Editorial 1 : Was India’s hot summer of 2023 a portend of things to come?


It will be fair to say that many of us have been looking forward to the monsoon this year, eager to put behind us one of the hottest summers ever on record. With each passing year, India has been experiencing more and more instances of severe heatwaves, rendering these months more and more dreadful.

The Reports

  • A recent report from the India Meteorological Department (IMD) indicated an increasing trend in the number and duration of heatwaves, based on data from March to June from 1961 to 2020.
  • This year, heatwaves started as early as on March 3, and many areas reported temperatures that were higher than average. The number of days with temperatures exceeding 30 degrees Celsius has also increased of late.
  • The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Sixth Assessment Report warned of prolonged rain-free periods along with excessive rainfall in many parts of the world. In recent decades, India has recorded several such extreme events.
  • An October 2017 study conducted by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pune, reported that there was a three-fold increase in widespread extreme events from 1950 to 2015.

Changing weather patterns

  • Climate change is increasing both the frequency and the intensity of extreme weather events.
  • In India, for one, normal monsoon patterns have given way to, among others, delayed onset, short but intense bursts of rain, and delayed withdrawal.
  • Some weather events have also become drier and others wetter thanks to the effects of climate change on the water cycle, which leads to more evaporation and eventually causes more precipitation.
  • Some areas also experience heavier than normal precipitation while others are becoming prone to unexpected droughts.
  • High monsoon rainfall variability and continuous warming raise the probability of dry and hot extremes, with profound implications for agriculture, water resources, and India’s overall economy.
  • There is also a strong connection between land and ocean heatwaves, driven by atmospheric circulation, increase in sea-surface temperature, and feedback mechanisms that exacerbate the intensity and duration of extreme temperatures.

Role of Marine heatwaves

  • The oceans play a key role in the formation of monsoon winds and in keeping the monsoon alive.
  • When extreme heat warms their waters, the change in temperature can lead to cascading effects, such as marine heatwaves, ocean acidification, sea-level rise, and ice melting faster at the poles.
  • Marine heatwaves are periods of temperature much higher than the average seasonal temperature in that region.
  • The Indian Ocean recorded six marine heatwaves over a period of 52 days in 2021. They used to be rare in this water-body but today are an annual occurrence.
  • A low pressure develops over the Indian subcontinent when the land heats up during the summer. The moisture for monsoon rains is thus carried by the winds as they blow in from the Indian Ocean.
  • However, rainfall over the land decreases when ocean heatwaves occur, as the winds are drawn to areas over the ocean instead of land.

Climate risk amplification

  • Amplification is what happens when certain climate-related factors and/or events interact with each other or happen at the same time, intensifying or exacerbating the overall risks and consequences associated with climate change.
  • A good example is the warm and dry conditions that have put Canada on course for its worst-ever wildfire destruction this year.
  • Such amplification happens in the form of various feedback loops and interconnected processes in the earth’s climate system and also occur as a result of an El Niño, prolonged hot days, dry monsoons, and/or ocean heatwaves occurring together, compounding risks across sectors.
  • Such a combination will also affect water availability, soil moisture, and crop output while increasing food prices and lowering incomes.
  • The co-occurrence of heatwaves and droughts can also lead to wildfires, tree mortality, and a higher risk of thermal power-plant failures.
  • Ultimately, the risks can push sensitive and vulnerable systems over a tipping point, ultimately avalanching into drastic consequences for socio-ecological systems.

Way forward

  • Amplified climate risks underscore the urgency of taking proactive measures to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, adapt to changing conditions, and enhance resilience in both natural and human systems.
  • Identifying compound event hotspots and monitoring them are important to frame suitable adaptation strategies.
  • By understanding and addressing these amplification mechanisms, we will be able to reduce the overall risk associated with climate change and build a more sustainable and resilient future.

Editorial 2 : India should refuse America’s ‘NATO Plus’ bait


Recently the United States and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), in May recommended strengthening the ‘NATO-Plus’ framework by including India in the grouping. India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar had rejected this idea by saying that “NATO template does not apply to India”.

NATO and NATO Plus

  • NATO is a transatlantic military alliance of 31 countries, with the majority of members from Europe.
  • After the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, many thought that NATO would lose its relevance.
  • On the contrary, NATO has not only survived but also expanded, with Finland joining as its 31st member  and Sweden waiting in the wings.
  • NATO appears to be getting the much-needed ground for survival, thanks to Russia’s tirade against it and the invasion of Ukraine.
  • With NATO swelling its expanse, some analysts even see the onset of Cold War 2.0.
  • NATO plus refers to a security arrangement of NATO and the five treaty allies of the U.S. — Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Israel, and South Korea as members — to enhance “global defence cooperation” and win the “strategic competition with the Chinese Communist Party”.
  • Interestingly, the term ‘NATO Plus’ is not an officially recognised or established concept within NATO itself, but has been used in discussions and debates regarding the potential expansion of the alliance.
  • The inclusion of these countries as members would require a complex process of negotiation and assessment of their compatibility with NATO’s principles, obligations, and defence commitments.

India on joining NATO

The pros

  • While NATO’s earlier target was the Soviet Union and now Russia, the focus of NATO Plus is clearly on containing China. Therefore, considering its disputes with China, India remains a missing link in the framework.
  • In light of increasing regional security challenges, India joining the NATO Plus framework could provide it with a security umbrella, with protection and deterrence against potential threats.
  • India could also gain access to advanced military technologies, intelligence-sharing platforms, and inter-operability with other member-states.

The cons

This could potentially strengthen India’s defence capabilities and modernisation efforts. But this bait needs to be assessed in the larger context of India’s strategic autonomy.

First, getting into any NATO framework will annoy Russia and China. Apart from the robust strategic partnership, Russia has been useful to India in dealing with regional security challenges and, importantly, moderating the stance of China.

  • Even though Russia is getting over-dependent on China, Moscow remains a valuable partner for India.
  • Should it join, in one stroke, India’s solidified strategic partnership with Russia will crumble. Balancing these relationships and managing potential geopolitical consequences would be a significant challenge for India.

Second, while aligning with a U.S.-led alliance system may be tempting due to the threats posed by China, it could ultimately prove counterproductive and detrimental.

  • Having a military framework will limit India’s freedom of action and prevent it from pursuing an independent policy towards China.
  • Moreover, at a time when India has its own bilateral issues with China and a strategy for the Indo-Pacific, hopping into the Taiwan strategy of the U.S. under NATO Plus will complicate India’s security, with the possibility of Chinese justification for further military build-up along the India-China border and frequent intrusion.

Third, India has traditionally maintained a policy of strategic autonomy, allowing it to engage with various nations and blocs based on its own interests.

  • Joining a NATO framework would require India to align its defence and security policies with the objectives and strategies of the alliance, thereby potentially undermining India’s autonomy.
  • While the non-aligned policy will get a quick death, it could strain relationships with countries, especially neighbours and regional organisations that value India’s independent stance, and could also limit its flexibility in engaging with other regional powers.

India’s priorities

  • India’s priorities lie in addressing its own regional dynamics that includes a unique set of security challenges such as border disputes, terrorism, and regional conflicts.
  • While NATO has certain competencies to deal with such issues, its larger geopolitical agenda starting from Eurasia to the Indo-Pacific may divert resources and attention away from these pressing issues and, therefore, will not be of much help to India.


For the time being, India’s posturing through the Quad (India, Japan, Australia and the U.S.; the Asian NATO as per China) looks more promising than the NATO Plus bait.


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