General Studies 2:
- India and its 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.
General studies 3:
- Security challenges
Tackling North Korea
North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme is no longer the joke it once was thought to be.
The estimates so far of sixth nuclear test by North Korea suggest an explosive yield that could run into hundreds of kilotonnes. This is sufficient to decimate a major US city.
Earlier, North Korea first tested an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that is capable of reaching American territory.
Why is North Korea doing this?
North Korea relies on increasing militarisation and show of missile and nuclear prowess for various reasons:
- The nuclear capability is primarily meant to ensure the survival of the regime. Part of its ploy is to convince its impoverished and isolated citizenry of the need for the country to attain military parity in light of the presence of the U.S. military shield in South Korea and Japan.
- To justify the years of the Kim family rule, as these tests add to the myth of strong leadership by its 33-year-old, third-generation dictator, Kim Jong-un.
- It wants to break the US’ alliance with South Korea and Japan. The ICBM capability is a credible tool to “decouple” the US from its allies. South Korea and Japan have every reason to doubt whether the US would risk its major cities in order to come to their rescue against North Korea.
- North Korea, like the South, desires the reunification of the Korean peninsula but on its own terms.
- The unpalatable prospect of the escalation of a possible military conflict into a nuclear war is also a way to stave off any external intervention against the dictatorship, the likes of which were seen in Iraq and Libya.
China is to blame:
Even though China has upped its rhetoric against North Korea in recent days, it should shoulder some of the blame for North Korea’s nuclearization in the first place.
Its political objective of reducing the US role in Asia resonates with North Korea’s aim of decoupling America’s alliances.
China, along with Russia, has been putting forward a “freeze for freeze” proposal which will entail North Korea freezing its nuclear programme in exchange for the US and South Korea suspending their joint military exercises. China is also banking on the assumption that a proliferation-obsessed Washington will not allow South Korea and Japan to have their own nukes. Beijing, therefore, hopes to come out on top after the crisis is over even though it too does not like a North Korea whose missiles can reach all corners of China.
Implications for India:
The defence and foreign affairs establishment in New Delhi must be carefully examining all the scenarios and thinking deeply about the changes in Asia’s security architecture that North Korea’s nuclear capabilities may bring.
- For India, the most immediate concern will be any possible diminution of the US role in Asia, which is crucial to meeting the China challenge.
- Both the eventuality of a North Korean-induced decoupling and the more distant prospect of South Korea and Japan developing their own nuclear weapons have the potential to significantly alter the security role that the US plays in the region.
- Given the history of proliferation networks, some Indian analysts are also concerned about advanced nuclear technology finding its way from North Korea to Pakistan.
For the international community to find a way forward following lessons must be learned.
- Nuclear-proliferation is driven by the rational fears of regimes, not the madness of despots. By overthrowing regimes it charged with being enemies of human rights, the West gave powerful incentives to other states to pursue nuclear weapons. Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi and Iraq’s Saddam Hussein both gave up their weapons of mass destruction programmes; North Korea’s despots learned from their fate.
- Sanctions and threats cannot always stop more states from seeking nuclear weapons. Instead, there needs to be a genuine global compact that will guarantee state survival, as long as clearly-demarcated norms are met. A nation that has faced international sanctions for over a decade, has succeeded in manufacturing a hydrogen bomb, and missiles to deliver it to the cities of adversaries across Asia and the Pacific. Pyongyang has done so despite a limited technological and industrial base.
- The world must come to terms with the fact that mega-death cannot, and will not, remain the preserve of an élite club of nations. As weapons proliferate, the risks also increase, whether by accident or design. The world must reflect — or face a long, nuclear night.
- More than 70 years after the first nuclear tests at Alamogordo in the US, the science and technology behind mass death is inexorably becoming easier for determined states to master. Short of war, there may be no means of stopping states from acquiring nuclear weapons.
- In many cases, like North Korea, preventive war may not be possible, because aspiring nuclear weapons states have superpower patrons — in this case, China — or conventional-weapons capabilities that can inflict damage too massive to countenance.
Military threats by US no more seems to be an option:
If US President Donald Trump does not engage North Korea in a dialogue process and continues to sound military threats following are the possibilities:
- With its enhanced capabilities, North Korea is bound to become more assertive. This is already evident in its demand that the US cease flying bombers over the Korean peninsula.
- A threat may potentially trigger a nuclear war.
Direct talks are the only way out to de-escalate the crisis:
- Clearly the tough talk is not working — it is only pushing North Korea’s totalitarian regime to take even more provocative steps in a quest to attain the status of a de facto nuclear power.
- China is the only regime with some degree of influence — though it is not clear exactly how much — over the North Korean regime. The Chinese, however, seem to be willing to live with a nuclear North Korea as opposed to applying drastic trade sanctions that could lead to a crippled economy and a refugee crisis besides other unpredictable response by a beleaguered regime. Internation community must pressurize China to tackle North Korea in its own way.
Accepting that North Korea won’t give up its weapons we need to open the door to pragmatic negotiations that acknowledge the realities. For example, the North Korean government could be offered some economic incentives and diplomatic recognition in return for capping its arsenal.
- Should the dialogue process resume, North Korea will have greater leverage this time around and can demand further concessions with the aim of unravelling America’s security alliances in East Asia.
- Normalising with N. Korea will have costs: It might push other states to also seek nuclear weapons.
In light of all this, it is important to de-escalate the conflict by having direct talks involving the U.S., China, South Korea and North Korea. Multilateral talks are, in fact, by far the best option.
Connecting the dots:
- North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme is no longer the joke it once was thought to be. The global community need to take adequate steps to de-escalate the grooming nuclear crisis. Discuss.
- Dramatic rise of North Korea as a nuclear country is something which should be taken as a lesson by international community especially western powers. This happened despite economic sanctions and the increasing call for preventing nuclear proliferation. Critically analyze.
General Studies 2:
- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
- Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.
General studies 3:
- Major crops cropping patterns in various parts of the country, different types of irrigation and irrigation systems storage, transport and marketing of agricultural produce and issues and related constraints; e-technology in the aid of farmers.
Enhancing Farm Income on a Sustained basis
Farm income is the excess of income from the sale of farmer’s produce over his expenditure incurred on producing the same.
It can thus be enhanced through: Maximisation of revenue; minimisation of costs of inputs, electricity, water, mechanisation, interest rates and logistics; and development of alternative sources of income.
Enhancing farm income through:
Maximisation of revenue:
- Crop selection : The farmer is an excellent economist, most of the time. However, in India, sometimes there is a mismatch between the crop produced and the demand for the same. This leads to surplus production, without a direct linkage to the market. In situations like these, there is usually a fall in prices, leading to distress sale by the farmer and subsequent farm losses. Every crop’s price is a function of global demand, supply, inventory levels, currency rates, trade flows, freight rates, interest rates, governmental policies and local politics.
With a view of assessing the same, a National Crop Planning Bureau can be set up, with a mandate to develop understanding and competencies on each of India’s major crops. This will ensure that the farmer does not overproduce a wrong crop at the cost of foregoing profits on another crop.
Further, we need to ensure that India creates global competency in a few crops. India’s agri-infrastructure is geared towards procurement, storage and movement of wheat and rice.
Planners need to identify a few more crops – corn, soyabean, potatoes, tomatoes and onions for example, where such competencies can be developed.
- Yield maximisation : While India’s population has gone up significantly, it is to the farmer’s credit that crop production has largely kept pace with the growing population. Each crop has a research centre in India, which works on testing multiple varieties of seeds. Hence, a critical component of maximisation of farmer revenue is continued research and development of higher yielding seeds.
The seed replacement rate also needs to improve in India, so as to ensure continuous enhancement of yield levels.
Further, State governments need to regularly deliver updated package of practices through their extension wings.
Mechanisation, which is improving in India, with the emergence of pay-as-you-use custom-hiring models, will also increase the yields by a fair degree.
- Collective farming and bargaining : The bane of Indian agriculture has been our fragmented land holdings. As the per capita land holding is low, it is very difficult to secure benefits of mechanisation – as well as aggregation. The mandi system of India, in spite of its pitfalls, has done a tremendous job of aggregating and consolidating farm produce.
Now, the next step in this journey is to either form FPOs (Farmer Producer Organisations/ Companies) or to form farm co-operatives (FCs). These FCs and FPOs can be directly linked to the processor, exporter or retailer. This will help in a higher proportion of the revenue going to the farmer.
Minimisation of costs:
- Inputs : Cost of inputs can be minimised by ensuring zero tax on all participants of the value chain of manufacturing the input so as to have a low end-cost of finished product, ensuring early release of subsidies to the companies or the farmers so that any built-in interest cost can be offset, continued priority sector lending rate benefits, ensuring adequate availability during peak season to avoid black marketing, and a rationalised subsidy calculation mechanism which negates net-back dilution on account of freight charges.
- Electricity and water: State energy development authorities under the Ministry of Renewable Energy should ensure that all farms shift to solar irrigation pumps, provided by the government under the National Solar Mission.
- Mechanisation: The revolution which we are seeing in urban areas on account of taxi hiring companies like Uber and Ola, needs to be taken to the farm level as well. The effort needs to be scaled up to provide other mechanised farm implements such as rotavator, cultivator, seed drill, leveller, harrow, tiller, combine harvester, soil sensors, moisture reader, precision agriculture tools, at a fraction of their cost.
- Interest rates: Interest rates on loans to farmers need to be continue being the lowest.
- Logistics: An unseen component of the overall crop economics is the cost of logistics of marketing the produce. It is here that some of the benefits of having an FPO/FC can begin to percolate. The cost of transporting higher volumes leads to lower per tonne cost of transportation.
Alternate sources of income:
- Dairy and livestock: India needs to significantly increase its milk production to meet a 50 per cent increase in projected demand in the next five years.
The government should establish formal breeding centres and subsequent sale of such cows and buffaloes to the farmers. It falls upon the government to bring some of the best technologies from Israel, as the private sector will be never be making such investments.
In addition to the breeding centres, formal cow hostels, with the best milking technologies from Israel should be established.
- Financial literacy: There is a need to take financial literacy through trusted sources like the LIC to the villages, so that the larger population of the country also becomes a prime participant in economic growth – and gets the benefits thereof to a fair degree by investing into Mutual Funds through FPOs.
- Crop insurance: The current models of crop insurance are factored basis rainfall, temperature and crop loss. However, a more robust model should take into account losses on account of pest attacks, quality deterioration. One of the ways can be by having formal tools of income measurement (mandi receipts) and insuring loss for shortfalls in such incomes.
- Job insurance: There are newer insurance products which insure jobs. The overall family income of a rural household also has a component of a non-farm job income from the informal economy (drivers, office boys, mechanics, salesmen, cleaners). This employment needs to be formalised and job losses prevented through social security programmes.
- Population control: The root cause of all of India’s farm woes are small land holdings, a consequence of our expanding population. A start needs to be made for a one-child programme, which can halve India’s population from the current 1.20 billion to 500 million by 2100. This will ensure that there is a surplus of production, higher land holdings and far higher farm incomes.
A plan to double farm incomes needs to be implemented by all State governments, irrespective of their political affiliations, so as to ensure that India becomes a fully developed country in the next 50 years. The above delineated steps can go a long way in helping achieving the goal.
Connecting the dots:
- Discuss various ways to enhance farm income on a sustained basis.
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