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THE HINDU EDITORIAL – October 17, 2018, is one of the must-read section for the competitive exams like IBPS PO, IBPS Clerk 2018, Indian Bank PO & LIC HFL 2018. These topics are widely expected to be asked in the reading comprehension, Cloze Test or Error Detection in the forthcoming exams. So gear up your Exam preparation and learn new words daily.

a ) Slippery slope: on India’s energy needs

India must diversify its energy basket more proactively.

India’s economic fortunes continue to be tied to the sharply fluctuating price of oil. At a gathering of prominent oil ministers in New Delhi on Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged oil-producing countries to reduce the cost of energy in order to aid the global economy in its path towards recovery. Mr. Modi also called for a review of payment terms, demanding the partial use of the rupee instead of the U.S. dollar to pay for oil, in order to ease the burden on oil-importing countries in the wake of the strengthening of the dollar. With well over 80% of its oil demand being met through imports, India clearly has a lot at stake as oil prices have risen by as much as 70% in rupee terms in the last one year. Notably, speaking at the same event, Saudi Arabian Energy Minister Khalid A. Al-Falih refused to openly commit to lower oil prices, opting instead to say that the price of oil could have been much higher but for the efforts taken by his country to boost supply. This is not surprising given the absence of significant rival suppliers in the global oil market willing to help out India.

India’s policymakers now face the difficult task of safely steering the economy in the midst of multiple external headwinds. For one, the current account deficit widened to 2.4% of gross domestic product in the first quarter of 2018-19 and is expected to reach 3% for the full year. The rupee, which is down about 16% since the beginning of the year, doesn’t seem to be showing any signs of recovery either. Further, the growth in the sales of petrol and diesel has already been affected adversely as their prices have shot through the roof. All this will likely weigh negatively on the prospects of the Indian economy, the world’s fastest-growing, in the coming quarters. In this scenario, the decision to marginally cut taxes imposed on domestic fuels is unlikely to be of any significant help to consumers. What is required is a steep cut in Central and State taxes for the benefit to carry through to the consumers, which, of course, is unlikely given the government’s fiscal needs. Another long-term solution to the oil problem will be to increasingly tap into domestic sources of energy supply while simultaneously encouraging consumers to switch to green alternatives. This will require a stronger policy framework and implementation. In the short term, the government could look to diversifying its international supplier base to manage shocks better. But such a choice carries geopolitical risks, such as in the case of Iran. Since it will take a length of time to wean the economy off oil imports, policymakers should also be willing to think beyond just the next election if India’s over-reliance on oil is to come to an end for good.

b) A security architecture without the mortar

Many of India’s national security inadequacies stem from the absence of a national security vision

In April this year, the Narendra Modi government set up a Defence Planning Committee (DPC) to assist in the creation of “national security strategy, international defence engagement strategy, roadmap to build (a) defence manufacturing ecosystem, strategy to boost defence exports, and priority capability development plans”. Earlier this month, it also decided to revive the Strategic Policy Group (SPG) within the overall National Security Council (NSC) system. Are these committees indicative of a newfound ‘national security consciousness’ in the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government today?

That the government has set up/revived these committees only in its final year in office goes to show that it is cognisant of the fact that its national security performance has been found severely wanting. More so, given the sorry state of the country’s national security, it — erroneously, if I may add — hopes that further centralisation of national security and defence decision making in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) under the National Security Adviser (NSA), would salvage its national security reputation.

Deteriorating environment

India’s national security environment has steadily deteriorated since 2014. Both the overall violence in Jammu and Kashmir and ceasefire violations on the Line of Control reached a 14-year high in 2017, a trend that refuses to subside in 2018. There are far more attacks on security forces and security installations in J&K, and militant recruitments and violence against civilians in the State than at any time in the past decade-and-a-half. The pressure from China is on the rise. While the government’s spin managers valiantly claim that the surgical strikes of 2016 gave a befitting response to Pakistan, and the stand-off at Doklam conveyed to China that India is no pushover, the reality is that surgical strikes hardly made any significant gains, and the Chinese forces (by all accounts including a report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs) are back in the Doklam plateau with more force. The report goes on to fault the government for “continuing with its conventionally deferential foreign policy towards China”. New Delhi’s neighbourhood policy continues to be in the doldrums and there is a clear absence of vision on how to balance, engage and work with the many great powers in the regional and the broader international scene. The frenzied foreign policy activities we are witnessing today are essentially diplomatic firefighting and damage control of a government in its last lap.

Absence of defence reforms

India spends close to $50 billion annually on defence and yet there are serious concerns about the level of our defence preparedness. Notwithstanding the feel-good rhetoric about the Indian Army’s readiness to fight a “two-and-a-half front war”, it might be useful to speculate on the potential outcome of such a scenario. Rhetoric can neither make a country secure nor win wars. Even more worryingly, India might be ill-equipped to fight the wars of the modern age. What India requires then is not empty rhetoric but long-term strategic thinking of which there is little in sight.

One reason why there is little bang for the buck from the $50 billion lies in our almost non-functional higher defence organisation. India’s defence policy is on auto-pilot with hardly any political oversight or vision. There is little conversation between the armed forces and the political class, and even lesser conversation among the various arms of the forces. This will soon become unsustainable for a country that aspires to be a modern great power.

Besides setting up or revamping these bureaucratic committees, there is little talk about serious defence reforms in the country. One of the most serious lacunas in our defence management is the absence of jointness in the Indian armed forces. Our doctrines, command structures, force deployments and defence acquisition continue as though each arm is going to fight a future war on its own. Not only do the various arms of the Indian armed forces plan their strategies in silos but even their rhetoric is partisan (consider the Army Chief, Gen. Bipin Rawat’s statement about the Army, not the armed forces as a whole, being prepared for a “two-and-a-half front war”).

In the neighbourhood

China has progressed a great deal in military jointmanship, and Pakistan is doing a lot better than India. In India, talk of appointing a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) has all but died down. Leave alone appointing a CDS, even the key post of military adviser in the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) remains vacant. And the government seems to mistakenly think that by having the NSA chair, the SPG and DPC will take care of the fundamental problems in the country’s higher defence sector.

Recall also that the post of the NSA is not a legally-mandated one. So one might rightly wonder how an unelected and retired official with no parliamentary accountability has come to occupy such a crucial position in the country’s national security decision making, and whether this is healthy in a parliamentary democracy.

The NSC, which replicates the membership of the Cabinet Committee on Security, almost never meets under the new regime, and the National Security Advisory Board, initially set up by the Vajpayee government, to seek ‘outside expertise’ on strategic matters, is today a space for retired officials. As a result, there is little fresh thinking within the government or perspective planning on the country’s national security or defence.

All that the SPG and DPC would achieve is to further bureaucratise the national security decision making and centralise all national security powers under the PMO. While I concede that this might provide a little more coordination in decision making, let’s be clear that these committees are hardly sufficient to get the country’s national security system back on track. To expect the NSA to chair all these committees and then action their recommendations while at the same time running the country’s national security affairs on a day-to-day basis is unrealistic, and would end up producing sub-optimal outcomes. Top-heavy systems hardly work well unless supported by a well-oiled institutional mechanism.

There is some hope that these committees would take a close, hard look at the state of modernisation and domestic defence industry in the country, both of which are in a sorry state. Under the present system, where the ratio of revenue to capital expenditure in defence is roughly 65:35%, any serious attempt at modernisation would be impossible. While the committees would be cognisant of this, there is precious little they could do now, just months before the government faces a crucial election.

No vision

At the end of the day, many of India’s national security inadequacies stem from the absence of a national security/defence vision. Ideally, the country should have an overall national security document from which the various agencies and the arms of the armed forces draw their mandate and create their own respective and joint doctrines which would then translate into operational doctrines for tactical engagement. In the absence of this, as is the case in India today, national strategy is broadly a function of ad hocism and personal preferences.

Despite the BJP’s hypernationalist credentials in the field of national security and defence, its appetite towards defence reforms has been lackluster, its willingness to create a broad national strategy has been non-existent, and, much of its energy geared towards utilising national security issues for domestic political gains. Consequently, the state of India’s national security and defence is worse off today compared to when it took office in May 2014. And in the meantime, we are becoming a country without a coherent national security purpose.

1) Fortunes

Meaning: a large amount of money or assets.

Tamil Meaning: செல்வ வளம்

Synonyms: Wealth, riches, substance, property

Antonyms: Debt, Poverty, Hardship

Example: “He inherited a substantial fortune”

2) Fluctuating

Meaning: Rise and fall irregularly in number or amount.

Tamil Meaning: மாறிக்கொண்டே

Synonyms: vary, differ, shift, change

Antonyms: Remain, Stay, Continue

Example: “Trade with other countries tends to fluctuate from year to year”

3) Prominent

Meaning: Important; famous.

Tamil Meaning: முக்கிய

Synonyms: Important, well known, leading

Antonyms: Inconspicuous

Example: “She was a prominent member of the city council”

4) Aid

Meaning: Financial or material help given to a country or area in need.

Tamil Meaning: உதவி

Synonyms: Assistance, support

Antonyms: Harm, Hindrance, Disfavor

Example: “700,000 tons of food aid”

5) Recovery

Meaning: The action or process of regaining possession or control of something stolen or lost.

Tamil Meaning: மீட்பு

Synonyms: Recuperation, convalescence

Antonyms: Relapse, deterioration

Example: “A team of salvage experts to ensure the recovery of family possessions”

6) Ease

Meaning: Make (something unpleasant or intense) less serious or severe.

Tamil Meaning: எளிதாக்க

Synonyms: Relieve, alleviate, mitigate

Antonyms: Aggravate

Example: “A huge road-building programme to ease congestion”

7) Commit

Meaning: Pledge or bind (a person or an organization) to a certain course or policy.

Tamil Meaning: உறுதியளித்து

Synonyms: Carry out, do, perform, perpetrate

Antonyms: apathetic

Example: “They were reluctant to commit themselves to an opinion”

8) Midst

Meaning: In the middle of.

Tamil Meaning: நடுவில்

Synonyms: Middle, centre, midpoint

Antonyms: Exterior, Outside

Example: The left his flat in the midst of a rainstorm”

9) Headwinds

Meaning: A wind blowing from directly in front, opposing forward motion.

Example: The runners had to battle against a stiff/strong headwind.

10) Deficit

Meaning: The amount by which something, especially a sum of money, is too small.

Tamil Meaning: பற்றாக்குறை

Synonyms: Shortfall, deficiency, shortage

Antonyms: surplus, profit

Example: “An annual operating deficit”

11) Adversely

Meaning: In a way that prevents success or development; harmfully or unfavorably.

Tamil Meaning: மோசமான

Example: “His self-confidence was adversely affected for years to come”

12) Imposed

Meaning: Force (an unwelcome decision or ruling) on someone.

Tamil Meaning: திணிக்கப்பட்ட

Synonyms: Levy, charge, exact

Antonyms: Free

Example: “sanctions imposed on South Africa”

13) Diversifying

Meaning: Make or become more diverse or varied.

Tamil Meaning: பரவலாக

Synonyms: Branch out, vary output, expand

Antonyms: Continue, Remain, Conform

Example: “The company expanded rapidly and diversified into computers”

14) Wean

Meaning: be strongly influenced by (something), especially from an early age.

Tamil Meaning: கவர

Synonyms: Discourage, halt, Remove

Example: “The doctor tried to wean her off the sleeping pills”

15) Inadequacies

Meaning: The state or quality of being inadequate; lack of the quantity or quality required.

Tamil Meaning: போதாத

Synonyms: Insufficiency, deficiency

Antonyms: Abundance, surplus, competence

Example: “The inadequacy of available resources”

16) Revive

Meaning: Give new strength or energy to.

Tamil Meaning: புதுப்பிக்க

Synonyms: Reinvigorate, revitalize, refresh

Antonyms: Abolish

Example: “The paper made panicky attempts to revive falling sales”

17) Indicative

Meaning: Serving as a sign or indication of something.

Tamil Meaning: அறிகுறியாக

Synonyms: Symptomatic, expressive, suggestive

Example: “Having recurrent dreams is not necessarily indicative of any psychological problem”

18) Cognisant

Meaning: Having knowledge or awareness.

Synonyms: Aware, conscious, apprised

Antonyms: Ignorant, Senseless

Example: That the government has set up/revived these committees only in its final year in the office goes to show that it is cognisant of the fact that its national security performance has been found severely wanting.

19) Erroneously

Meaning: In a mistaken way; incorrectly.

Tamil Meaning: தவறுதலாக

Synonyms: awkwardly, poorly, Crudely

Antonyms: Adequately, Calmly, Little

Example: “He was erroneously reported dead”

20) Salvage

Meaning: Retrieve or preserve (something) from potential loss or adverse circumstances.

Tamil Meaning: காப்பு

Synonyms: Rescue, save, recover, retrieve

Antonyms: Abandon, Lose, Harm

Example: “his first goal salvaged a precious point for his club”

21) Deteriorated

Meaning: Become progressively worse.

Tamil Meaning: மோசமடைந்ததால்

Synonyms: Worsen, get worse, decline

Antonyms: Improve

Example: “Relations between the countries had deteriorated sharply”

22) Ceasefire

Meaning: A temporary suspension of fighting; a truce.

Tamil Meaning: போர்நிறுத்தம்

Synonyms: Truce, Suspension

Antonyms: Dispute, Fight, War

Example: “The latest ceasefire seems to be holding”

23) Subside

Meaning: Go down to a lower or the normal level.

Tamil Meaning:

Synonyms: Abate, let up, moderate

Antonyms: Rise

Example: “The floods subside almost as quickly as they arise”

24) Valiantly

Meaning: With courage or determination.

Tamil Meaning:

Synonyms: Boldly, Fearlessly

Example: “They fought valiantly to the end”

25) Befitting

Meaning: appropriate to the occasion.

Tamil Meaning: சரியான பதிலடியை

Example: “A country which can run the prestigious tournament in a befitting manner”


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