Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests
Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests
Making India’s foreign policy more humane
Need for acknowledgement
It has been noticed that the Indian newspapers have filtered the international tragedies to our minds where India is seen responding only to the biggest and most devastating events.
Here, Aleppo tragedy seems to be a middle-range tragedy where only 4,50,000 have been killed when dictators like Pol Pot, Mao, Stalin, Hitler have eliminated millions.
This comparison, however, becomes a failure of ethics as it is portrayed as if the small and the minuscule do not deserve attention.
However, this portrays the lack of compassion in India’s foreign policy.
Look in the past
India has prided itself on its humane approach to issues.
But it has been India’s policy to not interfere in the affairs of other countries, and not to be involved in events in countries with which it is not directly concerned or which do not directly affect its interests.
However, when it came to addressing the heartless and cold-blooded killings in Syria, India has a moral imperative to talk on such massacres being carried out.
During the era of policy of non-alignment, PM Nehru was determined to keep India aloof from conflicts elsewhere, so that the country could devote its efforts and energy to the task of developing its economy. This was largely successful as India did not have to side with either of the two politico-military blocs.
But at the same time, he had declared that where peace was threatened or justice denied, India would not keep silent. This front has seen mixed record. In 1956, Nehru spoke up strongly at the time of the Suez crisis but took a less-than-neutral stand on the Hungarian revolt the same year.
Suez crisis- Invasion of Egypt by Israel, UK and France to regain Western control of the Suez Canal and to remove Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser from power.
Hungarian revolt- it was a revolt against the Hungarian government and its Soviet-imposed policies for a demand of more democratic political system and freedom from Soviet oppression.
It was a stark contrast where though the Hungarian policy was flawed on moral grounds, it could be justified on the ground of national interest (USSR-India had close relations). In a foreign policy, the national interests dictate the terms and the government of the day has to pursue the national interest.
The Syrian battle
The Syrian civil war is in its sixth year. More than 4,00,000 lives have been lost, millions have been displaced, an entire generation of children has gone without experiencing childhood and has been denied education.
Though it is a civil war where Syrian government (Shia) is fighting Syrian rebels and ISIS (Sunnis), it has external elements too.
External elements, regional (Iran) or non-regional (US and Russia), have entered into the fray for their own agendas, without caring about the Syrian people.
Nobody really knows how many militia groups are fighting in Syria and at times, many are fighting among themselves. There is also a difference of motives among those who want Bashar al-Assad out.
But now, dethroning the Syrian President is not the priority. Instead the target is defeating the ISIS, which was nurtured initially to defeat Assad, has now become a bigger threat.
It makes sense for India to not get involved as the civil war will go on for decades.
Previously also India has remained more or less neutral, though its stand was somewhat pro-regime in the past.
But, there is no reason why India should not speak up for or be indifferent to the merciless slaughter of innocent lives in Syria.
The peace in the region is important for India as prolonged instability which might become worse in future due to change in administration in Washington, is not in India’s interest.
Though India has legitimate reasons to not upset its international friends by voicing its opinion on political or military front, but there should be some mention on the humanitarian issues.
In early 1990s when Somalia was suffering from civil war, India was UNSC member. At that time there was strong sentiment among the international community that something had to be done to stop the massacres. India joined in authorising the Council to take action that eventually did not produce the desired result.
Nevertheless, India did support all the resolutions even though it amounted to intervening in the internal affairs of a UN member state, it was solely guided by moral or ethical grounds.
Hence, by repeating the same concerns, India should condemn the loss of civilian lives amidst military encounters. Expression of outrage at the sufferings of the Syrian people would be perfectly in order.
Way forward- Is there any?
One problem in solving Syrian conflict is that external elements are thinking of only their interests. Even resolutions that are being proposed on humanitarian matters have unhidden political agendas.
In such a case, India should take the initiative of tabling a resolution in the UN Security Council, denouncing and deploring the civilian loss of lives in Syria. Together with it, it should abstain from any support or criticism to any parties involved in the conflict.
Though India is non-member, there is nothing to prevent a non-member from introducing a draft resolution. Also, India can issue a statement supporting the UNSC adoption of Franco-Russian draft resolution mandating the deployment of observers to monitor the evacuation from Aleppo.
Connecting the dots:
The escalation of Syrian crisis shows the losing powers of UNSC. In the light of the same, examine the mandate of UNSC and its future.
India has been known to have policies with humane approach. But its ignorance on commenting upon the recent Syrian crisis is well-established. Comment.
TOPIC: General Studies 2
Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes
Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
Issues relating to Poverty and hunger
Malnutrition in India and Food Fortification
What is Malnutrition?
Malnutrition refers to the lack of proper nutrition which could be either caused by not eating the right food with the right nutrients or not eating adequate amount of food with the adequate nutrients. This leads to lack of essential nutrients being received by the body.
Causes of Malnutrition in India
Geographical Causes: Due to physiographic diversity and regional imbalance in terms of resources, certain areas lack certain nutrients or food items.
Historical Causes: The long rule of British has led to exploitation to such an extent that certain sections of the population and certain regions in the country have still not been able to overcome the deprivation caused.
Socio-Economic Causes: Poverty and inadequate inclusion of various sections of the demography. Also, with the increasing level of disposable income with the people there is increasing consumption of junk food and packaged food which is leading to malnutrition as well in urban areas.
Governance and Policy Failures: Ineffective implementation of policies and failed targets of the five year plans and delayed focus on malnutrition has left India lagging behind in a major way.
Other Causes: Additionally, a family’s economic costs incurred and cultural links are also responsible for micronutrient deficiencies.
Malnutrition in India – Magnitude
World Bank Report on India issued in 2006 estimates the prevalence of underweight children in India to be among the highest in the world, and nearly double that of Sub-Saharan Africa.
Fifty per cent of Indian villages are severely affected by malnutrition.
Malnutrition is the single largest contributor to under-five mortality.
As per World Bank, India loses over $12 billion in GDP to vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
Fortification of staple foods such as milk, oil, sugar and flour is an important strategy to eradicate malnutrition which is followed globally. The key vitamins and minerals which rank high on the fortification need are vitamin A, iodine and iron. Deficiencies arising from these three are creating the greatest burden on public health.
India has been focussing on advocacy programmes as a starting point for food fortification initiatives.
Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and private organisations have been actively pursuing the food fortification programme with support from the Centre. Some NGOs in Rajasthan and Haryana are collaborating directly with local mills, where majority of the wheat consumed is processed, to ensure micronutrient fortification by providing vitamin A and vitamin D in flour.
Vitamin A sachets are being provided to school children in municipal schools, as part of the midday meal programme.
Public/private partnerships can also help in resolving the issue through unique business models as done in Philippines. In Philippines, sugar is the most widely consumed staple food. The government has started a nationwide food fortification program by enriching sugar with Vitamin A because 40 per cent of children between the ages of six months and six years had severe Vitamin A deficiency. For this they are taking support of the largest sugar manufacturer.
It is also being advised to promote the importance of a balanced diet along with food fortification and Vitamin A supplementation by creating a sustainable food fortification programme where all stakeholders come together.
There is a need for unique initiatives that will support a nourished lifestyle among the poor and it is a welcome move where joint efforts are being carried out to address this challenge, with national and global organisations joining hands.
Legislative Support for National Level Programmes
To ensure that programmes for food fortification are carried out effectively, centrally mandated laws are needed.
There is a need for programmes which can be implemented at the national level such as the widely successful programme of salt fortification with iodine, which has been useful in reducing goitre deficiency.
Learning has to be taken from our neighbours. Support from Central government has made it possible for Bangladesh and Pakistan to initiate national wheat and oil fortification programmes and nationwide bio-fortification programmes as well.
Way Forward for India
The Group of Secretaries on Education and Health has identified fortification of food items like salt, edible oil, milk with a timeline of three years, as one of the measures to be undertaken to address the issue of malnutrition in the country.
A task force is slated to be formed from various ministries to support fortification.
Concrete action with a unified front is needed by involving various stakeholders to combat malnutrition.
India can also rely upon the Public Distribution System (PDS) efficiency to ensure the access of fortified food to the masses especially in the rural areas.
Focus on tribal area nutrient needs. Schools in tribal areas should be given special responsibility in ensuring that students get access to the right food and in the right quantity.
We also need to work towards achievement of all Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) which together can have a huge impact in reducing the incidence of malnutrition.
International collaborations such as SAARC Food Bank can be useful in reducing under nourishment.
Connecting the dots
What is food fortification and bio-fortification? Discuss how fortification can be a major strategy of the government of India to reduce malnutrition in India.
What are Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)? Discuss how these goals can be highly instrumental in assisting India in reducing the incidence of malnutrition. Highlight certain initiatives taken by the government of India to overcome malnutrition.