International Relations Notes 2020 (#1): Banning Of Chinese Apps On National Security Ground; The 13th Amendment

Banning Of Chinese Apps On National Security Ground

  • The blocking of Chinese mobile applications suggests that the Indian government wants to make it amply clear that it will use its status as a massive market for technology in dealing with potentially dangerous geopolitical issues.
  • Since June, when border tensions between India and China turned ugly, the government has till now stepped in thrice to block many Chinese applications in one go.
  • Loss of access to the Indian market is expected to affect the ambitions of the Chinese Internet companies.
  • However, what is not clear, whether banning Chinese apps can be effective in dealing with geopolitical issues.
  • Another thing that needs to be discussed is: Can India alone punish the Chinese internet giant, who are well entrenched in the global tech supply chain without adversely affecting its own growth?
  • It is difficult to argue against decisions that are taken on the plank of national security, especially one arrived at by invoking the government’s power under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act.
  • Meanwhile, millions of Indians who were engaging with these platforms, have to scramble for alternatives. To add to this, the data protection law, a dire need in this age, is not yet there.
  • All this does not bode well for a country with aspirations of global leadership of tech.
  • Ironically, China, which for years has unleashed widespread censorship of information and kept apps from outside off its Internet, has accused India of “abusing the concept of national security”.
  • The last thing India needs is to be compared with China as far as its Internet regulation goes. It certainly needs a more considered approach to tech regulation.

Source: The Hindu Editorial, September 5

The 13th Amendment

After the Rajapaksas’ win in the November 2019 presidential polls and the August 2020 general election, the spotlight has fallen on two key legislations in Sri Lanka’s Constitution. One, the 19th Amendment, that was passed in 2015 to curb powers of the Executive President, while strengthening Parliament and independent commissions. The Rajapaksa government has already drafted and gazetted the 20th Amendment.

  • The other legislation under sharp focus is the 13th Amendment passed in 1987, which mandates a measure of power devolution to the provincial councils established to govern the island’s nine provinces.
  • It is an outcome of the Indo-Lanka Accord of July 1987, signed by the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and President J.R. Jayawardene.
  • 13th Amendment was expected to resolve Sri Lanka’s ethnic conflict that had aggravated into a full-fledged civil war, between the armed forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
  • The 13th Amendment, which led to the creation of Provincial Councils, assured a power sharing arrangement to enable all nine provinces in the country.
  • The 13th Amendment carries considerable baggage from the country’s civil war years.
  • It was opposed vociferously by both Sinhala nationalist parties and the LTTE. The former thought it was too much power to share, while the Tigers deemed it too little.

Source: The Hindu, September 6

India-China Border Dispute And Role Of Market

After the loss of lives of Indian soldiers at Galwan, there have been calls for the boycott of Chinese goods. Counter views have been expressed that the Indian economy is so dependent on China that the costs of taking steps to stop imports would be disproportionately higher for India.

  • It is true that manufacturing in India is dependent on global supply chains where China has a leading role.
  • But, we can reduce our dependence on China substantially if there is a national will and resolve to do so.
  • India needs to get China to seriously negotiate a mutually acceptable boundary agreement.
  • The size of the Indian market and its potential in the coming years provides India considerable leverage.
  • India should make it simply clear to China that there cannot be business as usual without a mutually satisfactory border settlement.
  • The Chinese have competitive advantage and are integral to global supply chains.
  • But whatever they sell is, and can be, made elsewhere in the world. In fact, most of what we import from China was, is and can be made in India itself.
  • The initial focus should be on items which are still being made in India and where imports from China have been increasing.
  • The government should also facilitate the flow of finances for expansion and provide technical support for testing, improving quality and lowering costs of production.
  • Then there are strategic sectors where we should reduce vulnerability. Chinese FDI must be subjected to national security scrutiny. The government has made some moves in this direction.
  • Chinese firms should not be allowed to participate in bids for all contracts by the central and state governments and their agencies.
  • Then there are critical products like solar panels and grid storage batteries. In these areas, private investment for manufacturing in India would be triggered by assured government procurement at a commercially viable price.

Source: India must leverage its market to force China to settle border issue amicably (August 28)

Vaccine Nationalism

  • Even before the end of final stage human trials or regulatory approval, several wealthier countries like Britain, France, Germany and the US have entered into pre-purchase agreements with Covid-19 vaccine manufacturers.
  • This development has come to be known as “vaccine nationalism”. This is done through pre-purchase agreements between a government and a vaccine manufacturer.
  • Such advance agreements by the rich countries will make the initial few vaccines unaffordable and inaccessible to everyone apart from the rich countries.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that nations that hoard possible Covid-19 vaccines while excluding others will deepen the pandemic.
  • To bring about equitable and broad access, WHO, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, and Gavi have come up with an initiative known as “Covax Facility”.
  • The facility aims to procure at least two billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines by the end of next year for deployment and distribution mainly in the low- and middle-income countries.

Source: Explained: Vaccine nationalism, and how it impacts the Covid-19 fight (Indian Express, August 23)

Importance Of Ladakh’s Pangong Tso South Bank

  • Recently, the Indian Army thwarted an attempt by China to change the status quo near the Line of Actual Control (LAC) by deploying its troops to a previously un-deployed area on the southern bank of the Pangong Tso Lake in eastern Ladakh.
  • While the Pangong Lake has been among the most contentious sectors in the ongoing military standoff in eastern Ladakh, the activity until now had been restricted to the northern bank.
  • Pangong Tso is an endorheic lake (landlocked) that is partly in India’s Ladakh region and partly in Tibet.
  • Pangong in Ladakhi means extensive concavity, the word Tso is Tibetan for lake.
  • Situated at an elevation of about 4,270 m, it is a nearly 135-km long, narrow lake — 6 km at its widest point — and shaped liked a boomerang. Its total area is over 600 sq km.
  • The Karakoram Mountain range, which crosses Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and India, with heights of over 6,000 metres including K2, the world’s second highest peak, ends at the north bank of Pangong Tso. Its southern bank too has high broken mountains sloping towards Spangur Lake in the south.
  • Nearly two-thirds of the lake is controlled by China, with just about 45 km under Indian control.
  • But India and China have unsettled borders, and the perception of the LAC differs in multiple sectors, including on Pangong Tso.
  • At the lake’s north bank, according to India, the international boundary is close to Khurnak Fort, a 19th-century ruin.
  • But the LAC, according to India, is around 15 km west. On the north bank are spurs that jut into the lake, identified as fingers. India says the LAC passes through Finger 8; China claims it is farther west.
  • Compared to the north bank, the difference in perception of the LAC is not very wide in the south bank.

Source: Explained: The importance of Ladakh’s Pangong Tso south bank; Indian Express (September 6, 2020)

Image by Jan Vašek from Pixabay