GS Paper II –International Relations

India, Afghanistan take a hard line on Taliban at Moscow conference

What’s Happening-
India and Afghanistan took a hard line at the six-nation talks in Moscow on Wednesday, opposing the dominant view from Russia, China and Pakistan to involve the Taliban in reconciliation efforts.

Key Points discussed were:

  • Talks were held between senior officials of all the countries, that also included Iran, External Affairs spokesperson Vikas Swarup said that denying “safe havens or sanctuaries to any terrorist group or individual in countries of our region,” was essential to stabilising the situation in Afghanistan.
  • Reconciliation efforts must be driven by the Afghanistan government and could only be facilitated by “friends and well-wishers of Afghanistan,”.

Key challenge:

  • Without naming Pakistan, Afghanistan’s representative at the talks, M. Ashraf Haidari, who is the Director General of Policy and Strategy in the MFA, said that it was necessary to “effect a change in the behaviour of certain state actors” in order to end the violence.
  • “The key challenge to the process remains a policy selectivity by some to distinguish between good and bad terrorists, even though terrorism is a common threat that confronts the whole region, where if one of us doesn’t stand firm against it, others’ counter-terrorism efforts will not bear the results we all seek.”
  • Another point of contention that emerged was over the composition of the talks hosted by Russia. Afghanistan made a strong pitch for the United States to be included as one of its most important partners. It said it was a necessary part of all processes to “end war and usher in sustainable peace in Afghanistan”.

Background-
With U.S. troop levels down to their lowest of about 8,400 at the end of President Obama’s tenure, Afghanistan’s government has been hoping President Trump will increase assistance to the country.

GS Paper III – Security challenges and their management in border areas.

Govt. junks border wall plan

What’s Happening-
Moots 24×7 seamless virtual fence with sensors to stop infiltration from Pakistan.
The Centre has given up its proposal to build a wall along the Pakistan border in Jammu, originally envisaged as a barrier to cross-border terror.

Key Points discussed were:

  • The raised embankment, initiated by the UPA government in 2013 after the twin attacks in the Hiranagar/Samba sector, was to come up along 179 km of the International Border in Jammu.

Pak to UNSC:

  • The wall proposal was opposed by Pakistan, which shot off letters to the United Nations Security Council in 2015 accusing India of converting what it called a “working boundary” into a “quasi international boundary.”

Govt View:

  • The plan for raising an embankment was not materialising and that the government would instead depend on ‘technological solutions’ such as a ‘smart fence’, a seamless virtual fence with sensors to identify any infiltration.
  • The Army too opposed the embankment, saying it would pose hurdles for their forward movement during military operations.
  • “There were multiple issues. Unlike the Line of Control, the IB is densely populated and has fertile agrarian land. Not many people were willing to let go of their land. We could hardly acquire 25% of the land,”

Background-

Since 2014, when the NDA government came to power, there have been more than 900 ceasefire violations along the Pakistan border in Jammu.
At the LoC, which is under the operational control of the Army, 541 violations were reported during the same period.
In these violations, 57 locals and 26 security personnel were killed.
The Home Ministry is now working on a Comprehensive Integrated Border Management System (CIBMS) for 24X7 surveillance.

GS Paper III – Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources.

Govt mulls setting up scrap—based steel plants

What’s Happening-
India imports around six million tonnes of scrap steel every year.
India is the second largest importer of scrap after Turkey.
The government is planning to set up scrap based steel plants in north and west parts of India to augment the country’s production capacity.

Key Points discussed were:

Steel Minister Chaudhary Birender Singh said-

  • The scrap based steel plants are environment—friendly, energy—efficient and cost effective.
  • These plants would be on the lines of ‘melt and manufacture’ steel technology used in the US.

Cost—benefit analysis of setting up scrap—based steel plants in north and west India: –

  • These regions are important form the perspective of scrap—availability and steel import hubs.
  • The plants will have the capability to produce special high—grade steels, a pre—requisite for ‘Make in Steel’.

Imports:

  • India imports around six million tonnes of scrap steel every year and is the second largest importer of scrap after Turkey adding that by 2025, the country will be able to generate 7.5 million tonnes of scrap every year.
  • India has retained its position as the fastest growing major steel economy in the world.
  • All Indian steel companies need to aim high and work towards achieving international levels.

Challenges:

  • Meeting the entire domestic demand of high—grade automotive steel, electrical steel and special steels from domestic production.
  • As far as productivity is concerned, India is lagging behind the international benchmarks of performance.
  • At country level, the public sector undertakings need to catch up with the productivity and efficiency levels achieved by the private steel firms.
  • The research and development in Indian steel industry was “dismal” there was a need to work on ’out—of—box’ solutions and technologies for steel making using indigenous resources On one hand, there is overlapping and duplication of research efforts, on the other hand no research is being done on future requirements of the industry,”

Background-
India’s share in global steel output has increased to 5.09 per cent last year from 5.5 per cent in 2015.

Government Measures:
The rural development ministry has already recommended use of steel—intensive structures in rural housing.
The government is making efforts so that India made steel can be defined in light of the existing Public Procurement Bill.
“This will provide for mandatory procurement from domestic bidders on the ground of promoting domestic industry “.
The aim is to emphasise lower life cycle costing while evaluating projects, rather than just looking at the upfront cost alone.