas for improvement, both in the WHO’s leadership and capacity as well as member states’ implementation of the International Health Regulations. For those in New Delhi inclined to relish the prospect of Beijing’s comeuppance, the review’s findings may yet sorely disappoint. The WHO-China Joint Mission featuring renowned global epidemiologists had termed China’s early COVID-19 response as the “most ambitious, agile and aggressive disease containment effort in history”.

•Third, India must promote the establishment of an appropriate multilateral governance mechanism for ensuring equitable access to COVID-19 therapeutics and vaccines for all countries. The envisaged voluntary pooling mechanism to collect patent rights and regulatory test data should be suitably tailored to the needs of crisis, and the World Trade Organization’s intellectual property rights provisions overridden (as is allowed during a public health emergency) to assure affordable vaccine availability.

•Fourth, India must stay aloof from the West’s campaign to re-seat Taiwan as an observer at the WHA. When Taipei last attended in 2016, it did so under the explicit aegis of UN General Assembly Resolution 2758, whereby the UN considers Taiwan to be an integral part of the People’s Republic of China. That the independence-minded Tsai government is unwilling to concede this basis for attendance has more to do with domestic political manoeuvring than Chinese or international ostracism.

•Finally, India must lead the call for a permanent global ban on the consumption and trade of wild animals, with limited exceptions built-in for scientific research, species protection and traditional livelihood interests. With two-thirds of emerging infections and diseases now arising from wildlife, the destruction of natural habitats and biodiversity loss must be taken much more seriously. India has its work cut out. The government should seize the moment.

📰 Multilateralism in the new cold war

India can set the world response, also using the opportunity to recover its global thought leadership

•In the new cold war, defined by technology and trade not territory, non-alignment is an uncertain option; India should craft a global triumvirate.

•To benefit from global change, countries must have a bold vision and make the right strategic choice. Britain quickly built the largest military in the Subcontinent using the land revenue of Bengal, and over time conquered India. The United States fixated on splitting the Communist bloc ended up with China challenging its dominance.

•As chair of the Executive Board of the World Health Assembly (it is the decision-making body of the World Health Organization), India can set the global response in terms of multilateralism, not just medical issues. In September, the United Nations General Assembly will discuss the theme, “The Future We Want”; in 2021, India joins the UN Security Council (non-permanent seat) and chairs the BRICS Summit, and in 2022, hosts the G-20, a rare alignment of stars for agenda-setting.

•At the online summit of the Non-Aligned Movement, in May, Prime Minister Modi called for new principles for the international system. His new globalisation model based on humanity, fairness and equality has wide support in a more equal world as, for the first time since 1950, everyone is experiencing the same (virus) threat.

•It is in this changed context that India should look upon its own reemergence, China losing influence and the dynamics in its relations with the United States as Asia again becomes central to global prosperity, with global governance, economy, scientific research and society in need of being re-invented.

•We should use this opportunity to recover our global thought leadership, think Nalanda, astronomical computation, the zero, Ayurveda, Buddhism, yoga and Ahimsa as well as clothing the world for millennia.

Clash of values

•The clash between China and the U.S. at the just concluded World Health Assembly in May marks the end of the multilateralism of the past 70 years. The donor-recipient relationship between developed and developing countries has ended with China’s pledge of $2-billion. The agenda-setting role of the G7 over UN institutions and global rules has also been effectively challenged by WHO ignoring the reform diktat of the U.S. leading to its withdrawal, and characterisation of the G7 as “outdated”. The U.S. has also implicitly rejected the G20 and UN Security Council, for an expanded G7 “to discuss the future of China”. China’s Global Times characterised the exchanges as “two different visions”; The Washington Post carried the headline, “The post-American world is now on full display” and The Wall Street Journal argued, “India Is a Natural U.S. Ally in the New Cold War”.

•The clash marks another seismic shift within the UN. After World War II, the newly independent states were not consulted when the U.S. imposed global institutions fostering trade, capital and technology dependence, ignoring socio-economic development. Social and economic rights have emerged to be as important as political and procedural rights and China’s President Xi Jinping deftly endorsed the UN Resolution on equitable access to any new vaccine.

•The U.S. faces an uphill task in seeking to lead a new multidimensional institution as China’s re-emergence is based on technology, innovation and trade balancing U.S. military superiority at a time of declining global trust in free-market liberalism, central to western civilisation. With the West experiencing a shock comparable to the one experienced by Asia 200 years ago, the superiority of western civilisation is also under question.

•The novel coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the shift of global wealth to Asia suggesting an inclusive global order based on principles drawn from ancient Asian civilisations. Colonised Asia played no role in shaping the Industrial Revolution; the Digital Revolution will be shaped by different values. It is really this clash that multilateralism has now to resolve.

Non-coercive form

•For India, the strategic issue is neither adjustment to China’s power nor deference to U.S. leadership. China has come out with alternative governance mechanisms to the U.S.-dominated International Monetary Fund, World Bank and World Trade Organization with its all-encompassing Belt and Road Initiative. The U.S., European Union and Japan are re-evaluating globalisation as it pertains to China and the U.S. is unabashedly “America First”. The world is questioning both U.S. and China’s exceptionalism.

•The global vacuum, shift in relative power and its own potential, provides India the capacity to articulate a benign multilateralism as a NAM-Plus that resonates with large parts of the world and brings both BRICS and the G7 into the tent. This new multilateralism should rely on outcomes, not rules, ‘security’ downplayed for ‘comparable levels of wellbeing’ and a new P-5 that is not based on the G7.

•China, through an opinion piece by its Ambassador in India, has suggested writing “together a new chapter” with “a shared future for mankind”. The U.S. wants a security partnership to contain China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations trade bloc — with the U.S. walking out of the negotiations — is keen India joins to balance China. With a new template. India does not have to choose.

•First, the Asian Century should be defined in terms of peaceful co-existence, freezing post-colonial sovereignty. Non-interference in the internal affairs of others is a key lesson from the decline of the U.S. and the rise of China. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter rightly observed that while the U.S. spent $3 trillion on military spending, “China has not wasted a single penny on war”.

•National security now relies on technological superiority in artificial intelligence (AI), cyber and space, and not expensive capital equipment, as India’s military has acknowledged. Instead of massive arms imports we should use the savings to enhance endogenous capacity and mould the global digital economy between state-centric (China), firm-centric (the U.S.) and public-centric (India) systems.

•Second, a global community at comparable levels of well-being requires new principles for trade, for example, rejecting the 25-year-old trade rule creating intellectual property monopolies. Global public goods should include public health, crop research, renewable energy and batteries, even AI as its value comes from shared data. We have the scientific capacity to support these platforms as part of foreign policy.

•Third, ancient civilisational values provide the conceptual underpinning, restructuring both the economic order and societal behaviour for equitable sustainable development, which a climate change-impacted world, especially Africa, is seeking.

📰 The challenge of law enforcement post-COVID-19

The police will have to think of ways of dealing with new challenges in maintaining law and order

•COVID-19 has turned the world upside down. There is hardly any aspect of our life that has been left untouched by the pandemic. In a society struck by a deadly virus, strict maintenance of public order is most essential. Only then can those affected by the disease be looked after and given the best medical care.

Enforcing lockdown

•Law enforcement is therefore next only to healthcare in its criticality. The police have taken enormous risks during the lockdown to ensure strict observance of guidelines, including physical distancing, which in India is among the most difficult rules to enforce. Policepersons need to be commended for their hard work and restraint, instead of being chastised as a force for the overzealousness and indiscretion of a few of them.

•How will COVID-19 affect future law enforcement and how will new patterns of crime be managed, especially given that the virus is here to stay for a long time? Apart from policymakers, the police leadership will have to introspect on its recent experience and draft a comprehensive Standard Operating Procedure that will educate all policepersons in the country. This will take care of future virus waves, if any.

•How did the police manage to garner all the resources – manpower and material – to enforce the lockdown in all the States? In this context, we did not hear the usual complaint of lack of manpower and mobility. What helped the police greatly was public cooperation, without which there would have been chaos. In this experience lies a lesson, a building block for future police-public relations. It is a different matter that some disorderly sections also behaved themselves, possibly out of sheer fear of the virus’s lethal potency. With the bulk of the population keeping off the streets, the police could bring in equipment and manpower to handle this unusual situation. They also skilfully used social media to disseminate all relevant information to a majority of the population, both in urban and rural areas.

Overall drop in crime

•What greatly helped the police was the fact that roads were deserted and there was nearly zero traffic on major highways. This ensured a sharp reduction in traffic accidents and fatalities caused by such accidents. Antisocial elements could be kept at bay. With anti-social elements confined to their homes, trespass and burglary also became more difficult crimes to commit.

•A survey across nations has indicated a measurable drop in overall crime. Major cities that generally report a high number of crimes found a drop in crime levels during the lockdown period. Only the New York Police Department reported an uptick in murders and burglaries during the pandemic. London reported an appreciable decline in non-violent crime, especially stabbings. The National Police Chiefs Council in the U.K. reported a drop in burglary, vehicle crime, serious assault and personal robbery in the four weeks up until April 12. In India, the Delhi Police reported a 70% fall in heinous crimes (murders and rapes) between April 1 and 15 compared to the same period last year. In Chennai, the total number of crimes dropped by 79% in the March 25-April 15 period over the February 25-March 15 period. Even giving due allowance to wilful non-registration of cases by the police and the general reluctance of the public to report crimes, particularly during difficult times such as a pandemic, the police force can be proud that it managed to keep the peace during these times.

Uptick in domestic violence

•However, this period saw a worrying surge in domestic violence cases. The Tamil Nadu Police, for instance, reportedly received 2,963 calls on domestic violence in April alone. There are two major factors for this rise. Most men are at home, either without work on in fear of losing their jobs. Data show that domestic violence increases when there is greater unemployment. The fear and insecurity of these men cause tension at home and unfortunately, women become the victims of this tension. The second reason is the non-availability of liquor during the lockdown period, which caused frustration among those men who are habituated to drinking daily. There was a similar increase in sexual and gender-based violence in West Africa during the 2013-16 Ebola outbreak. As health workers are busy combating the pandemic, there is little help for domestic violence victims during times such as this. This shows that epidemics leave women and girls more vulnerable to violence.

•A few members of the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime, a network of prominent law-enforcement, governance and development practitioners based in Geneva, believe that the pandemic is both a threat to, and an opportunity for, organised crime, especially illicit drug trade. Travel restrictions across borders, especially in Africa, have made international trade in drugs extremely difficult. Gangs have therefore been at work to innovate and adapt to the changing nature of the illicit market. The Global Initiative believes that organised gangs will infiltrate health services and make profits through the sale of prescription drugs that are not otherwise easily available to the public.

•Another new trend is the rise in cybercrime. New portals have been launched to get people to donate money for the cause of combating COVID-19. Experts say that many fraudulent sites are designed so well that a large number of people are easily taken for a ride. Besides this, there is large-scale manufacture of ineffective masks and hand sanitizers.

•A major challenge for public officials is keeping prisons free of the virus. Many prisons have taken steps to insulate prisoners who reported positive for the virus from the rest of the inmates. A number of human rights activists have said that we need to consider the premature and temporary release of prisoners. This is a tricky issue: should prisons be totally emptied or should they adopt a selective approach? Some human rights activists ask for complete evacuation of prisons, irrespective of whether a prisoner tests positive or not. But such a drastic move will make a mockery of the criminal justice system and expose society to many unrepentant violent offenders. On March 24, the Supreme Court directed the States and Union Territories to constitute high-powered committees to consider releasing convicts who have been jailed up to seven years on parole, in order to decongest prisons.

•The pandemic and the lockdown have ensured that many crimes have gone down. However, many other crimes have gone up or will assume new forms in the near future. As we enter unlock mode, it is incumbent on law-enforcement officials to think of ways of dealing with new challenges in maintaining law and order.