×

UPSC Courses

DNA banner

DAILY NEWS ANALYSIS

Monthly DNA

03 Jul, 2021

67 Min Read

Genome sequencing in India

GS-III : S&T S&T

Genome sequencing in India

  • The facility for genome sequencing to identify new variants of SARS-CoV-2 has been started at Sawai Man Singh Government Medical College here, making Rajasthan the first State in the country to have such a provision for complete sequencing at the State level.
  • The facility had been made available in the State at a cost of ?1 crore for getting information about new variants of the virus.
  • The samples from the State were so far being sent to the Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology’s laboratory in New Delhi.

Genes

  • Gene is a sequence of DNA or RNA that codes for a molecule that has a function.
  • They are made of DNA and is a subdivision of DNA. They are packed in Chromosomes.
  • Genes contain the bio-information that defines any individual.
  • Physical attributes like height, skin or hair colour, more subtle features and even behavioural traits can be attributed to information encoded in the genetic material.

A genome is the DNA or sequence of genes in a cell.

  • The human genome is made up of 23 chromosome pairs with a total of about 3 billion DNA base pairs.
  • Most of the DNA is in the nucleus in the form of chromosomes and the rest is in Mitochondria (cell's powerhouse). Genes make amino acids and proteins.
  • Sequencing a genome means deciphering the exact order of base pairs in an individual.
  • Exome is a portion of the gene responsible for making Proteins.
  • There are 24 distinct human chromosomes:
  1. 22 autosomal chromosomes, plus the sex-determining X and Y chromosomes.
  2. Chromosomes 1-22 are numbered roughly in order of decreasing size.
  3. Somatic cells usually have one copy of chromosomes 1-22 from each parent, plus an X chromosome from the mother and either an X or Y chromosome from the father, for a total of 46.
  • There are estimated 20,000-25,000 human protein-coding genes.

Genome sequencing

  1. It determines the unique genetic traits, susceptibility (and resilience) to disease.
  2. Now the youth will be told if they carry gene that makes them less responsive to certain types of medicines. Example, A certain gene make some people less responsive to Clopidogrel, a key drug to prevent strokes and heart attacks.
  3. Genome sequencing is figuring out the order of DNA nucleotides, or bases, in a genome—the order of Adenine, Cytosine, Guanines, and Thymine that make up an organism's DNA.

Importance of Genome Sequencing

  • Sequencing the genome is an important step towards understanding how genes works. Genes account for <25% of DNA in the genome. Studying entire genome sequence will help scientists study parts of genome outside the genes.
  • It will represent a valuable shortcut, helping scientists find genes much more easily and quickly.
  • A genome sequence does contain some clues about where genes are, even though scientists are just learning to interpret these clues.
  • Genome sequencing of wild varieties of plants can be used to identify disease resistance and drought tolerance genes in various plants and develop new varieties of crop plants in lesser time.
  • Genome sequencing of cop plants can be helpful in deciphering and understanding the host-pathogen realationship in crops.

Why Genome sequencing?

  • Ever since the human genome was first sequenced in 2003, it opened a fresh perspective on the link between disease and the unique genetic make-up of each individual.
  • Nearly 10,000 diseases — including cystic fibrosis, thalassemia — are known to be the result of a single gene malfunctioning.
  • While genes may render some insensitive to certain drugs, genome sequencing has shown that cancer too can be understood from the viewpoint of genetics, rather than being seen as a disease of certain organs.

Human Genome Project

  • The Human Genome Project was started in 1990, a 13 year long international research effort to determine the sequence of the human genome and identify the genes that it contains.
  • The Project was coordinated by the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Energy.
  • Not only did the completion of this project usher in a new era in medicine i.e. personalized medicine, but it also led to significant advances in the types of technology used to sequence DNA.

IndiGen initiative

  • It is a programme for the Mapping of entire genome. CSIR will undertake genome sequencing of a sample of nearly 1000 Indian rural youth to determine unique genetic traits, susceptibility (and resilience) to disease. It is 1st of a kind initiative.
  • It is managed by CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB) and CSIR – Center for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB).
  • The aim is 2 fold:
  1. If it is possible to rapidly and reliably scan several genomes.
  2. Advice people on health risks in their gene i.e. disease detection.

Advtantages

  1. It is important for Precision medicine and Personalised medicine.
  2. It will sequence a gene which hides the information of susceptibility to attain a disease.
  3. Cancer, Heart strokes etc.
  4. Understanding gene functioning.

Disadvantages

  1. Not everyone who signs up will be guaranteed a scan.
  2. It can breach ethical standards fixed in the developement of Pluripotent stem cells.
  3. It can also cause personalized biological attacks by anyone who has your gene sequence.
  4. Breach of Right to Privacy.
  5. The project is an adjunct to a much larger government-led programme Genome India Project, still in the works, to sequence at least 10,000 Indian genomes.
  6. Under IndiGen, CSIR drafted 1000 youth from college through campsand educating attendees on genomics and the role of genes in disease.Those 1000 youth will get a Card and access to an app.

Department of Biotechnology under MoS&T has cleared the Genome India Project

  • It is a gene-mapping project involving 20 leading institutions including IISc and IITs.
  • The first stage of the project will look at samples of 10,000 persons from all over the country to form a grid that will enable the development of a reference genome.

Source: PIB

'Freight Smart Cities’

GS-III : Economic Issues Infrastructure

Commerce Ministry’s Logistics Division unveils plans for ‘Freight Smart Cities’

Need for Freight Smart Cities

  • With growing urbanisation, requirements of rapid economic growth including e-commerce and associated first and last mile freight movements; increasing congestion, noise and sound pollution in the Indian cities is a menace affecting both public health and local economies.
  • The Logistics Division under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry has decided to work in a planned manner to improve the city freight movement.
  • This is all the more relevant as the demand for urban freight is expected to grow by 140 per cent over the next 10 years.
  • Final-mile freight movement in Indian cities is currently responsible for 50 per cent of total logistics costs in India’s growing e-commerce supply chains.
  • Improving city logistics would also enable efficient freight movement and bring down the logistics costs boosting all sectors of the economy.
  • A shift from regulatory to a more organic approach making use of the enabling technologies is required to be adopted by the policy makers and city planners taking into account the aspirations of citizens and plan for their requirements.

Features of ‘Freight Smart Cities’

  • The roadmap envisions the concept of ‘Freight Smart Cities’ to improve the efficiency of urban freight and create an opportunity for reduction in the logistics costs.
  • Center also urged the State Governments to identify ten cities, to begin with, to be developed as Freight Smart Cities and also to set up institutional mechanism for the same involving the Government as well as Private stakeholders like Logistics services providers, users and citizens.
  • States/City Governments are also asked to focus on the quick-wins like developing peri-urban freight centres, night-time deliveries, developing truck routes, using Intelligent Transportation Systems & modern technologies, Promoting electrification of urban freight , Parcel delivery terminals etc.
  • Under the Freight Smart Cities initiative, city-level logistics committees would be formed.
  1. These committees would have related government departments and agencies at the local level, state and from the reacted central ministries and agencies.
  2. These would also include private sector from the logistics services and also users of logistics services.
  3. These committees would co-create City Logistics Plans to implement performance improvement measures locally.
  • On the Freight smart city initiatives, the Logistics Division is working closely with GIZ (Germany) under Indo-German Development Cooperation, Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) and RMI India.

Way forward

  • From the ten cities to be identified on immediate basis, it is planned to expand the list to 75 cities in the next phase before scaling up throughout the country including all state capitals and cities that have more than one million population.

Source: PIB

Center asks States to impose limit on stocking of Pulses

GS-III : Economic Issues Procurement

Center asks States to impose a limit on stocking of Pulses

  • In an attempt to arrest the spiralling prices of pulses, the Union government on Friday directed the States to impose a stock limit on all pulses except moong till October 31.
  • The Department of Consumer Affairs issued the Removal of Licensing Requirements, Stock Limits and Movement Restrictions on Specified Foodstuffs (Amendment) Order, 2021 prescribing the limits which have been imposed with immediate effect.
  • The stock limit of 200 tonnes has been imposed on wholesalers provided they do not hold more than 200 tonnes of one variety of pulses.
  • On retailers, the stock limit will be 5 tonnes.
  • In case of millers, the stock limit will be the last three months of production or 25% of annual installed capacity whichever is higher.
  • For importers, the stock limit will be the same as that of wholesalers for stocks held or imported prior to May 15, 2021.
  • And for pulses imported after May 15, the stock limit applicable on wholesalers will apply after 45 days from the date of customs clearance, the order said.
  • If the stocks of entities exceed the prescribed limits, they have to be declared on the online portal of the Department of Consumer Affairs and have to be brought within the prescribed limit within 30 days of the notification of the order.

Schemes and Bodies related to the procurement of Pulses

National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Ltd. (NAFED earlier than FCI),

  • NAFED was established in 1958 and is registered under the Multi-State Co-operative Societies Act.
  • It was set up with the object to promote Cooperative marketing of Agricultural Produce to benefit the farmers.
  • It undertakes procurement of Pulses, Onion. Agricultural farmers are the main members of NAFED, who have the authority to say in the form of members of the General Body in the working of Nafed.
  • The objectives of the NAFED shall be to organize, promote and develop marketing, processing and storage of agricultural, horticultural and forest produce, distribution of agricultural machinery, implements and other inputs, undertake inter-state, import and export trade etc
  • It oversees the Price Stabilization Fund, Operation Greens and PSS of PM AASHA.
  • After 2017, Pulses Buffer Stock comes from NAFED through Price Stabilization Fund.

Pradhan Mantri Annadata Aay SanraksHan Abhiyan (PM-AASHA), 2018 - MoAFW

  1. It is an umbrella scheme aimed at ensuring remunerative prices to the farmers for their produce.
  2. The main feature is that Central agencies would procure pulses and oilseeds directly from farmers.
  3. It allows cash payment to farmers or procurement by Private traders.
  4. It is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme.
  5. Main crops covered are moong, urad, arhar, groundnut and soya bean.
  6. The highest sanctioned procurement is in Maharashtra. It is comprised of 3 sub-schemes: Price Support Scheme, Price Deficiency Payment System and Pilot of Private Procurement & Stockist Scheme.
  7. Price Support Scheme (PSS) -
    1. Physical procurement of pulses, oilseeds and Copra will be done by Central Nodal Agencies with proactive role of State govts. (Operation Greens = TOP).
    2. Both NAFED and FCI will take up PSS operations in states /districts.
  8. Price Deficiency Payment Scheme (PDPS)
    1. It will cover all oilseeds (but it does not involve any physical procurement of crops) for which MSP is notified. It is modelled on Bhavantar Bhugtan Yojana of MP.
    2. In this direct payment of the difference between the MSP and the selling price will be made to pre-registered farmers.
  9. Pilot of Private Procurement & Stockist Scheme (PPSS)
    1. States can use it on pilot basis PPSS which is for oilseeds, in addition to PDPS.
    2. It involves physical procurement of the oilseeds, it shall substitute PSS/PDPS in the pilot districts.

Price Stabilisation Fund (PSF) Scheme, 2015 – Ministry of Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs

  • It is a Central Sector Scheme with a fund of Rs. 500 Crore for agricultural commodities was announced in Budget 2014-15 with a view to mitigate volatility in the prices of agricultural produce.
  • PSF was transfered to Dept of Consumer Affairs from 2016.
  • It aims to support market interventions for price control of perishable agri-horticultural commodities during 2014-15 to 2016-17.
  • Initially it was for onion and potato only and pulses were added subsequently. After 2017, Pulses Buffer Stock comes from NAFED through Price Stabilization Fund.
  • Procurement of these commodities will be undertaken directly from farmers at farm gate/mandi and made available at a more reasonable price to the consumers. MSP system also has some price tempering properties, but it is from the perspective of the farmers. But the PSF is focused more at consumers.
  • PSF Scheme provides for advancing interest free loan to States/ UTs and Central agencies (Not individuals).
  • States will have to set up a ‘revolving fund’ (constantly replenished) to which Centre and State will contribute equally (50:50). But for Northeast it is 75:25.
  • The PSF will be managed centrally by a PSF Management Committee (PSFMC) which will approve all proposals from State Govts and Central Agencies.
  • The PSF will be maintained as a Central Corpus Fund by SFAC. SFAC (also for eNAM) will act as Fund Manager.
  • SFAC (MoAFW) (Small Farmers Agribusiness Consortium):
    • SFAC is a society promoted by Ministry of Agriculture
    • For linking agriculture to private businesses and investments and technology.

The Essential Commodities Act, 1955

  • It was enacted to ensure the easy availability of essential commodities to consumers and to protect them from exploitation by traders.
  • The Act provides for the regulation and control of production, distribution and pricing of commodities which are declared as essential. Center can fix MRP of Essential commodities.
  • States are the implementing agencies to implement the EC Act, 1955 and the Prevention of Black marketing & Maintenance of Supplies of Essential Commodities Act, 1980. Food and civil supply authorities execute the provisions of the Act.
  • This is reviewed periodically at the National Level. Anyone cannot stockpile anything beyond a certain limit. A State can choose not to impose any restrictions. But once it does, traders have to immediately sell into the market any stocks held beyond the mandated quantity. Currently restrictions like licensing requirements, stock limits and movement restrictions have been removed from ~ all agri commodities.
  • Wheat, Pulses and edible oils, edible oilseeds and rice are the exceptions where States can impose some temporary restrictions.
  • 7 major commodities are covered under the act: 1. Drugs; 2. Fertilizer; 3. Foodstuffs, including edible oilseeds and oils; 4. Hank yarn made wholly from cotton; 5. Petroleum and petroleum products; 6. Raw jute and jute textile; 7. Seeds of food-crops and seeds of fruits and vegetables; recently Masks and Sanitizers are included in ECA.
  • Benefits of ECA, 1955
    1. The ECA gives consumers protection against irrational spikes in prices of essential commodities.
    2. The Government has invoked the Act umpteen times to ensure adequate supplies.
    3. It cracks down on hoarders and black-marketeers of such commodities.
    4. State agencies conduct raids to get everyone to toe the line and the errant are punished.
  • Negatives of ECA,1955:
    1. Less investment in warehousing and storage infrastructure. The fear of the ECA may explain the lack of formal warehouses and silos in India.
    2. Encourages a group of grey market intermediaries between farmer and the end consumer to come up.
    3. It becomes a tool to expropriate traders who may have stored products during harvest to sell during the lean months.
    4. It may not always be possible to differentiate between genuine stock and speculative hoarding.
    5. In Sep 2019, Center used ECA to impose stock limits on onions after heavy rains wiped out a quarter of the kharif crop and led to a sustained spike in prices. But it actually increased price volatility.
    6. Thus in the long term, the Act disincentivises development of storage infrastructure, thereby leading to increased volatility in prices following production/ consumption shocks — the opposite of what it is intended for.
    7. Economic Survey 2019-2020 recommends to scrap ECA,1955
  • 2020 Amendment to ECA, 1955
    1. Commodities like Cereals, Pulses, Oilseeds, Edible oils, Onion and Potatoes will be removed from the list of essential commodities.
    2. This will remove fears of private investors of excessive regulatory intereference in their business.
    3. It will attract FDI/ Foreign investment in Agri sector and investment in cold storages and modernization of food supply chain.

Source: IE

After 2 decades, U.S. exits key Afghan base

GS-II : International Relations Afghanistan

After 2 decades, U.S. exits key Afghan base

  • After nearly 20 years, the U.S. military left Bagram Airfield, the epicentre of its war to oust the Taliban and hunt down the al-Qaeda perpetrators of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on America.
  • The airfield was handed over to the Afghan National Security and Defence Force in its entirety, they said on condition of anonymity.
  • One of the officials also said the U.S. top commander in Afghanistan, General Austin S. Miller, “still retains all the capabilities and authorities to protect the forces.”
  • U.S. President Joe Biden on Friday said the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan is “on track” but it will not be completed within the next few days.

Afghanistan crisis

Historical Background of Afghanistan crisis

The Saur Revolution had taken place in Afghanistan in 1978 which installed a communist party in power. Nur Muhammad Taraki became the head of the state replacing the previous president Daoud Khan. Taraki’s government introduced many modernisation reforms that were considered too radical and left them unpopular, especially in the rural areas and with the traditional power structures. The communist government also had a policy of brutally suppressing all opposition. Even unarmed civilians opposing the government were not spared. This led to the rise of various anti-government armed groups in the country. The government itself was divided and Taraki was killed by a rival, Hafizullah Amin, who became the president. The Soviet Union, which at that time, wanted a communist ally in the country, decided to intervene.

The Soviet army was deployed on 24th December 1979 in Kabul. They staged a coup and killed Amin, installing Babrak Karmal as the president. Karmal was a Soviet ally. This intervention was seen as an invasion by the USA and other western nations. While the Soviet army had control of the cities and towns, the insurgency groups called the Mujahideen had the rural parts of Afghanistan under their control. A bitter war was fought between both groups. The Soviet Union, which had planned to stay in for 6 months to a year in Afghanistan found itself stuck in a war that was proving to be too costly.

The Mujahideen did not relent in their pursuit to ‘drive out the Soviets. They had the support of many countries like the USA, Pakistan, China, Iran, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. They were given assistance like arms and training needed to fight the Soviets. The soviets followed a policy of wiping out the rural regions in order to defeat the Mujahideen. Millions of land mines were planted and important irrigation systems were destroyed. As a result, millions of Afghan refugees took refuge in Pakistan and Iran. Some came to India as well. It is estimated that in the Soviet-Afghan war, about 20 lakh Afghan civilians were killed.

In 1987, after the reformist Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in the Soviet Union, he announced that his government would start withdrawing troops. The final soviet troops were withdrawn on 15 February 1989. Now, the government of Afghanistan was left alone to fight the Mujahideen. Finally, they succeeded in taking control of Kabul in 1992. Again, the Mujahideen had different factions within and they could not agree on power sharing. The country collapsed into a bloody civil war.

The Taliban

In 1994, a group of fundamentalist students wrought control of the city of Kandahar and started a campaign to seize power in the country. They were called the Taliban. Many of them were trained in Pakistan when they were in refugee camps. By 1998, almost entire Afghanistan was under the control of the Taliban. Many of the Mujahideen warlords fled to the north of the country and joined the Northern Alliance who were fighting the Taliban. This time, Russia lent support to the Northern Alliance, though they were fighting against them earlier. The Taliban ruled the country under a strict interpretation of the Sharia law and much of the progress with regard to women and education that the country had seen earlier, was reversed. Girls were forbidden from attending schools and women banned from working. The Taliban-ruled country also became a safe haven for international terrorists. Only Pakistan, the UAE and Saudi Arabia recognised the Taliban government.

In 2001, a US-led coalition defeated the Taliban and established another government in place. However, Afghanistan still sees resistance from the Taliban in certain pockets.

The US fighting a war in Afghanistan and why has it lasted so long?

  1. On 11 September 2001, attacks in America killed nearly 3,000 people. Osama Bin Laden, the head of Islamist terror group al-Qaeda, was quickly identified as the man responsible.
  2. The Taliban, radical Islamists who ran Afghanistan and protected Bin Laden, refused to hand him over. So, a month after 9/11, the US launched air strikes against Afghanistan.
  3. As other countries joined the war (ISAF), the Taliban were quickly removed from power. But they didn't just disappear - their influence grew back and they dug in.
  4. Since then, the US and its allies have struggled to stop Afghanistan's government from collapsing and to end deadly attacks by the Taliban.
  5. The mission, he said, was "to disrupt the use of Afghanistan as a terrorist base of operations and to attack the military capability of the Taliban regime".
  6. The first targets were military sites belonging to the hardline Taliban group that ruled the country. Training camps for al-Qaeda, the terror group run by 9/11 plotter Osama Bin Laden, were also hit.
  7. But 18 years on, it's hard to argue the US mission has been fulfilled - the Taliban may play a part in ruling Afghanistan again if peace talks do eventually succeed.

The Taliban first took control of the capital Kabul in 1996 and ruled most of the country within two years. They followed a radical form of Islam and enforced punishments like public executions. Within two months of the US and its international and Afghan allies launching their attacks, the Taliban regime collapsed and its fighters melted away into Pakistan.

A new US-backed government took over in 2004, but the Taliban still had a lot of support in areas around the Pakistani border and made hundreds of millions of dollars a year from the drug trade, mining and taxes. As the Taliban carried out more and more suicide attacks, international forces working with Afghan troops struggled to counter the threat the re-energised group posed.

In 2014, at the end of what was the bloodiest year in Afghanistan since 2001, Nato's international forces - wary of staying in Afghanistan indefinitely - ended their combat mission, leaving it to the Afghan army to fight the Taliban. But that gave the Taliban momentum, as they seized territory and detonated bombs against the government and civilian targets. In 2018, the Taliban was openly active across 70% of Afghanistan.

Where did the Taliban come from?

  • Afghanistan had been in a state of almost constant war for 20 years even before the US invaded.
  • In 1979, a year after a coup, the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan to support its communist government. It fought a resistance movement - known as the mujahideen - that was supported by the US, Pakistan, China and Saudi Arabia, among other countries.
  • In 1989, Soviet troops withdrew but the civil war continued. In the chaos that followed, the Taliban (which means "students" in the Pashto language) sprang up.
  • They first rose to prominence in the border area of northern Pakistan and southwest Afghanistan in 1994. They promised to fight corruption and improve security and, at that time, many Afghans were tired of the excesses and infighting of the mujahideen during the civil war.
  • It's thought the Taliban first appeared in religious schools, mostly funded by Saudi Arabia, which preached a hardline form of Islam.
  • They enforced their own austere version of Sharia, or Islamic law, and introduced brutal punishments. Men were made to grow beards and women had to wear the all-covering burka.
  • The Taliban banned television, music and cinema and disapproved of girls' education.
  • And because the Taliban gave shelter to militants from the al-Qaeda group, it made them an immediate target for an attack by US, Afghan and international forces in the wake of 9/11.

Why has the war lasted so long?

  • There are many reasons for this. But they include a combination of fierce Taliban resistance, the limitations of Afghan forces and governance, and other countries' reluctance to keep their troops for longer in Afghanistan.
  • At times over the past 18 years, the Taliban have been on the back foot. In late 2009, US President Barack Obama announced a troop "surge" that saw the number of American soldiers in Afghanistan top 100,000.
  • The surge helped drive the Taliban out of parts of southern Afghanistan, but it was never destined to last for years.
  • As a result, the Taliban were able to regroup. When international forces withdrew from fighting, Afghan forces left to lead the charge were easily overwhelmed. To make matters worse, Afghanistan's government, which is full of tribal division, is often hamstrung.

5 Main reasons why war is still going on:

  • a lack of political clarity since the invasion began, and questions about the effectiveness of the US strategy over the past 18 years;
  • the fact each side is trying to break what has become a stalemate - and that the Taliban have been trying to maximise their leverage during peace negotiations
  • an increase in violence by Islamic State militants in Afghanistan - they've been behind some of the bloodiest attacks recently
  • There's also the role played by Afghanistan's neighbour, Pakistan.
  • There's no question the Taliban have their roots in Pakistan, and that they were able to regroup there during the US invasion. But Pakistan has denied helping or protecting them - even as the US demanded it does more to fight militants.

How has the Taliban managed to stay so strong?

The group could be making as much as $1.5bn (£1.2bn) a year, a huge increase even within the past decade. Some of this is through drugs - Afghanistan is the world's largest opium producer, and most opium poppies - used for heroin - are grown in Taliban-held areas.

But the Taliban also make money by taxing people who travel through their territory, and through businesses like telecommunications, electricity and minerals.

Foreign countries, including Pakistan and Iran, have denied funding them, but private citizens from the region are thought to have done so.

The figures for Afghan civilians are more difficult to quantify. A UN report in February 2019 said more than 32,000 civilians had died. The Watson Institute at Brown University says 42,000 opposition fighters have died. The same institute says conflicts in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan have cost the US $5.9 trillion since 2001. The US is still conducting air strikes against the Taliban, instigated by the third president to oversee the war, Donald Trump. But he is keen to reduce troop numbers before he faces another election in November 2020. The Taliban now control much more territory than they did when international troops left Afghanistan in 2014. Many in Washington and elsewhere fear that a full US troop pull-out would leave a vacuum that could be filled by militant groups seeking to plot attacks in the West. The Afghan people, meanwhile, continue to bear the brunt of the long and bloody conflict.

What do the Taliban and the United States want?

The negotiations appear to be focused on four elements:

  • Withdrawal of Foreign Forces: Both sides agree on the full withdrawal of the fourteen thousand U.S. troops currently in Afghanistan, as well as of additional foreign forces, but they disagree on the timeline. The United States is reportedly offering a two-and-a-half-year deadline, while the Taliban insists on nine months.
  • Counterterrorism Assurances: The Taliban has agreed to prevent Afghanistan from being used by terrorist groups, but negotiators disagree over how to define the terms “terrorism” and “terrorist.”
  • Intra-Afghan Dialogue: Washington has urged Afghan government and Taliban leaders to begin official talks on how Afghanistan will be governed after the war, but the Taliban refuses to negotiate with the government until after it has reached a deal with the United States.
  • Comprehensive Cease-fire: U.S. negotiators seek a permanent cease-fire among U.S., Taliban, and Afghan government forces prior to a peace deal, but the Taliban insists on putting off a cease-fire until U.S. troops have withdrawn.

Reasons for India to be part of reconciliation process with the Taliban:

  • Regional Stability: Security and Stability are foundations over which development can be built on. Peaceful neighbourhood and trouble free regional climate will provide space for the regimes to focus more on development as threats of violence by Taliban’s in the region will be minimized.
  • Counter China and Pakistan's vested interests: India should play a considerable role through Quadrilateral group plus 2 talks to thwart the efforts of china to place puppet regimes which can play according to their own vested interests. This can be counterproductive for India's aspirations and concerns.
  • Connectivity with Central Asia: India's trade with Central Asia and reaping benefits from the enhanced connectivity will be largely dependent on Afghanistan's domestic environment. A peaceful and cooperative Afghanistan will be a key pin in India's central Asia policy. The latest trilateral transit agreement between India. Iran and Afghanistan is a significant step in this direction.
  • TAPI for Energy security: Violence free Afghanistan is desideratum for finishing the project of TAPI and sustaining the benefits from it through energy supplies from Turkmenistan.
  • Gateway to "Link west" policy: Afghanistan will act as a gateway to India's increasing rigour on its west Asia policy.
  • Minerals of Afghanistan: The cost of access to minerals will be minimum and helpful in expanding the production of Indian Industries.

US- Taliban Deal

Recently, the U.S. signed a deal (at Qatar's capital-Doha) with the Taliban that could pave the way towards a full withdrawal of foreign soldiers from Afghanistan over the next 14 months and represent a step towards ending the 18-year-war in Afghanistan. Along with this, a separate joint declaration was also signed between the Afghan government and the US at Kabul.

The peace deal is expected to kick-off two processes- a phased withdrawal of US troops and an ‘intra-Afghan’ dialogue. The deal is a fundamental step to deliver a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire and the future political roadmap for Afghanistan peace process and the Central region.

Background of the Deal

  • On 11 September 2001, terrorist attacks in America killed nearly 3,000 people. Osama Bin Laden, the head of Islamist terror group al-Qaeda, was quickly identified as the man responsible.
  • The Taliban, radical Islamists who ran Afghanistan at that time, protected Bin Laden, refused to hand him over. So, a month after 9/11, the US launched airstrikes against Afghanistan.
  • The US was joined by an international coalition and the Taliban were quickly removed from power. However, they turned into an insurgent force and continued deadly attacks, destabilising subsequent Afghan governments.
  • Since then, the US is fighting a war against the Taliban.
  • Donald Trump’s 2017 policy on Afghanistan, was based on breaking the military stalemate in Afghanistan by authorising an additional 5,000 soldiers, giving US forces a freer hand to go after the Taliban, putting Pakistan on notice, and strengthening Afghan capabilities.
  • However, the US realised that the Taliban insurgency could not be defeated as long as it enjoyed safe havens and secure sanctuaries in Pakistan, the US changed track and sought Pakistan’s help to get the Taliban to the negotiating table.
  • The negotiations began in September 2018 with the appointment of Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad to initiate direct talks with the Taliban. After nine rounds of US-Taliban talks in Qatar, the two sides seemed close to an agreement.

Salient Features of the Deal

  • Troops Withdrawal: The US will draw down to 8,600 troops in 135 days and the NATO or coalition troop numbers will also be brought down, proportionately and simultaneously. And all troops will be out within 14 months.
  • Taliban Commitment: The main counter-terrorism commitment by the Taliban is that Taliban will not allow any of its members, other individuals or groups, including al-Qaeda, to use the soil of Afghanistan to threaten the security of the United States and its allies.
  • Sanctions Removal: UN sanctions on Taliban leaders to be removed by three months and US sanctions by August 27. The sanctions will be out before much progress is expected in the intra-Afghan dialogue.
  • Prisoner Release: The US-Taliban pact says up to 5,000 imprisoned Taliban and up to 1,000 prisoners from “the other side” held by Taliban “will be released” by March 10.

Challenges in the Deal

  • One-Sided Deal: The fundamental issue with the U.S.’s Taliban engagement is that it deliberately excluded the Afghan government because the Taliban do not see the government as legitimate rulers. Also, there is no reference to the Constitution, rule of law, democracy and elections in the deal.
    • Taliban 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.
    • Therefore, Shariat-based system (political system based on fundamental Islamic values) with the existing constitution is not easy.
  • Issues with Intra-Afgan Dialogue:
    • President Ashraf Ghani faces a political crisis following claims of fraud in his recent re-election.
    • The political tussle is between Ashraf Ghani (who belongs to the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan- the Pashtun) and Abdullah Abdullah (whose base is among his fellow Tajiks, the second largest group in Afghanistan).
    • If there are any concessions made by Mr Ghani’s government to the Taliban (predominantly Pashtun) will likely be interpreted by Mr Abdullah’s supporters as an intra-Pashtun deal reached at the cost of other ethnic groups, especially the Tajiks and the Uzbeks.
    • Consequently, these ethnic fissures may descend into open conflict and can start the next round of civil war.
  • Thus, the lifting of the US military footprint and the return of a unilateral Taliban could set the stage for the next round of civil war that has hobbled the nation since the late 1970s.
  • Problem with Prisoner's Swap: The US-Taliban agreement and the joint declaration differ:
    • The US-Taliban pact says up to 5,000 imprisoned Taliban and up to 1,000 prisoners from “the other side” held by Taliban “will be released” by March 10.
    • However, the joint declaration lays down no numbers or deadlines for the prisoner's swap. Afghanistan President held that there is no commitment to releasing 5,000 prisoners. He also held that such prisoners' swap is not in the authority of the US, but in the authority of the Afghan government.
  • Also, the Taliban is fragmented or divided internally. It is composed of various regional and tribal groups acting semi-autonomously.
    • Therefore, it is possible that some of them may continue to engage in assaults on government troops and even American forces during the withdrawal process.
    • It is unclear if there is a date for the complete withdrawal of US troops or for concluding the intra-Afghan dialogue, or how long the truce will hold.

Impact of the Deal on Other Stakeholders

  • US: The promise to end America’s “endless wars” in the greater Middle East region was one of the central themes of US President Donald Trump’s election campaign in 2016. This deal may demonstrate progress on that front in his bid for re-election later this year.
    • Though, the US doesn't recognise Taliban as a state under the name of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (key demand of Taliban), though many experts are of the view that this deal is a little more than a dressed-up U.S. surrender that will ultimately see the Taliban return to power.
  • Pakistan: The deal provides the strategic advantage to Pakistan, who is a long-time benefactor of the Taliban.
  • China: After the launch of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Pakistan is seen as more of a protectorate state of China. Thus, China may leverage Pakistan's influence on the Taliban, to propel its strategic projects like the Belt and Road Initiative.

Impact of this Deal on India

This deal alters the balance of power in favour of the Taliban, which will have strategic, security and political implications for India. The deal may jeopardise the key stakes of India in Afghanistan:

  • India has a major stake in the stability of Afghanistan. India has invested considerable resources in Afghanistan's development.
  • India has a major stake in the continuation of the current Afghanistan government in power, which it considers a strategic asset vis-à-vis Pakistan.
    • An increased political and military role for the Taliban and the expansion of its territorial control should be of great concern to India since the Taliban is widely believed to be a protégé of Islamabad.
  • As Afghanistan is the gateway to Central Asia, the deal might dampen India’s interest in Central Asia.
  • Withdrawal of US troops could result in the breeding of the fertile ground for various anti-India terrorist outfits like Lashkar-e-Taiba or Jaish-e-Mohammed.

Way Forward

An independent, sovereign, democratic, pluralistic and inclusive Afghanistan is crucial for peace and stability in the region. In order to ensure this:

  • The Afghan peace process should be Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled.
  • Also, there is a need for the global community to fight against the global concern of terrorism. In this context, it high time to adopt the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (proposed by India at UN in 1996).

Though the deal is a good step, the road ahead would not be easy. Achieving lasting peace in Afghanistan will require patience and compromise among all parties.

India - Afghanistan: Heart of Asia Conference

  • Calling for a “double peace” both inside Afghanistan and in the region, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said India supports the Intra-Afghan Negotiations (IAN), in a rare direct reference to the Taliban at the 9th Heart of Asia conference in Tajikistan.
  • Mr. Jaishankar attended the meet along with Foreign Ministers of 15 countries, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkey, Iran, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Central Asian states.
  • “India has been supportive of all the efforts being made to accelerate the dialogue between the Afghan government and the Taliban, including intra-Afghan negotiations,” the Minister said and referred to his participation in the inaugural virtual session of the Doha talks in September 2020.

‘Engage in good faith’

  • “If the peace process is to be successful, then it is necessary to ensure that the negotiating parties continue to engage in good faith, with a serious commitment towards reaching a political solution,” he added. India has not in the past referred directly to the Taliban, and the government has not opened any public engagement with the militant group.
  • Mr. Jaishankar said India views the escalation in violence against civilians in and the “continued involvement of foreign fighters” in Afghanistan with “grave concern” and pushed for Heart of Asia members to ensure a permanent ceasefire.
  • Speaking at the same conference, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said Pakistan “fears that any space gained by ISIS and Al-Qaeda could accentuate the threat of terrorism,” and cautioned against the role of “spoilers”, both “within and outside Afghanistan”.
  • In a departure from the recent past, however, Mr. Jaishankar and Mr. Qureshi were present for each other’s speeches during the conference, unlike previous boycotts by the two sides at a number of conferences since 2019.
  • However, despite speculation over an ongoing India-Pakistan peace process and a back-channel dialogue, Mr. Jaishankar and Mr. Qureshi did not make any public contact during the day-long conference, and were seen avoiding eye contact during the joint photo opportunity they both participated in.
  • Speaking at the conference in Dushanbe, Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani, who spoke to both foreign ministers in separate meetings, thanked neighbouring countries for their support.
  • He also lauded a number of regional connectivity initiatives including India’s air corridor programme and Chabahar port project, as well as the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline.

Russia calls for an inclusive solution for Afghanistan peace talks

  • A solution to the Afghan civil war should balance the ethnic and religious groups of Afghanistan and no group should be left out of the final settlement, said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov here on Tuesday after holding bilateral discussions with his Indian counterpart Dr. S. Jaishankar.
  • Mr. Lavrov said India and Russia were working for stability and connectivity in the region, and urged that “military alliances” should not come up in Asia.

‘Part of Afghan society’

  • “The Taliban movement is a part of Afghan society. Decision on the settlement in Afghanistan should foresee the participation of all political, ethnic and religious groups in the country. Otherwise, the solution will not be stable. This decision has to be based on balance of ethnic, political and religious interests, including in the legislative bodies,” Mr. Lavrov said.
  • “Any exclusion of any group from this process will not lead to an implementable and sustainable agreement which can lead to resumption of hostilities, which is not the desire of the stakeholders,” he said in response to a question after both the Ministers issued press statements.
  • Dr. Jaishankar said there is a need to “harmonise” the interests of various stakeholders that are active in and around Afghanistan.
  • “For India, what happens in Afghanistan impacts our security directly. I shared our approach that for a durable peace there would require harmonising the interest of all — both within and around that country,” Mr. Jaishankar said. “The peace process should be based on foundational principles to which we all subscribe and a political solution should mean independent, sovereign, united and democratic Afghanistan,” he added.

Missile defence system

  • Apart from the Afghan situation, the major issue on the agenda for Tuesday’s talks was expected to be the delivery of the Russian S400 missile defence system and the threat of U.S. sanctions that the delivery could attract.
  • However, the Ministers said the “specific” issue did not come up during the discussion.
  • However, Mr. Lavrov acknowledged that the U.S. exerts pressure on any country that wants to sign military and industrial contracts with Russia.

Source: TH

Other Related News

02 July,2021
9 European countries gave recognition to Covishield for Green pass

9 European countries gave recognition to Covishield for the Green pass Nine European countries have given recognition to the Covishield vaccine produced by the Serum Institute of India (SII). European Union (EU) started the “Green Pass” facility, which will allow people vacc

Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS)

Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) The 7th edition of the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS), a biennial event, was hosted by the French Navy at La Réunion from 28 June to 01 July 2021. IONS, conceived by the Indian Navy in 2008, seeks to enhance maritime cooperation among Navies o

Production Linked Incentive Scheme (PLI) for IT Hardware

Production Linked Incentive Scheme (PLI) for IT Hardware Under the leadership of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi and his visionary initiatives like the “Digital India” and “Make in India” programmes, India has witnessed unprecedented growth in electronics manufacturi

Digital Divide in Schools and UDISE Report

Digital Divide in Schools and UDISE Report A Union government survey of 15 lakh schools from across the country has revealed that only 22% of schools in India had internet facilities in the academic year 2019-20, indicating the vast majority of schools for which, imparting digital education, is n

01 July,2021
Google removed 59,350 posts in April due to IT Rules, 2021

Google removed 59,350 posts in April due to IT Rules, 2021 IT Rules 2021 and analysis The Kerala High Court restrained the Centre from taking coercive action against Live Law Media Private Ltd., which owns a legal news portal, for not complying with Part III of the new IT (Intermediary

Issue of Green Pass with European Union

Issue of Green Pass with European Union India took issue with the European Union’s plans to institute a “green pass” from July 1, with government sources warning that India will introduce a “reciprocal policy” only allowing ease of travel for those European countr

BharatNet project

BharatNet project Cabinet accorded approval for revised implementation strategy of BharatNet through Public Private Partnership mode in 16 States of the country.  BharatNet will now extend upto all inhabited villages beyond Gram Panchayats (GPs), in the said States. The revised stra

AIM-iLEAP initiative of NITI Aayog

AIM-iLEAP initiative of NITI Aayog In a move to give a major push to tech startups across the country, Atal Innovation Mission, NITI Aayog concluded its first fintech cohort of AIM-iLEAP- an initiative to back tech start-ups with much-needed access to industry, markets and investors. The fin

1857 Revolt

1857 Revolt The revolt is a product of character and policies of colonial rule. Economic causes- The colonial policies destroyed the traditional economic fabric of Indian society. Heavy Taxation under New Revenue Settlement, Summary evictions  for non-payment of debts, Di

Toppers

Search By Date

Newsletter Subscription
SMS Alerts

Important Links