SYNOPSIS: IASbaba’s TLP – 2018: UPSC Mains General Studies Questions [30th January 2018]- Day 47

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  • February 2, 2018
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TLP-UPSC Mains Answer Writing
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SYNOPSIS: IASbaba’s TLP – 2018: UPSC Mains General Studies Questions [30th January 2018]- Day 47


Q.1) Why has SAARC withered as a regional grouping and failed to address areas of common interests? Examine. Also comment on the potential of BIMSTEC as an alternative to SAARC.


The failure of SAARC to nurture cooperation in South Asia has pushed regional players to search for an alternative.  BIMSTEC, grouping the nations in the Bay of Bengal region, is popularly favored as the viable option. Two decades since its inception, however, BIMSTEC’s successes have been minimal.

SAARC and its issues:

SAARC has eight member countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. While the organization was intended to enhance regional cooperation in South Asia, from its very inception, member countries treated it with suspicion and mistrust.

The SAARC has come under serious scrutiny in the last few years, as it has failed to address the areas of common interests in all the arenas.

  • Even after three decades of its existence, SAARC’s performance has been less than satisfactory, and its role in strengthening regional cooperation is being questioned.
  • At the 18th SAARC summit in Kathmandu in 2014, initiatives such as the SAARC–Motor Vehicle Agreement (MVA)—crucial for harnessing regional connectivity across South Asia—could be not signed due to Pakistan’s dithering.
  • SAARC faced another setback after the 19th summit scheduled to be held in Pakistan in 2016 was suspended for an indefinite period, as member countries declined to participate, pointing to what they said was the absence of a conducive regional environment.
  • The South Asia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) is often highlighted as a prominent outcome of SAARC, but that, too, is yet to be implemented.
  • Despite SAFTA coming into effect as early as 2006, the intra-regional trade continues to be at a meagre five percent.
  • SAARC does not have any arrangement for resolving disputes or mediating conflicts.
  • Disputes among the member countries often hamper consensus building, thus slowing down the decision-making process.

In recent times, the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) has gained more favor as the preferred platform for regional cooperation in South Asia.

  • After India hosted a mini-summit during the BRICS meeting in Goa in 2016, support for BIMSTEC gained further momentum. By comparing BIMSTEC and SAARC, this brief explores the efficacy of BIMSTEC as a platform for regional cooperation in the South Asian context.
  • The brief also highlights the problems in both organizations and the corrective measures required to strengthen them.
  • The grouping is promoting 14 priority sectors of development and common concerns including trade and investment, transport and communication, tourism and people-to-people contact.


Before delving into the workings of BIMSTEC, one must understand the need for regional cooperation in South Asia in the first place. Trends in global affairs suggest growing resistance towards regional cooperation, once considered a preferred means for propelling economic prosperity among participating countries.

Best Answer: kanishka


2. Examine the significance of ASEAN for India’s economic, geo-strategic and security imperatives.


  • Introduction- Brief on ASEAN, Recent developments.
  • Economic, geo-strategic and security importance.
  • Challenges
  • Conclusion


The year 2017 was an important landmark as India and the ASEAN commemorated 25 years of their partnership, 15 years of summit-level interaction, and five years of strategic partnership.

Economic importance:

  • Economic transformation of the highly underdeveloped NE States of India will be possible once connectivity with ASEAN nations improves.
  • Trade between India and ASEAN comprises 10.12% of India’s total trade with the world. Conclusion of a balanced Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Agreement will further boost our trade and investment ties with the region.

Geo-strategic importance:

  • Maintaining stability in the region – Amidst the aggressive behaviour of China, ASEAN nations want India to take and play leadership role in improving commerce, connectivity and security in the region.
  • Importance of Malacca Strait- More than two-third of world trade passes through this strait.


  • ASEAN countries, particularly Myanmar, Vietnam & Malaysia can potentially contribute to India’s energy security.
  • Cooperation in areas such as maritime security including freedom of navigation, drug trafficking and cybercrime.
  • Together they can work to tackle terrorism, religious extremism and the ISIS.


There has been a sense of disillusionment on both sides about the present state of play in the relationship. While the ASEAN member states have been disappointed that India performs less than its potential in the region, New Delhi’s expectations regarding a more robust support for its regional outreach too have not been met.

Way forward:

  • Focusing on the 3 Cs- Commerce, Culture and Connectivity.
  • Full utilisation of the ASEAn-India Free Trade Area and conclusion of RCEP.
  • New Delhi needs to focus on effective delivery of projects it is already committed to. Prompt completion of projects like India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway will bring in the confidence
  • Cultural connect between the two needs strengthening.
  • While India offers scholarships to students from ASEAN states to study at Nalanda University, this initiative should be extended to the IITs and the IIMs.
  • Tourism too can be further encouraged between India and the ASEAN with some creative branding by the two sides..


India-ASEAN relations have evolved over time. The need now is to focus on functional cooperation.

Best answer: Kanishka



3. India’s engagement with the African countries is one that of shared history of colonialism and struggle against the imperial powers. It makes India the natural partner for the Africans. However, on the contrary, it is China that has made deep inroads into the African continent. Why? Analyse.

  • Introduction: Give small intro about India-Africa relationship.
  • Body: In body, the answer should contain two parts, one about how India and Africa are natural partners and second part why China’s is able to make inroads.
  • Conclusion: 2-3 line conclusion.


India’s relationship with Africa dates back to many centuries which started during colonial era with movement of Indians to work in African fields, studies purpose and entrepreneurship. One of the famous person among them was Mahatma Gandhi.


How India and Africa are natural partners:

  • Colonial Struggle: Independence struggle.
  • Diaspora: Has many PIO and OCI. Urjit Patel.
  • Majority are agriculture depended population.
  • Poverty and Human Development.
  • Inclusive economic growth.
  • Sustainable development.

But China has made deep inroads:

    • Economic might.
    • Investment potential.
    • Technical expertise.
    • Hard power: Djibouti.
    • Manpower and efficiency.
    • Price.
    • Government support.
    • Psychology: Geographic size of China is larger. It also has a bearing when someone sees the size and internal development.
    • Global image: Srilanka, Vietnam, Myanmar etc.
    • India’s internal politics and foreign policy.
  • Diplomacy: The diplomatic effort and resource investment.

Note: Explanations are required for all points. 8-10 points are enough. 2nd part needs more concentration than first.


India is also trying to catch up with china in terms of its presence in African continent. But for near future matching China’s presence will be difficult given the present home conditions where we need to first concentrate on growth and development at home turf.

Connecting the dots:

  • India’s soft power.

Best Answer: No Best Answer.

4. Latin America remains a vastly under-explored avenue in India’s foreign policy. Do you agree? How can India benefit by deepening its ties with the Latin American countries? Discuss.

  • Introduction: Give small intro about Latin America and India’s relationship.
  • Body: In body, the answer should contain two parts, one about why Latin America remains under-explored avenue and second part how exploring will benefit India.
  • Conclusion: 2-3 line conclusion.


Until now India’s presence in Latin America is limited to Brazil and trade relationship with that part of world is also very limited. Even the bilateral relationship is non-existent except with Brazil. Presently we have relationship only through MERCOSUR which is a trade bloc comprising 4 latin American countries.  


Why Latin America is under explored:

  • Distance.
  • Trade routes: Lack of access to sea route and also time.
  • Language.
  • Lack of Historical ties.
  • Cultural differences.

How India can benefit:

  • Energy Security.
  • Investment destination: IT, Pharma etc.
  • Trade growth.
  • Foreign exchange through tourists.
  • Agriculture.
  • Service sector.
  • China: China also has less presence in region, so India can be pioneer and help gain influence.
  • UNSC: Voting and pressure.
  • Global soft power.

Note: Explanations are required for all points. 8-10 points are enough. Give more weightage to first part.


Separate policy is required under foreign policy for that region. India can explore the region starting by Bilateral Visits, Cultural exchange and organizing trade shows by diplomatic offices. Then eventually private sector will follow when they identify opportunity for growth and development. By foundation has to be set by government.

Connecting the dots:

  • India- New Zealand.
  • India-Scandinavian countries.

Best Answer: Aspirant 001





  • It is a two part question, but inter-related
  • First answer how Gulf region is important for India’s energy needs (use diagram)
  • Then devote the second half for security part of the question


India is an energy-deficit country. It imports 80% of its crude oil and 40% of its natural gas needs. Yet 300 million in India are still without electricity. As the population further increases, the need for rapid economic development will hinge on availability of energy resources. The resource-rich Gulf region can play an important role in fulfilling India’s future energy needs:

Importance for India’s Energy Needs

  • 60% of the world’s explorable crude oil is concentrated in the Gulf region. Countries like Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Iraq have the largest oil fields.
  • Abundant availability combined with geographic proximity to India (via the Arabian Sea) makes import of oil relatively cheaper due to lower transportation cost. Already India imports 65-70% of its oil from the Gulf region.

  • India is a leading country in terms of petroleum refinery capability and there is great demands for Indian refinery products in the Gulf countries. Hence, there is great potential for mutual trade.
  • Qatar is a major exporter of natural gas to India – required to sustain the domestic fertilizer industry which is critical for Indian agriculture
  • India and UAE have signed an MOU where UAE agreed to provide strategic oil reserves to India

Importance for Security Concerns

Moreover, India shares close relations with almost all Gulf nations which employ the largest Indian diaspora of 7 million sending huge remittances. Stability in the region is important to ensure the security of Indian diaspora.

Furthermore, countries like Saudi Arabia and UAE share close relations with Pakistan and can play a huge role in putting pressure on the latter regarding its alleged support to terrorism. India can leverage her deepening relations with the Gulf countries to isolate Pakistan on the international platform. Therefore, the Gulf region is not only important for India’s energy needs but also her security concerns, too.

Best Answer: None

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