a) Darjeeling deadlock: On elusive peace

The 104-day shutdown in the Darjeeling hills called by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) may have been lifted in late September, but peace remains elusive. A host of factors is responsible for this, not least the sparring between the Centre and the West Bengal government over who should determine the next steps. That they are not on the same page was evident in the way the deployment of troops in the region was handled. On October 15, the Union Home Ministry wrote to the State government that it was calling back 10 of the 15 companies of the Central Armed Police Forces posted in the hills. In response, two days later Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee moved the Calcutta High Court and got a stay. What is more worrying is that the situation on the ground remains tense and fluid. GJM chief Bimal Gurung is on the run. While the announcement to end the shutdown had come from him after the Centre appealed to protesters and offered to talk, the State government has raided his properties, lodged several cases against him, including for misappropriation of funds and triggering violence. It has issued an arrest warrant against Mr. Gurung and declared him a “proclaimed offender”. In an attempt to exploit differences within the GJM, the State government propped up rebel Gorkha leader Binoy Tamang, naming him chief of a new board of administrators to head the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration, which had been set up in 2012 as a semi-autonomous body. Mr. Tamang’s elevation has divided GJM followers. Ms. Banerjee has also been holding all-party meetings — the next one is to be on November 21 in Darjeeling — to arrive at a solution, with the GJM represented by the rebel faction. With peace yet to be restored fully, the Central and State governments need to urgently sink their differences, hold tripartite talks and meaningfully empower the GTA. The economy of the Darjeeling hills has taken a severe hit with both the tea and tourism industries having suffered huge losses and struggling to chart a way out. The tea industry, for example, lost almost all its second flush crop, with losses estimated at Rs.400 crore and counting. With uncertainty prevailing in the hills and winter setting in, there is anxiety over whether the gardens will be ready for the premium first flush crop which is harvested between February and April. Tourists have begun to trickle back, but the peak season is over. With the West Bengal government looking to be in no mood to talk to Mr. Gurung, the political crisis is far from over. It was Ms. Banerjee’s initial statement that Bengali would be made compulsory in the State, including in the hills that revived the Gorkhaland stir. She later retracted it — but securing the peace will take a more conciliatory attitude by all stakeholders — the Centre, the State government and the GJM factions.

b) Unravelling of the Iran deal

Last week U.S. President Donald Trump announced that he could no longer certify that continuing the sanctions waiver for Iran, under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), contributes to U.S. national security interests in view of Iran’s aggressive behaviour. However, he carefully refrained from accusing Iran of violating the JCPOA given that International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Yukiya Amano has publicly stated that Iran is in full compliance with the deal and subject to the world’s most robust nuclear verification regime. Mr. Trump’s new policy therefore aims to “neutralize Iran’s destabilizing influence and constrain… its support for terrorism… and ballistic missile [programme]”. Mr. Trump’s decision does not re-impose the nuclear-related sanctions that were waived (though he could also have done so) but passes the ball to the U.S. Congress. Though Secretaries of State Rex Tillerson and of Defence James Mattis as well as Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford had bluntly stated that they were not in favour of the U.S. scrapping the deal, Mr. Trump’s mind had been made up long ago.

A divide

For the first time since 1945, a clear divide with European allies has emerged, with German, French and British leaders jointly declaring that preserving the JCPOA is in their shared national security interests. The European Union (EU) foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini that the world cannot afford “to dismantle a nuclear agreement that is working”. Only two countries have applauded Mr. Trump’s decision — Saudi Arabia praised the U.S.’s firm strategy and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu conveyed his congratulations. The JCPOA, signed on July 14, 2015, was the result of prolonged negotiations between Iran and P5+1 (U.S., U.K., France, Russia, China, Germany and EU). Talks began in 2003 between Iran and E-3 (Germany, France and U.K.), and in 2005 expanded to the P5+1 format. Negotiations frequently stalled leading to new sanctions on Iran but became purposeful after Hassan Rouhani’s election as President in 2013. In 2004, Iran had around 1000 centrifuges, and by 2015 the number had grown to 20,000. The U.S. concluded that Iran had recovered from the Stuxnet debacle and was barely months away from producing enough highly enriched uranium (20-25 kg) to produce a nuclear device. While other aspects of Iran’s regional behaviour remained worrisome, the rationale driving the Obama administration was that a nuclear armed Iran would be more threatening. Therefore the JCPOA focussed exclusively on rolling back Iran’s nuclear activities. Under the JCPOA, Iran ended certain activities (converting the underground Fordow enrichment facility into a research centre and dismantling of the Arak heavy water research reactor), accepted restraints on other activities (reducing the number of operational centrifuges to 5060 at Natanz for 10 years, restricting enrichment level to 3.6% for 15 years, limiting the low enriched uranium stocks to 300 kg by shipping out nearly 10 tonnes of extra stocks and refraining from setting up a research reactor for 15 years) and accepted a highly rigorous inspection regime. In return, about $100 billion of Iranian assets were unfrozen and Iran was allowed to resume sales of oil. January 16 last year was declared Implementation Day when the IAEA certified Iranian compliance and sanctions relief kicked in. The UN Security Council (UNSC) unanimously adopted Resolution 2231, endorsing the JCPOA and lifting the UNSC sanctions.

U.S. sanctions waiver

However, U.S. sanctions relief was more convoluted because of a multiplicity of sanctions (relating to nuclear and missile activities, human rights violations and terrorism) which also had extra-territorial application, implying that third country companies would be penalised if they engaged in activities from which U.S. companies were barred. Here, the relief was limited to “secondary” nuclear sanctions since U.S. companies still remained barred from dealings with Iran on account of the other sanctions, but third country companies were now free to engage with Iran. An exception was made in the civil aviation sector that enabled Boeing to secure a deal for nearly a hundred aircraft; otherwise Airbus would have locked it out of the Iranian market. Since the Obama administration’s negotiations with Iran did not enjoy support in the Republican-dominated Congress, an additional piece of legislation, Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (INARA) was passed in May 2015 under Senator Bob Corker’s stewardship as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The objective was to constrain presidential authority to waive sanctions on Iran by obliging him to certify every 90 days that Iran was in full compliance with the deal and that continuing the waiver contributed to U.S. national security interests. INARA also obliged the President to provide a report on Iran’s support to terrorism, human rights violations and ballistic missile activities. Given the hostility to the JCPOA, Barack Obama did not submit the JCPOA to the Senate for ratification as is mandated for a “treaty”; instead, JCPOA was described as a “political commitment” between P5+1 and Iran which lies within executive purview. According to a study carried out by Professors Jeffrey Peake and Glen Krutz, 94% of U.S. agreements with other countries, since 1930, have been on the basis of ‘executive agreements’. The JCPOA assumed legal character when it became part of the UNSC resolution 2231. However, unlike the JCPOA and the mandatory lifting of the U.S.’s secondary nuclear sanctions which is part of international law, INARA is U.S. domestic law. In January, before handing over, the Obama administration had provided both the certification under INARA (to be renewed every 90 days) and the waiver of secondary nuclear sanctions under section 1245 of the National Defense Authorization Act (2012) that needs renewal every 120 days. Mr. Trump provided the INARA certification on April 18 and July 18 but drew the line last week. He also renewed the waiver on secondary sanctions on May 17 and last month on September 14. This is why the U.S. sanctions have not kicked in because the current waiver will hold for 120 days, till mid-January 2018.

An isolated U.S.

Since Mr. Trump had made his opinion about the JCPOA quite clear, describing it as the “worst deal ever”, he could have withheld renewal of sanctions waiver last month but that would have triggered re-imposition of secondary nuclear sanctions and violated international law since Iran remains in compliance with the JCPOA. It was therefore politically expedient to kick the ball to the Congress. Mr. Trump would like Congress to end some of the sunset clauses of 10/15 years in the JCPOA by making it permanent and also establish new benchmarks on missile activities and regional behaviour for continuing sanctions relief. This would imply an implicit renegotiation of the JCPOA, something that would attract a veto by both Russia and China were it to be taken up in the UNSC. Amending INARA would require 60 votes in the Senate, eight more than the current Republican strength and not all Republicans will support Mr. Trump. Relations between Mr. Trump and Senator Corker have deteriorated with Mr. Trump blaming Mr. Corker for the “horrendous deal” and Mr. Corker comparing the White House to “an adult day care centre”. Congress could also do nothing, which would put Mr. Trump in the awkward position in January 2018 of either renewing the sanctions waiver for another 120 days or withholding it, which would put the U.S. in violation of the JCPOA. In either case, the deal has broken down because Iran is not prepared to renegotiate it. Other countries have promised to uphold it but their ability to do so will depend on how their companies can be firewalled from U.S. sanctions if they continue their engagement with Iran. However, implications of the breakdown are not limited to U.S.-Iran relations. Iran can make things difficult for the U.S. in Afghanistan as also in Iraq and Syria. The U.S.’s ability to work with Russia in Syria or with China regarding North Korea will also be impacted. And sooner or later, questions will be asked in Iran about why it should continue with the restrictions and inspections that it accepted under the JCPOA, which would have far-reaching implications for the global nuclear architecture. Coming after the rejection of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Paris climate change accord and the North American Free Trade Agreement, Mr. Trump’s decision further diminishes U.S. credibility.


1) Elusive

Meaning: Difficult to find, catch, or achieve.

Example: “success will become ever more elusive”

Synonyms: Evasive, Slippery

2) Sparring

Meaning: Argue with someone without marked hostility.

Example: “mother and daughter spar regularly over drink, drugs, and career”

Synonyms: Quarrel, Argue

3) Triggering

Meaning: Cause (an event or situation) to happen or exist.

Example: “an allergy can be triggered by stress or overwork”

Synonyms: Stimulate, Provoke

4) Proclaimed offender

Meaning: A Proclaim offender (P.O) proceeding is a process of the court through which the court declares the person as proclaimed offender and directs the concerned police officials to arrest the person named in the proceeding and produce him before the court and the name and details of the proclaimed offender are published in the news papers declaring him/her to be a proclaimed offender.

5) Propped up (prop up)

Meaning: To give support to something, especially a country or organization, so that it can continue to exist in a difficult situation.

Example: How long is the government likely to survive without the US military force there to prop it up?

Synonyms: Backbone, Pillar

6) Tripartite

Meaning: Shared by or involving three parties.

Example: “a tripartite coalition government”

7) Way out

Meaning: Extremely unconventional, unusual, or avant-garde.

Example: “teachers were accused of espousing way-out ideologies and teaching methods”

Synonyms: Quirky, Unusual

Antonyms: Normal, Ordinary

8) Trickle

Meaning: A small group or number of people or things moving slowly.

Example: “the traffic had dwindled to a trickle”

Synonyms: Move, Leave

9) Retracted

Meaning: Withdraw (a statement or accusation) as untrue or unjustified.

Example: “he retracted his allegations”

Synonyms: Withdraw, Recant

Antonyms: Assert, Confirm

10) Conciliatory

Meaning: Intended or likely to placate or pacify.

Example: “a conciliatory approach”

Synonyms: Pacific, Placatory

Antonyms: Antagonistic

11) Aggressive

Meaning: Behaving or done in a determined and forceful way.

Example: “we needed more growth to pursue our aggressive acquisition strategy”

Synonyms: Assertive, Forceful

Antonyms: Submissive, Diffident

12) Refrained

Meaning: Stop oneself from doing something.

Example: “she refrained from comment”

Synonyms: Abstain, Desist

13) Compliance

Meaning: The state or fact of according with or meeting rules or standards.

Example: “all imports of timber are in compliance with regulations”

Synonyms: Obedience to, Respect for

Antonyms: Violation, Infringement

14) Destabilizing

Meaning: Upset the stability of (a region or system); cause unrest or instability in.

Example: “the accused were charged with conspiracy to destabilize the country”

Synonyms: Undermine, Weaken

Antonyms: Strengthen

15) Constrain

Meaning: Appearing forced or overly controlled.

Example: “he was acting in a constrained manner”

Synonyms: Unnatural, Artificial

Antonyms: Relaxed

16) Scrapping

Meaning: Abolish or cancel (a plan, policy, or law).

Example: “he supports the idea that road tax should be scrapped”

Synonyms: Abandon, Abolish

Antonyms: Keep, Restore

17) Stalled

Meaning: Stop or cause to stop making progress.

Example: “his career had stalled, hers taken off”

Synonyms: Obstruct, Impede

18) Debacle

Meaning: A sudden and ignominious failure; a fiasco.

Example: “the only man to reach double figures in the second-innings debacle”

Synonyms: Failure, Wreck

19) Enriched

Meaning: Improve or enhance the quality or value of.

Example: “her exposure to museums enriched her life in France”

Synonyms: Enhance, Upgrade

Antonyms: Devalue, Impoverish

20) Worrisome

Meaning: Causing anxiety or concern.

Example: “a worrisome problem”

Synonyms: Worrying, Alarming

21) Restraints

Meaning: Unemotional, dispassionate, or moderate behaviour; self-control.

Example: “he urged the protestors to exercise restraint”

Synonyms: Self-control, Moderation

Antonyms: Abandon, Forwardness

22) Shipping out (Ship out)

Meaning: To leave a situation.

Example: The company sold up and shipped out of its Dublin base.

Synonyms: Leave

Antonyms: Enter

23) Rigorous

Meaning: Extremely thorough and careful.

Example: “the rigorous testing of consumer products”

Synonyms: Careful, Diligent

Antonyms: Slapdash

24) Convoluted

Meaning: (especially of an argument, story, or sentence) extremely complex and difficult to follow.

Example: “the film is let down by a convoluted plot in which nothing really happens”

Synonyms: Complicated, Elaborative

Antonyms: Simple, Straightforward

25) Obliging

Meaning: Willing to do a service or kindness; helpful.

Example: “one of the most obliging stewards”

Synonyms: Helpful, Agreeable

Antonyms: Uncooperative, Obstructive

26) Ratification

Meaning: The action of signing or giving formal consent to a treaty, contract, or agreement, making it officially valid.

Example: “ratification of the treaty raised problems in several member states”

Synonyms: Authorization, Sanction

27) Kicked in (Kick in)

Meaning: Come into effect or operation.

Example: “the hospital’s emergency generators kicked in”

28) Imposition

Meaning: A tax or duty.

Example: “the government began levying special impositions”

Synonyms: Levy, Charge

29) Expedient

Meaning: (of an action) convenient and practical although possibly improper or immoral.

Example: “either side could break the agreement if it were expedient to do so”

Synonyms: Convenient, Beneficial

Antonyms: Inexpedient, Ill-advised

30) Sunset clauses

Meaning: Part of a law or contract that states when it will end, or the conditions under which it will end

Example: A sunset clause in the bill called for the tax cuts to expire in 2010.

31) Renegotiation

Meaning: Negotiation of something again in order to change the original agreed terms.

Example: “they demanded renegotiation of the treaty”

32) Veto

Meaning: A constitutional right to reject a decision or proposal made by a lawmaking body.

Example: “neither state was given a veto over amendments to the Act”

Synonyms: Rejection, Dismissal

Antonyms: Approval

33) Deteriorated

Meaning: Become progressively worse.

Example: “relations between the countries had deteriorated sharply”

Synonyms: Worsen, Decline

Antonyms: Improve

34) Horrendous

Meaning: Extremely unpleasant, horrifying, or terrible.

Example: “she suffered horrendous injuries”

Synonyms: Horrify, Unpleasant

35) Awkward

Meaning: Causing or feeling uneasy embarrassment or inconvenience.

Example: “he had put her in a very awkward position”

Synonyms: Embarrassing, Unpleasant

Antonyms: Relaxed

36) Implications

Meaning: The conclusion that can be drawn from something although it is not explicitly stated.

Example: “the implication is that no one person at the bank is responsible”

Synonyms: Suggestion, Inference

37) Breakdown

Meaning: A failure of a relationship or system.

Example: “a breakdown in military discipline”

Synonyms: Failure, Collapse

38) Far-reaching

Meaning: Having important and widely applicable effects or implications.

Example: “a series of far-reaching political reforms”

Synonyms: Extensive, Wide-ranging

Antonyms: Limited, Insignificant

39) Accord

Meaning: An official agreement or treaty.

Example: “opposition groups refused to sign the accord”

Synonyms: Treaty, Agreement

40) Diminishes

Meaning: Cause to seem less impressive or valuable.

Example: “the trial has aged and diminished him”

Synonyms: Belittle, Deprecate

Antonyms: Boost, Encourage

Related Editorials – Previous Days

THE HINDU EDITORIAL : October 13, 2017

THE HINDU EDITORIAL : October 14, 2017