Bilateral & International Relations
- A deeper friendship
Defence & Security Issues
- We need a robust cyber security policy
Science & Technology
- Rampage of day biters
Bilateral & International Relations
GS (M) Paper-2 Topics: “Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests”
A deeper friendship
Indo-Afghan relations are among the few bilateral ties that include elements of civilisational, emotional and strategic imperatives and bonds.
However, Afghanistan and India have failed to translate their enormous mutual trust and political, economic and security imperatives into an effective, functioning and more importantly predictable partnership.
- Kabul was once a Hindu and a Buddhist city; while Delhi was a leading centre of Persian literature and language, as well as the home of a Pathan political dynasty and Sufi Islam.
- For many Afghans, India is among the few places that accords them respect and dignity, unlike many others which treat them as unwanted, backward, terrorists or drug-dealers.
- Afghanistan and India are also the main victims of Pakistan’s use of terrorism to pursue its regional ambition and inherent insecurity.
How both the nations can help each other?
- India’s need to access Afghanistan and Central Asia’s natural resources and markets complements its vast market for Afghanistan’s growing economy.
- For Afghanistan’s nascent democracy, development and its state-building process, India is an inspiration and a model.
- India has had success in managing its diverse communities, building its state institutions, nurturing an indigenous democracy, women’s empowerment and transitioning from an agrarian society into a developing nation. Afghanistan can learn a great deal from India.
- More importantly, “Indian Islam” is a living manifestation of “Khurasani Islam”, which was once the prevailing flavour in Afghanistan: A humane, peaceful, tolerant, ethical and civic Islam.
What is the tendency of India towards relations with Afghanistan?
- India has been generous and effective in helping Afghanistan’s massive humanitarian and developmental needs.
- However, it is peripheral in shaping Afghanistan’s politics and more crucially its struggle against terrorism.
- India’s reluctance to fully and confidently implement its strategic partnership agreement with Afghanistan, signed in 2011, demonstrates India’s residual doubt and fear about its engagement in Afghanistan. For example, it took almost four years for India to deliver three military helicopters to Afghanistan.
What are the reasons for India’s cautious Afghan policy?
- India is transitioning from a largely inward-looking developing nation into a serious political and economic power. Competing priorities, bureaucratic lethargy, resource constraints, domestic and electoral politics and an ambivalent geo-strategic mindset characterise a transitioning nation’s foreign policy.
- Pakistan has disguised its expansionist regional agenda as a “proxy war” between India and Pakistan, thus equating its support to terrorism with India’s support to the processes of stabilisation, democratisation, reconstruction and state building in Afghanistan.
- The confusion and policy preferences of Western powers has been the other obstacle in strengthening Afghanistan-India relations.
- Afghanistan’s polarised elites have compounded India’s reluctance, Pakistan’s manipulative game and the West’s war-weariness and confusion.
In which ways Indo-Afghan relations are heading?
Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, India’s Afghanistan policy is shifting from a reluctant albeit friendly one, to a more confident and multi-dimensional approach. India is
- Investing in Afghanistan’s nascent democracy and economy; and
- Strengthening Afghanistan’s defence capability and promoting regional connectivity and integration.
According to the author, following should be the ensuing steps:
- Speedy operationalisation of the Iranian port of Chahbahar.
- Reviving the trilateral process between Afghanistan-India-US and
- A better utilisation of Russia-China-India consultation mechanism on regional security.
- Pakistan’s legitimate concern and its potentially constructive role should not be ignored.
- A trilateral mechanism of dialogue between Afghanistan, Pakistan and India can enhance mutual understanding and identify areas for potential collaboration.
- A stable and independent Afghanistan would also be Pakistan’s partner in supporting its legitimate concerns such as terrorism and regional connectivity.
What Afghanistan need from India?
- Afghanistan expect from India is to elevate its constitutional order and political independence. The Karzai government articulated such an expectation by exploring a defence pact with India.
- Afghanistan is endowed with sufficient domestic and external human, natural and financial resources to address many of its formidable challenges. What it lacks is a reliable political and psychological environment and partnership.
For this, why only India is preferred option for Afghanistan?
- Despite the signed agreements with Western powers, both Afghanistan and its adversaries are not convinced of the reliability of the West as guarantors of Afghanistan’s political independence and constitutional order.
- Other regional powers — such as Iran, China and Russia — either lack the will or the means to accord Afghanistan such a guarantee.
What India needs to do?
Forging good Indo-Afghan relationship does not require substantive material resources.
- India as a victim of terrorism and a shining example of “Khurasani Islam”, should play a leading role in articulating a global consensus and building a regional mechanism on terrorism as well as promoting mutual respect and understanding among and between different faiths and communities.
Why Indo-Afghan fraternity is necessary?
- Alongside China, Asian tigers and Japan, India is making this century the “century of Asia”.
- As an essential part of South, Central and West Asia, Afghanistan’s stability and development is a key determinant to the realisation of the “Asian century”.
The full realisation of Afghanistan’s and India’s fraternity is necessary for this endeavour.
The goal of the Afghanistan-India partnership is to reach a degree of mutual trust so as to characterise their relationship as a functioning, strategic partnership between two sovereign democratic nations.[Ref: Indian Express]
Defence & Security Issues
GS (M) Paper-3 Topic: “Challenges to internal security through communication networks, role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges, basics of cyber security; money-laundering and its prevention”
We need a robust cyber security policy
Cyberspace is increasingly becoming a key domain besides air, sea and land warfare. Cyber security and defence against cyber warfare assume greater significance due to rapidly increasing risks, vulnerabilities, threats, cyber crimes and fraud.
‘Capture The Flag’ competition:
Recently, the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency organised a cyber grand challenge competition, named ‘Capture The Flag’ to assess its defence readiness.
- The objective of the game was not only to safeguard own data but also to access others’ data.
- The competition provided an insight to futuristic cyber security concerns when supercomputers are going to be increasingly deployed for hacking in a real-world environment.
- The systems had to compete continuously for protecting patching themselves while detecting intrusions, and to ‘reverse-engineer’ exploits within fraction of a second.
Threats of cyber terrorism:
- Critical infrastructure in many countries will soon be susceptible to cyber terrorism.
- Cross-networking of personal data devices, electronic health records, medical devices and hospital networks will create new opportunities for data theft, source code manipulation, and undetected access to target networks.
- The Internet of Things is adding a new dimension to the security landscape. Connecting devices into the electric grid, autonomous vehicles, and household appliances will be exposed to new threats.
- Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems, ‘Narrow AI’ systems, and ‘General AI’ systems also pose increased vulnerability to autonomous decision-making.
- Dependence on AI systems for civilian industries and national security can damage critical infrastructure. For example, hackvists threatened to release stolen top secret government intelligence records in Canada.
- Hackers are found using false data and unanticipated algorithm to create stock market fluctuations.
- Commercial vendors tend to aggregate sensitive digitised information about individuals and states and sell it to interested parties.
- Organised hackvists are interested in bank frauds and stealing credit card data. Many large bank frauds were reported in Canada, Australia, the UK, France, Turkey and Japan besides the US. In 2015 attackers stole over $1 billion from more than 100 banks in about 30 countries including Russia, Japan and the US.
- Currently, state sponsored cyber terrorism, non-state terrorist groups, corporate and individual hackvists are engaged in different crimes, espionage, theft of patents, and other information assets.
State sponsored cyber terrorism:
- Nations such as Russia, China, Iran, North Korea are reported to use cyber capabilities as an effective geostrategic tool for espionage, propaganda attacks, to target critical infrastructure systems, for intelligence gathering, and to support political and military objectives.
- Russian cyber actors post disinformation on commercial websites.
- Chinese military uses cyber deception operations to conceal intentions.
Non-state cyber terrorism:
Non-state terrorist groups deploy internet “to organise, recruit, spread propaganda, collect intelligence, raise funds, and coordinate operations”. For example,
- ISIL actors are found targeting sensitive information about US military personnel to spur ‘lone-wolf’ attacks for theft, extortion, and drug trafficking.
- ‘Ransomware’ block user data access for extortion.
What India needs?
- India’s existing cyber security policy of 2013 must be reviewed in the light of emerging cyber threats propagated by state sponsored international cyber terrorism, military espionage, corporate espionage and financial frauds by individual hackers and groups.
- The nation needs a robust and credible cyber security policy and action plan.
- India’s cyber security strategy must be able to protect multiple digital intrusions at all levels: military and corporate espionage, electronic attacks disrupting critical infrastructure, ICT and IoT systems and data privacy, integrity and security of its citizens.
- India needs to set up a national cyber security agency to develop appropriate policy, strategy and action plan, linking key ministries.
- Dissemination of best security practices, intelligence sharing, intrusion reporting and effective coordination and partnership between private, corporate, government and international level organisations like the UN, the European Union and India’s allies as the situation demands will become indispensable.
- There must be effective computer incident response capability, malware information sharing, and periodical mock drills and exercises.
- Signing of MoUs on cyber defence with allies and international organisations may become unavoidable as cyber threats defy state borders and organisational boundaries.
- Such technical arrangements may provide the framework for exchanging information and sharing best practices between emergency response teams.
What need to be taken care of while dealing with cyber threats?
- National cyber security policy must be able to protect citizens’ data confidentiality, integrity and privacy, public safety, business and economic development and national security.
- The nation’s top strategic, business, and technical leadership, both from government and private must work in tandem bolstering partnerships between central, States, and the local governments.
- Adequate funding for ICT and IoT security is inevitable for strategic research and development.
- India must enhance its technological and investigative capabilities. Partnering with government and private agencies to share intelligence is vital.
- A special task force must be engaged round the clock vigilance.
- Best practices must be adopted in competency building, technological solutions, business continuity plan, updating of operating systems, firmware and cyber forensics.
- Laws must be strengthened to deal with cyber terrorists.
- Cyber security professionals must be prepared for the new challenges for identification, surveillance, monitoring, location tracking, targeting for recruitment, access to networks and stealing user credentials.
Science & Technology
Syllabus Topic: “General Science”
Rampage of day biters
The largest documented outbreak of Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) disease occurred in the Indian Ocean islands and India during 2004–2007, also known as Indian Ocean epidemic.
Chikungunya- Key facts:
- Chikungunya was first reported in 1952, during an outbreak in southern Tanzania.
- It has now been identified in 60 countries including those in Asia, Africa, Europe, America and others.
- This year about 10,000 cases have been reported in India, with the most from southern states.
- The word Chikungunya, derived from the Kimakonde language which is spoken by the indigenous people of southern Tanzania, itself means that which is contorted. It refers to the contorted position taken by people when they are affected by joint pain.
How is it transmitted?
- Two species of mosquitoes, Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus (not the dominant species in India) are responsible for large outbreaks of Chikungunya across the world.
- Mosquitoes acquire the infection by biting infected humans or animals. Weather conditions affect their breeding and survival.
- Abrupt onset of fever and severe joint pain.
- There can be other symptoms such as muscle pain, headache, nausea, fatigue and rash – that is, small red spots all over the body.
- The joint pain can be severe and sometimes prolonged.
How is it diagnosed?
- IgM titers – a way of measuring the rising level of, or concentration of, antibodies in the blood, which quantifies the body’s response to an active infection – are what are tested in the blood.
- More specifically, the blood test that doctors ask for is called the RT-PCR (Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction) but it may not be available, so doctors test the drop in the number of leucocytes in the blood because of the viral infection.
- The blood tests are repeated and a constant watch is kept on the blood count. If it drops, it is better to be under medical observation. At this stage, the doctors’ guidance is crucial.
- Can be reduced through the use or combination of three methods: Environmental management, chemical control and biological control.
- Some man-made habitats produce large numbers of adult mosquitoes. Keep the surroundings clear of stagnant water or pools where mosquitoes can breed.
- Aedes species are day biters; clothing that minimises skin exposure during daylight hours. Mosquito nets afford good protection for those who sleep during the day (infants, the bedridden and night-shift workers).
- Destroy, alter, remove or recycle non-essential containers that provide egg, larval or pupal habitats.
- Installation of reliable piped water supply to communities to reduce the need for storage.
- Legislation and regulation can significantly change planning and construction of buildings.
- Biological control is based on the introduction of organisms that prey upon, compete with or reduce populations of the target species.
- There is no vaccine for chikungunya.
- Treatment is mainly symptomatic – such as giving painkillers to relieve the joint pain – using nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs which are not asprin-based.
- Drugs are mainly analgesics and antipyretics. The patient is advised to take fluids.
How does it differ from dengue?
- Chikungunya can circulate with the help of monkeys, birds and cattle, but dengue spreads only through mosquitoes.
- While for dengue the symptoms subside in about 15 days, for Chikungunya the symptoms can prolong for 3-6 months.
- While Chikungunya’s main symptoms are high fever and excruciating joint pain, dengue manifests with high fever, drop in platelet count and rash.