(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)
Part of: Prelims and GS-II -International Relations and GS-III Defence and security
Context North Korea has successfully tested a hypersonic missile, in the first major weapons test by the nuclear-armed nation this year.
- This was the second reported test of hypersonic gliding missiles, as it pursues the sophisticated technology despite international sanctions and condemnation
What are hypersonic weapons?
- They are manoeuvrable weapons that can fly at speeds in excess of Mach 5, five times the speed of sound.
- The speed of sound is Mach 1, and speeds upto Mach 5 are supersonic and speeds above Mach 5 are hypersonic.
- Ballistic missiles, though much faster, follow a fixed trajectory and travel outside the atmosphere to re-enter only near impact.
- On the contrary, hypersonic weapons travel within the atmosphere and can manoeuvre midway which combined with their high speeds makes their detection and interception extremely difficult. This makes them very powerful.
- This means that radars and air defences cannot detect them till they are very close and have little time to react.
- There are two classes of hypersonic weapons: hypersonic glide vehicles (HGV) and hypersonic cruise missiles (HCM).
- HGVs are launched from a rocket before gliding to a target while HCMs are powered by high-speed, air-breathing engines, or scramjets, after acquiring their target.
Part of: Prelims and GS-II International Relations
Context China would appoint a special envoy to the Horn of Africa, signalling China’s intention to play a greater role in the conflict-torn region.
The Horn of Africa or HOA
- It is a peninsula situated in the northeast of the African continent.
- The HOA extends out into the Arabian Sea for hundreds of kilometres and is located along the south of the Gulf of Aden. This region is the easternmost projection of Africa.
- In ancient and medieval periods, the area was called Bilad al Barbar meaning land of the Berbers.
- The countries included in the HOA are Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti.
Part of: Prelims and GS-II – International Relations
Context Marking a major milestone in a strategic project in Sri Lanka, Indian Oil Corporation subsidiary Lanka IOC, Ceylon Petroleum Corporation and the Government of Sri Lanka have signed three lease agreements on jointly developing the Trincomalee oil tank farm in eastern Sri Lanka.
- The move firms up India’s role in the project discussed since the time of the Indo-Lanka Accord of 1987.
- Trincomalee is home to 3.7 lakh Muslim, Tamil and Sinhala people
- In Sri Lanka’s post-war years, it has emerged a favoured destination for surfers from around the world, gradually transforming with plush resorts and restaurants dotting its coast.
- At the same time, with its fine natural harbour and crucial location, Trincomalee remains in spotlight as a potential transit point for international trade routes, particularly drawing India which has known strategic interests there.
Part of: Prelims and GS II – International Relations
Context A Moscow-led military alliance dispatched troops to help calm mounting unrest in Kazakhstan as the police said dozens were killed trying to storm government buildings.
- Energy-rich Kazakhstan is facing its biggest crisis in decades after days of protests over rising fuel prices escalated into widespread unrest.
- Kazakhstan has been regarded as one the most stable of the ex-Soviet republics of Central Asia.
- Under increasing pressure, Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev appealed to the Russia-dominated Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) to combat “terrorist groups”.
Do you know?
- The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) is an intergovernmental military alliance in Eurasia that consists of select post-Soviet states.
- Membership: Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan.
- Headquarters: Moscow, Russia.
(News from PIB)
Anamalai Tiger Reserve: Tamil Nadu; lies South of the Palakkad gap in the Southern Western Ghats
- Anamalais, a bio-diversity hotspot in Western Ghats is a home for six different indigenous people viz. Malasar, Malai malasars, Kadars, Eravallars, Pulayars and Muduvars, and is fit to be designated as an anthropological reserve.
- Malai Malasars are a primitive tribal group endemic to Anamalais alone.
India’s first Open Rock Museum: Hyderabad
- Displays around 35 different types of rocks from different parts of India with ages ranging from 3.3 Billion years to around 55 Million years of the Earth’s history
- Represent the deepest part of the earth up to 175 kms of distance from the surface of the earth.
“Big Earth data” occupies the strategic high ground in the era of knowledge economies and India is fully exploiting this new frontier contributing to the advancement of Earth science.
News Source: PIB
A. MoU between India and Turkmenistan on Cooperation in the field of Disaster Management: Seeks to put in place a system, whereby both India and Turkmenistan will be benefited from the Disaster Management mechanisms of each other and it will help in strengthening the areas of preparedness, response and capacity building in the field of Disaster Management.
- Monitoring and forecasting emergencies and assessment of their consequences;
- Exchange of experts and experiences in disaster management;
- Providing assistance, as mutually agreed, in emergency response.
B. Agreement between India and Spain on Cooperation and Mutual Assistance in Customs Matters:
- Will help in making available, reliable, quick and cost-effective information and intelligence for the prevention and investigation of Customs offences and apprehending of Customs offenders.
- Provide a legal framework for sharing of information between the Customs authorities of the two countries and help in the proper administering of Customs laws and detection and investigation of Customs offences and the facilitation of legitimate trade.
C. MoU between India and Nepal for construction of bridge over Mahakali River at Dharchula (India) – Dharchula (Nepal)
Part of: Prelims and Mains GS-III: Infrastructure, Energy
In News: The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has approved the scheme on Green Energy Corridor (GEC) Phase-II for Intra-State Transmission System (InSTS) for addition of approximately 10,750 circuit kilometres (ckm) of transmission lines and approx. 27,500 Mega Volt-Amperes (MVA) transformation capacity of substations.
- Will facilitate grid integration and power evacuation of approximately 20 GW of Renewable Energy (RE) power projects in seven States namely, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh.
- Will help in achieving the target of 450 GW installed RE capacity by 2030.
- Contribute to long term energy security of the country and promote ecologically sustainable growth by reducing carbon footprint.
- Generate large direct & indirect employment opportunities for both skilled and unskilled personnel in power and other related sectors.
News Source: PIB
- GS-2: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests
- GS-2: India and its neighbourhood
Context: On January 3, five global nuclear powers, China, Russia, U.S., U.K., and France, pledged to prevent atomic weapons from spreading and avoid nuclear conflict.
- The joint statement was issued after the latest review of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which first came into force in 1970, was postponed from its scheduled date of January 4 to later in the year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
What has been the goal of the NPT?
- The primary goals of NPT has been
- Cessation of the nuclear arms race
- Working towards not just more peaceful uses of nuclear energy
- Complete nuclear disarmament.
- The NPT is joined by the Partial Test Ban Treaty (PTBT), the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT I and SALT II), the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaties (I and II), the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), and the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) among others. There’s clearly no dearth of treaties and agreements, and yet the situation hasn’t improved considerably.
- While the objectives of NPT may seem easy on paper, it has been anything but. While the ‘what’ and ‘why’ are fairly straightforward aspects of the treaty, the ‘how’ is where the real challenge lies.
- Nuclear competition among major powers could encourage states without nuclear weapons to acquire their own. An ideal way to solve this would be for all nuclear states to abandon their nuclear stockpile. This certainly hasn’t been the case.
- A more practical solution, which for the longest time did work, but now seems to be waning, is to go for nuclear deterrence among large powers and provide a nuclear umbrella to non-nuclear states.
What is the new danger to NPT?
- The hegemonic rise of China and its debt trapping tactics in order to gain access to the other country’s key infrastructure projects has led other countries within China’s immediate sphere of geographical influence to decide if they need to acquire or develop strategic capabilities to safeguard their security.
- Australia, through AUKUS, seems to be on a path to acquire nuclear capabilities for its naval fleet, in a bid to counter China. While this may seem like an effective counter to China’s aggressiveness in the Indo-Pacific, the ramifications could be severe as it sets a terrible precedent.
What do the numbers tell us?
- The optics within P5, while looking promising on paper, paint a different picture in reality.
- China’s current stockpile stands at around 350
- France’s at around 290
- Russia’s at around 6,257
- U.K.’s at around 225
- U.S.’s at around 5,600.
- While the difference between U.S.’s and Russia’s may look considerable, the operational stockpile of Russia is about 1,600 and for the U.S. it is about 1,650.
- Outside the P5,
- Pakistan possesses about 165
- India possesses about 160,
- Israel and North Korea either possess or have enough fissile material to build approximately 90 and approximately 45 weapons respectively.
- The world’s stockpile peaked during the 1980s and started to reduce considerably up until 2005.
- Since then, most of the reduction has come from the dismemberment of the retired stockpile.
- Development in technologies also means that the world keeps seeing new ways to deploy these nuclear weapons which is another worrying trend.
What lies ahead?
- With Australia already on the road to acquire nuclear capabilities, it stands to reason that other nations would work towards developing or acquiring nuclear weapons. This could, in principle, also re-ignite another arms race.
- The chequered history of nuclear weapons gives the impression that the NPT has not been entirely successful—but it hasn’t been an abject failure either.
- The impetus is on the major powers to stay on the path which the NPT has paved (even if a winding one) and signal commitment through its actions towards putting an end to the arms race and hopefully complete disarmament.
Connecting the dots:
- Indo-US nuclear deal
- AUKUS and India
- Nuclear Supplier Group & India
- GS-2: India and its neighbourhood
- GS-3: Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources
Context: Sri Lanka’s external reserves dropped to $1.6 billion in November 2021, triggering alarm in different quarters. Foreign reserves draining so rapidly could only mean that a sovereign default is imminent.
- American credit rating agency Fitch downgraded the island nation to a ‘CC’ rating, which is the lowest rating prior to default.
- Despite its mounting foreign debt over the years, Sri Lanka has never defaulted until now.
- The current economic meltdown – marked by a persisting dollar crisis, soaring living costs, and a possible food shortage this year – is threatening to dent that record.
What is the Sri Lankan Government’s response?
- Last week, the Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka said the country’s foreign reserves stood at $3.1 billion at year-end, apparently including the $1.5 billion currency swap cleared by China earlier this year.
- On January 5, 2022, Governor said the Central Bank has earmarked $500 million to repay an international sovereign bond maturing on January 18.
- The Rajapaksa administration has expressed confidence about being able to meet its debt obligations this year, despite its Balance of Payments problem.
- Meanwhile, Finance Minister on January 4 announced a $1.2 billion package for “economic relief” that includes a special allowance for government employees.
- The Government almost entirely blames the pandemic for the current crisis.
- It is true that all major revenue earning sectors of Sri Lanka – exports [mainly garments, tea and spices], tourism and inward worker remittances – were severely impacted by the pandemic, but some commentators argue that the pandemic only exacerbated an older crisis, didn’t create one.
What are the immediate challenges?
- Contrary to popular narratives, Sri Lanka’s external debt is dominated not by Chinese loans, but by market borrowings, by way of international sovereign bonds, which amount to nearly half of the country’s total foreign debt.
- Following the $500 million that the Government is preparing to repay later this month, another $1 billion is due for repayment in June.
- Meeting the repayment deadlines this year would mean that Sri Lanka might be left with no dollars to import essentials —be it food, fuel, or medical supplies.
- That too when the country may have to import more food this year, if agricultural production drops by half, as paddy farmers and tea growers widely predict, following the Government’s overnight switch to organic farming in May 2021.
- Already, there are frequent instances of consumers not finding milk powder – which is largely imported – and other essentials in the stores.
- A shortage of LPG cylinders persists, following a spate of explosions reportedly owing to a change in the chemical composition of the gas.
What are the options before Sri Lanka?
- The main political opposition, think tanks and most mainstream economists are advocating that Sri Lanka negotiate a programme with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), restructure its external debt, and mobilise bridging finance for the interim.
- But the Government maintains it can tide the crisis without resorting to an IMF loan and is counting on other options.
- IMF agreements usually come with specific conditions for the borrower, including greater transparency on how the money is spent. Transparency has never been a strong point of a Rajapaksa regime, as per critics.
- Those opposing the IMF route, argue that such a deal invariably entails austerity measures that will target social services and welfare programmes, further aggravating poverty that is growing since the pandemic.
Can India help?
- Sri Lanka has repeatedly sought financial assistance from India since the pandemic struck – by way of a debt freeze, a currency swap and more recently, emergency Lines of Credit for importing essentials.
- Government has reiterated that India “has always stood by” the Sri Lankan people, and Sri Lanka is an important part of India’s ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy.
Connecting the dots:
- India’s 1991 Balance of Payment Crisis
- Currency Swap Agreements
(Down to Earth: Agriculture)
Jan 3: Food security policy formulation: What can India learn from other countries? – https://www.downtoearth.org.in/blog/agriculture/food-security-policy-formulation-what-can-india-learn-from-other-countries–80936
- GS-2- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors
- GS-3- Agriculture
Context: The Indian food grain scenario has drastically changed in the last five-six decades: India was a food-deficit country in the 1960sand had to import food grain to feed its people.
- The situation was ship-to-mouth: The food grain unloaded from the ship at the port had to be sent to consumers in the shortest time possible.
- The situation is, however, no longer the same; there has been a substantial increase in food grain production.
- Both state and Union governments have enhanced access to food for vulnerable sections of the population with reasonable success.
But this is not it – we need to learn from international experiences to avoid falling into the same trap again. In this case, we should also learn what not to do.
Learnings from Pakistan
- To overcome the food crisis in Pakistan, a suggestion was made to people to reduce their consumption of wheat and sugar.
- Such advice is not feasible when it is made to people suffering from malnutrition and hunger.
- At best, it can be considered as a short-term measure and not a long-run solution.
Learnings from Sri Lanka
- Chemical fertilisers have played a key role in boosting agricultural production. However, this dependence has serious long-term implications which needs to be reduced in a phased manner.
- The Government, without taking the required measures, recently decided to shift to organic farming. It decided to replace chemical fertiliser, being used by 90 per cent of farmers in the country, with organic manure.
- The ban on the import of chemical fertilisers led to a sharp decline in food grain production and severe inflation in their prices. As a result, the price of rice touched Rs 115 / kg and that of wheat Rs 100 / kg. At the same time, the price of liquefied petroleum gas cylinder crossed Rs 2,500 per unit mark.
- The countries whose economies depend excessively on tourism need to be careful in using their foreign reserves. There has been a sharp decline in the number of foreign tourists visiting Sri Lanka and consequent decline in foreign reserves during the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
- The scarce foreign reserves were used to clear the government’s debts. The ban on the import of food items and agricultural inputs has affected the agricultural sector. In short, hasty and irrational decisions have led to food shortages and inflation in the country.
Learnings from Venezuela and Zimbabwe
- Irrational policies may lead to economic disasters even in resource-rich countries.
- The economy of Venezuela, an oil-rich country, was severely affected due to its irrational policy of distributing highly subsidised food grains and providing unemployment relief, as a result of which people preferred to remain idle.
- The foreign entrepreneurs left the country due to the non-availability of workers and remunerative prices.
- The decline in food imports due to the depletion of foreign reserves led to food inflation.
- To appease the people, the government started printing currency notes recklessly, which led to hyperinflation.
- Zimbabwe experienced similar hyper-inflation due to the reckless printing of currency notes.
Learnings from Uruguay
- Providing food security to people implies not merely providing major cereals but a balanced food basket as well. Some countries have diversified their agriculture to this end.
- Uruguay, for instance, focuses on enhancing dairy products along with traditional crops. The population of the country is only 3.3 million, but it has 12 million cows. There are about four cows for every person.
- To monitor their movement, every cow has an electronic chip in its ear. Dairy products like milk, curd, butter and ghee are exported in large quantities.
- In older days, India’s wealth was measured in terms of herds of cattle owned by a household. Cattle are important in a tropical country with a pastoral culture.
- It may be disastrous for a household having only land if rains fail in a monsoon-dependent country. But, for a household having some cattle along with land can easily survive.
Learnings from Morocco
- Some analysts have cautioned against excessive dependence on chemical fertilisers. Phosphorous is an important input in the production of chemical fertilisers.
- About 70-80 per cent of known world resources of phosphorous are available only in Morocco.
- The country may control the production of fertiliser by manipulating the price of phosphorous.
The Way Forward – Soil Conservation
- The method of cultivation must be environment-friendly and sustainable in the long run. There must be three-six per cent organic content in the soil.
- Unfortunately, in a state like Punjab that has a high food grain production, the organic content is below 0.5 per cent. Low organic content in soil reduces it to sand. At least a quarter of cultivated land in India is likely to become desert in 10-15 years if this process continues.
- The organic content in the soil can be enhanced by adding leaves from tree or animal waste. It may become difficult to increase the organic content in the soil if trees are cut and animals slaughtered.
- Therefore, there must be a mandate to maintain a certain proportion of area under trees.
- To have environmentally friendly and sustainable agriculture, excessive dependence on chemical fertilisers has to be reduced in a phased manner.
- To prevent desertification, the organic content in the soil has to be maintained according to the scientific norms by having an adequate number of trees and an adequate number of cattle herds.
Can you answer the following questions?
- India and its economic disasters – Food shortage, inflation, irrational polices
- Food security policy formulation in India
(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)
Model questions: (You can now post your answers in comment section)
Q.1 Consider the following statements regarding hypersonic weapons:
- They are manoeuvrable weapons that can fly at speeds in excess of Mach 5.
- Hypersonic weapons travel outside the atmosphere and can manoeuvre midway which makes their detection and interception extremely difficult.
Which of the above is or are correct?
- 1 only
- 2 only
- Both 1 and 2
- Neither 1 nor 2
Q.2 Which of the following is not a member of Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO):
Q.3 Horn of Africa does not consist of which of the following country?
ANSWERS FOR 7th Jan 2022 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)
On the politics of a Minimum Support Price:
On increasing the age of marriage of women to 21:
On breach of PM’s security in Punjab: