30 November, 2020

  • Takeaways from the discussion
  • Assassination of Iranian scientist - (International relations)
  • Appointments under Biden Administration(International Administration)
  • Chinese dams on Brahmaputra - (International Administration)
  • Agri-Bills - Analysis - reference - (Economy)
  • Recession - reference (Economy)
  • Question for the day (International Relations)

Prelims Quiz


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    UPSC Current Affairs: Assassination and its aftermath | Page 07

    UPSC Syllabus: Mains – GS Paper II – International Relations

    Sub Theme: Tensions in West Asia| Assassination of Iranian Nuclear Scientist |UPSC

    Context: Few days back Iranian Nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhri Zadeh was assassinated near Tehran. Israel's Mossad is being seen behind this assassination. In this background let us understand the implications of killing for the geopolitics of West Asian region.

    Who was Mohsen Fakhri Zadeh?

    According to the U.S. and Israel, he had overseen Iran’s nuclear weapons programme in the 1990s and early 2000s, and remained a key figure in the country’s nuclear programme and the Defence Ministry.

    In the past 10 years, at least six Iranian scientists were killed in bomb and gun attacks in which Israeli hands were suspected.

    It is the most high profile killing of an Iranian regime figure since the assassination of General Qassem Soleimani in January this year by the U.S. in Baghdad.

    Israel's Role

    US intelligence agencies have said that the attack was carried out by Israel. The previous assassinations of the Iranian scientists were also seen as a work of Israel. Such Assassinations had stopped after the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) imposed strict restrictions on Iran’s nuclear programme.

    After Iran, in retaliation for the U.S.’s withdrawal from the agreement and re-imposition of stringent sanctions, began enriching uranium and stockpiling it beyond JCPOA limits, the strategy of targeted assassinations by Israel haver started again.

    US election and the attack

    Israel is again Pursuing this strategy because of the election of Joe Biden who has indicated the revival of Iran Nuclear deal.

    Iran has also declared that it is willing to comply with the JCPOA.

    Israel had supported the outgoing President Donald Trump's  policy of putting “maximum pressure” on Tehran to force it to give up permanently its quest for nuclear enrichment, freeze its ballistic missile programme, and end its support to regional allies perceived as threatening American and Israeli interests.

    With the election of Biden Israel thinks that its Nuclear monopoly in the West Asia will be threatened.

    In this background this assassination is being seen as an attempt by Israel to start confrontation between the U.S. and Iran, while Mr. Trump is still in office.

    US president had shown interest in bombing the Nuclear facilities in Iran recently.

    Further this assassination also being seen as a larger plan of Israel and the Saudi Arabia to force US into taking military action against Iran.

    Implications of the attack

    The killing is seen as an attempt to complicate the of Joe Biden's to revive the Iranian Nuclear Deal. 


    UPSC Current Affairs: Seasoned faces who could aid the return of America | Page 06

    UPSC Syllabus: Mains – GS Paper II – International Relations

    Sub Theme: Biden administration appointments and implications |UPSC                

    Foreign policy goals

    Biden - argued for a liberal internationalist foreign policy to “once more place America at the head of the table”. Trump - "America first"

    United Nations

    Trump had withdrawn from UNESCO and the Human rights Council.

    Biden has appointed - Linda Thomas-Greenfield from the Obama administration as US ambassador to the UN.

    Importance - Her appointment is being seen as relevant in the U.S.’s effort to “increase trust with non-Western diplomats”, at a time when China has sought to do the same to expand its influence at the UN


    Trump has threatened to pull out of NATO. The appointment of Obama era Antony Blinken as the secretary of State is likely to bring the US - Europe relations on the Right track.

    Climate change

    Former Secretary of State John Kerry has been appointed as Special Presidential Envoy for Climate.

    This is reflective of the high priority Biden administration  accords to the issue of Climate Change.

    Also Biden has pledged to reverse Trump's decision of withdrawal from the Paris climate deal.

    Iran nuclear deal

    Jake Sullivan, who most recently served as National Security Adviser under Obama, will again be appointed under Biden regime. He had played a key role in the Iran Nuclear Deal.

    He also played a key role in the implementation of ‘Pivot to Asia’ policy — which is considered as the early precursor to the Indo-Pacific strategy.

    Outlook for India

    Most of the experts have highlighted that there will be continuity in the India - US relations as strategic Partners under Biden Administration.

     Mr. Blinken  was staff director on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, when as its chairman then-Senator Biden oversaw the passage of the U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Agreement.

    Mr. Sullivan has been a supporter of U.S.-India ties being a central component of the ‘Pivot to Asia’ policy.

    Further Trump already is continuing the Obama Era policy with regards to India - US relations. Hence Biden administration is also likely to follow the cue.

    India has been designated as major defence partner also India key to USA's Indo - Pacific strategy.

    Some areas of concern between the new administration and India can be with regards to India's domestic Policy like  restrictions in Kashmir and the citizenship laws.


    With regards to China Mr. Blinken the new secretary of State has invoked Mr. Trump’s ‘Indo-Pacific’ construct to call on India to be “a key partner in that effort”.


    UPSC Current Affairs: China nod for downstream dam on the Brahmaputra | Page 01

    UPSC Syllabus: Mains – GS Paper II – International Relations



    Context : China’s media reported that authorities have given the go-ahead for a Chinese hydropower company to construct the first downstream dam on the lower reaches of the Brahmaputra river, or Yarlung Zangbo as it is known in Tibet, marking a new phase in China’s hydropower exploitation of the river with potential ramifications for India.

    A report in the Chinese media said the state-owned hydropower company POWERCHINA had last month signed “a strategic cooperation agreement” with the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) government to “implement hydropower exploitation in the downstream of the Yarlung Zangbo River” as part of the new Five-Year Plan (2021-2025).


    The two most populous countries of the world – China and India – comprising 20 and 17 per cent of the world’s population, contain only seven and four per cent of the world’s water resources, respectively. China intends to triple its hydropower capacity and therefore is increasingly damming trans-boundary Rivers to achieve its hydropower targets.

    China also intends to undertake gigantic water diversion projects which include building a dam on the Great Bend of Yarlung, where the river curves into the Assamese plains of India. The Yarlung Tsangpo enters India after passing the Great Bend, through Arunachal Pradesh where it is known as Siang/Dihang, then onto Assam where it is called Brahmaputra, and thereafter to Bangladesh where it is named Jamuna. 


    China is the only country in the region which is completely upper riparian which lends it an unparalleled advantage and power to influence the flow of water to nations downstream.  India functions as a middle riparian state. It is a lower riparian state in relation to China, but an upper riparian state vis-a-vis Pakistan and Bangladesh.

    The upper and lower riparian nations often make incompatible claims about their rights over river waters. The upper riparian nations base their claim on the principle of ‘absolute territorial sovereignty’, meaning the right to use the river waters unilaterally regardless of lower riparian concerns. The lower riparian states base their claims on ‘absolute territorial integrity’ which argues that upper riparian actions should not affect the water flowing downstream.


    China distinctive position as a completely upper riparian nation allows it to act as a hydro-hegemon in the region. China’s hydro-hegemony is made possible by its control over Tibet. The Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau extends over a vast area spanning 2.5 million sqkm & is often referred to as the ‘third pole’ and ‘roof of the world.’

    It is home to the largest fresh water reserves outside north and south poles. It is the source of some of the Asia’s most important river systems including the Indus, Ganga, Brahmaputra, Irrawady, Slaween, Mekong, Yangtze and Huang He. All these rivers are trans-boundary in nature, with the exception of Yangtze and Huang He. 


    China completed the Zangmu Dam built on the upper reaches of Brahmaputra in 2010, with three more dams at Dagu, Jiacha and Jeixu are at present under construction. Zam hydropower station, which will be the largest dam on Brahmaputra, too commenced in 2015. China admitted to the construction of Zangmu Dam only in 2010 and that too after a series of denials. China has not yet officially communicated anything about the construction of the other three dams – Dagu, Liacha and Jiexu – on Brahmaputra.

    China has built more dams on its rivers than the rest of the world combined, and yet has no water sharing agreement or treaty with any of its neighbours including India. Lack of communication by China has created an atmosphere of suspicion and mistrust in India, especially in its north-eastern region. China has indicated that three hydropower projects on the main stream of Brahmaputra River in Tibet Autonomous Region were approved for implementation.  A hydropower project at Zangmu was declared fully operational by Chinese authorities in October 2015.


    As a lower riparian State with considerable established user rights to the waters of the trans-border Rivers, India carefully monitors all developments on the Brahmaputra River.  Government has consistently conveyed its views and concerns to the Chinese authorities and has urged them to ensure that the interests of downstream States are not harmed by any activities in upstream areas.

    The Chinese side has conveyed that they are only undertaking run-of-the-river hydropower projects which do not involve diversion of the waters of the Brahmaputra. India’s concerns are that these dams are large enough to be converted and used as storage dams. China depriving India of water during lean seasons becomes a possibility.

    The release of flood waters during the monsoon season, which could inundate the already flooded Brahmaputra river basin in Assam. There is much apprehension that the Brahmaputra may lose the silt, which makes the plains in its basin fertile, because of sediment trapping in the dams.

    All hydropower projects, particularly around the Great Bend, are located in a highly volatile tectonic zone. Their proximity makes them extremely earthquake-prone.

    In building its dams, China has also polluted its rivers. The quality of water that flows downstream into India needs to be taken into account. The disruption of natural flood cycles of the river could also adversely affect the rich geo-environmental and bio-physical settings in India’s northeast.

    The principle of prior appropriation, which favours neither the upstream nor the downstream State but the one that puts the water to first use, thereby protecting the right to first use of water as in the past. China has priority rights since it was the first to build dams on Yarlung Tsangpo.

    By building dams especially near the Great Bend, after which the river flows into India through Arunachal Pradesh, China could be seeking to leverage its claim over the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh.


    India too has decided to commence construction of 14 hydropower projects in Arunachal Pradesh, most of which were located lower down on Brahmaputra. This might be viewed as India’s effort to establish its ‘lower riparian right’ to counter China’s first use priority rights. However, such projects like Lower Subansiri hydroelectric power project are stuck in red-tape.

    The volume of precipitation varies across the Brahmaputra sub-basin substantially. It receives primarily two types of precipitation, rainfall and snowfall. In this respect, the Tibetan part being located in the Himalayas, receives much less rainfall as compared to the southern part of the basin in India and Bangladesh.

    The total annual outflow of Yarlung from China is about 31 billion cubic metres (BCM), whiles the annual flow of Brahmaputra at the end of the sub-basin in Bangladesh, and is 606 BCM. Around 80% of the flows of Brahmaputra emerge within the Indian boundary.

    Various issues relating to trans-border Rivers are discussed with China under the ambit of an institutionalized Expert Level Mechanism which was established in 2006, as well as through diplomatic channels.

    The Brahmaputra also gets mightier as it flows downstream within India because of the flow contribution of tributaries such as Dibang, Lohit and Subansiri.

    Bangladesh as lower riparian State has also supported Indian position for pressuring China on forming a river sharing agreement. Similarly, India can work other lower riparian countries of river originating from China such as Mekong to end the hydro-hegemony of China.