Ethical Issues in IR – UPSC Ethics

a) “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.” Do you agree with this view ? Justify. (150 Words)

b) If it is unethical to sponsor terrorism in an enemy country, can outright war with a weaker enemy be considered as ethical ? Critically comment. (150 Words)
a. The Indian freedom fighter like Bhagat Singh, Chaphekar brothers etc… have been regarded as freedom fighter by Indians and as terrorists by British Historian. Thus in the context of India’s freedom struggle, the above statement is correct. Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev etc… never harmed ordinary people and resorted to violence as the last resort whereas people like Hafiz Saeed, Abu Bakr Baghdadi etc… routinely use violence against women, children etc… who are in no associated with the government. Also Indian revolutionaries lived and died for the people whereas the jihadis are more interested in getting achieving individual power and wealth. Thus in the present context, the above statement is incorrect. Thus taking into account the present scenario, I disagree with the given statement. (123 words; no time limit)
b. It is unethical to sponsor terrorism in an enemy country as it leads to the creation of non-state actors who are very difficult to control and they may harm their home country by trying to capture power via civil war. Also terrorist kill innocent people and in no way are able to weaken the enemy country to a large extent. Instead of trying to destabilise the enemy country by promoting terrorism, it is better to establish friendship with the enemy country via trade, diplomacy etc… War is ethical only when it is fought in self-defence or to stop a state sponsored genocide and hence it has nothing to do with the strength of the enemy. Thus outright war with a weaker enemy is unethical if the stronger country is in offensive mode and its purpose for initiating war is for strategic or economic gains.
a).No, I don’t agree with this view. Difference between Terrorist and Freedom Fighter is very subtle to understand. Major difference is: Terrorists use fear of terror to motivate civilians to act on their behalf. They don’t differentiate between their own civilians or enemy, they resort to terror attacks to instil fear so that, the military or govt they are opposing will subvert to their demands. Freedom Fighters on the other hand, fight and struggle for civilians rights against the govt or military. They never harm their own civilians. They may carry on their fight in peaceful or assassination of notorious officials of government installed. They often have agendas of peaceful installation of self-governance, transparent election or co-existence with govt if their demands are met unlike Terrorists who mostly don’t approachable to civilians. Recent case of Ireland Republican Army which was branded as terrorist organisation by British govt, while they considered themselves as Freedom fighter, highlights different perspective on this issue. Hence there is clear demarcation between Freedom Fighter and Terrorists. Often Terrorists guise themselves as Freedom fighter to get sympathy or political facelift.
Answer.b) Outright war with weaker nations is both ethically, diplomatically and politically wrong. In today’s global cooperation era, every nation is sovereign and republic hence no other nations should interfere in her administration in covert or agenda in hideous way. All differences in international laws can be brought under UNHRC, UNGA and UNSC but sponsoring terrorism in land of other nation is ill-intentioned usage of money for harming a nation. It is similar to waging war to a nation with herself. Weaker nations often have limited economy outlook and scope and hence diplomacy, in such scenario attacking her will be case of certain victory and abuse of civilians and local economy which may take decades for it’s revival hence ethically wrong.


Critically comment on the methodology used by the Institute for Economics and Peace to prepare the annual Global Peace Index (GPI) report. In your opinion what does peace mean to you? Comment. (200 Words)
Global Peace Index (GPI) aims to measure the relative position of nations and regions peacefulness through which it seeks to quantify political trends in a country. The index is composed of both qualitative and quantitative indicators and is based on three themes:
  • the level of safety and security in society,
  • the extent of domestic and international conflict and
  • the degree of militarization.
Through these measures, GPI tries to quantify peace and its benefits. But practically peace can’t be quantified. Only the economic cost arising out of lack of peace can be quantified. Apart from this, for instance, GPI ranked India 141 in 2013 which was worsened to 143 in 2014. But the fact that casualties in internal conflicts especially by left wing extremism have come down by almost 70% since 2013 and close to 60% since 2014. This makes us to question the credibility of the report.
Moreover placing India’s internal conflict problems are on the same scale as those of Pakistan, Nigeria, etc…can’t be accepted as a rational analysis. Thus we can’t take GPI on lines with any other indices like HDI and focus on its consideration made to us. For me, Peace is a combination of state of mind and my environment. If I am with conflicts internally and lives with stress, then I can’t be at peace no matter how peaceful my surrounding is. Also, Vice versa, If i am content but the environment is violent, I can’t be at peace. It does not mean that everything has to be perfect; peacefulness can come through being satisfied with what I have.


Critically discuss if there are any ethical issues in relations between India and Pakistan. In your opinion, how should such issues be resolved? Critically comment. (200 Words)
International relations of most of the nations is dominated by realist principles of national interest and balance of power. Nations tend to ignore idealist & constructivist principles of morality and internationalism.
In this context relations between & India Pakistan can be said to be replete with ethical issues. Some of them are:
  1. Management of common goods- Both nations are involved in constant conflict due to their diverse claims of natural objects in vicinity e.g. differing claims of sir creek, Kashmir etc.
  2. Humanitarian problems- inappropriate & inhuman treatment of prisoners of war of other country as well hatred and chauvinism in society directed against each other, ceasefire violations in LoC leading to death of army men and innocent civilians.
  3. Disarmament- Both India and Pakistan are mired in continuous race to enhance their conventional as well as nuclear arsenal primarily to deter and possibly use against each other.
Firstly we have to create mechanism for dialogue with each and every organisation to understand the nature and severity of their demand. Regular bilateral negotiations between governments and track two diplomacy is perfect idea for solution. In recent years both government as well as common citizens shows their commitment for permanent solution , “aman ki asha ” chote ustad . Role of media, Bollywood actors and cultural exchange, student exchange program will be beneficial to understand that on both sides of border people holds same thoughts and same emotion.


Sometimes it is seen that a country which perceives its neighbour as its enemy and threat to its existence doesn’t receive its neighbour’s help nor does it allow its neighbour to carry on relief work when it’s needed most during events such as aftermath of an earthquake or severe floods. Whereas, a country which sees its neighbour as its friend accepts its help during the times of need. Should people suffer because of bad relationship between two governments? What do you understand by ethics in international relations? Discuss. (200 Words)
The world today is witnessing increasing threat of Disasters and their management requires cooperation from other countries. For e.g. Floods in Pakistan or the recent devastating earthquake in Nepal.
People should never suffer because of bad relationships between two governments. There is nothing more precious than human life and everything to secure so must be done. As Amartya Sen argues in his book An Idea of Justice, Goals must take precedence over means where questions of human life are involved.
A situation of despair and emergency shouldn’t be used to settle political scores but such situations should be guided by values of humanism and respect for human life. Further, a regime of cooperation during disaster may usher in an era of cooperation on other aspects of relationships between hostile countries.
India has continued to apply this perspective as seen in case of saving people from Pakistan in Yemen conflict or the aid during Pakistan floods in 2010.
Ethics in International relations refers to values of justice, equality, cooperation, humanism, tolerance, mutual trust and mutual respect. Thus, International relations must focus on promoting socio-economic development and collective peace and security. Conflicts and deliberations must be addressed on the basis of equality and respect and through instruments of diplomacy and persuasion finally, emergency and disaster must witness cooperation from all.


Do you think it is ethical to spy a friendly country to serve one’s national interests? Substantiate your stance with suitable examples. (150 Words)
In a multi-polar world like ours is now, there is no sharp distinction between friends and enemies. Nations do not fall in just 3 categories like during Cold war. In fact, there are no permanent friends or enemies but only interests.
Espionage has always been a very handy tool to probe any society for its strengths and weaknesses, whether moral or military, and its strategies. Spies were employed since ancient times not only to keep watch on other societies but at times also on own people. For example: during Ashoka’s reign.
Spying on hostile nations is always justified on the grounds of national security. While spying on friendly nation is definitely unethical because trust was promised and trust begets trust. However, as the interests change so do the allies. So it is practical to maintain at least slight vigil over activities of friendly nations also, which is at least over the conventional and diplomatic sources of information.
In recent times, USA maintained strict vigil over its own citizens, leaders of ally and hostile nations alike. While US is concerned about protecting its hegemony, we are concerned more over issues of cross-border terrorism, infiltration, smuggling and piracy, most of which originate in our neighbouring countries. Besides, nations who declare themselves allies of India, may not have control over anti-India sentiments and activities of its own people.
Thus, spying on friendly nations is unethical but if non-disclosed doesn’t harm the relationship and at the same time protect our interests.
Two issues:
(1). Responsibility of state to protect it citizens interest
(2). Trust / Sovereignty breach of other nation


Morality does not play a role in international relations and whatever the mighty countries do is considered right. Do you agree with this assessment? Give examples to support your stance. (200 Words)
In the international politics it has been often said that the world hears the argument of power not the power of argument. Thus the statement itself overshadow the role of morality in the international relations.
Here it should to be noted that the international relations are largely determined by the personal interest. The bilateral relationship involved between two nations are more concern with the fulfilment of own obligation’s, and nation’s often not consider morality as an important trait in their engagement.
The pages of history revel many such incidence where the situations are not morally or ethically right but the nation’s supports the mighty countries, to adore their personal obligations just like the Gulf wars and US invasion in Iraq.
 Although the morality plays a very minimal role in the international relation, but one cannot consider it as a universal phenomenon. There are also many precedents broke out where morality plays a big role to shape the international relations just like India’s Panchsheel doctrine and act of India in Indo-pak war of 1971 in which India returned the confiscated land and war prisoners to pak because it is morally right to do so. More on the panchsheel doctrine which is the guiding principle of Indian foreign policy are largely determined on the trait of morality.
So while considering all these arguments it is quite clear that nation’s use the morality in international relation in their own way, when they fell that it can adore their larger national interest they follow it and if it is not useful they abandoned it


“Refugees are not identified as participants in ethical debates concerning their own fortunes”. Illustrate (200 Words)
Refugees are people who are seeking stay permanently or temporarily outside their home country. Reason for such seeking can be War, riots, persecution based on religion, race, political opinion, ethnicity etc.
Whenever a nation faces issues due to sharing of resources to refugees coming to their border, ethical debates comes up because of various questions like:
  1. division of limited resources which may raise concerns among poor of nation where to settle refugees as they are devoid of land property and mostly any skill. In case of 1947 mass migration from Pakistan, whole lower himalayan range were cleared and given to them to settle.
  2. Will supporting refugees invite hostility from refugee‘s nation. It was the reason of 1972 Indo-Pak war.
  3. political and diplomacy polarisation like in case of East Pakistan migrant to West Bengal.
  4. If refugees are political dissidents than it will become long term trouble like in case of Dalai Lama, Taslima Nasreen.
  5. Gentle gesture toward refugees may invite Environmental and poverty refugee every year
Hence, the ethical debate must be well thought and participative. A nation‘s prime duty is to consider welfare of its natives and then refugees on humanitarian ground. A native citizen‘s fundamental rights of life and equality can‘t be parted with refugees grant request of survival on nation‘s supportive gestures. Debates over future course of action doesn‘t involves refugees due to following reasons.
  1. They are often well represented by Human Rights, NGOs and Social activists who are parts of such debates.
  2. Refugees are often poor, illiterate and unaware of refuge providing nations, hence participation would not serve any positive purpose.
  3. Asking refugees themselves about what they want, may invite enmity from their nation because their action forced them to flee but neighbour nation is supporting them.
For refugees, What matters is step taken to alleviate fear from refugees through action and not their participation in debates. Hence, non-involvement of refugees in ethical debates is correct and well thought step.


Discuss about some of non-violent strategies to fight terrorism. (150 Words)
Gandhi wrote, ―It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of humanity. When we tap into the spirit of non-violence, it becomes contagious and can topple empires.‖ Major reasons for people becoming terrorists are the lack of education, unemployment, social injustice and social inequality. Those innocent minds that are facing such problems are brainwashed and forced to indulge in these kinds of threatening activities. People who are denied from their fundamental rights and are discriminated because of their caste, religion or sex, develop a grudge against the society and therefore they commit such crimes in order to take revenge. The purpose of these people itself becomes to take revenge for all that he has suffered. For that he is ready to go the any limit. This is the reason that they don‘t even care for their lives and become suicide bombers.
―You can kill a person, but it will take ages to kill an Ideology.‖
Steps should be taken to provide adequate education and gainful employment to all
without discriminating against them in any field-:
  1. Over trillions of dollars are spent against the fight of terrorism. The large amount of money the government is spending to provide security to the terrorists can be used to provide basic security to common people like by recruiting more and more forces on the roads, public places, stations and even homes.
  2. The other important factor is ‘Education‘. If proper education is given to the backward people than no one can make fool them & they will be able to take their decision regarding their life advantage.
A very interesting case happened in Jammu & Kashmir, in India, where a NGO decided to provide education to children in a terror hit district. Surprisingly many terrorists


The issue of climate change confronts serious ethical issues of fairness and responsibility across individuals, nations, generations, and the rest of nature. Discuss with suitable examples. (200 Words)
Damage done to climate in one year sometimes takes decades to fix. That said, it is clear that Climate is God‘s gift to humanity, animal kingdom and plants diversity equally. But indiscriminate exploitation of nature by humans has staked climate and future of bio-diversity. When there are lack of coherence thinking among nations, individual and generations toward taking steps to mitigate issues of climate change, there comes following ethical discussions:
(1.) Individual‘s ethics: Individual based on the nation they are born in maintains a lifestyle and emit GHG per capita. for ex In developed nations per capita GHG emission is around 50 times more than some underdeveloped nations per capita emission. This shows stark difference in life style. Individual must take it as their responsibility to minimise the emission and waste management. Because, rich people are more capable to do more harm to nature, they must share more moral responsibility to lower their Carbon footprint.
(2.) Nations ethics: Developed nations must take responsibility for knowledge/ technological sharing toward developing nations so that they can achieve economic prosperity following lesser polluting path. As developed nations are already economically saturated with history of vast pollution, they must phase out pollution. But with the thinking of “tragedy of commons” which says that, because climate is commonly shared hence, doing lesser pollution will not benefit them similarly doing high pollution will not harm them. This is ethically wrong. This is the same reason US has never ratified Kyoto Protocol and found reluctant to give any concrete and progressive commitment toward lesser pollution.
(3.) Generations Ethics: It is our duty to give better future to coming generation and not the climate with uncertainty, drought, flood, diseases and food insecurity. But the current generation always find it ethical in individual perspective for ex. every parents wash vegetables and fruits before feeding to their children but same people do climatic harmful act outside their house like using multiple cars, not going paperless, more demanding in all terms leads to depletion of natural resources. This is because a person fails to see the effect of their present actions in future as they lack vision and foresight.
Climate is nature‘s public good. It has to be passed in same or improved way to coming generation.


Is the war initiated against the Islamic State by the United States ethical? Substantiate with suitable arguments. (150 Words)
Killing a person is never ethical so as the war. But when the other person becomes a threat to someone’s existence than killing or war in self-defense to an extent is justified.
In the similar sense with the recent growth of ISIS as the most powerful, wealthiest terrorist organization in the world who poses a great threat to the world order and peace including the United States who is on the hot targets for the ISIS. Therefore to safeguard the country and its citizens attacking ISIS can be judged as ethical. But attacking ISIS which have its foothold in Iraq and Syria infringes on sovereignty and territorial integrity of the respective countries poses an ethical question that whether it is right to infringe on the above said parameters .But when these countries are not able to contain the ISIS and if this continues then the terrorist organization can spread its foothold in neighboring countries which will further increase the risk.
Further there are some civilians also being killed in the airstrikes along with loss of infrastructure which creates an economic problem for these countries. In this  perspective it raises an ethical question of loss of innocent lives and infrastructure in the airstrikes but if the ISIS is not being targeted and allowed to flourish then it can result in more killings by the terrorist organization along with impacting the economy as evident from the occupation of oil blocks in Iraq.
Therefore for larger interest of the world community attacks on the ISIS can be justified as ethical but it is required to have proper intelligence about the terrorists before striking in order to increase efficiency and decrease civilian life loss. Active support from the regional powers can come handy here



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