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Indian Express Editorial Analysis

5-March-2024

1. Let Pakistan be

Topic: GS2 – International Relations – Bilateral Relations
This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains as this article delves into the dynamics of bilateral relations between India and Pakistan, which is crucial for understanding the geopolitical landscape in South Asia.
Context:
  • As Shehbaz Sharif assumes the role of Prime Minister of Pakistan, attention naturally shifts towards the prospects of thawing the frosty relations with India.
  • However, amidst this anticipation, there are several factors tempering expectations for a significant breakthrough in bilateral relations.
Bilateral Relations: Low Priority for India and Pakistan:
  • Improving bilateral relations between India and Pakistan is not a pressing priority for either nation.
  • Both Delhi and Islamabad view bilateral engagement as a high-cost, low-reward endeavor.
  • Furthermore, the greater the ambition for fruitful bilateral relations, the higher the political costs associated with organizing such engagements.
  • Pakistan, in particular, faces domestic challenges that weaken the new government’s ability to pursue ambitious diplomatic initiatives.
Modi’s Stance and India’s Priorities:
  • Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership, Pakistan has descended down the list of India’s foreign policy priorities.
  • Modi has demonstrated India’s willingness to endure the freeze in bilateral relations and has effectively renegotiated the terms of engagement with Pakistan, which were established during a vulnerable period for India in the early 1990s.
Pakistan’s Stance and Obsession with India:
  • In contrast, Pakistan remains fixated on India but has hindered progress with preconditions on engagement, particularly regarding the status of Kashmir.
  • The insistence on rolling back the 2019 constitutional changes in Kashmir is deemed unrealistic by the Modi government, further complicating any potential resumption of talks.
Challenges in Normalizing Relations:
  • Any positive movement in Pakistan regarding relations with India would require a departure from its fixation on Kashmir.
  • However, this shift poses political challenges, especially amidst internal power struggles and the popularity of figures like Imran Khan, who advocate a hardline stance on Kashmir.
Economic Disparities and Reform Challenges:
  • Pakistan also grapples with significant economic disparities compared to India, making it challenging to embark on substantial economic reforms.
  • While Sharif acknowledges the need for reform, the government’s legitimacy and policy competence are questioned, hindering progress in this regard.
External Pressures and Geopolitical Realities:
  • Pakistan faces external pressures from conflicting alliances, notably between China and the US, as well as evolving dynamics in the Gulf region.
  • The changing geopolitical landscape adds to Pakistan’s challenges, necessitating internal reforms and external reorientation.
 Conclusion:
  • Given the multifaceted challenges facing Pakistan, including internal reform imperatives and external geopolitical pressures, immediate prospects for significant bilateral improvement with India appear limited.
  • However, there may be opportunities for engagement based on evolving dynamics, including a potential shift in Pakistan’s perception of Indian leadership.
About India-Pakistan relations
  • India and Pakistan share linguistic, cultural, geographic, and economic links, yet their relation has been mired in complexity due to a number of historical and political events.
  • Indo-Pak relations have been defined by the violent partition of British India in 1947, the Jammu & Kashmir conflict and the numerous military conflicts fought between the two nations.
  • Soon after gaining their independence, India and Pakistan established diplomatic relations, but the violent partition and reciprocal territorial claims quickly overshadowed their relationship.
  • Since their independence, the two countries have fought three major wars, as well as one undeclared war, and have been involved in numerous armed skirmishes and military standoffs.
  • The Kashmir conflict is the main centre-point of all of these conflicts with the exception of the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971 and the Bangladesh Liberation War, which resulted in the secession of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh).
  • Since the early 1980s, relations between the two nations have grown increasingly sour, particularly after the Siachen conflict, intensification of the Kashmir insurgency in 1989, Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests in 1998, 1999 Kargil War, 2001 Indian Parliament attack, 2007 Samjhauta Express bombings, the 2008 Mumbai attacks, the 2016 Pathankot attack and the 2019 Pulwama attack resulted in a severe blow to the ongoing India–Pakistan peace talks.
PYQ: Terrorist activities and mutual distrust have clouded India-Pakistan relations. To what extent the use of soft power like sports and cultural exchanges could help generate goodwill between the two countries? Discuss with suitable examples. (200 words/12.5m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-2 2015)
Practice Question:  How do the contrasting priorities and negotiating stances of the Modi government in India and the Sharif administration in Pakistan impact the potential for progress in bilateral relations, particularly concerning issues like Kashmir and economic reform? (250 words/15 m)

2. Why minerals are critical

Topic: GS1 – Geography – Distribution of Key natural resources
GS2 – Governance – Government policies – Interventions for development in various sectors This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains in the context of understanding the significance of critical minerals and the regulatory framework governing their extraction.
Context:
  • In the past year, the government has taken two significant steps regarding critical minerals.
  • First, in July 2023, a list of 30 critical minerals (excluding rare earths) was identified, followed by an amendment to mining laws in November 2023 to enable private sector participation in the auctioning of 20 blocks of critical minerals and rare earths.
Definition and Significance of Critical Minerals:
  • Critical minerals, while lacking a standardized definition, are identified by countries based on various criteria such as disruption potential, substitutability, cross-sectoral usage, import reliance, and recycling rates.
  • It is crucial to distinguish between critical minerals and rare earths, as they serve diverse industrial purposes beyond decarbonization efforts.
Implications for Decarbonization and Industrial Sectors:
  • Critical minerals play a vital role not only in decarbonization but also in various sectors such as fertilizers, construction, transportation, consumer electronics, and defense.
  • Notably, clean energy technologies such as solar PV plants, wind farms, and electric vehicles require a significantly higher mineral input compared to fossil fuel counterparts, highlighting the growing demand for critical minerals in achieving climate goals.
Global Distribution and China’s Dominance:
  • The distribution of critical minerals is concentrated among a few countries, with China, Australia, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and others controlling significant reserves.
  • China stands out for its dominant position, controlling a substantial share of rare earth reserves and processing capacities, allowing it to exert influence over global supply chains.
Formation of Minerals Security Partnership (MSP):
  • China’s monopoly on critical minerals has prompted concerns and led to the establishment of the US-led Minerals Security Partnership (MSP), aimed at securing critical mineral supply chains.
  • India has joined the MSP, along with other countries possessing critical mineral deposits or processing technology.
  • However, the effectiveness of the MSP may be limited by the exclusion of key mineral-rich countries like Chile, DRC, and Indonesia.
India’s Dependency and Plans for Decarbonization:
  • India’s ambitious plans for decarbonization, aiming to achieve net-zero emissions by 2070 and set up 500GW of non-fossil fuel power generating capacity by 2030, underscore the importance of securing a steady supply of critical minerals.
  • Currently, India heavily relies on imports for critical minerals, highlighting the need for exploration, processing capabilities, and technology access to support its decarbonization goals.
Challenges and Future Prospects:
  • Despite efforts to secure critical mineral supply chains, challenges remain, including limited availability, processing capabilities, and geopolitical tensions.
  • Lack of access to critical minerals poses a significant obstacle to India’s decarbonization efforts, emphasizing the need for strategic partnerships, technological advancements, and long-term planning to address these challenges effectively.
About Mineral Security Partnership
  • It is an ambitious new initiative to bolster critical mineral supply chains, announced by the United States (US) and key partner countries in June 2022.
  • The goal of the alliance is to ensure that critical minerals are produced, processed, and recycled in a manner that supports the ability of countries to realise the full economic development benefit of their geological endowments.
  • The focus of the grouping would be on the supply chains of minerals such as Cobalt, Nickel, Lithium and also the 17 “rare earth” minerals.
What are major critical minerals?
  • The major critical minerals are Graphite, Lithium and Cobalt.
  • They are used for making EV batteries and are also critical for making semiconductors and high-end electronics manufacturing.
  • These minerals are also used in manufacturing fighter jets, drones, radio sets and other critical equipment.
Who are the top producers of critical minerals?
  • The major producers of critical minerals globally are Chile, Indonesia, Congo, China, Australia and South Africa.
What are rare earth elements?
  • The 17 rare earth elements (REE) include the 15 Lanthanides (atomic numbers 57 — which is Lanthanum — to 71 in the periodic table) plus Scandium (atomic number 21) and Yttrium (39).
PYQ: Recently, there has been a concern over the short supply of a group of elements called ‘rare earth metals’. Why? (2012) 1) China, which is the largest producer of these elements, has imposed some restrictions on their export. 2) Other than China, Australia, Canada and Chile, these elements are not found in any country. 3) Rare earth metals are essential for the manufacture of various kinds of electronic items and there is a growing demand for these elements. Which of the statements given above is/are correct? (a) 1 only (b) 2 and 3 only (c) 1 and 3 only (d) 1, 2 and 3 Ans: (c)
Practice Question:  Examine the geopolitical implications of China’s dominance in critical minerals production and processing, and India’s strategic responses, including its participation in the Minerals Security Partnership. (250 words/15 m)

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