Today's Headlines

Today's Headlines - 14 February 2023

Government ramping up border infrastructure

GS Paper -2 (Infrastructure Development)

The External Affairs Minister released details of the government’s projects on border infrastructure and connectivity. It focused on initiatives in the north and east along India’s 3,488 km border with China (Line of Actual Control or LAC), including ramping up infrastructure on the Indian side in Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, and Arunachal Pradesh, as well as projects connecting India to “friendly” neighbouring states such as Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and Myanmar.

About briefing

  1. Government has “focused on rapid development of infrastructure along Northern Borders with China for obvious strategic reasons”.
  2. It was due to successive skirmishes with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army in Chumar in 2014, Doklam in 2017 and the on-going standoff along the entire LAC.
  3. Since April 2020, when the Chinese army amassed troops along the border, which resulted in the Galwan clashes, the first such violent incident in 45 years.

About initiatives taken:

  1. It highlighted a multi-pronged approach, improving connectivity to the LAC through roads, bridges and tunnels, improving cross-border connectivity to neighbouring countries via highways, bridges, inland waterways, railroads, electricity lines and fuel pipelines.
  2. By modernising and constructing integrated check posts (ICPs) at all the border crossings to smooth trade, and funding and constructing infrastructure projects in neighbouring countries.
  3. The government claimed that it has accelerated the projects and completed execution. For example, the government said that the length of roads constructed in the China border areas in the period from 2014 to 2022 (6,806 km) “is almost double the length” constructed from 2008-2014 (3,610 km), and cited a similar case for bridges built.

About neighbourhood projects:

  1. The report lists dozens of projects in the neighbourhood that have been planned, financed or constructed.
  2. It involve major outlays like the railway links to Nepal and Bangladesh, the Mahakali motorable bridge and the Maitri Setu between Tripura and Bangladesh, the Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project (KMTTP) which includes a 158 km waterway, the Sittwe port project and road to Mizoram.
  3. It also speaks of “South Asia’s first cross-border petroleum products pipeline” between Motihari in India and Amlekhgunj in Nepal, another High Speed Diesel pipeline with Bangladesh that will reduce petrol prices and road congestion, and a Bhutanese dry port in Pasakha bordering West Bengal being developed under an Indian government grant.

Significance of the report:

  1. The report was released in the wake of an official Security Conference report that said Indian forces have lost access to 26 of 65 patrolling points along the LAC since 2020.
  2. Former Minister and Congress MP Manish Tewari has given notice for an adjournment motion every day of the current session to bring attention to what he calls a “land grab” by Chinese forces.
  3. The government may have also sought to allay concerns in neighbouring countries in light of the recent drop in share value and credit ratings of the Adani Group that has been highlighted internationally.
  4. The timing is particularly significant as it comes a few weeks before the visit of Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang to Delhi for the G-20 Foreign Ministers Meeting on March 1-2.


Limits to free speech in Parliament

GS Paper -2 (Polity)

Protesting against the expunction of parts of his speech on the motion of thanks on the President’s Address, Leader of Opposition in Rajya SabhaMallikarjun Kharge has argued that MPs have freedom of speech, and that he did not make any personal allegations in the House. Kharge cited Article 105 of the Constitution that deals with the privileges and powers of parliamentarians.

What does Article 105 say?

  1. Article 105, of the Constitution deals with powers, privileges of the Houses of Parliament and the members and committees thereof.
  2. Members of Parliament are exempted from any legal action for any statement made or act done in the course of their duties. For example, a defamation suit cannot be filed for a statement made in the House.
  3. This immunity extends to certain non-members as well, such as the Attorney General for India or a Minister who may not be a member but speaks in the House.
  4. In cases where a Member oversteps or exceeds the contours of admissible free speech, the Speaker or the House itself will deal with it, as opposed to the court.

About restrictions on this privilege:

There are some, indeed. For example Article 121 of the Constitution prohibits any discussion in Parliament regarding the “conduct of any Judge of the Supreme Court or of a High Court in the discharge of his duties except upon a motion for presenting an address to the President praying for the removal of the Judge.

From where, this privilege of Parliament originates:

The Government of India Act, 1935 first brought this provision to India, with references to the powers and privileges enjoyed by the House of Commons in Britain.

About court’s ruling:

  1. In 1970, the SC ruled that “the word “anything” in Article 105 is of the widest import and is equivalent to ‘everything’.
  2. Two decades later, in 1998, the SC in the case of ‘P V Narasimha Rao vs. State’ answered two questions on parliamentary privilege, broadly relating to questions of corruption.

Two questions came before the Supreme Court:

  1. One, whether MPs could claim immunity from prosecution before a criminal court on charges of bribery related to parliamentary proceedings, under Articles 105(1) and 105(2).
  2. Two, whether an MP is a “public servant” under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.

Ruling and protection:

  1. five-judge Bench of the apex court ruled that the ordinary law would not apply to the acceptance of a bribe by an MP in case of parliamentary proceedings.
  2. The court said, Article 105(2), protects a Member of Parliament against proceedings in court that relate to, or concern, or have a connection or nexus with anything said, or a vote given, by him in Parliament, giving a wider ambit to the protection accorded under Article 105(2).
  3. The Court rationalised this by saying it will “enable members to participate fearlessly in Parliamentary debates” and that these members need the wider protection of immunity against all civil and criminal proceedings that bear a nexus to their speech or vote.


Indo-US Air-Launched Unmanned UAV

GS Paper - 3 (Security)

prototype of the Air-Launched Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (ALUAV)developed jointly by India and the United States is likely to be flight tested later this year by U. S. in Aero India 2023. ALUAVproject arrangement was signed last year and we are expecting to conduct flight testing as early as the fall of 2023. The flight testing will occur at a range in northern India as well as in the U.S.”.

Organization Involved

  1. In 2021, the Indian Ministry of Defense and U.S. Department of Defense signed a Project Agreement for ALUAV, under the Joint Working Group Air Systems in the Defense Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI).
  2. Bengaluru-based Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE) and the Aerospace Systems Directorate at the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, along with the Indian and U.S. Air Forces, are the principal organizations for execution of the project agreement.
  3. The ALUAV is being developed to be launched from an aircraft and it

F-35 participation at Aero India 2023

  1. The participation of the U.S. 's F-35 stealth aircraft in the Aero India 2023, it would be the most advanced aircraft in the airshow.
  2. The delegation also said that it would be too premature for the U.S. to offer the F-35 to India.

India –U.S. Partnership

  1. India and the United States are working together in many ways to ensure a free and open, prosperous, connected, and resilient Indo-Pacific region, where democracies can thrive.
  2. As partners, we are working together to address climate change; improve global health and prepare for new pandemicscooperate on cyber challenges; build quality infrastructure; and ensure sustainable supply chains.
  3. Both are strengthening our cooperation on critical technologies, from space components to semiconductors.

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