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DAILY NEWS ANALYSIS

Monthly DNA

11 May, 2021

65 Min Read

Disability identity and COVID-19 

GS-I : Social issues Disability

Disability identity and COVID-19

GS-Paper-1: Social issues and inclusion– UPSC PRELIMS – Mains Application

Persons with disabilities (PWD) are those who have long-term impairment in terms of physical, mental, sensory and psychological conditions which can stop their equal participation in all aspects of society if met with various barriers. As per Census 2011, in India, out of the total population of 121 crores, about 2.68 Cr persons are ‘Disabled’ (2.21% of the total population)

  • Out of 2.68 crores, 1.5 crores are males and 1.18 crore are females
  • Majority (69%) of the disabled population resided in rural areas

Constitutional Frameworks for Disabled in India

  • Article 41 of the Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP) states that State shall make effective provision for securing right to work, to education and to public assistance in cases of unemployment, old age, sickness and disablement, within the limits of its economic capacity and development.
  • The subject of ‘relief of the disabled and unemployable’ is specified in state list of the Seventh Schedule of the constitution.

Legislations for Disabled

Right of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016

  • The Act replaces the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995.
  • It increases the quantum of reservation for people suffering from disabilities from 3% to 4% in government jobs and from 3% to 5% in higher education institutes.
  • Every child with benchmark disability between the age group of 6 and 18 years shall have the right to free education. Government funded educational institutions as well as the government recognized institutions will have to provide inclusive education.
  • Stress has been given to ensure accessibility in public buildings in a prescribed time frame along with Accessible India Campaign.
  • The Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities and the State Commissioners will act as regulatory bodies and Grievance Redressal agencies, monitoring implementation of the Act.
  • A separate National and State Fund be created to provide financial support to persons with disabilities.
  • The Bill provides for grant of guardianship by District Court under which there will be joint decision – making between the guardian and the persons with disabilities.
  • The Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities and the State Commissioners will act as regulatory bodies and Grievance Redressal agencies and also monitor implementation of the Act.
  • The Bill provides for penalties for offences committed against persons with disabilities and also violation of the provisions of the new law.
  • Special Courts will be designated in each district to handle cases concerning violation of rights of PwDs.
  • The New Act will bring our law in line with the United National Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), to which India is a signatory.
  • "Person with disability" means a person with long term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which, in interaction with barriers, hinders his full and effective participation in society equally with others.
  • "Person with benchmark disability" means a person with not less than 40% of a specified disability where specified disability has not been defined in measurable terms and includes a person with a disability where specified disability has been defined in measurable terms, as certified by the certifying authority.
  • Disability has been defined based on an evolving and dynamic concept.
  • Principles stated to be implemented for empowerment of persons with disabilities (PWD) are respect for the inherent dignity, individual autonomy including the freedom to make one's own choices, and independence of persons. The principle reflects a paradigm shift in thinking about disability from a social welfare concern to a human rights issue.
  • The types of disabilities have been increased from 7 to 21. The act added mental illness, autism, spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, chronic neurological conditions, speech and language disability, thalassemia, hemophilia, sickle cell disease, multiple disabilities including deaf blindness, acid attack victims and Parkinson’s disease which were largely ignored in earlier act. In addition, the Government has been authorized to notify any other category of specified disability.

In News

The Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment has issued a notification making it mandatory for all States/UTs to grant certificate of disability through online mode only using UDID (Unique Disability ID) portal w.e.f. 01.06.2021.

Unique Disability Identification (UDID) Portal:

The project is being implemented with a view of creating a National Database for persons with disabilities (PwDs), and to issue a Unique Disability Identity Card to each PwDs. The project will not only encourage transparency, efficiency and ease of delivering the government benefits to the person with disabilities, but also ensure uniformity.

The project will also help in stream-lining the tracking of physical and financial progress of beneficiaries at all levels of hierarchy of implementation – from village level, block level, District level, State level and National level.

Programmes/Initiatives for Disabled:

  • DeenDayal Disabled Rehabilitation Scheme: Under the scheme financial assistance is provided to NGOs for providing various services to Persons with Disabilities, like special schools, vocational training centers, community-based rehabilitation, pre-school and early intervention, etc.
  • Assistance to Disabled Persons for Purchase / Fitting of Aids and Appliances (ADIP): The Scheme aims at helping disabled persons by bringing suitable, durable, scientifically-manufactured, modern, standard aids and appliances within their reach.
  • Accessible India Campaign: Creation of Accessible Environment for PwDs:
    • A nation-wide flagship campaign for achieving universal accessibility that will enable persons with disabilities to gain access to equal opportunity and live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life in an inclusive society.
    • The campaign targets at enhancing the accessibility of built environment, transport system and Information & communication ecosystem. Know in detail bout the Accessible India Campaign on the given link.
  • National Fellowship for Students with Disabilities (RGMF)
    • The scheme aims to increase opportunities to students with disabilities for pursuing higher education.
    • Under the Scheme, 200 Fellowships per year are granted to students with disability.
  • Schemes of the National Trust for the Welfare of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities.

Source: PIB

Strengthening domestic Agarbatti industry

GS-III : Economic Issues Allied agriculture activities

Strengthening domestic Agarbatti industry

  • National Bamboo Mission has launched an MIS (Management Information Systems) based reporting platform for agarbatti stick production to collate the locations of stick making units, availability of raw material, functioning of the units, production capacity, marketing, etc.
  • With the help of this module, the linkages with the industry will be synergised better to enable seamlessly procurement from production units and information gaps can be plugged.
  • All NBM States are in the process of documenting all the units to assess better how further support can be given for ‘Vocal for Local’ and ‘Make for the World’ since Indian agarbatti are much sought after in global markets.
  • National Bamboo Mission (NBM), Ministry of Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME), Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) schemes as well as States, together with industry partners have stepped up focused support to enable India to become Atma Nirbhar in the agarbatti sector, to bring back livelihoods for the local communities while at the same time modernising the sector too.
  • The agarbatti sector traditionally provided large scale employment to the local workforce, which however dwindled due to various factors including the ingress of cheap imports of round sticks and raw batti.
  • A comprehensive study was carried out by NBM in 2019 following which policy measures taken by the Government of moving raw batti imports from free to restricted category in Aug 2019 and increasing import duty on round stick uniformly to 25% in June 2020 came as a boost to the domestic units.

National Bamboo Mission is a subscheme of MIDH

  • India has the highest area (14 million ha) under bamboo and is the 2nd richest country in diversity, after China, with 136 species (125 indigenous). Still India is a net importer of bamboo.
  • Till recently, it has remained confined to the forests (12.8% of forest cover); 2/3rd located in North-Eastern States.
  • The restructured National Bamboo Mission (NBM) was launched in 2018-19 for holistic development of the bamboo sector through a cluster-based approach in a hub (industry) and spoke model to harness the opportunities by providing backward and forward linkages among the stakeholders – linking farmers to markets.
  • Direct subsidy of 50% is given to farmers at Rs 1.00 lakh per ha, 100% to Government agencies and also to entrepreneurs for setting up various product development units, etc.
  • The Mission is presently being executed by 21 States, including all the 9 States of NER through the respective State Bamboo Missions.
  • NBM is also advising States to make available quality planting material to the farmers out to carry out plantations of commercially required species, set up common facility centres and other post-harvest units in complete sync with the requirement of existing and sunrise industries for a win-win situation for farmers and Indian bamboo industry.
  • Ministry: Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare
  • Funding: Centrally Sponsored with 60:40 for all States; 90:10 for NE and Hilly States and 100% for UTs.
  • Components:
    1. Adopting area-based, regionally differentiated strategy.
    2. To increase the area under bamboo cultivation. It proposes to bring about 1 lakh hectares under plantation.
    3. For marketing of bamboo and bamboo products especially of handicraft items.
    4. Setting up of new nurseries and strengthening of existing ones.
    5. Pest management and disease management will be a major part.
    6. The scheme would help in cutting down on the import of bamboo products.
  • It will focus on limited States where it has social, commercial and economical advantage.

For complete analysis on schemes of Horticulture sector: click here

Source: PIB

IREDA bags “Green Urja Award”

GS-III : Economic Issues Renewable energy

IREDA bags “Green Urja Award”

  • Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency Ltd. IREDA has been conferred with the “Green Urja Award” for being the Leading Public Institution in Financing Institution for Renewable Energy this year by the Indian Chamber of Commerce (ICC).
  • The award was received by Shri Pradip Kumar Das, Chairman & Managing Director (CMD), IREDA from Dr Ajay Mathur, Director General, International Solar Alliance in presence of Shri Anil Razdan, Chairman, ICC National Expert Committee on Energy in a virtual ceremony.
  • IREDA gets the award for the pivotal and developmental role it plays in Green Energy Financing.
  • IREDA under the administrative control of the Ministry of New & Renewable Energy (MNRE) is the only dedicated institution for financing Renewable Energy (RE) & Energy Efficiency (EE) projects in India.
  • Since its inception, the company has played a catalytic role in developing the market for financing RE & EE projects.
  • IREDA has over the years sanctioned loans aggregating to Rs. 96,601 crores, disbursed Rs. 63,492 cores and supported more than 17,586 MW of RE capacity in the country till date.

Source: PIB

Afghanistan crisis news

GS-II : International Relations Afghanistan

Afghanistan crisis news

Taliban and Afghan ceasefire for Id-ul-Fitr

  • The Taliban and the Afghan government on Monday declared a three-day ceasefire for this week’s Id-ul-Fitr holiday, following a sharp spike in violence as Washington goes about withdrawing its remaining troops from Afghanistan.
  • Violence has soared since May 1 — the deadline missed by the U.S. to withdraw the last of its troops — and while the Taliban have avoided engaging American forces, attacks against government and civilian targets have not stopped.
  • Id-ul-Fitr marks the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramzan, and the holiday begins according to the sighting of the new moon.
  • Pakistan is a key regional player in Afghanistan’s peace process, and Afghan officials have often accused Islamabad of arming and sheltering the Taliban.

Taliban and Afghan forces clashed at Kunduz

  • The Taliban and Afghan forces clashed on the outskirts of the strategic northern city of Kunduz, with the insurgents claiming to have captured three districts in the region in a week.
  • The Taliban have launched major offensives targeting government forces since early May when the U.S. military began its final troop withdrawal, and claim to have seized more than 50 of the country’s 421 districts.
  • Taliban claimed they had captured the Imam Sahib district of the province, the third to be taken in a week.
  • The Taliban have repeatedly attempted to capture the city, located not far from the Tajikistan border. The insurgents briefly held Kunduz twice before — in September 2015, and again a year later.

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.

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 were 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 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 the reconciliation process with the Taliban:

  • Regional Stability: Security and Stability are foundations upon which development can be built on. A peaceful neighbourhood and trouble-free regional climate will provide space for the regimes to focus more on development as threats of violence by Taliban in the region will be minimized.
  • Counter China and Pakistan's vested interests: India should play a considerable role through the 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 in 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 delivering a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire and the future political roadmap for Afghanistan's 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, and 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 the 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, and has not made any promises on whether it would respect civil liberties or accept the Afghan Constitution.
    • Therefore, the 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's 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.
    • Although, the US doesn't recognise the Taliban as a state under the name of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (key demand of the Taliban), 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

India's stand on Israel Palestine Conflict

GS-II : International Relations Israel-Palestine conflict

India's stand on Israel Palestine Conflict

  • India called for an immediate de-escalation of the situation between Israel and Palestine at the first public United Nations Security Council meeting held since the current surge in hostilities between the two parties entered its seventh day, killing at least 149 people in Gaza and 10 in Israel, including many children.
  • “Immediate de-escalation is the need of the hour, so as to arrest any further slide towards the brink. We urge both sides to show extreme restraint, desist from actions that exacerbate tensions, and refrain from attempts to unilaterally change the existing status-quo, including in East Jerusalem and its neighbourhood,” India’s Permanent Representative and Ambassador to the UN, T.S. Tirumurti, told the Security Council.
  • The trust deficit between Israel and Palestinian authorities was increasing, as there were no direct negotiations between the two.
  • The UN, Qatar and Egypt are trying to broker a ceasefire.
  • Mr Tirumurti said India had already voiced its concern over the violence in Jerusalem at closed-door meetings of the 15-member council held earlier this week (neither of which resulted in a joint statement).
  • “In both these meetings, we had expressed our deep concern over the violence in Jerusalem, especially on Haram Al Sharif/ Temple Mount during the holy month of Ramadan [Ramzan], and about the possible eviction process in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan neighbourhood in East Jerusalem, an area which is part of an arrangement facilitated by the UN,” he said.
  • He said India supported the efforts of the Quartet (UN, U.S., EU and Russia) and others, and expressed India’s support for the “just Palestinian cause” and its “unwavering” support for the two-state solution.

Chronology of Israel-Palestine conflict

  • The seeds of the conflict were laid in 1917 when the then British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour expressed official support of Britain for a Jewish "national home" in Palestine under the Balfour Declaration. The lack of concern for the "rights of existing non-Jewish communities" i.e. the Arabs led to prolonged violence.
  • Unable to contain Arab and Jewish violence, Britain withdrew its forces from Palestine in 1948, leaving responsibility for resolving the competing claims to the newly created United Nations. The UN presented a partition plan to create independent Jewish and Arab states in Palestine. Most Jews in Palestine accepted the partition but most Arabs did not.
  • In 1948, the Jewish declaration of Israel's independence prompted surrounding Arab states to attack. At the end of the war, Israel controlled about 50 per cent more territory than originally envisioned UN partition plan. Jordan controlled the West Bank and Jerusalem's holy sites, and Egypt controlled the Gaza Strip.
  • 1964: Founding of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)
  • 1967: In the Six-day Arab- Israeli war, Israeli forces seize the Golan Heights from Syria, the West Bank & East Jerusalem from Jordan and Sinai Peninsula & Gaza strip from Egypt.
  • The United Nations grants the PLO observer status in 1975 and recognizes Palestinians' right to self-determination.
  • Camp David Accords (1978): "Framework for Peace in the Middle East" brokered by U.S. set the stage for peace talks between Israel and its neighbours and a resolution to the "Palestinian problem". This however remained unfulfilled.
  • 1981: Israel effectively annexes the Golan but this is not recognized by the United States or the international community.
  • 1987: Founding of Hamas, a violent offshoot of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood seeking "to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine" through violent jihad.
  • 1987: Tensions in the occupied territories of West Bank and Gaza reached boiling point resulting in the First Intifada (Palestinian Uprising). It grew into a small war between Palestinian militants and the Israeli army.
  • 1988: Jordan cedes to the PLO all the country's territorial claims in the West Bank and Eastern Jerusalem.
  • 1993: Under the Oslo Accords Israel and the PLO agree to officially recognize each other and renounce the use of violence. The Oslo Accords also established the Palestinian Authority, which received limited autonomy in the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank.
  • 2005: Israel begins a unilateral withdrawal of Jews from settlements in Gaza. However, Israel kept tight control over all border crossings (blockade).
  • 2006: Hamas scores a victory in Palestinian Authority elections. The vote leaves the Palestinian house divided between the Fatah movement, represented by President Mahmoud Abbas, and Hamas, which will control the cabinet and parliament. Efforts at cohabitation fail almost immediately.
  • 2007: Palestinian Movement Splits after a few months of formation of a joint Fatah-Hamas government. Hamas militants drive Fatah from Gaza. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas appoints a new government in Ramallah (West Bank), which is quickly recognized by the United States and European Union. Gaza remains under Hamas control.
  • 2012- UN upgrades Palestinian representation to that of a "non-member observer state".
  • 2014- Israel responds to the kidnapping and murder of three Jewish teenagers in the West Bank by arresting numerous Hamas members. Militants responded by firing rockets from Gaza. Clashes end in uneasy Egyptian-brokered ceasefire.
  • 2014- Fatah and Hamas form a unity government, though distrust remains between the two factions.

Areas of Conflict

  • West Bank: The West Bank is sandwiched between Israel and Jordan. One of its major cities is Ramallah, the de facto administrative capital of Palestine. Israel took control of it in the 1967 war and has over the years established settlements there.
  • Gaza: The Gaza Strip is located between Israel and Egypt. Israel occupied the strip after 1967 but relinquished control of Gaza City and day-to-day administration in most of the territory during the Oslo peace process. In 2005, Israel unilaterally removed Jewish settlements from the territory, though it continues to control international access to it.
  • Golan Heights: The Golan Heights is a strategic plateau that Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 war. Israel effectively annexed the territory in 1981. Recently, the USA has officially recognized Jerusalem and Golan Heights a part of Israel.
  • Palestinian Authority- Created by the 1993 Olso Accords, it is the official governing body of the Palestinian people, led by President Mahmoud Abbas of the Fatah faction. Hobbled by corruption and by political infighting, the PA has failed to become the stable negotiating partner its creators had hoped.
  • Fatah- Founded by the late Yasir Arafat in the 1950s, Fatah is the largest Palestinian political faction. Unlike Hamas, Fatah is a secular movement, has nominally recognized Israel, and has actively participated in the peace process.
  • Hamas- Hamas is regarded as a terrorist organization by the U.S. government. In 2006, Hamas won the Palestinian Authority's legislative elections. It ejected Fatah from Gaza in 2007, splitting the Palestinian movement geographically, as well.

Two-State Solution

  • The “two-state solution” is based on a UN resolution of 1947 which proposed two states - one would be a state where Zionist Jews constituted a majority, the other where the Palestinian Arabs would be a majority of the population. The idea was however rejected by the Arabs.
  • For decades, it has been held by the international community as the only realistic deal to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Why is the solution so difficult to achieve?

  • Borders: There is no consensus about precisely where to draw the line – with Israel building settlements and constructing barriers in areas like the West Bank that creates a de facto border. This makes it difficult to establish that land as part of an independent Palestine, breaking it up into non-contiguous pieces.
  • Jerusalem: Both sides claim Jerusalem as their capital and consider it a centre of religious worship and cultural heritage making its division difficult. In December 2017, Israel declared Jerusalem as its capital and the step found support from the USA, intensifying the situation in the region.
  • Refugees: Large numbers of Palestinians who fled their homes in what is now Israel, during the preceding wars as well as their descendants believe they deserve the right to return but Israel is against it.
  • Divided Political Leadership on Both sides: The Palestinian leadership is divided - a two-state solution is supported by Palestinian nationalists in West Bank but the leadership in Gaza does not even recognize Israel. Further, while successive Israeli Prime Ministers - Ehud Barak, Ariel Sharon, Ehud Olmert and Benjamin Netanyahu - have all accepted the idea of a Palestinian state, they have differed in terms of what it should actually comprise.

Global Stand

  • Nearly 83% of world countries have officially recognized Israel as a sovereign state and maintain diplomatic relations with it. However, at the same time, many countries are sympathetic to Palestine.

What do both parties want?

  • Palestine wants Israeli to halt all expansionary activities and retreat to pre-1967 borders. It wants to establish a sovereign Palestine state in West Bank and Gaza with East Jerusalem as its capital.
  • Palestine wants Palestine refugees who lost their homes in 1948 to be able to come back.
  • Israel wants it to be recognised as a Jewish state. It wants the Palestine refugees to return only to Palestine, not to Israel.

India’s Stand

  • India was one of the few countries to oppose the UN’s partition plan in November 1947, echoing its own experience during independence a few months earlier. In the decades that followed, the Indian political leadership actively supported the Palestinian cause and withheld full diplomatic relations with Israel.
  • India recognised Israel in 1950 but it is also the first non-Arab country to recognise the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) as the sole representative of the Palestinian. India is also one of the first countries to recognise the statehood of Palestine in 1988.
  • In 2014, India favoured UNHRC’s resolution to probe Israel’s human rights violations in Gaza. Despite supporting the probe, India abstained from voting against Israel in UNHRC IN 2015.
  • As a part of the Link West Policy, India has de-hyphenated its relationship with Israel and Palestine in 2018 to treat both the countries as mutually independent and exclusive.
  • In June 2019, India voted in favour of a decision introduced by Israel in the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) that objected to granting consultative status to a Palestinian non-governmental organization
  • So far India has tried to maintain the image of its historical moral supporter of Palestinian self-determination, and at the same time engage in military, economic, and other strategic relations with Israel.

Way Forward

The world at large needs to come together for a peaceful solution but the reluctance of the Israeli government and other involved parties has aggravated the issue more. Thus a balanced approach towards the Israel-Palestine issue would help to maintain favourable relations with Arab countries as well as Israel.

Source: TH

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