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1. In poll season, the perils of scorching bilateral ties

Topic: GS2 – Governance, GS2 –  International Relations

Understanding how domestic politics influences foreign policy is crucial for UPSC aspirants to grasp India’s diplomatic complexities.

●  The article discusses how India’s upcoming general elections intertwine with foreign policy issues, particularly focusing on statements by Indian leaders regarding India-Sri Lanka relations and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, raising concerns about international implications and the need for diplomatic discretion.


  • In the 21st century era of populism, the unwritten rule is that “all geopolitics is local,” leading leaders worldwide to prioritise foreign policies that align with domestic political interests.
  • However, the upcoming general elections in India have seen foreign policy issues, notably concerning India-Sri Lanka relations, become central campaign topics, departing from the norm.

India-Sri Lanka Relations

  • Recent statements by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar criticised the 1974 India-Sri Lanka agreement regarding Katchatheevu island.
  • Criticism of past agreements has been questioned by various sources, including Parliament, Right to Information (RTI) replies, and court depositions.
  • While aimed at influencing the Tamil Nadu electorate, these statements could strain long-term bilateral ties with Sri Lanka, jeopardising the goodwill gained from Indian support during Sri Lanka’s economic crisis.

International Implications

  • The Indian government’s hints at revisiting the 1974 agreement raise concerns about the stability of other international agreements based on it.
  • Potential revisions could affect negotiations with countries like Bangladesh and could damage India’s credibility as a reliable negotiating partner.
  • The example of the Indus Waters Treaty shows the challenges and repercussions of threatening to revoke longstanding agreements.

Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA)

  • The government’s decision to implement the CAA, with implications for neighbouring countries, has sparked concerns internationally.
  • The exclusionary nature of the CAA has been criticised by neighbouring countries like Bangladesh, potentially straining ties.
  • Fear over the NRC’s implementation could further strain ties, especially with Bangladesh, and has already led to protests and casualties.

Opposition and Foreign Policy

  • The Opposition has raised issues such as the India-China standoff and alleged transnational killings by Indian agencies, influencing foreign policy discussions during the election campaign.
  • Allegations from countries like Canada and Pakistan regarding Indian involvement in killings highlight international tensions.
  • India’s varying responses to different countries’ allegations demonstrate the complexity of managing international relations during elections.

Discretion in Diplomacy

  • Resolving international disputes discreetly through closed bilateral negotiations is crucial, especially during election campaigns.
  • Statements made during elections can have lasting consequences on bilateral ties, as seen in recent disputes with Nepal over territorial issues.
  • Sacrificing bilateral ties for domestic political gains can have long-term repercussions beyond the election season.


  • In conclusion, India’s foreign policy discussions during the election campaign reflect the intersection of domestic politics and international relations, with implications for bilateral ties and regional stability.
  • Balancing electoral interests with diplomatic discretion is essential to avoid undermining India’s credibility and long-term foreign policy objectives.
PYQ: In respect of India — Sri Lanka relations, discuss how domestic factors influence foreign policy. (200 words/10m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-2 2013)
Practice Question:  Discuss the impact of domestic electoral considerations on India’s foreign policy decisions, citing recent examples and analyzing their implications. (250 Words /15 marks)


2. A battle to save Ladakh, and all of humanity.

Topic: GS2 – Governance, GS3 –  Environment – Environmental pollution and degradation

Understanding the environmental challenges and sustainable development in the Himalayan region is crucial for UPSC aspirants.


●  The article discusses climate activist Sonam Wangchuk’s call for action on climate change in Ladakh amidst rapid infrastructure development.

●  The article highlights the Himalayan region’s vulnerability to environmental degradation and the need for sustainable practices.


  • Sonam Wangchuk, a Ramon Magsaysay award winner and climate activist, announced a 21-day climate fast in Leh, Ladakh, addressing a 30,000-strong crowd.
  • Ladakh, situated between India’s neighbors Pakistan and China, faces the dual challenges of border disputes and the damaging effects of climate change.

Himalayan Region and Climate Change

  • Ladakh, with 97% indigenous tribes, relies heavily on farming and animal rearing for livelihood, facing threats from floods, droughts, landslides, and pollutants due to climate change.
  • The Himalayan region, known as the Third Pole, contains about 15,000 glaciers, vital for the hydrological cycle, but is at risk of melting due to global warming.

National Mission for Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem (NMSHE)

  • The NMSHE, launched under the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC), aims to assess the vulnerability of the Himalayan region to climate change and monitor the ecosystem’s health.
  • However, rapid infrastructure development in Ladakh following its status change to a Union Territory seems to have overshadowed the NMSHE’s objectives.

Rapid Infrastructure Development in Ladakh

  • Mega projects including bridges, roads, tunnels, railways, and solar energy projects have been launched at a rapid pace, raising concerns about environmental impact.
  • Projects like the Zojila tunnel, Kargil-Zanskar National Highway, and large-scale solar projects are being pursued despite the region’s vulnerability to climate change-related disasters.

Past Disasters and Lack of Learning

  • The Himalayan region has witnessed disasters like the 2013 Kedarnath flash floods, 2023 Joshimath disaster, and the 2023 Silkyara tunnel collapse, yet lessons from these tragedies seem to go unheeded.
  • Despite warnings from experts, infrastructure projects continue unabated, risking lives and livelihoods of residents, tourists, and pilgrims.

Inadequate Review and Environmental Activism

  • Climate change activists’ recommendations often remain unimplemented, with scant attention given to risk assessment, safety measures, and geological analysis in mega projects.
  • The fragile balance of the Himalayan ecosystem and its biodiversity is at risk due to unchecked development activities.


  • Sonam Wangchuk’s climate activism in Ladakh highlights the broader battle for environmental protection and sustainable development in the Himalayan region.
  • Urgent action is needed to ensure the preservation of the Himalayas and the well-being of its inhabitants, reflecting the collective responsibility of humanity for future generations’ welfare.
Vulnerability of Himalayan Ecosystem:

Importance of Himalayan Ecosystem:

● Biodiversity Hotspot: The Himalayas host a rich diversity of flora and fauna, including many endemic species.

Water Source: Major rivers like the Ganges, Brahmaputra, and Indus originate from the Himalayas, supporting millions of people downstream.

● Cultural Significance: The Himalayas hold spiritual and cultural significance for indigenous communities and serve as a pilgrimage site for many.

Economic Value: Tourism, agriculture, and hydropower generation are vital economic activities dependent on the Himalayan ecosystem.

Possible Impact of Climate Change on The Himalayas:

Glacier Retreat: Rising temperatures lead to the melting of glaciers, affecting water availability and hydrological cycles.

●  Landslides and Erosion: Increased precipitation and thawing permafrost destabilise slopes, leading to more frequent landslides and erosion.

Biodiversity Loss: Habitat loss and fragmentation threaten species survival, leading to ecosystem imbalances.

●  Water Scarcity: Changes in precipitation patterns and glacier melt impact water availability, affecting agriculture and livelihoods.

Disruption of Livelihoods: Communities dependent on natural resources face socio-economic challenges due to environmental degradation.

Way Forward:

● Sustainable Infrastructure: Implement eco-friendly infrastructure projects with minimal ecological footprint.

Climate-Resilient Development: Integrate climate change adaptation strategies into development planning to reduce vulnerability.

● Conservation Measures: Establish protected areas and promote sustainable land-use practices to preserve biodiversity.

● Community Engagement: Involve local communities in decision-making processes and empower them to manage natural resources sustainably.

International Cooperation: Collaborate with neighboring countries for transboundary conservation efforts and climate change mitigation.

Research and Monitoring: Conduct scientific research and monitoring to understand ecosystem dynamics and inform policy decisions.

Steps taken by Indian government in this regard:

● National Mission for Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem (NMSHE): Focuses on research, policy development, and regional cooperation for sustainable management.

●  SECURE Himalaya Project: Aims to conserve forests, biodiversity, and endangered species like snow leopards while ensuring sustainable livelihoods for local communities.

● Protected Areas: Network of National Parks, Wildlife Sanctuaries, and Biores for habitat conservation.

●  Forest Conservation Measures: Initiatives like Green India Mission to increase forest cover and promote sustainable forestry practices.

● Climate Change Initiatives: India’s National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) includes strategies for mitigating climate change impacts on the Himalayas.

PYQ: Bring out the relationship between the shrinking Himalayan glaciers and the symptoms of climate change in the Indian subcontinent. (150 words/10m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-1 2014)
Practice Question:  Discuss the implications of rapid infrastructure development on the Himalayan ecosystem and strategies for sustainable growth in the region. (250 Words /15 marks)

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