16 February , 2021 - Daily Current Affairs Analysis & MCQs - The Daily News Simplified from The Hindu
- US policy on Israel International Relations
- Bilateral Investment treaty Economy
- Gio Spatial data Policy (Economy/science)
- leatherback turtle (Environment)
- Question for the day (Economy)
UPSC Current Affairs: Continuity, not change, is Biden’s plan for Palestine | Page - 6
UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: International Affairs | Mains – GS Paper II – International Relations
Sub Theme: Policy under Trump| Likely change under Biden | US-Israel-Palestine | UPSC
Context: The author argues that even though the new president Joe Biden is returning to the pre trump stance of supporting a two State Solution in principle for the Israel Palestine Conflict the situation is going not going to change much.
Policy under Donald trump
- Supported Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s expansionist polices
- Trump proposed that 30% of the West Bank consisting of the Jordan Valley and settlement blocs be annexed to Israel.
- He moved the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and endorsed the Israeli annexation of the Syrian Golan Heights, captured in 1967.
- He cut off $360 million annual funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which deals with Palestinian refugees, and shut down the Palestine Liberation Organization office in Washington D.C.
Likely changes under Joe Biden
- In principle acceptance of pre trump Policy of a Two State solution.
- US will resume aid to the Palestinians.
- The new President has opposed Israel’s formal annexation of one-third of the occupied territories.
- However the U.S. embassy in Israel would remain in Jerusalem and would not be shifted again to Tel Aviv.
Why a status quo will continue
- Administration has itself admitted that any solution in the near future is highly unlikely.
- The new secretary of State Blinken has accused the Palestinians of being responsible for the failure of negotiations
- American policy has been influenced by the Israeli propaganda.
- This is because of the influence of the Israel lobby in Congress and the presence in key positions in successive administrations of people whose sympathies lay with Israel.
- As far as middle east is concerned US considers Israel to be its stable ally in the region.
- As far as the resumption of the Iran nuclear deal is concerned, Israel has opposed the U.S. returning to the agreement.
UPSC Current Affairs: Indian investments and BITs | Page–7
UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Economy | Mains – GS Paper III – Economy
Sub Theme: Bilateral investment Treaties| Important Provisions of BIT Model | Concerns of BIT Model | UPSC
Context: Recently Sri Lanka cancelled a 2019 agreement with India and Japan that aimed to jointly develop the strategic East Container Terminal (ECT) ate Colombo. Defaulting on this agreement, without specific and reasonable justification, potentially violates the Indian investor’s legitimate expectations, and thus, the FET provision of the BIT. India unilaterally terminated the India-Sri Lanka BIT on March 22, 2017. This termination was part of the termination of other BITs that India undertook in 2017 as a result of several ISDS claims being brought against it.
Survival clause -
- Article 15(2) of the India-Sri Lanka BIT contains a survival clause, according to which, in case of a unilateral termination of the treaty, the treaty shall continue to be effective for a further period of 15 years from the date of its termination in respect of investments made or acquired before the date of termination
- Thus, the Indian investment in Sri Lanka and vice-versa made or acquired before March 22, 2017, will continue to enjoy treaty protection. But, in the case of the investment in developing the ECT at the Colombo port, this survival clause will be inconsequential, since the agreement was signed in 2019.
- Hence, the Indian investor will not be able to sue Sri Lanka before an ISDS tribunal, notwithstanding the merits of the case.
- But India needs to understand that BITs do not empower merely foreign investors to sue India, but also authorise Indian investors to make use of BITs to safeguard their investment in turbulent foreign markets.
- With India’s emergence as an exporter, and not just an importer of capital, the government should revisit its stand on BITs.
What is Bilateral Investment Treaty?
Bilateral investment Treaties (BITs) are agreements between two Countries for the reciprocal promotion and protection of investments in each other's territories by individuals and companies situated in either State. BITs encourage foreign investors to invest in a State and there by contributing towards overall developments and advancements of the economy.
Some of the important features of the BITs are:
- Fair and Equitable Treatment (FET): Mandates States to have a stable and predictable legal framework regulating investments which meets the reasonable expectations of the investors.
- Full Protection and Security (FPS): Mandates States to provide full protection and safety to foreign investments.
- National Treatment: The foreign investors should be treated at par with the domestic investors.
- Most Favourable Nation Treatment (MFN): Concession extended to foreign investor of a particular country would be extended to foreign investors of other countries.
- Expropriation (Taking over property): Bars the state from expropriating the foreign investments except under exceptional circumstances.
- Repatriation of Investment and Returns: Mandates the states to provide unrestricted power to the foreign investors to repatriate their investments and returns.
- Investor State Dispute Resolution (ISDS): Foreign investors can directly initiate arbitration proceeding against a State without approaching its own government. To handle such a dispute, an ad-hoc tribunal may be set up in accordance with the Arbitration rules of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law.
Reason for termination of BITs
- The BITs signed by India gave extensive protection to the foreign investment with scant regard for state's interests based on the neoliberal model.
- For example, a number of foreign corporations slapped ISDS notices against India challenging a wide array of regulatory measures such as the imposition of retrospective taxes (Vodafone case),cancellation of spectrum licences and revocation of telecom licenses.
- These ISDS cases against India led to a fundamental rethink and review of BITs in India leading to the adoption of Model BIT in 2016.
Important Provisions of Model BIT
- Enterprise based definition of investment: The asset based definition of the investment under the earlier BITs has been replaced by Enterprise based definition under the model BIT. Asset based definition considers every kind of asset – both movable and immovable including the IPRs as investment and gives protection under treaties. Moving away from an asset-based approach to an enterprise-based approach aims at narrowing the scope of investments to be protected and thus seeks to reduce the number of BIT claims that can be brought against India.
- Exclusion of MFN treatment: In recent years, some foreign investors have sued India arguing that they have to get the same beneficial treatment given to companies from other countries. Accordingly, India has dropped MFN Clause from the Model BIT.
- Conditions for initiating arbitrations at international arbitrations: The Model BIT stipulate that the aggrieved investor should use all local remedies as well as negotiations and consultations before initiating arbitrations against the host State. Investor can use outside remedies only five years after resorting to all domestic arrangements.
- Corporate Social Responsibility: The Model BIT mandates foreign investors to voluntarily adopt internationally recognized standards of corporate social responsibility.
Concerns raised with respect to Model BIT
- The unilateral termination of BITs by India has led to decrease in FDI Inflows into India.
- Apart from that, since such treaties work on reciprocal basis, the Indian investors in other countries do not have the option to sue the foreign governments.
Way Forward - The Indian BITs should strike a balance between the interests of foreign investors and those of the state. A well-balanced BIT framework coupled with transparency, clarity and consistency in the domestic regulations would enable India to attract more FDI inflows.
UPSC Current Affairs: Geospatial data policy liberalized | Page - 09
UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: General Science| Mains – GS Paper III – Science & Technology
Sub Theme: Geo-Spatial Data| Geo-spatial data policy | De-regulation of Geo-spatial data| UPSC
Context: The Ministry of Science and Technology Monday released new guidelines for the Geo-spatial sector in India, which deregulates existing protocol and liberalises the sector to a more competitive field.
What is geo-spatial data?
- Geospatial data is data about objects, events, or phenomena that have a location on the surface of the earth.
- The location may be static in the short-term, like the location of a road, an earthquake event, malnutrition among children, or dynamic like a moving vehicle or pedestrian, the spread of an infectious disease.
- Geospatial data combines location information, attribute information (the characteristics of the object, event, or phenomena concerned), and often also temporal information or the time at which the location and attributes exist.
- Geo-spatial data usually involves information of public interest such as roads, localities, rail lines, water bodies, and public amenities.
- The past decade has seen an increase in the use of geo-spatial data in daily life with various apps such as food delivery apps like Swiggy or Zomato, e-commerce like Amazon or even weather apps.
What is the present policy on geo-spatial data?
- There are strict restrictions on the collection, storage, use, sale, dissemination of geo-spatial data and mapping under the current regime.
- The policy had not been renewed in decades and has been driven by internal as well as external security concerns.
- The sector so far is dominated by the Indian government as well as government-run agencies such as the Survey of India and private companies need to navigate a system of permissions from different departments of the government (depending on the kind of data to be created) as well as the defence and Home Ministries, to be able to collect, create or disseminate geo-spatial data.
- Initially conceptualised as a matter solely concerned with security, geo-spatial data collection was the prerogative of the defence forces and the government.
- GIS mapping was also rudimentary, with the government investing heavily in it after the Kargil war highlighted the dependence on foreign data and the need for indigenous sources of data.
Why has the government deregulated geo-spatial data?
- This system of acquiring licenses or permission, and the red tape involved, can take months, delaying projects, especially those that are in mission mode – for both Indian companies as well as government agencies.
- The deregulation eliminates the requirement of permissions as well as scrutiny, even for security concerns.
- Indian companies now can self-attest, conforming to government guidelines without actually having to be monitored by a government agency- these guidelines therefore place a great deal of trust in Indian entities.
- There is also a huge lack of data in the country which impedes planning for infrastructure, development and businesses which are data-based.
- The mapping of the entire country, that too with high accuracy, by the Indian government alone could take decades.
- The government therefore felt an urgent need to incentivise the geo-spatial sector for Indian companies and increased investment from private players in the sector.
- While for decades, geo-spatial data has been a priority for strategic reasons and for internal and external security concerns, this priority has seen a shift in the past 15 years – geo-spatial data has now become imperative for the government in planning for infrastructure, development, social development, natural calamities as well as the economy, with more and more sectors such as agriculture, environment protection, power, water, transportation, communication, health (tracking of diseases, patients, hospitals etc) relying heavily on this data.
- There has also been a global push for open access to geo-spatial as it affects the lives of ordinary citizens, and the new guidelines has ensured such an open access, with the exception of sensitive defence or security-related data.
- Large amounts of geo-spatial data are also available on global platforms, which makes the regulation of data that is freely available in other countries, untenable.
What impact is this expected to have?
- By liberalising the system, the government will ensure more players in the field, competitiveness of Indian companies in the global market, and more accurate data available to both the government to formulate plans and administer, but also for individual Indians.
- Start-ups and businesses can now also use this data in setting up their concerns, especially in the sector of e-commerce or geo-spatial based apps – which in turn will increase employment in these sectors. Indian companies will be able to develop indigenous apps, for example an Indian version of google maps.
- There is also likely to be an increase in public-private partnerships with the opening of this sector with data collection companies working with the Indian government on various sectoral projects.
- The government also expects an increase in investment in the geo-spatial sector by companies, and also an increase in export of data to foreign companies and countries, which in turn will boost the economy.
UPSC Current Affairs: Leatherback nesting sites could be overrun by Andamans development project | Page–10
UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Prelims: Environment | Mains – GS Paper III – Environment & Ecology
Sub Theme: Giant Leatherback Turtles | Andamans | Nesting Beaches | Re-development Plan | Leatherback nesting sites | UPSC
- Proposals for tourism and port development in the Andaman and Nicobar (A&N) Islands have conservationists worried over the fate of some of the most important nesting populations of the Giant Leatherback turtle in this part of the Indian Ocean.
- Scientific name and Physiology
- Dermochelys coriacea
- Leatherbacks rely on a unique suite of adaptations including large body size, changes in activity and metabolic rate, peripheral insulation (i.e. fat), and adjustments in blood flow to maintain stable core body temperatures in varying water temperatures from temperate to tropical latitudes.
- Leatherbacks dive much deeper than other turtles, regularly reaching depths beyond 1,000 m (3,281 ft).
- These are the largest of the seven species of sea turtles on the planet and also the most long-ranging, Leatherbacks are found in all oceans except the Arctic and the Antarctic.
- Listed in Schedule I of India’s Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, according it the highest legal protection.
- Present in all world’s oceans except Arctic and Antarctic
- Nesting areas in tropics
- Non-nesting range extends to sub-polar regions
- Within the Indian Ocean, they nest only in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
- For all life stages, gelatinous zooplankton (jellies and jelly-like organisms)
What is the problem?
- Surveys conducted in the A&N Islands over the past three decades have shown that the populations here could be among the most important colonies of the Leatherback globally.
- There is concern now, however, that at least three key nesting beaches — two on Little Andaman Island and one on Great Nicobar Island — are under threat due to mega “development” plans announced in recent months.
- These include NITI Aayog’s ambitious tourism vision for Little Andaman and the proposal for a mega-shipment port at Galathea Bay on Great Nicobar Island.
So what is the Development plan?
- The Little Andaman plan, which proposes phased growth of tourism on this virtually untouched island, has sought the de-reservation of over 200 sq km of pristine rainforest and also of about 140 sq km of the Onge Tribal Reserve.
- Two sites where key components of the tourism plan are to be implemented are both Leatherback nesting sites — South Bay along the southern coast of the island and West Bay along its western coast.
- South Bay is proposed to be part of the “Leisure Zone” where a film city, a residential district and a tourism special economic zone are to come up. West Bay is to be part of West Bay Nature Retreat with theme resorts, underwater resorts, beach hotels and high-end residential villas.
- For the Leatherback, perhaps even more important is Great Nicobar Island, the southernmost of the A&N group. Large numbers have been recorded nesting here — mainly on the long and wide beaches at the mouth of the Dagmar and Alexandria rivers on the west coast and at the mouth of the Galathea river along its south eastern coast.
- GalatheaBay was, in fact, proposed as a wildlife sanctuary in 1997 for the protection of turtles and was also the site of a long-term monitoring programme.
What govt is doing to rescue Leatherback turtles?
- The A&N Islands are prominent in the National Marine Turtle Action Plan released on February 1, 2021, by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
- The plan notes that “India has identified all its important sea turtle nesting habitats as ‘Important Coastal and Marine Biodiversity Areas’ and included them in the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) – 1”.
- South Bay and West Bay on Little Andaman and Galathea on Great Nicobar, along with other nesting beaches in the islands, find a specific mention here as “Important Marine Turtle Habitats in India” and the largest Leatherback nesting grounds in India.
- The plan identifies coastal development, including construction of ports, jetties, resorts and industries, as major threats to turtle populations. It also asks for assessments of the environmental impact of marine and coastal development that may affect marine turtle populations and their habitats.
So, govt is violating its own plan? Yes.
- Developments in the A&N Islands indicate, however, that even as the action plan was being finalised, decisions were being made in violation of its basic concerns and premises.
- Not only has the mega-tourism plan in Little Andaman been pushed in spite of serious objections by the A&N Forest Department, a major decision was also made recently on the GalatheaBayWildlifeSanctuary.
- The A&N Port Management Board had in 2019 floated an expression of interest for the container transhipment terminal here, along with that of a free trade warehousing zone, and the Prime Minister announced in August 2020 that a transhipment project would come up here on an investment of ₹10,000 crore.
The scale of the project and the investment proposed indicate it could signal the end of a crucial Giant Leatherback nesting site.