Pangong Tso, LAC, Chushul Valley and Demchok   

#GS2 #GS3 #INTERNATIONALRELATIONS #SECURITY 

The disengagement on the south bank of Pangong Tso (lake) will see Indian troops moving to their post in Chushul and Chinese troops to the Moldo garrison 

Background 

  • Both Indian Army and PLA were engaged in the standoff in Pangong Tso, Galwan Valley, Demchok and Daulat Beg Oldie in eastern Ladakh. 
  • China had transgressed into the Indian side of the de-facto border in several areas including Pangong Tso. 
  • The actions on the northern bank of Pangong Tso are not just for territorial gains on land, but enhanced domination of the resource-rich lake. 
  • The stand-off at Ladakh’s Galwan Valley has escalated due to the infrastructure projects that India has undertaken in the recent years.  
  • India is building a strategic road through the Galwan Valley - close to China - connecting the region to an airstrip. 
  • China is opposed to any Indian construction in the area. In 1962, a stand-off in the Galwan area was one of the biggest flashpoints of the 1962 war. 
  • The border, or Line of Actual Control, is not demarcated, and China and India have differing ideas of where it should be located, leading to regular border “transgressions.” Often these don’t escalate tensions; a serious border standoff like the current one is less frequent, though this is the fourth since 2013. 
  • Both Indian and Chinese troops have patrolled this region for decades, as the contested 2,200-mile border is a long-standing subject of competing claims and tensions, including a brief war in 1962. 

Pangong Tso 

  • In the Ladakhi language, Pangong means extensive concavity, and Tso is lake in Tibetan.  
  • Pangong Tso is a long narrow, deep, endorheic (landlocked) lake situated at a height of more than 14,000 ft in the Ladakh Himalayas.  
  • The western end of Pangong Tso lies 54 km to the southeast of Leh.  
  • The 135 km-long lake sprawls over 604 sq km in the shape of a boomerang, and is 6 km wide at its broadest point.  
  • It extends from India to the Tibetan Autonomous Region, China. Approximately 60% of the length of the lake lies within the Tibetan Autonomous Region.  
  • The brackish water lake freezes over in winter (despite being saline in nature), and becomes ideal for ice skating and polo.  
  • It is not a part of the Indus river basin.  
  • The legendary 19th century Dogra general Zorawar Singh is said to have trained his soldiers and horses on the frozen Pangong lake before invading Tibet. 

Line of Actual Control 

  • The LAC is the demarcation that separates Indian-controlled territory from Chinese-controlled territory.   
  • India considers the LAC to be 3,488 km long, while the Chinese consider it to be only around 2,000 km.   
  • It is divided into three sectors: the eastern sector which spans Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim, the middle sector in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, and the western sector in Ladakh.  
  • The alignment of the LAC in the eastern sector is along the 1914 McMahon Line, and there are minor disputes about the positions on the ground as per the principle of the high Himalayan watershed.   
  • This pertains to India’s international boundary as well, but for certain areas such as Longju and Asaphila. The line in the middle sector is the least controversial but for the precise alignment to be followed in the Barahoti plains.  
  • The major disagreements are in the western sector where the LAC emerged from two letters written by Chinese Prime Minister Zhou Enlai to PM Jawaharlal Nehru in 1959, after he had first mentioned such a ‘line’ in 1956.   
  • In his letter, Zhou said the LAC consisted of “the so-called McMahon Line in the east and the line up to which each side exercises actual control in the west”. Shivshankar Menon has explained in his book Choices: Inside the Making of India’s Foreign Policy that the LAC was “described only in general terms on maps not to scale” by the Chinese.  
  • After the 1962 War, the Chinese claimed they had withdrawn to 20 km behind the LAC of November 1959. Zhou clarified the LAC again after the war in another letter to Nehru: “To put it concretely, in the eastern sector it coincides in the main with the so-called McMahon Line, and in the western and middle sectors it coincides in the main with the traditional customary line which has consistently been pointed out by China”.   
  • During the Doklam crisis in 2017, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson urged India to abide by the “1959 LAC”. 

Chushul Valley 

  • The Chushul sub-sector lies south of Pangong Tso in eastern Ladakh. 
  • It comprises high, broken mountains and heights of Thatung, Black Top, Helmet Top, Gurung Hill, and Magger Hill besides passes such as Rezang La and Reqin La, the Spanggur Gap, and the Chushul valley. 
  • Situated at a height of over 13,000 feet close to the LAC, the Chushul Valley has a vital airstrip that played an important role even during the 1962 War with China. 

Strategic importance:  

  • Chushul is one among the five Border Personnel Meeting points between the Indian Army and the People’s Liberation Army of China. 
  • It enjoys tremendous strategic and tactical importance because of its location and terrain, which make it a centre for logistics deployment. 
  • This sector has plains that are a couple of km wide, where mechanized forces, including tanks, can be deployed. Its airstrip and connectivity by road to Leh add to its operational advantages. 
  • Indian troops have now secured the ridgeline in this sub-sector that allows them to dominate the Chushul bowl on the Indian side, and Moldo sector on the Chinese side. 
  • They also have a clear sight of the almost 2-km-wide Spanggur gap, which the Chinese used in the past to launch attacks on this sector in the 1962 War. 
  • Chushul is the gateway to Leh. If China enters the Chushul, it can launch its operations for Leh. 
  • After the initial attacks, including on the Galwan valley by the Chinese in October 1962, the PLA troops prepared to attack Chushul airfield and the valley to get direct access to Leh. 
  • However, just before the attacks were launched, the area was reinforced by the 114 Brigade in November 1962, which also had under its command two troops of armour and some artillery. 

Depsang Plains 

  • The Depsang Plains are located in the north-western part of Aksai Chin.  
  • They are bounded on the north by the valley of the Chip Chap River and on the west by the Shyok River.  
  • On the east they are bounded by low hills of the "Lak Tsung" range, which separate them from the basin of the Karakash River.  
  • In the south, the Depsang Plains proper end at the Depsang La pass, but in common parlance, the Depsang area is taken to extend till Burtsa Nala, which flows between Burtsa and Murgo. 
  • The Karakoram Pass is located to the north of Depsang while the Lingzi Thang plains lie to the southeast. On the west is the southern part of the Rimo glacier, the source of the Shyok River. 

Demchok   

  • Also called Parigas by China, Demchok is a village and military encampment in the Demchok sector disputed between India and China.  
  • It is administered as part of the Nyoma tehsil in the Leh district of Ladakh by India, and claimed by China as part of the Tibet Autonomous Region.  
  • The Line of Actual Control (LAC) passes along the southeast side of the village, following the Charding Nullah upstream from the nearby Indus River.  
  • The Chinese-administered village of Dêmqog, Ngari Prefecture is 600m away, across the stream.  

The Charding Nullah  

  • Traditionally known as the Lhari stream and called the Demchok River by China, Charding Nullah is a small river that originates near the Charding La pass that is also on the border between the two countries and flows northeast to join the Indus River near a peak called "Lhari Karpo" (white holy peak).  
  • There are villages on both sides of the mouth of the river, romanised as Demchok and Dêmqog.  
  • The river serves as the de facto border between China and India in the Demchok sector. 

 

 

Inter-marriages can reduce caste tensions 

#GS1 #IndianSociety 

  • Educated youngsters are showing the way forward to reduce caste and community tensions in India by tying the knot in inter-marriages, the Supreme Court said in a recent judgment. 
  • It observed that the departure from the earlier norms of society where caste and community played a major role is possibly the way forward where caste and community tensions will reduce by such inter-marriages. 
  • Justice Kaul quoted B.R. Ambedkar’s Annihilation of Caste – “I am convinced that the real remedy is intermarriage. Fusion of blood can alone create the feeling of being kith and kin, and unless this feeling of kinship, of being kindred, becomes paramount, the separatist feeling — the feeling of being aliens — created by caste will not vanish.” 
  • Also, Justice Kaul in his judgement observed that “consent of the family or community or clan is not necessary once the two adult individuals agree to enter into a wedlock and that their consent has to be piously given primacy”. 

Challenges:  

  • Several states have passed the religious conversion laws. 
  • The promulgation of Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance drew much criticisms and concerns. 

 

 

Reservation 

#GS2 #Governance 

  • Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe applicants are half as likely to get selected for a Ph.D. programme at leading IITs in the country as aspirants from the General Category (GC) are. 
  • Data collated from a series of RTI applications, including from The Hindu, on the number of applicants versus the number of those admitted to Ph.D. programmes in the five older IITs have indicated that the acceptance rate is skewed against students from the SC, ST, and Other Backward Classes (OBC) communities. 

 Why reservation needed? 

  • To correct the historical injustice faced by backward castes in the country. 
  • To provide a level playing field for backward section as they cannot compete with those who have had the access of resources and means for centuries. 
  • To ensure adequate representation of backward classes in the services under the State. 
  • For advancement of backward classes. 
  • To ensure equality as basis of meritocracy i.e all people must be brought to the same level before judging them on the basis of merit. 

Argument Against Reservation 

  • Reservation in state services led to divisions and enmity among government employees, vitiating the atmosphere at workplace. 
  • Eradication, not perpetuation of caste was the objective of the reservation policy but Caste Based Reservation only perpetuate the notion of caste in society. 
  • Reservation was introduced to ensure that the historically underprivileged communities were given equal access to resources but irrespective of the economic progress they continue to remain socially disadvantaged. 
  • Reservation destroys self-respect, so much so that competition is no longer on to determine the best but the most backward. 
  • Reservations are the biggest enemy of meritocracy which is the foundation of many progressive countries. 
  • It has become a tool to meet narrow political ends through invoking class loyalties and primordial identities. 
  • The dominant and elite class within the backward castes has appropriated the benefits of reservation and the most marginalised within the backward castes have remained marginalised. 
  • Reservation has become the mechanism of exclusion rather than inclusion as many upper caste poors are also facing discrimination and injustice which breeds frustration in the society. 

Reasons Behind Increasing Demands of Reservation 

  • Reservation is increasingly seen as a remedy for the adverse effects of ill-thought out development policies. 
  • In developed states like Haryana, Gujarat and Maharashtra, in spite of their economies being relatively better, three things have been worrying the people: 
  1. Acute agrarian distress, 
  2. Stagnation in employment growth and 
  3. Distortions in the development trajectory. 
  • In this backdrop, for governments, it is easier to talk of reservation than to make a course correction. 
  • Increasing reservation demands among upper castes also arising from the fear of losing privilege and the inability to cope with change 
  • Upper castes have begun to feel disadvantaged especially in context of government jobs as they don’t get similar advantages like backward classes. 

 

 

UNSC, UNHRC, Myanmar Coup 

#GS2 #InternationalRelations 

  • The United Nations human rights investigator for Myanmar on Friday urged the UN Security Council to consider imposing punitive sanctions, arms embargoes and travel bans in response to a military coup. 
  • The United States, which imposed its own sanctions on Thursday, urged other UN member states to follow suit, in its first remarks to the Human Rights Council since returning to the forum this week. 

UN Security Council  

  • It is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations (UN). 
  • Like the UN as a whole, it was created following World War II to address the failings of a previous international organization, the League of Nations, in maintaining world peace. 
  • The council held its first session in 1946. 
  • It is the only body of the UN with the authority to issue binding resolutions to member states. 
  • The Security Council consists of fifteen members: 
  • The great powers that were the victors of World War II – the Soviet Union (now represented by Russia), the United Kingdom, France, Republic of China (now represented by the People's Republic of China), and the United States – serve as the body's five permanent members. 
  • These can veto any substantive resolution, including those on the admission of new member states or nominees for the office of Secretary-General. 
  • In addition, the council has 10 non-permanent members, elected on a regional basis to serve a term of two years. 
  • The body's presidency rotates monthly among its members. 
  • Resolutions of the Security Council are typically enforced by UN peacekeepers, military forces voluntarily provided by member states and funded independently of the main UN budget. 
  • Unlike the General Assembly, the Security Council meets year-round. Each Security Council member must have a representative available at UN Headquarters at all times in case an emergency meeting becomes necessary. 
  • Due to the public scrutiny of the Security Council Chamber, all of the real work of the Security Council is conducted behind closed doors in "informal consultations". 

UN Human Rights Council  

  • The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is a United Nations body whose mission is to promote and protect human rights around the world. 
  • The UNHRC has 47 members elected for staggered three-year terms on a regional group basis from 5 groups. 
  • To become a member, a country must receive the votes of at least 96 of the 191 states of the UN General Assembly (an absolute majority). 
  • The members are elected for a period of three years, with a maximum of two consecutive terms. 
  • In electing Council members, the resolution provides that General Assembly members “shall take into account the candidates’ contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights and their voluntary pledges and commitments made thereto.” 
  • The UNHRC holds regular sessions three times a year, in March, June, and September. 
  • Members serve for a period of three years and are not eligible for immediate re-election after serving two consecutive terms. 

Myanmar Coup 

  • The party of Myanmar’s detained leader Aung San Suu Kyi called on Tuesday for her immediate release.  
  • Myanmar’s military seized power in a coup against the democratically elected government of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who was detained along with other leaders of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party. The Army said it had carried out the detentions in response to election fraud.  
  • The power is handed over to the military chief Min Aung Hlaing  
  • Emergency has been imposed in the state of for one year.  
  • “India does care about democracy in Myanmar, but that’s a luxury it knows it will not be able to afford for the time being” 

India is a stakeholder 

  • Myanmar plays important role in tackling insurgency in Northeast India. Insurgent groups such as ISCN-K, ISCN-IM have operational bases inside Myanmar, since both countries share long border. The Myanmar government led by Aung San Suu Kyi cooperated with India in controlling the insurgent activities especially, the Naga insurgency. 
  • Myanmar is located between India and Southeast Asian countries. Hence, Myanmar is of strategical importance for connectivity between India and South-East Asian countries. India considers Myanmar as the “gateway to the East” and ASEAN countries.  
  • A stable Myanmar can prevent fleeing of refugees. The recent Rohingya issue had led to many refugees moving to India, putting pressure on the government.  
  • Infrastructure development, economical development projects in the North-Eastern India can be enhanced with co-operation with Myanmar. India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway and the Kaladan multi-modal transit transport network, as well as a plan for a Special Economic Zone at the Sittwe deep-water port are some of the projects that is undergoing.  
  • Both the countries are also engaged in defence cooperation. India and Myanmar conducts joint military exercise named India – Myanmar Bilateral Military Exercise (IMBEX). Both the armies had jointly carried out Operation Sunrise twice. Under Operation Sunrise, the India-Myanmar armies jointly target the militant groups that operates in the border states. 

 

 

Inflation, CPI 

#GS3 #Economy 

  • India’s retail inflation slowed to a 16-month low of 4.06% in January, helped by a sharp deceleration in food prices, while industrial output rebounded to growth of 1% in December aided by increases in electricity and manufacturing. 

Inflation 

  • Inflation is defined as a situation where there is sustained, unchecked increase in the general price level of goods and services in an economy 

Indices which measure inflation in an economy:  

Wholesale Price Index (WPI) 

  • WPI measures the changes in the prices of goods sold and traded in bulk by wholesale businesses to other businesses. In other words, WPI tracks prices at the factory gate before the retail level. 
  • The numbers are released by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry 
  • Even as the WPI is used as a key measure of inflation in some economies, the RBI no longer uses it for policy purposes, including setting repo rates. 
  • Consumer Price Index (CPI) – Retail Inflation 
  • It is an index measuring retail inflation in the economy by collecting the change in prices of most common goods and services used by consumers. 
  • It is released by Central Statistics Office (CSO) under Ministry of Statistics and Programme implementation 
  • In April 2014, the RBI had adopted the CPI as its key measure of inflation 

What is the difference between WPI & CPI? 

  • WPI, tracks inflation at the producer level and CPI captures changes in prices levels at the consumer level. 
  • Both baskets measure inflationary trends (the movement of price signals) within the broader economy, the two indices differ in which weightages are assigned to food, fuel and manufactured items. 
  • WPI does not capture changes in the prices of services, which CPI does. 

Headline Retail Inflation vs Core Inflation 

  • Headline inflation is the raw inflation figure reported through the Consumer Price Index (CPI) that is released by CSO. The headline figure is not adjusted for seasonality or for the often-volatile elements 
  • Core inflation removes the CPI components that can exhibit large amounts of volatility from month to month, which can cause unwanted distortion to the headline figure. The most commonly removed factors are those relating to the cost of food and energy. 
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