1. The agonising cost of ham-handed development.

  1. The flash floods at Chamoli (Uttarakhand), NDRF and defence personnel are looking for missing persons in rock, mud, water, and debris, airlifting rations to inaccessible villages, and repairing bridges and telecommunication networks. 
  2. The Social scientists work on assessing the disaster’s impact on region’s economy. Scientists and policy makers are debating whether climate change or unchecked development in an ecologically fragile region was primarily responsible for the Uttarakhand disaster and the death toll.
  3. The  News reports of ancient temples having been swept away in the Alakananda’s raging raises the question impotence of Uttarakhand and how did the Uttarakhand Himalayas emerge as a deva bhumi and how did it develop into a focus of Hindu pilgrimage,

History of Borderland to sacred place:

  1. The learning from archaeological record and inscriptional evidence that many and varied agents and processes played important roles in gradually transforming this borderland into a sacred landscape.
  2. The Artefacts found in the Himalayan foothills are datable to the period extending from 300 BCE and 600 CE include an Ashokan rock edict (at Kalsi), brick altars for conducting ashvamedha yagnas, coin hoards, and sculptures.
  3. The artefacts and its find-spots indicate deepening contact between communities living in the Gangetic plains and in the foothills.
  4. These developments fostered the growth of Haridwar and Kalsi as cosmopolitan towns and as “gateways” into the Himalayas.
  5. Initially, mendicants in search for retreats, merchants eager to enlarge trading networks, adventurous princes in their quest to establish principalities, and artisans in search of employment passed through these gateway towns.
  6.  Eventually, in the seventh century, a regional tradition of stone temple architecture commenced in the Uttarakhand Himalayas.
  7. The earliest shrines in this tradition were built at Palethi and Lakhamandal, just upstream from Haridwar and Kalsi, by visiting sovereigns.

Early developments of Cultural site in Uttarakhand:

  1. The Palethi and Lakhamandal with royal patronage never became major tirthas. Instead, Jageshwar, situated well east of Lakhamandal and Palethi attained this stature.
  2.  Between 7th and 10th centuries, builders at Jageshwar modified local geography and ecology to encourage comparisons between it and celebrated locales such as Kashi and Devadarunavana, Shiva’s legendary deodar forest. Eventually, Jageshwar came to have 150 stone temples.
  3. These early developments at Jageshwar are relatable to the sway of the Pashupatas and other Shaiva ascetics and not to the rise of local dynasties.
  4.  The 12th century, architects, master-masons, and sculptors from lands as far away as Gujarat travelled to Uttarakhand to build temples in elaborate typologies associated with their homelands.
  5. The thirteenth century, larger entourages of ascetics, and occasionally rulers from distant lands began undertaking pilgrimages to established and emerging tirthas in this mountainous region. Their journeys paved the way for the Char Dham Yatra.

The pilgrimage circuit:

  1. The Char Dham Yatra today consists of a pilgrimage to Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri, and Yamunotri.
  2. The Badrinath and Kedarnath have long been associated with gods and sages, like the Mahabharata, Badrinath are described as the site of Narayana’s discourse to Nara.
  3.  The Kedarnath is mentioned in the Skanda Purana, in medieval lists of jyotirlingas, and in the names of temples built as far away as Karnataka.
  4. The both Badrinath and Kedarnath are associated with Adi Shankara who is said to have visited them in the eighth century. Possibly his followers played a role in constructing temples at Pandukeshwar (Dravida and Nagara style).
  5. The charter instructs priests living at nearby villages of Joshimath and Pandukeshwar to help brahmacharis upstream at Badrinath.
  6.   The Badrinath temple has been built and rebuilt several times in its history. Like the present Badrinath temple, the temple standing at Kedarnath today, dates to the early modern period.
  7. As sites located close to the glacial sources of the Ganga and the Yamuna, Gangotri and Yamunotri have also been given sacred associations.
  8.  In 20th century, the Jaipur royal family supported the construction of a temple at Gangotri. The shrines at Yamunotri today are ever newer.

The Shifts, ecopressures:

  1. Demographic, political, social and economic shifts that have occurred in the past six decades have led to an increase in the number of pilgrims visiting sacred centres in Uttarakhand.
  2.  After 1962, the Indian government recognised that the world’s highest and loftiest mountain range no longer served as an insurmountable wall.
  3. The Agencies like Border Roads Organization, the Indo Tibetan Border Police, and the THDC India Limited, established. Charged with construction of roads, tunnels, bridges, cantonments, hospitals, dams, and telecommunication pylons.
  4.  After 2000 when owing to regional demands for greater political autonomy, Uttarakhand separated from Uttar Pradesh. Recognizing religious tourism as an important source of income.


  1. Now is the time for our leaders to recommit themselves to the ideas and activism of Chandi Prasad Bhatt, Gaura Devi, Guru das Agrawal, Ravi Chopra, Sunderlal Bahuguna, Vandana Shiva, and other Gandhian environmentalists and social workers.
  2. The mobilised local communities to protect Uttarakhand’s forests, created local employment, and questioned the wisdom of constructing large hydroelectric projects in a seismically sensitive sacred landscape.

In Biden’s policy pursuit, the world order challenge.

Uncertainties around the Iran nuclear agreement could lead to tectonic changes in the new global and regional order.

  1. The U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear agreement with Iran, formally the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). U.S promised that, subject to Iran’s compliance with its obligations, the U.S. would re-enter the agreement.
  2. Mr. Biden of his commitment and called on him to end the “failed policies” of the earlier administration on West Asia “the most militarized region in the world.
  3. Israel and the U.S.’s Gulf allies, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, have also insisted that they be involved with the discussions with Iran on the revival of the agreement.

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA):

  1. Signed in 2015 by Iran and several world powers, including the United States, the JCPOA placed significant restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.
  2. President Trump withdrew the United States from the deal in 2018, claiming it failed to curtail Iran’s missile program and regional influence. Iran began ignoring limitations on its nuclear program a year later.
  3. President-Elect Biden has pledged to return the United States to the JCPOA if Iran resumes compliance, but it is unclear whether Iran will agree to new negotiations.

The Regional concerns/challenge:

  1. The sanctions, Iran’s regional influence remains significant, based on the backing of Shia militia in such diverse locales as Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen and Syria.
  2. The Iranian ability to mobilise militants across the region is viewed by Israel and some the Gulf Arab states as threatening their security, the latter being concerned about Iran’s influence with their Shia populations as well.
  3. The capabilities of Iran’s precision missiles and drones are also a matter of regional anxiety. Iran has focused on the domestic development of missiles due to international sanctions on defence supplies.
  4. The advanced air and missile power available with Israel, Saudi Arabia and some other Gulf states, there is no prospect of Iran curtailing its missiles and drone programmes.
  5. Mr. Biden in office has already revealed that despite some differences in policy content and diplomatic style, his term is likely to show more continuity than change where the U.S.’s core interests are concerned, specifically in its ties with Russia, China and Iran.

Biden’s policy approaches:

  1. The U.S said that, in his conversation with Russian President on January 26, the U.S. “will act firmly in defence of our national interests in response to actions by Russia” and brought up Ukraine, the cyber attacks and the poisoning of Russian Opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
  2. Mr. Biden’s Iran policy is likely to match Mr. Trump’s hardline approach on substantive matters, but without the bravado and crude brinkmanship of the former President.
  3. The Iran’s “active ballistic missiles” programmes, the fact that it is still “re-spinning centrifuges”, and highlighted the need to protect the U.S.’s regional partners from Iran’s “acts of terrorism”.

The suggestion for U.S:

  1. The suggestion for U.S. is looking at long-term diplomatic engagement not just on nuclear issues but on all matters that have security implications for the U.S. and its regional partners.
  2. To encourage this dialogue, the U.S. could offer some palliatives to Iran, such as International Monetary Fund providing funds to combat the novel corona virus pandemic,
  3. The no early easing of sanctions on oil sales, Iran may quickly find that it has to largely depend on its own resources to manage its interests at home and in the region.

The international lines:

  1. The Central Asia region Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates will be in a face-off with Iran and its allies, Iraq, Syria and its Shia militia in a prolonged war of attrition that does not resolve any issue, but continues to wreak death and destruction.
  2. China. Qatar’s Foreign Minister has already proposed direct engagement with Iran Perhaps, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, already facing heat from USA, will see the value of this approach as they had done during heightened tensions in the Gulf waters in 2019.
  3. The UAE had then discussed maritime security with Iran, while Saudi Arabia had encouraged mediation efforts by regional states.

The outlook for India:

  1. Hope for under a Biden Administration, defence and security cooperation between India and the U.S. are likely to be further stepped up.
  2. Regional security cooperation is also likely to be further enhanced, at least till such time as U.S.-China relations improve.
  3. The emphasis on a free and open Indo-Pacific region will continue countries such as Japan, South Korea and Taiwan are likely to have a far more critical role to play than India in achieving security in the Indo-Pacific.


  1.  Mr. Biden will find that much has changed in West Asia and the world since he was last in office. Not only is Russia now an influential player in the region, China, too, with its Belt and Road Initiative, has high stakes in regional stability.
  2. The Sino-Iran 25 year’s agreement, last year, envisages their substantial and long-term cooperation in political, security, military, economic, energy and logistical connectivity areas.
  3.  Its formal finalization was deliberately postponed by both sides to see what the U.S. elections would throw up. With Mr. Biden being confrontational, they are likely to pursue this partnership more openly and robustly.


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