1.Time for an icebreaker (The Hindu)

2.On the line (The Hindu)

3.The rise and fall of the WTO (The Hindu)

1.Time for an icebreaker (The Hindu)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the need for intellectual level engagement between India and Pakistan. (GS paper II)

Overview

  • It has been almost 70 years since the division of British India led to creation of two independence nations- India and Pakistan. Though the two countries had been physically partitioned, and borders and check-posts now controlled people from crossing over, but the ‘intellectual partition’ of India and Pakistan had not taken place at the time. India and Pakistan are not just foreign countries for each other; they are practically alien, with little to engage on in various spheres.
  • The “intellectual and emotional partition” of the two countries is even starker today.

Assessment of various instances 

  • The process of this partition, which began in the 1950s, when poets and historians began to construct separate histories, is now complete. The Indian side present absence of contemporary cultural linkages with Abida Parveen and Ghulam Ali no longer able to perform in India, Pakistani actors barred from work in Indian films, and a television network stopping the very popular telecast of Pakistani soap operas.
  • Sporting events are fewer, and there is little “healthy rivalry” when Indian and Pakistani teams do meet: instead a defeat becomes a national disgrace, while a victory is celebrated as a quasi-military conquest. Visas are still granted for pilgrimages on both sides, but for all other travel they are tightly controlled and granted as exceptions to the rule. Seldom have two countries which share language, idiom, music and religion been this closed to each other, including in times of war.
  • Bilateral trade had been reduced even further now- as Indian development of Chabahar port in Iran circumvents Pakistan by sea, and an air cargo corridor to Afghanistan replaces land cargo entirely. Effectively, India is willing to double its trade costs and spend billions of dollars extra in order block out Pakistan, and Pakistan is willing to risk its trade route to Afghanistan and Central Asia, but won’t allow Indian trade to Afghanistan come through Wagah.
  • There have been increased in ‘trading fire’ at the Line of Control (LoC), where Pakistan attempts to push in infiltrators over the LoC into India under covering fire, and Indian troops fire back, taking also a high toll for civilians on both sides.
  • The discourse on terrorism is even more divided, as the on Pakistani side, there’s growing belief that India funds groups such as the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) as well as insurgent groups in Balochistan.

Need for change

  • Though both India and Pakistan have recently appointed new High Commissioners to Islamabad and Delhi, respectively, there is very little hope of any fresh initiative at this point. The political atmosphere would also not allow for even diplomatic niceties to be maintained.
  • India has long opposed “third-party interventions”, but the lack of dialogue with Pakistan is imposing just that, with every dispute between the two countries now being taken up at global forums: the United Nations, Financial Action Task Force, International Court of Justice, and World Bank for the Indus Waters Treaty.
  • With the U.S. drawing India into its Afghanistan policy, and China’s stakes in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, the subcontinent is becoming an area of contestation by players bigger than both India and Pakistan.
  • Even in Afghanistan, their interests are being increasingly defined by the coalitional arcs being drawn: with the U.S., India, and Afghanistan ranged on one side; and Russia, China, Iran, Pakistan and the Taliban on the other.
  • India’s decision to stay out of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) meet in Pakistan has also complicated its standing as a regional leader, alternative arrangements such as The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), the Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal (BBIN) initiative and the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) though represent some parts of the region, but they cannot replace the whole, and the region becomes easier to fragment, as China has managed to do by making inroads into Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

Way ahead

  • The growing distance between the people of both countries will be much more difficult for their governments to bridge in the future; there in need of engagement even without bilateral talks, the two sides can explore simple engagements on the environment, medical tourism, energy pipelines and electric grids in the interim.

QuestionThe intellectual partition of India and Pakistan does no benefit to either country, examine the statement.

2.On the line (The Hindu)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the recently held Special Representative (SR) talks between India and China. (GS paper III)

Overview

  • Recently the 20th round of Special Representative talks held between India and China. Both the countries must “transcend the bilateral dimension” of their ties for stability in Asia and the world, said National Security Adviser of India and China’s State Counsellor Yang Jiechi in their first boundary talks since the Doklam standoff.

Importance of the meeting- The meeting was unique for a number of reasons.

  • Firstly the talks between nations came after more than 20 months of the last round, reflecting a period of extreme strain in India-China ties, including the 70-day troop stand-off at Doklam this year, as the previous meetings had followed each other within a year.
  • Secondly the meeting also comes after a quadrilateral meeting of India-US-Japan-Australia, which China had expressed concerns about.
  • And thirdly, at the recent Communist Party Congress, Mr. Yang was elevated to the Political Bureau, and this is the first time the Chinese side has been represented by an SR of such seniority. As a result, the two sides were best poised to move ahead in the three-step process that was part of the Agreement on ‘Political Parameters and Guiding Principles for the Settlement of the India-China Boundary Question’ in 2005, that is, defining the guidelines for the settlement of border disputes, formulating a framework agreement on the implementation of the guidelines, and completing border demarcation.
  • The SRs were given an extended mandate after meetings between Indian Prime Minister and Chinese President this year, and thus it went well beyond the remit of discussing the resolution of boundary issues.
  • They were guided by the Modi-Xi agreements of 2017, including the ‘Astana consensus’ that “differences must not be allowed to become disputes”, and the understanding at Xiamen that India-China relations “are a factor of stability” in an increasingly unstable world.

About border dispute

  • Since 2013, when the Border Defence Cooperation Agreement was signed, there has been a steady decline in relations in all spheres. The border has seen more transgressions, people-to-people ties have suffered amid mutual suspicion, and China’s forays in South Asia as well as India’s forays into South-East Asian sea lanes have increasingly become areas of contestation.
  • There are opposite side view represented by both the countries, as in India, this is seen as the outcome of China’s ambition of geopolitical domination. In this vitiated atmosphere India views every move by China as a targeted assault such as the Belt and Road Initiative with the economic corridor with Pakistan, the free trade agreement with the Maldives, and the blocking of India’s membership bid at the Nuclear Suppliers Group.
  • On the other side Beijing sees the U.S.-India defence agreements, the Quadrilateral engagement with Japan, Australia and the U.S., and Indian opposition to the BRI quite the same way.

Way ahead

  • There is need to pay greater attention to SR meeting, to resolving the differences for which the meetings process was set up in the first place.

Question – In the backdrop of quadrilateral meeting of India-US-Japan-Australia, discuss the importance of recently held Special Representative (SR) between India and China, also discuss  why ‘India, China must look beyond bilateral ties’?

 

3.The rise and fall of the WTO (The Hindu)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of WTO, India’s need to actively try to arrest the organisation’s slide. (GS paper III)

Overview

  • It has been less than 25 years after the World Trade Organisation (WTO) was created, and its future as a body overseeing multilateral trade rules is in doubt. The failure of the recent ministerial meeting at Buenos Aires is only symptomatic of a decline in its importance.

About WTO

  • The World Trade Organization (WTO) is the only global international organization dealing with the rules of trade between nations. At its heart are the WTO agreements, negotiated and signed by the bulk of the world’s trading nations and ratified in their parliaments. The goal is to help producers of goods and services, exporters, and importers conduct their business.
  • WTO was born in 1995, replacing the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) it was given a large remit overseeing the rules for world trade. It was also given powers to punish countries which violated these rules. Yet, in what must be an unusual development in the history of international institutions, the WTO has been felled by the weight of the extraordinary ambitions placed on it.
  • In the early 1990s, global corporations pushed the major trading powers of the time the U.S., the European Union (EU), Japan and Canada for a GATT agreement that would vastly increase access for their products in foreign markets. They succeeded with the 1994 Marrakesh agreement which was supposed to be a grand bargain.
  • The Marrakesh agreement also created the new Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) to adjudicate on trade disputes. All this would be overseen by the new WTO. The developing countries, which had realised that they had been had in the Marrakesh agreement, were far more active in the WTO from the late 1990s.

China factor

  • The entry of China into the WTO in 2001 also changed the picture. China used its newly acquired ‘most favoured nation’ status to the hilt. It expanded exports manifold to the EU and the U.S. Indeed, an influential body of opinion holds China’s export success as responsible for the hollowing out of U.S. manufacturing.
  • On the whole, the U.S. and the EU have been losing interest in multilateralism in trade. The U.S. has even begun to undermine the very elements of the WTO that it had pushed through in the early 1990s. It now refuses to implement some DSB decisions. Most recently, it has taken decisions on DSB appointments which will in effect bring adjudication to a halt.
  • India’s own experience with bilateral trade agreements has not always been good. Bilateral and regional treaties also open the door to the stricter “WTO plus” conditions in select areas like patents.

Way ahead

  • India should be more actively engaged in how to arrest the slide and then make the WTO a more equitable organisation. India will soon convene a mini ministerial to discuss “new issues” for the WTO.
  • India needs to work on persuading all members of the WTO to return to the table and negotiate on bread-and-butter issues like agriculture, industrial tariffs, and services. At this point, India and most of the world have everything to lose and nothing to gain from first a hollowing out and then a selective use of the WTO.

QuestionAs the U.S. loses interest in multilateralism in trade, India should actively try to arrest the organisation’s slide. Critically analyse.