6 July 2020: The Hindu Editorial Analysis
1) Three messages: On Modi’s Leh visit-
GS 3- Security challenges and their management in border areas
- With his visit to Nimu near Leh, which houses the XIV Corps headquarters including the base hospital, Prime Minister accomplished several objectives.
- He visited soldiers injured during the Galwan clash of June 15, addressed troops involved in the stand-off with China.
- He was also briefed directly by senior officers involved in operational preparedness who are also conducting military talks with China’s People’s Liberation Army.
- In his speech to soldiers at Nimu, he addressed different audiences as well, with the biggest message for the Chinese leadership, where he said that the age of expansionism is over.
MESSAGE TO BEIJING:
- Calling this the “era of evolution” or development (Vikasvaad), Mr. Modi said that the “era of colonial expansion” (Vistaarvaad) is over.
- He said that in the past, expansionist forces have done great harm to humanity, and had been “erased or forced to relent”.
- The was a message to Beijing in his statement.
- It must not engage in territorial aggression across its boundaries with countries from Central Asia to the South China Sea, including India.
- And it must also recall its own anger against imperialism, that so many in the PRC’s leadership have decried.
- Despite the fact that he did not once name China, the message appeared to have hit home, with the Chinese Embassy in Delhi issuing a denial that it had made any expansionist moves.
TRADITION OF PEACE:
- The PM also addressed other countries that are viewing the growing seriousness of the two-month long stand-off with concern.
- He spoke about India’s tradition of peace with bravery, indicating that diplomatic options would be exhausted before any action.
- To his domestic audience, the address signified the government’s determination to face the challenge at the LAC and to focus on national priorities of infrastructure and economic development.
- Finally, he addressed the soldiers themselves, as he spoke of the valour of the men who have been engaged in the clashes along the LAC.
- In all three aspects of the address, the speech must be welcomed, and its unspoken messages should also be studied closely.
- Prime Minister’s decision to visit troops near the LAC was well-timed and apt.
- It also raised the temperature of the India-China engagement, and indicates that military talks for disengagement and the dispersal(removal) of the massive mobilisation of troops on both sides, have not made much progress.
- There was a contrast in his tone from just two weeks ago when he reassured the nation that “neither has anyone transgressed, nor is anyone inside Indian territory”.
- It indicates that the situation is far more serious than was previously understood.
- The government so far has not given the nation the full picture on what has happened, and what the nation needs to prepare for.
- It is to be hoped that it will do so now, further clarifying the Prime Minister’s core message at Leh.
- At Leh, PM Modi had different messages for India, China, and the world community.
2) Surely, even if slowly: On a COVID-19 vaccine-
GS 2- Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health
- Yet again, the pandemic has revealed cracks in the conduct of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).
- A letter by the agency’s head, Dr. Balram Bhargava, to doctors last week, preparing to test a vaccine for human trials, appeared to be coercing(forcing) them into getting a vaccine ready by August 15.
- After public uproar the agency clarified that its intent was to infuse a sense of urgency given the pandemic and that there were no plans to deviate from the rulebook on vaccine development.
- However, there was no rationale extended for why the date August 15 cropped up.
- Given the crisis at hand, regulatory agencies the world over have relaxed rules on drug testing and vaccine trials.
- While scientific rigour cannot be compromised, there is a move, globally, to allow more leeway(freedom) to formulations that show some promise, and allow them into the market under medical guidance.
- This is why drugs such as remdesivir and favipiravir — despite limited evidence of success — have made it to the bedside of patients.
FORMATIONO AND WIDE USE OF VACCINE:
- Vaccines are an entirely different game.
- The basic philosophy of all vaccines involves introducing fragments — in some cases the whole virus, albeit(although) in a weakened form — into healthy volunteers.
- Therefore, the first checkpoint is that the vaccine candidate should not sicken a healthy person.
- The second hurdle is that a vaccine must stimulate the immune system just enough to get it to produce protective antibodies.
- In other words, it must be efficacious(effective) and finally, only if all were to go well, it must be tested in several thousand people in real world conditions.
- And they must be shown, over time, to be better protected than those who were unvaccinated.
- Each one of these steps cannot in principle be rushed, and each is necessary to ensure that the vaccine can be released for public use.
- The Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech, the makers of ‘Covaxin’, has experience and credibility in vaccine manufacture.
- ‘Covaxin’ is developed from a strain of SARS-CoV-2 isolated at NIV.
- However, this only makes it one of hundreds of potential vaccines being tested and the consensus of experts is that no vaccine can be readied for use until next year.
- This is now largely understood by most and hence the behavioural changes on social distancing and an insistence on wearing masks in public.
- It is therefore perplexing(confusing) why the ICMR would want to cut corners(short cuts) with a basic premise of research: that science does not progress in a hurry.
- The pandemic has brought into focus the unavoidable role of uncertainty.
- New aspects of the disease are being brought to light, sometimes every day.
- The best strategy, in the midst of such flux, is to maintain absolute transparency, and proceed surely, even if slowly.
- There is an urgent need for a vaccine against COVID-19, but it cannot be hastened into being.
3) How to counter China-
- The June 15 clash between India and China in the Galwan Valley offers a glimpse(idea) of what may lie ahead for India.
- Despite New Delhi’s nuanced diplomacy, China’s authoritarian turn at home and assertive behaviour abroad underscore(emphacize) a growing problem.
- India’s China challenge couldn’t come at a worse time.
- While working to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, India finds itself struggling to navigate(move) an economic emergency.
- Success — and keeping Beijing at bay — will hinge(fix) upon completing the transformation begun in 1991.
- China’s economic opening-up has left India behind, contributing to a military imbalance.
- In 1987, both countries’ nominal GDP were almost equal. China’s economy was nearly five times larger than India’s in 2019.
- Not coincidentally, from rough parity in 1989, China’s military spending last year more than tripled India’s.
- India’s pronounced economic slump, predating(before) the epidemic, won’t help right this equation.
- The government’s near-term attention may be consumed by tending to the swelling ranks of the poor.
- Limited fiscal and monetary tools, and dried-up private financing, constrain India’s options.
- Heightened vigilance(watch) along the LAC demands summoning(using) scarce resources.
- Defence budgets were already tightening.
- If India cannot close the economic gap and build military muscle, Beijing may feel emboldened to probe the subcontinent’s land and maritime periphery.
SLOWDOWN IN REFORMS:
- The root causes of India’s economic woes can be traced to a slowdown in reforms.
- In 1991, India enacted changes allowing markets to set commodity prices but did not similarly liberalise land, labour and capital.
- Nearly 30 years after historic reforms, Prime Minister has the opportunity to launch big, structural change, to eventually resume growth above 8% and keep China at arm’s length.
- This spring, the government has delivered mixed messages about a revitalised reform agenda.
- Officials have discussed land and labour changes, while reaffirming an interest in integrating India into global value chains.
- Several States have temporarily lifted labour restrictions, eliciting(bringing) concerns about going too far, while others intend to make land acquisition easier.
- But Delhi’s drumbeat of self-reliance could inhibit(stop) growth and constrain(restrict) investment in a more vigorous foreign and defence policy.
- To be clear, greater self-sufficiency can be salutary(symbolic).
- Home-grown manufacturing of critical medicinal ingredients or digital safeguards on citizens’ personal data would reduce vulnerabilities.
- Conversely, imposing protective barriers to build-up local defence industry would hamper(hit) acquisitions helping balance Beijing.
- In the coming years, India’s most important contest with China will likely unfold in C-suites(executive-level managers within a company) and boardrooms.
- Right now, China faces intense scrutiny resulting from the pandemic, geopolitical competition, trade wars, and economic coercion.
- Businesses are revisiting whether or not to diversify suddenly exposed international value chains.
- India’s rivals are staking their claim on regulatory predictability, stable tax policies, and fewer trade obstacles.
- While India remains outside the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, competitors are wooing companies seeking lower trade barriers.
- Asian countries are pushing ahead: Vietnam just inked a trade deal with the European Union that threatens to slice into India’s exports.
- India urgently needs increased exports and investments to provide more well-paying jobs, technology, and know-how.
- Businesses purchase cost-efficient inputs overseas for use in higher value, manufactured exports.
- Before committing to long-term, multi-billion investments, companies often want to test India’s market through international sales.
- Liberalisation remains the tried-and-true path to competitiveness.
- If India can unite its people and rapidly strengthen capabilities, it will likely discover that China is kept more honest.
- The choices that India makes to recapture consistent, high growth will determine its future.
Bold reforms offer the best option to manage Beijing and achieve greater independence on the world stage.