News & Events
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1.The COP can at best incentivise adaptation that aids a transition towards clean energy
In a week, heads of state from at least 120 countries are expected to convene in Glasgow for the 26th meeting of the United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP). The annual two-week-long exercise was disrupted last year due to COVID-19. The year 2020 was to have been an important year in the COP calendar as most of the major economies were expected to review the actions undertaken so far in meeting voluntary targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in line with the Paris Agreement of 2015. However, the disruption has meant that these discussions will now move to Glasgow. Following the exit by former U.S. President Donald Trump from the Paris Agreement, the Biden administration is making a concerted effort to commemorate the country’s return. To this end, it has sent emissaries and multiple delegations to several countries to coax them into committing to some sort of a deadline or a ‘net zero’ timeline by when their emissions would peak and eventually abate.
To limit global warming to 1.5°C, net zero emissions would have to be achieved by 2050 and emissions would need to be drastically cut by at least 45% from 2010 levels by 2030. India and China are the major emitters of the world that haven’t committed to any 2050 deadline. Their argument, which has been consistent for many years, is that the climate crisis exists because of excess emissions by the developed West for more than a century. Any attempt at solving the crisis would involve the western countries doing much more than what they have committed to and, at the very least, making good on promises already enshrined in previous editions of the COP. As years of COP negotiations have shown, progress is glacial and the effort is more on delivering a headline announcement rather than genuine operationalisation of the steps that need to be taken. In real terms, for developed countries, complying with the demand by developing countries to pay reparations means shelling out sums of money unlikely to pass domestic political muster. And for developing countries, yielding to calls for ‘net zero’ means that governments such as India will appear as having caved into international bullying. The COP, despite all the media interest it generates, can at best incentivise adaptation that aids a transition to clean energy. But even without immediately retiring fossil fuel assets, the world needs to frame a meaningful response to a warming globe.
2.No change: On Pakistan and terror financing
The FATF must ensure that the investigation of Pakistan comes to an effective conclusion soon
In a repetition of its decisions over the past three years, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) said that members of the 39-member grouping voted to retain Pakistan on its ‘grey list’ of jurisdictions under increased monitoring. The FATF, which evaluates countries on efforts to check terror financing and money laundering, also placed Turkey on the grey list and cleared Mauritius from it. The FATF found that Pakistan had cleared 30 of a total of 34 tasks assigned in two batches, and would face another review in February 2022. In particular, the FATF President, Marcus Pleyer, said that Pakistan had failed to resolve the single task that remains from the first batch, of demonstrating that effective investigations and prosecutions are being pursued against the senior leadership of United Nations-designated terror groups. From New Delhi’s perspective, the most significant of these are Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Masood Azhar, Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) chief Hafiz Saeed, Dawood Ibrahim and other command and control chiefs of terror groups that target India, that have yet to be brought to justice for the 26/11 Mumbai attacks in 2008, the IC-814 hijacking in 1999 and several major attacks and bombings in Jammu and Kashmir. It is indeed disappointing that the increased monitoring by the FATF of Pakistan — from 2008-2009, 2012-2015, and 2018-2021 — has failed to ensure that while some of these leaders have been tried and convicted for terror financing charges in Pakistani courts, none of them has been effectively prosecuted for violence in India. These much-delayed outcomes speak as much to Pakistan’s lack of credibility on terrorism as to the FATF’s own lack of effectiveness.
Despite Pakistan’s failure to fulfill its task list, the FATF President has made it clear that they are not considering placing Pakistan on the ‘black list’, as they say it “continues to cooperate”. On the other hand, the FATF has also said that it will not remove Pakistan from the grey list, despite the country completing 26/27 of the original tasks it was assigned. The actions open the world body to accusations of ‘politicising’ the process, both from those who would like to see tough action for non-compliance by Pakistan, and from Pakistan itself, which has accused India of turning the technical process into a political one by “targeting” Pakistan. As a result, the FATF must stop kicking the proverbial can down the road. It must ensure that the investigation of Pakistan is not an open-ended process, and is brought to a credible and effective conclusion at the earliest. In light of the developments in Afghanistan, and concerns over the growth of transnational terror groups such as al-Qaeda and ISIL, as well as JeM and LeT taking advantage of the Taliban takeover to build new safe havens and financing networks, it is particularly important that the FATF keep its commitment from 2001 (when it added terror financing to its mandate) to prevent all terror groups from accessing these funding networks.
3.That variant feeling: Battle against Covid surge not over. Look at data from even vaccination stars like UK, Israel
UK Health Security Agency, the country’s public health body, last week issued an update on a new variant of the Delta strain of the novel coronavirus. Referred to as Delta Plus, or AY.4.2, it’s now classified as a variant under investigation. The data is inadequate to reach a firm conclusion on its virulence but there are two aspects that are relevant to India. The new strain appears to have a “modestly increased growth rate” compared to Delta. In addition, its origin is not clear and it’s seen in travellers to the UK from a large number of countries.
The UK, Russia and Israel are among countries that have seen spikes in Covid cases in the recent past. Of the three, UK and Israel have managed to fully vaccinate a significant proportion of people. UK has fully vaccinated 66.69% of the population, while Israel has covered 64.99%. In comparison, in India 21.35% of the overall population and 32% of adults have been fully vaccinated. For sure, there’s justifiable pride in administering more than a billion doses in India. The reality however is that a large proportion of the population is partially vaccinated or unvaccinated.
India has adapted its systems to deal with the threat posed by Covid. In addition to a mammoth vaccination campaign, there are frameworks such as Insacog, an inter-ministerial consortium of 28 labs to monitor genomic variations of the novel coronavirus. None of these pillars in the fight against Covid can supplant the need for individuals to shoulder responsibility and engage in Covid-appropriate behaviour. While it is premature to be alarmed by the new variant of Delta, experience should teach us not to drop our guard. WHO data shows that Delta’s earliest documented samples were from India in October 2020. It was classified as a variant of concern by the organisation only in May 2021. But by then, it had India in the grip of a vicious second wave.
The period from now to about February 2022 is important in India from the standpoints of both social engagements and economic activities. It is important to do all that is necessary to bring about normalisation of activity. However, at the same time, lessons of the last 18 months need to be internalised. The battle against Covid is not over. It’s dangerous to let complacency slip in. Even as the vaccination programme carries on and also expands its scope to children, everyone needs to be mindful of the dangers that still lurk.
4.Aiding Afghanistan: On both humanitarian and strategic grounds, India must provide succour to ordinary Afghans
Times of India’s Edit Page team comprises senior journalists with wide-ranging interests who debate and opine on the news and issues of the day.
In what was India’s second official-level contact with Taliban after it returned to power in Afghanistan, the Islamist group revealed that New Delhi had offered to provide extensive humanitarian assistance. While the Indian side is yet to confirm this, humanitarian assistance for ordinary Afghan citizens isn’t a bad idea. After all, the situation in Afghanistan is dire today with supplies of essentials running low. The country’s economy is in a mess with its foreign reserves frozen by the US and IMF. In fact, Afghan civil servants and medics have not been paid in months, and the WHO last month said that 90% of its 2,300 health clinics across Afghanistan risked shutting down.
Sending aid to Afghanistan is complicated by the fact that Taliban’s interim government is yet to be internationally recognised and comprises members who are proscribed as terrorists. But Afghan citizens shouldn’t be made to suffer because their previously elected government fled. Plus, if the humanitarian crisis exacerbates, the fallout will be on neighbouring countries who will not only have to deal with a further exodus of Afghan refugees, but also a worsening security situation in Afghanistan.
True, totally bypassing Taliban in aid delivery may not be possible. But the aim ought to be to encourage the group to reform, respect human rights and become inclusive. Plus, India needs to aggressively cultivate strategic options in Afghanistan to blunt the impact on Kashmir, which is witnessing a new phase of terrorism. Thus, a two-track approach where ordinary Afghans are helped and Taliban incentivised is the best way forward. In this regard, India would do well to restart normal processing of medical and student visas for Afghans. This will help preserve the huge goodwill India enjoys in that country, even as it works out a new equation with Taliban.
5. Upgrading judicial infrastructure
The issues of pendency, delays and backlogs can be tackled to large extent by strengthening the physical, digital, and human infrastructure of the courts.
Addressing a gathering at Aurangabad, the CJI said that several courts function out of dilapidated buildings and rented properties; only 5% of court complexes have basic medical aid; 26% of the courts don’t have separate toilets for women, and 16% of the courts don’t even have toilets for men; and nearly 50% of court complexes don’t have a library (Sonu Mehta/HT PHOTO)
An inadequately supported judiciary not only impacts the Gross Domestic Product of a country but also costs it foreign investments, Chief Justice of India (CJI) NV Ramana said last week. Addressing a gathering at Aurangabad, the CJI said that several courts function out of dilapidated buildings and rented properties; only 5% of court complexes have basic medical aid; 26% of the courts don’t have separate toilets for women, and 16% of the courts don’t even have toilets for men; and nearly 50% of court complexes don’t have a library. Justice Ramana added that he has sent a proposal to the Union government for establishing the National Judicial Infrastructure Corporation (NJIC), which envisages the collection of actionable data on the requirement and upgradation of court infrastructure.
A 2019 study by Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy (Building Better Courts; Surveying the Infrastructure of India’s District Courts) found that of all states and Union Territories, only the district courts in Delhi and Chandigarh fulfill the infrastructure guidelines set by the National Court Management Systems Committee in 2012. In July, the Union Cabinet extended the Centrally Sponsored Scheme (CSS) for Development of Infrastructure Facilities for Judiciary (in operation since 1993-94) till March 31, 2026, during which ₹9,000 crore would be spent with the Union government’s share of this being ₹5,357 crore. But another Vidhi report found that at the state level, the implementation of the scheme is marred by the poor coordination between different departments of the state governments involved in building judicial infrastructure.
A sound judiciary is essential for enforcing laws and creating trust in the economy. A slow judiciary with a large number of pending cases makes people apprehensive. The issues of pendency, delays and backlogs can be tackled to large extent by strengthening the physical, digital, and human infrastructure of the courts. It is up to the government to review CSS and remove roadblocks delaying the upgrade of judicial infrastructure.