(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)
Part of: GS Prelims and GS – III – Environment; Sci & Tech
- Genome Mapping in Indian Ocean shall be taken up by Scientists from the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO), Panaji, Goa.
- Onboard research vessel Sindhu Sadhana, the team will traverse over 10,000 nautical miles in the Indian Ocean to reveal the internal working of the ocean at a cellular level.
- It is the first-of-its-kind research project in India.
- Objective: Understanding the biochemistry and the response of the ocean to climate change, nutrient stress and increasing pollution.
- Duration: 3 years
Part of: GS Prelims and GS-I – Culture
- In March 2001, the Taliban began blowing up two monumental Buddha statues in Afghanistan’s Bamiyan Valley.
- Now, 20 years later, on the anniversary of the annihilation, the Bamiyan Buddhas have been brought back to life in the form of 3D projections in an event called “A Night With Buddha”.
Important value additions
- The Bamiyan Buddhas were great examples of a confluence of Gupta, Sassanian and Hellenistic artistic styles.
- They are said to date back to the 5th century AD.
- They were once the tallest standing Buddhas in the world.
- They were called by the locals Salsal and Shamama.
- Salsal means “light shines through the universe”; Shamama is “Queen Mother”.
- UNESCO included the remains in its list of world heritage sites in 2003
- Efforts have been made to restore and reconstruct the Buddhas in their niches with the pieces available.
- It is situated in the high mountains of the Hindu Kush in the central highlands of Afghanistan.
- The valley is set along the line of the Bamiyan River.
- It was once integral to the early days of the Silk Roads, providing passage for merchants, culture, religion and language.
Part of: GS Prelims and GS – II – International Relations
- Bilateral meeting between the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) was held virtually.
- Both space agencies reviewed cooperation in earth observation, lunar cooperation and satellite navigation.
- They also agreed to explore opportunities for cooperation in space situational awareness and professional exchange programmes.
- Both agencies signed an Implementing Arrangement for collaborative activities on rice crop area and air quality monitoring using satellite data.
Part of: GS Prelims and GS – II – International Relations
- The BRICS Contact Group on Economic and Trade Issues (CGETI) held their first meeting under India’s Chairship from 9-11 March 2021.
- Theme: BRICS@15: Intra BRICS Cooperation for Continuity, Consolidation, and Consensus.
- The deliverables proposed are on: (1) BRICS Cooperation on Multilateral Trading system including cooperation for the TRIPS Waiver proposal at WTO; (2) Framework for Consumer Protection in E-Commerce; (3) Non-Tariff Measures (NTM) Resolution Mechanism; (4) Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary (SPS) etc.
- BRICS is the acronym for five nations: Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.
Part of: GS Prelims and GS – II – Policies and interventions; Welfare schemes
- Mera Ration Mobile App was launched recently.
- Ministry: Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution
- Target audience: For the benefit of those ration card holders who move to new places in search of livelihood.
- At present 32 States and Union Territories are covered under One Nation One Ration Card (ONORC).
- At present, the system covers nearly 69 Crore National Food Security Act- NFSA beneficiaries in the country.
Part of: GS Prelims and GS – II – Judiciary
- The Supreme Court has held that independent persons and not bureaucrats should be appointed as State Election Commissioners.
- Giving government employees the additional charge of State Election Commissioners is a “mockery of the Constitution”.
- It directed that the States should appoint independent persons as Election Commissioners all across India.
Important value additions
- Article 243K deals with the Elections to the Panchayats.
- It states that The superintendence, direction and control of the preparation of electoral rolls for, and the conduct of, all elections to the Panchayats shall be vested in a State Election Commission.
- It shall consist of a State Election Commissioner to be appointed by the Governor.
- The conditions of service and tenure of office of the State Election Commissioner shall be such as the Governor may by rule determine.
- The State Election Commissioner shall not be removed from his office except in like manner and on the like ground as a Judge of a High Court.
- The conditions of service of the State Election Commissioner shall not be varied to his disadvantage after his appointment.
- Indian Navy’s third stealth Scorpene class Submarine INS Karanj has been commissioned at the Naval Dockyard Mumbai.
- The Scorpene Submarines are one of the most advanced conventional submarines in the world.
- More deadly and stealthier than their predecessors, these submarines are equipped with potent weapons and sensors to neutralise any threat above or below the sea surface.
- The India – Uzbekistan joint military exercise “DUSTLIK II” commenced in Foreign Training Node Chaubatia, Ranikhet (Uttarakhand).
- Both contingents will be sharing their expertise and skills in the field of counter terrorist operations in mountainous/rural/urban scenario under UN mandate.
- This is the Second Edition of annual bilateral joint exercise of both armies.
- GS-2: India and its neighborhood- relations.
- GS-2: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests
Context: The Joe Biden administration has proposed a new peace plan to the Afghan government and the Taliban, seeking to bring violence to a halt and form an interim government.
What is the American proposal?
- Involving other Stakeholders: US has proposed a UN-led conference of representatives of Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran, India and the U.S. “to discuss a unified approach to support peace in Afghanistan”.
- Written Proposal to enhance Trust: US will share written proposals with the Afghan leadership and the Taliban to accelerate talks.
- Comprehensive Ceasefire and Inclusive government: US has urged both sides to reach a consensus on Afghanistan’s future constitutional and governing arrangements; find a road map to a new “inclusive government”; and agree on the terms of a “permanent and comprehensive ceasefire”.
- Negotiations in third country: US has also proposed a senior level meeting of the Afghan government and the Taliban in Turkey to discuss power sharing, reduction of violence and other specific goals.
Why the U.S. is making this peace push?
- Review of Strategy: The Biden administration is currently reviewing its Afghan strategy. While the review is not completed, there is a consensus within the administration that “accelerating the peace process” is the best way to advance the shared interests of the U.S. and the Afghan government.
- Doha Agreement (US Withdrawal plan): According to the agreement the U.S. signed with the Taliban in February 2020, American troops – currently some 2,500 troops are in Afghanistan – are set to leave the country by May 1. The Taliban have warned that if the U.S. troops are not out by the deadline, they will step up fighting.
- Slow pace of peace talks: The Taliban and the Afghan government started peace talks in Doha in September 2020 but reached no breakthrough. The Biden administration is concerned about the slow pace of the talks.
- Restraining Taliban and Regional Stability: The U.S. assessment is that if American troops are pulled out of Afghanistan, the Taliban would make quick gains and the security situation will worsen. It hopes that the best way to prevent a complete Taliban takeover is a regional peace process and an interim unity government. The Taliban are yet to respond to America’s proposal.
What is the Afghan government’s stand?
- Critical of US’s direct talks with Taliban: The Ghani administration has consistently been critical of the U.S.’s direct outreach to the Taliban. The Trump administration held direct talks with the Taliban, excluding the government. Later, US put pressure on Kabul to release Taliban prisoners as part of Doha agreement.
- Against making concession to Taliban: Even when the Doha talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government were under way, Mr. Ghani made it clear that he, as elected President, is the only legitimate representative of the Afghan people and he resisted making concessions to the Taliban.
- Democratic Process and Internal Interference: President Ghani reiterated his opposition to any transfer of power except through elections. Afghanistan Vice President Amrullah Saleh, a hardline critic of the Taliban, said the U.S. “can make a decision on their troops, not on the people of Afghanistan”.
- While the Afghan government’s opposition to sharing power with the Taliban is well known, it is not clear whether Mr. Ghani could continue to resist American pressure, especially if the U.S. brings regional powers, including India, on board.
- If the US decides to stick to the Taliban deal and withdraw troops by May, Mr. Ghani would be in a tougher spot. He doesn’t have any good options. If he rejects the American offer, the war will continue forever.
- The Taliban have already taken over much of the country’s hinterlands and are breathing down the neck of its cities.
- If Afghanistan President Ghani accepts the proposal, he will have to share power with the Taliban and discuss amendments to the Constitution and the future governance framework.
- Either way, the Taliban are set to make gains.
Connecting the dots:
- India’s projects in Afghanistan – Salma Dam
- Moral impact of deal on anti-India terrorist groups
- GS-3: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth, development and employment.
- GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation
Context: In December 2020, a three-member tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Netherlands ruled against India in its long-running tax dispute with the U.K.-based oil and gas company Cairn Energy Plc and a subsidiary, Cairn UK Holdings Ltd. The tribunal ordered India to pay about $1.4 billion to the company.
Action by Cairn:
- Cairn Energy has successfully moved courts in five countries- The Netherlands, France, Canada, USA and UK, to recognise its claim as per the arbitration award.
- Such a recognition by courts opens the door for Cairn Energy to seize assets of the Indian government in these jurisdictions by way of enforcing its claim, in case the latter doesn’t pay its dues.
What is the case about?
- The year in reference, 2006-07, was one in which big corporate changes and developments took place in Cairn Energy.
- It was the year in which it not only undertook a corporate reorganisation, but also floated an Indian subsidiary, Cairn India, which in early 2007 got listed on the Indian bourses.
- Through the corporate reorganisation process, Cairn Energy had transferred all of its India assets, which were until then held by nine subsidiaries in various countries, to the newly-formed Cairn India.
- But the tax authorities claimed that in the process of this reorganisation, Cairn Energy had made capital gains worth ₹24,500 crore. This, the department asserted, was the basis of the tax demand of 1.6 billions USD.
- In 2011, the U.K.-based Vedanta Resources bought a nearly 60% stake in Cairn India. In fact, four years after this, Cairn India received a tax notice for not withholding tax for the gains ascribed to its former parent company.
What happened after the tax claims in the Cairn Energy dispute?
- After receiving a draft assessment order from the tax authorities, Cairn UK Holdings Ltd. appealed before the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal. The tribunal, while providing the company relief from back-dated interest demands, however, upheld the main tax demand.
- The company had initiated proceedings of arbitration under the U.K.-India bilateral investment treaty.
- But during this time, “the government sold Cairn’s almost 5% holding in Vedanta Ltd” (the residual stake the firm owned after selling Cairn India), “seized dividends totalling ₹1,140 crore due to it from those shareholdings”, and “set off a ₹1,590-crore tax refund against the demand”.
What was the main argument of Cairn Energy during the arbitration?
- The claimants, Cairn Energy and Cairn UK Holdings, argued that till the amendment was made to tax retrospectively in 2012, there was no tax on indirect transfers (transfer by a non-resident of shares in non-Indian companies which indirectly held assets in India).
- They also said the government had approved the 2006 reorganisation.
- The application of the 2012 amendments, they alleged, constituted manifest breaches of the U.K.-India bilateral investment treaty.
What was India’s defence during the arbitration?
- India’s counter to the main charge of Cairn Energy was that its 2006 transactions were taxable irrespective of the 2012 amendments.
- It argued that “Indian law has long permitted taxation where a transaction has a strong economic nexus with India”.
- It said even if it is retrospective, it is “valid and binding applying the longstanding constitutional, legislative and legal framework in which the claimants have invested”.
What did the arbitration tribunal rule?
- The tribunal said the tax demand violated the U.K.-India bilateral investment treaty. The tribunal said India “failed to accord Cairn Energy’s investments fair and equitable treatment” under the bilateral protection pact it had with the United Kingdom.
- It also ordered India to compensate Cairn Energy and its subsidiary for “the total harm suffered” as a result of the breaches of the treaty.
It has been reported in the media that India will appeal against the tribunal’s decision.
Connecting the dots:
(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)
Model questions: (You can now post your answers in comment section)
- Correct answers of today’s questions will be provided in next day’s DNA section. Kindly refer to it and update your answers.
- Comments Up-voted by IASbaba are also the “correct answers”.
Q.1 Bamiyan Valley is situated in which of the following country?
Q.2 Consider the following statements regarding Bamiyan Buddhas:
- They are great examples of a confluence of Gupta, Sassanian and Hellenistic artistic styles.
- UNESCO included their remains in its list of world heritage sites in 2003
Which of the above is or are correct?
- 1 only
- 2 only
- Both 1 and 2
- Neither 1 nor 2
Q.3 Which of the following article deals with State Election Commission?
- Article 243K
- Article 240K
- Article 244K
- Article 217
ANSWERS FOR 13th March 2021 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)
On reservation debate:
On QUAD and India’s interests:
On cybercrime threats from China: