(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)
Part of: Prelims and GS-III Defence and security
Context: The 15th round of Corps Commander talks (talks at Commander level) between India and China began on the Indian side of the Chushul Moldo Meeting Point in eastern Ladakh
- The immediate focus was on working out a disengagement agreement at Patrolling Point 15 (PP15) in the Gogra-Hot Springs area.
- Since the stand-off began in May 2020, the two sides have so far held 14 rounds of talks with disengagement on both sides of Pangong Tso (lake), PP17.
- The other areas yet to be resolved are PP15, Demchok and Depsang.
Patrolling Point 15 and 17A:
- Along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) between India and China, Indian Army has been given certain locations where its troops have access to patrol the area under its control.
- These points are known as patrolling points, or PPs, and are decided by the China Study Group (CSG).
- PP15 and PP17A are two of the 65 patrolling points in Ladakh along the LAC.
- LAC is the demarcation that separates Indian-controlled territory from Chinese-controlled territory
- PP15 is located in an area known as the Hot Springs, while PP17A is near an area called the Gogra post.
Location of Hot Springs and Gogra Post
- Hot Springs is just north of the Chang Chenmo river and Gogra Post is east of the point where the river takes a hairpin bend coming southeast from Galwan Valley and turning southwest.
- Pangong Tso lake: Pangong Lake is located in the Union Territory of Ladakh. one-third of the Pangong Lake lies in India and the other two-thirds in China.
- Galwan Valley: The valley refers to the land that sits between steep mountains that buffet the Galwan River. The river has its source in Aksai Chin.
- Chang Chenmo River: It is a tributary of the Shyok River
News Source: TH
Part of: Prelims and GS-III Biological weapons
Context: Russia has called for a Security Council meeting on the issue of biological laboratories in Ukraine.
- Russia had requested the meeting to discuss claims it made of chemical and biological weapon labs in Ukraine supported by the U.S.
- India has emphasised that any matters relating to obligations under the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) should be addressed through consultation and cooperation between the parties concerned.
Biological Weapons Convention
- The Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), or Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC), is a disarmament treaty that effectively bans biological and toxin weapons by prohibiting their development, production, acquisition, transfer, stockpiling and use.
- Biological weapon is a bacterium, virus, protozoan, parasite, fungus, chemical, or toxin that can be used purposefully as a weapon in bioterrorism or biological warfare.
- More than 1,200 different kinds of potentially weaponizable bio-agents have been described and studied to date.
- It entered into force on 26 March 1975.
- The BWC was the first multilateral disarmament treaty to ban the production of an entire category of weapons of mass destruction
- The convention is of unlimited duration.
- As of January 2022, 183 states have become party to the treaty.
News Source: TH
Part of: Prelims and GS-II Health and GS-III Economy
Context: Department of Pharmaceuticals, Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers on Friday released guidelines for ‘Strengthening of Pharmaceutical Industry (SPI)’ scheme.
- The scheme aims to address rising demand in terms of support required to existing Pharma clusters and MSMEs across the country to improve their productivity, quality and sustainability.
- The Centre has assigned an outlay of ₹500 crore for the period from fiscal FY 21-22 to FY 25-26.
Key highlights of the scheme:
- financial assistance to pharma clusters will be provided for the creation of Common Facilities to improve the quality and to ensure the sustainable growth of clusters.
- To upgrade the production facilities of SMEs and MSMEs so as to meet national and international regulatory standards.
- support for clusters for creation of common facilities with the focus on R&D Labs, Testing Laboratories, Effluent Treatment Plants
- The units supported under this scheme is expected to act as Demonstration Firms for the pharma clusters and MSE Pharma Industries, to develop on quality and technology up-gradation fronts.
News Source: Livemint
(News from PIB)
Part of: GS-II: India and Canada
Context: India and Canada will formally re-launch the negotiations for India-Canada Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) and also consider an Interim Agreement or Early Progress Trade Agreement (EPTA) that could bring early commercial gains to both the countries.
- Help in expanding bilateral trade in goods and services through unlocking the potential across sectors.
- The Interim Agreement would include high level commitments in goods, services, rules of origin, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, technical barriers to trade, and dispute settlement, and may also cover any other areas mutually agreed upon.
- Both countries agreed to undertake intensified work with respect to the recognition of Canada’s systems approach to pest risk management in pulses and market access for Indian agriculture goods such as sweet corn, baby corn and banana etc.
- Canada also agreed to examine expeditiously the request for Conformity Verification Body (CVB) status to APEDA (Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority) for facilitating Indian organic export products.
- Establish resilient supply chains in critical sectors
- Emphasised enhancing cooperation in sectors such as pharmaceuticals and critical and rare earth minerals as well as in areas like tourism, urban infrastructure, renewable energy and mining.
- Noted the role of strong people-to-people ties between the two countries, including movement of professionals and skilled workers, students, and business travellers, in strengthening the bilateral economic partnership.
- Agreed to work closely to provide sustained momentum to building linkages and strengthen cooperation across sectors to harness full potential of the trade and investment relationship between India and Canada.
News Source: PIB
Part of: GS-Prelims and GS-III: Science & Technology
In News: Indian researchers have developed a simple technique of separating the constant background of the Solar Colona and revealing the dynamic corona.
Significance of the Development
- Improve efficiency of identification of Coronal Mass Ejections (CME) — events in which a large cloud of energetic and highly magnetized plasma erupts from the solar corona into space, causing radio and magnetic disturbances on the earth.
- Give a clear picture of the characteristics of CMEs and make their study easier.
Coronal mass ejections (CMEs) are dynamic structures in the Solar Corona and are capable of driving the Space Weather in near-Earth space.
- The density of the outermost layer of the atmosphere of the Sun – Corona – decreases with distance radially outwards.
- As the intensity of the corona observed in white light depends on the density of particles in the atmosphere, it decreases exponentially.
- If the contrast between the constant corona and transient CMEs is not high, detection of CMEs becomes a challenge.
- This method, which subtracts the constant background, brings out the transient corona, followed by dividing the result by an azimuthally uniform background to reduce the radial decrease in intensity.
- A combination of these two steps allows us to identify the structures such as CMEs throughout the field of view of the coronagraph images.
News Source: PIB
- GS-3: Infrastructure: Energy
- GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Context: On December 15, 2021, the Indian government had informed Parliament that it plans to build “10 indigenous reactors in fleet mode” and had granted “in principle approval” for 28 additional reactors, including 24 to be imported from France, the U.S. and Russia.
- Given the post-Fukushima global and national trends in the nuclear industry, such a policy seems misguide
What was Fukushima Nuclear disaster?
- On 11th March 2011, multiple reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan suffered severe accidents after an earthquake and a tsunami.
- Those reactors were quickly “shut down” following the earthquake. But their radioactive cores continued producing heat and eventually melted down because the tsunami knocked out the cooling system.
Why India’s push towards nuclear energy is misguided?
- Capital Intensive: Nuclear power plants are capital intensive that requires billions of dollars of investment.
- Cost Overruns: Recent nuclear builds have suffered major cost overruns. Ex: V.C. Summer nuclear project in South Carolina (U.S.) where costs rose so sharply that the project was abandoned — after an expenditure of over $9 billion.
- Cheaper Alternatives: The cost of alternative renewable-energy technologies has reduced drastically. Nuclear energy costs at least ₹ 15 per unit excluding transmission costs. In contrast, solar power is now made available at ₹2.14 per unit. (₹4.30 per unit with storage).
- If nuclear electricity is to be sold at a competitive rate, it would have to be greatly subsidised by the Indian government, which operates all nuclear plants through the Nuclear Power Corporation of India.
- Against the global trend: In 1996, 17.5% of the world’s electricity came from nuclear power plants; by 2020, this figure had declined to just around 10%.
- In 2008, the U.S. government projected an expansion of nuclear capacity to 114.9 gigawatts by 2030; in 2021, it predicted that capacity would contract to 83.3 gigawatts.
- Failure of Indo-US Nuclear deal: The government had predicted in 2010 that nuclear capacity in India would reach 35 gigawatts by 2020 (Installed capacity today is only 6.78 GW). Such targets were based on the expectation that India would import many light-water reactors after the India-U.S. civil nuclear deal. But, the deal has not led to the establishment of a single new nuclear plant.
- High Cost of Nuclear Disaster: A nuclear disaster might leave large swathes of land uninhabitable — as in Chernobyl — or require a prohibitively expensive clean-up — as in Fukushima, where the final costs may eventually exceed $600 billion.
- Liabilities of Supplier: Concerns about safety have been heightened by the insistence of nuclear suppliers that they be indemnified of liability for the consequence of any accident in India.
- Climate Concerns: Nuclear power is not the right choice to “adapt” to climate change, which requires resilience in power systems. In 2020, a windstorm caused the Duane Arnold nuclear plant in the U.S. to cease operations. The frequency of such extreme weather events is likely to increase in the future.
- It is also not the appropriate choice for mitigating India’s carbon emissions since it cannot be deployed at the necessary scale.
- Local Protests: Safety concerns following the Fukushima accident have led to protests against each planned reactor.
Given the inherent vulnerabilities of nuclear reactors and their high costs, it would be best for the Government to unambiguously cancel its plans for a nuclear expansion
Connecting the dots:
- The Status of Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty
- India’s Nuclear Doctrine
- Nuclear fusion and the recent breakthrough
- Progress of Indo-US Nuclear Deal
- GS-2: International Relations
What is Rupee-Rouble trade arrangement?
- Rupee-rouble trade is a payment mechanism which can allow Indian exporters to be paid in Indian rupees for their exports to Russia instead of standard international currencies such as dollars or euros.
- Under this arrangement, a Russian bank will need to open an account in an Indian bank while an Indian bank will open its account in Russia.
- Both sides can then mutually agree to hold currency worth a specified amount in the local currencies in their respective accounts.
- If the specified amount is say, $100 million, then the Russian bank’s account in India will have rupees worth that amount while the Indian bank’s account in Russia will have roubles worth that amount.
- Once the payment mechanism is in place, the Indian exporter can be paid in rupee from the Russian bank’s account in India and imports from Russia can be paid for with roubles from the Indian bank’s account in Russia.
Has it been attempted before?
- India has attempted the rupee-rouble payment mechanism with Russia on a very small scale earlier for a few items like tea. But it has happened in normal times and never on a large commercial scale.
- A rupee-rial payment mechanism, however, had successfully worked in India’s trade with Iran when economic sanctions were imposed on Iran by West in 2012.
- India successfully used the mechanism for partly paying for its oil purchase from Iran.
- This worked well for several years till the Trump regime placed product-specific sanction on oil trade with Iran and India stopped its purchases from the country.
How critical is the rupee-rouble mechanism for India?
- It is important for India to have an alternative payment mechanism in place with Russia as the US, the EU and the UK have blocked at least seven Russian banks from accessing the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT)
- SWIFT is a global secure interbank system that communicates payment instructions and enables transactions between banks from all the countries around the world.
- An estimated $500 million is pending for goods already shipped by Indian exporters and it is now not possible to get the payment through the regular SWIFT channel.
- Since transaction with Russia cannot be carried out in international currencies such as the dollar or the euro, a rupee payment mechanism will determine if the trading will continue or not.
What are the problems that may crop up?
- The fluctuation in the value of rouble could make it difficult to implement the rupee-rouble payment mechanism.
- Firstly, it will be difficult to decide a fair exchange rate between the rupee and the rouble.
- Moreover, if the value of the rouble continues falling sharply, then trading may not happen as the rouble in the Indian bank’s Russian account will lose value.
- This is a risk that India will have to take if it decides to go ahead and put a rupee payment mechanism in place.
- At present, there is only a sanction against the use of SWIFT. There is nothing to bar India from trading with Russia using alternatives such as a barter system or a rupee-rouble payment mechanism.
- However, if the sanctions turn product-specific, then it may be difficult for India to use this arrangement
What are the strategic ramifications for India?
- The world would see this as an arrangement by India to by-pass the sanctions post-Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
- The US and the EU are already unhappy with India for abstaining at the UN Security Council and the UN Human Rights Commission on all resolutions that criticise Russia for invading Ukraine
- If India helps Russia flout economic sanctions, it may then be accused of siding with Russia and this could hurt New Delhi’s diplomatic relations with the Western powers.
Connecting the dots:
- Russia-Ukraine Stand-off
- Russia-Ukraine War impact, beyond oil
- Ukraine Crisis and Economy
- India-Russia Military alliance
- Indo-US defence deals
(Down to Earth: Climate Change)
March 9: More than 75% of Amazon rainforest near tipping point, may transform into dry savanna: Study – https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/climate-change/more-than-75-of-amazon-rainforest-near-tipping-point-may-transform-into-dry-savanna-study-81876
- GS-3: Environment, Conservation, Climate Change
In News: More than 75 per cent of the Amazon rainforest has been likely heading towards a tipping point since the early 2000s, according to a new study published in Nature Climate Change.
- It may be losing its ability to bounce back from extreme events such as drought or fire, threatening to become a dry savanna-like ecosystem. This transition might not bode well for the Amazon’s rich biodiversity, carbon-storing potential and global climate change.
- The researchers used satellite data and statistical tools to arrive at these findings.
The Amazon’s rainforest is home to 30 per cent of the world’s species, comprising 40,000 plant species, 16,000 tree species, 1,300 birds and more than 430 species of mammals.
The Amazon basin
- Covering over 6 million square kilometres, it is nearly twice the size of India.
- The Amazon rainforests cover about 80 per cent of the basin
- Also, it is home to nearly a fifth of the world’s land species and about 30 million people including hundreds of indigenous groups and several isolated tribes.
- The basin produces about 20% of the world’s flow of freshwater into the oceans
This is not the first time
- A previous study predicted that a tipping point would occur when the rainforest witnesses roughly 20-25 per cent of deforestation.
- Deforestation is on the rise. According to reports, it totalled 430 square kilometres in January 2022, five times higher than the same month last year.
What will happen if this continues?
- This loss will affect the amount of rainfall. Trees take up water through the roots, releasing it into the atmosphere, influencing precipitation over South America, Boers explained.
- The rainforest is also a carbon sink — a place that absorbs more carbon dioxide than it releases. It plays an essential role in combating climate change. But increasing temperatures due to human-induced climate change and deforestation are pushing the rainforest to transform into a carbon source: Places that release more CO2 than they absorb.
- The researchers warn that the forests could release vast amounts of CO2 if they partially transform into dry habitats.
- The analysis showed that the indicators of tipping points go up faster in areas with less rainfall and closer to human land use.
- This suggests that drier conditions might drive resilience loss.
- Human land-use activities — direct removal of trees, construction of roads, and fires — could be another contributor, according to the researchers. It has been on the rise since 2010.
It’s not too late to act. Priority should be placed on –
- Reducing deforestation will protect the forest’s threatened parts and boost Amazon rainforest resilience.
- Limiting global greenhouse gas emissions is also necessary to safeguard the Amazon.
(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)
Model questions: (You can now post your answers in comment section)
Q.1 Consider the following statements regarding Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC):
- It is a disarmament treaty that effectively bans biological and toxin weapons by prohibiting their development, production, acquisition, transfer, stockpiling and use.
- The BWC was the first multilateral disarmament treaty to ban the production of an entire category of weapons of mass destruction.
Which of the above is or are correct?
- 1 only
- 2 only
- Both 1 and 2
- Neither 1 nor 2
Q.2 Where is Pangong Tso lake located?
Q.3 Which of the following is known as the ‘lungs of the planet’?
- Congo rain forest
- Savanna grasslands
- Amazon rainforest
- Rain forests of North-East India
ANSWERS FOR 12th March 2022 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)
On resumption of international flights:
On Russia-Ukraine conflict sparking global food crisis: