Hindu Editorial Analysis 24th November 2017

Hindu Editorial Analysis 24th November 2017 - Dailygkaffairs

The New Bipolarity in Asia :-

Dichotomy in the rule-based global order

  • U.S. President Donald Trump makes no secret of the fact that he believes in a world governed by self-interest, with little room for shared responsibility
  • In contrast, Chinese President Xi Jinping is projecting himself as a firm believer in globalisation and free trade
  • It is against this backdrop that there are signs of a new bipolarity taking shape in Asia
  • It possibly seeks to replace similar attempts by the U.S. previously — such as the pivot to Asia — to counter China and its aggressive designs in the region
  • Implicitly, though not as yet explicitly, it seeks to create a coalition of all those willing to align with the U.S. against China’s expanding ambitions and its inexorable march towards dominance in Asia

An anti-China coalition?

  • Talks held recently at the level of officials between the U.S., Japan, Australia and India (the Quadrilateral) are seen as an indication of this
  • As China’s expansionist attitudes intensify, more countries in East and Southeast Asia are expected to align with the Quadrilateral group of countries
  • Vietnam could be one such country, but quite a few other countries in the region could follow suit

Attitudinal changes

  • The recent Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meetings provided a further glimpse of attitudinal changes that are in the making
  • Mr. Trump and PM Modi made use of this occasion to announce that the two countries were prepared to work together for the future of Asia
  • It is a euphemism for what many see as keeping a check on China’s aggressive designs in the region
  • It is, perhaps, for the first time that India has indicated a resolve to align openly with the U.S. to tackle broader issues in the Indo-Pacific region

China willing to accept the challenge

  • The recent 19th Chinese Communist Party Congress placed special emphasis on a strong military “capable of winning wars”
  • The deliberations left little room for any adjustment or compromise to accommodate the concerns of other countries of Asia, or for that matter the U.S.
  • The deliberations of the Party Congress have further emboldened China to pursue its preferred course of action

Advantage that China possesses

  • Apart from its massive military build-up, China is positioned most advantageously as far as economic aspects are concerned
  • It is today the most important trading partner for over 90 countries
  • Its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has caught the imagination of the world, including that of Europe
  • Most countries of Asia and Europe, including many of India’s neighbours, do not seem to have a problem with the BRI

Sustaining bipolarity not going to be easy

  • Latent concerns about Chinese expansionism have not prevented several Asian nations from endorsing and backing the BRI
  • Most Asian nations also show no inclination or desire to blame China for siding with Pakistan, which continues to shelter high-ranking global terrorists, including Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar
  • Even Mr. Trump, during his recent visit to China, seemed to have softened his criticism of China, after China produced some attractive mega deals
  • All this only exposes the vulnerabilities of bipolarity in the extant situation today

India emerging as a leader

  • In Asia, India, Japan and, to an extent, Vietnam appear willing to endorse the U.S. initiative to build up opposition to China’s designs
  • India has lately taken up issues well beyond South Asia, such as North Korea and China’s actions in the South China Sea
  • Currently, India is emerging as one of the countries in the region firmly committed to freedom of navigation and over-flight
  • Also, for unimpeded commerce based on the principles of international law, particularly the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea
  • This puts it in direct confrontation with China, as also in opposing China’s ambitions in the Indian Ocean and the Indo-Pacific

Way Forward

  • As the outlines of a new bipolarity in Asia become clearer, and with the formal setting up of the Quadrilateral, China is certain to regard all this as an attempt to encircle it
  • This will pave the way for a new round of turmoil as China might use both force and inducements to win more and more Asian countries to its side
  • The consequences of this could be quite significant for peace and stability in the Asian region

Quad Confusion :-

Context

  • The article talks about the future of the Quad and some contradictions related to its aims and objectives(primarily from India’s point of view)

Confusion after the first Quad meeting

  • After the Quadrilateral meeting, or ‘Quad’, involving secretary-level officials of India, Japan, Australia and the U.S., the dust is yet to settle on just what was decided among them

Confusion 1: Difference stance on the real aim of Quad

  • The four participants issued not one but four separate statements after their meeting in Manila
  • A cursory look at these statements reveals the basic differences in intent
  • The Ministry of External Affairs statement did not mention upholding “maritime security” as an objective, while the statements of the U.S., Australia and Japan did
  • Similarly, the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs made no mention of enhancing “connectivity” as an aim, which the other three did
  • But all four referred to keeping a “free and open Indo-Pacific”\
  • Issue in brief words: The Quad is yet to decide what its real aim is: maritime security, connectivity, countering China’s moves in the Indo-Pacific and on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), or a combination of all three

Confusion 2: Maritime front

  • On the maritime front, India gave out confusing signals
  • It is the only country in the Quad that is not part of a military alliance
  • In June, India declined Australia’s request to join the Malabar exercises
  • And there were no plans for joint patrols with the U.S., or any country that is not a “maritime neighbour” of India, which would rule out Australia and Japan too
  • If India’s intentions are only to patrol the Indian Ocean part of the Indo-Pacific, it remains to be seen what reciprocal value the Quad would have

Confusion 3: Non-alignment

  • There is the question of where the government stands on India’s position in the world
  • While rejecting “non-alignment” in a unipolar world, the government has decided a course where India is becoming member of many important organisations including the SCO
  • So, how would India explain not joining a security cooperation arrangement within the Quad

Delhi Air Pollution is both a challenge & an opportunity :-

Is Pollution problem confined to Delhi only?

  • Delhi is not the only polluted city in the country
  • Eleven of the 20 most polluted cities in the world are in India

How can success in Delhi(on pollution front) be fruitful for future?

  • Given the massive expansion we expect in the urban population over the next 20 years, and the need to attract investment to create quality jobs, we need to make our cities liveable and attractive to tourists
  • Success in Delhi could provide a much needed template for the other cities

The first step of recognizing the issue

  • Recognizing the problem is the first step towards corrective action and there is progress in this area
  • A few years ago, an American journalist stationed in Delhi wrote a farewell piece saying that he was leaving Delhi because of air pollution
  • There was an outburst of nationalistic outrage that the embassy was probably exaggerating the problem
  • Since then, a number of government monitoring stations have been established in Delhi and they confirm that the problem is indeed serious

CPCB data on pollution

  • The figure given below reports the level of air pollution by PM 2.5 particles at the Siri Fort station in New Delhi for the 12 months from mid-November 2016 to mid-November 2017

Medical warning by experts

  • Medical experts in India have warned that children exposed to this level of pollution will develop asthmatic problems much earlier than normal
  • Pregnant women exposed to high levels of air pollution are more likely to deliver low birth weight babies, with all the permanent health problems that it causes
  • Senior citizens are also at risk

Limit upto which judiciary can act

  • Many activists have been working hard at raising consciousness and even pushing the judiciary to act
  • But judicial pushing can only go so far.
  • It cannot devise a carefully crafted strategy operating on many fronts

Is it possible to control pollution?

  • Until a few years ago, Beijing was more polluted than Delhi
  • The Chinese government took firm action to control local industrial pollution, reduce the use of coal in power plants, and also restrain the sale of cars in Beijing
  • NASA’s satellite data show a 17% decline in the concentration of fine particulate matter over China between 2010 and 2015. The same data show an increase of 13% over India in the same period

Comprehensive action plan for Delhi
What should be done?

  • If we want to bring pollution down from the average of 142 to the national standard of 40, we need to
    (a) reduce pollution by as much as 72% and
    (b) ensure that it stays at that level notwithstanding growth of population and economic activity
  • This will require action on a massive scale by many central ministries and Delhi state government bodies acting on different areas

Plan by the Environmental (Prevention and Control of) Pollution Authority (EPCA)

  • It was established by the Supreme Court
  • It has prepared a comprehensive multi-dimensional action plan for control of pollution in Delhi
  • It includes proposals for
    (1) shifting to cleaner vehicles and fuels,
    (2) restraining the growth in cars and expanding public transport as an alternative,
    (3) stopping pollution from coal-based power plants,
    (4) controlling pollution from industry,
    (5) putting a stop to burning garbage,
    (6) preventing pollution from construction activities and controlling burning of crop residues in neighbouring states

How to control Road Dust?

  • It contributes about 38% of the pollution
  • This component is particularly difficult to control since it reflects both poor road conditions with unpaved footpaths, and the use of traditional technology
  • Vacuum cleaning devices attached to mechanical sweepers will help, but that would require massive investment in equipment, which may be beyond the funding budget of the municipality

How to control Vehicle emission?

  • Vehicle emissions account for 20% of the pollution and this component is likely to increase as the number of cars multiplies
  • There is much that could be done in this area
  • The decision to advance BS VI fuel to 2018 for Delhi, and 2020 for the whole country, is a welcome move
  • It needs to be accompanied by action to ensure that new cars are all equipped with engines designed for BS VI fuel
  • The two together will reduce particulate pollution by 70% to 80%

Discouraging car ownership will help

  • Despite BS VI implementation, the large stock of older cars will remain for many years, and the total number of cars is also expected to expand
  • Therefore, the total pollution load from automobiles may not come down sufficiently over the near future.
  • There is no alternative to actively discouraging car ownership and plan a massive shift to public transport in the capital
  • Discouragement of cars needs to be accompanied by a parallel effort to expand bus and Metro services

Coal power plants near Delhi

  • We should definitely consider ending the use of coal in power plants located close to Delhi
  • The present cess on coal needs to be increased steadily over time
  • And we should encourage the use of gas-based power plants

Burning of waste

  • Burning mixed municipal waste in Delhi is highly polluting
  • We need to shift within the next three years to an effective system of separating municipal waste into biodegradable waste which can be converted into
    (1) compost and energy,
    (2) recyclable waste including plastic which can be recycled,
    (3) inert waste which can be converted into refuse-derived fuel for power generation, and
    (4) residual non-combustible waste which has to go to scientific landfills

The way forward

  • Something along these lines would put us on a credible path to reducing pollution over time
  • It will take time, but at least we will know when we can start breathing easy

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