1.Russia-Pak-China : a new axis (The Hindu)
2.Self-powered devices to become a reality soon (Down to Earth)
3.FRBM act Review (The Hindu)
4.Ethics special: Beneficence vs. Nonmaleficence
1.Russia-Pak-China : A new axis (The Hindu)
Synoptic line: It throws light on the newly emerging dynamics between the nations such as Pak-Russia-China which may have implications for India. (GS paper II)
- Countries such as China, Russia and even Pakistan are carving their space in geostrategic arena. They are determined to takeover the vacuum bound to be created by the U.S. withdrawal from the region.
- However, India should be even more proactive in such a scenario but India is shying away to take a leadership role.
Emerging relations- Pak-China-Russia Axis
- Previously assumed to be an improbable combination of Pakistan, Russia and China is now changing into a powerful realignment either intended to bring a greater bipolarity in the world affairs or to challenge the hegemonic power of the US in the world.
- Though China and Pakistan have been allies since the 1960s but China and the Soviet Union weren’t the best of friends during the Cold War, nor did they have a great relationship in the post-Soviet days.
- Moreover, Pakistan and the Soviet Union were Cold War rivals, and Russia did not, until recently, share a close relationship with Pakistan.
- Just when the China declined the international tribunal’s verdict over its claim on the South China Sea, Russia declared to support China along with holding the joint naval exercises in the disputed sea. Moreover, Russia is boosting its military ties with Pakistan by carrying out joint military drills in 2016 in Pakistan which were joined by some 200 soldiers of the Russian army.
Why such a synergy?
- China and Russia have been a long time strategic partners mainly because of their ideological clashes with the United States, which became a common enemy to both the countries. For this reason, Russia and China try to dwindle the US influence in their corresponding regions. The ingression of Pakistan in this matrix is sending out clear signs of young friendship.
- The Afghan reconciliation process is a major focus of this new partnership.
- Clearly, this new axis of a resurgent Russia, ambitious China and opportunistic Pakistan, in combination with other related developments, will not only diminish U.S. power in the region but could also potentially constrain Indian influence.
Change in China’ Strategy
- Now China is even engaging actively in the West Asian region. In a sense, its engagement in regional conflicts is a logical extension of its One Belt, One Road (OBOR) project. Having committed huge sums to the project, Beijing realises that some of its inherent political risks should be reduced by engaging in regional conflict resolution processes.
- However, engaging South Asia is easier for China given that the smaller countries in the region see it as an infrastructure provider, with deep pockets and without the usual moral science lessons.
Changing Russia’s priority
- Russia has no time for rhetoric and subtle diplomacy, it is determined to rigorously engage the nation for geostrategic mileage.
- Therefore, Moscow has gone ahead with forging strategic ties with Islamabad: from lifting the arms embargo, selling weaponry, discussing the future of Afghanistan, to joint military exercises.
- Moreover, When Russia formally joins OBOR, it will have indirectly taken a position on Kashmir which is not necessarily in keeping with the Indian stand on the issue.
- The apparent strategic interest of Russia behind the Russia-Pakistan-China axis seems to be in Moscow’s interest in getting more room for the advancement of its pivotal role than only re-balancing the region.
- Pakistan is becoming the new lovable. Pakistan fits well with the Chinese and Russian regional grand strategies. It is playing larger roles in Southern Asian geopolitics. Moreover, the outcomes of the Afghan conflict will largely be determined by Rawalpindi.
- Historically, Pakistan have been a global outcast whereas now both China and Russia have been appeasing Pakistan.
- Moscow has been India’s most reliable friend and the largest defence partner for more than four decades since the 1971 Indo-Soviet Friendship Treaty was signed in 1971. Though the Indian army faced difficulties after the disintegration of Soviet Union in terms of obsolete arsenals, India kept on receiving military equipment from its all-weather friend, despite Israel’s entry into it now.
- As India took its traditional ally Russia for granted for a longer period of time, Moscow observed the growing ties of India with the US patiently. Although Russia supported the US struggle to get India into the non-proliferation mainstream through the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) waiver and in the nuclear energy expansion (Haripur nuclear project), the balance started to change apparently when Russia was hit continuously by the burgeoning India-US relations.
- India has done very little to counter such a prospering relation. The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), which should have been the central plank of India’s ‘neighbourhood first’ policy, is in stagnation.
- India has to be proactive in its diplomacy and should engage the old friend countries such as Russia on the global forums and platforms. Moreover, India should balance its relations with USA in such a way as it may not cast shadow on the relations with the Asian neighbours.
- Though China-Pakistan Economic Corridor will pass through Pakistan-controlled territory that India has claimed, we should find a via media with China on the issue rather than publicly dismiss the initiative.
Question: What diplomatic moves should be considered by India in order to counter the emerging nexus between Russia, China and Pakistan. Discuss.
2.Self-powered devices to become a reality soon (Down to Earth)
Synoptic line: It throws light on how nano-energy harvesters which can convert ambient energy to electricity.(GS paper III)
- India ranks third in the number of research publications in nanotechnology, only after China and the US. This significant share in global nanotech research is a result of sharp focus by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) to research in the field in the country.
- Researchers at the Central University of Kerala, Central University of Tamil Nadu, and Mahatma Gandhi University in Kerala, have fabricated a new nano-energy harvester that can generate power sufficient to run a small device. It will make possible to charge your phone without moving an inch from or connecting to a charger.
What is Nanotechnology?
- Nanotechnology is the manipulation of matter at the smallest scale (in the order of a nanometer) to produce enhanced products that are more durable, effective and economical.
Nano- Energy Harvester
- Nano-energy harvesters can convert stray mechanical and magnetic energy from surrounding vibrations emanating from television sets, radio and other such sources into electricity. This concept is not new but it has not become popular since the process is costly and yields low voltage power.
- According to the researchers, application potential of new nano-energy harvesters as the next generation energy devices. It will be used to make self-powered portable devices with integrated nano-energy harvesters as its power source.
How it works
- The energy harvester is a single unit made of many copper iron oxide tubes; material that makes the innermost part of the nano-energy harvester can convert energy from a magnetic field into electricity, each tube wrapped in a material called KNN. All the tubes are embedded in an alumina membrane. (KNN is made of potassium, sodium and niobium ethoxides and is capable of converting energy from mechanical pressure into electricity.)
- The whole unit (nanotubes embedded in alumina membrane) works together to produce electricity. The innermost cobalt iron oxide layer converts magnetic energy from nearby devices such as radio and television into electricity. This exerts mechanical pressure on the alumina membrane, which acts on the outermost KNN layer, which as a result generates more electricity.
- From making ease life, this method to synthesize these nano-energy harvesters is cost-effective and highly energy efficient, it is lead-free, which makes it environment-friendly.
- Nano-energy harvesters can harness energy from sources like radio frequencies that are otherwise lost unutilized and hence in the future, they could be used as additional sources of power.
- To fully harness the advances made in nanotechnology and consolidate our leadership in the field, we must work towards building a regulatory framework encompassing public safety.
- The lack of availability of research infrastructure to the research community at large has hampered the enthusiasm, so long term sustained plans to create the nanotechnology infrastructure in India is needed.
- We need to have concerted efforts from the funding institutions, universities, national labs and industry to identify areas where we can make real impact and utilize resources carefully in those areas.
- Education and training of students is equally important, there has to be progressive thinking in universities with regard to modernizing curriculum and the educational system.
Question: Self powered devices can be a path breaking invention for electronics. Can it have any application in automotive as well. Discuss.
3.FRBM act Review (The Hindu)
Synoptic line: It throws light on the recent review of the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) act by an expert committee and its important recommendations. (GS paper III)
- The Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Review Committee has recently submitted its report on the targets of fiscal deficit to be achieved.
- The review holds wide implications for the country’s fiscal regime.
A brief Background: FRBM review committee
- In the 2000(s), with fiscal discipline stumbling and the deficit shooting up to 10% of GDP, the FRBM law was enacted to ‘limit the government’s borrowing authority’ under Article 268 of the Constitution.
- The FRBM law was enacted in 2003 which had originally envisaged attaining a fiscal deficit of 3% of GDP by 2008-09. But the target to limit the fiscal deficit to 3% of GDP (by 2009) was abandoned after the 2008 global financial crisis. However, amendments over the years had revised the year for achieving the same target to 2017-18.
- Now, Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Review committee has been formed under the Chairmanship of NK Singh. The committee has been set up to comprehensively review and give recommendations on the FRBM roadmap for future.
- The panel has advocated reaching a fiscal deficit to GDP ratio of 2.8% in 2020-21, 2.6% the next year and 2.5% in 2022-23.
- Moreover, the panel has introduced escape clause triggers that can allow the government to skip the fiscal deficit target for a particular year, in situations that include national security concerns, acts of war, national calamities, a collapse of the agriculture sector and far-reaching structural reforms with unanticipated fiscal implications.
- The panel has also recommended that the existing FRBM Act and rules be scrapped and a new Debt and Fiscal Responsibility Act be adopted. It has also suggested the creation of a Fiscal Council that the government must consult before invoking escape clauses.
Implication of committee’s review
- Excessive and unsustainable borrowing by the government is obviously perverse as it entails a cost on future generations while crowding out private investment. In the past, fiscal irresponsibility has cost jobs and spiked inflation.
- The committee’s proposal to maintain the 3% target till 2019-20 before aiming for further reduction is pragmatic, as the ‘extraordinary and unanticipated domestic development’ of demonetisation happened during its tenure.
- Moreover, instead of focussing purely on the fiscal and revenue deficit numbers, which should be brought down to 2.5% and 0.8% of GDP respectively by 2023, the panel has called for paring India’s cumulative public debt as a proportion to GDP to 60% by 2023 — from around 68% at present. The latter is a simpler measure for solvency purposes, it will also inspire confidence among rating agencies.
- A clear fiscal policy framework in tandem with the monetary policy framework already adopted could act as a powerful signal of commitment to macroeconomic stability. The Centre must swiftly take a call on the panel’s recommendations — including for a new debt and fiscal responsibility law, and the creation of a Fiscal Council with independent experts that could sit in judgment on the need for deviations from targets.
- It is equally critical that States are brought on board, as the 60% debt target includes 20% on their account. Moreover, their finances are in worsening condition.
Question: Fiscal prudence is a necessary step to fuel India’s economic growth. Critically discuss.
4.Beneficence vs. Nonmaleficence
- Beneficence is action that is done for the benefit of others. Beneficent actions can be taken to help prevent or remove harms or to simply improve the situation of others.
Applications: Physicians are expected to refrain from causing harm, but they also have an obligation to help their patients. Ethicists often distinguish between obligatory and ideal beneficence.
- Ideal beneficence comprises extreme acts of generosity or attempts to benefit others on all possible occasions.
- For instance, physicians are not necessarily expected to live up to this broad definition of beneficence.
- However, the goal of medicine is to promote the welfare of patients, and physicians possess skills and knowledge that enable them to assist others.
- Non-maleficence means to “do no harm.” Physicians must refrain from providing ineffective treatments or acting with malice toward patients.
- This principle, however, offers little useful guidance to physicians since many beneficial therapies also have serious risks. The pertinent ethical issue is whether the benefits outweigh the burdens.
Applications: Physicians should not provide ineffective treatments to patients as these offer risk with no possibility of benefit and thus have a chance of harming patients.
- In addition, physicians must not do anything that would purposely harm patients without the action being balanced by proportional benefit.
- In this context non-maleficence posits that the risks of treatment (harm) must be understood in light of the potential benefits.