1.On a new keel (The Hindu)

2.Towards solar-powered agriculture (The Hindu)

 

1.On a new keel (The Hindu)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of Israeli Prime Minister Visit to India. (GS paper II)

Overview

  • To marks the high point of the 25th anniversary of normal diplomatic ties between the two countries, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently visited India. The visit is a reciprocating gesture from Israel to the first Prime Minister-level visit from India undertaken by Prime Minister in 2017.

Background

  • The process began in 1992 when India established diplomatic ties with Israel, with major milestones in 2003 when Ariel Sharon became the first Israeli Prime Minister to visit India, in 2015 when the then President visited Israel, and in 2017 the first Indian Prime Minister was to visit Israel. With Mr. Netanyahu’s six-day visit, the focus is now on the future, and their joint statement drew a 25-year timeline in which to realise the potential of the strategic partnership.
  • The visit of the Israeli leader is symbolically significant. Amid all the pomp and ceremony, the most important discussion was on the arms deals, India is a major buyer of Israeli weapons; between 2012 and 2016, the country bought 41 percent of Israeli arms exports.
  • In April 2017, India and Israel signed a deal for military equipment worth $2bn. But on January 2 this year, the Indian government informed the Israeli arms companies that it would no longer be honouring the $500m contract to buy the Spike anti-tank missiles. During Netanyahu’s visit, however, he pointedly said that the deal was back on the table.
  • On business, Israeli partnership in Indian manufacturing was welcomed, that’s point towards winning combination of an India that has “size and scale” and an Israel that has “sharpness and edge”.
  • Netanyahu’s case, made at a speech inaugurating the Foreign Ministry’s annual Raisina Dialogue, was that the two countries have a “natural partnership” and a “natural friendship” that also caters to their need for hard power.
  • The initiation of cooperation in the energy sector has been welcomed. Israel has declared its willingness to become a partner country in the International Solar Alliance. The importance of facilitating the movement of business persons through simplification of visa regulations is noted. MoUs on cyber security and energy cooperation have been signed but no major agreement.

The Palestine issue

  • In the meeting of July 2017, both countries leaders had practically brushed aside the Israel-Palestine peace process, but in the joint statement issued recently in New Delhi “reaffirmed their support for an early resumption of peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians”. This indicates that the two Prime Ministers had a deeper conversation on the issue this time, including India’s vote at the UN against the decision of the United States to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
  • India is also expected to visit Ramallah as well as meet Jordan’s King Abdullah II, who as the custodian of the holy sites in Jerusalem is leading peace efforts in the Arab world, and is due in New Delhi shortly. This would take forward India’s commitment to assisting in finding a just solution for the conflict.
  • It will require using the leverage India has built over the decades among Israelis and Palestinians in order to join global and regional powers in pushing them back to the negotiating table.

Way ahead

  • India need to stick to its strategy of strengthening ties with Israel without damaging its commitment to the West Asian peace process, and build its friendships and alignments in a way that goes beyond an appraisal of strengths and weaknesses. 

Ques-Discuss briefly about India-Israel relationship and how it expanded remarkably in the backdrop of Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to India follows that of Ariel Sharon in 2003.

 

2.Towards solar-powered agriculture (The Hindu) 

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue potential of solar technology to help farmers meet irrigation needs. (GS paper III)

Overview

  • Solar energy is an alternative renewable energy that is increasingly becoming mainstream, due to cost feasibility and higher efficiency. There is increasing usage of solar energy for agricultural purposes, which consumes considerable amount of power in India.
  • The Centre, States, civil society organisations, and enterprises are adopting to enhance penetration of solar for irrigation. But how should India proceed with this impactful technology?

Case studies in India

  • Maharashtra is solarising its agricultural feeders by installing solar power plants at the substation level, through competitive bidding. Karnataka is promoting solar pumps for existing grid-connected farmers under a net-metering regime, allowing them to generate additional income by feeding back surplus energy into the grid. In eastern States, GIZ, a German development agency, has piloted community ownership models providing water-as-a-service using solar pumps.
  • But despite the diversity of approaches and significant government subsidies, only about 1, 42,000 pumps have been deployed till date against a target of one million pumps by 2021.
  • In India, 53% of the net-sown area is still rain-fed. Solar pumps hold potential to enhance irrigation access, advance low-carbon agriculture, reduce the burden of rising electricity subsidies, and improve the resilience of farmers against a changing climate. But farmers’ perspectives have to be considered and the local context appreciated when deploying the technology to maximise economic returns.

Solution

  • According to Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW)’s research studies government take few measures to promote solar for irrigation. These measures are-
  • Firstly, we need to target marginal farmers with smaller solar pumps, particularly in areas with good groundwater development potential. As the research, shows that around 1,600 farmers in Uttar Pradesh, revealed that close to 60% of marginal farmers relied on buying water, the costliest option for irrigation, or on renting pumps to meet their needs.
  • Secondly, couple solar pump deployment with micro-irrigation and water harvesting interventions at the farm and community levels. While lack of irrigation is a major bottleneck, 30% of farmers reported limited water availability for irrigation as a challenge.
  • Third, focus on technology demonstration and deploy at least five solar pumps in each block of the country. CEEW research suggests that such efforts could have a profound effect on farmers’ willingness to adopt solar pumps and spur bottom-up demand.
  • Fourthly, in regions with already good penetration of electric pumps, prefer feeder solarisation through competitive bidding over solarisation of individual pumps. As find by the comparative economic analysis that solarising individual grid-connected pumps is the costliest approach for the government to expand irrigation cover, while not being the most attractive option for farmers.
  • Fifth, in regions with prevailing local water markets, we need to promote community-owned solar pumps. CEEW research finds that while joint ownership drew interest from 20% of farmers, close to 80% of they were interested in buying water from a community-owned or enterprise-owned solar pump at competitive prices.
  • Sixth, encourage sharing of solar pumps among farmers through farmer extension programmes. Given zero marginal cost of pumping with solar, water sharing, already a prevalent practice in many parts of the country, helps put a marginal price to the water.
  • Seventh, provide interest-subsidy to farmers combined with reduced capital subsidy to enable large-scale deployment of solar pumps in a shorter span of time. Such an approach would cover a greater number of farmers, helping them reap the benefits of solar pumps sooner, and increase overall returns to the economy.

Way ahead

  • The government need to continuously improve and innovate its support mechanisms on solar for irrigation. India must exploit the potential of this decentralised technology to achieve the dual national targets of 100 GW of solar and doubling farmer’s income by 2022.

Ques-‘Solar farming is not only environmentally friendly, but also reliable and cost effective’, explain.  Also suggest measures how India can overcome its developmental challenges?