Daily Current Affairs 25.01.22 (Pakistan sends India a plea by Hindu body for air pilgrimage,The challenge of antimicrobial resistance,Rights, duties and the Constitution)

Daily Current Affairs 25.01.22 (Pakistan sends India a plea by Hindu body for air pilgrimage,The challenge of antimicrobial resistance,Rights, duties and the Constitution)


1. Pakistan sends India a plea by Hindu body for air pilgrimage

Officials in Delhi, Islamabad cautious, say government clearances may take time

Despite a complete standstill in trade and travel between India and Pakistan, a new proposal by the Pakistan Hindu Council to allow Hindu, Muslim and Sikh pilgrims to travel by air has been forwarded by the government in Islamabad to authorities in New Delhi.

According to sources, the proposal was sent to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) by the Pakistan High Commission in Delhi on behalf of the Pakistan Hindu Council (PHC) chief patron, Ramesh Vankwani, asking that two chartered flights of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) carrying pilgrims be allowed to fly from Lahore and Karachi to destinations in India this Saturday.

However, the sources struck a cautious note, saying that the proposal, which was only received on Monday, had still to receive many clearances in New Delhi.

The MEA did not respond to enquiries about whether permissions were likely within the next few days, or at all. A senior official of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) also said “no request has been received from the airline at present”.

Officials also pointed to the fact that Pakistan denied overflight permission to Srinagar-Sharjah flights that began last November, and India refused to allow PIA flights to take Indian pilgrims to Pakistan in December, to stress that the proposal would need a political push on both sides.

Only land route now

If clearances are received, this would be the first PIA flight to travel to India since operations were suspended in 2019, and the first ever such flight carrying pilgrims from either side since 1947. At present, groups of Indian and Pakistani pilgrims who still visit each other’s countries under a 1974 protocol exchange agreement, travel by road over the Wagah-Atari border.

In all, nearly 170 pilgrims, mostly Muslim, and 20 Hindu pilgrims would be facilitated by the PHC, that signed an MoU with PIA in December 2021 to organise a number of “faith tourism initiatives”. Among the early initiatives, the council said it had facilitated two groups of Hindu pilgrims from the U.K., the UAE, Spain and other countries in the past few weeks, who were flown to Peshawar via PIA charters to visit the Shri Paramhans Maharaj Mandir in the remote Khyber Pakhtunkhwa district of Teri. The Indian pilgrims crossed over at Wagah by foot and then flew to Peshawar from Lahore.

“I am very hopeful we can conduct this reciprocal visit by air for Pakistanis wishing to travel to the Ajmer Sharif, Nizamuddin Auliya Dargah and other shrines, and take the first such flight myself,” Mr. Vankwani told The Hindu in a telephone interview, saying that he had received many enquiries from pilgrims eager to take the chartered flights.

Four-day tour

According to the programme drawn up, the pilgrims would take a tour to India from January 29 to February 1, including visits to Jaipur, Ajmer, Delhi, Agra and Haridwar.

Mr. Vankwani, who is also a legislator from the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf party, said he had discussed with Pakistani officials the possibility of allowing Air India flights from India. If permitted by both sides, these flights would carry Indian Hindu pilgrims to Peshawar for the Paramhans Mandir and to Karachi for the Hinglaj Mata Mandir.

The erstwhile “Indian Airlines” last flew to Pakistan in March 2008.

“Someone needs to break the deadlock [between India and Pakistan],” Mr. Vankwani said. “Looking at how other such conflicts in the world were resolved, we hope to make a start with faith tourism, and go on to more tourism, and then even trade and [regular] travel.”

What is Soft Power or Soft Diplomacy?

  • Power in international relations has traditionally been understood in the context of military and economic might.
  • It is known as Hard power (which is quantifiable)
  • Hard power is deployed in the form of coercion: using force, the threat of force, economic sanctions etc.
  • In contrast to the coercive nature of Hard power, Joseph Nye suggested concept of soft power in post cold war world
  • Soft power is the ability to shape the preferences of others through appeal and attraction.
  • The three pillars of soft power are: political values, culture, and foreign policy.
  • Nye argues that successful states need both hard and soft power, the ability to coerce others as well as the ability to shape their long-term attitudes and preferences.
  • For Instance,The United States can dominate others, but it has also excelled in projecting soft power, with the help of its companies, foundations, universities, churches, and other institutions of civil society.

What are India’s Dimensions of Soft Power?

India is unique country to be bestowed with multidimensional soft power. for eg:

  • Ayurveda
  • Buddhism
  • Cricket, Culture
  • Democracy, Diaspora
  • Entertainment: Bollywood
  • Food (Indian style of cooking and spices)
  • Gandhian ideals
  • Colonial historical linkages with the nations
  • Yoga

How soft power can change India-Pakistan equation?

Recent chronological events between India and Pakistan

2014 – As a goodwill gesture all leaders of SAARC countries were invited in swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister of India.

2014 – Both countries in New Delhi held talks expressing willingness to begin a new era of bilateral relations.

2015 – PM Modi makes a surprise visit to the Pakistani eastern city of Lahore.

2016 – Pakistani backed militants launched terrorist attack on armed forces base at Uri (J&K), in reaction to which India launches “surgical strikes” on “terrorist units” in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

After that India held that it will not engage with Pakistan diplomatically and that terror and talks can’t go together.

2019 – Again similar terrorist activity conducted in pulwama (J&K) against which India conducts air attacks in balakot training camp of Pakistan-based rebel group Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM).

However finalizing of Kartarpur corridor has shown a narrow ray of hope for starting of talks between India and Pakistan.

Kartarpur corridor: India and Pakistan agreed to set up the border crossing linking Gurudwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur to Dera Baba Nanak shrine in India’s Gurdaspur district. Kartarpur Sahib is located in Pakistan’s Narowal district across the river Ravi, about four km from the Dera Baba Nanak shrine

Soft power can be a potent tool for bringing harmonious relations and peace between two Nuclear Powers of Asian region. Certain dimensions of Soft power which can be engaged are:

By using Hydro Diplomacy: Indus water treaty can be used as the tool of hydro diplomacy where India is entitled to unrestrictive use of eastern rivers namely Sutlej, Beas and Ravi and non consumptive use (mainly for irrigation, storage and hydroelectricity production) of western rivers namely Jhelum, Chenab and Indus.

Even without violating the terms of the treaty India can use its rights of non consumptive use of the water of western river, and can send signals to Pakistan to depart from its coercive measure and shift to peaceful means for bringing more stability in bilateral relations.

Construction of Water Grid between two nations can also be a viable solution to the water problems of the region.

By using Cultural Diplomacy: Nye, one of the propounder of the word soft power, defines cultural diplomacy as a course of action based on the exchange of ideas, values, traditions and other aspects of culture or identity to strengthen relationships, enhance socio- cultural cooperation or promote the national interest.

Broad spectrum of cultural diplomacy is not restricted to performing arts instead it extends to bilateral exchanges of art, music, dance, theatre and artists and even organization of sports events at bilateral level like cricket will definitely ease out the political anxiety and will bring more stability and peace in bilateral relations between the two.

For example urdu poetry and ghazals from Pakistan and shows like Coke studio, Mtv unplugged has wider range of fan following in both the countries.

“Model of drama” for conflict transformation can be applied for conflict transformation between India and Pakistan as a part of cultural diplomacy.

The main connecting agents according to the model are people and their personal relationship is vital to diffuse confrontations.

Therefore, the citizen’s diplomacy or people to people contact between India and Pakistan are significant in building peace between the two nations.

Cricket Diplomacy: Cricket diplomacy implies using Cricket as one of the strategic diplomatic political tool for transcending the ethnic and social divide while dispelling historical stereotypes and age-old prejudices between the two countries by bringing more engagements between the cricket teams, fans and authorities of both the nations.

For instance, in past also, cricket diplomacy has been used for bringing normalcy to India Pakistan relations like in 1999 when Chennai gave a standing ovation to Wasim Akram’s men after they had just beaten India and after six months the two countries met again in a world cup match against the hostile backdrop of the Kargil war.

As a result of Pakistani PM’s visit in 2005 to India to watch a cricket match between India and Pakistan had effectively turned into the summit and the both countries agreed to open up the militarized frontier dividing the disputed Kashmir region.

Thereby India can ask its Cricket Board to expand the T20 league to include clubs from three Pakistan cities such as Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi and one from Jammu and Kashmir to play in the City of Srinagar.

Expanding IPL to include cities from Pakistan and Kashmir could lay a strong foundation for a peaceful relationship between the two nations.

Economic Diplomacy: Economic Interdependence between two nations can be used as one of the dimension of soft power :

Economic interdependence through bilateral trade will help in easing out the tensions at the cross border arising out of the unemployment, poverty and low living conditions, as bilateral trade brings more employment opportunities and prosperity in the region that in turn will help in dismantling the military institutions and their coercive means to capture the power in Pakistan that are aimed at anti India agenda and are generally responsible for ceasefire violations in India.

India can deepen its economic ties with Pakistan by reducing the import tariffs which is presently 200% and by invoking its Most Favoured Nation status at time when Pakistan’s economy is in its worst phase.

ASEAN region can be used as the example where many territorial disputes have been resolved by increasing the economic interdependence between the nations.

Harnessing similarities between two nations for strategic diplomatic engagements and establishing confidence building measures.

Cultural similarities between both the nations in terms of similar food habits can be translated into deepening diplomatic engagements (like Halwa Puri, Daal Chawal, Chicken Karahi, Biryani and the drink of Lassi are not only famous in Pakistan they are equally liked in India as well. Sweet dish is common with Kheer and Mithai the most famous sweet dishes).

By organizing events like food fairs, festivals and cooking competitions, between two nations it would be easier to strengthen the bond of love and prosperity between two nations.

Geographical similarities as they are neighbouring countries and are located in Asia, more specifically South Asia.

Both countries can exploit there common or disputed territorial regions (like that of Kashmir) for carrying out some common scientific expeditions or research that will be mutually beneficial for development and growth of both the nations.

Kartarpur corridor between India and Pakistan used for connecting the Sikh shrines of Dera Baba Nanak Sahib and Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur can be used for strengthening and harmonising people to people contact between two nations.

Soft Power is not the only solution

Soft power can not be the only solution for dealing with the bilateral engagements between India and Pakistan as in past few instances of soft power diplomacy has failed to fulfill its intended objectives and it’s the hard policy that has to come in picture like:

Soft power projects such as ‘Destination Pakistan’ that were implemented back in 2007 failed to yield the required results.

National day receptions are one of the best available forums for diplomats to project their country’s clout in a capital as well as present its soft power and renew contacts. Unfortunately, the lack of resources in most Pakistani diplomatic missions abroad has made these celebrations redundant and unfruitful.

Lahore declaration in February 1999 that intends to end the nuclear race between both the nations lost its relevance with the outbreak of Kargil war in May 1999.

Mumbai terror attacks of 2008 stalled the whole process of composite dialogue between India and Pakistan and India also cancelled its cricket team’s tour of Pakistan that was scheduled for January-February 2009.

Efforts under Neighbourhood first policy made by our PM, like inviting Pakistani counterpart for his swearing in ceremony, unscheduled visit to Lahore, at residence of Pakistani PM, has been diluted with incidence of attack on Indian Air force in January 2016 (Pathankot attack), that ended with complete suspension of all types of talks and bilateral engagements between two nations.

After the uri attack in september same year, our PM made statement that ‘talks and terrorism’ cannot go hand in hand.

Post Pulwama attack (attack on CRPF personnels bus in Jammu and Kashmir) on February 14, 2019, the Pakistan government has banned the airing of Indian content on television and also screening of Indian films in cinema halls. On Pakistan government’s directives, they also blocked all Indian sports channels in the country.

2. The challenge of antimicrobial resistance

What is the GRAM report? How is antimicrobial resistance affecting

The recently published GRAM report talks about antimicrobial resistance (AMR), where antibiotics become ineffective because pathogens become resistant to them.

According to the report, as many as 4.95 million deaths may be associated with bacterial AMR in 2019. In South Asia, over 3,89,000 people died as a direct result of AMR. One pathogen–drug combination, meticillin-resistant S aureus, caused more than 1 lakh deaths attributable to AMR.

Our use of antimicrobial treatment should be “more thoughtful” wherein lifesaving antibiotics are given where needed and minimised when they are not necessary.

Jacob Koshy

The story so far: Antimicrobial resistance (AMR), or antibiotics becoming ineffective because pathogens such as viruses, fungi and bacteria become resistant to them, has long been recognised as a major threat to public health. However, there are only few estimates on the scale of the problem and regional variations. Based on estimates from 204 countries and territories, the Global Research on Antimicrobial Resistance (GRAM) report published in The Lancet on Thursday provides the most comprehensive estimate of the global impact of AMR so far.

What did the GRAM report find?

Its headline finding is that as many as 4.95 million deaths may be associated with bacterial AMR in 2019. Estimates included in the paper show that AMR is a leading cause of death globally, higher than HIV/AIDS or malaria. In South Asia, over 3,89,000 people died as a direct result of AMR in 2019. The death rate was the highest in Western sub-Saharan Africa, at 27.3 deaths per 1,00,000 and lowest in Australasia, at 6.5 deaths per 1,00,000. Lower respiratory tract infections accounted for more than 1.5 million deaths associated with resistance in 2019, making it the most common infectious syndrome. The six leading pathogens for deaths associated with resistance were Escherichia coli, followed by Staphylococcus aureus, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Streptococcus pneumoniae, Acinetobacter baumannii, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. They were responsible for 3.57 million deaths associated with AMR in 2019. One pathogen–drug combination, meticillin-resistant S aureus, caused more than 1,00,000 deaths attributable to AMR in 2019, while six more each caused 50,000 -100,000 deaths.

How was this study done?

GRAM is led out of the University of Oxford Big Data Institute —IHME Strategic Partnership. IHME is the Institute for Health Metrics. The research paper lists a large number of contributors from across the world who provide data from multiple sources, including microbiology data, inpatient data, data on multiple causes of death, and pharmaceutical sales data. The data was then broken down, by region, into deaths in which infection played a role by infectious syndrome; pathogen distribution for deaths and incident cases; incidence of infectious syndromes disaggregated by age, sex, and location; prevalence of resistance by pathogen; relative risk of death for drug-resistant infection compared with drug-sensitive infections; and finally, computing the burden attributable to drug resistance and burden associated with drug-resistant infections.

What are the implications of this study?

Common infections such as lower respiratory tract infections, bloodstream infections, and intra-abdominal infections are now killing hundreds of thousands of people every year because bacteria have become resistant to treatment. This includes historically treatable illnesses, such as pneumonia, hospital-acquired infections, and foodborne ailments. Everyone is at risk from AMR, but the data show that young children are particularly affected. In 2019, one in five global deaths attributable to AMR occurred in children under the age of five —often from previously treatable infections. AMR is threatening the ability of hospitals to keep patients safe from infections and undermining the ability of doctors to carry out essential medical practice safely, including surgery, childbirth and cancer treatment since infection is a risk following these procedures. Between 1980 and 2000, 63 new antibiotics were approved for clinical use. Between 2000 and 2018, just 15 additional antibiotics were approved. Out of the seven deadliest drug-resistant bacteria, vaccines are only available for two (Streptococcus pneumoniae and Mycobacterium tuberculosis). Whilst all seven of the leading bacteria have been identified as ‘priority pathogens’ by the World Health Organization (WHO), only two have been a focus of major global health intervention programmes —S. pneumoniae (primarily through pneumococcal vaccination) and M. tuberculosis.

What do the authors suggest as the way forward?

They recommend greater action to monitor and control infections, globally, nationally and within individual hospitals. Access to vaccines, clean water and sanitation ought to be expanded. The use of antibiotics unrelated to treating human disease, such as in food and animal production, must be “optimised”. And finally they recommend being “more thoughtful” about our use of antimicrobial treatments —expanding access to lifesaving antibiotics where needed, minimising use where they are not necessary to improve human health and acting according to WHO’s recommendations on the same. They also recommend increasing funding for developing new antimicrobials and targeting priority pathogens such as K. pneumoniae and E. Coli and ensuring that they are affordable and accessible to most of the world.

3. Rights, duties and the Constitution

It is only after a guarantee of the sum of all promised by the Constitution that citizens can be asked to do their duty

As citizens, there exists a wide range of duties owed both to the state and to other individuals. We have a legal duty to pay our taxes, to refrain from committing violence against our fellow-citizens, and to follow other laws that Parliament has enacted. At any given time, we are already following a host of duties, which guide and constrain how we may behave. This is the price that must be paid for living in society.

Rights follow a different logic entirely. They rest on the twin principles of anti-dehumanisation and anti-hierarchy. In its essence, it means every human being no matter who they were or what they did had a claim to basic dignity and equality that no state could take away, no matter what the provocation. One did not have to successfully perform any duty, or meet a threshold of worthiness to qualify for rights.

One should not conflate duty and rights. Traditions that invoke the language of duty in order to subordinate or efface the individual in the face of the collective (whether state or community) should not be tolerated. It is always critical to remember Dr. B.R. Ambedkar’s words in the Constituent Assembly: that the fundamental unit of the Constitution remains the individual.

Gautam Bhatia

Addressing a virtual gathering of Brahma Kumaris’ year-long programme of events as part of the Government’s celebration of 75 years of Independence, Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsa, Prime Minister Narendra Modi stated that the focus on fighting for rights and forgetting of duties in the last 75 years made India ‘weak’. He said the next 25 years would be a period for hard work, sacrifice and “tapasya” (penance). In this article dated February 26, 2020, Gautam Bhatia explains how only through the guarantee of fundamental rights can fulfillment of duties be expected from citizens.

At the height of the Emergency, Indira Gandhi’s government enacted sweeping changes to the Constitution, through the 42nd Amendment. These changes were intended to entrench the supremacy of the Government, permanently muzzle the courts, and weaken the constitutional system of checks and balances which was designed to avoid concentration and abuse of power. And in the Amendment’s Statement of Objects and Reasons, one line stands out: “… it is also proposed to specify the fundamental duties of the citizens and make special provisions for dealing with anti-national activities.”

“Fundamental duties” and “anti-national activities” came into the world fused at the hip. And while Indira Gandhi’s Emergency regime has long been consigned to the dustbin of history, its legacies endure. “Anti-national” has become a boundlessly manipulable word, that, in the spirit of Humpty Dumpty, can mean whatever those in power want it to mean. “Fundamental duties” have been making a comeback as well: at an International Judicial Conference 2020 this weekend, the Chief Justice of India, S.A. Bobde, drew attention to the Constitution’s Fundamental Duties chapter. He then went further, and citing Gandhi’s Hind Swaraj, observed that “real rights are a result of [the] performance of duty.”

There is, of course, an intuitive plausibility to the CJI’s words. They conjure up the image of the ungrateful and selfish citizen, happy to pluck the fruits of civilisation, but unwilling to do their bit to water the tree. Nonetheless, despite its plausibility, this conflation of rights and duties ought to be resisted.

Webs of duties

The first thing to note is that as citizens, there exists a wide range of duties that bind us in everyday life. These duties are owed both to the state, and to other individuals. We have a legal duty to pay our taxes, to refrain from committing violence against our fellow-citizens, and to follow other laws that Parliament has enacted. Breach of these legal duties triggers financial consequences (fines), or even time in jail. At any given time, therefore, we are already following a host of duties, which guide and constrain how we may behave. This is the price that must be paid for living in society, and it is a price that nobody, at least, in principle, objects to paying.

Our duties and the consequences we bear for failing to keep them therefore exist as a self-contained whole. They follow a simple logic: that peaceful co-existence requires a degree of self-sacrifice, and that if necessary, this must be enforced through the set of sanctions.

The logic of rights

Rights, on the other hand, follow a different logic entirely. This is a logic that is best understood through history. At the time of the framing of the Indian Constitution and its chapter on Fundamental Rights, there were two important concerns animating the Constituent Assembly. The first was that under the colonial regime, Indians had been treated as subjects. Their interests did not count, their voices were unheard, and in some cases — for example, the “Criminal Tribes” — they were treated as less than human. Apart from the long and brutal history of colonialism, the framers also had before them the recent example of the Holocaust, where the dignity of more than six million people had been stripped before their eventual genocide.

The first role of the fundamental rights chapter, therefore, was to stand as a bulwark against dehumanisation. Every human being no matter who they were or what they did had a claim to basic dignity and equality that no state could take away, no matter what the provocation. One did not have to successfully perform any duty, or meet a threshold of worthiness, to qualify as a rights bearer. It was simply what it meant to be human.

Second, the framers were also aware that they were inheriting a deeply stratified and riven society. The colonial regime had not been the only oppressor; the axes of gender, caste and religion had all served to keep masses of individuals in permanent conditions of subordination and degradation. The second role of rights, thus, was to stand against hierarchy. Through guarantees against forced labour, against “untouchability”, against discriminatory access to public spaces, and others, fundamental rights were meant to play an equalising and democratising role throughout society, and to protect individuals against the depredations visited on them by their fellow human-beings.

The twin principles of anti-dehumanisation and anti-hierarchy reveal the transformative purpose of the fundamental rights chapter: the recognition that true democracy could not exist without ensuring that at a basic level, the dignity and equality of individuals was protected, both from the state as well as from social majorities. It was only with these guarantees could an individual rise from the status of subject to that of citizen. And, as should be clear by now, it was only after that transformation had been wrought, that the question of duties could even arise.

This is not to suggest, of course, that duties are unimportant. As indicated above, duties exist in every sphere of society. Moreover, the language of duties can play an important role in a society that continues to be divided and unequal: in such a society, those who possess or benefit from entrenched structural and institutional power (starting with the state, and going downwards) certainly have a “duty” not to use that power to the detriment of those upon whom they wield it. That is precisely what the guarantees against “untouchability”, forced labour, and discriminatory access in the Constitution seek to accomplish.

Issue lies in conflation

The problem, however, lies in the conflation of rights and duties. As Samuel Moyn points out in an illuminating article in The Boston Review, “the rhetoric of duties has often been deployed euphemistically by those whose true purpose is a return to tradition won by limiting the rights of others”. Moyn’s target here are traditions that invoke the language of duty (often alongside terms such as “community” or “family”) in order to subordinate or efface the individual in the face of the collective (whether state or community). In that context, it is always critical to remember Dr. B.R. Ambedkar’s words in the Constituent Assembly (which were also cited by the CJI in his speech): that the fundamental unit of the Constitution remains the individual.

If the position of the individual and the Constitution’s commitment to combating hierarchy is kept in mind, then the language of duties can be understood in its proper context. Without that, however, we risk going astray. A good example of this is a Supreme Court judgment from the early 1980s, which upheld the differential treatment of male and female flight attendants on the ground that women had a “duty” to ensure the “good upbringing of children” and to ensure the success of the “family planning program” for the country.

The judgment is a stark reminder that without the moral compass of rights and their place in the transformative Constitutional scheme the language of duties can lead to unpleasant consequences. It can end up entrenching existing power structures by placing the burden of “duties” upon those that are already vulnerable and marginalised. It is for this reason that, at the end of the day, the Constitution, a charter of liberation, is fundamentally about rights. It is only after guarantee to all the full sum of humanity, dignity, equality, and freedom promised by the Constitution, that we can ask of them to do their duty.

Perhaps, then, it is time to update HindSwarajfor the constitutional age: “real duties are the result of the fulfillment of rights”.

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