Zika Virus: the Bite of Torment

The Zika Virus is a mosquito-borne virus that was first identified in Uganda in 1947, within caged rhesus monkeys placed in the Zika Forest to monitor yellow fever. It was first reported in humans in 1952 in Uganda, and its first large outbreak was in 2007 in the Island of Yap.

Although this virus is primarily transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito (mainly the Aedes mosquitos), sexual transmission and transmission through blood transfusion is possible as well.

One of the biggest problems in tackling the Zika Virus is that its symptoms are common to most viruses. These symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis. Furthermore, only one out of five people show symptoms, which leads to many cases going unreported.

The virus is rather mild itself, as symptoms last 3-5 days, but it can trigger many defects like Microcephaly and the Guillain-Barre Syndrome. A woman can transfer the Zika Virus to her fetus during pregnancy, which can cause Microcephaly, a birth defect wherein a baby is born with a head smaller than the average size. Microcephaly can lead to seizures, developmental delays, hearing loss and vision problems. Similarly, the Zika Virus can trigger the Guillain-Barre Syndrome, which is an auto-immune disease wherein a person’s own immune system damages his nerve cells. Most people never fully recover from this syndrome, and some are left with permanent nerve damage. The Zika Virus can thus lead to very dangerous illnesses and must be prevented and treated accordingly.

However, there currently exists no specific vaccine or medicine for the virus, and its only treatment is treating the discomfort-causing symptoms, which can be remedied by drinking plenty of fluids, getting adequate rest and taking medicines like paracetamol to relieve fever and pain. Since the virus has no real cure, we must focus on its prevention.

The first step towards its prevention is the reduction of mosquitos by removing or modifying breeding sites. Many people disagree with this, arguing that the process is complex and is not the most feasible option. However, given the seriousness of the Zika Virus, the WHO stresses that the elimination of mosquito breeding sites is the most effective intervention for protection against the same. Furthermore, ‘Fogging’ (the spraying of insecticides) should be carried out during outbreaks, when mosquito activity is most intense. Personal precautions should be taken, including the use of repellents and ensuring rooms are fitted with screens to prevent mosquitos from entering. Pregnancy measures should also be taken in areas with active transmissions of the virus to prevent sexual transmission. More preventive measures for the same include strengthening the capacity of laboratories to detect the virus, supporting health authorities to implement vector control strategies and engaging communities to understand the risks associated with the virus.

In May, 2017, three laboratory-confirmed cases of the Zika Virus were reported in Gujarat, India. It is clear that the virus is spreading across the globe and must be combated effectively, especially because of the severity of its complications. In a world that has already been through so much turmoil, we cannot risk another epidemic.

 

Ebola Virus: The Killing Machine

Ebola virus is said to have originated from fruit bats and other forms of bushmeat. This virus enters the human population through close contact with the blood, organs or surface material of infected animals often found ill or dead in the forest (or of those that are hunted). It then spreads through humans by direct contact with the secretions of those who are infected, or through materials like bedding contaminated with the same. Even burial ceremonies of the deceased can lead to the transmission of Ebola, because people remain infectious as long as their blood contains the virus. Healthcare workers have also frequently been infected while treating Ebola patients due to being in close contact with them.
The Ebola virus first appeared in 1976. It is most commonly known for its recent 2014-2016 outbreak affecting Guinea, Libera, and Sierra Leone that reported more than 11,000 deaths.
The World Health Organisation led the trial for an experimental Ebola vaccine in 2015. This vaccine proved highly protective against the virus in its trial in Guinea. Unfortunately, there currently exists no proven cure for the virus. However, treating the symptoms of Ebola separately has proved to be effective in combating the same. An efficient way to combat it once it has entered the blood cells is through supportive care rehydration. Furthermore, community engagement is vital, including infection control practices, surveillance, contact tracing, safe burials and social mobilisation.
Risk-minimisation should also be followed. Animals should be handled with gloves and should be properly cooked before consumption to minimise the risk of transmitting the disease. Healthcare workers should wear gloves and appropriate body equipment while dealing with suspected patients, and should also wash their hands regularly with soap.
Moreover, laboratory testing on active samples should be conducted under intense biological containment conditions, using the triple packaging system while transporting the virus.
Ebola virus is extremely serious and deadly. It has killed thousands of people, and is capable of killing thousands more – which is why it is imperative to find its cure. In a world that is already in so much turmoil, adequate measures must be taken to prevent its spread across the globe.

Unrest In Kashmir

    A year after the death of Burhan Muzaffar Wani, Indian authorities are still trying to subdue the unrest in Kashmir. The death of this terrorist sparked multiple riots throughout the state and is the root cause of the disturbance that still exists. More and more of the valley’s youth has been actively participating in the ‘stone throwing’ that is said to be funded by Pakistan’s ISI through the Hurriyat. The Hurriyat is promoting its separatist views in its attempt to radicalise Kashmir’s youth, perpetually trying to convince them to fight for its ‘independence’.

    The problem is that the Kashmiri economy has not benefited the same way from growth as the rest of India has; youth unemployment remains extremely high, leading to immense dissatisfaction. The youth of Kashmir has, as a result, become more prone to influence of the Hurriyat.

    Kashmir remains unwilling to look up to the Indian Government, mostly because of the brutality of the actions of both the sides. In 2016, the underprepared Army used pellet guns on the Kashmiri protestors who attacked their bunkers, severely injuring and blinding many of them. The Hizbul Mujahideen militants, on the other hand, have been repeatedly attacking the army and torturing those who are apparently ‘aids and informers’ of the police.

    The situation continues to be going on a downward spiral. Initially, dialogue between the Indian Government and Kashmir was open, but now, this too has stalled as the Government has a robust and strongarmed approach towards the Kashmiri protestors.

    However, the use of force does not seem to be helping the conflict in Kashmir; in fact, it is only aggravating it. The problem of terrorism cannot be solved by alienating the people – yes, the terrorists can and should be strongarmed, but the people should not be isolated. The Government needs to find a way to bring Kashmir back into mainstream politics and economy. Local political parties like Omar Abdullah’s National Conference and Mehbooba Mufti should be actively involved in promoting the same while simultaneously battling the terrorists. This will be an undoubtedly long process, but it is the only way to solve the problems raging in Kashmir – the state that, after more than a year of riots and unrest, deserves peace.

Security Dilemma

The Security Dilemma is a serious problem that affects all states, whether they are aggressive or not. This means that there are multiple ways to solve this problem, but no one way is foolproof, and each one has its flaws. Opening up diplomatic communications through a trusted third party and creating an economic and trade union are probably the safest ways for countries to help decrease the severity of the Security Dilemma. This would be most easily done between two powers, and could lead to not only a safer future for both, but also mutual prosperity through trade.

This process would most likely begin with opening a diplomatic dialogue between two countries through a mutually trusted third party. This would allow safe communication, confidentiality and reliability. Next, both countries would agree to disarmament processes, mutual targets and verification, all while using the third party to keep the communication peaceful and mutually beneficial. Finally, the countries could, depending on their current membership, agree to work together in a common economic and trade union. This would further facilitate peaceful actions and could potentially create prosperity for the respective countries. It would also allow for the free movement of people, goods and services between the nations, creating a peaceful environment. Opposing states could work together to cooperate and compete in a global environment. The creation of trade unions has been very beneficial for the majority of its members in the past, as shown in unions such as the European Union and ASEAN. The reason this method would be effective is because not only does it promote better international communications between each nation-state, removing the ‘fence’ that conceals its neighbours, but also guarantees peace and protection to the nations that sign this agreement. This is important because with lack of communication, nation-states always end up fearing their neighbouring states, leading them to stock up on weapons, which can result in a huge arms race.

All this said, however, there are still some limitations to what this could achieve, similar to any possible ‘solution’ to this dilemma. The main drawback to this kind of solution is that both parties would have to be willing to work together toward a common goal. This can be a problem because some countries are militaristic in nature, due to their Government, and will not agree to disarmament or working together in a trade union. These countries, however, are relatively lesser in number, and the benefits of this system far outweigh the negatives.

 

Demonitisation: Bane or Boon?

There has been a perplexing amount of controversy about the recent demonitisation of 500 and 1000 rupee notes by Mr. Modi.  Demonitisation in India meant that 500 and 1000 rupee notes were no longer legal tender; and by doing this, the Government removed 86% of the money in circulation. Funnily enough, most people in the country seem to approve of this drastic (and rather unplanned) measure taken by the Prime Minister.

“Only those who have black money will disapprove of this plan!” chants the BJP as all the villagers appearing on the news swallow down their disapproval and talk, instead, about how it’s ‘manageable’.
The purpose of this act, of course, was good – it was meant to eradicate all the black money in the country in a single night. PM Modi announced the demonitisation at around 11P.M, a time when all banks had shut and exchanges couldn’t be made.
This one measure led to a vicious cycle.
1. Initially, there was a date of two weeks set for the exchange of notes. Now, a month later, the deadline is still under it’s “extension.” The Government was so unsure about what they were doing that there were new rules every 2 days – sometimes even twice a day.
2. Banks and ATMs ran out of money. Unable to get value for their money, poor people started committing suicide, and the lines outside banks stretched on for miles. Due to the cash crunch, there was no liquidity in the system. This led to decrease in the purchasing power of the people, which led to a fall in demand, which led to less production, which, in turn, resulted in lesser demand for labour. Hence, demonitisation adversely affected employment.
Moreover, the cash crunch led to people not having money for emergency medication, weddings and funerals.
3. The GDP growth fell from 7.5% to 6.5%, and is said to fall to 3.5%.
4. Rumour has it, all the big officials either got all their money out prior to the plan (due to a leak), or had all their assets in Swiss bank accounts. The main aim of this measure was to reduce corruption. However, this did not happen. Most of the black money remains unaffected. 14 lakh crores in old notes are back and only 75,000 crores are out of the system, contrasting with the Government’s estimation of 3 lakh crores of black money being out of the system. It is people’s white money that is being adversely affected. Moreover, corruption has not been curbed because it is the political parties that are the most corrupt. Political parties are allowed to receive upto 30,000 rupees per person and keep its origin ambiguous. Mayavati deposited 124 crores claiming that she got the money from  the ‘people’ – and of course, the ambiguity was not questioned.
5. Receipts and data was needed for the exchange of money – this, of course, was a good step to eradicate the black money.
6. The maximum amount of money each person could withdraw in a week was 4 thousand, and more than 2 lakhs couldn’t be deposited without being questioned.
7. The Government did not consult with RBI officials or experts on the matter – if they had, they would have realised how all of them were blatantly against this act. The ex-RBI Governor, Raghuram Rajan, did not agree with demonitisation and resigned under his own terms. Currently, the RBI Governor is a BJP man – which is ironical because the RBI is supposed to be a separate entity, not controlled by the government. Moreover, it is actually illegal to print 2000 rupee notes; there is a clause in the RBI that states that the maximum denomination can be a thousand ONLY. PM Modi did not bother to change (or probably even read) this clause.
8. The number of taxpayers have not increased because people have found a way around the system. For example, a person does not have to pay taxes on the selling of a product he has made a loss on. This is regarded as a ‘non-taxable’ account, and the poor face a similar situation – which has resulted in no real increase in the number of taxpayers.
9. Demonitisation has lead to the windfall of the Government. Suppose the RBI has issued 500 and 1000 rupee notes of 14 lakh crores. This money is “I owe you” money which is guaranteed to the people by the Government. If 4 lakh crores do not come back into circulation (like in demonitisation), it is a profit for the RBI, who can then give a dividend to the Government. The Government can then use the dividend on reduction of taxes, improved infrastructure and social services. This is the windfall of the Government.
10. Digital transactions have resulted in transparency of the system. In India, there is a different dialect every 100 kilometers. There will always be language barriers because each city has a state language and a local dialect. Along with these barriers, people living in the rural areas do not know how to operate smart phones, much less be educated about cyber security. “Digital India” has led to an increased risk of fraud.
11. According to the Government, foreign nationals and NRIs have until June 2017 to change their money. However, if you go to the RBI, you will see and endless queue of desperate foreign nationals (my aunt included) because the RBI is refusing to change the money of non-Indian passport holders. This is a big problem for the NRIs and foreigners visiting our country, whose hard earned white money has now been deemed worthless by the Government of India. As of now, foreigners, poor people and farmers are extremely sour about the Government and hasty decisions.
12. Rural India faced – and is still facing – the most problems. Most villages do not have banks. The people of these villages are forced to walk 10, 15, even 20 kilometres to travel to the nearest village equipped with a bank (they have to walk because they don’t have the notes to pay for car fare). Upon reaching said village, they are forced to stand in a never ending queue, in the scorching heat (with people getting heatstrokes by standing in line), only to find that the banks only have enough money to provide for one hour’s worth of demands. This leads to many people camping out on the road, hoping that they get a glimpse of valid currency the next morning.
13. Farmers work the whole year to grow their crops. Due to demonitisation, the last harvest (rabi season) suffered. People had no money, which led to the fall of vegetable prices. The farmers cost of production was probably more than their selling price, which led to massive losses. People tend to forget that India is still mainly a rural economy, and the farmers are the ones suffering the most.
The most appalling thing I find about this point is that the BJP completely avoids it. “The poor people are not facing any trouble, watch the news!” These ignorant statements lead the whole nation into a state of oblivion, while a majority of our country is starving and dying. I have seen people crying because they’ve stood in the same line for days,unable to get the money to buy medicines for their dying significant other at home. I’ve seen and heard absolutely heartbreaking stories.
For me, the plan of demonitisation could have been a brilliant one if it was simply executed in a better way, with more provisions for the poor. Obviously, it was an ingenious step towards attacking terrorism, with the terrorists owning hundreds of crores in hard cash, unable to exchange it with validity; more pros include the end to the fake currency racket, the decline in black money and the chance (finally) for fair and just elections – since a lot of black money was used in campaigning.
In conclusion, demonitisation had the potential to be a mindblowing scheme; but with the GPD growth crashing to 6.5% (with 86% of the currency value coming from 500 and 1000 denominations) and the hundreds of people suffering, I think that it is more of a bane than a boon.

The Effect of China’s Rise on the U.S.A

I think that the rise of China is very beneficial for the United States of America, as well as the rest of the world.

The US-China economic alliance is an extremely strong one. The United States absorbs around 1/5th of all Chinese exports. Although China has seen a remarkable 3 decades of economic growth, we must remember that its sheer size – 1.35 billion people or 1/5th of the world population – is what has made it the world’s second largest economy. China represents an underprivileged market that can be beneficial for both the USA and other part of the world.

Out of the various liberal assumptions, I would like to stress upon the second and fourth; the second being “Cooperation is possible in international relations because of international institutions, democracy, and commerce”, and the fourth being “Actors’ main interests include self-protection and economic goals.”

Focusing on the second liberal assumption, it isn’t hard to see that China’s growth would inevitably benefit the USA. Currently, the Chinese hold almost 8% of total US debt. They have lent the United States 1.3 trillion dollars. This gives them a big advantage over America – many realists argue that this puts them in a position to ‘wage war’; however, that is untrue. China is not going to wage war – not only because the drawbacks of war outweigh the benefits, but also because harming the American economy would harm themselves, what with the US absorbing 1/5th of all Chinese exports. However, if China were to grow, it would greatly benefit the United States, as it is China’s third largest export market. Also, while some would say China plotted and schemed to get the US into debt, I believe that is untrue. Liberals believe that human nature has a better side – as do I. Trade with China has helped America recover from the global financial crisis. Moreover, China is rapidly advancing in the field of science and technology. Along with the economic relationships, there’s potential for security cooperation and even the possibility of working together to deal with disease, resource scarcity and climate change.

Another point prevailing under this assumption is that China belongs to many cooperative organisations, like the UNSC and APEC. Through China’s participation in such organisations, the encouragement of cooperation ensues, ensuring all participants are awarded a share of winnings, meaning that they are less likely to engage in conflict with one another. Furthermore, China and America have a common goal – economic prosperity.

The fourth liberal assumption states that States prioritise self-interest and economic goals. In this case, China’s economic goal would require US cooperation. Yes, some say that the power achieved from defeating a super-power is incomparable – this may be true, but the power won’t last if China’s economy comes crashing down alongside the US. The last thing China would want is conflict to distract it from all the money-making. Furthermore, with a fall in the Chinese economy, many (and I mean MANY) states will suffer. “German car makers, Australian mines and Bordeaux vineyards have all enjoyed a China-fuelled boom. China’s rise offers boundless opportunities.” America and China have a very economically stable relationship, with their economies strongly tied together, and thus China’s economic growth would also benefit the USA. Liberals believe that human nature has a better side – and two unlikely super-powers cooperating with each other for economic prosperity is a big example for the rest of the world.

As Glasser says, we need to stop exaggerating China’s “rise” and making it seem like a threat. China is just like any other nation-state, after all, and will naturally put its self-interests first – and believe it or not, not “waging war” on 1/5th of its consumers is in Chinese self-interest.

To conclude, in my opinion, the seeming rise of China is definitely beneficial for the USA and the rest of the world, and with the use of the policies of engagement, binding and forming alliances, I believe that the US-China economic interdependency and it’s benefits can remain intact; furthermore, with America being the world’s largest super-power, I see China’s growth not as a threat, but as an advantage.

Diplomatic Memorandum – King Salman

Talking in terms of King Salman, the absolute monarch of Saudi Arabia and speaking as an American, I believe that American values and interests are at stake in the Middle East today. For one, there’s democracy. Saudi Arabia is a monarchic state that doesn’t allow freedom of speech, women’s rights, and an array of other things. This monarchy causes the voice of the people to be drowned out by autocrats – furthermore, the unstable democracies in Iraq and Syria also post a threat to democratization. Both realist and liberals would side by this argument, because both believe in democracy. The second realist assumption states that state interactions are characterised by fear, mistrust, and self help because of animus dominandi and anarchy. Realists believe that humans, by nature, are driven to control others. I would like to bring to notice that an example can be made of the United States of America – by nature, this nation-state is driven to control others; consistently interfering in conflicts in the Middle East, using drone warfare, trying to control radicalisation in Syria, trying to increase intervention of countries in the Arabian Peninsula, and even trying to prevent the rise of China. The United States always seeks to control everything, and this can be directly linked to the second realist assumption.

Liberals, on the other hand, believe that cooperation is possible because of “democratic governance, international institutions and commerce.” They also believe that human nature has a better side; liberals thus believe that human rights and fundamental freedoms should be at the core of American policies.
Another value of America that is targeted in these conflicts is the freedom of religion. Sunni Muslims are being pushed down in Syria and Iraq. My own actor, King Salman, wants to extend his influence to those countries to lessen the Shiite influence. These countries are being radicalised and have no say in the matter – they’re all being pushed to either of the two forms of the same religion, being forced to conform into the radical society, and this could prove to be a big threat to the United States.
As Americans, there’s not much we can do, is there? If virtually everything we do in the Middle East supports dictatorship and/or stronger nations permanently ruling weaker ones against their will, what exactly are we fighting for? However, I have three strategies that the United States could possiblty implement:
1. Involving Saudi Arabia. Now, we know that Saudi Arabia is a key ally of the United States, so we cannot use sanctions or military power against them. What we can do is make sure S.A. is actively involved in resolving these conflicts. The United States should align with King Salman and use his support to counteract the terrorist groups both militarily and economically. Currently, Saudi Arabia is basically sitting outside the circle of conflict and formenting ideas that can cause trouble – overpowering the Shiite’s in Iraq, etc. – we must involve them deep enough that it becomes in their own self-interest to solve the conflict, hence preventing them from creating trouble.
2. Bring Saudi Arabia to realise that democratization in in their self interest. This can be done using diplomacy. Saudi Arabia wants to subdue the rising voice of their own minorities/people, to keep the ruling family in power. Using democracy and increasing the civil rights of their population could help them retain the loyalty of/ remain in control of their people. While the U.S. supports Saudi Arabia, it must support the opposition as well, to bring to S.A.’s notice that democratization is in their self-interest.
3. Transitioning to Democracy. The United States should focus on actively engaging with opposing actors like Iraq and Syria and getting them to agree to democratization and de-escalation. Peace, after all, is in everyone’s self-interest, and, according to realists, state interactions are defined by self help. Although democracy is a threat to many of these countries, we must think of a long-term transition while creating a non-chaotic environment. The ideal example of this would be the United Kingdom, a democratic state that still has a royal family.