Indian Express 27/06/2020

36th ASEAN Summit

Why in News

Recently, the 36th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit was held via video conference to focus on the Covid-19 pandemic response, post-pandemic recovery and further cooperation with partner countries.

  • The theme for the Summit was “Cohesive and Responsive ASEAN”.
  • The Summit was chaired by Vietnam which is also holding the chairmanship of ASEAN currently.

Key Points

  • ASEAN Covid-19 Response Fund:
    • The summit has decided to establish the ASEAN Covid-19 response fund with a reserve for medical supplies to meet urgent needs during epidemics.
      • A special ASEAN meeting convened in April to tackle the pandemic had failed to agree on an emergency fund.
    • It has also decided to build the ASEAN standard procedures of epidemic response in case of health emergencies.
  • Crippling Economies:
    • The Summit has stated that the ASEAN region’s economy is expected to contract for the first time in 22 years.
    • It has also focussed on the crippling cost of the coronavirus, which has ravaged the economies of tourism and export-reliant countries such as Thailand and Vietnam.
  • South China Sea Issue:
    • The Summit noted concerns over land reclamations and recent developments in the South China Sea.
      • China claims most of the resource-rich South China Sea but is also contested by Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Taiwan.
      • Vietnam had also accused China of sinking its trawler. This incident had prompted the USA to warn that China is trying to exploit the pandemic situations of other states to expand its unlawful claims.
      • The USA is not a claimant to any territories in the South China Sea but has sent its navy to patrol the area in support of freedom of navigation, while China had slammed this move as an interference in regional affairs by an outside power.
    • Both Vietnam and Philippines lodged protests with China after it unilaterally declared the creation of new administrative districts on islands.
      • Also, in April China has officially named 80 islands and other geographical features in the disputed waters to which Vietnam and the Philippines also have competing claims.
    • The Summit has also called on parties to refrain from escalating tensions and abide by responsibilities under international laws.

Association of Southeast Asian Nations

  • ASEAN is a regional grouping that promotes economic, political, and security cooperation.
  • It was established in 1967 in Bangkok, Thailand, with the signing of the ASEAN Declaration (Bangkok Declaration) by the founding fathers of ASEAN, namely Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.
  • It consists of ten members namely, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.
  • Chairmanship of ASEAN rotates annually, based on the alphabetical order of the English names of Member States.
  • ASEAN countries have a total population of 650 million people and a combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $2.8 trillion.
  • The group has played a central role in Asian economic integration, signing six free-trade agreements with other regional economies and helping spearhead negotiations for what could be the world’s largest free trade pact.

Way Forward

  • The pandemic has already thrown the challenges within the political, economic and social environment of the world and in each region.
    • The major economies like the US, EU and India etc. are witnessing economic shutdowns due to the lockdown imposed by the pandemic.This, in turn, has reduced the demand for oil and dragged the oil prices to a historic low.
    • Irresponsible acts which are also violations of international law are affecting the environment of security and stability in certain regions. Thus, cooperation among regions as well as among countries to manage such geopolitical tensions and pandemic situations are expected to resolve such scenarios.

2) Over the Top Platform in India

This article is based on “Digital innovation is the way forward for media, sport industry” It talks about the benefits and challenges associated with the use of Over the Top Platform (“OTT”) in India.

The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted every single industry, but the businesses that were most affected are those which solely rely on social gathering of people and the media and entertainment industry is not an exception.

However, Over the Top (OTT) platforms such as Netflix, Hotstar, Prime Video and online gaming are booming in this time of crisis, thereby testifying the ongoing information revolution.

Though the Indian media landscape has traditionally been very dynamic, the issue of content regulation has always been important in India because of the diverse nature of Indian society in terms of religion, economic status, caste and language.Therefore, the effect that OTT has on society forms the basis of its regulation by the state.

Thus, there is a need to understand both the benefits and challenges associated with the use of Over the Top Platform (OTT) in India.

Benefits Associated with OTT Platforms

  • Creative Use of Media: As OTT platforms are relatively less subjected to censorship, it helps bring socio-political content or matters to a common man, which otherwise are censored in mainstream media.
  • On Demand Media Consumption: The OTT services have a hybrid character as they combine the passive consumption mode of television and the consumer choice of the web.
    • Thus, OTT platforms’ advantage of playing media anywhere and anytime has created a massive demand for it.
  • Sustenance of Media and Entertainment Industry: The future of traditional media platforms such as cinema, live events is in jeopardy. This is even applicable post-Covid era, due to social distancing becoming a norm in the society.
    • In this context, OTT platforms serve as a parallel dissemination source of infotainment.
  • Democratisation of Media: OTT industry is benefiting numerous content producers and artists.
    • It also helps in accessing regional films around the country as well as globally.

Issues Related to OTT Platforms

  • Lack of Regulation: While traditional media in India are regulated under specific laws such as:
    • Films are regulated under the Cinematograph Act of 1952—which provides for the certification of cinematograph films for public exhibition.
    • The Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 —that applies to content appearing on cable televisions.
    • However, there is no such specific law for regulation of content over OTT platforms.
  • Censorship Problem: Generally, the Government in India censors the content on grounds of public morality, communal harmony or cultural preservation, among various reasons.
    • However, due to the lack of censorship, content on OTT platforms can disrupt social harmony and moral fabric of society.
  • No Consensus of Self Regulation: OTT platforms had signed a self-regulation code under the aegis of the Internet and Mobile Association of India. However, there’s no consensus on the code amongst the various OTT platforms operating in India.
  • Cultural Homogenisation: India is projected to become the second largest online video-viewing audience by 2020. In this context, OTT platforms are streaming a lot of cross-cultural content.
    • Though it is good for creating a cosmopolitan world, it has aggravated some of the means in the society like cultural imperialism.


While the government recognizes the need for self-regulation in OTT, it wants video streaming platforms to agree to a common code.

Besides, there is a need to include online content explicitly within the ambit of this common code which will prohibit indecency in video streaming,advertisements, books, films, paintings, and writings etc.

Mains QuestionCritically discuss the benefits and challenges associated with the use of Over the Top (OTT) platform in India.


The Peace process in Afghanistan

Source: The Indian Express

Syllabus: GS 2-Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

Context: The “shock and awe” mission of the US Special Envoy for Afghan Reconciliation has created polarizing waves in India.

The US special Envoy especially called for India’s direct engagement with the Taliban. The proposal is being debated between proponents and opponents.

Supporters of suggestionOpponent to suggestion
· They feel that the takeover by Taliban is inevitable and hence it’s important to appease the new victors.· There is deterrence to western authority among some segments of Indian policy-makers who want to engage directly.· The nature of Afghan conflict is complex and exhausting and there is need for Delhi to stand its ground in supporting the post-2001 constitutional order (an order that can accommodate the Taliban as a non-violent political stakeholder).· The critics see little value in engaging with a group that remains fully under the control of Pakistan.· In line with Delhi’s stated policy of supporting an Afghan-led process, the critics recommend following the Afghan government’s lead in engaging with the Taliban.

Evaluating the suggestion within a historical context:

  • Doha agreement 2020:
    • This agreement between the Taliban and the US has effectively changed the status of the post-2001 constitutional order from “at the table” to an “on the table” new reality.
  • US priorities: 
    • US has capacity to manufacture a new reality to suit its interests. Pakistan has been the center piece of the US’s South Asia engagement despite occasional rhetorical admonition and half-baked sanctions.
    • Before Soviet invasions in 1979:The US joined Pakistan in supporting the Mujahideen in toppling the Afghan government through Operation Cyclone.
    • After the collapse of the Taliban regime in late 2001:In 2004, the US recognized Pakistan as “major non-Nato ally”.
    • US steps to appease Pakistan’s concerns: The US made some major Afghanistan-related political, security and defence decisions such as:
      • Downsizing the Afghan National Security and Defense Forces.
      • Promoting pro-Pakistan officials within the Afghan government.
      • Limiting India’s role to just a large NGO.
      • Projecting the Taliban as an independent nationalistic insurgency.

How to achieve Peace in Afghanistan:

  • Afghanistan will be at peace if and when there are a set of three mutually reinforcing pillars:
  • A coherent peace process should be based on the four pillars:
  • Inclusivity has to be recognised as a cross-cutting principle, coupled with a primary role for Afghan ownership and ensuing Afghan responsibility.
  • Despite its structural flaws, the post-2001 constitutional order has the capacity and legitimacy to become the basis for an inclusive peace process.

Role of India and Way Forward:

  • India must come up with ideas and structures in the fields of development, politics, security and diplomacy.
  • Similar to Iran’s tenacity and resolve in supporting the UN-recognised Syrian government, India can and should champion an inclusive, multifaceted and Kabul-centric peace process.
  • Despite an adventurist temptation, “Afghanistan in pieces” is a nightmarish outcome for many stakeholders and even the Pakistan military establishment.


Why is the Draft EIA Notification flawed?

SourceThe Indian Express

Syllabus: GS-3- Environment

Context: The government has put up for public consideration and comment the Draft Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification, 2020 which seeks to replace Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification, 2006.

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)

  • EIA is a process which studies all aspects of the environment and seeks to anticipate the impact (positive and/or negative) of a proposed project or development on the environment.
  • EIA is mandatory under the Environmental (Protection) Act, 1986 for 29 categories of developmental activities involving investments of Rs. 50 crores and above.

EIA Notification 2006

The EIA Cycle comprises of four stages:

EIA Notification 2006 decentralised the environmental clearance projects by categorizing the developmental projects in two categories:

  1. Category A: These projects require mandatory environmental clearance and do not go through screening process. They are appraised at the national level by Impact Assessment Agency (IAA) and the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC).
  2. Category B: They are apprised at the state level. State Level Environmental Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) and State Level Expert Appraisal Committee (SEAC) are constituted to provide clearance to these projects. Category B projects are further categorised into two:
  • Category B1 projects: They require mandatory EIA
  • Category B2 projects: They do not require EIA

Draft EIA Notification 2020

Changes proposedConcern
It allows for post facto approval for projects. It has provisions to award clearances for projects even if they have started construction or have been running without securing environmental clearances.It is in violation of the “precautionary principle”-a principle of environmental sustainability.Further, any environmental damage caused by the project is likely to be waived off by only as the violations get legitimised.
It has omitted prior screening requirements for Category B projects and expanded the list of projects categorised under B2It has eased process for many industries which might have socio-environmental consequences. Compromising appraisal in such cases will result in further environmental damage.
It proposes to classify inland waterways as Category B2 projects and will not require public consultations irrespective of whether these projects are located in notified ecologically sensitive areas.It might have significant impact on the marine ecosystem and long-term survival of India’s rivers
It proposes to expand the list of projects that do not require public consultation before receiving Prior-EC.It confers absolute power to the central government to categorise projects as “strategic” and information related to these projects will not be put in public domain.The provision has completely diluted public consultation process and there is a risk of states taking up development initiatives at the risk of environmental degradation
New construction projects up to 1,50,000 square metres (instead of the existing 20,000 square metres) will not require detailed scrutiny by the Expert Committee, EIA studies and public consultation.The building and construction sector is among the largest greenhouse gas emitters however, the proposed notification gives leeway to the sector
It proposes an eased monitoring mechanism Under the draft, project owners are to submit environmental compliance reports (after getting clearance) every year in contrast to present 6 months.It dilutes the backbone of environment clearance rules i.e. monitoring the conditions on which projects are cleared and ensuring compliance.

Conclusion: The recent Vishakhapatnam Gas leak case, and massive fire that erupted at an Oil India Limited (OIL) production well in Baghjan, Assam highlights the importance of stringent environmental safeguards. Dilution of EIA to boost economic growth is a flawed idea and its high time for the government to address the increasing socio-economic and environmental challenges.

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