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28 February, 2020

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Paper Topics Subject
GS-II India-Myanmar relations International Relations
India to attend signing of US-Taliban peace deal International Relations
UK threatens to pull out of EU trade talks International Relations
ADR report on donation to political parties
Marathi to be compulsory in all Maharashtra schools
GS-III Centre to sell partial stake in LIC Economic Issues
GS-II : International Relations
India-Myanmar relations

Syllabus subtopic: India and its Neighborhood- Relations.

 

Prelims and Mains focus: about the details of the agreement signed; about India-Myanmar relations

 

News: The visiting Myanmar President U Win Myint had a meeting with PM Modi on important bilateral issues. The two sides signed 10 agreements with a focus on socioeconomic development of Myanmar.

 

Key takeaways from the meeting

Some of the major takeaways are

  1. Bus service between Manipur’s Imphal and Myanmar’s Mandalay,

 

  1. more Rakhine state development programme projects,

 

  1. medical radiation equipment for treatment of cancer patients,

 

  1. cooperation on petroleum, including in refinery, stockpiling, blending and retail.

 

Details of the agreements signed

  • India’s assistance in the construction of Integrated Check Point at Tamu, Myanmar, bordering Manipur, will also be done. For ease of people-to-people movement across the border at Moreh Tamu, the two countries signed the Land Border Crossing Agreement in 2018, which allowed bona fide travellers with valid document to cross the border at two international points of entry/exit: Moreh-Tamu and Zokhawathar- Rih.

 

  • They also decided to extend the Quick Impact Project schemes to Myanmar. Under this, India takes up capacity development work in the form of small projects which yield quick beneficial results for the local people.

 

  • On the side of governance, India will help Myanmar with the project of e-ID cards, which is modelled after the Aadhaar project.

 

  • The two sides decided to provide more projects to Rakhine State Development Programme. India had committed $25 million grant assistance to Myanmar over a period of five years and phase-I involved completion of 250 prefabricated house in Rakhine State.

 

  • The two sides also expressed commitment to continue negotiations on various pending treaties like Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty and Extradition Treaty.

 

  • India will also support establishment of Myanmar’s diplomatic academy, and extend National Knowledge Network to Myanmar.

 

  • They also reiterated Indo-Pacific concept, as both sides agreed to work together to promote principles of openness, inclusiveness, transparency, respect for international law and ASEAN centrality in Indo-Pacific.

 

  • The agreements included an MoU on ‘Cooperation for Prevention of Trafficking in Persons; Rescue, Recovery, Repatriation and Re-Integration of Victims of Trafficking’.

 

India Myanmar Relations

India and Myanmar have traditionally had much in common, with cultural, historical, ethnic and religious ties, in addition to sharing a long geographical land border and maritime boundary in the Bay of Bengal.

 

Importance of Myanmar for India

  • Cultural, historical, ethnic and religious ties

 

  • To tackle insurgency in North-East – “a large number of cross-border ethnic groups and insurgents from Northeast India have military bases in Myanmar

 

  • For Economic development of North- East – Act east policyMyanmar lies at tri-junction of east, southeast and south Asia

 

  • Strategically important to India as it is the only ASEAN country that shares a border with India

 

  • India is eying Myanmar’s abundant oil and natural gas reserves to meet her energy requirements

 

  • Myanmar, a rapidly growing economy, offers significant opportunities for trade in goods and services, investment and project exports.

 

  • Forums shared by both countries: ASEAN; BIMSTEC; Mekong Ganga Cooperation

 

  • In addition to a land border, both countries also share a long maritime boundary in the strategically significant Andaman Sea and Bay of Bengal where they face common challenges, which include not just a rising China but illegal fishing and smuggling.

 

Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project

The project will connect the seaport of Kolkata with Sittwe seaport in Myanmar by sea; it will then link Sittwe seaport to Lashio in Myanmar via Kaladan river boat route & then from Lashio on to Mizoram in India by road transport.

 

 

  • It will reduce distance from Kolkata to Mizoram by approximately 1000 km and cut travelling time to 3-4 days for transport of goods.

 

  • Significant in case of any conflict with China as present route i.e. chicken neck could be blocked by China in conflict situation.

 

  • The access to the sea that the project provides its Northeastern states could boost their economies.

 

  • It would strengthen India’s trade and transport links with Southeast Asia.

 

  • It will be instrumental in India’s “act-east policy”.

 

India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway

India’s renewed commitment to complete the 3,200-km India-Asean trilateral highway that extends from Moreh in India to Mae Sot in Thailand via Mandalay, Myanmar.

 

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GS-II : International Relations
India to attend signing of US-Taliban peace deal

Syllabus subtopic: Effect of Policies and Politics of Developed and Developing Countries on India’s interests

 

Prelims and Mains focus: about US-Taliban peace deal; its significance for India

 

News: In its first step towards engaging with the Taliban, India has decided to send its envoy to the signing of the peace pact between the US and Taliban in Doha.

 

Background

On February 21, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had said the US and Taliban would sign a peace agreement on February 29, at the end of a week-long period of reduction in violence in Afghanistan.

 

About the issue

  • India received an “invitation” from Qatar, and after deliberations at the highest level, the government has decided to send India’s Ambassador to Qatar.

 

  • This is the first time that an official representative will attend a ceremony where the Taliban representatives will be present. When Taliban was in power between 1996 and 2001, India did not recognise it diplomatically and officially.

 

  • While the decision is not linked to US President Donald Trump’s recent visit to India, the signing of the pact will have strategic, security and political implications for India. The matter was discussed by PM Modi and Trump during their bilateral meetings.

 

India’s engagement with Taliban

  • While India has never negotiated with the Taliban — except during the IC-814 hijack in 1999 — it was part of the Moscow-led talks with the Taliban in November 2018, which two former Indian diplomats attended as “non-official representatives”.

 

  • Though some within the strategic establishment have argued for engaging with the Taliban — who represent the new reality — the foreign policy establishment has so far shied away from doing so. With the new US-Taliban deal, India has recalibrated its position and taken the first step towards engaging with the Taliban.

 

Joint statement related to Aghanistan during Trump’s visit

  • Significantly, India’s concerns on Afghanistan were “very well reflected” in the joint statement issued during Trump’s visit.

 

  • The two sides agreed on a common language, which was identical to India’s traditional position, and even talked about India’s role in development and security assistance to Afghanistan. Interestingly, while the statement talks about Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process, it does not mention Afghan-controlled — since the reality is that the process is controlled by other players, including the US.

 

  • India and the US share interest in a united, sovereign, democratic, inclusive, stable and prosperous Afghanistan. They support an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process that results in a sustainable peace; cessation of violence; elimination of terrorist safe havens; and preservation of the gains of the last 18 years. President Trump welcomed India’s role in continuing to provide development and security assistance to help stabilise and provide connectivity in Afghanistan,.

 

  • The last joint statement, issued during Modi’s visit to the White House in 2017, had said that Trump welcomed further Indian contributions to promote Afghanistan’s democracy, stability, prosperity and security. Recognising the importance of their respective strategic partnerships with Afghanistan, the leaders committed to continue close consultations and cooperation in support of Afghanistan’s future.

 

Significance to US-Taliban deal for India

  • For New Delhi, the US-Taliban deal holds significance given that the return of Taliban in Afghanistan has harsh memories from the 1990s, especially the IC-814 hijack, which led to the release of terrorist Masood Azhar. Azhar later founded the Jaish-e-Mohammed, responsible for several terrorist attacks, including the attack on Parliament in 2001 and the Pulwama attack in 2019.

 

  • New Delhi has kept a close watch while the US and Taliban negotiators have been meeting for the last two years. It has been briefed by the US interlocutors, especially US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad who has travelled to India several times and met External Affairs Minister at the Munich Security Conference recently.

 

  • Apart from the US, India has been in regular talks with other active players like all political forces in Afghanistan, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and China on the issue.

 

  • While many western observers believe the agreement could represent a chance for peace in the country, New Delhi has been more cautious as it gives strength to Pakistan — a long-time benefactor of the Taliban.

 

  • Though India has softened its position on engaging with the Taliban, it has always maintained that it has three red lines — which it spelt out when the US, Russia and China were conducting their negotiations with the Taliban last year.

 

1st red line

  • All initiatives and processes must include all sections of the Afghan society, including the legitimately elected government. This is important as, in the past, the Afghan government has often been sidelined by international interlocutors when they engaged with the Taliban. This also means that there is acceptability in Delhi about talking to the Taliban — since they represent a “section of the Afghan society”.

 

  • What happens to the Ashraf Ghani government — which just got re-elected — will be something that Delhi will watch. India, under Modi, has developed a close relationship with Ghani, and has been on the same side of the argument regarding Pakistan-sponsored terrorism.

 

2nd red line

Any process should respect the constitutional legacy and political mandate. This means that the achievement of establishing democratic processes and human rights, including women’s rights, should be respected. Delhi will again monitor whether the “new Taliban” — as many Western interlocutors claim — will respect these achievements over the last two decades.

 

3rd red line

Any process should not lead to any ungoverned spaces where terrorist and their proxies can relocate. This is crucial for India, as it points out the threat from terrorist groups including the Haqqani network, Al Qaeda and Islamic State, which must not be allowed to operate there. Also, Pakistan-based terrorist groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jamaat-ud-Dawa and Jaish-e-Mohammed must not be allowed to relocate.

 

These “red lines” are India’s mantras, even as it pushes for a national peace and reconciliation process which is Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled. In short, India’s approach has been to counter the Pakistan military establishment’s influence over Kabul.

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GS-II : International Relations
UK threatens to pull out of EU trade talks

Syllabus subtopic: Effect of Policies and Politics of Developed and Developing Countries on India’s interests

 

Prelims and Mains focus: about Brexit; the transition deal; conflicting issues between UK and EU regarding its implementation

 

News: Britain put the prospect of a chaotic Brexit back on the table as it set out its red lines for trade talks with the European Union.

 

Background

Britain left the EU on January 31, but both sides agreed to a standstill transition period lasting until December 31 to allow time to strike a new partnership.

 

About the issue

  • In its mandate for the negotiations that start on March 2nd, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government rebuffed EU demands for common trading standards and continued fishing rights.

 

  • And it warned it could walk away from the talks if a “broad outline” of a deal is not agreed by a meeting planned for June.

 

Likely consequences

This would see Britain’s currently seamless trading arrangements with the EU, forged over half a century, abruptly end after a post-Brexit transition period expires in December.

 

Demands of UK govt.

UK wants a free trade agreement similar to the EU’s deal with Canada, set alongside separate agreements on issues such as fishing, energy and aviation.

 

Concerns of EU regarding Britain’s demands

  • Brussels says Britain’s geographical proximity and existing close ties make it a different case, fearing it could gain an uncompetitive advantage by relaxing costly environmental and labour laws.

 

  • It says Britain must mirror EU standards if it wants to continue freely trading goods with the bloc’s huge single market. However, Mr. Johnson argues this would undermine the whole point of Brexit, even if that means increased barriers with what is currently Britain’s largest trading partner.

 

  • Brussels also wants its state aid rules to apply in the U.K. — something London rejects.

 

Regarding Financial Services

  • Another potential flashpoint is financial services, a key concern for Britain that it wants resolved by June to allow firms to keep working in the EU after December 31.

 

  • The European Commission refused to commit the EU to completing so-called equivalence assessments by June.

 

Other conflicting issues

  • One crucial issue for both sides in the upcoming negotiations is fishing rights.

 

  • But it is also vital for many EU countries, notably France, where fish and seafood caught in U.K. waters account 30% of sales for fishermen.

 

  • Brussels wants to maintain the right of its fleets to fish in U.K. waters, warning that failure to agree on this could scupper the wider trade talks. But Britain said it will take back control of its waters as an independent coastal State and it will not link access to its waters to access to EU markets.

 

  • London proposes instead that fishing opportunities be negotiated annually, based on stock levels.

 

The European Commission, which is negotiating on behalf of the EU’s 27 member states, said it was preparing for all scenarios.

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GS-II :
ADR report on donation to political parties

Syllabus subtopic:

  • Salient Features of the Representation of People’s Act.
  • the Role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations, donors, charities, institutional and other stakeholders.

 

Prelims and Mains focus: about the report and its key findings regarding donations received by national parties

 

News: Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) in its report analysed submissions made by the parties before the Election Commission (EC) regarding donations received by them.

 

Background

  • The recognised national political parties — the BJP, the Congress, the Trinamool Congress, the Communist Party of India (CPI), the Communist Part of India (Marxist), the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) — were supposed to submit details of all contributions over Rs.20,000, received by September 30, 2019.

 

  • The national parties declared a total of Rs.951.66 crore in such donations in 2018-19 and much of the amount — Rs.742.15 crore — was declared by the BJP.

 

Key findings of the report

  • The Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) received three times more donations over Rs.20,000 than all other national political parties combined in 2018-19.

 

  • The ADR report noted that the BJP was 31 days late in its submission, the CPI(M) 21 days and the CPI three days.

 

  • The BSP declared that the party did not receive any donations above Rs.20,000 during FY 2018-19, as it has been declaring for the past 13 years.

 

  • Compared to the previous financial year 2017-18, the national parties’ declared donations increased by 103% in 2018-19, which was an election year. Donations to the BJP increased from Rs.437.04 crore in 2017-18 to Rs.742.15 crore in 2018-19 and those to the Congress increased from Rs.26.658 crore to Rs.148.58 crore.

 

  • The ADR found that the bulk of donations to the parties came from Maharashtra among States and corporate or business sectors when looking at the category of donors. The national parties received a total of Rs.548.22 crore from donors in Maharashtra, followed by Rs.141.42 crore from Delhi and Rs.55.31 crore from Gujarat.

 

  • Over 92% of the total donations, worth Rs.876.11 crore, came from the corporate or business sector, while 3,509 individual donors gave Rs.71.407 crore or 7.5% of the total. Out of the 1,776 donations made by corporate or business sector, the BJP received 1,575 donations totalling Rs.698.092 crore. The Congress got Rs.122.5 crore from 122 donations from the corporate or business sector.

 

  • The top donor was the Tata Group-controlled Progressive Electoral Trust, which gave a total of Rs.455.15 crore to the BJP, the Congress, and the Trinamool.

 

About Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR)

  • The Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) was established in 1999 by a group of professors from the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Ahmedabad. In 1999, Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed by them with Delhi High Court asking for [or requesting] the disclosure of the criminal, financial and educational background of the candidates contesting elections. Based on this, the Supreme Court in 2002, and subsequently in 2003, made it mandatory for all candidates contesting elections to disclose criminal, financial and educational background prior to the polls by filing an affidavit with the Election Commission.

 

  • The first election watch was conducted by ADR in 2002 for Gujarat Assembly Elections whereby detailed analysis of the backgrounds of candidates contesting elections was provided to the electorate in order to help the electorate make an informed choice during polls. Since then ADR has conducted Election Watches for almost all state and parliament elections in collaboration with the National Election Watch. It conducts multiple projects aimed at increasing transparency and accountability in the political and electoral system of the country.

 

Mission

Its goal is to improve governance and strengthen democracy by continuous work in the area of Electoral and Political Reforms. The ambit and scope of work in this field is enormous, Hence, ADR has chosen to concentrate its efforts in the following areas pertaining to the political system of the country:

  • Corruption and criminalization in the political process.
  • Empowerment of the electorate through greater dissemination of information relating to the candidates and the parties, for a better and informed choice.
  • Need for greater accountability of Political Parties.
  • Need for inner-party democracy and transparency in party-functioning.
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GS-II :
Marathi to be compulsory in all Maharashtra schools

Syllabus subtopic: Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors and Issues arising out of their Design and Implementation.

 

Prelims and Mains focus: about the bill and its significance; concerns raised by the oppositon

 

News: The Maharashtra Assembly unanimously passed the Maharashtra Compulsory Teaching and Learning of Marathi Language in Schools Bill, 2020.

 

Background

The development came on Marathi Bhasha Din (Marathi language day) which is celebrated on February 27, the birth anniversary of poet and Jnanpith award winner late V.V. Shirwadkar.

 

Key highlights of the Bill

  • The Bill makes Marathi a compulsory subject across all schools in the State.

 

  • The legislation was on the lines of laws in Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka, and it makes teaching and studying Marathi compulsory in all schools (irrespective of the board to which they are affiliated).

 

  • Marathi will become a compulsory subject in all schools from Class I to Class X in a phased manner from the academic year 2020-2021.

 

  • It will be introduced in Class I and Class VI from the coming academic year and extended to further classes in subsequent years.

 

  • The subject will be, thus, taught from Class I to Class X from 2024, and the schools will follow a curriculum prescribed by the government.

 

  • The government will have the power to exempt a student or a class of students from all or any of the provisions of the Bill.

 

  • The Bill also provides for a penalty of Rs.1 lakh for non-compliance.

 

Objection on provision of exemption

  • The Opposition said it will create a loophole. The penalty of Rs.1 lakh is too low. Several schools charge fees ranging from Rs.5 lakh to Rs.12 lakh. Paying Rs.1 lakh would not be a problem for them. There is also no provision for penalising repeat offenders.

 

  • The govt said that the exemption clause is for students coming from outside Maharashtra giving example of someone from outside the State taking admission in Maharashtra in Class VII. The exemption was meant for such students as they would not be able to catch up with local students who would be studying the subject from the Class I.
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GS-III : Economic Issues
Centre to sell partial stake in LIC

Syllabus subtopic: Effects of Liberalization on the Economy, Changes in Industrial Policy and their Effects on Industrial Growth.

 

Prelims and Mains focus: about the disinvestment plan and its benefits; about LIC

 

News: The government is working on the modalities of Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) share sale which is India’s largest and oldest life insurer.

 

Background

  • The Budget 2020-21 announced an ambitious disinvestment agenda, aiming to raise Rs 2.1 lakh crore through stake sales next year, including plans to sell part of the government’s stake in LIC, the country’s largest insurer, through an initial public offering (IPO).

 

  • The Centre also proposed to sell its equity in the stressed IDBI Bank to private, retail and institutional investors through the stock exchange.

 

About the move

  • The sale of govt’s stake in LIC will be carried out depending upon stability of markets, and an initial 5 per cent equity can be sold in the market.

 

  • It is a complex exercise and the work has already started to seek necessary approvals for selling shares in the market.

 

  • Even after the listing of LIC, the government will continue to provide sovereign guarantee for all policies issued by the Corporation.

 

Present Scenario

  • LIC is currently governed by the LIC Act of 1956, which enables the state-owned insurer to obtain a special dispensation in several areas, including higher stakes in companies beyond the limit set by the insurance sector regulator.

 

  • The government currently owns 100 per cent stake in LIC and 47.11 per cent equity in IDBI Bank, which is majority-owned by LIC with 51 per cent equity in the stressed lender.

 

 

What’s next?

  • The govt. is examining a number of legal issues post which a proposal will be taken to the Cabinet for its approval. Discussions are underway with the law department.

 

  • The government will have to first amend the LIC Act before taking the Corporation public. The Department of Financial Services is working on the structuring, modalities and timing of the proposed IPO of LIC.

 

What could be the benefits?

  • Listing of the Corporation’s shares on the market is expected to lead to more disclosures of investment and loan portfolios of the Corporation as well as better corporate governance.

 

  • Share sale of LIC, which was set up in 1956, is expected to generate significant investor interest given its dominant position. LIC had 66.24 per cent market share in total first-year premium and 74.71 per cent share in new policies in 2018-19, as per the insurer’s latest available Annual Report.

 

About LIC

  • Life Insurance Corporation of India is an Indian state-owned insurance group and investment corporation owned by the Government of India.

 

  • It was founded on September 1, 1956 when the Parliament of India passed the Life Insurance of India Act that nationalized the insurance industry in India. Over 245 insurance companies and provident societies were merged to create the state-owned Life Insurance Corporation of India.

 

  • Life Insurance Corporation of India settled 26 million claims in 2018-19. It has 290 million policy holders.

 

  • The insurer’s total assets had touched an all-time high of Rs 31.11 lakh crore in 2018-19, an increase of 9.4 per cent.

 

  • The Corporation realised a profit of Rs 23,621 crore from its equity investment during financial year 2018-19, down 7.89 per cent from Rs 25,646 crore in the previous fiscal.

 

Other disinvestments on the anvil

  • The share sale in IDBI Bank is likely through the offer for sale route. Even though IDBI Bank is categorised as a private bank, sale of government stake could act as a test case for privatisation of state-owned banks.

 

  • Apart from LIC and IDBI Bank stake sale, the government has also lined up privatisation of BPCL, Container Corporation of India, Shipping Corporation of India and Air India in the next financial year.
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