The Hindu Editorial Analysis
02 March 2020

1) A big, bad deal: On U.S.-Taliban agreement


  • CONTEXT:
  • The deal signed between the U.S. and the Taliban in Doha on Saturday sets the stage for America to wind down the longest war in its history.
  • It went into Afghanistan in October 2001, a few weeks after the 9/11 terror attacks, with the goals of defeating terrorists and rebuilding and stabilising the central Asian country.

 

  • EXIT FROM AFGHANISTAN:
  • Almost 19 years later, the U.S. seeks to exit Afghanistan with assurances from the Taliban that the insurgents will not allow Afghan soil to be used by transnational terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda.
  • That they would also engage the Kabul government directly to find a lasting solution to the civil war.
  • America’s desperation is understandable. The Afghan war is estimated to have cost $2-trillion, with more than 3,500 American and coalition soldiers killed.
  • Afghanistan lost hundreds of thousands of people, both civilians and soldiers. After all these, the Taliban is at its strongest moment since the U.S. launched the war.
  • The insurgents control or contest the government control in half of the country, mainly in its hinterlands.
  • The war had entered into a stalemate long ago and the U.S. failed to turn it around despite both American Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump having sent additional troops.
  • Faced with no other way, the U.S. just wants to leave Afghanistan. But the problem is with the way it is getting out.

 

  • EXCLUSION OF AFGHAN GOVT:
  • The fundamental issue with the U.S.’s Taliban engagement is that it deliberately excluded the Afghan government because the insurgents do not see the government as legitimate rulers.
  • By giving in to the Taliban’s demand, the U.S. has practically called into question the legitimacy of the government it backs.
  • Second, the U.S. has made several concessions to the Taliban in the agreement.
  • The Taliban was not pressed enough to declare a ceasefire. Both sides settled for a seven-day “reduction of violence” period before signing the deal.
  • The U.S., with some 14,000 troops in Afghanistan, has committed to pull them out in a phased manner in return for the Taliban’s assurances that it would sever ties with other terrorist groups and start talks with the Kabul government.

 

  • Civil Liberties-But the Taliban, whose rule is known for strict religious laws, banishing women from public life, shutting down schools and unleashing systemic discrimination on religious and ethnic minorities, has not made any promises on whether it would respect civil liberties or accept the Afghan Constitution.
  • The Taliban got what it wanted — the withdrawal of foreign troops — without making any major concession.

 

  • CONCLUSION:
  • Lastly, the U.S. withdrawal will invariably weaken the Kabul government, altering the balance of power both on the battlefield and at the negotiating table.
  • A weakened government will have to talk with a resurgent Taliban.
  • The U.S., in a desperate bid to exit the Afghan war, has practically abandoned the Kabul government and millions of Afghans who do not support the Taliban’s violent, tribal Islamism, to the mercy of insurgents.

 

2) Viral economies: On coronavirus impact


  • CONTEXT:
  • The coronavirus is pushing the world into a recession, and India cannot be immune to it
  • The global economy appears headed for uncharted, troubled territory thanks to the second wave of the coronavirus that has now spread to countries as far apart as Nigeria and New Zealand.

 

  • GLOBAL SUPPLY CHAINS:
  • The virus has crippled global supply chains, hit air travel and convulsed markets as it appears all set to adversely impact the U.S. economy, the global economic engine.
  • This, when the Chinese economy is already in deep trouble due to the impact of the virus.
  • A slowdown or worse, recession, in the two global economic engines is bad news for the world economy, which may well tilt into recession.
  • Markets reflected these concerns last week as indices plunged and investors stampeded for the exit, dumping stocks.
  • Big money moved to the relative safety of government bonds, pushing prices up and yields down.

 

  • US MARKET:
  • The U.S. markets experienced their worst week since the 2008 global financial crisis as the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 fell by over 12%.
  • Interestingly, investors seemed to boycott even that ultimate refuge during troubled times, gold, whose prices also fell during the week.
  • They seemed to place greater faith in the sovereign guarantee of the U.S. government reflected in its Treasury bills.
  • But there is trouble ahead for the U.S. economy as companies ranging from Apple and Nvidia to Procter & Gamble and Adidas are in difficulty because of their large exposures to the Chinese market or their reliance on suppliers from China.
  • This is a crisis unlike any other. It is not a financial crisis that can be sorted out with time-tested measures such as rate cuts and bail-outs.
  • The challenge of the virus attack is that it is immune to financial solutions.

 

  • INDIA:
  • For India, the troubles could not have surfaced at a worse moment just when there are some tentative signs of a return to growth.
  • Policymakers are sanguine about the impact on the domestic economy and how they can manage the situation by resorting to airlifting of materials if the supply chain is disrupted.
  • But the problem extends beyond supply chain disruptions, which, by the way is serious for industries such as pharmaceuticals, electronics and automobiles.
  • In a situation of a global recession, exports, which are not growing even now, could take a hit, further slowing down one of the economic engines. And risk averse foreign investors could hold back fresh investments in India.

 

  • AUGURS WELL FOR INDIA:
  • Indian companies are not major participants in the global supply chains originating in China.
  • And second, crude oil prices are slipping which is good news for the macro economy and inflation.

 

  • WAY FORWARD: The government needs to watch the developing situation and, for now, do all it can to support industries that are reliant on Chinese inputs.

 

3) Why Delhi CM should be in charge of police


  • COMMUNALISM VIRUS:
  • Is this India’s version of coronavirus? The death toll is rising every day and no sign that people are being isolated to stop further spread.
  • Watch out that it does not break out in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar next, then all over the Hindi belt. The surprise is not that violence in Delhi broke out, but why it took so long.
  • Why did it take the virus of communalism 70-plus days (since the day police rushed into Jamia Millia Islamia) to claim its first victims, and that too on a day Narendra Modi would have preferred to show Delhi at its best to his friend Donald Trump?
  • The incubation of the communalism virus rarely takes so long. It is normally sudden, unexpected and murderous.

 

  • RECALL 1984:
  • It was not a Hindu-Muslim riot. It was a pogrom driven by Congress goons, erupting as news came that Indira Gandhi had been assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards. Police stood by.
  • Sikhs died by the thousands, with no ability to retaliate. The then Home Minister became Prime Minister seven years later.

 

  • PROTEST AGAINT CAA:
  • This time we have had peaceful protests by citizens across the country for more than two months without any instigation by opposition political parties. The protesters cite the Constitution and wave the Tricolour.
  • The protest has been against a law — the Citizenship (Amendment) Act — not against any party or political leader.
  • The protesters have been from all communities, but the central fear has been about likely loss of citizenship of Muslims.

 

  • MISCOMMUNICATION:
  • This fear could have been, should have been, removed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, if he had used his powers of communication to explain the contents of the CAA as well as the context in which it was going to be used.
  • He could have explained that the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and National Population Register (NPR) are not new policies of his government but have been contemplated in the past.
  • The CAA has been passed after discussions by both Houses of Parliament. The NRC had been carried out under the supervision of the Supreme Court for Assam.
  • Even in Assam, the percentage of ‘doubtful’ cases — 1.9 million compared to 30 million ‘clean’ cases — amount to just 6%.
  • Even these 6% have a right of appeal and redress. All this is in the public domain and could have been communicated to the protesting citizens.

 

  • PEACEFUL PROTESTS:
  • This was not done. Even so, the protests stayed peaceful. The danger at that time was that police may fire upon the Shaheen Bagh protesters on some excuse. But that did not happen.
  • Even the rhetoric labelling protesters as traitors who should be shot (by whom?) did not incite violence.
  • What was it that, a fortnight after the Delhi election results, incited someone to spoil the Modi-Trump party in Delhi?
  • Does it reflect the divisions within the Delhi BJP, between the hard and the soft factions?
  • The last major Hindu-Muslim riot was in Muzaffarnagar, UP, during the Samajwadi Party government, when the UPA-II was in power.
  • All are in this together, the secular parties as well as the nationalists. All parties have to help to keep the virus from spreading across the country.

 

  • CONCLUSION:
  • One thing is clear. Delhi cannot go on having a dual government.
  • Make it a state so the Chief Minister can take charge of security. The Central government is too remote.