Daily Current Affairs 25.3.2022 (The peculiar case of Ladakh’s eastern boundary, Time for India to redefine its relationship with Russia, India abstains on UNGA votes, ‘If you want to know what’s true, then maths is a good place to start’, India to be TB-free by 2025: Mansukh)

Daily Current Affairs 25.3.2022 (The peculiar case of Ladakh’s eastern boundary, Time for India to redefine its relationship with Russia, India abstains on UNGA votes, ‘If you want to know what’s true, then maths is a good place to start’, India to be TB-free by 2025: Mansukh)


1. The peculiar case of Ladakh’s eastern boundary

Atmanirbhar Bharat requires a bold relook at old misconceptions while continuing dialogue

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is in India and is expected to meet External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval. The changed global geopolitical situation is a good time to focus on the peculiar case of Ladakh’s eastern boundary and the unnecessary ongoing conflict.

Treaties, usage and custom

There has never been a defined boundary in this area because high watershed frameworks do not apply to the parallel ranges in Ladakh, where the topography shaped both its polity and relations with others. Leh was the ‘cross road of high Asia’ where traders exchanged goods by barter. Ladakh translates as the ‘land of high passes’, which defined the limits of its administrative control over trade routes via the Karakoram pass to the north, Demchok to the south and Zojila to the west, triangulating the small settled population limited to the Indus Valley, now with India. Grazing grounds in the south were shared with Tibet. The uninhabited soda plains to the east extending over 100 square miles at a height of 17,000 feet, now disputed between India and China, were of no use and not governed by anyone.

Ladakh emerged as a distinct entity with the Treaty of Timosgang in 1684. This treaty established relations between Leh and Lhasa through trade exchanges. With the Treaty of Chushul in 1842, Ladakh and Tibet agreed to maintain the status quo. The Treaty of Amritsar in 1846 between the East India Company and the State of Kashmir included Ladakh with its eastern boundary undefined, and the focus remained pashmina trade for making shawls.

After Britain took over governance of India, attention shifted to the northern boundary of Ladakh because of the Russian advance into Central Asia. In 1870, a British Joint Commissioner was posted at Leh, who continued good relations and correspondence with the Dalai Lama and the Chinese Amban at Lhasa and with the Kashmir State. Both India and China have relied on the correspondence and travel accounts, which had a very different purpose, obscuring the reality that the customary boundary was defined only for the limited area under human occupation.

The authoritative ‘Gazetteer of Kashmir and Ladak’, brought out in 1890, states that from the Karakoram to the head of the Changchenmo valley the boundary with ‘Chinese Tibet” is “quite doubtful” (the area of the current discussions) and clear only for the area to the south and west which represents actual occupation (currently not disputed). The unoccupied Aksai Chin is described as “neutral territory”, suitable for wheeled transport and where the Chinese built their road.

New domestic consensus

There has been advance in developing a common understanding, moving from establishing respective claims to recognising the ground reality. In 1959, experts of both countries, not unexpectedly, further hardened positions as both sides relied selectively on any correspondence or travel record that would justify their already established stand. In 1993, the signing of an Agreement on the Maintenance of Peace and Tranquillity along the Line of Actual Control brought in diplomats, and the dialogue moved from history to principles. In 2020, the focus shifted to the ground situation and after 15 rounds of talks, the recent joint statement has highlighted continuing the military and diplomatic dialogue and reaching a mutually acceptable resolution of the remaining issues at the earliest for progress in bilateral relations.

Outside this process, Indian diplomats, Army chief Kodendera Subayya General Thimayya earlier and recently former Commanders of the Leh Corps have characterised the Karakoram watershed as a defensible border, to which the Chinese claim line broadly corresponds, leaving the area where earlier no one exercised control, Aksai Chin, to China. This raises the question why this assertion has been ignored at the political level.

A former Foreign Secretary and Ambassador to China and the U.S. has explained initial decisions as “ineptitude” and the approach as “unrealistic”, arguing that it is necessary to first acknowledge mistakes of the 1950s for moulding a new domestic consensus. For example, following the Seventeen Point Agreement between China and Tibet in June 1951, even as the Chinese moved into Tibet across Aksai Chin, the North-East Frontier Agency was handed over to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) but not Ladakh. Examining this Agreement, the MEA felt it was “reasonable” and inexplicably that India had no use for the Consulate in Kashghar across the northern border of Ladakh. In the India-China Agreement of April 29, 1954, it appears that the reference to passes marking the boundary in the central sector was taken as including the passes in Ladakh assuming recognition of the boundary. This led to new official maps in June 1954 with the MEA deciding on ‘the most favorable line’ in eastern Ladakh. As the Ambassador points out, in Parliament, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru never admitted that the entire boundary was unilaterally defined or even that it was in dispute leading to the notion of “Chinese betrayal” in the public imagination.

The year 1954, not 1962, was the turning point in complicating the situation. Unilateral actions in “neutral territory” establishing a strategic road and defining the boundary converted a colonial ambiguity into a dispute, instead of adopting the watershed principle as in the case of the border of all other Himalayan States. The Cold War heightened mistrust, with Pakistan joining the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization and the United States’ covert operation with the brother of the Dalai Lama residing in Kalimpong arming Tibetans.

Omission and commission

The solution lies in the equally unique 70-year-old continuing dialogue despite each side calling the other an aggressor and sporadic military incidents. Instead of claims, the growing confidence of both countries should enable them to acknowledge acts of commission and omission in the 1950s as newly independent ancient civilisations extended overlapping sovereignty in the uninhabited area in Ladakh over which neither had ever exercised control.

In what would be a bold political step, agreement on the watershed boundary following a well-established principle would meet the national security concerns of India and China without bringing in intractable issues of sovereignty.

2. Time for India to redefine its relationship with Russia

It is too risky for New Delhi to pursue vague aims vis-à-vis Moscow at a time of diplomatic and strategic uncertainty

Russia’s war on Ukraine has decisively shaped international opinion. Indian foreign policy is also going to be affected in a profound manner. The most important question facing Indian diplomacy is how to navigate India’s great power relations in the future. While there has always remained a pro-Russian popular sentiment in India, rooted in Moscow’s support during the Cold War era, particularly against the pro-Pakistani diplomatic activism by powerful Western countries in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), a majority of Indians today seem taken aback by Russia’s misadventure against a sovereign country.

Foreign policy conundrum

That Ukraine, a former Soviet republic, is moving closer to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in the hope of membership may be a sufficient reason for Russia to be infuriated, but it is still an insufficient condition for Ukraine to be attacked in violation of all norms of international law. However, India has not directly criticised Moscow’s action. Memories of the historic Indo-Soviet partnership still seem to tip the scales when it comes to India’s vote at the UNSC. Western countries have criticised India’s repeated abstentions at the UNSC on the issue of the Russian invasion, while the Kremlin has praised India for taking an “independent and balanced” position. While India has not cared much about Western criticism of its “independent” approach to foreign policy, it is the Russian angle this time which has come to restrain India’s strategic autonomy.

President Vladimir Putin’s attack on Ukraine has put New Delhi in a foreign policy conundrum that will not disappear soon because Russia’s action has changed the global order. The Western world has imposed unprecedented sanctions against Russia and banned energy imports. New Delhi is concerned about the impact of these sanctions on global finance, energy supplies, and transportation, amid growing signs that they will constrain India’s ability to import Russian oil.

The image of the Russian military might be tarnished now as Russian forces have under-performed in their Ukrainian campaign. Ukraine has been able to hold the Russian forces back for a long time, which can be seen as a moral victory for a weaker nation. Mr. Putin is neither a crafty strategist nor a charismatic hero who has risen from the ashes of the Soviet defeat to lead Russia into a new period of resurgence. His reputation has been severely bruised because a comedian-turned-politician next door has exposed the hollowness of Russia’s military tactics and operational planning.

The real strategic challenge

China’s blatant attempts to project its rising power as well as Russia’s threats against its “near abroad” will continue to test India’s strategic choices. Nevertheless, what must worry India is the fact that Russia will now become increasingly dependent on Chinese support to defend its policies. Mr. Putin may not know what he eventually wants in Ukraine, but he is aware of the ruble collapsing, the punishing sanctions being imposed, and the dire state of the Russian economy. This will push him further into China’s military and economic orbit.

India’s real strategic challenge is surfacing in the Indo-Pacific with the rise of China, as Beijing has consistently sought to expand its zone of military, economic and political influence through the Belt and Road Initiative. Moreover, instead of smoothing the ruffled edges of India’s insecurities, which are rooted in an undefined boundary, China has only aggravated them further. Though India would like the U.S. to continue to focus on China, it is not possible for Washington to ignore Russia’s aggression along NATO’s periphery.

Since the end of the Cold War, Indians have been debating the contours of strategic autonomy. For some, the notion is a re-branding of India’s non-aligned posture during the Cold War. Others say that the doctrine of ‘multi-alignment’ is the 21st century avatar of strategic autonomy as India has been expanding its engagement with all the major powers.

Reality has many dimensions. And in this case, history is relevant. Indian nationalists of various shades still fondly remember which countries were India’s allies during the Cold War and which were not. Former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s advocacy of neutrality in the bloc politics was justified in the pursuit of an independent post-colonial foreign policy. The Soviet Union was seen as a trustworthy partner against Western hegemony. Following the disintegration of the USSR, India joined Russia and China against the unipolarity of the U.S. The purpose of this trilateral initiative was to promote a multi-polar world to constrain the U.S.’s unbridled power and ambition. India was also uncomfortable with the arrogance that defined Western attitudes towards Russia in the immediate post–Cold War period. For some time, this common concern about unipolarity put the three countries on the same path towards mutual cooperation and understanding. Later, Brazil and South Africa were also brought into this coalition. However, it soon became clear that India and China did not see eye to eye. Moreover, India was determined to maintain its partnership with Russia, an important arms supplier. Its ties with the U.S. have also improved significantly since the end of the Cold War. But continuing dependence on Russian weaponry has become India’s strategic headache.

An unpredictable Russia

Nostalgia cannot be allowed to trump reality. Mr. Putin seems too frozen in old-fashioned grievances against the West to appreciate the value of India’s friendship. Much of New Delhi’s disillusionment stems from a failure to understand not only Mr. Putin’s political thinking, but also Russia’s place in the emerging global order. If it was a nuclear-armed superpower yesterday, Russia seems to be behaving like a nuclear-armed bully today. Under Mr. Putin, Russia is in a state of transition, swinging wildly from one crisis to another. Therefore, it is too risky for India to pursue vague aims vis-à-vis Russia in these uncertain times.

Those in India echoing Russian resentment against the eastward expansion of NATO are reminded by Western analysts that a NATO-Russia Council was formed specifically to alleviate Russia’s concerns, and that Russia was recognised as one of the world’s leading industrial powers through a formal admission into the elite G-7 not on the basis of its industrial might, but to soften its bruised superpower ego. Truth lies somewhere in between, which perhaps explains India’s stance at the UNSC.

Everyone in and around government must think seriously about India’s relations with Russia as the unfolding Ukrainian tragedy has introduced a new era in international relations. Though Moscow has drifted much closer to Beijing, and is sharply critical of India’s engagement with the U.S. and the Quad, India finds it difficult to extend support to Ukraine. Prime Minister Narendra Modi may still personally like Mr. Putin, but he understands that in the halls of global diplomacy, nations have interests which are not determined by personalities alone. It goes without saying that the U.S. is the country most likely to bolster India’s future as a great power.

It is not going to be easy for New Delhi to maintain its balancing act in the future as Washington hardens its position further. It is inevitable that during this time of diplomatic and strategic uncertainty, New Delhi needs to be ready to radically redefine its relationship with Moscow.

3. India abstains on UNGA votes

It also abstains in UNSC on Russia’s resolution on humanitarian crisis in Ukraine

India abstained on two resolutions at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on Thursday related to the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine following the Russian invasion. The first abstention was on a draft resolution proposed by Ukraine that held Russia responsible for the crisis.

The second was a procedural vote — on whether the UNGA ought to take up a second resolution, proposed by South Africa, for action at all. This resolution did not mention Russia. The first resolution was adopted with support from 140 countries and the second was not put to vote because it did not have sufficient support.

The draft version of Ukraine’s resolution named Russia, saying the UNGA “demands an immediate cessation of the hostilities by the Russian Federation against Ukraine, in particular of any attacks against civilians and civilian objects.”

The 140 countries that voted in its favour included the U.S. and European Union countries. India was among 38 abstentions, as were China, South Africa and Sri Lanka. Five countries voted against it: Russia, Belarus, North Korea, Syria and Eritrea.

“India abstained on the resolution since what we require now is to focus on cessation of hostilities and on urgent humanitarian assistance. The draft resolution did not fully reflect our expected focus on these challenges,” India’s permanent representative to the United Nations (UNPR), T.S. Tirumurti said in his ‘explanation of vote’ remarks.

Mr. Tirumurti was presumably referring to Ukraine’s resolution, since the South African one was not put to vote and the abstention there was at the procedural stage.

While he stopped short of naming Russia, Mr. Tirumurti said India emphasised a “need to respect the UN Charter, international law and the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states”. He said India was deeply concerned about the humanitarian situation and called an “immediate ceasefire”.

Resolution by Russia

Also, in another development, India, along with 12 other UN Security Council members, abstained on a resolution by Russia on the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine.

The draft resolution was co-sponsored by Syria, North Korea and Belarus. It failed to get adopted in the Council on Wednesday as it did not get the required nine ‘yes’ votes to pass.

Russia and China voted in favour of the resolution while there were no countries voting against. India and the remaining Security Council members abstained.

Russia had called for a vote in the 15-nation Security Council on its draft resolution.

4. ‘If you want to know what’s true, then maths is a good place to start’

U.S. mathematician who won this year’s Abel Prize says there is something remarkable and unexplained in the universe we live in, and also mathematics itself

On March 23, the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters announced their decision to award this year’s Abel Prize toDennis Parnell Sullivan, American mathematician who is now at the State University of New York, Stony Brook, U.S. The Abel Prize is a top honour in mathematics, being similar to the Nobel Prize for the sciences, is being awarded for major contribution to the field of mathematics. Named after Norwegian mathematician Niels Henrik Abel, the prize was instituted by the Norwegian government in 2002. In this interview, Professor Sullivan speaks about his interest in mathematics, early influences and more.

At what stage in your life did you perceive yourself to be a mathematician?

The second year of college, because I didn’t know mathematics existed as a profession until then.

I was in chemical engineering [at Rice University, Texas]. But at that university, all the science students, electrical engineers, and everyone took maths, physics and chemistry. In the second year, when we did complex variables, one day, the professor drew a picture of a kidney-shaped swimming pool, and a round swimming pool. And he said, you could deform this kidney-shaped swimming pool into the round one… We have a formula for the mapping [in calculus] and we had a notation for discussing it, which we have been studying. But this was like a geometric picture. This mapping was essentially unique. And the nature of this statement was totally different from any maths statement I’ve ever seen before. It was, like, general, deep, and wow! And true! So then, within a few weeks, I changed my major to maths.

I used this wonderful structure in later research… especially, during a 10-year struggle proving mathematically, by 1990, a numerical universality discovered by physicists in the mid-1970s.

You used to organise lectures by various mathematicians, where the format was to discuss the minute details regardless of the time taken. Do you still do that?

That was called the Einstein chair seminar. And it was, well, it was the regular format — you invited speakers, they would come and tell the stuff. But we didn’t have a time limit. During an hour-long talk, you can stop the speaker a few times. You can’t stop him all the time, you know, so it would be open-ended. Sometimes it would go [on for] more than three hours. In fact, the record is from 2.00 to 8.30. I think, finally, the guy had to have a beer. He was from Germany (laughs). He wanted to beat the record, though, and he did beat it.

I would ask many of the questions, but then the students would start asking, too, because it was okay, and there’s no such thing as a stupid question.

It’s still going on. But now it’s a more traditional format, although not always… And now we can do Zoom.

How do you choose a problem to work on?

I usually find I want to think about [a question] from the beginning, I want to understand it. That’s all I want — to try to understand it. Sometimes it solves problems, it’s not like I choose a problem. I want to understand an area, yeah.

What are your thoughts on the coexistence of faith and science?

Well, I think I kind of replaced my spirituality and Catholicism with mathematics. You want to know what you can know, right? What can you know to be true? Maths is a pretty good, unfortunately, it only deals with very simple questions. Psychology, physics deal with the nature of the universe. Mathematics deals with physics.

There is something remarkable, and unexplained in the universe we live in, and also mathematics itself.

If there’s life on other planets, I think they might have discovered different parts and gone to some different direction. Those are all sort of primitive aspects of your question. But if you want to know what’s true, then maths is a pretty good place to start establishing what it means to know something. In maths… anything that involves something like calculus with an infinite system can only be rigorous and known to be true relative to this basic starting point.

If this is consistent, then all of this is consistent, and this is very simple and very believable. So that’s a kind of religion in a way. Mathematicians are willing to spend their lives working on that.

Do you have a message for the readers?

I could say something that I say to my graduate students: critical thinking is important. It’s good to think critically, examine your beliefs, understand why they are commonly held, and then maybe, in certain circumstances, you have to modify them slightly, to make them work better. That’s what has helped me understand mathematics better. For example, even what you learned from your Master’s, sometimes, it’s their perspective. Having a perspective is excellent, which is kind of like a bias. It is good because it makes you more effective and you can put your energy in those directions, right? But then sometimes, it’s not right. In some situations, or some points of view, there’s a different way to look at it. And this may help you make progress in a direction that was blocked with previous perspective.

This is not [being] critical in the sense of [being] negative; it’s critical in the sense of examining. So critical thinking is, and I’m borrowing this from a wonderful interview of Bertrand Russell in 1952 — he says a lot of very charming and very intelligent things, but he also emphasises this point that when you have a perspective, it sometimes allows you to make irrational rational decisions. So it’s good to be critical, even of your own beliefs, because it helps. That works in maths too.

5. India to be TB-free by 2025: Mansukh

19% increase in patients in 2021 as compared to previous year, says latest report

A 19% increase was witnessed in 2021 from the previous year in TB patients’ notifications. The number of incident TB patients (new and relapse) notified during 2021 was 19,33,381 against the 16,28,161 in 2020, noted India TB Report 2022 released on Thursday.

On World Tuberculosis Day on Thursday, Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya reaffirmed the government’s commitment to making India tuberculosis–free by 2025 and said this will be achieved by ensuring access to quality healthcare and advanced treatment.

The report said despite the decline in TB notifications observed around the months corresponding to the two major COVID–19 waves, the National Tuberculosis Elimination Programme (NTEP) reclaimed these numbers.

It said 18 States have committed to ending TB by 2025 by implementing State–specific strategic plans and have devised a district–specific strategic plan, which shall serve as a guiding tool for the programme managers.

The government also released the National TB Prevalence Survey Report which was conducted from 2019 to 2021 to know the actual disease burden of TB.

The reports said there has been an increase in the mortality rate due to all forms of TB between 2019 and 2020 by 11%.

The survey report said prevalence of microbiologically confirmed pulmonary tuberculosis (PTB) among 15 years and above in India was 316/lakh population with the highest PTB prevalence of 534/lakh in Delhi and the lowest PTB prevalence of 115/lakh in Kerala.

Tuberculosis (TB)

Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

TB commonly affects the lungs (pulmonary TB) but can also affect other parts (extrapulmonary TB).

Pulmonary tuberculosis is a chronic consumptive disease, but it can be present as acute pneumonia.

Pneumonia is an inflammatory condition of the lung affecting primarily the microscopic air sacs known as alveoli.

Tuberculosis spreads from person to person through the air, when people who are infected with TB infection cough, sneeze or otherwise transmit respiratory fluids through the air.

The most common risk factor associated with TB is HIV & other conditions that impair the immune system.

Tuberculosis Symptomatic Diagnosis

Most infections do not have symptoms, known as latent tuberculosis.

About 10% of latent infections eventually progresses to active disease which, if left untreated, kills about half of those infected.

Common symptoms of tuberculosis are:

  • Chronic cough with blood-tinged sputum,
  • Loss of weight,
  • Loss of appetite,
  • Fever and night sweats,
  • Fatigue , etc.
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