IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


16th June, 2020

DNA 16th June


How the South China Sea situation plays out will be critical for India’s security

Dilemma the Indo-Pacific countries face

-As the two most consequential powers of the world, the United States and China which are engaged in a fundamental transformation of their relationship rest of the countries in the region face a dilemma.

-Almost nobody any longer thinks that China will conform to the US worldview, or that China’s rise from hereon will be unchallenged.

-The Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s essay in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs cogently spells out this dilemma.

Role of U.S. in the region’s prosperity

-The Indo-Pacific has prospered under American hegemony for the previous 40 years not just because of their huge investments.

-U.S. invested $328.8 billion in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) alone and a further $107 billion in China.

-However, it’s not the investment but also because of the security blanket that it provides.

-China might have replaced the US as the primary engine of growth in the last decade, but it has come with a cost — the assertion of Chinese power.

-The benign American military presence has afforded countries the opportunity to pursue economic prosperity without substantial increases in their own defence expenditures or having to look over their shoulders.

-No group of nations has benefitted more from the presence of the US than the ASEAN.

How Chinese military posture is different from the U.S.?

-Chinese military postures, on the other hand, give cause for concern ever since they unilaterally put forward the Nine-Dash Line in 2009 to declare the South China Sea as territorial waters.

-Their territorial claim itself is tenuous, neither treaty-based nor legally sound.

-They act in ways that are neither benign nor helpful for long-term peace and stability.

-In the first half of 2020 alone, Chinese naval or militia forces have rammed a Vietnamese fishing boat, “buzzed” a Philippines naval vessel and harassed a Malaysian oil drilling operation, all within their respective EEZs.

-Since 2015, they have built a runway and underground storage facilities on the Subi Reef and Thitu Island as well as radar sites and missile shelters on Fiery Cross Reef and Mischief Reef.

-They conducted ballistic missile tests in the South China Sea in June 2019 and continue to enhance naval patrols to enforce area denial for others.

Various choices the region faces:

-Going forward, the US and China face fundamental choices.

-But then, so do the rest of us living in the Indo-Pacific.

-America’s role in the preservation of the region’s peace and security should not be taken for granted.

-As COVID imposes crushing costs on all economies, the US may also be weighing its options.

-Finding justification for Chinese actions in the South China Sea, even as countries in the region help themselves to Chinese economic opportunities while sheltering under the US security blanket, is also fraught with risk.

-Accommodation may have worked thus far but regional prosperity has come at a mounting cost in geo-strategic terms.

-The South China Sea is effectively militarised. In the post-COVID age, enjoying the best of both worlds may no longer be an option.

Can ASEAN change the course suddenly?

-Nobody should expect that ASEAN will suddenly reverse course when faced with possibly heightened Sino-US competition.

-China is a major power that will continue to receive the respect of ASEAN and, for that matter, many others in the Indo-Pacific, especially in a post-COVID world where they are struggling to revive their economies.

-ASEAN overtook the European Union to become China’s largest trading partner in the first quarter of 2020, and China is the third-largest investor ($150 billion) in ASEAN.

-The South East Asians are skilled at finding the wiggle room to accommodate competing hegemons while advancing their interests.

-This does not, however, mean that they are not concerned over Chinese behaviour in the South China Sea.

-They need others to help them in managing the situation.

Collective efforts of stakeholders

-A robust US military presence is one guarantee.

-A stronger validation by the littoral states of the South China Sea helps the US Administration in justifying their presence to the American tax-payer.

-Others who have stakes in the region also need to collectively encourage an increasingly powerful China to pursue strategic interests in a legitimate way, and on the basis of respect for international law, in the South China Sea.

-The real choice is not between China and America — it is between keeping the global commons open for all or surrendering the right to choose one’s partners for the foreseeable future.

Stake for India:

How the South China Sea situation plays out will be critical for our security and well-being.

India must consider the following factors while calibrating its approach.

1) The South China Sea is not China’s sea but a global common.

2) It has been an important sea-lane of communication since the very beginning, and passage has been unimpeded over the centuries.

3) Indians have sailed these waters for well over 1,500 years — there is ample historical and archaeological proof of a continuous Indian trading presence from Kedah in Malaysia to Quanzhou in China.

4) Nearly $200 billion of our trade passes through the South China Sea and thousands of our citizens study work and invest in ASEAN, China, Japan and the Republic of Korea.

5)  We have stakes in the peace and security of this region in common with others who reside there, and freedom of navigation, as well as other normal activities with friendly countries, are essential for our economic well-being. In short, the South China Sea is our business.

-We have historical rights established by practice and tradition to traverse the South China Sea without impediment.

-We have mutually contributed to each other’s prosperity for two thousand years.

-The proposition that nations that have plied these waters in the centuries past for trade and other peaceful purposes are somehow outsiders who should not be permitted to engage in legitimate activity in the South China Sea, or have a voice without China’s say, should be firmly resisted.

India and ASEAN’s expectations:

-While strategic partnerships and high-level engagements are important, ASEAN expects longer-lasting buying by India in their future.

-They have taken the initiative time and again to involve India in Indo-Pacific affairs.

-It is not as if our current level of trade or investment with ASEAN makes a compelling argument for them to automatically involve us.

-They have deliberately taken a longer-term view.

-A restructuring of global trade is unlikely to happen any time soon in the post-COVID context.

-Regional arrangements will become even more important for our economic recovery and rejuvenation.

-If we intend to heed the clarion call of “Think Global Act Local”, India has to be part of the global supply chains in the world’s leading growth region for the next half-century.

-It is worth paying heed to the words from Singapore’s prime minister, who writes that something significant is lost in an RCEP without India.

-And urges us to recognise that the value of such agreements goes beyond the economic gains they generate.

Singapore is playing the long game. Are we willing to do so, even if it imposes some costs in the short-term?

Source: https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/south-china-sea-dispute-asean-countries-relations-vijay-gokhale-6460680/lite/



Context: The traditional art of ‘talamaddale’, a variant of Yakshagana theatre, has gone virtual in times of COVID-19. A performance was streamed live on social media on June 13.

About Talamaddale:

-It is an ancient form of performance dialogue or debate performance in Southern India in the Karavali and Malnad regions of Karnataka and Kerala.

-The plot and content of the conversation is drawn from popular mythology

- The performance mainly consists of an impromptu debate between characters involving sarcasm, puns, philosophy positions and humour.

Different with Yakshagana:

-In the conventional ‘talamaddale,’ the artists sit across in a place without any costumes and engage in testing their oratory skills based on the episode chosen.

-If music is common for both Yakshagana performance and ‘talamaddale’, the latter has only spoken word without any dance or costumes.

-Hence it is an art form minus dance, costumes and stage conventions.

Source: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/amid-pandemic-traditional-art-of-talamaddale-goes-digital/article31836303.ece


Assistance to Disabled persons for purchasing/fitting of aids/appliances (ADIP) scheme

Context: First ever distribution of assistive aids & devices to divyangjan through virtual platform under ADIP Scheme of M/O Social Justice & Empowerment in Firozpur, Punjab. 

-This is the first camp being organized by the ALIMCO under DEPwD after opening of lockdown with the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) approved by the Government of India.

About the scheme:

Objective: To assist the needy disabled persons in procuring durable, sophisticated and scientifically manufactured, modern, standard aids and appliances that can promote their physical, social and psychological rehabilitation, by reducing the effects of disabilities and enhance their economic potential.


The scheme is implemented through implementing agencies such as NGOs, National Institutes under the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment and ALIMCO (a PSU that manufactures artificial limbs).


A person satisfying all the following conditions are eligible:

-Indian citizen of any age

-Has 40% disability or more (must have the requisite certificate)

-Monthly income, not more than Rs.20000.

-In the case of dependents, income of parents/guardians should not exceed Rs.20000 per month.

-Must not have received assistance during the last 3 years for the same purpose from any source. However, for children below 12years of age, this limit would be one year.

Source: https://pib.gov.in/PressReleasePage.aspx?PRID=1631647#:~:text=In%20this%20endeavor%20adopting%20all,Firozpur%20District%20in%20Punjab%20today.


SIPRI report on Nuclear weapons

Context: A new yearbook released by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) “assesses the current state of armaments, disarmament and international security”. 

What is SIPRI?

-Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) established in 1966 is an independent international institute dedicated to research into conflict, armaments, arms control and disarmament.

-Based in Stockholm the Institute provides data, analysis and recommendations, based on open sources, to policymakers, researchers, media and the interested public.

Observations in the report?

India and its neighbours:

-All nations that have nuclear weapons continue to modernise their nuclear arsenals, while India and China increased their nuclear warheads in the last one year.

-China is in the middle of a significant modernisation of its nuclear arsenal. China’s nuclear arsenal had gone up from 290 warheads in 2019 to 320 in 2020.

-China is developing a so-called nuclear triad for the first time, made up of new land and sea-based missiles and nuclear-capable aircraft.

-India’s nuclear arsenal went up from 130-140 in 2019 to 150 in 2020.

-Pakistan, too, is slowly increasing the size and diversity of the nuclear forces. It has reached 160 in 2020.

-Both China and Pakistan continue to have larger nuclear arsenals than India.

Global scenario:

-Together the nine nuclear-armed states — the U.S., Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea — possessed an estimated 13,400 nuclear weapons at the start of 2020, which marked a decrease from an estimated 13,865 nuclear weapons at the beginning of 2019.

-The decrease in the overall numbers was largely due to the dismantlement of old nuclear weapons by Russia and the U.S., which together possess over 90% of the global nuclear weapons.

What is needed now?

-The U.S. and Russia have reduced their nuclear arsenals under the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) but it will lapse in February 2021 unless both parties agree to prolong it.

-Therefore, efforts should be made to extend the New START or negotiate a new treaty.



Source: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/india-china-expanded-nuclear-stockpile-in-last-one-year-report/article31833890.ece


Indian Gas Exchange

Context: India’s first gas exchange — the Indian Gas Exchange (IGX) launched. The exchange is expected to facilitate transparent price discovery in natural gas, and facilitate the growth of the share of natural gas in India’s energy basket.

How will this exchange work?

-The IGX is a digital trading platform that will allow buyers and sellers of natural gas to trade both in the spot market and in the forward market for imported natural gas across three hubs —Dahej and Hazira in Gujarat, and Kakinada in Andhra Pradesh.

-Imported Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) will be regassified and sold to buyers through the exchange, removing the requirement for buyers and sellers to find each other.

-The exchange also allows much shorter contracts – for delivery on the next day, and up to a month while ordinarily contracts for natural gas supply are as long as six months to a year. This, experts say, will allow buyers and sellers greater flexibility.

Will domestically produced natural gas also be bought and sold on the exchange?

-No. The price of domestically produced natural gas is decided by the government. It will not be sold on the gas exchange.

-However, following appeals by domestic producers that the prices set by the government are not viable given the cost of exploration and production in India, Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan has indicated that a new gas policy will include reforms in domestic gas pricing, and will move towards more market-oriented pricing.

-IGX officials said that a highly liquid gas exchange, which prices gas fairly, might lead to the government stepping away from pricing domestically produced gas.

Will this make India more import dependent?

-Domestic production of gas has been falling over the past two fiscals as current sources of natural gas have become less productive. Domestically produced natural gas currently accounts for less than half the country’s natural gas consumption; imported LNG accounts for the other half.

-LNG imports are set to become a larger proportion of domestic gas consumption as India moves to increase the proportion of natural gas in the energy basket from 6.2% in 2018 to 15% by 2030.

What regulatory change is required?

-Currently, the pipeline infrastructure necessary for the transportation of natural gas is controlled by the companies that own the network. State-owned GAIL owns and operates India’s largest gas pipeline network, spanning over 12,000 km.

-Mediratta of IGX said an independent system operator for natural gas pipelines would help ensure transparent allocation of pipeline usage, and build confidence in the minds of buyers and sellers about neutrality in the allocation of pipeline capacity.

- Experts have also called for natural gas to be included in the Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime to avoid buyers having to deal with different levies such as VAT across states, when purchasing natural gas from the exchange.

Source: https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/indian-gas-exchange-igx-what-it-is-and-how-it-will-work-6460379/#:~:text=India's%20first%20gas%20exchange%20%E2%80%94%20the,gas%20in%20India's%20energy%20basket.