1.Solving the Afghan riddle (The Hindu)

2.Hopes and fears (The Hindu)

 

1.Solving the Afghan riddle (The Hindu)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of India Afghanistan issue and U.S. Secretary visit to India. (GS paper II)

Overview

  • In the first-ever Cabinet level visit from the Trump administration, U.S. Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis will visit India for a series of meetings. Afghanistan, counterterrorism and defence ties are expected to be the prime issues on the table.
  • S. strategy differs from the past in terms of addressing concerns regarding Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan, particularly in view of a shift in Pakistan’s strategic priority towards China. The new policy envisages more pressure on Pakistan, as US has no early withdrawal from Afghanistan, robust military action on counterterrorism and a greater role for India.

India and Afghanistan

  • Asia is a region of energy and resources stretching from the Persian Gulf to the Caspian Sea and Central Asia to Siberia and Russia’s Far East. The energy basket needs to be exploited for the benefit of the region.
  • SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) and SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organisation) should help in encouraging regional economic cooperation between Afghanistan and its neighbours. Expeditious action on completion of the Chabahar port will help in increasing Afghanistan’s contacts with India and the outside world.
  • Indo-Afghan relations are unique. After Independence India signed a Treaty of Friendship with Afghanistan which permitted opening of consulates in each other’s country. On October 2011, India was the first country Afghanistan signed a strategic partnership agreement with.
  • The basic tenets of India’s aims, policy and approach towards Afghanistan in respect of bilateral and regional cooperation remain unchanged. India has always wanted a democratic, stable and strong Afghanistan able to decide its own future.
  • India has a close strategic partnership with Afghanistan covering a broad spectrum of areas which include political, security, trade and economic cooperation as well as capacity development. Various surveys by Afghan and foreign news agencies show that the Afghan people ranked Indian assistance as the most suitable because of the positive role India played in the development programme of Afghanistan.
  • Furthermore India is considered as non-threatening with its democratic traditions upheld as a model. India could assist Afghanistan in training as per their requirement and supplying much-needed spare parts and such equipment as is possible without deployment of Indian troops in Afghanistan.
  • It is imperative to redouble counter-narcotics efforts as Afghanistan remains the world’s largest producer of opium accounting for 90% of the world’s supply also for any effective counterterrorism policy, all major terrorist groups operating in the area should be considered a single group. India is in favour of a reconciliation process which has overall Afghan support and is based on internationally accepted redlines.

Way ahead

  • US had described India as “a key security and economic partner”, it was mentioned that America would further develop its strategic partnership with India, the world’s largest democracy. USA also urged India to play a larger role in providing economic and development assistance to the war-torn Afghanistan.
  • The visit will be focused on its commitment to the strategic partnership. With US’s focus on domestic issues like boosting manufacturing at home, job creation and cutting down on immigration, there were apprehensions in India that the new US administration might not accord the same importance to ties with India as the previous administrations.

Question– Explain India and Afghanistan relations and mention how U.S. strategy differs from the past in terms of addressing concerns regarding Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan.

2.Hopes and fears (The Hindu) 

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue on the drafting of a new Constitution in Srilanka. (GS paper II)

Overview

  • Sri Lankan Prime Minister has recently presented an interim report on the drafting of a new Constitution, underscoring that all parties had agreed to an “indivisible state”. The prime minister said that the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) had taken the unprecedented position that they would agree with the contents of the interim report, if the country’s two main parties SLFP and UNP accepted it.
  • Despite the perceived delay, many consider it a significant step in the process of drafting Sri Lanka’s new Constitution.  It is difficult to see the interim report as the beginning of an irreversible process of constitutional reform. There is room for both hope and fear.

New reform

  • Though there have been several such reports in the past that envisioned far-reaching reforms in the country’s structure but none of them found broad acceptance within Sri Lanka’s polity. It has provided scope for optimism that Sri Lanka’s fractious polity could get its act together and adopt a durable constitution that would protect its unity and stability, distribute powers equitably across ethnic and geographical divisions, and ensure economic prosperity for all.
  • The report incorporates a framework for key elements of a new constitution; it also envisages an undivided and indivisible country, with the province as the unit for devolution of power. It suggests that the controversial terms ‘unitary’ and ‘federal’ be avoided, and instead Sinhala and Tamil terms that suggest an undivided country be used to describe the republic.
  • Though it will attract opposition from some parties, which can argue that nothing should be done to dilute the state’s unitary character.
  • On the lines of proposals made since the 1990s, the interim report aims to abolish the executive presidency. It introduces the concept of ‘subsidiarity’, under which whatever function can be performed by the lowest tier of government should be vested in it.
  • There will be a change from the electoral system solely based on proportional representation to a mixed method under which 60% of parliamentary members will be elected under the first-past-the-post system, and the creation of a second parliamentary chamber representing the provinces.

Way ahead

  • Though the report marks a milestone, but it is still at a preliminary stage in a long-drawn process of enacting a new constitution. It is time Sri Lanka set itself free from the shackles of divisive notions of nationalism and charted a new path of equality and reconciliation for itself.

Question As a prominent Asian nation with critical national interests in South Asia, India has a special responsibility to ensure peace and stability in its closest neighbourhood. Critically analyse.