Current Affairs October 1

Washington summit

  • The joint statement issued following the summit, began with the compromise formulation crafted last March, to emphasise the leaders’ commitment to “a free and open Indo-Pacific, which is also inclusive and resilient”.
  • Promoting security and prosperity in this region is the raison d’être of the Quad, a goal to be achieved through practical cooperation among the four powers.
  • The Washington summit added new areas of collaboration: infrastructure; cybersecurity and space; education and people-to-people relations..
  • On the first, the plan is to promote “sustainable infrastructure”, with a stress on aligning the Quad with the G7’s Build Back Better World (B3W) Partnership, based on the G20’s quality infrastructure investment principles.
  • Here, the Quad can focus on four key B3W elements: digital connectivity, climate, health security and gender equality infrastructure
  • On cybersecurity, the Quad will cooperate on combating cyber threats and securing critical infrastructure.
  • On the space front, the plan is to identify new collaboration opportunities, especially sharing of data to monitor climate change, disaster response and preparedness, and sustainable uses of ocean and marine resources.
  • A senior cyber group and a new working group on space will be established.
  • On education, the Quad fellowship programme will award 100 graduates — 25 scholars from each Quad country — opportunities in leading STEM (Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) programmes in the U.S.
  • On vaccines, the Quad stands committed to donate over 1.2 billion doses globally, although only 79 million doses have been delivered so far
  • The Quad working group on climate change has focused on three thematic areas: climate ambition, clean-energy innovation, and climate adaptation and resilience.
  • The Quad leaders emphasised enhanced action for achieving global net-zero emissions preferably by 2050, with an important caveat — “taking into account national circumstances” — added at India’s instance.
  • A Quad shipping task force has now been launched to build a green-shipping network and green port infrastructure.
  • As regards critical and emerging technologies, a slew of steps is under consideration relating to 5G and beyond 5G networks; supply chains of critical minerals including semiconductors; and emerging advances in biotechnology.
  • To be successful, building the supply chains will need expert resources and coordination from each country.
  • A contact group on Advanced Communications and Artificial Intelligence will focus on standards development and foundational research
  • Maritime security will continue to be strengthened through bilateral 2+2 Ministerial tracks; the four-powers Malabar Exercise; and other bilateral or trilateral arrangements such as AUKUS (the new trilateral security pact between Australia, the United Kingdom and the U.S.).
  • Defence cooperation will not be lowered in priority; it will just be handled differently.
  • The Quad wants a positive orientation, rather than be seen as an ‘Asian NATO’.
  • Regionally, the Quad sees the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as “the heart of the Indo-Pacific region”.
  • Together with the small island States in the South Pacific, ASEAN countries will stand to benefit from growing cooperation within the Quad.
  • For India, this grouping is critical.
  • It is the first major plurilateral organisation in years where India is on the ground floor, an equal partner of the new P4. It has much to contribute and leverage, beyond its market.
  • This is an opportunity for India to work with the advanced economies to “build habits of cooperation”, while confronting the 21st century challenges in its Indo-Pacific neighbourhood


PM Poshan scheme


  • The approval of the PM POSHAN scheme by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs until 2025- 26 comes at a critical time when real income declines and the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic have affected the ability of families to ensure good nutrition.
  • The findings in Phase I of the NFHS-5 for 22 States and Union Territories in December 2020 were shocking: childhood stunting rose in 13 States, there was high prevalence of anaemia among children and women, and wasting was a serious concern in 12 States
  • Support for the PM POSHAN, which the Government says has been approved over the five-year period at ₹ 1,30,794 crore, including ₹ 31,733 crore from States and UTs, must remain elast
  • The slippage over the previous survey period exposes the worsening scourge of malnutrition, threatening to deprive millions of children of a fully productive adult life.
  • It will take a serious effort to address this hidden crisis, backed by strong budgetary commitment.
  • The centrally supported hot meal programme in Government and Government-aided schools, covering 11.8 crore children, will be supplemented with nutritional elements in identified aspirational districts and areas with high anaemia.
  • The scheme, which is proposed to be extended to pre-primary children, provides for social audit, creation of school nutritional gardens to source fresh produce, involvement of farmer-producer organisations as providers, and lays emphasis on local food traditions.
  • While these are positive features, momentum towards eradicating malnutrition hinges crucially on annual budgetary outlays and proof of POSHAN’s working will lie in measurable outcome




Political parties in India


  • A political party is an organised group of citizens who hold common views on governance and act as a political unit that seeks to obtain control of government with a view to further the agenda and policy they profess.
  • They are indispensable links between the people and the representative machinery of government.
  • Political parties maintain a continuous connection between the people and those who represent them either in government or in the opposition
  • Section 29A(5) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 is the only major statutory provision dealing with political parties in India.
  • It orders that a political party shall bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of India as by law established, and to the principles of socialism, secularism and democracy, and would uphold the sovereignty, unity and integrity of India.
  • Political parties in developed nations maintain high levels of internal democracy. In the U.K., the Conservative Party has the National Conservative Convention as its top body. It has a Central Council and an Executive Committee.
  • The Indian Constitution is the one of the longest Constitutions in the world. It even elaborately deals with the co-operative societies.
  • The right to form co-operative societies is a fundamental right under Article 19 (1) (c), but the right to form political parties is not.
  • Most of the parties are openly caste- or religious-based.
  • Their finances are dubious and opaque.
  • Almost all the parties — are family fiefdoms.
  • Political parties are the agents of democracy and safety valves in the political system.
  • They desperately need reform.
  • Hence, it is high time to constitutionalise political parties to ensure in-party democracy, to impart transparency in their finances, and to de-communalise them.


Afghanistan and AUKUS


  • The withdrawal from Afghanistan raised credibility questions on America’s power.
  • There were criticisms that the U.S. abandoned its ally in Afghanistan — the Kabul government.
  • But in Mr. Biden’s new realist world, supporting the Afghan government or fighting the Taliban endlessly doesn’t serve any national security purpose to America.

But tackling China’s rise is vital to America’s interests because an increasingly powerful China could challenge the U.S.’s global pre-eminence.

  • After completing the withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Biden administration did not waste any time to announce its most ambitious new alliance — the AUKUS.
  • Under the AUKUS deal, announced on September 15, Australia would get nuclear-powered submarines from the U.S. and the U.K. Australia will also host American bombers on its territory and get access to advanced missile technology.


Hidden debt


  • A new study has found under-reported debts to the tune of $385 billion in projects carried out in dozens of countries under China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), with a rise in “hidden” debt on account of an increasing number of deals struck not directly between governments but structured through often opaque arrangements with a range of financing institutions.
  • The study by AidData, a development research lab at the College of William & Mary in the U.S., found that “Chinese debt burdens are substantially larger than research institutions, credit rating agencies, or intergovernmental organisations with surveillance responsibilities previously understood” and “42 countries now have levels of public debt exposure to China in excess of 10% of GDP.
  • From 2000 to 2017, Iraq ($8.5 billion), North Korea ($7.17 billion) and Ethiopia ($6.57) were the biggest recipients of ODA, while Russia ($151.8 billion), Venezuela ($ 81.96 billion) and Angola ($50.47 billion) were the biggest recipients of Chinese loans.
  • India ranked 23rd in the list of top recipients of Chinese loans from 2000 to 2017, receiving $8.86 billion, according to the report.
  • What has, however, led to many countries, such as Nepal and Sri Lanka in South Asia, turning to Chinese loans at higher interest rates is the lack of financing options elsewhere for infrastructure projects
  • What has changed under the BRI, the study found, was that while earlier most overseas lending involved central government institutions, now nearly 70% of China’s overseas lending is now directed to state-owned companies, state-owned banks, special purpose vehicles, joint ventures, and private sector institutions.
  • These debts “do not appear on government balance sheets
  • The other change with the BRI is the rising number of “mega projects” (worth $500 million or more), which has prompted Chinese banks to work through lending syndicates and financing arrangements to share the risk.
  • The share of projects thus co-financed accounts for 32%, and is another reason behind the debt being “hidden
  • The report found that Chinese institutions use collateralisation to mitigate risk, for instance with loans collateralised against future commodity export receipts to minimise repayment risk, or later priced at higher interest rates, up to 6%.
  • The report said 35% of the BRI infrastructure project portfolio has encountered major implementation problems, such as corruption scandals or labour violations, with Pakistan topping the list of countries with the most number of projects hit by scandals and corruption.