A disturbing order: ASI survey in Gyanvapi mosque

The order of a civil court in Varanasi that the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) should conduct a survey to ascertain whether the Gyanvapi mosque was built over a demolished Hindu temple is an unconscionable intervention that will open the floodgates for another protracted religious dispute. The order, apparently in gross violation of the explicit legislative prohibition on any litigation over the status of places of worship, is likely to give a fillip to majoritarian and revanchist forces that earlier carried on the Ram Janmabhoomi movement over a site in Ayodhya. That dispute culminated in the country’s highest court handing over the site to the very forces that conspired to illegally demolish the Babri Masjid. The plaintiffs, who have filed a suit as representatives of Hindu faith to reclaim the land on which the mosque stands, have now succeeded in getting the court to commission an ASI survey to look for the sort of evidence that they would never have been able to adduce on

Time tests ties: On India-Russia relations

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s visit to Delhi this week, saw both he and External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar reaffirming traditional India-Russia ties, but there were signs that those ties are being tested. Mr. Lavrov’s trip was to make preparations for the upcoming visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin for the annual summit — it was postponed last year due to the coronavirus pandemic. On the bilateral front, both sides appeared to make progress on strategic cooperation, cooperation in energy, nuclear and space sectors, and on talks on a free trade agreement with the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). Also discussed were more agreements on military-technical cooperation for the joint production of India-made Russian weapons, with Mr. Lavrov highlighting Russia being the only partner supplying India “cutting-edge military technology”. While neither side referred to the upcoming delivery of the $5 billion S-400 missile defence system directly, they reaffirmed

Beyond zero sum: On rich countries and carbon emissions

The visit of the U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, John Kerry, ahead of a leaders’ summit convened by President Joe Biden later this month on the climate challenge, has prompted a review of India’s long-term policy course. To the developed world, India presents a study in contrasts, with carbon dioxide emissions that rank in the top five globally, while millions of its citizens remain mired in energy poverty and underdevelopment. Ironically, to many smaller countries, including island nations hit by intense storms, lost farm productivity, droughts and heat waves linked to a changing climate, India contributes to the problem with its total annual emissions. It is unsurprising, therefore, that the clamour is growing for India to join many other big economies and commit itself to net zero emissions: to balance carbon emissions with their removal from the atmosphere, by a specific date. Evidently, Mr. Kerry sought to explore the possibility of raising national ambition, with the


Play time: On IPL 2021

Since its launch in 2008, the Indian Premier League has largely remained a summer-fix, with its share of pulsating thrills and big money. But these are extraordinary times when a virus has extended its stifling grip across the globe for more than a year and while COVID-19 rages, through a second wave in India, the IPL is back with its 14th edition that will commence at Chennai’s M.A. Chidambaram Stadium on Friday with defending champion Mumbai Indians taking on Royal Challengers Bangalore. The previous tournament, a much-delayed one due to the pandemic, had concluded at Dubai on November 10, last year. After a five-month gap, the latest version rolls in with its share of 60 matches in a schedule that stretches all the way to May 30. Meanwhile, the virus continues to influence logistics and with bio-bubbles being the norm, the matches will be initially played at empty venues. The other new development is the idea of neutral venues, a move necessitated by the need to reduce travel so


Staying accommodative: on RBI keeping interest rates unchanged

Armed with a renewed mandate to contain inflation within a 2 percentage point range of the target 4%, and mindful of the pandemic’s latest wave, the RBI’s monetary policy committee has opted to reaffirm its growth-supportive “accommodative stance” and keep interest rates unchanged. The MPC, which met for the first time in the new financial year, also maintained its projection for GDP expansion in the current fiscal at 10.5%, notwithstanding the risks to the forecast from the current upsurge in novel coronavirus cases and associated localised lockdowns. Explaining the rationale for its policy stance of being prepared to stay accommodative for ‘as long as necessary’ to ensure that economic growth becomes ‘durable’, the committee was unambiguous that its actions were born of the need to stay supportive at a time when there was a real threat that “the renewed jump in COVID-19 infections... could dampen the demand for contact-intensive services, restrain growth impulses and prolong the

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