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Daily Current Affairs 05.09.2022 (Deploying 5G in a world built on 4G technology, The International Monetary Fund’s staff-level agreement with Sri Lanka, Untangling Kerala’s Lokayukta controversy, ‘Dark sky reserve’ to come up in Ladakh, Scientists remain sceptical about how nano urea benefits crops, ISRO tests system to recover spent rocket stages, Justice rendered, but only incompletely, India and Australia, from divergence to convergence, Coercion as conversion, Perils of brinksmanship, A lot is at stake for India-Bangladesh ties)

Daily Current Affairs 05.09.2022 (Deploying 5G in a world built on 4G technology, The International Monetary Fund’s staff-level agreement with Sri Lanka, Untangling Kerala’s Lokayukta controversy, ‘Dark sky reserve’ to come up in Ladakh, Scientists remain sceptical about how nano urea benefits crops, ISRO tests system to recover spent rocket stages, Justice rendered, but only incompletely, India and Australia, from divergence to convergence, Coercion as conversion, Perils of brinksmanship, A lot is at stake for India-Bangladesh ties)

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1. Deploying 5G in a world built on 4G technology

The switch to a pureplay 5G architecture is no more a question of whether or not, but when and how

Since 4G’s inception in the early 2010s, the number of smartphone users have grown significantly. According to Statista, the total number of smartphone users in the world has nearly doubled from 3.7 billion in 2016 to 6.6 billion in 2022.

A 5G-based connected future is upon us. That means deploying services in a world filled with 4G compatible devices. So, telecom operators have two options. They can either build a non-standalone (NSA) or a standalone architecture. 

In an NSA framework, the operator can use their existing installed capacities and LTE architecture to deploy 5G services while implementing a new radio access network (RAN). The SA model, on the contrary, is a pureplay 5G architecture that provides operators full range of the fifth-generation capability and lets them slice the network. In this architecture, RAN and the core are completely new.

John Xavier

Since the dawn of mobile communication in the early 1980s, companies and consumers have been adapting to new ways of sending and receiving information. The first-generation technology of this era let people make and receive phones calls through their mobile handheld devices while the second and third generations added text and multi-media messaging, as well as email services to cell phones. The emergence of 4G in the early part of the past decade changed the mobile-telephone landscape. This paradigmatic shift let users stream and download videos at speeds three times greater than 3G. The Long Term Evolution (LTE) standard-based generation had two important characteristics that set it apart from its predecessors.

4G multiplexing

With 4G-capable cell phones, people could make calls over the Internet instead of via telephone networks. This generation’s evolution to 4G+ (LTE advanced), which offered download speeds of 200 to 300 Mbps, made it easier for people to connect and talk over the Internet.

Secondly, 4G’s multiplexing capability, technically known as orthogonal frequency division multiplex (OFDM), provided a level of efficiency in achieving high data transfer rates while allowing multiple users to share a common channel. The OFDM modulation scheme divides a channel into several subcarriers. These subcarriers are spaced orthogonally so they don’t interfere with one another despite the lack of guard bands between them. “OFDM is a very good choice for a mobile TV air interface. It offers good spectral efficiency, immunity to multi-path, good mobile performance, and it works well in single-frequency networks such as those planned for mobile TV,” according to a research paper titled ‘Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing and its Applications’. It is this aspect of 4G that lets people use social media, download music in an app, and live-stream videos on mobile devices.

Gadgets galore

Since 4G’s inception in the early 2010s, the number of smartphone users have grown significantly. According to data intelligence firm Statista, the total number of smartphone users in the world has nearly doubled in the last seven years to 6.6 billion in 2022, from 3.7 billion in 2016. This number is estimated to rise by another billion by 2027.

Not just users, the number of mobile devices in use have also skyrocketed. The total number of phones and tablets in use is expected to be over 18.2 billion, according to technology market research firm Radicati. When one adds another few billion wearables and Internet of Things (IoT) devices to this mix, the result is a massive data hungry world of gadgets. As the number of connected devices rises, so does our dependence on them to do daily tasks.

The number of devices and things connected to the internet is not confined to the consumer world. Enterprises are also moving to digital channels and optimising the way tasks get done with the help of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), predictive maintenance, and other environmental condition monitoring sensors. For these devices to work in sync with several other applications a far superior networking and connectivity is needed and the decade-old LTE-based generation is ill-prepared to handle workloads and real-time data processing of this magnitude.

Deploying 5G

The latest iteration of mobile connectivity offers low latency, greater download speeds coupled with the ability to connect multiple devices and exchange data in real-time. Building on the multiplexing technology of its predecessor, 5G ushers in a new standard called 5G New Radio (NR), which uses the best capabilities of LTE. 5G NR will enable increased energy savings for connected devices and enhance connectivity. Apart from this, the fifth-generation of mobile communication will use high-frequency millimeter wave (mmWave) bands that operate on wavelengths between 30 GHz and 300 GHz. For comparison, 4G’s LTE operates on wavelengths under 6 GHz.

While 5G has been around since the late 2010s, it didn’t reach the kind of ubiquity its predecessor enjoyed until mid-2020s. That’s because there are fewer 5G-compatible devices in the market compared to 4G ones, and a delayed auctioning and rollout of 5G airwaves is holding people back from using the service.

A 5G-based connected future is upon us. That means deploying services based on the latest generation in a world filled with 4G compatible devices. So, telecom operators and businesses looking to build their services on 5G have two options. They can either build a non-standalone (NSA) or a standalone architecture.

In an NSA framework, the operator can use their existing installed capacities and LTE architecture to deploy 5G services while implementing a new radio access network (RAN). The operations in the core network will be supported by the existing evolved packet core (EPC) from LTE. This short-to-medium term strategy can help operators reduce capital expenditure and lower operating costs that may arise from installing a new core network.

Germany, for example, used the NSA model to roll out 5G services in 2019. Deutsche Telekom leveraged its LTE-based core to deliver service that is not as fast as pure 5G, but which achieved the purpose of providing broad national coverage to a large proportion of the population and that too in a time-bound manner. The national carrier has now started testing 5G SA architecture in select settings.

Standalone model

The SA model, on the contrary, is a pureplay 5G architecture that provides operators full range of the fifth-generation’s capability and lets them slice the network. In this architecture, RAN and the core are completely new, and there will be a clear separation of different network functions in line with 3GPP recommendations.

U.S.-based Dish Network Corporation deployed a standalone 5G network in 2021. The cloud-native firm is said to be building an Open RAN-based network from scratch, and is looking to run its service on the public cloud. In India, Chinese handset maker Oppo conducted 5G network trials in July 2021 on one of its premium smartphones under the SA network environment provided by Reliance Jio at its 5G Lab in Hyderabad. Reliance Industries Limited plans to expand its 5G network to “every town” in India by the end of 2023, according to the company’s Chairman and Managing Director Mukesh Ambani. The firm plans to implement 5G SA architecture to provide better performance than an NSA based set up.

Different countries and firms are at various stages of 5G deployment. The switch to a pureplay 5G SA architecture is no more a question of whether or not, but when and how. Telecom operators will drive 5G deployment towards a standalone future in the next few years. This will simplify their network operations and improve user experience. Operators may also look to leverage network slicing opportunities by creating dedicated segments for specific users and use cases. Each slice could present an opportunity for operators to build a revenue stream. And just like how the mobile device-based communication era made people adapt to the new technology four decades ago, 5G could potentially make consumers connect and exchange information in a new way.

2. The International Monetary Fund’s staff-level agreement with Sri Lanka

What are the pre-requisites IMF laid down before the Sri Lankan government? How has India reacted to the agreement?

The IMF on September 1 announced a staff-level agreement with Sri Lanka, months after the island nation’s economic crisis intensified this year.

The IMF’s External Fund Facility is conditional on many factors. Sri Lanka must take a series of immediate measures to fix fiscal lapses and structural weaknesses — such as raising fiscal revenue, safeguarding financial stability and reducing corruption vulnerabilities.

The IMF package will make Sri Lanka credit-worthy again, allowing the government to borrow once again. 

Meera Srinivasan

The story so far: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) on September 1 announced a staff-level agreement with Sri Lanka, months after the island nation’s economic crisis intensified this year, following a serious Balance of Payments problem.

What is the staff-level agreement?

It is a formal arrangement by which IMF staff and Sri Lankan authorities agree on a $2.9-billion package that will support Sri Lanka’s economic policies with a 48-month arrangement under the Extended Fund Facility (EFF).

However, even though the IMF has agreed to support Sri Lanka, the EFF is conditional on many factors. Sri Lanka must take a series of immediate measures that the Fund has deemed necessary to fix fiscal lapses and structural weaknesses — such as raising fiscal revenue, safeguarding financial stability and reducing corruption vulnerabilities. Apart from making domestic policy changes to strengthen the economy, Sri Lanka must also restructure its debt with its multiple lenders. The IMF has said that it will provide financial support to Sri Lanka only after the country’s official creditors give financing assurances on debt sustainability, and when the government reaches a collaborative agreement with its private creditors. The process could take several months.

What next?

Sri Lanka has already taken some significant policy measures. Beginning this year, the Central Bank has floated the rupee, raised interest rates sharply, increased electricity tariffs and fuel prices and restored tax cuts introduced during President Gotabaya’s time in office. While the government embarks on a path of fiscal consolidation, it has the difficult task of negotiating with a diverse group of creditors, including International Sovereign Bond (ISB) holders, to whom the island owes nearly half of its foreign debt, multilateral-lateral agencies, and foreign governments, mainly China, Japan, and India. While talks with the ISB holders are likely to be legal and technical, discussion with bilateral creditors is a more complex exercise, with geopolitical dimensions.

What have the countries said?

China has signalled its willingness to lend more money to the country but has put the onus of restructuring past debt on Sri Lanka. “We hope Sri Lanka will work actively with China in a similar spirit and work out a feasible solution expeditiously,” the Chinese Embassy said after the government firmed up the staff-level agreement with the IMF.

Japan has pledged to work with Sri Lanka and other creditors, but underscored that it is important for Sri Lanka, in collaboration with the IMF and Paris Club, “to work for the betterment of its economic and fiscal situation while securing transparency.” India, too, backs the IMF process and will likely cooperate, although New Delhi has said it is still studying the “evolving, unfolding” story of the IMF agreement. Ministry of External Affairs spokesman Arindam Bagchi said: “India has been advocating for assistance to Sri Lanka but let us see how it progresses. Issues of creditor equitability and transparency are important.” This means that India expects Sri Lanka to treat all its creditors equally and fairly. The statement comes amid speculation on whether Colombo might accord preferential treatment to one partner.

The IMF has indicated that creditors also have a role to play in ensuring Sri Lanka’s crisis does not deepen.

Is the $2.9-billion a bailout package?

The $2.9 billion agreed upon by both sides, is short of Sri Lanka’s expectations of support totalling $3 to $4 billion. In any case, even if the IMF package arrives swiftly, subject to Sri Lanka’s success with the “prior actions” spelt out by the Fund, it cannot “bailout” Sri Lanka.

After a pre-emptive sovereign default in April — the island’s foreign debt totals $51 billion — Sri Lanka is still grappling with its Balance of Payments crisis. The government has resorted to wide import restrictions, while exports remain limited to the country’s traditional basket of tea, garments, and spices.

From the ordinary citizen’s point of view, cost of living is soaring. Headline inflation went up to 64.3% in August 2022, and food inflation increased to 93.7%. The World Food Programme estimated that about 30% of Sri Lanka’s population, became food insecure, since the crisis worsened this year. Many families, especially those belonging to the working population, are starving.

How then can the IMF package help?

If it comes through, the IMF package will effectively make Sri Lanka credit-worthy again, allowing the government to borrow once again from private creditors, multilateral lenders and bilateral partners. While many see the programme as necessary, few think it will be sufficient for substantive economic recovery. They believe it would push the government to make necessary policy shifts to ensure higher revenue and lesser state spending and address the problem of corruption.

The responsibility of building fiscal strength and resilience is, however, Sri Lanka’s. For that, the government must also introspect on its heavy reliance on imports, the status of domestic production, prospects for boosting exports with greater value addition, and ways to address income and wealth inequality.

3. Untangling Kerala’s Lokayukta controversy

The State’s Lokayukta Act needs to be brought on a par with the Lokpal Act

The Lokpal is conceived of as a body which will inquire into allegations of corruption. It is basically an investigative body whose task is to conduct prompt and fair investigation and the prosecution of cases of corruption. The Lokpal and Lokayukta Act delegates the power to States to establish by law the Lokayukta to deal with complaints relating to corruption against public functionaries.

Section 14 of the Lokayukta Act which has now been amended said that if the Lokayukta is satisfied on the complaint against the public servant being substantiated that he should not continue to hold the post held by him. However, an investigative body does not have the legal authority to direct the public servant to resign his post on the basis of its findings. Also in cases involving a Chief Minister, the Governor can dismiss him only when he loses his majority in the Assembly and refuses to step down.

There are some other provisions which may not stand legal scrutiny. For example, this law includes the office bearers of political parties within its definition of ‘public servant’. The Lokayukta law comes under the Prevention of Corruption Act which does not include office-bearers of political parties in its definition clause. 

P.D.T. Achary

The Kerala Legislative Assembly passed the Kerala Lok Ayukta (Amendment) Bill on August 30, amid a boycott by the Congress-led Opposition. The amendments were related to the competent authority to consider Lok Ayukta recommendations. In the case of any unfavourable decision from the Lok Ayukta against the Chief Minister, the competent authority will now be the Legislative Assembly instead of the Governor as is prescribed in the existing Act. In this article published on February 23, 2022, P.D.T. Achary gives us detailed explainer on the history of the Lok Ayukta and its current troubled legalities. Edited excerpts:

The controversy surrounding the amendment to the Lokayukta Act of Kerala — effected through an ordinance —has raised the political temperature in the State with the Opposition accusing the Government of trying to whittle away at the powers of the Lokpal. The Government, on the other hand, claims that through the amendment, a provision in the Act which is unconstitutional has been excised as it gave power to the Lokpal to give directions to the Governor to remove a Chief Minister or a Minister on being found guilty of corruption. This issue has sparked off a noisy debate in the media in the State which has, in fact, generated more heat than light. The Lokayukta has indirectly expressed its resentment over the attempt to take away some of its powers.

The background

The Lokpal-Lokayukta issue has always generated intense debate in the country. In fact, this term was first used in a report of the Administrative Reforms Commission headed by Morarji Desai as far back as in 1966. Political corruption had become rampant by then and it was thought that a credible system of an ombudsman should be established to redress public grievances against public officials and Ministers of the government. The first Bill on Lokpal was introduced in the Lok Sabha in 1968 which lapsed with the dissolution of the House. The idea of a Lokpal has had a long journey; finally, after 45 years the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill was passed by Parliament in 2013. Anna Hazare’s movement and the active involvement of civil society generated a lot of moral pressure on the Government which ultimately led to the passing of the Bill.

In order to get a clearer perspective on the Kerala Lokayukta controversy, it is necessary to understand the scheme of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act enacted by Parliament. The long title of the Act says: “An Act to provide for the establishment of a body of Lokpal for the Union and Lokayukta for States to inquire into allegations of corruption against certain public functionaries….” Thus, the Lokpal is conceived of as a body which will inquire into allegations of corruption. It is basically an investigative body whose task is to conduct prompt and fair investigation and the prosecution of cases of corruption.

However, the Lokpal is no ordinary investigative body. It is headed by the incumbent Chief Justice of India or a retired judge. It has eight members, four of whom are judicial members. Thus the whole system is studded with judges or judicial men. The Lokpal has an inquiry wing and a prosecution wing to deal with investigation and prosecution, respectively. The director of prosecution files the case in the special court based on the findings of the Lokpal.

The Lokpal has jurisdiction to inquire into allegations of corruption against the Prime Minister, Ministers, Members of Parliament, Group A, B, C and D officers and officials of the central government. After the conclusion of the investigation, the Lokpal may file a case in the special court in case the findings disclose the commission of offence under the Prevention of Corruption Act by the Prime Minister, Ministers or Members of Parliament. However, the Lokpal does not have the power to ask the President to remove the Prime Minister or a Minister from office.

The Lokpal and Lokayukta Act delegates the power to States to establish by law the Lokayukta to deal with complaints relating to corruption against public functionaries. Some States already have established Lokayuktas. For example, Maharashtra in 1971, and Kerala in 1999.

In Kerala, the implications

Now, in the background of the Lokpal Act let us examine the Lokayukta controversy in Kerala. Section 14 of the Act which has now been amended said that if the Lokayukta is satisfied on the complaint against the public servant being substantiated that he should not continue to hold the post held by him, he shall make a declaration to that effect in his report to the competent authority who shall accept it and act upon it. In other words, if the public servant is the Chief Minister or a Minister, he shall forthwith resign his office. It may be noted here that such a provision does not exist in any of the State laws or the Lokpal Act of the Centre.

This provision in the State law has serious legal and constitutional implications. Two important points need to be made here. One, an investigative body does not have the legal authority to direct the public servant to resign his post on the basis of its findings. It can only submit its findings to the competent authority or, as is provided in the Lokpal Act, file a case in the special court. The Lokayukta is basically an investigative body with certain powers to carry out an investigation into cases relating to the Prevention of Corruption Act. The only special feature of this body is that it is headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court or a retired Chief Justice of a High Court. But that does not alter the basic character of the Lokayukta as an investigative body. It does not and cannot enjoy the powers of the higher courts which alone can issue such directions in the nature of writs.

Two, the Chief Minister or a Minister holds office during the pleasure of the Governor (Article 164). The Constitution of India does not contemplate any external pressure on the Governor to withdraw his pleasure. The Sarkaria Commission had suggested that the Governor can dismiss a Chief Minister only when he loses his majority in the Assembly and refuses to step down. The Supreme Court has accepted this recommendation of the Sarkaria Commission. Another occasion when the Governor could withdraw his pleasure is when the Chief Minister is disqualified from being a member of the House on account of his having been convicted in a criminal case and sentenced to not less than two years of imprisonment. In other words, a Chief Minister cannot be asked to resign when he enjoys a majority in the House. The Governor, being a high constitutional authority, cannot be compelled by a law to act in a particular manner so far as his constitutional duties and functions are concerned. No agency created by a law made by the Assembly, particularly an investigative body, can declare that its decision be carried out by the Governor. It would amount to a violation of the Constitution.

Thus, Section 14 of the Kerala Lokayukta Act, 1999 suffered from serious legal infirmities and it is only proper that the government of the day revisited this provision.

Provisions that are moot

There are some other provisions as well which may not stand legal scrutiny. For example, this law includes the office bearers of political parties within its definition of ‘public servant’. The Lokayukta law was enacted to inquire into cases of corruption of public functionaries such as Ministers, legislators, etc. who are covered by the Prevention of Corruption Act. This Act does not include office-bearers of political parties in its definition clause. Basically, the Prevention of Corruption Act deals with corruption in the government and allied agencies, statutory bodies, elected bodies, etc. The functionaries of political parties do not come within the mischief of this law. So, it is difficult to understand how they can be brought within the sweep of the Lokayukta Act. Another problematic provision in this law is the one which deals with the reports of Lokayukta (Section 12). It says that the Lokayukta shall, on the allegation of corruption being substantiated, send the findings along with recommendation of action to the competent authority who is required to take action as recommended by the Lokayukta. It further says that if the Lokayukta is satisfied by the action taken by the competent authority, he shall close the case. The question is how the Lokayukta can close a corruption case which is a criminal case and which invites imprisonment for three to seven years. The Lokpal files the case in the court after the investigation. There is no provision in the central law under which the Lokpal can close the case before it reaches the court. The Lokayukta not being a court does not have the legal capacity to close the corruption case under any circumstances.

In fact the whole controversy could have been avoided if an objective and dispassionate analysis of this law had been made by all the stakeholders. The Kerala Lokayukta Act should be re-examined by a committee of the Assembly and should be brought on a par with the Lokpal Act. A legislation which seeks to punish corrupt functionaries should be placed above controversies.

4. ‘Dark sky reserve’ to come up in Ladakh

Hanle, situated 4,500 m above sea level, is one of the world’s most optimal sites for astronomical studies

In a first-of-its-kind initiative, the Department of Science & Technology (DST) has announced the setting up of India’s first dark sky reserve at Hanle in Ladakh in the next three months.

Hanle, which is about 4,500 metres above sea level, hosts telescopes and is regarded as one of the world’s most optimal sites for astronomical observations. However, ensuring that the site remains well-suited for astronomy implies keeping the night sky pristine, or ensuring minimal interference to the telescopes from artificial light sources such as electric lights and vehicular lights from the ground.

A dark sky reserve is a designation given to a place that has policies in place to ensure that a tract of land or region has minimal artificial light interference. The International Dark Sky Association is a U.S.-based non-profit that designates sites as international dark sky places, parks, sanctuaries and reserves, depending on the criteria they meet. Several such reserves exist around the world but none so far in India.

In June, a three-way Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed among the Union Territory administration, the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC), Leh, and the Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA), Bengaluru, which uses and maintains the telescopes, for launching the dark space reserve. Science Minister Jitendra Singh, on Saturday, following a meeting with R.K. Mathur, Lieutenant-Governor, Ladakh, said that the site “will have activities to help in boosting local tourism and economy through interventions of science and technology”.

Annapurni Subramaniam, director, Indian Institute of Astrophysics, said that to promote astro-tourism, villages around Hanle would be encouraged to promote homestays equipped with telescopes that visitors can use to view the night sky.

Villagers would also be trained to help visitors with astronomical observations.

“There would be some restrictions on vehicles and headlights during the evening. There will be delineators on roads like you do outside observatories. People can come, park, observe the sky and stay in homestays,” she told The Hindu.

Ideal conditions

The Indian Astronomical Observatory, the high-altitude station of the IIA, is situated to the north of Western Himalayas, at an altitude of 4,500 metres above mean sea level. Located atop Mt. Saraswati in the Nilamkhul Plain in the Hanle Valley of Changthang, it is a dry, cold desert with sparse human population.

The cloudless skies and low atmospheric water vapour make it one of the best sites in the world for optical, infrared, sub-millimetre, and millimetre wavelengths.

The Himalayan Chandra Telescope, High Energy Gamma Ray Telescope, Major Atmospheric Cherenkov Experiment Telescope and GROWTH-India are the prominent telescopes located at the Hanle observatory.

Dark Sky Reserve (DSR)

  • dark-sky Reserve (DSR) is an area, usually surrounding a park or observatory that restricts artificial light pollution.
  • The International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) is associated with the International Dark Sky Reserve (IDSR) and International Dark Sky Park (IDSP).
  • An International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) was founded in 1988 to reserve public or private land for an exquisite outlook of nocturnal territories and starry night skies.
  • In 1993, Michigan became the first state in the United States to designate a tract of land as a “Dark Sky Reserve” at the Lake Hudson State Recreation Area.
  • It is generally understood that a dark-sky reserve, should be sufficiently dark to promote astronomy.
  • However, this is not always the case. The lighting protocol for a dark-sky reserve is based on the sensitivity of wildlife to artificial light at night.

Objective of these reserves

  • The purpose of the dark-sky movement is generally to promote astronomy.
  • However, astronomy is certainly not the only objective of conserving a dark sky.
  • A dark night sky is associated with so many facets of history, philosophy, religion, societal development, poetry, song, mathematics, and science.
  • The preservation of a DSR is necessary to understand our environmental history.

5. Scientists remain sceptical about how nano urea benefits crops

While the inventor says farmers are benefiting from it, several experts have questioned the science underlying its efficacy

Nano urea, a fertilizer patented and sold by the Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative Ltd. (IFFCO), has been approved by the government for commercial use because of its potential to substantially reduce the import bill, but several experts have questioned the science underlying its efficacy.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while inaugurating a nano urea production plant at Kalol in Gujarat on May 28, said, “… A small bottle (500 ml) of nano urea is equivalent to one 50-kg bag of granular urea currently used by farmers.”

IFFCO’s nano urea contains nitrogen, an element critical for plant development, in the form of granules that are a hundred thousand times finer than a sheet of paper. At this nano scale, which is about a billionth of a metre, materials behave differently than in the visible realm.

Ramesh Raliya, 34, who is credited as the inventor of nano urea and is now a consultant with IFFCO, told The Hindu that his process used “organic polymers” that kept the nano particles of nitrogen stable and in a form that could be sprayed on plants.

Chemically packaged urea is 46% nitrogen, which means a 45-kg sack contains about 20 kg of nitrogen.

Contrastingly, nano urea sold in 500-ml bottles has only 4% nitrogen (or around 20 g). How this can compensate for the kilograms of nitrogen normally required puzzles scientists.

Plants need nitrogen to make protein and they source almost all of it from soil bacteria which live in a plant’s roots and have the ability to break down atmospheric nitrogen, or that from chemicals such as urea into a form usable by plants.

To produce one tonne of wheat grain, a plant needs 25 kg of nitrogen. For rice, it is 20 kg of nitrogen, and for maize, it is 30 kg of nitrogen. Not all the urea cast on the soil, or sprayed on leaves in the case of nano urea, can be utilised by the plant. If 60% of the available nitrogen was used, it would yield 496 kg of wheat grain. Even if 100% of 20 g of nano urea, which is what is effectively available, is utilised by the plant, it will yield only 368 g of grain, said N.K. Tomar, retired Professor of Soil Science at Chaudhary Charan Singh Haryana Agricultural University, Hissar, Haryana.

“Therefore, total attempt is futile and causing sheer wastage of money. This claim of IFFCO is unfounded and will be disastrous for farmers,” he notes in a letter to the NITI Aayog as well as the National Academy for Agricultural Sciences. Dr. Tomar told The Hindu that they had not yet responded to his letter.

Dr. Tomar’s views are seconded by I.P. Abrol, former Deputy Director-General, Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR).

“Urea is highly water soluble and already reaches the lowest form of concentration when absorbed. How nanoparticles can increase the effectiveness of nitrogen uptake by being still smaller is unclear to me. That foliar spraying (spraying on leaves) improves fertilizer uptake is known for over half a century. So what’s new here?” Dr. Abrol asked.

Unlike the coarse particles that farmers throw onto the soil during sowing, the nano particle form of nano urea, when applied on to the leaves, stimulates enzymes such as nitrase and nitrite reductase, which help plants metabolise nitrogen, Dr. Ramesh Raliya said.

Different parts of the plant contain nitrogen in varying proportions and because nano particles are so small and numerous, they have a lot more surface area relative to their volume, compared with the millimetre-size grains of urea that plants are exposed to nearly 10,000 times more in nitrogen.

Liquid Nano Urea

About:

  • It is urea in the form of a nanoparticle. It is a nutrient (liquid) to provide nitrogen to plants as an alternative to the conventional urea.
  • Urea is a chemical nitrogen fertiliser, white in colour, which artificially provides nitrogen, a major nutrient required by plants.
  • It is developed to replace conventional urea and it can curtail the requirement of the same by at least 50%.
  • It contains 40,000 mg/L of nitrogen in a 500 ml bottle which is equivalent to the impact of nitrogen nutrient provided by one bag of conventional urea.

Developed At:

  • It has been indigenously developed at Nano Biotechnology Research Centre, Kalol, Gujrat in line with Atmanirbhar Bharat and Atmanirbhar Krishi.
  • India is dependent on imports to meet its urea requirements.

Objective:

It is aimed at reducing the unbalanced and indiscriminate use of conventional urea, increase crop productivity, and reduce soil, water, and air pollution.

Significance:

  • Improves Plant Nutrition:
  • It has been found effective and efficient for plant nutrition which increases production with improved nutritional quality.
  • It will boost a balanced nutrition program by reducing the excess use of Urea application in the soil and will make the crops stronger, healthier and protect them from the lodging effect.
    • Lodging is the bending over of the stems near ground level of grain crops, which makes them very difficult to harvest, and can dramatically reduce yield.
  • Improves Environment:
  • It will also have a huge positive impact on the quality of underground water, a very significant reduction in global warming with an impact on climate change and sustainable development.
  • Increase Farmers’ Income:
  • It is easy on the pocket of farmers and will be effective in increasing farmers’ income. It will also significantly bring down the cost of logistics and warehousing.

6. ISRO tests system to recover spent rocket stages

Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator successfully test-flown by VSSC on a Rohini-300 sounding rocket

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has successfully tested a technology that could aid cost-effective recovery of spent rocket stages and safely land payloads on other planets.

The Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (IAD) was designed, developed and successfully test-flown by ISRO’s Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) on a Rohini-300 (RH300 Mk II) sounding rocket from the Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station (TERLS) here on Saturday.

“This demonstration opens a gateway for cost-effective spent stage recovery and this technology can also be used in ISRO’s future missions to Venus and Mars,” ISRO chairman S. Somanath, who was present during the 12.20 p.m. launch, said.

Describing the IAD as a “game changer” with multiple applications for future missions, the VSSC said this was the first time that an IAD had been designed for spent-stage recovery.

As its name suggests, the IAD serves to decelerate an object plunging down through the atmosphere.

For Saturday’s demonstration, the IAD, made of Kevlar fabric coated with polychloroprene, was packed into the payload bay of the rocket.

After the nose-cone of the rocket separated, the IAD inflated, balloon-like, at a height of 84 km using compressed nitrogen stored in a gas bottle. The IAD systematically reduced the velocity of the payload through aerodynamic drag, the VSSC said.

Once the IAD fell into the sea, it deflated by firing a deflation pyro valve. The pneumatic system used for inflating the IAD was developed by the Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre (LPSC), Valiyamala.

7. Editorial-1: Justice rendered, but only incompletely

In the Teesta Setalvad case, the lack of clear judicial answers to the top court’s compelling questions are conspicuous

Last Friday, a Bench of the Supreme Court of India led by the Chief Justice of India, Justice U.U. Lalit, granted interim bail to human rights activist Teesta Setalvad who was arrested in June this year. She has now walked out of jail. The order is, without doubt, a great relief to Ms. Setalvad personally, and to the country’s liberty jurisprudence at large. The Court, in the instant case, has directly confronted a politically vindicative executive and performed its role. Yet, the order calls for critical discourse.

Needed, answers

Rather than the solution of interim bail that the Court has rightly provided to the activist, it is the set of questions that it has posed which requires the attention of all concerned, especially those at the helm of affairs. During the hearing, the judges underlined four “features” of the case that “bothered” the Court. They are: omission in filing the charge sheet even after two months of Ms. Setalvad’s arrest; registration of the First Information Report (FIR) on the very next day of the Supreme Court’s judgment that dismissed Zakia Jafri’s plea against exoneration of Narendra Modi and others in the 2002 Gujarat riots, with strictures against Ms. Setalvad and others; the long adjournment of the bail plea by the High Court (from August 3 to a date after September 19); lack of allegations regarding commission of any offence serious enough to deny bail.

These issues, which the Court posed, would travel well beyond Ms. Setalvad’s case. The Court’s pointed questions have clearly exposed the malice in the State’s action. More importantly, the same questions remain equally relevant and compelling in hundreds of cases across the country, with an important supplement — that, in many of them, draconian provisions have also been recklessly invoked, to victimise the dissidents.

The sad part of the top court’s order, however, is that the rigour of these questions and the enthusiasm to get clear judicial answers are conspicuously lacking in the final order. The questions on the features of the case were asked by the Court openly on Thursday, September 1, 2022, and after a day’s adjournment, the matter was heard further and the order pronounced on Friday.

Friday’s order, after noting the long custody of the appellant lady and the opportunity availed by the police officers for custodial interrogation, said that the petitioner had made out a case for “the relief of interim bail, till the matter was considered by the High Court”. The Court said: “We are therefore not considering whether the appellant be released on regular bail or not. That issue will be gone into by the High Court.” The Court also made an unwarranted clarification that the present order “shall not be taken to be a reflection on merits and shall not be used by the other accused”.

Lost opportunity

When the fundamental questions which the Court posed on the previous day remained relevant, the Supreme Court, as the guardian of the Constitution, should have and could have done better by answering them and granted regular bail to Ms. Setalvad, by which a useful precedent would have been set for the other accused (who are almost identically situated) in the case as well. Viewed in this way, the order is disappointing.

The questions by the Court are directed against the Gujarat High Court too. Adjournment of regular bail applications for an indefinite period occurs in many High Courts. This is an issue that should have been taken up seriously by the top court. In the very same context, the Court ought to have also held that when such an indefinite delay happens, that by itself is a reason for an appeal before the Supreme Court under Article 136 of the Constitution.

The Solicitor General had raised a contention on the maintainability of Ms. Setalvad’s appeal based on the doctrine of elections, suggesting thereby that the petitioner having moved the High Court, should have waited for the High Court’s final decision. This could have been easily rejected by the top court on the ground of a gross violation of fundamental rights. In a scenario where the High Courts take several weeks or even months together in deciding a bail plea, the Supreme Court should have deprecated such practice. Ms. Setalvad’s case was a classic one where the delay in taking the decision itself amounted to an adverse decision warranting intervention by the top court. It is curious to note that the Centre relied on the principles of ‘rule of law’ and ‘equality before the law’ at the Supreme Court, to detain the activist. This terrible irony required a judicial admonition, which too, unfortunately, did not occur.

On June 24, a Bench led by Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, quite unfairly and without materials, blamed Ms. Setalvad and others for showing “the audacity to question the integrity of every functionary” associated with the investigation. In the context of the long litigation for rendering justice to the Gujarat riot victims, Ms. Setalvad and others were accused of “keeping the pot boiling”. Without any convincing reason, the Bench also said that “all those involved in such abuse of process, need to be in the dock and proceeded with in accordance with law”. This deplorable approach, which was palpably erroneous and unjust, was the basis for the high-handed action against Ms. Setalvad and others. In view of this, the trial court as well as the High Court might have turned reluctant to grant bail to the accused. This is all the more the reason why the Supreme Court, as an institution, should have invoked its introspective jurisdiction to grant regular bail to Ms. Setalvad, which unfortunately did not happen.

A delay that is serious

A long delay in deciding the bail plea is a serious issue. The country’s judiciary has been infected with this pathological condition for quite a long time, because of which hundreds of political prisoners languish in jails even now. The predicament of Father Stan Swamy who died while in judicial custody and many others, from Siddique Kappan to Umar Khalid to Gautam Navlakha, who are repeatedly denied bail and stay in prison, has put the judiciary also under trial. Thus, Ms. Setalvad’s case was an opportunity for the Court to evaluate the state of freedom in the country. It offered a litmus test. It was an occasion for a formidable judicial reprimand to the political executive, and to the judiciary itself, that has failed the people during tough times. It is, clearly, an opportunity missed.

Stronger intervention missed

In the celebrated judgment in Gudikanti Narasimhulu (1977), Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer wrote: “The issue of ‘Bail or Jail’ -at the pretrial or post-conviction stage-although largely hinging on judicial discretion, is one of liberty, justice, public safety and burden of the public treasury, all of which insist that a developed jurisprudence of bail is integral to a socially sensitized judicial process.” These prophetic words had resonance in Joginder Kumar vs State of U.P. (1994), where the Court ordered procedural imperatives for arrest. In Sanjay Chandra vs CBI (2011), the Court put the issue in perspective: “The object of bail is neither punitive nor preventative”. It is only to “secure the appearance of the accused”. The judgment in Arnesh Kumar vs State Of Bihar & Anr. (2014), relying on the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code and the Law Commission reports, warned against arbitrary arrests and detention. Even recently, in Satender Kumar Antil vs Central Bureau Of Investigation (2022),while urging for a Bail Act in India, the Supreme Court said that the ideas of democracy and the Police state are conceptually opposite to each other.

8. Editorial-2: India and Australia, from divergence to convergence

The fifth round of the bilateral Track 1.5 dialogue will set the pace for Canberra’s deepening relationship with New Delhi

In August 1950, one of Australia’s most celebrated jurists, Sir Owen Dixon (who sought to mediate a settlement on Kashmir) wrote to his daughter, Anne, in Melbourne that Delhi was “a place I hope and trust that I shall never again see”. More than 70 years later, as distinguished thought leaders from India and Australia meet in New Delhi (September 6) for the fifth round of the most important bilateral Track 1.5 dialogue, it is widely recognised that Canberra’s relationship with New Delhi is among the most important and critical for the future of the Indo-Pacific. The leaders at the dialogue will reflect on the past, but recommend more concrete steps to foster the relationship and ways to create a more habitable and sustainable planet.

A gradual change

When we started this dialogue we recognised that for most of the 20th century, India and Australia rarely had a meaningful conversation. The long shadow of the Cold War, India’s autarkic economic policies, the White Australia policy, and Canberra’s decision not to transfer uranium to India and other factors had kept the two countries apart for several decades. We used to celebrate each other’s problems rather than our successes. But that era of mutual schadenfreude is well and truly over.

Today, few countries in the Indo-Pacific region have more in common in both values and interests than India and Australia. Apart from being two English-speaking, multicultural, federal democracies that believe in and respect the rule of law, both have a strategic interest in ensuring a balance in the Indo-Pacific and in ensuring that the region is not dominated by any one hegemonic power. In addition, Indians are today the largest source of skilled migrants in Australia and the economic relationship, already robust, could potentially be transformed if the promise of the new Australia-India Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (ECTA) is realised.

Setting markers for ties

A dialogue is a conversation between equals who have agreed to work as partners. No one just preaches, no one just listens. Thought leaders have come here, some from long distances, to have a robust conversation about our relationship and ways in which we can carry it forward. We are here also to lead and provide markers for the future of the relationship between our two great countries.

We are living through a period of immense turbulence, disruption and even subversion: the world is more uncertain than it ever was in our lifetimes. Even the Cold War, some may say, had a predictability, icy as it may have been.

The Australia-India Leadership Dialogue is critical because ideas matter in a relationship as much transactions and negotiations do. Stable, strong and sustainable relationships are built not just on the possibility of immediate gains, but on the promise of the future. In other words, the relationship is far too important to be left to the two governments alone. Governments matter tremendously, but forums such as these can provide the space and the ambience that can infuse new ideas to generate a new energy into the relationship.

Seeds that will germinate

The Leadership Dialogue is also important because ultimately, people and real connections matter. Technology and the cyberworld can blind us into believing that face-to-face conversations are outdated. We, in this Leadership Dialogue, still believe in the power of personal communication and collective communication in a shared physical space.

In her definitive account of India-Australia bilateral relations, historian Meg Gurry relates how Arthur Tange, High Commissioner to India and one of Australia’s most formidable diplomats, wrote in 1965 to his Foreign Minister, Paul Hasluck, that there was fertile ground between the two countries, but “no one seems to know what seeds to plant”. Nearly 60 years on, there are not only many seeds waiting to be planted, but much ripe fruit ready to harvest. And that is why we are here.

Some of those seeds will germinate during this important dialogue through discussion, from a broad range of business executives, government officials and scholars, eager to increase their understanding about how each country approaches shared challenges. From cyberthreats and artificial intelligence (AI) governance in a geopolitically turbulent region, to how they will decarbonise their economies and help each other develop trusted supply chains through critical minerals cooperation, to how India’s tech talent can help address Australia’s skills gaps through migration.

As the premier forum for informal diplomacy between Australia and India, backed by Australian-founded tech company Atlassian and its co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes, outcomes that grow the relationship through emerging technology are high on the agenda.

Australia wants to find alternative markets to China and diversify supply chains for its critical minerals. As a country with reserves of about 21 out of the 49 minerals identified in India’s critical minerals strategy, Australia is well placed to serve India’s national interests required for India’s carbon reduction programme.

A shared framework

And while this is the first Dialogue since 2019, due to the novel coronavirus pandemic having kept both countries apart, as two nations we have only grown closer together through enhancing our shared framework for regional security, promoting business and commercial opportunities and strengthening our people to people links, bilaterally and multilaterally.

As India marks 75 years of Independence and surpasses the United Kingdom as the fifth largest global economy, the momentum around this fifth Australia-India Leaderships Dialogue and the bilateral fruit it may bear should not be underestimated.

9. Editorial-3: Coercion as conversion

Sexual orientation and gender identities do not require medical intervention

In a significant and welcome move, another layer of discrimination against the LGBTQIA+ community is being removed with the National Medical Commission (NMC) declaring conversion therapy a “professional misconduct” and empowering State Medical Councils to take disciplinary action if the guideline is breached. Members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual or of any other orientation are often subjected to conversion or ‘reparative’ therapy, particularly when they are young, to change their sexual orientation or gender identity by force. The therapy can mean anything from psychiatric treatment, use of psychosomatic drugs, electroshock therapy, exorcism and violence. This can lead to trauma, manifesting in depression, anxiety, drug use, and even suicide. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry contends that the interventions offered in conversion therapy are provided under the “false premise that homosexuality and gender diverse identities are pathological”. The “absence of pathology” means there is no need for conversion or any other like intervention. To drive this point home, it is clear that an all-out effort will be required. In his landmark June 2021 judgment, Justice N. Anand Venkatesh of the Madras High Court had said pending adequate legislation, he was issuing guidelines for the police, social welfare ministries of the State and Centre, and the medical council for the protection of the community. The court sought updates from stakeholders every few months.

The NMC’s August 25 letter to State Medical Councils states that the Madras High Court had directed it to issue an official notification listing conversion therapy as a wrong, under the Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics) Regulations, 2002. If the Supreme Court’s decriminalising of homosexuality in 2018 by striking down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code was a first step, the NMC’s notice is also a small move towards inclusivity. To make the LGBTQAI+ community feel safer, however, a lot more will have to be done. Taking the cue from countries such as Canada, which has banned conversion therapy, there should be clarity on what action will be taken against quacks, psychiatrists and doctors accused of offering reparative treatment and the punishment they will face. The groundwork has to be laid in education. Medical textbooks prescribed in 2018 still consider lesbianism a “perversion”, an act of “mental degenerates”. The change has to take place at a societal level, and complemented by laws better tuned to the needs of a diverse community than the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019, has sought to do. To that effect, Indian institutions and society have a long road ahead. First, they will have to acknowledge the “variability of human beings” and accord equal respect to every one, whatever the sexual orientation or gender identity.

10. Editorial-4: Perils of brinksmanship

India will need to assess the security implications of another Taiwan Strait crisis

The shooting down of a Chinese drone by Taiwan’s military on September 1 has marked a new phase in the already simmering tensions across the Taiwan Strait, highlighting the growing risks of escalation, even if unintended. Over recent weeks, China’s military has carried out unprecedented military drills surrounding Taiwan, following the visit last month of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Some manoeuvres crossed the median of the Taiwan Strait and were declared by China’s military to have also taken place in territorial waters claimed by Taiwan. Taiwan soberly chose not to engage the PLA vessels. In the wake of the drills, the Chinese military has subsequently sought to continue asserting Beijing’s territorial claims by sending drones into Taiwan’s airspace. Photographs taken up close of Taiwan military personnel were subsequently shared on social media, apparently to demonstrate Beijing’s capabilities, but in the process raising pressure on Taipei to show a response. Taiwan’s military said it took the decision to shoot down what it called an unidentified civilian drone over its airspace in Shiyu Island after delivering several warnings. Shooting down a military drone may have elicited a different response from China, which has so far played down the incident. While the Chinese military reportedly has been deploying both military and civilian-use drones, so have ordinary residents in Fujian right across the strait, raising the risks of miscalculation triggering a serious incident.

The deployment of drones has added a further layer of unpredictability to an already tense situation. The past month’s developments have certainly served a reminder to the region of the fragility of the current status quo, and particularly of China’s willingness to change it. While most observers expect that a Chinese invasion remains too risky a prospect for the Communist Party leadership in the immediate future, an unintended escalation no longer remains a remote possibility. Most countries, including India, have preferred to stay out of the Taiwan issue, considering the One China Policy and the needs of the complicated relations with China. But sooner rather than later, they will need to assess the implications to their own security interests of a serious crisis. Taiwan’s status as a lynchpin in the global semiconductor industry is a case in point. While India’s recent reference to the “militarisation” of the strait is not a reflection of a major change in its approach, New Delhi has appeared to show greater willingness to do more with Taiwan particularly in the economic realm, such as setting up an alternative base for semi-conductor manufacturing in India. These are, even if long overdue, steps in the right direction.

11. Editorial-5: A lot is at stake for India-Bangladesh ties

While they have deepened ties, the Hasina and Modi governments have failed to resolve long-standing issues

In August, while addressing devotees gathered to celebrate Janmashtami, Bangladesh Foreign Minister Abdul Momen requested the Indian government to ensure that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina stays in power when Bangladesh goes to the polls next year. He claimed that both India and Bangladesh would gain political stability by ensuring this. These out-of-the-norm comments from the senior cabinet member created a stir on both sides of the border. Senior leaders of the ruling Awami League distanced themselves from these remarks, while India maintained silence. Mr. Momen’s comments came before Ms. Hasina’s visit to India from September 5 to 8, 2022.

Trade and connectivity

Following the conclusion of the seventh round of the India-Bangladesh Joint Consultative Commission in June, the two neighbours have expanded their partnership to include Artificial Intelligence, Fintech, cybersecurity, startups, and connectivity. Trade will be a focal point during Ms. Hasina’s visit as the two countries gear up to sign a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA). The two Prime Ministers are also expected to inaugurate a joint venture power plant soon.

CEPA comes at a time when Bangladesh is set to lose the duty-free and quota-free market-access facility to India after 2026 when it graduates to a developing country. Bangladesh is India’s sixth largest trade partner with bilateral trade rising from $2.4 billion in 2009 to $10.8 billion in 2020-21. Bangladesh imports critical industrial raw material from India on which its exports are reliant. According to a World Bank working paper, Bangladesh’s exports could rise 182% under a free trade agreement. This could become 300% if combined with trade facilitation measures and reduced transaction costs. Bangladesh also could improve several manufacturing industries by leveraging Indian expertise in service sectors.

India and Bangladesh have implemented several projects to boost eastern India-Bangladesh connectivity. India’s connectivity projects with ASEAN and Bangladesh will open up the region to economic growth. Bangladesh has expressed its interest in joining the India-Myanmar-Thailand highway project. India-Bangladesh bilateral waterway trade will get boosted as India can now use the Mongla and Chittagong ports. India is rallying Bangladesh to divert its exports through Indian ports in place of Malaysian or Singaporean ports. Enhancing connectivity through India’s Northeast and Bangladesh is important for bilateral cooperation. Currently, three express trains and international bus services operate between Indian and Bangladesh.

The sharing of the waters of the Teesta has remained a thorny issue between the two countries since 1947. For West Bengal, Teesta is important to sustain its impoverished farming districts which comprise 12.77% of its population. For Bangladesh, the Teesta’s flood plains cover about 14% of the total cropped area of the country and provide direct livelihood opportunities to approximately 7.3% of the population. The countries are expected to sign at least one major river agreement during the upcoming trip.

In 2015, India and Bangladesh resolved the decades-long border dispute through the Land Swap Agreement. Indian Home Minister Amit Shah recently reviewed the security arrangements in the Assam-Meghalaya-Bangladesh tri-junction, which used to a smugglers’ route. In 2019, India enacted the National Register of Citizens and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, which created an uproar within and beyond the borders. Ms. Hasina termed the move as “unnecessary”. But her government has mostly kept silent on India’s “internal matter” even as political commentators and citizens have feared it could have ripple effects for Bangladesh. The detainees caught at the border that year claimed they were Bangladeshi citizens who were returning to the country on failing to obtain Indian citizenship.

Regional geopolitics

Chinese inroads into the neighborhood have been a cause of worry for India. China has been actively pursuing bilateral ties with Bangladesh. Bangladesh had successfully approached China for a mega project to enhance Teesta river water flow. Bangladesh also requires China’s support in resolving the Rohingya refugee crisis. Bangladesh is the second biggest arms market for China after Pakistan.

Bangladesh has also been warming up to Pakistan. The two shared frosty ties for decades after Pakistani politicians made unwarranted comments on the International Crimes Tribunal set up by Bangladesh. Although memories of 1971 remain, Bangladesh has expressed its interest in establishing peaceful relations with Pakistan.

In its election manifesto for the 2018 Bangladesh general elections, the ruling Awami League emphasised cooperation with India, including in sharing Teesta waters. Teesta remains a concern for the Bangladeshi population which is dependent on the river for their livelihood. Ms. Hasina has worked on strengthening bilateral ties and has uprooted all anti-India insurgency activities within Bangladesh by leading from the front. But the unresolved Teesta issue does not put her in good standing with the electorate. Many believe that her bold and pragmatic steps in strengthening relations with India have not been adequately reciprocated by Delhi and Kolkata.

India-Bangladesh ties witnessed the lowest ebb during the 2001-2006 tenure of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). In 2004, a 10-truck arms and ammunition haul took place in Chittagong. Investigators believed that the delivery of the smuggled arms was intended for the United Liberation Front of Asom, a militant group seeking Assam’s independence from India. These illicit activities created tensions between the countries. The BNP’s short-sighted and unwise handling of relations with India cost it dearly, for Delhi’s corridors of power lost confidence in the party. But by openly flouting its warm relations with India as a safeguard for continuity of power, the Awami League is not playing smart with the electorate either.

In Bangladesh, there is a prevailing perception that India’s goodwill towards the country is aligned to one particular political ideology or school of thought as opposed to Bangladeshi society at large. For India, the challenge is to earn the trust and confidence of Bangladeshis across the spectrum and strata. Ms. Hasina has deepened ties with the Narendra Modi government, but the two have failed to resolve long-standing issues such as Teesta water-sharing and killings at the border. The question is, how these factors may affect elections in Bangladesh. For India it will take more than cosy relations with one particular government to have long-term stable relations with its most trusted friend in the neighbourhood. Just as Bangladeshis remain grateful to India for the generous support extended by India during the Liberation War of 1971, they are equally sensitive to being treated with respect and fairness, no matter who rules their country.

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