India and its neighborhood relations, International relations.
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, Indian diaspora.
Important International institutions, agencies and fora- their structure, mandate.
SCO membership: Challenges & Opportunities
Why in news?
India and Pakistan are likely to become full members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) at the Astana summit on June 8-9, 2017. The addition of another 1.5 billion people would provide fresh excitement, for the SCO will now represent the voice of three billion people – half the world’s population.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) is a Eurasian political, economic, and military organisation. It was founded with the aim to strengthen relations among member states and promote cooperation in political affairs, economics and trade.
Competing geopolitical ideas:
India’s prolonged quest to join the SCO brings an enduring tension between seemingly competing geopolitical ideas that have animated India since the end of the Cold War:
Where should Delhi pitch its tent? In the continental or maritime domain?
Must India define itself as a Eurasian or Indo-Pacific power?
What drove India towards SCO?
Need to revamp relation with Central Asia. The presumed need to compete with other powers— provided the justification. With Pakistan blocking India’s access to the region, there is little that Delhi can do to decisively influence the geopolitics of inner Asia.
Focus on building a multipolar world. Afraid of the so-called unipolar moment after the collapse of the Soviet Union, India joined the Russian campaign to construct a Eurasian coalition that would limit American power. India believed that Russia and China would provide an insurance against the presumed unreliability of America as a partner. This calculus saw India join the trilateral forum with Russia and China, the BRICS, the SCO and the AIIB.
Challenges at SCO:
Combating terrorism, extremism and separatism are among the major objectives of the SCO.
While China might talk the talk, it is unlikely to put any pressure, verbal or real, on Pakistan to stop supporting cross-border terrorism and separatism in Kashmir.
To make matters worse, China might use the SCO to bring pressure on India to engage and negotiate with Pakistan on Kashmir in the name of “good neighbourliness” that SCO wants to promote regionally.
As Russia draws closer to China and Pakistan, Moscow is unlikely to come to India’s rescue on Kashmir, as it used to in the past.
The SCO is also focused on promoting connectivity and regional integration in inner Asia. Any hope that this might work to benefit India looks improbable for the moment. All SCO members are participating in the Belt and Road initiative, and the organization is the initiative’s security guarantee.
All this is a challenge as Delhi has refused to participate in the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing last month as China’s belt and road initiatives are about promoting Beijing’s economic, political and strategic interests — all of which run headlong into India’s territorial sovereignty and claim to regional primacy in South Asia and the Indian Ocean
Opportunities at SCO:
India could gain from SCO’s Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) – manned by 30 professionals analyzing key intelligence inputs on the movements of terror outfits, drug-trafficking, cyber security threats and public information in the region that we in India know little about.
Participation in SCO’s counter-terror exercises and military drills could be beneficial to the Indian armed forces.
Profiting in terms of energy security would be critical, but the idea of a SCO “Energy Club” will gain full meaning only if Iran joins the grouping eventually.
SCO might provide a rare opportunity for the militaries of Pakistan and India to share several multilateral tables – antiterrorism structure, military exercises etc. – under the SCO framework, which in many ways might change the regional climate and have a positive impact on Indo-Pak relations.
India needs to adopt following strategy at the SCO:
Prevent Pakistan and China ambushing Delhi on the Kashmir question at the SCO summits. India must remind the region that China is a party to India’s territorial disputes in Kashmir and is an ally of Pakistan. India should restrict to the SCO’s charter which prohibits the raising of bilateral issues.
Delhi must also take advantage of the few diplomatic opportunities the SCO might present in intensifying engagement with Central Asian states.
The SCO could also provide a forum to reduce India’s current frictions with China and Russia.
Delhi must prepare itself to seize potential shifts in SCO politics over the longer term. The political turbulence generated by US President Donald Trump, and the implicit contradictions between Russian and Chinese interests, are likely to surface at some point. Even as they talk “multipolarity”, China and Russia are eager to cut separate bilateral deals with Trump. Russian and Chinese interests may also not be in total alignment in Central Asia.
In the meantime, it should seek to benefit from maintaining a regional presence, tracking regional trends in security, energy, trade, connectivity and cultural interests.
India should use the SCO atmosphere for building better convergences with China and Russia as well as to minimise the intensity of China-Pakistan alignment which actually undercuts India’s direct access to Eurasia.
‘Indo-Pacific’ – Another geopolitical theatre and yet another opportunity:
India must be realistic about the limits to its role in a continental coalition led by Russia and China (read SCO).
Thus, we need to strengthen efforts towards building India’s maritime partnerships. If geography constricts India’s forays into Eurasia, it beckons Delhi to build on its natural advantages in the Indo-Pacific.
In Eurasia, the strategy must be to limit the damage from the Sino-Russian alliance and probe for potential opportunities.
As the US becomes an unpredictable actor that is unable or unwilling to balance the heartland powers- China and Russia, Delhi must turn to Japan and Western Europe to secure its strategic interests. India must necessarily play in both Eurasian and Indo-Pacific space.
To be sure, multiple conflicting interests would intersect at the SCO forum, ranging from regional and global issues to combating terrorism. India’s positions may sometimes be at odds with those of other countries which have been going along with the Chinese viewpoints.
But India needs to adopt a strategy which helps her tide over challenges and tap the opportunities.
Connecting the dots:
India and Pakistan were recently given full membership of Sanghai Cooperation Organisation. As a full member of SCO India needs to adopt a cautious strategy. Discuss. Also outline the challenges and the opportunities that the forum provides.
Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology.
India’s neutrino opportunity
What is INO?
The India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO) Project is a multi-institutional effort aimed at building a world-class underground laboratory with a rock cover of approx.1200 m for non-accelerator based high energy and nuclear physics research in India.
It proposes to build an underground laboratory at Pottipuram in Bodi West hills of Theni District of Tamil Nadu.
The initial goal of INO is to study neutrinos. Neutrinos are fundamental particles belonging to the lepton family.
If the project is cleared, INO would house the largest magnet in the world, four times more massive than the European Organization for Nuclear Research, CERN’s Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) detector’s magnet.
How the idea developed?
In 1960s and 1970s, a group of scientists from TIFR detected some unusual experimental observations, the so-called Kolar events in the Kolar Gold Fields (KGF) in Karnataka. But they still remain as science fiction, yet to be explained and unravelled.
In 1980s, a possibility of neutrino observatory located in India was sowed and in 2002 initiation was made to make it a reality. Since then, fast-paced developments have taken place in neutrino physics.
Importance of studying neutrinos
Neutrinos are almost massless that travel at near light speed.
Their birth is as a result of violent astrophysical events such as exploding stars and gamma ray bursts. Because of it, they are abundant in the universe, and can move as easily through matter as we move through air.
They are very difficult to track down. If one holds their hand towards the sunlight for one second, about a billion neutrinos from the sun will pass through it. This is because they are the by-products of nuclear fusion in the sun.
Neutrinos hold the blueprint of nature. The INO aims to understand some of the unsolved mysteries of the universe by understanding the neutrinos.
In March 2017, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) suspended the environmental clearance (EC) granted to the INO and has ordered to file a fresh application for clearance.
This was because new facts were found that the proposed INO lab was situated about 4.9 km from Madhikettan Shola National Park in Idukki district of Kerala. Also, as it is within 5km of the interstate boundary, it becomes a category A project.
This will require clearance under the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 from the National Board for Wild Life along with Environmental Clearances.
Even at the earliest, India shall be able to complete the construction of its underground laboratory by 2022. This is way behind china which is expected to open its neutrino observatory in 2019.
The procedural lapses and assumptions about the project’s agenda have made a project of this scale hard to make positive developments in field of scientific research in India.
Challenges posed by INO?
According to its critics, the explosives used in construction are a threat to the highly sensitive ecology of the Western Ghats.
It is also alleged that relevant radiation safety studies for carrying out the long baseline neutrino experiment in the second phase of INO have not been done.
How are they being addressed?
The proposed excavation is planned to be carried out by a controlled blast, limiting the impact of vibrations with the help of computer simulations.
The INO involves building an underground lab by accessing it through 2 km-long horizontal access tunnel, resembling a road tunnel which are found extensively across India.
In the second phase, the INO project initially had planned to be set up as a far detector for the Neutrino Factory. But this may not be necessary as because of the discoveries already being made in the field.
The 1500 crore investment is not a waste of money as some call it so. In past 50 years, more than half the Nobel Prizes in physics have been awarded to basic research in particle physics, including the 2015 Prize for the discovery of neutrino oscillations.
Many allegations about neutrinos being radioactive particles and INO doubling up the storage of nuclear waste are undermining India’s efforts in the world to make pioneering research in science. The public apprehensions in such projects are totally understandable. Hence this requires more communication between the scientific community and the public.
A project of such magnitude and such goal requires to generate public support, especially from the younger ones.
Connecting the dots:
There has been recently a mention of establishment of INO in India. What is INO and what is its significance? Identify the challenges faced and possibility of mitigating them.