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The Hindu Editorial Analysis | 5th June’20 | PDF Download

Skyrocketing tensions

  • U.S. government’s decision to bar passenger planes from China from June 16.
  • Administration officials say the decision on flights is in response to China’s refusal to allow U.S. airlines to resume flights to the country.
  • Rising tensions between the two countries.
  • A trade war which President Donald Trump launched in 2018 is yet to be resolved fully.
  • COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The U.S. has also decided to end Hong Kong’s special trade status in protest against Beijing’s move to introduce a new national security law for the Special Administrative Region.
  • It look like the world’s largest and second largest economies have entered into a new cold war.
  • China has already sent signals of de-escalation, allowing foreign airlines to resume flights on a limited scale starting June 8.
  • The larger problem is the U.S.’s overall approach towards China, which has taken an increasingly hostile turn in the last four years.
  • China is the main rival of USA, a position which the Soviet Union held during the Cold War.
  • Beijing and Washington are still economically and financially entangled.
  • The world is not divided into two ideological blocs, as it had been during the Cold War.
  •  But the era of cooperation, peaceful trade and pragmatism that had defined the U.S.-China partnership since President Richard Nixon’s reset in the 1970s seems to have made way for an aggressive leadership contest and deepening mutual mistrust.

A chill in U.S.-China relations

  • The competition between the U.S. and China is likely to sharpen in the post-COVID world.
  • The administration also passed an order limiting the entry of certain Chinese graduate students and researchers who may have ties to the People’s Liberation Army.
  • The U.S. President has also ordered financial regulators to closely examine Chinese firms listed in U.S. stock markets, and warned those that do not comply with U.S. laws could be delisted.
  • Americans have had a strange fascination for China ever since the early 1900s when Protestant missionaries decided that it was God’s work to bring salvation to the Chinese.
  • Books like The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck and Red Star Over China by Edgar Snow in the 1930s romanticised the country.
  • Even after the Chinese communists seized power, the Americans hoped to cohabit with Mao Zedong in a world under U.S. hegemony.

  • The Chinese are hard-nosed and unsentimental about the U.S. They have always pursued America with a selfish purpose, albeit couched in high principle.
  • They have spoken words that the Americans wanted to hear anti-Soviet rhetoric during the Cold War and market principles thereafter — to disguise their real purpose of thwarting U.S. hegemony.
  • Ever since Cold Warrior John Foster Dulles spoke in 1958 of weaning China and other “satellites” away from the Soviets through regime change, known as “peaceful evolution”, every Chinese leader from Chairman Mao to President Xi Jinping has been clear-eyed that the U.S. represents an existential threat to the continued supremacy of the communist regime.

  • Political scientist John Mearsheimer, who wrote in 2005 that the rise of China would not be peaceful at all.
  • It was Mr. Trump’s 2017 National Security Strategy document that, perhaps for the first time, clubbed China along with Russia as a challenge to American power, influence and interests.
  • His recent China-specific restrictions on trade and legal migration are, possibly, only the beginning of a serious re-adjustment.
  • If Mr. Trump’s wish is to disentangle China’s supply chains, Mr. Xi is equally determined to escape from the U.S. ‘chokehold’ on technology.
  • To what extent the de-coupling is possible is yet to be determined, but one thing is inevitable, India will become part of the collateral damage.
  • With Hong Kong, the U.S.-China rivalry may, possibly, be entering the ideological domain.
  • Hong Kong is more importantly the torch-bearer of Western democratic ideals.
  • In the months ahead, more information may become public, from sources inside China itself, about the shortcomings of the regime, that will further fuel a debate on the superiority of the Chinese Model as an alternative to democracy.

Middle Power Game

  • The first-ever virtual summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison.
  • It elevated New Delhi-Canberra ties to the level of comprehensive strategic partnership.
  • For a long time we have somewhat ignored middle powers like Australia which actually hold the key to changing geopolitical equations.
  • The two sides have now decided to upgrade their foreign affairs and defence dialogue to the ministerial level.
  • Additionally, they also unveiled a shared vision for maritime cooperation in the Indo-Pacific and signed seven agreements across crucial areas such as defence and rare earth minerals.
  • Mutual Logistics Support Agreement, aimed at increasing military interoperability through enhanced defence exercises.
  • Australia is right in the middle of the Indo-Pacific geographical articulation.
  • Today Canberra is much more forthright about balancing China’s assertive rise in the Indo-Pacific.

  • It was Australia that was vocal about initiating a probe into the origin of the coronavirus – for which it earned China’s economic wrath – and has begun to take Chinese influence in its critical domestic sectors seriously.
  • Add to this Australia’s influence in the South Pacific, democratic credentials and reputation as a mineral resources powerhouse, and there is much that Canberra and New Delhi can do together to ensure a free, open and rules based Indo-Pacific.
  • The Asean grouping is a common point of interface, as is the trilateral platform with Japan.
  • President Donald Trump’s suggestion of a G11 that would include both India and Australia.
  • This would not be too large a group like the G20 and not as small as the Quad, making it a viable prospective platform to coordinate and uphold a rules based international order.
  • Taken together, India should seize this opportunity to boost ties with Australia on natural merits.

Swiss cheese and defence reforms

  • The Swiss cheese model is associated with accident investigation in an organisation or a system.
  • A system consists of multiple domains or layers, each having some shortcomings.
  • These layers are visualised in the model as slices of Swiss cheese, with the holes in them being the imperfections.
  • Normally, weaknesses get nullified, other than when, at some point, the holes in every slice align to let a hazard pass through and cause an accident.
  • At the macro level, there are only three slices with holes in each.
  • These must align to ensure that a nation’s defence posture is in tune with its political objectives; any mismatch may turn out to be detrimental to the nation’s aatma samman (self-respect) when the balloon goes up.
  • In these days of the Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan, a clinical analysis is necessary to obviate any missteps that may prove costly a few years or decades down the line.

  • The setting up of the DMA and the creation of the post of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) to achieve synergy are the most fundamental changes.
  • India’s security managers have to factor in the increasingly belligerent posture of the country’s two adversaries.
  • China-Pakistan nexus can only be expected to get stronger and portentous.
  • Indian Air Force at a minimum requires 300 fighters to bolster its squadron strength; the Army needs guns of all types; and the Navy wants ships, helicopters, etc.
  • The Swiss cheese slice representing indigenous R&D and a manufacturing supply chain that ensures quality war-fighting equipment, at the right time and in required quantities, is still some years away.
  • Wars cannot be fought and won on well-meaning policy intentions and nationalist rhetoric; wars are won when war fighters have access to the right equipment to prosecute them.
  • Creating theatre commands
  • The three-year deadline spoken about by the CDS must take into account the not-so-comfortable state of assets of each service which would need to be carved up for each theatre.
  • The political, civil and military leadership must have their feet firmly on ground to ensure that the holes in their Swiss cheese continue to stay aligned.
  • Impractical timelines and pressures of public pronouncements must not be the drivers in such a fundamental overhaul of our defence apparatus.
  • Deng Xiaoping: shun publicity and build capability first.

Killing Gajah

  • Scores of elephants are killed every year in India as their paths cross those of humans, but the image of a mortally wounded animal standing impassively in a river in Palakkad as life ebbed out of it will remain imprinted on the mind.
  • Whether the booby-trapped pineapple that took its life was intended for elephants or other animals matters little, because such traps litter the troubled landscapes that surround forests across the country.
  • The tragic fate that befell this creature, however, is a ghastly reminder of the rising conflicts between humans and animals that are only destined to grow as commercial pressures eat into already diminished habitat.

  • The perpetrators may be prosecuted for the elephant’s death, but that can do little to mitigate the larger issue of lost ranges and blocked corridors for these wandering giants.
  • India has thousands of elephants — just under 30,000 according to available counts — but no strong science-imbued policy that encourages soft landscapes and migrating passages that will reduce conflict.
  • A sensible course open to conservation-minded governments is to end all intrusion into the 5% of protected habitat in India, and draw up better compensation schemes for farmers who lose crops to animals.

Embracing alternative protein

  • On World Environment Day (June 5), the usual routine is to call for the protection of ‘Nature’ — but nature isn’t defenceless.
  • COVID-29 didn’t happen in a vacuum. It is a direct consequence of anthropogenic impacts on the planet.
  • In these anthropogenic impacts, pandemics and climate change find common causes.
  • Nowhere is this link clearer than in the food system, and particularly in our reliance on animals for protein.
  • Large-scale, industrial animal agriculture for meat, eggs, and dairy — also called factory farming — creates and exacerbates planetary health risks at every scale.
  • Scientists at the United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organization estimate that it is “one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems.
  • Our need for animal protein uses vast tracts of land and quantities of water to raise those animals, to graze them, and to grow crops to feed them.
  • It contributes more to climate change than emissions from the entire transportation sector.
  • Wild and farmed seafood production also causes significant environmental degradation, species loss, and habitat destruction.
  • Of course, as the names suggest, animals are also the sources of viral outbreaks of swine flu and avian flu.
  • With regular outbreaks of these zoonotic diseases, COVID-19 is unlikely to be the last planetary health crisis caused by the close contact between humans, animals and microbes.
  • Expert voices ranging from the Food and Land Use Coalition, to the World Health Organization, to the EAT-Lancet Commission have all identified that diversifying protein sources away from animals is a hugely neglected intervention for human and planetary health.
  • But with rising demand for meat, eggs, and dairy, a chorus of ‘chickpeas over chicken’ may not be enough.
  • All over the world, companies in the exciting ‘alternative protein’ sector are making upgraded versions of meat, eggs, and dairy from plant or crop ingredients, or directly from animal cells.
  • These foods satisfy consumers and producers without taking away their choice, because they taste the same, are used in exactly the same way, but are vastly better for planetary health.
  • Countries like Singapore and Canada are already making alternative protein a central piece of their food security story, with an emphasis on research, entrepreneurship, and self-sufficiency.
  • Why not completely rethink our way of producing food, and create a 21st century economy delivering plentiful, safe, and nutritious protein?
  • Food security and agricultural income are among our nation’s major challenges in the coming years.
  • We should turn this crisis into an opportunity by stimulating research and entrepreneurship in alternative proteins.
  • India was never a leader in landlines — we leapfrogged that model and built a mobile telecommunications industry that is among the cheapest and most competitive on earth.

 

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