Shared values: On India and the U.S.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s day-visit to Delhi this week was heavy on discussions and understandably light on deliverables. The visit, the third by a senior U.S. official of the Biden administration, was meant to prepare the way for more substantive meetings in Washington later this year, including the U.S.-India “2+2” of Foreign and Defence Ministers, the Quad summit of its leaders, and a bilateral meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and U.S. President Joseph Biden. Public statements by Mr. Blinken and External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, and readouts, indicate that most of their conversations are focused on Quad cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, Afghanistan, and in discussing the state of democracy and rights. On the Quad, they showed full convergence. On Afghanistan, Mr. Jaishankar said that there were “more convergences than divergences” on the common positions that there is no military solution to conflict, and that neither country would recognise a

Vaccinating the young: On priority groups

As India’s vaccination drive chugs along with sporadic bursts of frenetic inoculation, there are possibilities of administering vaccines to children soon — as early as next month. At present, two Indian vaccines may be eligible for administration to children. Zydus Cadilla’s ZycoV-D, a three-dose plasmid DNA vaccine, with a 66.6% efficacy in phase-3 trials, has also been tested in adolescents (12-18 years), data for which has been submitted to the regulator. The company has also requested permission to test in children over five. Covaxin’s Bharat Biotech is also testing the vaccine in a cohort of children below 12. Though none of these studies has been completed, the expectations are that these vaccines may be ready by September. Pfizer’s mRNA vaccine has been authorised in those above 12 and Moderna’s too may be similarly approved in the U.S. Both companies are reportedly in discussions with the Indian government. Young children are at the least risk of hospitalisation and death from

Virulence and variance: On post-pandemic economic strains

The IMF’s latest update to its World Economic Outlook spotlights the starkly widening variance in the global recovery from the economic strains caused by the pandemic. And the primary fault line precipitating the divergence of the world’s economies into two blocs — those that are normalising activities from the COVID-19-induced curbs and those that are still struggling — is vaccine access and the pace of vaccination coverage. Three months since its April forecast, the IMF projects the global economy to expand at an unchanged pace of 6% this year. But it sees the world’s advanced economies registering faster growth than forecast earlier, while emerging markets and developing economies are expected to post appreciably slower recoveries. The IMF projects Advanced Economies to grow by 5.6% in 2021, 0.5 percentage point quicker than forecast in April. Undergirding this anticipated acceleration, the U.S. economy is seen expanding by 7% — a 0.6 percentage point upgrade — on the back of an


Probing Pegasus: On the snooping row

The institution of a judicial probe by the West Bengal government into allegations of surveillance using advanced spyware on potential Indian targets marks a significant political and legal pushback against the Union government’s attempts to deny the global media revelations and diminish the potent threat such practices pose to democracy. Given Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s penchant for the dramatic and her endless run-ins with the Centre, it may be easy to dismiss the act of a State government ordering an inquiry into what could be a large-scale intelligence-gathering programme of a state actor as mere political chutzpah. However, in the context of the Centre and the ruling BJP’s aggressive refusal to cede any ground on the growing demand for a credible probe into the use and misuse of Pegasus spyware, the West Bengal inquiry acquires both legal and political salience. The Union government claims that illegal surveillance is not possible in India and has not specifically admitted


Dangerous conflagration: On Assam-Mizoram border clash

Following a dangerous and avoidable escalation of an otherwise dormant border dispute, five policemen and a civilian from Assam were killed in the Mizo border town of Vairengte in clashes between police from the State and their counterparts in Mizoram, on Monday. The sequence of events, beginning October 2020, suggests that what began as skirmishes between residents close to the disputed border between Assam’s Cachar and Mizoram’s Kolasib districts has snowballed into a violent confrontation between police and residents. The events point to a failure of the constitutional machinery, empowered to de-escalate tensions at the border. The presence of central paramilitary forces should have helped maintain the peace, but it is curiously not the case. Besides, Assam and Mizoram are governed by the BJP and its ally, the Mizo National Front, respectively, and are part of North-East Democratic Alliance, of which the Assam Chief Minister, Himanta Biswa Sarma, is a founder-convenor. The political

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Limits of cooperation: On reforms in cooperative sector

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