All Newspaper editorials in one place – January 16, 2024



January 16, 2024




January 16, 2024

Politics of diplomacy

Maldives reported deadline to remove Indian troops deserves Delhi’s attention. But an outsize reaction must be avoided


SINCE THE ELECTION of Mohamed Muizzu as president, Maldives has undoubtedly been moving away from India and closer to China. The China-Maldives joint statement at the end of Muizzu’s visit bears testimony to their bonhomie. The trip saw barely veiled references to India’s “bullying”. Then on Sunday, Ahmed Nazim, policy director at the Maldives President’s office reportedly said that the “Maldivian delegation” at the first India-Maldives High-Level Core Group meeting “proposed the removal of Indian troops by March 15”. The deadline did not find a mention in the official statements by the foreign offices of the two countries. The statement, coming as it does on the heels of the controversy over the juvenile remarks by Maldivian ministers about Prime Minister Modi’s Lakshadweep visit, deserves attention. But an outsize reaction must be avoided.


Muizzu’s turn to Beijing may seem like a decisive shift but it is of a piece with the political see-saw in Male, which has had an unfortunate effect on the country’s external orientation. Muizzu’s predecessor, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, was seen as being pro-India and the current president ran on an “India out” campaign. The withdrawal of Indian troops from the country was a poll promise, more political than strategic – India reportedly has less than 90 soldiers in Maldives. Solih’s predecessor Abdulla Yameen tilted towards Beijing. The fact that India plays a significant role in Maldivian politics should not be surprising. Militarily, economically and strategically, India looms large over its neighbours. Some aspects of India’s internal politics — expansionist rhetoric, conflating religion and illegal migration during polls — too can make many in the neighbourhood uncomfortable and be used to whip up sentiments by those seeking power. Social media jingoism and calls for boycotting a smaller neighbour do not help matters.


How should Delhi react to the Muizzu government’s snubs? The answer is clear and was framed by External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar on Saturday:”… politics is politics,” he said and added that “it can’t be guaranteed that every country will support or agree with India every time.” Smaller countries like Maldives will do their best to leverage the rivalries among greater powers—in this case, India and China. What makes the current “India Out” push disturbing is the all-or-nothing approach. There seems to be little recognition of the realities of geography or convergent interests. The fact remains that Maldives is a mere 700 km from the Indian coast and over 6,000 km from China. From the tsunami in 2004 to the drinking water crisis a decade later, India was the first to rush to the Maldivians’ aid. At the same time, China’s strategic interests in the Indian Ocean make smaller littoral states perfect targets for Beijing’s diplomatic outreach. Delhi must continue to engage with Male, as well as the people of Maldives. As the regional power, it need not be thin-skinned.




January 16, 2024


Delhi’s persistent pollution crisis frames the need for an all year plan for clean air. So far, mechanisms are failing


DELHI’S PROBLEMS WITH poor air quality usually attract attention during late autumn, especially in the run-up to, and after, Diwali. That’s when stubble burning is at its peak in the states neighbouring the NCR. However, data shows that good or even moderately satisfactory air eludes the capital’s residents for most parts of the year, especially in winter. This season has been particularly harsh for the city’s residents this year, bringing back memories of 2016 when the Delhi government was forced to implement the odd-even scheme of road rationing at the Supreme Court’s directive. On Sunday, Delhi registered severe on the AQI register. The Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM) — the Union government pollution monitoring agency set up in 2021 — has resorted to a familiar set of measures. It has brought back the ban on the construction and BS-III petrol and BS-IV diesel four-wheelers. These measures might provide temporary relief. But from the history of the NCR’s pollution crisis, one thing is clear — Delhi, and most Indian cities, need an all year action plan to improve air quality.


There is now considerable information on the variables linked to the capital’s pollution. But data is only an enabler — it can facilitate action. The CAQM is mandated to do that. But the agency has functioned more like a regulator whose primary responsibility is to implement the Graded Action Response Plan, which comes into play when bad air becomes an emergency. At times, the Commission has taken stock of measures to control dust in the capital. It needs to do more. CAQM hasn’t, for instance, developed a synergy between the different bodies whose work is crucial to ensure that residents in the capital and its neighbourhood breathe clean air—the Delhi government, CPCB, the city’s transport department and emission monitoring outfits in the NCR.


In 2019, the government launched the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) to reduce pollution by 20-30 percent by2024 compared to 2017. In 2022, the programme’s goalposts were shifted—40 percent reduction in pollution by2026. Most independent studies show that progress under NCAP has been slow and at best incremental. Last month, the Centre told Parliament that cities in Delhi-NCR have utilised less than 40 per cent of the funds allocated to curb air pollution. The omissions are clearly at multiple levels. Measures to improve matters, even when they have been made, are not showing results.





January 16, 2024

Rebel with a raga

Prabha Atre questioned tradition, but also explored it through her music


IN THE EARLY 1970s, when the world of Hindustani classical music was swept by the Kishori Amonkar wave, an HMV record, Night Melodies by Prabha Atre, a 43-year-old singer from Pune, made a splash. Comprising three presentations – Raag Maru Bihag, Raag Kalavati and a thumri in Mishra Khamaj — that cut across gharanas, the record struck a chord with classical music enthusiasts across the country. The piece de resistance was a bandish in Raag Kalavati, Tan man dhan, which has become one of the raga’s most popular renditions – much like Kishori Amonkar’s stellar presentation of another specimen of night music, Raag Bhoop.


Atre, the Kirana gharana doyenne and among the more progressive Hindustani classical music artistes passed away in Pune at 91, just before she was to leave for Mumbai for a concert. She spent her life not just upholding the classical tradition but also questioning it. Describing the idea of singing a raga at a particular time as redundant, Atre didn’t want to live in the inwardly world of sadhana alone. Riyaaz mattered, but so did her audience. She also liked delineating a raga through the use of sargam, considered declasse in die serious world of Hindustani khayal gayaki—also the topic of her PhD thesis.


After questioning the system — like Amonkar and Kumar Gandharva — Atre decided to speak about it through her books, conversations, performances and lectures, riling many musicians and critics. She was called a rebel. Born to teacher parents, with no musicians or interest in music in the family, Atre’s singing talent was discovered by her father’s friend, who took her to Mumbai to learn from Sureshbabu Mane, Ustad Abdul Karim Khan’s son. After his unforeseen death, his sister, the legendary Hirabai Barodekar took over. A science and law graduate, Atre had a long stint with the AIR, before heading the SNDT University’s music department, where she flipped the music curriculum, allowing students to explore various genres. “Why should they stick to only classical music,” she’d ask.





January 16, 2024

Iran, Also Ran

Jaishankar’s visit is useful. But New Delhi’s key interests in West Asia don’t now include Tehran


Foreign minister Jaishankar’s parleys with the Iranian leadership yesterday indicate a willingness to revive Indian interests in the Islamic republic. That Jaishankar began his trip by meeting the Iranian roads and urban development minister – where discussions revolved around Chabahar port and the International North South Transport Corridor – shows that the focus is back on infrastructure cooperation. However, coming against the backdrop of Houthi disruptions to Red Sea shipping, New Delhi-Tehran ties have already entered tricky waters.


Lost ground | Bilateral ties nosedived after India reduced Iranian oil imports to zero following US pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal and reimposing full raft of sanctions against Tehran. This even impacted Chabahar although the project was exempt from sanctions. At one point India couldn’t find ship-to-shore crane suppliers for the strategic port.


China’s expanding presence | Meanwhile, China ramped up its ties with Iran by inking a 25-year comprehensive cooperation agreement. Beijing has also been buying Iranian oil despite US sanctions. This new synergy between Beijing and Tehran creates substantial obstacles for New Delhi-Tehran ties.


Afghan recalibration | Add to this the chaotic US withdrawal from Afghanistan that left India in a tight spot. New Delhi had banked on a modus vivendi between Washington and Tehran to protect its Afghan strategic interests. But with the termination of the Iran nuclear deal and US hightailing from Afghanistan, India’s plans were quashed.


Arab-Israeli orbit | Simultaneously, India’s ties with Gulf Arab nations have dramatically improved. And with some Arab nations normalising relations with Israel – a key Indian partner – this trend has strengthened. Platforms like I2U2 (India, Israel, US and UAE) further align New Delhi’s interests with Sunni Arab West Asia.


Navigating fault lines | India, therefore, is caught between Iran’s ‘Axis of Resistance’ on one hand and the US-Israel-Arab partnership on the other hand. And despite the China-mediated Saudi-Iran deal last year, the war in Gaza and the situation with Houthis show the two West Asia rivals remain far apart.


Converging interests | But given the modernisation drive in Gulf Arab states, Israel’s economy and growing India-US strategic partnership, New Delhi’s interests lie here. Iran won’t get off sanctions soon and is locked in partnership with China and Russia. While it helps New Delhi to not completely burn bridges with Tehran – Tehran needs New Delhi to balance Beijing – the two countries will remain on divergent paths in the near future.





January 16, 2024

Second Class

Autonomy in decision-making for Indian women is a rare privilege. Blame our social structure


That it’s a disadvantage to be a woman in India in general is no secret. It’s also a subject widely discussed by pundits but there are always questions about the extent of disadvantage. A recent survey on financial independence of women by DBS and Crisil provides one kind of answer.


The 0.5% | The survey said that the demographic where a majority of respondents had independence in making financial decisions are women over 45 years or the ones who earn more than ₹40 lakh a year. The income threshold stands out because it represents less than five of every 1,000 I-T returns filed in 2021-22. Therefore, only women who are part of the elite 0.5% income earners enjoy autonomy in financial decision-making.


Tip of the iceberg | To earn an income, women have to be a part of the workforce. India fares poorly here. World Bank data showed that only 25% of women in the working age population were part of the workforce, less than half the global average in 2021.


Costs of immobility | Reasons for women being kept out of the workforce are complex. But one social factor stands out. A study by Mehta and Rai in Patna, Dhanbad and Varanasi found that younger women in households, daughters-in-law, were the least mobile. Relatively speaking, mobility outside their neighbourhood faced greater restrictions. In their prime, women typically face more obstacles to maximising their potential.


Don’t just blame the state | Governments have contributed to immobility by failing to ensure adequate safety in public places. But to circle back to the survey, if women have to be part of a thin sliver of earners to enjoy greater autonomy in decision-making, the problem lies within social structures. India must change.





January 16, 2024

Are Microsofts the New Apple of AI?

Investors should wait for applications to emerge


Microsoft piercing through Apple’s market cap last week stokes the debate on whether AI is creating an investment bubble. The frenetic rise in US tech stocks for the better part of 2023 makes it a likely scenario. AI represents a new asset class, without precedence for valuation. There is consensus among investors and technology leaders that AI is the next big thing. And returns of the stocks that are pioneering AI — Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet, Amazon, Nvidia and Meta Platforms — are being unanchored from earnings. But there is no retail investor frenzy yet. Even at its current lofty valuation, Microsoft is trading at less than half of its peak during the dotcom bubble. Besides, the capitalisation seesaw between Apple and Microsoft is weighed down by iPhone sales in China as much as it is by the latter’s big bet on OpenAI.


The concentration of investor investment is tracking the spread of AI. The diffusion rate of the tech serves to prick excessive build-up of investor interest in companies that are driving horizontal AI that has economy-wide application. As of now, capital is piling up with the pioneers. But it should move as adapters, enablers and disruptors emerge. Generative AI’s productivity-enhancement capabilities will become clearer as smaller companies adapt LLMs for industry-specific use cases. An ecosystem of startups will grow out of the need to tailor AI for individual applications. This will draw new players that will innovate to disrupt legacy industries. Then, there will be the leaders and laggards in AI adoption, which will create a new basket of opportunities for investors.


AI’s transformation potential is not in doubt. It’s just too early to see the needle-moving applications. Investors piling on to the wagon may gain by waiting for a few of those to appear on the scene. Revolutions, technological or otherwise, have a fat tail.





January 16, 2024

Five Years of Hazy Pollution Mitigation


Five years after GoI launched the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP), the results are a mixed bag. The programme is ambitious: a target of reducing pollutants in 131 cities by 40%, from 2017 by 2026. GoI signalled through NCAP that it recognised air pollution as a serious problem. Allocating around ₹10,000 crore was yet another sign that government meant business. Yet, it is the implementation that has lagged. To get back on track and meet the goals set for the next five years, GoI must revisit the way NCAP has been rolled out, and rectify shortcomings.


Getting back on track requires all 131 cities to determine pollution sources. However, only a third of cities — 44 — have undertaken any source apportionment. Without an idea of the sources of pollutants, it is not possible to devise a plan that is fit for purpose. This is a major gap that must be filled. Another required action is enhanced monitoring. While the programme has fallen behind on augmenting manual monitoring, it has surpassed its target for continuous ambient air quality monitors. Yes, more data is important. But it is not sufficient to guarantee improved air quality. Over the next five years, NCAP must promote an airshed approach to tackling the problem, as it has sought to do in Delhi, and focus on pushing multi-sectoral actions.


Improved air quality requires action across sectors resulting in multiple benefits. At an all-India level, traffic emissions account for 37% of pollutants. A cross-sectoral approach that includes putting in place an integrated mass public transport, improved fuel standards, uptake of EVs, improved roads, road-sweeping and increasing the use of non-motorised options, including walking, could address the issue. Poor air quality is a grave problem with implications across society and economy. India requires a more aggressive and all-of-economy approach, if it is to have clean, breathable air.



January 16, 2024





January 16, 2024

Power for all

Govt must address operational challenges


As reported by this newspaper on Monday, the government may set a deadline of March 2025 to achieve 24×7 electricity supply to households across the country. Notably, something close to 24×7 power has already been achieved, with an average of 23.5 hours of electricity being supplied to households in urban areas, and 22 hours or so to those in rural areas. However, this aggregate number conceals as much as it reveals. In certain parts of the country, the deficit is far more than two hours a day for much of the year. Closing the last remaining gap may be difficult as it will require much more than a technical or technocratic solution. The changes will need decision-makers to summon more political will than hitherto shown.


To be sure, the problem is no longer one of generation capacity. India’s total electricity production grew by almost nine per cent in 2022-23. On paper, the country’s capacity is by and large keeping pace even with the rapidly growing demand. The problem is twofold: At crucial times, including high summer, some forms of generation can drop out of the grid and others can face a shortage of raw material, causing broader shortfalls. To this must be added the perpetual problem of intermediation: While generation is sufficient and distribution has reached most parts, the distribution companies (discoms) and state boards are failing in the task of mediating between these two ends. Most regions where the last mile of electricity provision needs to be worked out in order to meet the government’s target of 24×7 power are also burdened with inefficient or debt-ridden discoms. In Uttar Pradesh, for example, discoms reported in filings to the state electricity regulatory commission last year that they had accumulated losses of about Rs.70,000 crore and would further have underrecoveries of Rs.11,000 crore to ~12,000 crore in 2024-25. Ensuring uninterrupted power supply would require investment and capacity that such burdened discoms simply cannot provide.


The government is hoping, no doubt, to create structures that would allow them to bypass such problems. One such solution is smart meters, which is part of the Revamped Distribution Sector Scheme. This might allow increasing discoms’ ability to target paying consumers, for example, through pre-payment mechanisms. Meanwhile, the proposed modifications to the Electricity Act are supposed to nudge state electricity regulators to license additional discoms in parallel to existing ones. The hope is that better last-mile identification and competition in the distribution space will allow amelioration of political economy problems associated with paying for power. Once individuals who want to pay for uninterrupted power are able to do so with ease, the system will be able to provide them with that service. This is sound in theory, but if the government wanted to have it in place by March 2025, it should have taken such steps years ago. It would still be important, however, to reform discoms in states and get the pricing policy right to achieve the target. Sustained losses make it difficult for discoms to make necessary investments. As India moves more towards renewable power, investments would be required to manage the transition and ensure uninterrupted supply of power from different sources.





January 16, 2024

Taiwan in the balance

Election results complicate global diplomacy


The US and Europe have hailed Taiwan’s recent elections, but a closer look at the results suggests that global diplomacy has become much more complicated. These elections took place against the backdrop of Beijing’s aggressive reiteration of its One China Policy. On January 13, Taiwan’s anti-China ruling party, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), registered a historic third consecutive victory, with voters defying warnings from Beijing in the form of military escalation across the Taiwan Straits, spy balloons, economic coercion and disinformation. There are two points of concern for countries that seek to balance relations between China, the world’s manufacturing powerhouse, and Taiwan, the global technology powerhouse. First, DPP’s Lai Ching-te has won 40 per cent of the vote, compared with the 57 per cent that the former president from his party won in the last elections. A third party, the Taiwan People’s Party (TPP), split the vote with the traditional Opposition, the Kuomintang (KMT). Significantly, both the TPP and the KMT seek closer engagement with China within the rubric of a separate identity for Taiwan (the differences on this issue are those of degree). Second, for the first time in 20 years, there is no clear majority in the Legislative Assembly, adding a further problematic dimension not just to domestic policy but also to Taipei’s relations with China.


Beijing has, predictably, rejected the results of Taiwan’s elections as being unrepresentative of the island’s mainstream opinion. The major world powers, all of whom have strong economic ties and unofficial diplomatic relations with Taipei, are preparing to recalibrate the delicate balancing act they maintain between the two countries. The US, France, Germany and the UK were careful to praise the outcome of the democratic process in Taiwan, while at the same time underwriting their diplomatic posture of support for the One China policy by expressing the hope that Taiwan and People’s Republic of China would resolve their differences amicably. These positions reflect the effort to seek balance between two facts of global economic life: The world’s continuing dependence on China as a global factory, and Taiwan’s dominance of the semiconductor industry. The latter produces almost 70 per cent of the world’s semiconductors and over 90 per cent of the advanced chips that power everything from defence equipment and artificial intelligence technologies to smartphones.


For India, the engagement with post-election Taiwan is likely to stretch the diplomatic tightrope. In light of New Delhi’s traditional support of the One China policy, India does not have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, but the country maintains people-to-people and trade ties. These relations have gathered momentum under the present government — both as a response to intensified Chinese aggression on India’s northern and eastern borders and Taiwan’s desire to explore India as an investment destination under the global impetus for a China-Plus-One strategy. Under the production-linked incentive scheme, Apple Inc’s key Taiwanese vendors already assemble smartphones in India. New Delhi is keen to expand on this by getting Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corporation, the world’s largest manufacturer, to set up a plant. Taiwan on its part has indicated that it is keen to conclude a free trade agreement. With the latest elections appearing to weaken China-scepticism in Taiwan, and given signs of Beijing-Washington rapprochement, these nascent moves by New Delhi and Taipei are likely to be tested in new ways too.





January 16, 2024

Tensions in Red Sea

Exporters face an uncertain future as disruption to shipping shows signs of getting protracted


THE POSSIBILITY OF India’s trade flows being seriously impacted by the disruption to shipping on the Red Sea is definitely not good news. There are heightened concerns as the attacks on container shipments by Iran-backed Yemeni Houthi forces are continuing—despite the efforts of a US-led multinational patrol force—on the route to and from the Suez Canal which is the quickest way for goods to transit between Asia and Europe. Even on Monday, US shot down an anti-ship cruise missile towards an American destroyer. The Suez Canal accounts for 3 0% of all container ship traffic and is a vital conduit for crude oil shipments. A ball-park estimate of the hit to the country’s exports provided by the think-tank Research and Information System for Developing Countries to Bloomberg is around $ 30 billion, which implies a drop of 6.7% based on total exports of $451 billion last fiscal. Due to the ongoing targeting of shipping vessels, India’s exporters face the prospects of a surge in container rates as they reroute their vessels around Africa via the Cape of Good Hope which inflate costs as journeys take two weeks longer.


For such reasons, Indian exporters expect freight rates to go up by as much as 25% and insurance premiums to rise if the disruptions continue for much longer. The freight costs of India’s basmati rice exports to countries around the Red Sea have jumped from $ 600 per 20-tonne container to $2,000 given the rising risks. Textile and apparel exporters have started witnessing an increase in transit time and a rise in freight costs. Sensing delays, exporters are even exploring cargo flights to bypass the tensions on the trade route. However, a positive development is that no exporter has so far reported a shortage of containers which was expected due to longer vessel journeys. Another is that exporters have not yet faced demands for re-negotiation of contracts or discounts or even cancellations. Overall, the threat to shipping in the Red Sea has pushed exporters to hold back around 25% of their outbound shipments, according to Ajay Sahai, director general of the Federation of Indian Export Organizations.


Amidst these concerns, the fact that the Red Sea disruption hasn’t impacted India’s energy supplies should be welcomed. Only a few vessels carrying crude and fuels to India have been diverted via the Horn of Africa to avoid the Red Sea. The possibility of supply disruption is relatively less as India sourced around a third of its oil requirements from Russia that was shipped through the Red Sea last December according to ship-tracking data from Kpler. The Houthis have not attacked such consignments. More consequential for India is that less than half of its supplies were sourced from West Asia through the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz through which a fifth of global oil supplies passes through daily.


This could become a problem only if Iran becomes directly involved as risks rapidly escalate of the current conflict spilling over from Israel to Lebanon and Syria and retaliates by blockading the Strait. All bets then are off as oil prices would zoom and adversely impact the energy import-dependent Indian economy. Fortunately, that dismal scenario has not come to pass. But for now, India confronts the prospect of its exports being impacted due to trade re-routing at a time its overall shipments face global headwinds. This does not augur well for its growth story.




January 16, 2024

Canals not the biggest shipping chokepoints


MORE THAN A quarter of goods transport passes through a 2 5 -mile wide stretch of water that separates Indonesia to the southwest from Singapore and Malaysia to the northeast, known as the Malacca Strait. By value, the 27.9% of merchandise sent around the world that traverses this body of water far exceeds the 16.6% that move along the Suez Canal in Egypt, according to research by Professor Lincoln Pratson at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment.


In a paper published last month in the journal Communications in Transportation Research, Pratson painstakingly details trade patterns, shipping routes and the shortest paths across the oceans to assess the potential impact of closing any of the 13 chokepoints he identified around the world. He used 2019 data as that’s the most recent year in which trade could be considered “normal” before Covid-19 disrupted global commerce, and ran the analysis on commerce between non-neighbouring countries because those that share a border are likely to use land routes.


Around 1,000 miles northeast of the Malacca Strait, swathes of the South China Sea are claimed by no less than seven nations, making military conflict the most obvious risk. “The chokepoints estimated to carry the most trade in terms of both total value and total weight are the Malacca Strait and South China Sea,” Pratson writes.


The South China Sea alone carries trade equivalent to 5% of global GDP, which would make it the fourth-largest economy in the world.


Exactly how much trade transits the South China Sea is a much-debated point The Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies estimated the value at $ 3.4 trillion for 2016,36% less than other assessments for the same time period. Pratson puts it at $4.1 trillion for 2019,with $3.9 trillion going via the Malacca Strait. There’s some overlap, because goods pass through multiple sea lanes on the way to their final destination.


When the Ever Given cargo ship shut down the Suez Canal three years ago, it added around nine days to a Taiwan-Netherlands trip, Pratson notes, with the cost to global trade climbing close to $ 10 billion per day. The 20-mile wide Ombai Strait, 7,000 miles away—between Indonesia’s Alor Island and Timor—would suffer a 90% drop in traffic from a Suez closure. Even the Gibraltar Strait that separates Europe and Africa — 2,000 miles northwest of the Suez — would lose 2 8% of shipping flows, by value.


More than 20%, by value, of all mechanical machinery, electrical equipment, mineral fuels like coal, gas and oil, and rare metals or minerals pass through the Malacca Strait. Similar figures apply to the South China Sea, while die East China Sea — connecting Taiwan with Japan, South Korea and China’s northeast—also ranks high. Each of these three passages surpass Panama and Suez, with only the English Channel and Gibraltar Strait holding similar importance. The risks to these Asian waterways needn’t be confined to war—currently impacting the Suez Canal as Houthi rebels fire missiles at ships passing through the adjoining Red Sea, and slowing trade through Turkey’s Bosporus Strait that takes traffic from the Black Sea where Ukraine is fending off a Russian invasion.


A drought, like the one that’s hurting Panama Canal flows, won’t dry up the South China Sea or Malacca Strait. But there’s a multitude of other disasters that could hit maritime transport. Think earthquakes and their resultant tsunamis, typhoons, which are common to the region, chemical spills and nuclear accidents that force ships to change course, or forest fires sending plumes of thick smoke across the waters, impacting navigation. What matters most is that the global system of logistics and transport, as it’s presently structured, is overly dependent on smooth and orderly flows in just a few of the world’s hotspots that make up a tiny fraction of the Earth’s surface. Just 21.5% of global trade does not pass through one of the 13 chokepoints.



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