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Detailed News Articles: 21 June 2019

1. What yoga can teach us

Analysis:

  • The word yoga was first mentioned in the Rigveda. However, its philosophy, science and grammar were first provided by Patanjali in his magnum opus, Patanjali Yoga Sutra.
  • It is heartening to note that yoga has been widely accepted across the world today. As a matter of fact, the Polish government celebrates International Yoga Day.
  • At Aligarh Muslim University, special endeavours are being taken to make this event successful.

Yoga’s journey to the West:

  • Yoga was taken to the West by Indian gurus.
  • They started centres where people practised yoga and realised its benefits. However, the popularity of yoga also created a massive business of approximately $40 billion.
  • This is set to grow with the rising popularity of yoga.

The Philosophy of ‘All is one’:

  • Yoga is something beyond physical health and material wealth.
  • The human persona is not only a body; it is also a mind, an intellect, and a soul.
  • Yoga attempts to harmonise all of them.
  • In the process, one attains a healthy body, a sharp intellect, and a focused mind capable of realising the unity between ‘I’, generally defined as personal consciousness, and ‘I’, the universal or cosmic consciousness.

What is Yoga and its goal?

  • Yoga means to join.
  • Its ultimate goal is to experience the unity of individual and universal consciousness.
  • Yoga teaches us to recognise the fundamental unity between human beings and humankind, humans and the environment, and ultimately recognise a total interconnectedness of everything.
  • The essence of this realisation is to experience that all is one. There is no ‘us’ and ‘they’ — everything is us. This is an integral or holistic approach.

Looking at Science:

  • There is today a new vision of reality emerging from new physics.
  • As we know, old physics was mechanistic; we had then the great figure of Isaac Newton.
  • Corresponding to that mechanistic philosophy, but in a larger mould, we had a dualistic philosophy that divided the world into two components: the world of matter and the world of mind.
  • The great figure of this philosophy was Descartes.
  • However, a hundred years ago, a brilliant Indian physicist, Jagadish Chandra Bose, demonstrated to the scientific world that there was no fundamental division between plants, animals and human beings.
  • When Darwin discovered the process of evolution, a series of new philosophies came to be developed.
  • But none of these philosophies has the thoroughness of the evolutionary philosophy of Indian sages that bridges the gulfs between matter and life, and life and mind, and of Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy of evolution from mind to supermind. In fact, he reverses the entire process of evolution and points out that the real evolutionary force is not material but supramental in character, and that matter itself is nothing but a mode of the supermind. He thus bridges, like the Vedic rishis, the three great oceans of existence — the inconscient, conscient, and superconscient.
  • This is extremely refreshing, and one feels a kind of rejuvenation of thought and life.
  • One can see clearly the interconnection between Sri Aurobindo’s vision of a world union of free nations, the vision of a spiritualised society, and the vision of integral humanism based on a holistic vision of the universe.

A new way of thought:

  • Globalisation based on the mechanistic world view also attempts to integrate nations through the concept of the world as one market.
  • The recent experience of attempts to integrate the economies and technologies of nations instead of creating any global consciousness leading to oneness has turned out to be divisive, exclusivist, fragmentary and has not helped in resolving any of the conflicts.
  • The market forces, instead of harmonising conflicts, have further deepened the fault lines.
  • As a matter of fact, this has resulted in a world that is out of balance.
  • Currently, restoration of the balance in this planet is a big challenge. Enlightened global minds need to think about an alternative paradigm.

Yoga and its holistic tenets in the realm of international relations:

  • Former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said,

“We should do this [yoga] before every negotiation so that we can work with a calm mind”.

  • It can be argued that if international negotiations could be held on the basis of holistic tenets, along with a calm mind, perhaps the UN would be able to use its time for good purposes.
  • If such and other practices of holistic behaviour are pursued, possibly a new culture of conducting world affairs and international relations might evolve in the future.
  • It is important to note that there is increasing awareness that the present imbalance is the outcome of the inability of existing socio-economic institutions and political structures to deal with the current impasse, which is derived from the inadequacy of concepts and values of an outdated model of the universe and the belief that all problems can be solved by technology.
  • In light of this, perhaps there is a need for a new paradigm.

Concluding Remarks:

  • Some important questions arise: Can an alternative world view for transforming human society into a non-violent, eco-friendly, non-dogmatic, egalitarian, all-inclusive, secular world family be evolved through the harmonisation of yoga and science?
  • Enlightened global minds should seriously ponder on such a probability.
  • In fact, apart from emphasising the normal benefits of yoga, International Yoga Day should be utilised to think about how a peaceful transition can be achieved for peace, harmony and happiness.

2. Misplaced priorities: on simultaneous polls

Potential Advantages of Simultaneous Elections:

  • Advocates of such elections point to potential benefits.
  • There is the obvious advantage of curbing the huge expenditure involved and reducing the burden on the manpower deployed.
  • The second point in its favour is that ruling parties can focus more on governance and less on campaigning.
  • The idea that some part of the country is in election mode every year, resulting in impediments to development work due to the model code of conduct being in force, is cited in favour of reducing election frequency.
  • However, there are challenging questions of feasibility that the political system must contend with.

Looking at the Potential Challenge Areas:

  • First, it may require the curtailment or extension of the tenure of State legislatures to bring their elections in line with the Lok Sabha poll dates.
  • Important questions arise:
  1. Should State governments bear this burden just to fulfil the ideal of simultaneous elections? (There is an obvious lack of political consensus on this).
  2. What happens if the government at the Centre falls?
  • The Law Commission, in its working paper on the subject, has mooted the idea of a ‘constructive vote of confidence’.
  • That is, while expressing loss of trust in one government, members should repose confidence in an alternative regime.
  • Another idea is that whenever mid-term polls are held due to loss of majority, the subsequent legislature should serve out only the remainder of the term.
  • These measures would involve far-reaching changes to the law, including amendments to the Constitution to alter the tenure of legislatures and the provision for disqualification of members for supporting an alternative regime.
  • In terms of principle, the main issue is whether getting all elections to coincide undermines representative democracy and federalism.

Looking at Parliamentary Democracy:

  • In a parliamentary democracy, the executive is responsible to the legislature; and its legitimacy would be undermined by taking away the legislature’s power to bring down a minority regime by mandating a fixed tenure just to have simultaneous elections.
  • The interests of regional parties may take a beating, as regional issues may be subsumed by national themes in a common election.

Concluding Remarks:

  • Given these challenges, there is simply no case for hastening the introduction of simultaneous elections.
  • The government must accord priority to other electoral reforms.
  • For instance, it should seek ways to curb spending by candidates and parties, which has reached alarmingly high levels and poses a threat to free and fair elections.

3. Fed’s signals

Analysis:

  • Fed Chairman Jerome Powell suggested that the central bank may look at cutting interest rates in the near future in order to tackle the various threats to U.S. economic growth.
  • In particular, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell noted the uncertainty on the trade front and its potential to impact the U.S. and other economies.

Eyes on the G-20 Summit:  

  • With U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping set to meet at the G-20 summit in Japan, the Fed’s decision at the conclusion of its next meeting could well hinge on the outcome of the Trump-Xi talks.
  • Experts opine that the dovish stance of the Fed comes just a day after Mario Draghi, the President of the European Central Bank, hinted that the ECB may resort to rate cuts and bond purchases if inflation failed to rise.
  • Whether these major central banks will back their rhetoric with action remains to be seen. However, the change in their tone is clear.
  • The Federal Reserve had begun its policy normalisation process in 2015, sending several emerging market currencies into crisis. But just a few years into normalisation, and with real interest rates barely above zero, central banks are already talking about a possible cut in rates if the economy demands it.

What does the dovish turn indicate?

  • This dovish turn indicates the growing threat of a global economic slowdown due to increasing trade tensions between the U.S. and China.
  • It may also be a sign that central banks are yielding to increasing pressure exerted by politicians like Mr. Trump, who has been vocal in his criticism of the Fed.
  • The important question, however, is not whether central banks will cut interest rates but whether the resultant rate cuts would be enough to boost the global economy.
  • This is particularly so at a time when trade wars have led to increasing restrictions on the movement of goods and services.
  • Furthermore, with real interest rates in advanced economies currently not far above zero, central banks may have to look beyond rate cuts and explore other unconventional policy measures to directly inject money into the economy.
  • However, even that may not ensure success as the effectiveness of monetary policy has been decreasing with growing debt levels.

Concluding Remarks:

  • The shift to an easing cycle internationally will of course make it easier for the Reserve Bank of India to cut rates aggressively without worrying about the effect of such reductions on the rupee.
  • However, boosting growth may require a new round of structural reforms.

2. Tension in the Persian Gulf

Editorial Analysis:

  • The U.S. administration’s strategy to counter Iran on the nuclear front is being met with an alleged new strategy that has left the global security community baffled in more ways than one.
  • Currently, it is being suggested that shipping vessels be provided naval escorts through the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, something reminiscent of World War II when most merchant ships would be provided with naval security.

A Look at recent incidents at the Strait of Hormuz:

  • Two oil tankers, one belonging to the Norwegian shipping company Frontline and the other a Japanese vessel, Kokuka Courageous, were sabotaged in the Strait of Hormuz by what the American central command calls limpet mines, apparently manufactured in Iran.
  • Speculation has been rife over who may have conducted such a sophisticated attack in a sea route through which 40% of the world’s traded oil passes.
  • The U.S. blames Iran for the sabotage attacks, even releasing videos and photographs of the incident in an attempt to prove Iranian involvement, something Tehran has vehemently denied.
  • It is important to note that the situation in the Gulf has been brewing for a few months now and there can be multiple ways to read it.
  • Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was on a state visit to Tehran, hoping to mediate between the two rivals, when the Japanese tanker was attacked.

A Look at the geopolitics at play:

  • To believe either side of the story, without evidence, would be misleading.
  • However, geopolitics in most instances does not come in black or white — rather, it’s all grey.
  • The U.S.’s decision to unilaterally pull out of the Iran nuclear deal and impose sanctions on Iran for its nuclear programme has not gone down well with Tehran.
  • As a matter of fact, even the global community too has not appreciated the move.
  • The American side of the story is that Iran is meeting economic and diplomatic manoeuvres with violent attacks by pulling off sophisticated sabotage on the seas.
  • Iranians, on the other hand, proclaim that it is the American intelligence apparatus that is conducting such moves to escalate the situation to the brink of war, thus paving the way for yet another ‘promotion of democracy’ in West Asia.

Concluding Remarks:

  • Iran has been at the wrong end of American sanctions for decades now, and it has learned to negotiate its way each time with creative new strategies.
  • However, the recent U.S. pressure on countries such as India, Japan and Turkey to reduce their oil imports from Iran to zero has hit Tehran where it hurts most.
  • And this new strategy of sabotaging oil supply routes in the Persian Gulf may be Iran’s ‘creative’ way of dealing with American absolutism.
  • It might well be Iran’s way of looking at the adverse situation created by the U.S.: ‘If we can’t ship oil, might as well let no one else do it too.’

Thank you!

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