The HINDU Notes – 22nd June 2020 - VISION

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Monday, June 22, 2020

The HINDU Notes – 22nd June 2020

📰 Additional funds sought for Jal Jeevan Mission

Jal Shakti Ministry wants control of finance panel’s panchayat grants for water, sanitation to dovetail with JJM

•Faced with a financing shortfall for the Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM), the Jal Shakti Ministry is pitching for additional funding of Rs. 82,000 crore from the 15th Finance Commission for the project to provide drinking water tap connections to every rural household by 2024. Only 18% of households are currently covered.

•The Ministry also wants to control the flow of the Commission’s funds to panchayats for water and sanitation.

•In a presentation made to the Commission this week, the Ministry showed that there had been a 45% shortfall in financing the JJM by both the Centre and the States in its first year of 2019-20. The planned Central share for the year was Rs. 20,798 crore, but actuals were only at Rs. 12,000 crore. The share due from States was Rs. 8,329 crore, but the shortfall was more than Rs. 4,200 crore. Similarly, in 2020-21 as well, there has been a 32% shortfall at the Central level.

Resource constraints

•There are “post- COVID-19 resource constraints both at Centre and States,” the Ministry told the Commission. It pitched for additional funding of Rs. 82,000 crore to meet the need for capital intensive projects in water scarce areas, and areas where the water has been contaminated by arsenic or flouride, or has high-salinity levels.

•The Ministry also wished to take more direct control of the Commission’s grants to panchayats. In its interim report for 2020-21, the Commission had allocated Rs. 30,375 crore as tied grants to rural local bodies for drinking water and sanitation “in order to ensure additional funds to the local bodies over and above the funds allocated ... under the Centrally sponsored schemes, Swachh Bharat and Jal Jeevan Missions.”

•However, the Ministry complained that there is “no handholding and identification of work,” “no criteria and indicators to assess the performance of panchayati raj institutions” and “no pressure on gram panchayats to dovetail FC grants with JJM.” It proposed that the money be placed with the Jal Shakti Ministry instead, which would in turn release it to the panchayats, to ensure that they follow the JJM’s five-year village action plans.

•This kind of centralisation would be a regression from the 14th Finance Commission’s move to empower panchayati raj institutions, says N.R. Bhanumurthy, professor at the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy.

•“We cannot go back to a situation of putting strings on panchayat funds. It is true that there are issues at the panchayat level, with some having huge unused funds, but there must be other ways to deal with that,” he said.

📰 MP questions Punjab govt.’s move on fixed term for IAS officers

‘It will make them less answerable and accountable to elected representatives’

•Congress Rajya Sabha MP Partap Singh Bajwa on Sunday questioned the Punjab government’s move to set up a board to ensure a fixed term at a post to IAS officers, saying it will make them less answerable and accountable to legislators. The State government decided to set up the board to provide a fixed two-year tenure to an IAS officer at a posting. Any decision to cut short the term will be examined by the board.

•In a letter to Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, Mr. Bajwa said the June 2 order of the State government has sent a disturbing and negative signal to already demoralised elected representatives.

•Referring to the last month’s face-off between two State Ministers and the Chief Secretary during a meeting, Mr. Bajwa said the timing of the move is ominous.

•“Just when your Cabinet Ministers have been recently humiliated by the Chief Secretary, you have now set up an all-powerful civil services board headed by the Chief Secretary, with a few bureaucrats as its members, to ensure that the bureaucracy becomes much less answerable and accountable to elected representatives, the MP said.

•Mr. Bajwa claimed that several Ministers and MLAs had many a time complained against the overbearing, unresponsive and intemperate behaviour of many officers because of undue importance and support they enjoy from the Chief Minister.

•“This move of assuring them of a fixed tenure of postings and other immunities under the umbrella of the civil services board has tilted the scale decisively against the elected representatives, he said.

•The bureaucracy in the State has staged a coup through your June 2 orders to render the Ministers and MLAs helpless in raking up neglected issues of public importance and timely planning and execution of development works, Mr.Bajwa alleged.

‘Good ties critical’

•He further claimed that a healthy working relationship between Ministers, MPs, MLAs and civil servants is critical for good governance, which has been compromised in Punjab at the moment.

•Mr. Bajwa urged the Chief Minister to look into the prevailing state of affairs and take necessary steps to restore the sagging morale of the political class in Punjab.

📰 For minor tactical gains on the ground, China has strategically lost India, says former Indian Ambassador to China

Beijing’s has tried to unilaterally define LAC by taking control of territory, says Gautam Bambawale

The June 15 clash at Galwan Valley, which claimed 20 Indian soldiers in the worst violence since 1967, has left the entire border architecture, carefully built by India and China to maintain peace, in the heap of history, says Gautam Bambawale, former Indian Ambassador to China and Pakistan. India’s relations with China have reached a inflection point that will require a fundamental reassessment of its China policy. Edited excerpts:

Having worked on the relationship over so many years, did you ever expect what happened on June 15?

•I never expected such a thing to happen. And the reason why I didn’t expect such a thing to happen is because ever since 1993, when India and China signed the Border Peace and Tranquillity Agreement (BPTA), and there have been many agreements following that, we have put in place certain tenets, certain operating procedures, which were aimed at maintaining peace and tranquillity on the border. Unfortunately that entire architecture has collapsed, and is now in the heap of history.

If all these agreements that have helped keep the peace have collapsed, where does that leave us going forward?

•Both countries have agreed that there are differences in our opinion of where the line of actual control (LAC) lies. Therefore, it was important to ensure that peace and tranquillity is maintained. Now, this time, what the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has done is that they have moved their ground positions towards what they believe is their LAC. And by doing so, they have tried to unilaterally define the LAC. Now, the movement of troops, to move your ground positions towards what is your conception of the LAC, in my opinion is a major change in the status quo, where the Chinese have come in with large numbers of troops, have moved them right forward, have built embankments, gun placements, observation towers. India’s bottom line has to be, and will be, restoration of the status quo ante.

What realistic options does India have?

•First, to address what is happening on the ground, we have to have a very strong military posture, which we do. There must also be room for talks. There is no doubt that when two nation states disagree about the boundary, it can only be done through discussions with each other, it cannot be done unilaterally as the Chinese are attempting to do. We should have discussions at the diplomatic and other levels to try to move ahead on where the LAC lies and come to some kind of agreement which is difficult, I agree, but which has to take place. As far as the broader relationship is concerned, because of these reasons — one, that the Chinese have fundamentally violated all our agreements on the maintenance of peace and tranquillity; two, they are trying to unilaterally define the LAC; and three, the fact that lives have been lost on both sides after a gap of many decades — I think this is an inflection point in India-China relations. What I would recommend is that India as a country, as a people, including, of course, the government in the lead, must make a fundamental reassessment of its China policy, make changes in it, and then implement it at the earliest.

Since 1988, the model has been to separate differences from other areas such as trade. Will that change?

•It cannot be business as it was earlier. One suggestion that I have made is that I firmly believe that Chinese firms must be kept out of the 5G trials and roll-out in India. That is where it will hurt in the pocket. I think that is a suggestion that I would definitely make to the government. Finally it is for the Government of India to decide what is the package of a new policy. I am not advocating a complete break. Normal trade and investment can continue. But on the 5G question, it is very important to take the decision.

Will India’s approach to the region change?

•There have been some Chinese observers who have said one of the possible reasons for this dust-up on the border with India this year is to indicate to India to stay away from the United States and other democracies. In fact, I think the actual result is going to be exactly the opposite. It will be very important for India to work together, strengthen its partnerships with democracies across the world, including with countries like South Korea, Japan, Indonesia, and others apart from Western nations.

•This is what I believe is going to happen. If the Chinese were expecting this dust-up on the border to be a kind of warning on that front, as some Chinese observers have mentioned, I think it is going in exactly the opposite direction.

Some Chinese observers have linked recent developments to Beijing’s concerns about India’s recent infrastructure building in Ladakh that they see as threatening, and to the dilution of Article 370. Is this plausible?

•It is plausible. My question is, need the current situation have gone to the levels that it did? There have been other situations where we have managed and done a peaceful kind of resolution, including at Doklam, Chumar and Depsang. This time it has crossed the limits. I agree with some of the comments made by authoritative sources in the Government of India, that this is a premeditated and well-thought-out action. I do not see what gain China has had, because for some minor tactical gain on the ground, I believe they have strategically lost India. I don’t know if that is something they had calculated or not. I believe if there are these kinds of anxieties they could have been discussed over the table and spoken about, even between the two militaries, even the road building could be discussed. This leads me to think this particular action by the PLA this summer is purely something where they are trying to actually control territory which they believe in their conception is theirs. This is something which is premeditated. It is purely to do with territory, but its implications are both tactical as well as strategic.

Are we looking at an inflection point in the relationship that could be as significant as 1988, which marked the normalisation of ties?

•I believe that it is. I no longer speak or work for the Government of India, so I say this as an ordinary Indian citizen who has some knowledge about this relationship. I believe that India will strengthen its partnerships with the democracies of the world. In the long term, the way I look at it is that the diametrically opposite values that India holds vis-à-vis China, and the values which we share with other democracies across the world, are going to assert themselves and are going to dictate India’s position. I am afraid that the India-China relationship has not merely deteriorated, but will deteriorate further.

📰 China policy lacks perspicacity

The Indian political leadership, it appears, has failed to fully comprehend China’s strategic objectives

•There is an uncanny resemblance between what is going on now on the India-China border with the events in the run-up to the 1962 war. The debacle in that war was rightly blamed on the Nehru government for its military unpreparedness and for its inability to fathom China’s larger strategic objectives. In fact, the former failure was but a corollary of the latter. With India much better prepared now to face China’s challenge on the ground, the situation in terms of the military equation is not the same as in 1962 but that is a secondary issue.

China’s strategic objectives

•In both cases New Delhi failed to fully understand China’s fundamental strategic objectives regarding India. Nehru could be impugned for his idealistic notion of Afro-Asian solidarity and his suspicion of America’s strategic designs that influenced his thinking on China. However, the present government, which by its own admission is firmly committed to national security above everything else and whose foreign policy actions are driven by transactional rather than idealistic considerations, seems to be equally naïve about Beijing’s long-term strategic objectives.

•New Delhi has compounded its failure by indulging in reckless rhetoric regarding Aksai Chin and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) that have painted the image of India as a revanchist power in utter disregard of the country’s capabilities that preclude any attempt at changing the status quo on either front. Senior Cabinet Ministers’ declamations about liberating Aksai Chin and recovering PoK, while justifiable in terms of India’s legal rights to these territories, were ill-timed. They were made when Beijing was feeling alarmed at the Indian government’s decision to separate Ladakh from Jammu and Kashmir that augmented its perception that it was a prelude to India’s attempt to change the status quo in Aksai Chin. Beijing was also worried about India’s renewed assertion of its claims on PoK that in China’s perception threatened the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project.

•But these missteps were merely the icing on the cake. While the military is more cognisant of China’s tactical goals in terms of creating facts on the ground and making them the base line for future negotiations, the political leadership, it appears, has failed to fully comprehend China’s strategic objectives. These strategic goals include (a) ensuring that India understands that it is not in the same league as China and driving home the lesson by periodic localised assaults across the Line of Actual Control (LAC) if it tries to assume a position of equality; (b) warning India not to actively oppose Chinese designs to dominate the Indo-Pacific region by aligning with the U.S. and its allies — Japan and Australia, in particular — in an attempt to contain China; (c) keeping India preoccupied with problems in its immediate neighbourhood so that it cannot act as an alternative pole of power to China in the broader Asian region; and (d) as part of the last objective, supporting Pakistan economically and militarily, including the sharing of nuclear weapons designs, to neutralise India’s conventional power superiority vis-à-vis that country. An understanding of these objectives is essential to fashioning a realistic Indian response to China’s aggressive policies in Ladakh and elsewhere along the LAC. Pakistan is at best an irritant for India that can be managed with the use of diplomatic tools, international opprobrium, and superior military force. In fact, the Pakistani challenge to India has become magnified because of its nexus with China.

What India should do

•China is undoubtedly India’s principal long-term adversary. Wining and dining with its leaders creates confusion and hinders a clear perception of this reality. India’s main strategic goal should be the adoption of carefully calculated policies that neutralise China’s diplomatic and military clout in the Asia-Pacific region without making India appear as a surrogate for other powers and without sacrificing India’s autonomy of decision-making in foreign policy.

📰 Fighting a double pandemic

With the COVID-19 epidemic, there is an escalation in the risk millions face from domestic and gender-based violence

•Waking up to screams, thuds, angry shouting and the sickening sound of someone crashing into a wall, a table, a door. This is the cruel reality of many children and young people across our Commonwealth. And as economies, institutions and social welfare sectors continue to buckle under the strain of the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic crisis, there is a dangerous escalation in the risk to the millions of people caught in the clutches of domestic and gender-based violence.

•Emerging evidence on the impact of essential lockdown measures and the economic fallout of the pandemic on gender-based and domestic violence, paints a frightening picture.

•The crisis has led to an alarming escalation of violence in the home, with women bearing the brunt of the frustration and anger. In some areas, there have been reports of women being prevented from seeing doctors, and female doctors being spat on while testing other women for COVID-19.

•We are seeing surging numbers of emergency calls to helplines — with rises of anything between 25% and 300%, dramatic increases in Internet searches for support for those affected by domestic violence, and higher numbers of domestic homicides. These are extremely disturbing trends, which must not be ignored.

Barriers to care

•Experience teaches us that women tend often to be at a disadvantage during crises, epidemics and now this pandemic, and that domestic violence tends to increase. In West Africa, 60% of total deaths in the 2014 Ebola virus outbreak were women. Following the Canterbury earthquake in New Zealand, there was a 53% rise in domestic violence.

•In many cases this is because gender roles and harmful practices, including customs such as early and forced marriage, limit women’s access to health services. Women do three times as much unpaid care work at home compared to men, and make up 70% of workers in the health and social care sectors. They are squarely in infection’s path.

•During the present COVID-19 pandemic, mass school closures are tending to entrench learning gaps between girls and boys, and putting many more girls at risk of sexual exploitation, early pregnancy and early or forced marriage. They also mean that children are unable to report abuse to a trusted teacher. And with restrictions on home visits by police and health workers, violence shelters being converted into health facilities, and courts being forced to close, many victims may find themselves trapped and feeling abandoned.

•Mitigating the devastating impacts of this hidden pandemic of domestic violence requires strong and concerted action. So the Commonwealth Secretariat is working alongside partner organisations on measures which will help our 54 member countries to stem the rising tide of gender based violence.

•In meetings with counterpart organisations such as the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie, the Pacific Islands Forum, the Council of Europe and the Community of Spanish Language Countries, we have explored collaboration and mechanisms to ensure that women are at the centre of post-COVID-19 recovery planning. We will work with our respective members to implement policy responses and interventions to safeguard victims and those at risk.

•These discussions allowed us to share concerns and ideas conveyed by our member governments, and to outline key considerations for the upcoming ministerial meetings being arranged by the Commonwealth.

Health systems link

•It is clear, for example, that an important priority is the provision of basic health care to all individuals and communities free of charge at the point of delivery. All evidence points to a clear link between weak health systems and vulnerabilities to domestic violence. So urgent action needs to be taken to ensure that during this COVID-19 pandemic, victims of abuse are able to access the health care they need, including mental health services.

Financial independence

•It is also key that post COVID-19 strategies include dedicated funding and support for micro, small and medium sized businesses and the informal sector, which are predominantly led by women — many of whom need the assurance of financial independence to escape from dangerous domestic situations.

•I would lay particular emphasis on the importance at present of creating opportunities through virtual meetings and seminars for Commonwealth countries to share knowledge, resources and experience on how best to navigate through the rapidly evolving processes and circumstances within which we now operate. It is encouraging, in this regard, that throughout the Commonwealth, we already see evidence of renewed commitment and action to end violence against women and girls.

•Much is being done in our member countries to keep domestic violence refuges open during the outbreak. There are also examples of innovative partnerships with businesses and organisations to provide alternative locations for victims to use as shelters.

•Some governments have been able to provide additional resourcing and funding to organisations supporting victims, so they can upscale operations and continue providing services in a safe manner. Other useful innovations such as virtual hearings and legal advice, are allowing survivors to continue to access justice.

•What is clear from my meetings with officials and development leaders is the immense urgency of taking action to protect women and girls who are being abused, isolated, punched, kicked and even killed in their homes. Sadly, children living in violent homes not only witness violence but may themselves suffer abuse. Violence in the home is one of the most pervasive human rights challenges of our time. So, the Commonwealth collectively stands ready to bring the power of its advocacy and support to the planned UN Declaration on Women and COVID-19.

•We are increasing our ongoing advocacy through a range of initiatives, including creating a strong economic case for addressing gender-based violence by identifying the significant economic costs if we fail to act. Research from the Commonwealth project, The Economic Cost of Violence against Women and Girls: A Study of the Seychelles, carried out in 2019 before the pandemic, shows that gender-based violence leads to estimated costs of 4.625% of GDP.

•We will also hold a virtual follow-up session to the Women Affairs Ministerial Meeting that was held last September, to set out an action plan to support women and girls during the COVID-19 crisis, because we simply cannot allow victims of domestic abuse and gender-based violence to feel trapped and helpless during this hidden parallel pandemic.

📰 India’s continuing two-front conundrum

The mistake in 1962 is instructive today — an obsession about Pakistan and a degree of complacency about China

•Since 1959, when India-China relations sharply deteriorated, India has known that it has two geopolitical adversaries. Concerning China and Pakistan, the American academician, Professor Wayne Wilcox of Colombia University, famously stated in an article in Survival that India has to “hedge all bets and cover all contingencies”. Recently, India’s Chief of the Army Staff, General Manoj Mukund Naravane, reassuringly said in May at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses that the Indian Army remains “alive” to a “two-front” war.

Strategy and two wars

•Whenever India has forgotten that it has two antagonists and let its guard down, it has paid dearly for it. Conversely, whenever India has accounted for the prospect of a possible threat from both quarters, it has done well. The two obvious examples are the 1962 and 1971 wars.

•In 1962, India’s Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Defence Minister V.K. Krishna Menon had both believed that the threat to India’s security came principally from Pakistan. In 1971, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi took account of a possible Chinese move in support of Pakistan. India, therefore, took out an insurance policy in the form of the Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation between the Government of India and the Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

•The mistake made earlier is instructive today. There has been an obsession concerning the threat from Pakistan, together with a degree of complacency vis-à-vis China, in part because the recent stand-offs in Depsang, Chumar, and Doklam were defused. The interactions between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping at Wuhan (April 2018) and Mamallapuram, Tamil Nadu (October 2019) further blind-sided those involved in foreign and security policy planning in New Delhi.

The lessons of 1962

•In the India-China interactions leading up to the 1962 China-India war, India had demonstrated friendliness without reciprocity and firmness without force. Despite deteriorating India-China relations in the late-1950s, neither Nehru nor Krishna Menon had contemplated a war between the two countries.

•A contemporary observer, Raj Thapar, founder-editor of the journal, Seminar , described in her autobiography how Mr. Menon, “firmly opposed moving a single man from the Kashmir front, so convinced was he that Pakistan would attack at any opportune moment”. She wrote that it was his immutable belief that Pakistan was the threat, not China. Krishna Menon could go to any lengths to convince others of this point of view. He asked India’s High Commissioner to Pakistan, Rajeshwar Dayal, to brief a group of senior Indian Army officers about Pakistan’s war preparations against India. Warned that projecting a danger from Pakistan was part of the Defence Minister’s larger plan, in the meeting Ambassador Dayal said that he had detected nothing about the Pakistani preparations. According to witnesses, Krishna Menon was visibly annoyed.

•Nehru too shared the view that Pakistan posed the greater threat to India. He and Krishna Menon reinforced each other’s slant in this respect. “To be frank about it,” Nehru had acknowledged in parliament soon after the 1962 war, India’s defence dispositions “were based on our unfortunate position vis-à-vis Pakistan.” He was misled also by the good equation he had developed with Premier Zhou En-lai, forgetting that countries seldom predicate their security interests on the personal predilections of their leaders.

•India’s complacency and misjudgment in 1962 were not for want of warning signs from China. Indian leaders had apparently convinced themselves that the Chinese would not attack. Indeed, it was Nehru who told Krishna Menon and India’s Chief of the Army Staff that he had reliable information that the Chinese forces would not offer resistance if there was a show of force from India. Well over a year before the outbreak of hostilities, Krishna Menon took to denying that there was any problem with China, or that China was in occupation of what the government of India considered Indian territory. Addressing officers of the Indian Air Force Station, Agra, he had declared: “I am not aware of any aggression, incursion, encroachment or intrusion by the Chinese of any part of Indian territory.”

•The then Chief of the Army Staff, General P.N. Thapar, had told Krishna Menon that the Indian Army did not have the necessary strength to evict the Chinese from their posts. With the troop deployment of six Chinese soldiers to one Indian, the Indian Army could have been facing an adventure. Krishna Menon reassured him that the Chinese Deputy Premier, Chen Yi, had told him that China would never fight India over the border issue. General Thapar had wanted to share his misgivings with Prime Minister Nehru, but was dissuaded by the Cabinet Secretary on the ground that Nehru might consider that General Thapar was “afraid to fight”. Later, when a prominent Indian journalist checked from Krishna Menon whether General Thapar had brought up his concerns, Krishna Menon had replied with an acid tongue: “That toothless old woman; he did not know how to fight a war.”

Full aggression

•On October 20, 1962, the People’s Liberation Army struck simultaneously, all along the India-China frontier — a move smacking of long preparation. The 13 forward Indian posts, from Galwan Valley up to north of Daulat Beg Oldi were attacked by the Chinese forces. Concurrently, in the eastern sector, they launched an attack on Indian forces deployed along the Namka Chu river and at Khinzemane, eventually enveloping in their attack on four out of the five frontier Divisions of the North-East Frontier Agency (NEFA), namely Kameng, Subansiri, Siang, and Lohit Divisions.

•In his biography of Prime Minister Nehru, Professor Sarvepalli Gopal suggested that when Nehru issued instructions in November 1961 for the management of the India-China border, it was based on advice from the Intelligence Bureau that while the Chinese would move into areas where there was no Indian presence, they would keep away where Indian personnel had established themselves. It was assumed that the Chinese would not do anything against Indian forces when “even in a position to do so.” Professor Gopal also suggested that Nehru was perhaps unaware of the warning by the Indian Army’s General that the Indian Army was in no position to sustain an operation across the entirety of the India-China border.

China’s march to dominance

•It would not be out of place to remind ourselves why India became the object of Chinese aggression.

•Nehru had explained in an interview aired just nine days before his death in 1964 that the Chinese acted the way they did principally as “they wanted the Asian world to realise that they are the top dog in Asia and that any person or any country in Asia should remember that”. Months earlier, Nehru had written to U.S. President John F. Kennedy that China was making a bid for leadership, not just of Asia, but “as a first step in their bid for world leadership”. So far as India was concerned, continued Nehru, China’s aim was not to acquire territory: the real aim was “to force on India a political settlement which will involve India re-orienting its policies to suit the pattern of Chinese global policies”.

•Although circumstances are different today, India continues to face the two-front conundrum. The last word on the present crisis is yet to be said. India must meanwhile assess its options in a balanced way. While remaining clear-eyed about Chinese intentions, India must resist the temptation to remedy past errors by precipitate action. These need a long-term vision, executed with patience and perseverance.