12th JANUARY 2017
Answer questions in NOT MORE than 200 words each. Content of the answer is more important than its length.
Links are provided for reference. You can also use the Internet fruitfully to further enhance and strengthen your answers.
GS II: BILATERAL – INDIA - CHINA
1. What is OBOR? Should India join the OBOR initiative? Clearly state your stand with justification.
India needs to regain its glorious past:
- There has been a tectonic shift in the global geopolitical economy, to which powers such as the U.S., China and Russia have responded. However, India is yet to formulate a worldview even as Asia, after a gap of 260 years, is again set to become the centre of the world.
- Till 1757, India was the richest country with its wealth based on textile export: India clothed the world.
- The choices we made enabled the British to secure the “Diwani” of Bengal.
- The loot oiled the Industrial Revolution (textile production), and brought about colonisation and impoverishment.
- In 1950, India was richer than China; now it is a fifth the size of the Chinese economy.
- China will soon surpass the U.S. as the largest economy, and a young and digital India can overtake China by 2050. How do we achieve our potential?
- NITI Aayog has yet to develop a strategy laying out how India can become a $10- trillion economy by 2032.
India’s sphere of influence shrinking:
- The “Look East Policy” enunciated in 1992 does not have much to show for it other than the sale of coastal patrol craft to Vietnam.
- In the west, India’s investment of $500 million in the Chabahar port, mooted some years ago, is minuscule compared to China’s investment of $46 billion in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) ending in Gwadar, a port just 100 miles away.
- Despite investments in Afghanistan, political discussions there exclude us.
- In South Asia, only Bhutan can still be considered to be in our “sphere of influence”.
- India now finds itself increasingly isolated in continental Asia.
One Belt, One Road (abbreviated OBOR):
- It is a development strategy and framework, proposed by Chinese paramount leader Xi Jinping, unveiled in 2013, that focuses on connectivity and cooperation among countries primarily between the People's Republic of China and the rest of Eurasia,
- It consists of two main components, the land-based "Silk Road Economic Belt" (SREB) and oceangoing "Maritime Silk Road" (MSR).
- The strategy underlines China's push to take a bigger role in global affairs, and its need for priority capacity cooperation in areas such as steel manufacturing.
- Russia and the Central Asian countries are linking their infrastructure to China’s OBOR, to meeti their long quest for a warm-water port.
- Chinese investment is also attractive to Europe, Malaysia, Thailand and Myanmar.
- China is fast replacing global rules with connectivity, the OBOR, through infrastructure, new institutions and integrated markets.
- The massive investment has been welcomed, with prospects for shared prosperity.
- India alone in continental Asia does not support the OBOR, which spans more than 65 countries, three-quarters of known energy resources, envisages an investment of $4 trillion and is estimated to cover two-thirds of the global population and GDP.
Why China wants India to join OBOR?:
- China’s national goal is to double its 2010 GDP and per capita income by 2020 for which the OBOR is considered essential.
- China is keen that India join that initiative, providing the opportunity to reset relations.
- China owes everything it has achieved to world trade; trade flourishes only when there is peace and is, therefore, the first casualty of war.
- Chinese economy took a sharp turn for the worse in 2012, it found a new, even more urgent, reason: with its huge deficit in infrastructure and its still reasonably high growth rate, India was the only country left that could absorb enough of China’s output of machinery steel and cement to substantially ease its crisis of overcapacity.
India should join OBOR:
- The Modi-Xi joint statement in May 2015 recognised the two countries as “two major poles in the global architecture”.
- We should become a partner in the OBOR adding a “Digital Sustainable Asia” component, an area where we have global leadership, shaping the infrastructure and markets around two nodes.
- We should also see Pakistan-sponsored terrorism as a symptom of the domination of the military with the OBOR leading to strengthening of democratic control.
- Mr. Trump’s policy shift considering a deal with China on trade as more important than security concerns has important lessons for us; focus on GDP rather than the NSG, Masood Azhar and the Cold War military logic of a two-front conventional war.
- These problems will be resolved after we become a $5 trillion economy and the leverage it will provide.
- There are encouraging signs that we have begun to think strategically by balancing cross-border terrorism with cross-border water flows and greater reliance on endogenous cybersecurity and missiles.
- A formal nod to the project will serve as a de-facto legitimisation to Pakistan’s rights on Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) that is “closely related” to OBOR.
- However, participation in the OBOR and treating the Line of Control as a “soft border” will be the bold vision needed in recent times.
- If India chooses to stay out of OBOR it will only increase its isolation within South Asia, and hasten the end of its regional hegemony.
GS I: HISTORY
2. Mahatma Gandhi’s Champaran Movement, a hundred years ago, not only brought lasting reform but also managed to do so without alienating the opposition. Taking a cue from this, how can constructive politics be adopted in India today?
- Constructive politics — one that doesn’t treat the opposition as the enemy, and one that tries to bring about change without damaging social harmony is the need of the hour in India.
- To seek an example, it may be instructive to revisit Mahatma Gandhi’s Champaran movement of a hundred years ago. It was a political campaign operating in an environment much more hostile than today’s, yet it not only brought lasting reform but also managed to do so without alienating the opposition.
- In Champaran, relations between the government, British planters and the peasants had been problematic for many decades, primarily due to the oppressive system of forced indigo production and unfair rents.
- In the decade before Gandhi’s arrival, the peasants had tried everything from violent uprisings to government petitions, but had failed to change the fundamental situation.
Constructive Politics of the Champaran Movement:
- During Champaran Movement, Gandhi did not organise protest marches, no-rent campaigns, strikes, satyagraha or civil disobedience.
- Rather than inciting an open rebellion against the government, he used the subtle art of political persuasion to bring about lasting change that was acceptable to all sides.
1. Studying the problem:
- In April 1917, Gandhi arrived at the scene not to lead an agitation but with the stated purpose of merely studying the problem.
- Ostensibly, he and his team were only studying the problems — documenting hundreds of testimonies from peasants about their condition. Gandhi kept compiling these and submitting them to the government as reports.
- He even insisted that the peasants continue with their obligations as before.
- However, his activities ensured that the anger in the community begin to stir up. Parallel to his activities, many of the local leaders began to agitate the public in his name.
2. Staying on the right side of the law:
- Suspicious local officials were eager to get rid of him, but had little legal basis to arrest him.
- Apart from a brief initial incident, the government pretty much let Gandhi operate with impunity. The strategy was to give him enough rope to hang himself.
- However, Gandhi refused to fall for the trap. Not only did he remain on right side of the law throughout his stay, he also took pains to maintain respectful relations with the local officials and the planters.
3. Channeling public discontent rightly:
- Gandhi shaped the latent public frustration into a viable political tool.
- Essentially, Gandhi managed to bring the public mood to a simmer and then put his hand firmly on the lid.
- An outright rebellion would have only brought on government repression and, at any rate, damaged planter-peasant relationship in the long run.
- The threat of a movement was more potent than an actual movement.
4. Reaching out to the other side:
- He kept the government informed of his movements and remained mindful of its advice.
- His first visit to the plantations was often to the planters, who were invited to accompany him during his interaction with the peasants.
- At one point he even wrote to the District Magistrate suggesting that the policemen who had been following him might as well come forward and assist him in his tasks. His reasonableness was earnest enough to earn him the grudging respect of local officials, some of whom ended up convinced of his “good intentions”.
5. Sustaining the pressure:
- It was the planters, irritated by the one-sided publicity that Gandhi’s investigation was generating, who started calling for a governmental inquiry into the peasant condition.
- The provincial government, reluctant at first, had to eventually give in. A commission was announced which included Gandhi as the representative of the peasants.
6. Winning over the other side:
- The appointment of the commission was only a half-victory. Gandhi knew that without the acquiescence of the planters, its recommendations would have little weight.
- He emphasised that the commission should limit its scope lest it end up being too anti-planter.
- He also used the commission deliberations as a platform for negotiations, at times inviting planters to the table to make specific deals on thornier issues.
- Crucially, some aspects of the commission recommendations were already agreed upon by the planters even before the commission had finished its report.
7. Victory without vindictiveness
- The commission recommended abolishment of the forced indigo cultivation, a major victory for the peasants.
- It was a momentous achievement, one that rightly catapulted Gandhi to the helm of national politics.
- However, it is crucial to remember that Gandhi realised it without a single protest march, a single anti-planter speech or even a newspaper editorial criticising the government.
- In fact, Gandhi saw his work as his contribution to the imperial cause: “by resisting the age-long tyranny, I have shown the ultimate sovereignty of British justice”.