Gist of The Hindu: August 2014
By getting a resolution rejecting the Andhra Pradesh
Reorganisation Bill for creating Telangana passed by the State Assembly just
before the deadline set by President Pranab Mukherjee to consider the Bill ended
on Thursday, Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy did what little he could to
protect what he saw as his political constituency: those standing for a united
Andhra Pradesh in the Rayalaseema and Coastal Andhra regions. Neither the delay
nor the ultimate rejection of the Telangana Bill by the Assembly will have any
bearing on the creation of the new State if the Centre stands firm on its
decision on Telangana. The Chief Minister, in raising legal and technical
objections to the Bill, might have managed to convey the opposition of large
sections of the people in Seemandhra to the division of Andhra Pradesh, but the
manner in which the proceedings of the House were conducted from the day the
Bill was introduced till the day it was rejected reflects badly on his
government and the democratic traditions of the legislature. Speaker Nadendla
Manohar, who too is politically opposed to Telangana, put the Chief Minister’s
contentious resolution to a voice vote amid noisy scenes, and declared the
motion carried in a matter of two minutes. It was obvious from the regional
representation in the House that those opposed to the Bill constituted a
majority. The Bill presented a chance to address the concerns raised by the
proposal to bifurcate Andhra Pradesh. Instead, the time was used for political
posturing and the reiteration of known positions by both sides. Pro-Telangana
members, on their part, did not press for a division amid the din, perhaps
because they did not want to expose their lack of numbers. The voice vote was,
in effect, the only mode of expression of the views of the legislature. Now that
the onus is on the Centre to shepherd the Bill through Parliament, the Congress
must eschew any temptation to use this issue as part of any electoral strategy
before the Lok Sabha polls. With the national leadership of the party backing
the creation of Telangana, and the State unit divided on geographical lines,
making this a campaign issue is anyway fraught with risks. No political
consensus on the Bill is possible at this late stage, but the Centre can bring
in amendments to the Bill to incorporate the concerns of other parties and
representatives of Rayalaseema and Coastal Andhra. As the support of the
Bharatiya Janata Party is necessary in the Rajya Sabha, the Congress will have
to keep the Bill open for amendments. The State legislature was robbed of a
free, reasoned debate on the issue, but hopefully Parliament will consider all
aspects of the Bill before bringing Telangana into being.
Keeping people and tigers safe
As conservation of wild species becomes more successful,
higher levels of human-wildlife conflict are being reported in many parts of the
country. The outcome of such encounters is a distressing number of human lives
lost, and the tragic elimination of the wild creatures involved in the attacks.
The ‘man-eating tiger’ incident in Dodabetta in the Nilgiris, which ended in the
gunning down of the cat, brings to the fore the dilemma of ensuring a safe
distance between wild animals and people. Evidently, there are no easy answers
to this question, not just in India but in several other countries that have
Two strategies often adopted to prevent conflict rely on
modification of human and animal behaviour. Farmers are encouraged to switch to
cash crops to avoid attracting elephants, while forest departments provide
access to water within protected areas to stop animals from moving out. Wild
creatures in turn learn to avoid places rendered inaccessible through
trench-digging and building of fences. Yet, these are by no means fail-safe
interventions. It is necessary to identify areas for intensive protection, and
encourage forest-dwelling communities to move out — of course, with sufficient
attention devoted to their rehabilitation at a new location. Removal of problem
animals often becomes unavoidable if there are human casualties and there is a
prospect of more people being killed. It would appear ironic, but conservation
advice in such circumstances is usually to swiftly eliminate the lone animal,
such as the Dodabetta tiger, rather than attempt slow capture and risk negative
public attitudes to tigers as a whole. Unfortunately, it is not easy to identify
the individual tiger or leopard, and the conflict may continue even after one
animal is shot dead. In Chikmagalur district, for instance, 17 leopards had to
be shot in 1995 before the problem of attacks on people stopped. Research
evidence supports a strategy that relies on ‘spatial separation’ of people and
animals as a more rewarding means of conflict reduction. If isolated villages
and free ranging cattle are moved out of the small land area that makes up
India’s protected forests, the risk of an encounter with fierce creatures can be
brought down. The problem today is that successfully managed national parks and
sanctuaries are witnessing a rise in tiger and leopard numbers, leading to the
dispersal of old and injured animals towards habitations on the periphery and
even beyond. Future conservation strategies would have to rely on
well-administered wildlife sanctuaries, and equally on a voluntary resettlement
programme for forest communities.
‘U.S. spied on 2009 climate summit’
The U.S. government spied on delegates at the high-profile UN
climate summit in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 2009, a document obtained by some
media houses via whistle-blower Edward Snowden has revealed. The talks were
spied on to get critical prior information on the host country and others’
negotiating positions even as U.S. President Barack Obama flew in to sign a deal
The summit saw the coming together of more than 90 heads of
state and delegates from more than 180 countries to hammer out a binding global
deal on climate change, but the talks collapsed. A political agreement, The
Copenhagen Accord, worked out by the U.S., taking the lead to negotiate with
four other BASIC countries — Brazil, India, China and South Africa — could not
be adopted by consensus as a UN agreement. The document, an internal U.S.
National Security Agency text, reads: “Analysts here at NSA, as well as our
Second Party partners, will continue to provide policymakers with unique,
timely, and valuable insights into key countries’ preparations and goals for the
conference, as well as deliberations within countries on climate change policies
and negotiating strategies.”
It goes on to record, “A late November report detailed
China’s efforts to coordinate its position with India and ensure that the two
leaders of the developing world are working towards the same outcome. Another
report provided advance details of the Danish proposal and their efforts to
launch a “rescue plan” to save COP-15.” The Danish hosts prepared an alternative
agreement that they intended to float at the annual summit. This after talks for
a new deal floundered through the year under immense global scrutiny and civil
society pressure to stitch up an ‘ambitious climate deal’. An early sketch of
the elements of this draft was floated by Denmark in a round of informal
meetings — referred to in the climate negotiations jargon as the pre-COP — some
weeks before the summit, but delegates were not allowed to take back copies of
the documents. Delegates from the select countries did take notes as time
permitted. The media reported on these elements days before the summit got off
But the NSA document reveals that the U.S. administration had
got early access to the entire document which helped it keep ahead of other
countries at the negotiations during the fortnight of talks. The NSA document,
authored days ahead of the talks, said, “While the outcome of the Copenhagen
Climate Change Conference remains uncertain, signals intelligence will
undoubtedly play a significant role in keeping our negotiators as well-informed
as possible throughout the 2-week event.”
For days the rumours of the ‘Danish document’ floated at the
Copenhagen talks, with many countries expressing anger and anguish at the opaque
and covert operations of the hosts along with geopolitically-powerful countries.
The climate talks are meant to be driven by consensus and transparency, but
mistrust brewed fast and led to the ultimate crash of the negotiations in 2009.
This despite the U.S. being able to stitch together a non-binding political
agreement with a very low ambition — something that suited its interests. Over
subsequent years, the U.S. got many elements of the political deal embedded in
the UN climate negotiations while the distrust got embedded in the talks
No South China Sea air zone, China assures ASEAN countries
China has rejected reports suggesting it was planning to set up an air
defence zone over the disputed South China Sea, saying it was “yet to feel any
air security threat” from its Southeast Asian neighbours.
In November, China established its first Air Defence
Identification Zone (ADIZ) over parts of the East China Sea, amid an
increasingly tense stand-off with Japan over the disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku
islands. An ADIZ is a defined area in international airspace within which
countries monitor and track aircraft heading towards their territory.
The setting up of the ADIZ heightened tensions with Japan, as
it overlapped with Japan’s zone and included the disputed islands. China at the
time defended the move, pointing out that Japan had established its own ADIZ in
1969. After a Japanese newspaper reported last week that China was considering
setting up a second such zone over the South China Sea – a move that would be
certain to worry the half a dozen or so countries that have competing claims
over the sea’s waters and islands – the Chinese Foreign Ministry was quick to
deny the report, and also, at the same time, accuse Tokyo of attempting to fan
“In a general view, the Chinese side has yet to feel any air
security threat from the ASEAN countries and is optimistic about its relations
with the neighbouring countries and the general situation in the South China Sea
region”, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said in a statement.
He blamed “right-wing forces of Japan” for “repeatedly
clamor[ing]” about the alleged plan of China to set up ADIZ over the South China
Sea”. “We sternly warned these forces not to mislead public opinions with rumors
and play up tensions for their own selfish benefit,” he said.
China-Japan relations have soured over the past year over the
disputed islands, and issues relating to wartime history and the Japanese
occupation of China during the Second World War. China was especially angered by
a visit by the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to the controversial Yasukuni
war shrine - a memorial for Japanese who died during the war that also enshrines
14 Class-A war criminals – which was the first by a Japanese leader in seven
years. The rising tensions with Japan have coincided with an apparent diplomatic
outreach by China to other Asian countries, ostensibly aimed at attempting to
isolate Tokyo. China’s ties have warmed with South Korea, which was also angered
by Mr. Abe’s Yasukuni visit.
Last year, both President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang
visited ASEAN countries. A year after Chinese vessels had run-ins with ships
from both Vietnam and the Philippines near contested South China Sea islands,
tensions with both countries have subsided. China recently signed an agreement
for joint exploration with Vietnam.
Mr. Hong said China and ASEAN countries were “working together to implement the
declaration on the conduct of parties in the South China Sea in a comprehensive
and effective way to safeguard peace and stability in the region”.
He also hit out at the Japanese media report about the ADIZ
as being “of ulterior motive and simply aimed to shift international attention
from and cover up the plot to change Japan’s pacifist constitution and expand
its military power.”
U.S. warns Sri Lanka on pace of reconciliation
Voicing frustration over the pace of reconciliation in Sri
Lanka five years after the end of the war, a visiting official from the United
States on Saturday warned that the patience of the international community was
Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian
Affairs Nisha Desai Biswal said deterioration in human rights, transparency and
governance was taking a toll on democracy in Sri Lanka. “We reiterated our
commitment to Sri Lanka but conveyed our concerns to senior government officials
about the insufficient progress in addressing justice, reconciliation, and
accountability,” Ms. Biswal said at a press conference here. Ms. Biswal, who
arrived in Colombo on Friday, met top government officials, politicians in the
ruling coalition and the Opposition – including Northern Province Chief Minister
C.V. Wigneswaran – and civil society representatives. On Saturday, she travelled
to Jaffna, and held meetings with civil society representatives there. Amid
growing speculation on a strong U.S.-sponsored resolution against Sri Lanka, she
said: “We are concerned about the worsening situation with respect to human
rights, including continued attacks against religious minorities, as well as the
weakening of the rule of law and an increase in the levels of corruption and
Only about a week ago did the Northern Provincial Council
pass a resolution calling for an international inquiry into the alleged war
crimes. Asked if the U.S.-resolution was likely to push for an international
probe, Ms. Biswal — who maintained that it was too early to comment on how it
would be worded — said the U.S. always had a strong desire to have a Sri
Lanka-led reconciliation process, but the international community was frustrated
and sceptical of the pace of the government’s progress in this regard.
Australia claims substantial progress on reef protection
Australia said that it had made substantial progress on the U.N. request for
better protection of the Great Barrier Reef and the world heritage site should
not be listed among “in danger”.
Environment Minister Greg Hunt said there was genuine improvement in key reef
indicators in regards to dugongs, turtles, seagrass and coral.
“Early indications are that these are important and well received
developments internationally,” he was quoted as saying by The Age newspaper.
“It is a permanent task for every Australian government to protect and
maintain the reef; nobody can ever rest on that. But there should be no way the
reef can and should be considered ‘in danger’.”
The World Heritage Committee had threatened to put the reef
on a list of world heritage sites considered “in danger” after Great Barrier
Reef Marine Park Authority approved dumping of dredging spoil inside the marine
In a progress report to the U.N. World Heritage Committee,
the federal and Queensland governments have said the natural values the reef was
protected for are still largely intact, although in parts — such as inshore
areas south of Cooktown — they are declining.
Australian Coral Reef Society president Peter Mumby referred
to concerns raised in past that the reef was in the worst shape since monitoring
began and said the progress report played down industrial development threats.
He said development already on the table would add 14 million tonnes a year
of damaging sediment to reef waters.
“We have real concerns over developments that have not been addressed,” he
University of Queensland coral reef ecologist Selina Ward said the Abbot
Point decision was dangerous because the best modelling showed dumped sediment
would drift to outer areas, hurting coral and seagrass.
The progress report said extreme weather events and climate
change were the biggest threats to the reef. It also pointed to nutrient and
sediment run-off from land clearing and agriculture, and associated
It said pollution from other sources, including port development and
dredging, “is minor but may be highly significant locally and over short time
Caught off guard by taper
The recent announcement by the U.S. Federal Reserve of a
further reduction in its monthly bond-buying programme by $10 billion, to $65
billion, seems to have caught emerging market economies off-guard. This is quite
in contrast to their equanimous reaction in December when the stimulus-reduction
programme was launched. This is attributed to the fact that the announcement of
January 29 completely ignored the concerns of emerging- market countries.
Many of them were under pressure even earlier and the
announcement, without acknowledging the volatility that it had already caused,
offered no respite to a number of countries, from Argentina to South Africa.
Their currencies weakened, in some cases precipitously. Their stock markets fell
in conjunction and bond markets reacted violently. Threatened with a possible
choking of easy money, investors started selling emerging market stocks and
currencies to invest in the developed countries that offer better risk-adjusted
returns at this juncture. Predictably, many central banks of developing
countries hiked interest rates to stabilise their currencies, but with mixed
results. India has shown greater resilience this time compared to many other
similarly placed economies, and even in relation to its record last September
when the news of a possible tapering sent global markets into a tizzy. Improved
macroeconomic fundamentals and the RBI’s determination to check inflation have
boosted investor confidence.
However, given that growth rates are still sluggish and given
the possibility of fiscal slippages, India will continue to faces challenges.
Over-reliance on short-term flows to bridge balance of payments has been the
bane of external sector management, and at times like this the policy
shortcomings stand exposed.
There are two broad lessons to be drawn from the taper and
the reactions to it. RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan has pointed out that policy
coordination among countries has been a casualty. In the immediate post-crisis
period, emerging economies helped boost global demand through well-coordinated
fiscal stimulus programmes. A complete synchronisation of monetary and fiscal
policies might not be possible in practice but certain seminal policy measures
such as the U.S. taper do require wider consultation and coordination among
countries. This has been the consensus view at several forums — including the
G-20 and IMF-World Bank meetings. Second, it needs to be noted that U.S.
monetary policy is framed with reference to the U.S. economy. The gradual
withdrawal of the stimulus is dependent on the U.S. economy reaching some well
defined milestones such as reduction in unemployment. The ongoing taper signals
a stronger U.S. economy, and that should be good news for India and other
emerging economies — at least in the long run.
C.N.R. Rao, Sachin conferred Bharat Ratna
Renowned scientist C.N.R. Rao and former cricketer Sachin
Tendulkar were on Tuesday conferred the Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award
of the country for exceptional contribution in any field of human endeavour.
The award was presented by President Pranab Mukherjee at a brief ceremony in the
historic Durbar Hall of Rashtrapati Bhavan. Mr. Tendulkar is the first
sportsperson and sitting Rajya Sabha member to receive the prestigious award.
Prof. Rao, Chairperson of the Scientific Advisory Council to
the Prime Minister, dedicated the award to his mother and students. Mr.
Tendulkar dedicated the feat to his mother and “all the mothers who sacrificed
their wishes for their children.”
“It is the biggest honour for me. I will continue to bat for my country. Even
though my cricket has stopped, I will try my best to give people of India a
reason to smile,” he said after the function.
Mr. Tendulkar, dressed in a dark outfit, was accompanied by his wife, Anjali,
and daughter, Sara.
Rashtrapati Bhavan staff had a harrowing time controlling the guests, most of
whom wanted to shake hands with the cricketer, who retired from active cricket
last year, and take his autograph.
Even security personnel were seen jostling for a glimpse of the cricketer,
and many of them managed to take his autograph as well.
Prof. Rao, who has 1,400 papers and 45 books to his credit,
said: “It is fantastic. It is more important than anything. Nothing comparable
to India honouring me.” He hoped that he would be able to accomplish “something
important” in the coming years.
Prof. Rao, who is the third scientist to receive the Bharat
Ratna after Nobel laureate C.V. Raman and former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam,
said that while India was doing reasonably well in science, other countries were
doing better. South Korea and China were spending more on research.
Prof. Rao’s contributions have been recognised by most major scientific
academies across the world by way of memberships and fellowships, and numerous
national and international awards.
Both Prof. Rao and Mr. Tendulkar have received the Padma
Vibhushan earlier. The two join the club of 41 eminent personalities who have
been honoured with Bharat Ratna since it was instituted in 1954. Vice-President
Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and
a host of Ministers were among those present at the function.
UN delegation meets with armed groups in Mali
The U.N. Security Council met on Monday with representatives
of armed Tuareg groups active in northern Mali as part of an effort to
accelerate peace talks with the government, though participants said
disagreements on conditions for the talks had not been resolved.
Tuareg rebels launched a rebellion in northern Mali in early
2012 that gave way to a military coup, allowing them to take control of the
country’s north. However, al-Qaeda-linked Islamic extremists later took over
much of the north, prompting France to launch a military intervention in early
Though Mali held successful presidential and legislative
elections last year, security in the north remains precarious, and the National
Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad in particular maintains a strong
presence in and around the northern city of Kidal.
Despite the efforts of various mediators, negotiations
between the armed groups in the north and the government of President Ibrahim
Boubacar Keita have stalled. Last month, Tuareg rebels withdrew from
negotiations set to take place in Algeria after concluding that their push for
greater autonomy would not be addressed. Authorities in Bamako are emphasizing a
decentralization process that would bolster the Bamako-based government’s
presence throughout the country.
One of the chief goals of the Security Council visit, which ended on Monday,
was to accelerate peace talks with all groups in northern Mali.
The visiting U.N. delegation also met with local authorities
and received briefings on the work of the country’s U.N. peacekeeping mission.
On Sunday France’s U.N. ambassador Gerard Araud said the mission would reach its
full operational capacity in July, one year after it took over peacekeeping