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The Hindu Editorial

18-January-2024

1. A search for deterrence in the Red Sea.

Topic: GS2 – International Relations GS3 Internal Security – Challenges to internal security through communication networks
UPSC candidates must understand the geopolitical complexities arising from Houthi rebel attacks, testing international cooperation and impacting maritime security. 
Context:
  • The article discusses Houthi rebels’ attacks on merchant shipping in the Red Sea, using drones and ASBMS in response to Israeli actions.
  • It highlights international challenges, division among allies, and the need for a strategic resolution to avoid escalation.
Current Situation:
  • Houthi rebels in Yemen respond to Israeli attacks and Gaza bombings with attacks on merchant shipping in the Red Sea.
  • Attacks involve the use of drones and anti-ship ballistic missiles (ASBMS), including the hijacking of the Galaxy Leader with a helicopter.
International Response:
  • S. removes Houthi rebels from terror listing but plans to designate them as a global terrorist group from mid-February.
  • Concerns about the impact on trade due to modern weaponry used by rebels and challenges in international cooperation.
Complexity and Challenges:
  • International response lacks unity and cooperation, raising questions about interoperability despite substantial maritime forces.
  • Similarities with past piracy issues, highlighting operational limitations and delayed responses.
Potential State Support:
  • Allegations of state support for Houthis, pointing to Iran and possibly China.
  • Concerns about missile technology proliferation, with implications for regional stability.
Operation Prosperity Guardian:
  • S.-led operation under Combined Maritime Force’s Combined Task Force 153 faces a tepid response.
  • Lack of participation from NATO allies (France, Italy, Spain), Saudi Arabia, UAE, Japan, and Australia.
Division Among Allies:
  • Saudi Arabia and UAE hesitant to join, potentially due to ongoing negotiations in Yemen and concerns about supporting Israel.
  • India, despite being a full member of CMF, operates independently, indicating geopolitical considerations.
Challenges and Calibrated Actions:
  • Houthis exploiting divisions among like-minded nations, challenging the U.S.’s global dominance.
  • Need for a strategic and achievable end state to avoid further escalation and state-on-state confrontation.
  • Focus on preventing weapon supply, but complexities due to Yemen’s unique geopolitical situation.
Conclusion:
  • International unity is crucial to address Houthi attacks, prevent trade disruptions, and navigate geopolitical challenges for maritime security.
PYQ: In 2012, the longitudinal marking of the high-risk areas for piracy was moved from 65° East to 78° east in the Arabian Sea by International Maritime organisation. What impact does this have on India’s maritime security concerns? (200 words/12.5m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2014)

2. The fading role of universities in society

Topic: GS2 – Social Justice – Education

UPSC candidates should grasp the implications of declining academic freedom, government interference, and its impact on democratic values in India.

Context:
  • The article addresses concerns about eroding academic freedom in Indian universities, citing instances of government interference, restrictions on dissent, and a decline in global academic freedom rankings, urging a collaborative effort for its restoration.

Government Interference:

  • UGC directs universities to display government logos, creating selfie points with the Prime Minister, compromising academic freedom.
  • Similar instances include promoting political propaganda, like generating awareness on G-20 meetings and Swachhatha campaigns.

Erosion of Academic Freedom:

  • Ongoing trend of suppressing academic freedom evident in multiple incidents, such as cancelation of discussions and fines for protests.
  • Resignations of scholars at Ashoka University after a paper critical of the ruling party’s electoral performance.

Democratic Values and Dissent:

  • Importance of dissent and critical thinking in a democracy highlighted, questioning restrictions on articulation of opinions in academic institutions.
  • Concerns raised about the impact on academic work and research environment due to restrictions on free expression.

Global Academic Freedom Index:

  • India’s academic freedom index ranks in the bottom 30% among 179 countries, scoring lower than India’s geopolitical rival Pakistan.
  • Reflects a downward spiral in academic freedom, reminiscent of Emergency-era rankings.

Constitutional Framework:

  • Academic freedom in India not explicitly mentioned in the constitution, subsumed under the right to free speech, subject to reasonable restrictions.
  • Misuse of sedition laws and defamation lawsuits hindering freedom of expression for artists and scholars.

Institutional Autonomy:

  • UGC’s deviation from its core function to monitor standards in universities, becoming an instrument of the ministry.
  • Growing trend of political considerations over merit in university appointments, leading to erosion of institutional autonomy.

Call for Protections:

  • Calls for universities to include clauses protecting academic freedom in faculty contracts, seeking global institutions’ support in university rankings.
  • Emphasis on the need for political parties to consult with faculty and student bodies to address the decline in academic freedom.

Conclusion:

  • The article concludes by urging collaborative efforts, involving political parties and stakeholders, to safeguard academic freedom, combat government interference, and uphold democratic values in Indian universities for a robust and inclusive educational environment.
Practice Question: Will continued government interference and declining academic freedom hinder India’s democratic ideals, limiting diverse perspectives within educational institutions? (150 words/10 m)

 

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