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INDIAN EXPRESS EDITORIALS AND EXPLAINED 16TH DECEMBER 2019

ISSUE: EFFECT OF CITIZENSHIP AMENDMENT ACT ON INDIA’S EXTERNAL RELATIONS

As popular opposition to the new law amending the Indian Citizenship Act intensifies within the country, the external costs are also coming into view.

INDIA JAPAN: the postponement of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s annual summit meeting with the Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, that was to take place in Guwahati, might only be a temporary setback. It will almost certainly be rescheduled to some other city, or in Guwahati, when the situation returns to normal.

INDIA BANGLADESH: The biggest negative impact is on India’s relations with Bangladesh, which has, in recent years, become one of Delhi’s most productive partners.

The question of illegal immigration has always been a deeply divisive issue between India and Bangladesh. Managing this bitter legacy of Partition and the subsequent movement of people across the long border has been an enduring foreign policy challenge for Delhi.

Dhaka’s forbearance has finally snapped. That it chose to cancel the visits of two of its ministers to India suggests that Dhaka can no longer keep quiet and will be under increasing pressure to stand up to Delhi.

There are two available strategies the NDA government might opt to pursue in how to deal with the million-plus Muslims in Assam who are now considered infiltrators. These people can either be kept in secured camps or the Indian government can start pushing them back into Bangladesh. And while the first strategy might create an international uproar, the second is likely to completely destabilise the relationship that underpins cooperation between the two neighbours.

After all, if India’s right-wing Hindu forces find it justifiable to propagate a second-class citizenship for Indian Muslims and send controversially created “infiltrators” to Bangladesh, then what will stop Jamaat-e-Islami and other right-wing Islamic forces in Bangladesh from proposing similar standards for more than 10 million Bangladeshi Hindus? And how will secular and liberal forces in Bangladesh navigate this communal tension, with its root cause in the systematic persecution of minorities in India?

INDIA-US: The State Department’s reaction, urging Delhi to respect religious freedom and stay with India’s constitutional values, was articulated in a polite manner.

But US and Western criticism could get a lot tougher as Shah rolls out his plans for an NRC across the nation. The idea of India as a thriving democracy, and its strong commitment to civic nationalism as well as religious pluralism, have been important pillars on which India’s strategic partnerships with the US and the West have been built in the last two decades.

EFFECT ON INTERNATIONAL IMAGE: India’s long-standing reputation as a constitutional democracy is taking a big hit and the loss of goodwill and admiration is not easy to estimate.

India under Nehru was lauded worldwide for its constitutionally enshrined inclusive citizenship. If America’s constitutive ideals were freedom and equality, India’s founding values were equality, including religious equality, diversity and tolerance.

WHAT IS CITIZENSHIP?

Citizenship is basically a legal code for the kind of political community a society is, or would like to be. It says who can be a member of the community — and with what bundle of rights. Since the American and French Revolutions of the late 18th century and the German Unification of 1871, the idea of citizenship has witnessed two models: Birth in a territory (jus solis) and blood-based inheritance (jus sanguinis).

 

ISSUE: HOW CAR RUNS ON HYDROGEN

WHY IN NEWS? 

Ahead of next July’s Tokyo Olympics, Japan is gearing up to put on its roads thousands of vehicles based on a hydrogen cell technology, also known as ‘fuel cells’.

How does the hydrogen fuel cell work?

At the heart of the fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV) is a device that uses a source of fuel, such as hydrogen, and an oxidant to create electricity by an electrochemical process.

Put simply, the fuel cell combines hydrogen and oxygen to generate an electric current, water being the only byproduct.

Like conventional batteries under the bonnets of automobiles, hydrogen fuel cells too convert chemical energy into electrical energy.

From a long-term viability perspective, FCEVs are billed as vehicles of the future, given that hydrogen is the most abundant resource in the universe.

So is an FCEV a conventional vehicle or an electric vehicle (EV)?

While the fuel cells generate electricity through an electrochemical process, unlike a battery-electricity vehicle, it does not store energy and, instead, relies on a constant supply of fuel and oxygen — in the same way that an internal combustion engine relies on a constant supply of petrol or diesel, and oxygen. In that sense, it may be seen as being similar to a conventional internal combustion engine.

But unlike the combustion engine cars, there are no moving parts in the fuel cell, so they are more efficient and reliable by comparison. Also, there is no combustion onboard, in the conventional sense.

Globally, EVs are bracketed under three broad categories:

* BEVs such as the Nissan Leaf or Tesla Model S, which have no internal combustion engine or fuel tank, and run on a fully electric drivetrain powered by rechargeable batteries.

* Conventional hybrid electric vehicles or HEVs such as the Toyota Camry sold in the country combine a conventional internal combustion engine system with an electric propulsion system, resulting in a hybrid vehicle drivetrain that substantially reduces fuel use. The onboard battery in a conventional hybrid is charged when the IC engine is powering the drivetrain.

* Plug-in hybrid vehicles or PHEVs, such as the Chevrolet Volt, too have a hybrid drivetrain that uses both an internal combustion engine and electric power for motive power, backed by rechargeable batteries that can be plugged into a power source.

* FCEVs are widely considered to be the next frontier in EV technology. FCEVs such as Toyota’s Mirai and Honda’s Clarity use hydrogen to power an onboard electric motor. Since they are powered entirely by electricity, FCEVs are considered EVs — but unlike BEVs, their range and refuelling processes are comparable to conventional cars and trucks.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of fuel cells?

Fuel cells have strong advantages over conventional combustion-based technologies currently used in many power plants and cars, given that they produce much smaller quantities of greenhouse gases and none of the air pollutants that cause health problems. Also, if pure hydrogen is used, fuel cells emit only heat and water as a byproduct. Such cells are also far more energy efficient than traditional combustion technologies.

Unlike battery-powered electric vehicles, fuel cell vehicles do not need to be plugged in, and most models exceed 300 km of range on a full tank. They are filled up with a nozzle, just like in a petrol or diesel station.

But there are problems.

While FCEVs do not generate gases that contribute to global warming, the process of making hydrogen needs energy — often from fossil fuel sources. That has raised questions over hydrogen’s green credentials.

Also, there are questions of safety — hydrogen is more explosive than petrol. Opponents of the technology cite the case of the hydrogen-filled Hindenburg airship in 1937. But Japanese auto industry players The Indian Express spoke to argued that a comparison was misplaced because most of the fire was attributed to diesel fuel for the airship’s engines and a flammable lacquer coating on the outside.

Hydrogen fuel tanks in FCEVs such as the Mirai are made from highly durable carbon fibre, whose strength is assessed in crash tests, and also trials where bullets are fired at it. The Mirai and Clarity have a triple-layer hydrogen tanks made of woven carbon fibre, which the manufacturers claim is completely safe.

The other major hurdle is that the vehicles are expensive, and fuel dispensing pumps are scarce. But this should get better as scale and distribution improves.

What is the progress in India?

In India, so far, the definition of EV only covers BEVs; the government has lowered taxes to 12%. At 43%, hybrid electric vehicles and hydrogen FCEVs attract the same tax as IC vehicles.

The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, under its Research, Development and Demonstration (RD&D) programme, has been supporting various such projects in academic institutions, research and development organisations and industry for development. Fourteen RD&D projects on hydrogen and fuel cells are currently under implementation with the support of the Ministry. Between 2016-17 and 2018-19, eight projects were sanctioned and 18 completed.

The Ministry of Science and Technology has supported two networked centres on hydrogen storage led by IIT Bombay and Nonferrous Materials Technology Development Centre, Hyderabad. These involve 10 institutions, including IITs, and IISc, Bangalore.

ISSUE: WHAT POLL RESULTS MEAN FOR BRITAIN, SCOTLAND AND BREXIT

WHY IN NEWS? 

LAST WEEK, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson swept an election that left various takeaways, the most important of which is the likelihood of Brexit being put on the fast track.

Why is it being said that the election was about Brexit?

Because that was the narrative that drove the election. It is too simplistic, however, to read the result as a message that most voters in Britain are in favour of Brexit. With Brexit inevitable, it was a question about how the process should unfold. On this, Johnson’s Conservative Party had a more clear plan than the Labour Party.

While campaigning, Johnson not only promised to resolve the long-pending issue but also projected the opposition as likely to keep delaying a resolution. Labour’s stance, in fact, did appear to be contradictory.

Corbyn is personally inclined towards Brexit, but many in the Labour coalition oppose it. The Labour campaign talked about a revised Brexit plan, but proposed to take that through yet another national referendum.

How does one read the performance of the Scottish National Party?

First, it would be too much to expect that the SNP’s performance will eventually lead to Scottish independence. Nevertheless, the SNP’s sweep of Scotland is immensely significant, shutting out both Labour and Conservative parties.

In a referendum in 2014, Scotland had rejected independence. But opinion polls have also shown that the Scottish population is by and large in favour of remaining in the European Union. Will Brexit, therefore, lead to calls for independence? Although the SNP is against Brexit, the vote does not necessarily mean a referendum for Scottish independence. It may simply be that the SNP is more popular with Scottish voters than the Labour or Conservative Party.

Even if Brexit, when it happens, revives pro-independence sentiment (which would help the SNP further), independence is a long road with many procedural hurdles.

What does the result mean for Britain, beyond Brexit?

The size of the victory sets the stage for a Britain of Johnson’s ideological vision — nationalism, with tougher laws on immigration. Britain will also have to deal with Brexit’s effect on its economy. This includes the long process of new bilateral trade agreements with many other countries.

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