23 October 2020

  • QIP Mains
  • Drive a harder bargain at the Delhi meet - Lead Article (International Relations)
  • Sooner, better - COVIRAP Editorial - (Science & Technology)
  • CPI-IW base year revised to 2016 - (Economy)
  • RBI to buy Rs. 20,000 cr. Of G-Secs - (Economy)
  • Army Chief commissions INS Kavaratti (Security)
  • Question for the day (Economy)

Prelims Quiz

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    UPSC Current Affairs: Drive a harder bargain at the Delhi meet – Lead Page 06

    UPSC Syllabus: Mains – GS Paper II – International Relations

    Sub Theme: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests | UPSC      

    Context: The author highlights that at the upcoming 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue just prior to US Presidential elections, India must make a hard bargain against United States and should not commit the same mistake it did in 2016 as India agreed to ratify the Paris deal even prior to the results of US elections.     

    What happened in 2016?

    • In August 2016, just months before the United States presidential elections, then U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had detailed discussions about the Paris Climate Change Agreement, with the U.S. urging India to sign it at the earliest.
    • Part of the statement they issued included the U.S.’s [developed countries] commitment to mobilise $100 billion per year by 2020 as part of a Green Climate Fund (GCF) to help developing countries such as India with climate adaptation methods and renewable technologies.
    • The ratification of the Paris Agreement was then U.S. President Barack Obama’s legacy project, and Washington was pushing for India to join before elections in November, 2016, in a bid to help Democrat nominee Hillary Clinton with her campaign against Republican nominee Donald Trump, who was against the Paris deal.
    • While New Delhi could have chosen to wait for the results of the U.S. elections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not, and announced a few weeks after Mr. Kerry’s visit that India would ratify the UN climate protocol on October 2, to mark Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday.
    • Months later, on June 1, 2017, the new U.S. President, Donald Trump, announced that the U.S. would exit the Paris agreement, and also revoked U.S. promises towards the Green Climate Fund, calling it “very unfair”

    History Repeating Itself in 2020

    • S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo is coming exactly a week before the election, and his brief is clear: to ensure that New Delhi including Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Indonesia makes a strong, public, strategic commitment to the U.S. on its plans in the Indo-Pacific.
    • Pompeo has said that his meetings with India and other countries would include discussions about how free nations can work together to thwart threats posed by the Chinese Communist Party.
    • Even at meetings of QUAD, Mike Pompeo had said that it more critical now than ever that we collaborate to protect our people and partners from the Chinese Communist Party’s exploitation, corruption, and coercion.
    • Now India does not see eye to eye with the United States on the issue of Indo-Pacific and Prime Minister Modi at Shangri La Dialogue in June 2018 had stated that Quad is aligned to India’s Indo-Pacific policy and by no means directed against any country.
    • However, Beijing’s relentless aggression against India at the Line of Actual Control and its refusal to disengage or withdraw from land occupied by PLA for the last 6 months is slowly changing India’s priorities. (Eg: Inclusion of Australia in Malabar Exercise)
    • Despite these challenges posed by China, India has still maintained that it will resolve issues with China bilaterally. So, if at US’s prompting, India changes its mind not to pursue issues with China bilaterally, then India must ensure accruing of benefits for itself in such situations.

    India must calculate carefully before making any commitment to United States

    • US policy must be viewed from the perspective of post election scenario of Donald Trump winning the election and Mike Pompeo again becoming US Secretary of State, which in the given scenario seems unlikely.
    • Even if Mr. Trump does win the election, it remains to be seen how far he will take ties with China to the brink once he dusts off his campaign rhetoric.
    • Thus, the weight and intent of commitments made by Mr. Pompeo during his pre-result India visit could thus be assessed better if a similar visit is made a week after announcement of result.
    • In the event Democrat Nominee Joe Biden wins, India would have saved itself the embarrassment as democrats have taken due notice of Houston and Ahmadabad events where PM Narendra Modi openly declared support for Donald Trump.

    China Factor for India at 2+2 Dialogue

    • It is critical for India to carefully calculate what can be discussed with US considering the challenge that Beijing poses on each of India’s three fronts: 1. At the LAC, 2. In the maritime sphere, and 3. In the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) region surrounding India.

    Maritime Sphere

    • On the maritime sphere, discussions will no doubt include strengthening ties in the Indo-Pacific, enhancing joint military exercises like the ‘Malabar’, where the entire Quad including Australia will participate next month in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea, and completing the last of the “foundational agreements” with the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geospatial Cooperation (BECA).

    SAARC

    • In Male, the U.S. has already announced a defence agreement that will pave the way for a strategic dialogue, and unlike in the past, New Delhi has not objected to ceding space in its area of influence in the Indian Ocean Region, as it will allow the U.S. to counter Chinese influence there.
    • With Sri Lanka too, the U.S. has a pending defence agreement, but more importantly, discussions on infrastructure projects, and progress on its “Millennium Challenge Corporation” (MCC) offer of a five-year aid grant of about $480 million, that is meant to offer alternatives to the Rajapaksa government.

    At LAC

    • It will be interesting to see how the United States and India collaborates on dealing with India’s most immediate, continental challenge from China at the LAC.
    • While the Indian Army will defend its borders with China on its own, there is much that Mr. Pompeo could promise, apart from enhancing and expediting U.S. defence sales to India –
    • Keeping the pressure on Pakistan on terrorism, despite the U.S. need for Pakistan’s assistance in Afghan-Taliban talks.
    • A firm U.S. statement in this regard may also disperse the pressure the Indian military faces in planning for a “two-front” conflict with China.

    Other Key Areas where India can bargain with US are

    • Pompeo should be pushed on resolving trade issues with India including commitment to restore India’s Generalised System of Preferences status for exporters.
    • The government could press for more cooperation on 5G technology sharing.
    • Assurance from US that India’s S-400 missile system purchase from Russia will receive an exemption from the U.S.’s Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) sanctions.

    Way Forward

    • By inviting Mr. Pompeo this close to the U.S. elections, New Delhi has taken a calculated and bold gamble. Unlike the experience of 2016, however, our leaders must drive a harder bargain to consolidate the pay-offs from the visit.

     

    UPSC Current Affairs:Sooner, better Edit- Page 06

    UPSC Syllabus: Mains – GS Paper III – Science and Technology

    Sub Theme:   | UPSC      

    Context: Indian Council of Medical Research has approved two indigenously developed tests that are rapid, low-cost and have high sensitivity and specificity provides the much-needed boost to scale up daily testing without diluting accuracy. These two tests are FELUDA & COVIRAP. FELUDA uses CRISPR-CaS9 technology and is developed by the Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology, a unit of CSIR. COVIRAP has been developed by IIT-Kharagpur.    

    Need for Low Cost test during Festivals

    • Current tests include RT-PCR, which are highly accurate but require advanced lab infrastructure, and Antigen Tests that can give results in minutes but have a lower accuracy.
    • With unrestricted movement, businesses opening up, the festival season beginning and winter around the corner, the requirement for a rapid, low-cost test with high accuracy is crucial in checking the virus spread through early detection and repeated testing of even asymptomatic cases.
    • Thus, a low cost test was required which could give results quickly.

    What is the new Test?

    • A new diagnostic test for Covid-19 from IIT Kharagpur called COVIRAP has received ICMR’s approval.
    • It has an automated pre-programmable temperature control unit, a special detection unit on genomic analysis, and a customised smartphone app for results.
    • Three master mixes work as markers of different genes to confirm the presence of SARS-CoV-2.
    • Samples collected react with these mixes. When paper strips are dipped into these reaction products, coloured lines indicate the presence of the virus.
    • COVIRAP process is completed within an hour. The test is conducted in a ultra-low-cost portable unit that can be handled by unskilled operators outside the lab environment and is an alternative to high-end RTPCR machines.
    • It can test samples even on open fields. The same unit can be used for a large number of tests on replacement of the paper cartridge after each test.
    • The patented machine unit is also very generic, which means that it can perform tests beyond Covid-19 — for influenza, malaria, dengue, Japanese encephalitis, TB etc, under the category of isothermal nucleic acid-based tests.

    What is different in the new test?

    • Low sensitivity of rapid antigen tests arises from not isolating the viral RNA from the swab samples and amplification of the DNA before detection.
    • The two indigenously developed tests follow these two vital steps – ISOLATING RNA from SWAB SAMPLES & AMPLIFICATION OF DNA BEFORE DETECTION.
    • This is the reason why the sensitivity and specificity of the new tests are far superior to that of the rapid antigen tests.

    Why Rural India still needs to rely on Antigen Test?

    • Both the tests developed locally do require minimum laboratory infrastructure to isolate the viral RNA from the samples.
    • For that reason, India has to still rely on rapid antigen tests in rural areas that have no laboratory infrastructure.
    • But the tests developed by the Indian institutions, once commercially available, can readily replace the rapid antigen tests in places where such laboratory infrastructure is in place. 

    When can new test be used across India?

    • Rapid antigen tests will become less important even in rural areas once research institutions succeed in developing protocols and tests for using saliva rather than swabs, and do not require isolation of viral RNA from patient samples before amplification and detection.
    • Field testing and validation of such protocols is now pending. Relying on saliva samples would mean non-invasive sample collection, and probably even self-collection.
    • Thus, the reliance on trained personnel would reduce and also minimise the risk of health workers getting infected.

     

    UPSC Current Affairs:CPI­IW base year revised to 2016 Page 10

    UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Economy

    Sub Theme:   | UPSC      

    Context:

    The Labour Bureau under the Ministry of Labour and Employment has decided to revise the base year for CPI-IW (Industrial Workers) from 2011 to 2016.

    Inflation Indices

    Differences between WPI and CPI

    Criteria

    WPI

    CPI

    Level

    Measures Inflation at Wholesale level

    Measures Inflation at Retail Level

    Who Calculates?

    Office of Economic Advisor, Ministry of Commerce and Industry

    National Statistical Office, Ministry of Statistics and programme Implementation

    Base year

    2011-12

    2012

    Categories

    Primary Articles

    Manufactured products

    Fuel and Power

    Food and beverages

    Pan, Tobacco and Intoxicants

    Clothing and Footwear

    Housing

    Fuel and Light

    Miscellaneous- Education, Healthcare, Transportation etc.

    Highest Weightage

    Manufactured products

    Food and Beverages

    Impact of increase in Food items

    The increase in food items would lead to increase in WPI. However, it would have less impact on WPI as compared to CPI since WPI provides higher weightage to manufactured products and lower weightage to Food items

    The increase in the Food items would have larger impact on CPI as compared to WPI since it gives more weightage to food products.

    Services included

    No

    Yes

    Targeted by RBI?

    No

    Yes. The RBI is required to maintain CPI rate of inflation of 4% with a deviation of 2%.

     

    Other Variants of CPI

    The Labour Bureau under the Ministry of Labour and Employment publishes three other variants of CPI which are specific to a particular target group. (Please note the CPI for the general population is measured by NSO as highlighted above)

    • CPI-IW: It is used to calculate the Dearness Allowance (DA) of the Government employees and Industrial workers. Base Year revised from 2001 to 2016.
    • CPI-RL: Measures the rate of Inflation in the commodities which are commonly consumed by Rural labourers. Base year: 1986-87.
    • CPI-AL: Measures the rate of Inflation in the commodities which are commonly consumed by Agricultural labourers. Base year: 1986-87.

     

    UPSC Current Affairs:Sooner, better Edit- Page 06

    UPSC Syllabus: Mains – GS Paper III – Science and Technology

    Sub Theme:   | UPSC     

    Context of the Article

    The RBI has recently announced that it will purchase G-Secs through the open market operations (OMOs) to infuse liquidity worth Rs 20,000 crore into the economy.

    What do you mean by Open Market Operations?

    OMOs are the market operations conducted by the RBI by way of sale/ purchase of G-Secs to/ from the market with an objective to adjust the rupee liquidity conditions in the market.

    When the RBI feels that there is excess liquidity in the market, it resorts to sale of securities thereby sucking out the rupee liquidity.

    Similarly, when the liquidity conditions are tight, RBI may buy securities from the market, thereby releasing liquidity into the market.

    Why has RBI resorted to open market operation (OMO) now?

    To inject Money into the economy--> Increase Money Supply--> Enhance Demand and Investment Expenditure--> Counter the present economic slowdown.

     

    UPSC Current Affairs:Army chief commissions INS Kavaratti at Visakhapatnam

    UPSC Syllabus: Mains – GS Paper III – Science and Technology

    Sub Theme:   | UPSC     

    INS Kavaratti, the last of the four indigenously built Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) stealth corvettes built under Project 28 (Kamorta class) was formally inducted into the Navy at the Naval Dockyard in Eastern Naval Command.

    A stealth ship is a ship which employs stealth technology construction techniques in an effort to ensure that it is harder to detect by one or more of radar, visual, sonar, and infrared methods.

    A corvette is a small warship. It is traditionally the smallest class of vessel considered to be a proper  warship. The warship class above the corvette is that of the frigate

    Project 28

    • Anti-submarine warfare (ASW) is a branch of underwater warfare that uses surface warships, aircraft, submarines, or other platforms, to find, track, and deter, damage, and/or destroy enemy submarines.

      It is a project under which four Anti-Submarine Warships have been built indigenously in India by Garden Reach Shipbuilders And Engineers (GRSE), Kolkata.
    • The objective of the project was to enhance localization and development of warship construction industry in India.
    • The four corvettes built under the project are –
      • INS Kamorta (commissioned in 2014)
      • INS Kadmatt (commissioned in 2016)
      • INS Kiltan (commissioned in 2017)
      • INS Kavaratti (commissioned in 2020)
    • The warships are named after the islands in the Lakshadweep archipelago.

    The ship has up to 90% indigenous content and the use of carbon composites for the superstructure is a commendable feat achieved in Indian shipbuilding. The ship’s weapons and sensors suite is predominantly indigenous and showcases the nation’s growing capability in this niche area.

    Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) is very important in Indo-Pacific context as India needs to counter the presence of a lot of Chinese submarines, which is increasingly coming to the Indian Ocean.

    Prelims Question

    Consider the following statements regarding INS Kavaratti –

    1. It has been indigenously built under Project 28.
    2. It is a stealth corvettes.

    Select the correct option –

    1. 1 only
    2. 2 only
    3. Both 1 and 2
    4. None of the above

    Answer – c)

    Solution  

    INS Kavaratti, the last of the four indigenously built Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) stealth corvettes built under Project 28 (Kamorta class) was formally inducted into the Navy at the Naval Dockyard in Eastern Naval Command.

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