Daily Current Affairs 11.06.2022 (Russia delivers more efficient nuclear fuel for Kudankulam , Won’t rule out war over Taiwan: China , India is not the fastest growing big economy, The gulf of sensitivity that India will have to cross)

Daily Current Affairs 11.06.2022 (Russia delivers more efficient nuclear fuel for Kudankulam , Won’t rule out war over Taiwan: China , India is not the fastest growing big economy, The gulf of sensitivity that India will have to cross)


1. Russia delivers more efficient nuclear fuel for Kudankulam

After the next refuelling, the reactor will start operations in an 18-month fuel cycle, according to Rosatom State Corporation

Rosatom State Corporation of Russia has supplied the first batches of more reliable and cost-efficient nuclear fuel over the existing one, the TVS-2M nuclear fuel, to India for the Units 1 and 2 of Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KNPP), the company said in a statement on Friday.

Once the new TVS-2 M fuel is used in the next refuelling, the reactor will start operations with an 18-month fuel cycle. It means the reactor, which has to be stopped for every 12 months for removing the spent fuel and inserting the fresh fuel bundles and allied maintenance, will have to be stopped for every 18 months.

“Thus, TVEL has fulfilled the agreement with Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) on implementation of a comprehensive engineering project, including introduction of TVS-2M nuclear fuel and elongation of the fuel cycle from 12 to 18 months for both VVER-1000 reactors,” it stated.

Compared to the current fuel model, the TVS-2M fuel assemblies have a number of advantages making them more reliable and cost-efficient, according to Rosatom. Firstly, it is the rigidity of a bundle. Because of the welded frame, the fuel assemblies in the reactor core retain their geometry. The spacer grids protect the fuel rod cladding from fretting wear and the additional spacer grid makes the fuel assemblies more vibration-resistant.

Secondly, the new fuel has increased uranium capacity — one TVS-2M assembly contains 7.6% more fuel material as compared to the earlier fuel bundles. In addition, the special feature of the Kudankulam fuel in particular is the new generation anti-debris filter protecting bundles from debris damage, which may be caused by small-sized objects in the reactor core, the statement explained.

Operation in longer fuel cycles also enhances the economic efficiency of a plant: As reactors have to undergo stoppage and refueling less frequently, the power units can produce more electricity. Besides, the plant needs to buy less fuel, and as the result, has to deal with smaller amounts of spent fuel.

Russia is building the KNPP under an Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) of 1988 and follow on agreements in 1998 and 2008. The first stage, consisting of power units No. 1 and No. 2, was commissioned in 2013 and 2017, respectively. Power units No. 3, 4 and No. 5, 6 are currently under construction.

India’s Nuclear Energy Program

  • India has consciously proceeded to explore the possibility of tapping nuclear energy for the purpose of power generation. In this direction three-stage nuclear power programme was formulated by Homi Bhabha in the 1950s.
  • Atomic Energy Act, 1962 was framed and implemented with the set objectives of using two naturally occurring elements Uranium and Thorium having good potential to be utilized as nuclear fuel in Indian Nuclear Power Reactors.
  • The estimated natural deposits of Uranium are about 70,000 tonnes and Thorium are about 3, 60,000 tonnes in the country.

Three Stage programme

  • Stage one – Pressurised Heavy Water Reactor uses
  • Natural UO2 as fuel matrix,
  • Heavy water as moderator and coolant.
  • In the reactor, the first two plants were of boiling water reactors based on imported technology. Subsequent plants are of PHWR type through indigenous R&D efforts. India achieved complete self- reliance in this technology and this stage of the programme is in the industrial domain.
  • The future plan includes the setting up of VVER type i.e. Russian version of the Pressurized Water Reactor (PWR) is under progress to augment power generation.
  • MOX fuel (Mixed oxide) is developed and introduced at Tarapur to conserve fuel and to develop new fuel technology.
  • Second stage of nuclear power generation envisages the use of Pu-239 obtained from the first stage reactor operation, as the fuel core in fast breeder reactors (FBR).
  • Third phase of India’s Nuclear Power Generation programme is, breeder reactors using U-233 fuel.
  • India’s vast thorium deposits permit design and operation of U-233 fuelled breeder reactors.
Nuclear Power plants in OperationNuclear Power Plants under ConstructionPlanned Nuclear Power Plants
Rawatbhata (Rajasthan)Tarapur (Maharashtra)Kudankulam (Tamil Nadu)Kakrapar (Gujarat)Kalpakkam (Tamil Nadu)Narora (Uttar Pradesh)Kaiga (Karnataka)Kakrapar 3&4 (Gujarat)Rawatbhata (Rajasthan)Kudankulam 3&4 (Tamil Nadu)Kalpakkam PFBR (Tamil Nadu)Jaitapur (Maharashtra)Kovvada (Andhra Pradesh)Mithi Virdi (Gujarat)Haripur (West Bengal)Gorakhpur (Haryana)Bhimpur (Madhya Pradesh)Mahi Banswara (Rajasthan)Kaiga (Karnataka)Chutka (Madhya Pradesh)Tarapur (Maharashtra)

Nuclear Tests and Nuclear Doctrine

  • In 2003, India has adopted its Nuclear Doctrine of ‘No First Use’ i.e. India will use nuclear weapons only in retaliation against a nuclear attack on its Territory.
  • In addition with this in 1965, India with NAM countries proposed five points to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons to UN Disarmament commission. These are:
  • Not to transfer Nuclear technology to others.
  • No use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear countries.
  • UN security cover to non-nuclear States. Nuclear disarmament.
  • Ban on the nuclear test.
  • In May 1974, India has conducted its first nuclear test in Pokharan with the codename of “Smiling Buddha”.
  • Between 11 and 13 May, 1998, five nuclear tests were conducted as a part of the series of Pokhran-II. These tests were collectively called Operation Shakti–98.
  • According to a 2018 report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Pakistan has 140-150 nuclear warheads compared to India’s 130-140 warheads.
  • Pakistan has not stated a “no first use” policy and there is little known about its nuclear doctrine.

India’s Stand on different Nuclear Treaties

  • Limited Ban Treaty: US, UK and USSR in 1963, signed this treaty. It allows nuclear tests only underground thus, prohibits the nuclear experiments on ground, underwater and in outer space. India has also ratified the treaty.
  • Treaty on Outer Space: Signed in 1967, it prohibits countries to test nuclear weapons in orbit or on celestial bodies like moon.
  • Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT): Signed in 1968, the treaty entered into force in 1970, now has 190 member states. It requires countries to give up any present or future plans to build nuclear weapons in return for access to peaceful uses of nuclear energy.
  • Three main objectives of the treaty are non-proliferation, disarmament, and the right to peacefully use nuclear technology.
  • India is one of the only five countries that either did not sign the NPT or signed but withdrew, thus becoming part of a list that includes Pakistan, Israel, North Korea, and South Sudan.

Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) 

  • Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) intends to ban all nuclear explosions – everywhere, by everyone. It opened for signature on 24 September 1996 and since then 182 countries have signed the Treaty, most recently Ghana has ratified the treaty on 14 June 2011.
  • The Treaty will enter into force after all 44 States listed in Annex 2 to the Treaty will ratify it. These States had nuclear facilities at the time the Treaty was negotiated and adopted.
  • As of August 2011, 35 of these States have ratified the Treaty. Nine States still need to do so: China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Pakistan and the United States. India, North Korea and Pakistan have not yet signed the Treaty.

2. Won’t rule out war over Taiwan: China

Chinese Defence Minister meets U.S. counterpart, says Beijing will destroy ‘Taiwan independence’ plot

Beijing will “not hesitate to start a war” if Taiwan declares independence, China’s Defence Minister warned his U.S. counterpart on Friday, the latest salvo between the superpowers over the island.

The warning from Wei Fenghe came as he held his first face-to-face meeting with U.S. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue security summit in Singapore.

Beijing views self-ruled Taiwan as its territory and has vowed to one day seize the island, by force if necessary, and U.S.-China tensions over the issue have soared in recent months.

Mr. Wei warned Mr. Austin that “if anyone dares to split Taiwan from China, the Chinese Army will definitely not hesitate to start a war no matter the cost”, Defence Ministry spokesman Wu Qian quoted the Minister as saying during the meeting.

The Chinese Minister vowed that Beijing would “smash to smithereens any ‘Taiwan independence’ plot and resolutely uphold the unification of the motherland”, according to the Chinese Defence Ministry.

He “stressed that Taiwan is China’s Taiwan… Using Taiwan to contain China will never prevail”, the Ministry said.

Mr. Austin “reaffirmed the importance of peace and stability across the (Taiwan) Strait, opposition to unilateral changes to the status quo, and called on (China) to refrain from further destabilising actions toward Taiwan”, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.

Tensions over Taiwan have escalated in particular due to increasing Chinese aircraft incursions into the island’s air defence identification zone (ADIZ).

U.S. President Joe Biden, during a visit to Japan last month, appeared to break decades of U.S. policy when, in response to a question, he said Washington would defend Taiwan militarily if it is attacked by China.

The White House has since insisted its policy of “strategic ambiguity” over whether or not it would intervene has not changed.

Japanese warning

With concerns mounting over China-Taiwan tensions, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida issued a stark warning at the summit: “Ukraine today, may be East Asia tomorrow”.

The world must be “prepared for the emergence of an entity that tramples on the peace and security of other countries by force or threat without honouring the rules,” he said.

He did not mention China, but repeatedly called for the “rules-based international order” to be upheld.

Mr. Austin is the latest senior U.S. official to visit Asia as Washington seeks to shift its focus back to the region from the Ukraine war.

China vs Taiwan

  • After the First Sino-Japanese War in 1895, Taiwan was under the control of Japan. 
  • But with the end of World War II, the Republic of China (ROC) began ruling Taiwan with the support of its allies- the USA and the UK.
  • China initially had two political parties- the Kuomintang (KMT) or the ROC and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)
  • However, the KMT had to flee to Taiwan after the Chinese Civil War as the communist forces led by Mao Zedong became victorious
  • The undemocratic policies combined with wartime corruption made the Republic of China Government vulnerable to the Communist threat, while the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) gained popularity due to their early efforts on land reform and had the popular support of the peasants for its unflagging efforts to fight against the Japanese invaders.
  • KMT leader Chiang Kai-shek and a few from his party fled to Taiwan in 1949 after which they dominated Taiwan’s politics for a long time until the emergence of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
  • The DPP grew out of the Taiwanese democracy movement that rebelled against the Kuomintang (KMT) dictatorship and advocates a Taiwan-centred national identity.
  • Contact with China was completely severed for a long time. Taiwan rejected the Chinese proposal of “one country, two systems” during the 1980s, but it did relax its rules on visits to and investments in China.

One-China Policy:

  • The One China policy recognizes the long-held position in Beijing that there is only one China, and that Taiwan is a part of that.
  • According to the One-China policy:
  • Any country wishing to establish diplomatic relations with Beijing must acknowledge there is only “One China” and sever all formal ties with Taiwan.
  • The One China policy is also different from the “One China principle”, which insists that both Taiwan and mainland China are inalienable parts of a single “China.”

What is the “one country, two systems” approach?

  • The principle of “one country, two systems” was first proposed by Deng Xiaoping as a way to restore the relationship between the communist mainland with historically Chinese territories (Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau)—that had capitalist economies. 
  • This system was initially proposed to Taiwan. 
  • The Taiwanese had demanded that if they were to accept the one country, two systems approach:
  • The People’s Republic of China (PRC) should be renamed as the Republic of China and,
  • Democratic elections would have to be conducted in mainland China. This was however not accepted by mainland China.
  • He had suggested that there would be only one China, but the distinct Chinese regions such as Hong Kong and Macau could retain their own economic and administrative systems, while the rest of China uses the socialism with Chinese characteristics system. 
  • In 1984 the concept was enshrined in the Sino-British Joint Declaration, in which the two countries agreed that Britain would hand over sovereignty of Hong Kong to China.
  • China is responsible for defence and foreign affairs but Hong Kong runs its own internal security. 

 Sān tōng or the Three Linkages:

  • It was a proposal by the PRC in 1979, to open up three direct links between the Taiwan Straits and China, which are:
  • Postal services 
  • Trade and
  • Transportation 
  • The “Three Links” were officially established in 2008, in an agreement between the Taiwan-based Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) and China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS). 
  • It has offered several advantages:
  • Travel distance was shortened
  • It led to an increase in business opportunities for Taiwan.

It steered an increase in the economic interdependence between the two countries, but it raised concerns about Taiwan being pulled into mainland China. 

Sunflower Movement:

  • The KMT relaxed the trade barriers with China in 2010 under the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) in an attempt to revive Taiwan’s struggling economy.
  • The results were not as intended. It hit Taiwan’s economy harder and made it completely dependent on China. It proved to be a disadvantage to Taiwan’s small-and-medium-sized enterprise manufacturing.
  • The activists protested the passing of the Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement (CSSTA) by the ruling party Kuomintang (KMT) at the legislature without clause-by-clause review.
  • The movement had originated from an organic dissatisfaction with the ruling party’s policies. 
  • The term “Sunflower Student Movement” referred to the use of sunflowers by the protesters as a symbol of hope, as the flower is heliotropic.   

Why did the ruling DPP pass the Anti-Infiltration Bill before the upcoming elections?

  • The Bill criminalises political activities backed or funded by ‘hostile external forces’-referring to mainland China.
  • The introduction of the Bill is a move to counter the threat of Chinese interference in the political matters of Taiwan through the illicit funding of politicians and the media. 
  • It would also act as a shield against China’s motives to subvert the island’s democracy.
  • The present scenario of Hong Kong, wherein the people’s personal liberties, their democracy, and their freedom of speech is being curtailed under the “one country, two systems” approach, is also a cause of worry which led to the introduction of the Bill.
  • The Bill is in line with the views of the Taiwanese public, who are against the unification of Taiwan with mainland China. 
  • The bold gestures made by President Trump’s administration in support of Taiwan has bolstered the confidence of the Taiwan Government.
  • A few critics also point out that this move by the government is to silence any form of dissent ahead of the upcoming Presidential and the assembly elections
  • The Taiwanese president has clarified that the act is against infiltration and not exchange, thus it would not affect the common public who are engaged in business or studies in China.

Taiwan’s Impact on China:

  • The Taiwanese have made an immense contribution to the economic and technological development of China. This has facilitated China in becoming the second-largest economy in the world. 
  • But this relationship between China and Taiwan can only be categorized as commensalism, wherein Taiwan only derives a few benefits.
  • The Taiwanese, having come to this realization, are trying to become independent and invest in other countries such as India and New Zealand to prevent them from becoming completely dependent on China.

3. Editorial-1: India is not the fastest growing big economy

A closer look at recent data on GDP shows that the numbers are flawed and recovery is incomplete

The Provisional Estimates of Annual National Income in 2021-22 just released show that GDP grew 8.7% in real terms and 19.5% in nominal terms (including inflation). It makes India the fastest growing major economy in the world. Further, the real economy is 1.51% larger than it was in 2019-20, just before the novel coronavirus pandemic hit the world. In nominal terms it is higher by 17.9%. These numbers imply that the rate of inflation was 10.8% in 2021-22 and 16.4% between the two years, 2019-20 and 2021-22.

Quarterly growth rates

This picture implies almost no growth and high inflation since the pre-pandemic year. So, the tag of the fastest growing economy means little. If an economy drops sharply and then rises equally fast to reach its earlier level, that cannot be taken as an indication of a rapidly growing economy.

The quarter to quarter growth currently may give some indication of the present rate of growth. In 2020-21, the quarterly rate of growth increased through the year. In 2021-22, the rate of growth has been slowing down. Of course in 2020-21, the COVID-19 lockdown had a severe impact in Q1 (-23.8%); after that the rate of growth picked up. In 2021-22, the rate of growth in Q1 had to sharply rise (20.3%). Ignoring the outliers in Q1, growth rates in 2021-22 have sequentially petered out in subsequent quarters: 8.4%, 5.4% and 4.1%. True, the last quarter (January-March 2022) data was impacted by the Omicron-related lockdowns in January and February. It was further impacted in March by the supply disruptions following the war in Ukraine and the severe COVID-19 lockdown in China. Going forward, while the lockdown in China is over, the war-related impact is likely to persist since there is no end in sight. Thus, price rise and impact on production are likely to persist. The rapid rise in prices will impact demand from the vast majority of citizens who are losing out. That will reduce growth further.

Data as the problem

More worryingly, the issue is about correctness of data. The annual estimates given now are provisional since complete data are not available for 2021-22. They may be better than the second advance estimates released three months ago as more data become available. There is a greater problem with quarterly estimates since very limited data are available for estimating it. So, the data for the fourth quarter of 2021-22 released now is even more problematic

The first issue is that during 2020-21, due to the pandemic, full data could not be collected for Q1. Further, for agriculture, quarterly data assumes that the targets are achieved. But in Q1, a lot of fruits, vegetables, flowers, milk and poultry products could not come to the market, and rotted and wasted. This is more than 50% of the agriculture output. Thus, the growth rate of agriculture was certainly less than the official figure of 3%.

Agriculture is a part of the unorganised sector. Very little data are available for it but for agriculture — neither for the quarter nor for the year. It is simply assumed that the limited data available for the organised sector can be used to act as a proxy. In other words the non-agriculture unorganised sector is represented by the organised sector. The data for the full organised sector are also not available so ‘high frequency’ data (listed in the press note) are used. For instance, Goods and Services Tax (GST) collection data are used. But, it is well known that GST is collected almost entirely from the organised sector. In brief: very little data are available for quarterly estimates; and even less is available for the unorganised sector. Since the same method is used to estimate the annual growth rate the errors get repeated.

Errors in total, components

If better data became available after the shock of the lockdown, and it got used, there should be substantial revision in the previous year’s quarterly data. But if one compares the Q1 2020-21 data in the latest release with the data released in May 2021, the change is 0.3%. Does this imply that the high frequency data used is very well able to predict quarterly GDP? This is unlikely to be the case when a shock is administered to the economy which changes the parameters of the economy. The data remaining largely unchanged implies that the same error is being carried forward.

The quarterly data is added up to yield the annual total. If a better method was used to estimate the annual data, it should not equal the sum of the quarterly data which as argued above is estimated on the basis of a limited data set. The implication is that the errors in the quarterly data are repeated in the annual data.

The method using the organised sector to proxy the unorganised non-agriculture sector may have been acceptable before demonetisation (2016) but is not correct since then. The reason is that the unorganised non-agriculture sector suffered far more than the organised sector and more so during the waves of the pandemic. Large parts of the unorganised non-agriculture sector have experienced a shift in demand to the organised sector since they produce similar things. This introduces large errors in GDP estimates since official agencies do not estimate this shift. All that is known is that the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) sector has faced closures and failures.

If GDP data are incorrect, data on its components — private consumption and investment — must also be incorrect. Most often, ratios are applied to the GDP to estimate them. But, if the GDP is in error, then the ratios will yield erroneous results. The other main components — government and external trade — may be assumed to be reasonably accurate even though this data is revised over several years.

Further, the ratios themselves would have been impacted by the shock of the lockdown and the decline of the unorganised sectors. Additionally, private consumption data is suspect since according to the data given by the Reserve Bank of India which largely captures the organised sector, consumer confidence throughout 2021-22 was way below (not marginally lower) its pre-pandemic level of 104 achieved in January 2020. So, consumption could not have come close to its pre-pandemic level.

In brief, neither the total nor the ratios are correct. Clearly, consumption and investment figures are over-estimates and very likely because the decline in the unorganised sectors has not been captured.

Possible correction

In the best possible scenario, let us assume that the organised sector (55% of GDP) and agriculture (14% of GDP) are growing at the official rate of growth of 8.2% and 3%, respectively. Then, they would contribute 4.93% to GDP growth. The non-agriculture unorganised component is declining for two reasons: first, the closure of units and the second the shift in demand to the organised sector. Even if 5% of the units have closed down this year and 5% of the demand has shifted to the organised sector, the unorganised sector would have declined by about 10%; the contribution of this component to GDP growth would be -3.1%.

Based on the above assumptions, the GDP for 2021-22 would have grown by only 1.8%, and not 8.7%, and it would be less than the pre-pandemic GDP of 2019-20 by 4.92%. Clearly, recovery is incomplete and India is not the fastest growing big economy of the world.

Arun Kumar is a retired Professor of Economics at the Jawaharlal Nehru University. He is also the author of ‘Indian Economy’s Greatest Crisis: Impact of the Coronavirus and the Road Ahead’, 2020

4. Editorial-2: The gulf of sensitivity that India will have to cross

The Government’s strategy to quell West Asia’s outrage must include the need to foster an understanding of other faiths

The strong and widespread targeting of India in the Islamic world over the past few days arose from a specific theological consideration. It was not directly related to the politics or policies of India’s ruling dispensation though its opponents within India would wish to give it that colour. The veracity of this assessment is borne out by the general apathy of the Islamic ummah towards India’s Muslim population. From time to time, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has criticised the Indian state’s alleged discrimination of its Muslim minorities. However, the organisation’s views have never formed the basis of its member-states’ bilateral ties with India. And, Islamic states have not been swayed by Pakistan’s consistent portrayal of the Narendra Modi government as fascist and anti-Muslim.

Indeed, India’s relations with some significant Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have strengthened since Prime Minister Narendra Modi assumed office in May 2014. It is possible that the current resentment, even outrage, on account of the present controversy may lead to a greater scrutiny in the ummah of the Modi government’s policies towards the country’s Muslims. India’s social situation may come under a deeper focus but the governments of Islamic countries would not want their India policies to be determined by theological considerations; they have an array of interests at stake in their India ties.

There is a distinction

That the Islamic governments protested against the comments made regarding the Prophet by the former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) National Spokesperson, Nupur Sharma, and the former media head of the party’s Delhi unit, Naveen Kumar Jindal, was not surprising. What was so though was that neither the Government nor the ruling party seemed to have realised the great offence they constituted to all Muslims worldwide and the anger the comments would generate. At least the astute External Affairs Minister, S. Jaishankar, who has been a distinguished diplomat in his earlier avatar, should have known that despite enormous differences within themselves, Muslims venerate the Prophet; they all find any perception of disrespect towards him to be intolerable. Thus, there is a distinction between criticising some social practices of Muslims and what is perceived to be an attack on the personality of the Prophet.

Ms. Sharma’s remarks during a talk show on a prominent TV channel were made on May 26. The next day a clip of these remarks was added to a tweet. That drew wide attention in India and Ms. Sharma complained of having received threats to her person and also her family members. At the same time a Muslim organisation lodged a legal complaint against Ms. Sharma. It was inevitable that in these times of instant communications and social media, Ms. Sharma’s comments would find an audience in Islamic countries; and, that anti-India elements would also seek to publicise them. Yet, it appears that the Indian establishment perhaps thought if attention was given to this matter at all, that Ms. Sharma’s remarks would be placed in the context of the shrill charges and counter-charges made daily on Indian TV, and would therefore not be taken seriously.

End misperceptions

Is this because the Indian system, including the ruling dispensation, has an inadequate appreciation of the sensitivities of different faiths? Is it because the Indian intellectual tradition as it has evolved after Independence does not pay sufficient attention to faith, perhaps, considering it backward? And, now while there is an assertion of religiosity, there is also a lack of curiosity about other faiths. This seems to cut across all segments of society and has led to a lack of knowledge of other religions, leading to misperceptions. This is illustrated in simple things such as innocently sending ‘happy’ messages on occasions of mourning of adherents of another faith or in works of art. But there is a darker side to society too which is witnessed in the reinforcement of prejudice about other faiths and the use of words and expressions which cause offence. This can also be witnessed in extolling the virtues of one’s own faith and putting another in an unfavourable light. Clearly, all this points to the need to foster an understanding in society at large of other faiths and their sensitivities. This is especially needed in our multi-faith society at a time when religiosity is rising sharply across the world.

During a VIP visit

It was unfortunate that the situation arising out of Ms. Sharma’s remarks occurred at a time when the Vice-President of India, M. Venkaiah Naidu, was on a three-nation tour of Gabon, Senegal and Qatar. Mr Naidu left India on May 30 and after visiting the two African countries, was to reach Doha on June 4. Clearly, the Indian foreign policy establishment led by the External Affairs Minister missed the sentiment brewing in the Islamic world because of Ms. Sharma’s comments. If the External Affairs Minister had assessed what was happening, he would have surely taken action to prevent any embarrassment to the Vice-President on foreign soil. It can hardly be disputed that the President of India, the Vice-President and the Prime Minister, should never be put even in an uncomfortable position when they are abroad. Did this lapse occur because of a lack of appreciation of how Islamic sentiment is roused because of a perception of an insult to the Prophet?

According to a report in this newspaper, the “damage control” process began when the Vice-President was flying from Senegal to Doha and the Qataris conveyed that the ceremonial banquet of Mr. Naidu’s host, the Deputy Amir of Qatar, would have to be called off because he was suspected to have been exposed to COVID-19. In such circumstances a very senior person hosts the customary banquet but it is not cancelled. It also appears now that the Indian side was taken aback when the Indian Ambassador in Doha was called in on June 5 and Qatar while appreciating the action taken against Ms. Sharma and Mr. Jindal by the BJP demanded that India issues a public apology for Ms. Sharma’s remarks against the Prophet. There is no question of making one for the remarks of a party functionary.

This can only be called a very offensive action against India by Qatar. It could only have caused the greatest embarrassment to Mr. Naidu. It is to his credit that he proceeded with the visit. After the Qataris went public with their action, other Islamic countries lodged protests too. India did well to reject the statements of the OIC and Pakistan for they reeked of political considerations.

The last word

There is a mutuality of interests between the Arab states and India, and hence when the temperature cools, the flow of relations will go on. But India must take the obvious lessons from this entire episode, beginning with greater sensitivity to all faiths both for social harmony and promotions of India’s external interests.

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