Down To Earth(December 1-15)

1.   Deadlock in Palk Bay

Topics covered from the syllabus:

GS-2: India and its neighborhood- relations.

GS-3: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.


Prelims Focus

 Debt Trap Diplomacy: This term is associated with Chinese attempts to grab foreign territories in lieu of repayments on infrastructure projects. The main intention behind extending the loans is to extract political or economic concessions in the long run.                                                                                                                                               

  • The term is associated with Indian columnist and security expert Brahma Chellaney.
  • China has invested its surplus foreign exchange reserve in making infrastructure in developing countries, mostly in the form of coastal connectivity projects. The benefits accrue to China not only in terms of interest on its investment, but also due to its position as world’s manufacturing powerhouse as it is able to export more goods in lesser time.
  • However, the projects constructed by Chinese are mostly not feasible to generate enough revenue for the home country to pay back the exorbitant interest on Chinese loans. This often leads to the transfer of ownership of the particular project to China. For e.g. Sri Lanka had to handover the port of Hambantota to China on a lease of 99 years in 2017.


Context: India and Sri Lanka face challenges in their relationship due to fishermen crossing into each other’s territories. Also, the fishing communities have alleged exploitation of Indian fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy, including confiscation of boats and even beating them to death.

Reasons for Straying of Fishermen

  • Absence of Boundaries: Unlike land borders, where it is easy to define boundaries, marine boundaries are indistinct for the neighbouring countries. In the absence of sophisticated GPS equipment, it is easy for the fishermen to cross over to the other side. The issue is not just a sticking point in India-Sri Lanka relations, but also between India and Pakistan, who have hundreds of fishermen imprisoned on the other side.
  • Over-exploitation of Indian Resources: Indian fishermen have been more active in fishing as compared to the fishermen on Sri Lankan side. This has contributed to a rapid depletion of resources on the Indian side. Therefore, many fishermen cross the boundaries in a hope of more bountiful catch on the Sri Lankan side of the Ocean.
  • Traditional Fishing Rights: Indian fishermen have been fishing in the waters of Pamban, Rameshwaram, Kachatheevu and other such islands for centuries. Therefore, they found it disappointing to have lost their traditional fishing grounds to the Sri Lankan fishermen due to political agreements. For them, the political arrangement is alien and unacceptable, in the face of hereditary fishing practices.
  • Kachatheevu Island: For e.g., Kachatheevu island was ceded by the Indian government to Sri Lanka under an agreement in 1974. The agreement allows the Indian fishermen community to visit the island for the purpose of resting, drying their fishing nets and the annual St Anthony’s festival. Though the agreement has been formalized between the two governments, Indian fishermen find it difficult to cease operating in their traditional fishing grounds.
  • Bottom Trawling: Another aspect of the fishermen issue is the predominance of trawlers on the side of Indian fishermen. Trawlers are mechanized boats which have highly exploitative fishing nets. Sri Lankan fishermen allege that these trawlers harm the fragile ecology of the islands and their nearby waters. They are also harmful to the coral reefs of these areas.
  • Effect of Civil War: Before the civil war was fought in 2009, Indian fishermen were courted by both Sri Lankan Navy and LTTE fighters as spies to track enemy movements. However, the end of civil war saw their utility decrease for the Sri Lankan navy resulting in a large number of arrests by the Sri Lankan navy, leading to conflicts between the two sides.

Other irritants in the relationship

  • UNHRC vote: In March 2021, India had abstained from voting on the UNHRC resolution regarding human rights abuses in Sri Lanka. The resolution was introduced to hold Sri Lankan Army personnel responsible for the war crimes committed during the course of Sri Lanka civil war. It also held the Sri Lankan government responsible for failing to protect the citizens as well as its failure to bring the perpetrators to book.
  • China’s entry into the Indian Ocean: Like all other neighbours, the China factor looms large in the India-Sri Lanka relations. India considers the Indian ocean as its own backyard and the entry of foreign powers into the territory is not acceptable to New Delhi. Therefore, China’s overtures in the Indian Ocean in the form of port construction or leasing new lands in not seen kindly in India. In fact, India has warned the small nations against Chinese plans of Infrastructure construction as it leads to a ‘Debt Trap (see inset)’for them.
  • Hambantota port: Sri Lanka ceded control of the port to China in 2017 after it was found to be unsustainable and infeasible to operate. Sri Lanka had no option but to lease the port to China in the wake of default on debt repayments. However, it has led to sleepless nights for the Indian security establishment as they anticipate PLA Navy’s ships and submarine visits to the port.
  • East Container Terminal: The project has turned out to be a major embarrassment to India and Sri Lanka relations, as the present dispensation scrapped a tri-partite agreement between India, Sri Lanka and Japan to develop the port. Not just that, the construction of port was later awarded to a Chinese firm, causing further heartburn for India.
  • 13th Amendment: It was drafted by the Sri Lankan parliament, under the Jayawardene-Rajiv Gandhi accord of 1987. It seeks to devolve political power to the provincial councils elected by the people. The issue rakes up sentiments in India as people of South India have family ties with the minority Tamil people residing in the North-Eastern part of Sri Lanka. Therefore, devolution of power is a critical safeguard for the minority Tamilians residing in a Sinhala-Buddhist majority Sri Lanka.
  • Regional Politics: As stated above, people from South India, in general, and the state of Tamil Nadu, in particular, have family ties with the Tamil minority in North Eastern part of Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka has often accused the Indian government of bowing to the pressure tactics from the Tamil parties and taking decisions in accordance with such pressures.


  • India and Sri Lanka share traditional cultural ties with close contacts between the people on either side of the boundary. This has come with its share of baggage in the form of issues, leading to certain challenges for the political leadership in dealing with each other.
  • However, it is to be remembered that both the countries are much better placed if they can cooperate with each other in trade as well as security realms. While Sri Lanka is expected to heed Indian security concerns in the Indian Ocean Region, India should also maintain its distance from Sri Lankan affairs in its internal sphere.

Practice Question

  1. Critically analyze the impact of ‘China factor’ in India – Sri Lanka relations, while throwing light on the historical and cultural connect between the two countries. Do you think that the change in regime in Sri Lanka has opened a new set of challenges for the Indian diplomacy in Sri Lanka?


  1. ‘China is using its economic relations and positive trade surplus as tools to develop potential military power status in Asia’, In the light of this statement, discuss its impact on India as her neighbor. (GS2 - 2017)
  2. In respect of India — Sri Lanka relations, discuss how domestic factors influence foreign policy. (GS2 - 2013)

2.   India’s successes at COP26

Topics covered from the syllabus:

  • GS-2: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.
  • Important International institutions, agencies and fora - their structure, mandate.
  • GS-3: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.


Prelims Focus

Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI): It is an Indian initiative to promote knowledge sharing and best practices globally in the field of disaster risk reduction.

  • It was launched in 2019. Initially, it had a membership of 27 member states.
  • The coalition aims to develop knowledge base in the field of ecological and social infrastructure, including health and educational infrastructure, to begin with. Later, it will expand to cover the economic infrastructure, with a special focus on connectivity, telecommunications, water and energy.
  • It will also provide technical support and capacity building for the member countries in the above-mentioned areas, apart from the formation of advocacy groups and generating financial mechanisms for fund generation in the respective systems.


Context: India raised its commitment level to climate change by announcing ambitious targets in the pursuit of combating climate change. It also represented the developing nations by asking tough questions related to global financial contributions pertaining to climate change.

Conference of Parties- 26

  • Conference of Parties (COP) is a mechanism under United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It is an annual meeting under the banner of UNFCCC, where the countries discuss the measures required to combat climate change.

India’s contributions at the COP

  • Panchamrit: Prime Minister announced Panchamrit, a 5-point programme, outlining the Indian objectives in its commitment to climate change:
  • India will raise its non-fossil energy capacity to 500 GW by 2030.
  • India will meet 50 percent of its energy requirements from renewable energy by 2030.
  • India will reduce the total projected carbon emissions by one billion tonnes from now onwards till 2030.
  • By 2030, India will reduce the carbon intensity of its economy to less than 45 percent. (Carbon intensity of an economy refers to the number of grams of carbon dioxide required to produce one unit of electricity).
  • By the year 2070, India will achieve the target of Net Zero.
  • Infrastructure for Resilient Island States (IRIS): It is an Indian initiative for the Small Island Developing States (SIDS), which are vulnerable to climate change related disasters. Under the initiative, Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) will provide data on disasters like cyclones, coral reef monitoring, coast-line monitoring and other such disasters to the SIDS. It is launched under the aegis of Coalition of Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI - see inset).
  • Green Grids Initiative – One Sun One World One Grid (GGI – OSOWOG): It is joint initiative of UK and India. The project seeks to transfer solar energy generated power across the border. It will provide technical, commercial and scientific expertise to the countries under the initiative. It brings together financial organizations, governments and power operators under one umbrella.
  • International Solar Alliance: It was a joint initiative launched by India and France during the Paris Climate Summit. The grouping comprises countries situated completely or partially between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. Its objective is to harness the solar energy potential efficiently to reduce dependence on the fossil fuel consumption across the world.

Issues at COP26

  • ‘Phase Down’ of Coal: There was a criticism from multiple quarters about the intentions of developing countries like China and India to phase down, and not phase-out, coal. As per media reports, this would belly the hopes of world sticking to the goal of limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Centigrade.
  • Fossil Fuel: However, it is important to understand that only limiting or phasing-out coal will not be adequate. Rather, the focus should be on phasing-out fossil fuels in their entirety. In fact, given the disproportionate dependence of the developing countries on coal, any attempt to single-out coal would mean additional difficulties for the developing countries in eradicating poverty.
  • Trust Deficit: Experts have also criticized the developed nations of the West for not fulfilling their responsibilities according to the principles of Common But Differentiated Responsibility-Respective Capabilities (CBDR-RC). The Rich have not provided finance and technology transfer to the developing world as per their commitments, limiting the ability of the developing countries to combat climate change.
  • Commitment to Net Zero: Net Zero refers to the ability of a country to absorb its emissions from the atmosphere before they factor into global warming or climate change. It includes the creation of carbon sinks (forests), as well as advanced technologies of Carbon Sequestration and Storage.
  • India’s objections: India had opposed the concept saying it is important to first deliver on the Nationally Determined Commitments (NDCs) set under the Paris Climate summit, before opening parallel negotiations on a new concept like Net Zero. It would only remove the focus from past commitments.
  • Obligations of the Developed World: As stated earlier, western countries have not delivered on their past promises. For e.g., no major county achieved their targets set under Kyoto Protocol. In contrast, India is not only set to achieve its NDCs under Paris summit, but it may even overachieve the targets.
  • Poverty Eradication: At the same time, given India’s strides in the economic growth and in the direction of eradicating poverty, its emissions are set to increase rapidly in the coming decades. This increase cannot be offset by any quantum of forests (in the form of carbon sink). Therefore, it is not in India’s interest to set any date for net neutrality.
  • India’s commitments to Net Zero: However, despite its limitations due to the economic and social compulsions, India chose to set the target of 2070 for achieving Net Zero emissions.
  • New Collective Quantified Goal: In the COP negotiations, developing countries emphasized the need for climate finance to meet the Paris targets. Under this, it was agreed to provide climate finance with a floor of $100 billion annually to help the developing countries in meeting their mitigation and adaptation needs pertaining to climate change. This amount is classified under the head of New Collectible Quantified Goal (NCQG).
  • However, the need of the hour is to hold the developed countries accountable for their promises as they have not yet fulfilled their past commitments. For e.g., despite their commitment to contribute $100 billion till 2020, they have contributed only $79 billion till now. The rest of the amount is not expected till the year 2023, thus, overshooting the target substantially.




  • Despite being a responsible nation having one of the lowest per capita emissions globally, India has demonstrated a resolve to contribute to limiting the carbon emissions. However, it is critical that the developed nations support the developing nations like India in their efforts towards meeting the targets set under climate summits.

Practice Question

  1. Discuss how India has been able to forge a partnership with the developing countries of the global south, to pressurize the developed nations of the west into paying for their historical blunder pertaining to carbon emissions. Also, throw light on the various concerns that surfaced in the COP 26.


  1. “The long-sustained image of India as a leader of the oppressed and marginalized Nations has disappeared on account of its new found role in the emerging global order”. Elaborate.                                            (GS2 - 2019)
  2. Should the pursuit of carbon credit and clean development mechanism set up under UNFCCC be maintained even through there has been a massive slide in the value of carbon credit? Discuss with respect to India’s energy needs for economic growth.                                                                                                                                              (GS3 - 2014)