Daily Current Affairs 12.08.2021 (‘Backchannel talk was on before Balakot’, The importance of the booster dose to plan ahead, Biden to host democracy summit in Dec.)

Daily Current Affairs 12.08.2021 (‘Backchannel talk was on before Balakot’, The importance of the booster dose to plan ahead, Biden to host democracy summit in Dec.)


1.‘Backchannel talk was on before Balakot’

Two foreign journalists were involved in India-Pakistan messaging, says new book

National Security Adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval and the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) exchanged messages with top Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) officials as part of a unique backchannel connection bet- ween the two countries that involved two foreign journalists, Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark, in 2018-19, even after the Pulwama attack, according to a new book by the journalists that quotes the NSA and other senior intelligence officials.

According to the authors, the ISI officials disclaimed all knowledge of the Jaish-e-Mohammad attack in Pulwama within hours of the incident, which was apparently planned in Helmand in Afghanistan, and not Pakistan. Mr. Doval and Deputy NSA Rajinder Khanna disbelieved the Pakistani messages, however, and carried out the Balakot strikes to “humiliate the Pakistan military”, the book says. In another disclosure, the authors say that Indian investigators found that “corrupt local police officers” had helped four Jaish terrorists sneak into the Pathankot airbase to carry out an attack, in which seven security personnel were killed.

In a surprise move, the Narendra Modi government had invited a team of Pakistani investigators to Pathankot to jointly investigate the terror attack, but relations broke down between the two countries shortly after, and the joint investigation plan went nowhere.

The NIA chargesheet filed the same year against Jaish does not mention that the terrorists were helped by uniformed men.

About the National Security Act, 1980

  • The NSA is a preventive detention law.
    • Preventive Detention involves the detainment (containment) of a person in order to keep him/her from committing future crimes and/or from escaping future prosecution.
    • Article 22 (3) (b) of the Constitution allows for preventive detention and restriction on personal liberty for reasons of state security and public order.
    • Further, Article 22(4) states that no law providing for preventive detention shall authorise the detention of a person for a longer period than three months unless:
      • An Advisory Board reports sufficient cause for extended detention.
        • The 44th Amendment Act of 1978 has reduced the period of detention without obtaining the opinion of an advisory board from three to two months. However, this provision has not yet been brought into force, hence, the original period of three months still continues.
      • Such a person is detained in accordance with the provisions of any law made by the Parliament.
  • History
    • Preventive detention laws in India date back to early days of the colonial era when the Bengal Regulation III of 1818 was enacted to empower the government to arrest anyone for defence or maintenance of public order without giving the person recourse to judicial proceedings.
    • A century later, the British government enacted the Rowlatt Acts of 1919 that allowed confinement of a suspect without trial.
    • Post-independence, India got its first preventive detention rule when the government of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru enacted the Preventive Detention Act of 1950 (expired in 1969). The NSA is a close iteration of the 1950 Act.
  • Gives Power to the Government
    • The NSA empowers the Centre or a State government to detain a person to prevent him from acting in any manner prejudicial to national security.
    • The government can also detain a person to prevent him from disrupting public order or for maintenance of supplies and services essential to the community.
  • Period of Confinement: The maximum period for which one may be detained is 12 months. But the term can be extended if the government finds fresh evidence.
  • No Basic Rights to People Detained under the NSA, including:
    • The right to be informed of the reason for the arrest (Section 50 of the Criminal Procedure Code -Cr.PC).
      • Under the NSA, a person could be kept in the dark about the reasons for his arrest for up to five days, and in exceptional circumstances upto ten days.
      • Even when providing the grounds for arrest, the government can withhold information which it considers to be against public interest to disclose.
    • Sections 56 and 76 of the Cr. PC also provides that a person has to be produced before a court within 24 hours of arrest.
    • Article 22(1) of the Constitution says an arrested person cannot be denied the right to consult, and to be defended by, a legal practitioner of his choice.
      • Under the NSA, the arrested person is not entitled to the aid of any legal practitioner in any matter connected with the proceedings before an advisory board, which is constituted by the government for dealing with NSA cases.

Criticism Against the NSA Act

  • No Record of Detentions under the NSA: The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), which collects and analyses crime data in the country, does not include cases under the NSA in its data as no FIRs are registered. Hence, no figures are available for the exact number of detentions under the NSA.
  • In recent cases, different State governments have invoked the stringent provisions of the NSA to detain citizens for questionable offences.
  • Some experts argue that the governments sometimes use the NSA as an extra-judicial power.
  • NSA has come under wide criticism for its misuse by the authorities. Experts describe the validity of the Act even during peacetime as ‘anachronism’.

2.The importance of the booster dose to plan ahead

The execution of such a vaccination campaign is what will help get India out of COVID-19’s stranglehold

The COVID-19 vaccination is relatively new to the world, but the history of vaccination goes back a few centuries. The Expanded Programme on Immunisation was launched by the World Health Organization in 1974 and since then all countries of the world have gained considerable experience in rolling out several vaccines for children and pregnant women.

The immune response

Broadly speaking, vaccines may be classified as replicating live infectious vaccines, and, non-replicating non-infectious vaccines. Currently used live virus vaccines inoculated by injection include measles, rubella, mumps and chickenpox vaccines. The inoculum dose contains a few thousands of live but attenuated viruses — they replicate in body tissues without producing overt disease. The final effective dose that stimulates the immune system may be billions or trillions of viruses and the stimulus sustained for days to weeks as the injected viruses continue to multiply within the human body. Therefore, immune responses to replicating live virus vaccines — both antibody and T-cell immunity — are robust and long-lasting.

The non-replicating injected vaccines include nearly all others — the most common being diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), tetanus, hepatitis B, Haemophilus influenzae b, pneumococcal, human papilloma virus, inactivated poliovirus, inactivated hepatitis A vaccines. For them, the dose confronted by the immune system is what is injected. What is injected is a tiny amount of antigen, measured in micrograms, plus stabilisers and preservatives in some, and adjuvants in a few, all chemicals and salts in minute quantities.

Why go in for a booster dose

In order to get robust and long-lasting immunity with non-replicating vaccines, we need to give multiple doses — the initial one, two or three doses given in quick succession, at intervals of one or two months, are “priming doses” — meant to prime the immune system to the antigens in the vaccine. The immune system responds well, but with relatively low levels of antibody and subdued T-cell immunity. Over time, in a few months to one year, the antibody levels wane in almost all vaccinated individuals. To reach and maintain high and protective levels of antibody, we need one or more injected “booster dose(s)”.

Every non-replicating vaccine requires priming and boosting. Influenza vaccine boosters are recommended annually; tetanus vaccine once in five to 10 years. For others such as human papilloma and hepatitis A and B vaccines, one booster dose may suffice for decades of protection.

All current COVID-19 vaccines fall in the non-replicating category and for robust and long-lasting immunity, they require, quite predictably, priming doses to induce early immunity, and booster dose(s) to sustain, long-term, high antibody titres, overcoming waning immunity.

The current schedules

The current COVID-19 vaccination schedules are only priming doses — the immunity induced by one dose (Johnson & Johnson vaccine), Pfizer vaccine (two doses three weeks apart), all others (two doses at four weeks or more inter-dose interval) are expected to wane, as experience with all previous non-replicating vaccines have taught us. The usual interval between priming and boosting is six months to one year, because protective levels of antibodies will be present for at least that duration, when the priming doses include two or three injections.

Limited experience with antibody titres after natural infection or after vaccination against COVID-19 informs us that the antibody titres decline such that a proportion does not have even detectable virus neutralising antibody levels after six months. There is further evidence that those who are elderly, men particularly, and those with organ transplants, cancer treatment or co-morbidity, have weaker primary antibody responses than their younger/normal counterparts. This implies that they may remain vulnerable to severe disease and death; they are in urgent need for booster dose(s) to ensure and sustain protective immunity.

The initial expectation that the COVID-19 pandemic would be a short-lived one is proven wrong. It is now 20 months from the first case and numerous variants have emerged, and chains of transmission continue even in countries which have achieved wide vaccination coverage such as Israel and the United Kingdom. It seems inevitable the pandemic will evolve into a permanent ‘pan-endemic’ state and vaccination is here to stay for years to come, until we manage to eradicate the virus altogether using vaccines.

It is apparently this realisation, that immunity wanes and the pandemic is evolving into endemic long-term prevalence, that prompted Pfizer Company to seek approval for a booster dose in the United States, and Israel’s Ministry of Health to start booster doses to all above 60 years of age.

The strategy ahead

In India, we have an ethical dilemma — as long as there is inadequate vaccine supply, everyone deserves priming doses before even the highly vulnerable early vaccine recipients are offered booster doses. The solution is to accelerate vaccine procurement without counting the cost.

For every country planning vaccine roll-out, the science of vaccinology demands that all those getting priming doses should receive at least one booster dose — at a well-chosen interval. The science of immunology teaches us that a booster dose delivered at an interval of at least four, preferably six to 12, months after the last priming dose, will stimulate the production of ‘long-lived’ antibody secreting cells, as well as ‘long lived (virtually life-long) memory cells’. Those who get a third dose one month after the second dose should count it as three-dose priming instead of a true booster which requires four months to one year of wait.

India will do well to plan a vaccination strategy for completing two priming doses in all adults and children, third dose to the special category described above, and one booster dose to everyone one year later. Meticulous planning and the execution of such a vaccination campaign is what will get the country out of the stranglehold of this virus and its variants that have emerged and any that might emerge with higher transmission efficiency than even the Delta.

3.Biden to host democracy summit in Dec.

A second summit, this time in-person, will follow about a year later

In line with his campaign message on foreign policy, U.S. President Joe Biden will host a ‘Summit for Democracy’, virtually, on December 9-10, around three themes: defending against authoritarianism, fighting corruption, and promoting respect for human rights. The summit will gather together heads of state, civil society, philanthropy, and the private sector, the White House announced on Wednesday.

A second summit, this time in-person, will follow about a year later, the White House said. “In his first six months in office, the President has reinvigorated democracy at home, vaccinating 70% of population, passing the American Rescue plan, and advancing bipartisan legislation to invest in our infrastructure and competitiveness,” it said.

On foreign policy, the statement said Mr. Biden had rebuilt America’s alliances with other democracies, “rallying the world to stand up against human rights abuses, to address the climate crisis, and to fight the global pandemic, including by donating hundreds of millions of vaccine doses.” Mr. Biden ran for President on a platform that promised an American re-engagement with the world and to “renew” American democracy. In discussion with its foreign partners and on foreign visits, the U.S. messaging has included — sometimes pre-emptively — the idea that democratic norms are under threat domestically as well and they need fixing.

The Summit is seen as one way to counter growing Chinese influence. In his March 2021 ‘Interim National Security Strategic Guidance’ to agencies and departments, Mr Biden had written: “I believe we are in the midst of an historic and fundamental debate about the future direction of our world. There are those who argue that, given all the challenges we face, autocracy is the best way forward. And there are those who understand that democracy is essential to meeting all the challenges of our changing world.”

Wednesday’s announcement suggested that there would be country-wise commitments made at the first summit. “ Following a year of consultation, coordination, and action, President Biden will then invite world leaders to gather once more to showcase progress made against their commitments.,” it said.

About the summit

  • It will be held around three themes: 
    • Defending against authoritarianism, 
    • Fighting corruption, 
    • Promoting respect for human rights. 
  • The summit will gather together Heads of State, civil society, philanthropy, and the private sector. 
  • The Summit is seen as one way to counter growing Chinese influence.
  • There would be country-wise commitments made at the first summit.  
  • A second summit which will be in-person, will follow in 2022.
  • Following a year of consultation, coordination, and action, President Biden will then invite world leaders to gather once more to showcase progress made against their commitments. 
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