The Quarrel Over Kuril Islands


Recently, Japan’s Diplomatic Bluebook for 2022 described the Kuril Islands (which Japan calls the Northern Territories and Russia as the South Kurils) as being under Russia’s “illegal occupation”.


GS II- International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What are the Kuril Islands/ Northern Territories?
  2. What lies behind the dispute?
  3. Attempts at resolution
  4. What next?

What are the Kuril Islands/ Northern Territories?

  • These are a set of four islands situated between the Sea of Okhotsk and the Pacific Ocean near the north of Japan’s northernmost prefecture, Hokkaido.
  • Both Moscow and Tokyo claim sovereignty over them though the islands have been under Russian control since the end of World War II.
  • The Soviet Union had seized the islands at the end of World War II and by 1949 had expelled its Japanese residents.
  • Tokyo claims that the disputed islands have been part of Japan since the early 19th century.

What lies behind the dispute?

Japan’s sovereignty:
  • According to Tokyo, Japan’s sovereignty over the islands is confirmed by several treaties like the Shimoda Treaty of 1855, the 1875 Treaty for the exchange of Sakhalin for the Kuril Islands (Treaty of St. Petersburg), and the Portsmouth Treaty of 1905 signed after the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-05 which Japan had won.
Russian sovereignty:
  • Russia, on the other hand, claims the Yalta Agreement (1945) and the Potsdam Declaration (1945) as proof of its sovereignty and argues that the San Francisco Treaty of 1951 is legal evidence that Japan had acknowledged Russian sovereignty over the islands.
  • Under Article 2 of the treaty, Japan had “renounced all right, title and claim to the Kuril Islands.”
Japan’s Argument:
  • Japan argues that the San Francisco Treaty cannot be used here as the Soviet Union never signed the peace treaty.
  • Japan also refuses to concede that the four disputed islands were in fact part of the Kuril chain.
  • In fact, Japan and Russia are technically still at war because they have not signed a peace treaty after World War II.
  • In 1956, during Japanese Prime Minister visit to the Soviet Union, it was suggested that two of the four islands would be returned to Japan once a peace treaty was signed.
  • However, persisting differences prevented the signing of a peace treaty though the two countries signed the Japan-Soviet Joint Declaration, which restored diplomatic relations between the two nations.
  • The Soviet Union later hardened its position, even refusing to recognise that a territorial dispute existed with Japan.
  • It was only in 1991 during Mikhail Gorbachev’s visit to Japan that the USSR recognised that the islands were the subject of a territorial dispute.

Attempts at resolution:

  • Since 1991, there have been many attempts to resolve the dispute and sign a peace treaty.
  • The most recent attempt was under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe when joint economic development of the disputed islands was explored.
  •  In fact, both countries had agreed to have bilateral negotiations based on the 1956 Japan-Soviet Joint Declaration.
  • Russia was even willing to give back two islands, the Shikotan Island and the Habomai islets, to Japan after the conclusion of a peace treaty as per the 1956 declaration.
  • Japan’s attempt to improve ties with Russia was driven by its need to diversify energy sources and Russia by its need to diversify its basket of buyers and bring in foreign investments.
  • But nationalist sentiments on both sides prevented resolution of the dispute.

What next?

  • Soon after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Japan made its unhappiness with Russia clear with its Foreign Minister, saying that Russia had “occupied” the southern part of the Kuril Islands, thereby violating international law.
  • Japan has been among the most steadfast of Western allies in denouncing Russian aggression and punishing it with sanctions.
  • Recent statement in its Diplomatic Bluebook will further damage relations between the two countries.
  • Japan has probably been spurred by its fears of a Russia-China alliance as Japan itself has territorial disputes and an uneasy history with China.
  • Secondly, Japan might have felt that this is a good opportunity to further isolate Russia and paint it as a “habitual offender” of international law.
  • Finally, Tokyo might have been prompted to take this position as it feels that the invasion of Ukraine proves that getting back the Kuril Islands is a lost cause.
  • Japan’s policy shift on the Kuril Islands will only embitter bilateral relations with Russia while advancing the possibility of its two neighbours, China and Russia, coming together against it.

India 3rd Highest Military Spender


World military spending continued to grow in 2021, reaching a record $2.1 trillion despite the economic fallout of the pandemic, according to new data on global military spending published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).


GS III- Indian Economy (Issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Top defence spenders in 2021
  2. India’s defence expenditure
  3. About SIPRI

Top defence spenders in 2021

  • The five largest spenders in 2021 were the U.S., China, India, the U.K. and Russia, together accounting for 62% of expenditure.
  • The U.S. and China alone accounted for 52%.

India’s defence expenditure

  • India’s military spending of $76.6 billion ranked third highest in the world.
  • This was up by 0.9% from 2020 and by 33% from 2012.
  • Amid ongoing tensions and border disputes with China and Pakistan that occasionally spill over into armed clashes, India has prioritised the modernisation of its armed forces and self-reliance in arms production, the report said.


  • Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) is an independent international think-tank institute dedicated to research into conflict, armaments, arms control and disarmament.
  • It was established in 1966 at Stockholm (Sweden).
  • It provides data, analysis and recommendations, based on open sources, to policymakers, researchers, media and the interested public.

States vs Centre on Selection of Vice-Chancellors


Recently, The Tamil Nadu Assembly has adopted two Bills that seek to empower the government to appoint Vice-Chancellors (VCs) to 13 State universities under the aegis of the Higher Education Department by amending the respective Acts.


GS II- Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Highlights of the two Bills
  2. Are other states trying to curtail the Governor’s role in appointing VCs?
  3. What is at the root of the differences?
  4. What is the UGC’s role in this?

Highlights of the two Bills

  • The Bills passed in Tamil Nadu stress that “every appointment of the Vice-Chancellor shall be made by the Government from out of a panel of three names” recommended by a search-cum-selection committee.
  • Currently, the Governor, in his capacity as the Chancellor of state universities, has the power to pick a VC from the shortlisted names.
  • The Bills also seek to empower the state government to have the final word on the removal of VCs, if needed. Removal will be carried out based on inquiries by a retired High Court judge or a bureaucrat who has served at least as a Chief Secretary, according to one of the Bills.

Are other states trying to curtail the Governor’s role in appointing VCs?

  • In December, the Maharashtra Assembly passed a Bill amending the Maharashtra Public Universities Act, 2016.
  • Under the original Act, the Maharashtra government had no say in the appointment of VCs.
  • If the changes take effect, the Governor will be given two names to choose from by the state government.
  • In 2019, the West Bengal government took away the Governor’s authority in appointing VCs to state universities.
  • It has also hinted at removing the Governor as the Chancellor of the universities.
  • But all such motives have been challenged by the University Grants Commission (UGC).

What is at the root of the differences?

  • In West Bengal, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, the elected governments have repeatedly accused the Governors of acting at the behest of the Centre on various subjects, including education.
  • The regulations, which differ from state to state, are often open to interpretation and disputes are routine.
  • In fact, the Tamil Nadu Bills make a case for giving the state government the upper hand in the VC appointment process by citing the examples of Gujarat and Telangana.
  • In Karnataka, Jharkhand and Rajasthan, state laws underline the need for concurrence between the state and the Governor.
    • The terms “concurrence” or “consultation” are absent from state legislation in most cases.
Rules in Gujarat and Telangana:
  • The Gujarat University Act, 1949 states that “the Vice-Chancellor shall be appointed by the State Government from amongst three persons recommended by a (search-cum-selection) committee”.
  • The Telangana Universities Act, 1991 states that the search committee shall “submit a panel of three persons to the Government in alphabetical order and the Government shall appoint the Vice-Chancellor from out of the said panel”.

What is the UGC’s role in this?

  • Education comes under the Concurrent List, but entry 66 of the Union List — “coordination and determination of standards in institutions for higher education or research and scientific and technical institutions” — gives the Centre substantial authority over higher education.
  • The UGC plays that standard-setting role, even in the case of appointments in universities and colleges. According to the UGC (Minimum Qualifications for Appointment of Teachers and other Academic Staff in Universities and Colleges and other Measures for the Maintenance of Standards in Higher Education) Regulations, 2018, the “Visitor/Chancellor” — mostly the Governor in states — shall appoint the VC out of the panel of names recommended by search-cum-selection committees.
  • Higher educational institutions, particularly those that get UGC funds, are mandated to follow its regulations.
  • These are usually followed without friction in the case of central universities, but are sometimes resisted by the states in the case of state universities.

Judicial observations

  • A Bench of Justices M R Shah and B V Nagarathna said “any appointment as a Vice Chancellor contrary to the provisions of the UGC Regulations can be said to be in violation of the statutory provisions, warranting a writ of quo warranto”.
  •  It said every subordinate legislation of the UGC, in this case the one on minimum standards on appointments, flows from the parent UGC Act, 1956.
  • Therefore, being a subordinate legislation, UGC Regulations become part of the Act. In case of any conflict between state legislation and central legislation, central legislation shall prevail by applying the rule/principle of repugnancy as enunciated in Article 254 of the Constitution as the subject ‘education’ is in the Concurrent List of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution.

Anti-Defection Law


Recently, the Vice-President has said that the time has come to amend the anti-defection legislation in the country to plug existing loopholes.


GS-II: Polity and Constitution (Constitutional Provisions, Legislature and Elections, Executive, Separation of Powers)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is Defection?
  2. 10th Schedule of the Indian Constitution (Anti-Defection Law)
  3. When do the Legislators face risk of disqualification?
  4. Issues with having an Anti-defection law

What is Defection?

  • ‘Defection’ has been defined as, “To abandon a position or association, often to join an opposing group”.
  • A legislator is deemed to have defected if he either voluntarily gives up the membership of his party or disobeys the directives of the party leadership on a vote. This implies that a legislator defying (abstaining or voting against) the party whip on any issue can lose his membership of the House.
  • The law applies to both Parliament and state assemblies.
  • The anti-defection law sought to prevent such political defections which may be due to reward of office or other similar considerations.

10th Schedule of the Indian Constitution (Anti-Defection Law)

  • The Tenth Schedule was inserted in the Constitution in 1985 by the 52nd Amendment Act and technically the Tenth Schedule to the Indian Constitution is the anti-defection law in India.
  • It is designed to prevent political defections prompted by the lure of office or material benefits or other like considerations.
  • It lays down the process by which legislators may be disqualified on grounds of defection by the Presiding Officer of a legislature based on a petition by any other member of the House.
  • The law applies to both Parliament and State Assemblies.

When do the Legislators face risk of disqualification?

  • Disqualification of a legislator (member of the parliament or legislative assemblies) is possible when the member:
    • Gives up his membership of a political party voluntarily
    • Votes or abstains from voting in the House, contrary to any direction issued by his political party (Party Whip is an official of a political party who acts as the party’s ‘enforcer’ inside the legislative assembly or house of parliament.)
    • Joins any party after being elected as independent candidate
    • Joins any political party after 6 months of being nominated as a legislative member

The Supreme Court mandated that in the absence of a formal resignation, the giving up of membership can be determined by the conduct of a legislator, such as publicly expressing opposition to their party or support for another party, engaging in anti-party activities, criticizing the party on public forums on multiple occasions, and attending rallies organised by opposition parties.


  • Legislators can change their party without the risk of disqualification to merge with or into another party provided that at least two-thirds of the legislators are in favour of the merger, neither the members who decide to merge, nor the ones who stay with the original party will face disqualification.
  • Earlier, the law allowed parties to be split (this used to allow for legislators to hold their position while actually “defecting” to either of the split parties), but at present, this has been outlawed.
  • Any person elected as chairman or speaker can resign from his party, and rejoin the party if he demits that post.

Who takes the decision on Defection?

  • The decision on disqualification questions on the ground of defection is referred to the Speaker or the Chairman of the House, and his/her decision is final.
  • The Presiding Officer has NO time limit to make his decision
  • All proceedings in relation to disqualification under this Schedule are considered to be proceedings in Parliament or the Legislature of a state as is the case.
  • The law initially stated that the decision of the Presiding Officer is not subject to judicial review. This condition was struck down by the Supreme Court in 1992, thereby allowing appeals against the Presiding Officer’s decision in the High Court and Supreme Court.
  • There is no time limit as per the law within which the Presiding Officers should decide on disqualification for defection.

Issues with having an Anti-defection law

  • The principle of the Anti-defection law basically forces members vote based on the decisions taken by the party leadership, and not based on what their constituents would like them to vote for – can be considered as a hindrance to the “functioning of the legislature” in the true sense of the word. It limits a legislator from voting according to his/her own conscience, judgement and electorate’s interests.
  • The core role of an MP to examine and decide on a policy, bills, and budgets is side-lined. Instead, the MP becomes just another number to be tallied by the party on any vote that it supports or opposes.
  • It can also be said that this provision goes against the concept of representative democracy.
  • In the parliamentary form, the government is accountable daily through questions and motions and can be removed any time it loses the support of the majority of members of the Lok Sabha. In India, this chain of accountability has been broken by making legislators accountable primarily to the political party. Thus, anti-defection law is acting against the concept of parliamentary democracy.


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