Daily Current Affairs for UPSC IAS | 20th December 2021

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1.  India-Central Asia relations 

UPSC Syllabus: Mains: GS Paper 2: International Relations
Sub Theme:  India-Central Asia Relations| UPSC

CENTRAL ASIA’S SIGNIFICANCE:

Strategic position: The position of these countries is geographically a bridge between the various regions of Asia and between Europe and Asia. New trade routes between India and Central Asia have been opened, bypassing Pakistan, with the Chabahar Agreement with Iran in effect.

The only foreign military airbase in India, controlled by the IAF and the Tajik Air Force, is in Farkhor (Tajikistan). With China, Afghanistan, Russia and Iran, the CARs share borders. Tajikistan is situated close to Kashmir (PoK), which is occupied by Pakistan.

Energy security: Central Asian countries are blessed with substantial hydrocarbon and mineral resources and are geographically similar to India. For instance,

  • Kazakhstan is the largest producer of uranium and also has vast reserves of gas and oil.
  • Uzbekistan, along with Kyrgyzstan, is an significant regional producer of gold.
  • Apart from oil deposits, Tajikistan has huge hydropower capacity, and Turkmenistan has the world’s fourth largest gas reserves.
  • Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan are both on the Caspian coastline, promising to open the door to other Caspian states that are rich in oil.

Security: The withdrawal from Afghanistan of US forces would have significant regional security consequences. CARs face a significant challenge from the ‘Golden Crescent’ illicit drug trade in opium cultivation (Iran-Pak-Afghan) and are also victims of the illicit weapons trade. Central Asian instability can spill over to PoK.

Furthermore, religious extremism, fundamentalism and terrorism continue to pose threats as well as regional stability to Central Asian societies.

Trade and investment potential: Central Asia’s economic growth, especially in Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, has sparked a construction boom and sectors such as IT, pharmaceuticals and tourism have been expanding. India has expertise in these fields, and deeper collaboration would give trade ties with these countries a new impetus. The area also has a strong demand for Indian pharmaceutical products.

CHALLENGES THAT INDIA FACES IN TERMS OF CAR:

  • Land locked region: It is land locked, which has hindered the relationship between India and Central Asia. Weak connectivity has also led to India and Central Asia’s below-par trade.

o Moreover, India does not share physical borders with any of the states of Central Asia. In promoting and expanding economic, commercial, electricity, tourist ties with them, there is a huge bottleneck. One choice was the old Silk Road, but Xinjiang’s security situation, unresolved border disputes with China, and protracted negotiations forced India to pursue alternate routes to reach the CARs.

o The unpredictable situation in Afghanistan and the geo-strategic importance of Pakistan in the region have robbed India of the benefits of Central Asian ties.

  • Chinese presence: The Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB) initiative involves Central Asia. In addition, the danger posed by the spill-over of Islamic radicalization to the Uighurs in Xinjiang province has led China to become well entrenched in Central Asian security affairs, thus indirectly affecting India ‘s interests.
  • Radicalism and extremism: Central Asia is prone to factors such as Al Qaeda, the Islamic State, the Taliban, the IUM, Hizb-ut-Tahrir, and so on.
  • Other regions have their own domestic problems, such as ” youth bulge ” combined with restricted economic opportunities; extreme and worsening corruption; drug trafficking; autocratic states’ succession management without strong government or party institutions, etc.

EFFORTS BY INDIA TO CONNECT WITH THE AREA:       

  1. Link Strategy for Central Asia: Introduced in 2012, it includes Close political relations by exchanging high-level visits and multilateral commitments Strategic and security cooperation through military preparation, frequent intelligence exchange, coordination of counter-terrorism and near Afghanistan consultations.

Long-term Oil and Natural Resources Collaboration.

Helping to provide the area with a viable banking infrastructure.

Increase the involvement of Indian companies in the building and power sector in Vehicles.

Improving INSTC connectivity, air services, people-to – people and cultural exchanges.

Shanghai Cooperation Organization: With full SCO membership, the top leaders of India & CARs can have more regular summit level contacts.

  1. International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC): India is a founding member of the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC), a project to link India and Iran to Central Asia by sea route and then via Iran to the Caspian Sea.
  2. Creation of the port of Chabahar in Iran: Allowing access to landlocked Afghanistan and energy-rich Central Asia through the ports like Jawaharlal Nehru and Kandla on the west coast of India.
  3.  Ashgabat Agreement: India has acceded to the Ashgabat Agreement, which facilitates the transport of goods between Central Asia and the Persian Gulf through an international transport and transit corridor.
  4.  Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI): The planned natural gas pipeline runs through the Herat-Kandahar-Multan-Fazilika (Pak-India Border) from field in Galkynysh (Turkmenistan). It will not only provide a secure source of natural gas at reasonable prices, but it will also play a strategically important role in the region’s peace and stability.
  5. Eurasian Economic Union (EEU): India is negotiating a comprehensive economic cooperation agreement with Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan as part of the Eurasian Economic Union. The Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) Program is also an important tool for the training and human capital growth of young professionals from these countries.

CONCLUSION:

Both regions have struggled to make full use of the resources available in different sectors. The strengthening of relations between India and Central Asia is intended for the mutual benefit of all participating countries.

Good ties with India will also provide these countries with an assured market for their resources, raw materials, oil and gas, uranium, minerals, hydropower, etc.

The current regional and international political, strategic and economic scenario poses enormous challenges, but also the ability for India and Central Asia to boost their engagement qualitatively.

Stronger partnerships between these countries and the world would lead to improved stability and development. The current India-Central Asia Dialogue should be qualitatively enhanced to maintain continuous contact with key stakeholders in the region.

Organisation of Islamic Cooperation

  • second largest intergovernmental organization after the United Nations with a membership of 57 states.
  • Collective voice of the Muslim world.
  • Objective: to safeguard and protect the interests of the Muslim world in the spirit of promoting international peace and harmony among various people of the world.
  • Established: Morocco, 1969.
  • Headquarters: Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
  • India is not a member of the OIC. However, India was invited as a guest of honour at 46th Session of the Council of Foreign Minister in 2019. 2019 is the 50th anniversary of OIC.

 

2.  Indian Wildcat and Panna tiger reserve

UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Environment & Biodiversity
Sub Theme:  Indian Wildcat and Panna tiger reserve | UPSC

Indian Desert Cat:

  • It is also known by the name of Asiatic wildcat.
  • It is a sub-specie of African Wildcat
  • Known to habitat in Desert portion and has capacity to survive long without water intake.
  • IUCN Status is Least Concern.

Panna tiger reserve:

  • The Panna tiger reserve is situated in the Vindhya mountain range in the northern part of Madhya Pradesh.
  • Ken river (a tributary of the Yamuna River) flows through the reserve.
  • The region is also famous for Panna diamond mining.
  • Ken-Betwa river interlinking project will be located within the tiger reserve.
  • 2011:  notified as a Biosphere Reserve
  • 2020: (UNESCO) has included the Panna Biosphere Reserve (PBR) in its World Network of Biosphere Reserves (WNBR).

 

3.  Better Coordination between NDRF and SDRF

UPSC Syllabus: Mains GS Paper 3: Disaster Management
Sub Theme:  Disaster Management Act, 2005 | UPSC
Context: Union Home Minister has advised for better coordination between the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and State Disaster Response Forces (SDRF) in individual States to ensure smooth functioning during major calamities.

Prelims Pointers – The Disaster Management Act, 2005
 

    • NDMA Chairperson of National Disaster Management Authority – Prime Minister
    • National Executive Committee to assist NDMA – chairperson – Secretary, Disaster Management; National Executive Committee can constitute sub-committee for the efficient discharge of its functions.
    • National Plan – plan for disaster management for the whole of the country to be called the National Plan
    • The National Plan shall be prepared by the National Executive Committee having regard to the National Policy and in consultation with the State Governments and expert bodies or organisations in the field of disaster management to be approved by the National Authority.
    • SDMA Chairperson – Chairperson of State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA) – Chief Minister
    • State Executive Committee –  Chief Secretary to the State Government – Chairperson
    • State Plan – There shall be a plan for disaster management for every State to be called the State Disaster Management Plan. The State Plan prepared by the State Executive Committee and shall be approved by the State Authority.
    • District Disaster Management Authority – Collector or District Magistrate or Deputy Commissioner shall be the Chairperson, the elected representative of the local authority who shall be the co-Chairperson; In the Tribal Areas, as referred to in the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution, the Chief Executive Member of the District Council of autonomous district, shall be the co-Chairperson.
    • District Plan – There shall be a plan for disaster management for every district of the State.
  • National Institute for Disaster Management
  • National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) – specialist response to a threatening disaster situation or disaster. The general superintendence, direction and control of NDRF shall be vested and exercised by the National Disaster Management Authority.
  • State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) – According to Section 3.4.5 of National Policy on Disaster Management 2009, the State Governments are required to raise their own SDRF for quick response to disasters. These SDRF are placed strategically at suitable locations well connected to the airport, rail heads and roads for their immediate deployment at the disaster sites.
  • Important Role played by SDRF – The SDRF are also be used for Community Capacity Building and Awareness Generation programmes within the State. During these programmes, SDRF can familiarize themselves with terrain, critical buildings and other existing infrastructure for prompt responses at the time of disasters and simultaneously work with the community, including school children, village volunteers and other stakeholders on what to do during disasters.
  • National Disaster Response Fund – to meet any threatening disaster situation or disaster; an amount deposited after due appropriation made by Parliament by law, includes any grants made by person or institution.
    UPSC Current Affairs:
    Can India become a technology leader?| Page No. 6

 

4.  Can India become a technology leader?|

UPSC Syllabus: Mains: GS Paper 3:  Economy
Sub Theme:  Role of Technology in Socio-Economic Development | UPSC

Brief overview of the article- The article dwells into the role of public sector In making India technological leader. It also substantiate the role of Public Sector with two important case studies- USA and China.

Challenges in front of India-

  • Inefficient PSUs – PSUs have become loss making entities and lack innovation to absorb new and emerging technologies.
  • High outmigration from India- This is leading to brain drain from India. Indeed, as of 2019, there were 2.7 million Indian immigrants in the U.S. They are among the most educated and professionally accomplished communities in that country.
  • Policy drawbacks- In 1991 when India embraced globalisation, it did not focus on building the technological base. Inverted duty structure further restricts localised production.
  • Low R&D expenditure- spending on research and development as a proportion of GDP declined in India from 0.85% in 1990-91 to 0.65% in 2018. In contrast, this proportion increased over the years in China and South Korea to reach 2.1% and 4.5%, respectively, by 2018.
  • Inability to make use of the market driven growth opportunities.
  • High import dependence- For eg- Country is operating far below its potential in electronic manufacturing.

Potential which India has-

  • Human resource- The number of persons enrolled for tertiary education in India (35.2 million in 2019) is way ahead of the corresponding numbers in all other countries except China. Further, graduates from STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) programmes as a proportion of all graduates was 32.2% for India in 2019, one of the highest among all countries (UNESCO data).
  • India — will soon have twice the number of Internet users as in the U.S. — which is a large market for all kinds of new technologies.

What needs to be done?

  • India needs to sharply increase its public spending to improve the quality of and access to higher education.
  • India should focus upon High value electronic components needed in the manufacture of, say, mobile phones.
  • Bargaining with large multinational companies in the manner as China has done. China has used its large market size as a bargaining chip in negotiations with the foreign firms: stay in our markets only if you localise production and share technologies with the local firms.
  • The ‘Make in India’ initiative will have to go beyond increasing the ‘ease of business’ for private industry. Indian industry needs to deepen and broaden its technological capabilities. This will happen only if universities and public institutions in the country are strengthened and emboldened to enter areas of technology development for which the private sector may have neither the resources nor the patience.
  • Restructuring PSUs to enable them to bring long term innovations and create opportunities for private businesses.Case Studies-

USA– No doubt, the U.S. is a country of fabled opportunities. However, what is less known is than an invisible hand of the government has been there to prop up each of the socalled triumphs of enterprise and the free market. The state has been crucial to the introduction of the new generation of technologies, including the computers, the Internet, and the nanotech industry. Public sector funding developed the algorithm that eventually led to Google’s success and helped discover the molecular antibodies that provided the foundation for biotechnology. In these successful episodes, the governmental agencies were proactive in identifying and supporting the more uncertain phases of the research, which a risk averse private sector would not have entered into.

CHINA– A little over a decade earlier, China was known for its low wage manufacturing. Even while being hailed as the ‘factory of the world’, China had been stuck at the low valuea dding segments of the global production networks, earning only a fraction of the price of the goods it manufactured. However, as part of a 2011 government plan, it has made successful forays into ‘new strategic industries’ such as alternative fuel cars and renewable energy. China’s achievements came not because it turned ‘capitalist’, but instead by combining the
strengths of the public sector, markets and globalisation. China’s stateowned enterprises (SOEs) were seen as inefficient and bureaucratic. However, rather than privatising them or letting them weaken with neglect, the Chinese state restructured the SOEs. On the one hand, the state retreated from light manufacturing and export oriented sectors, leaving the field open for the private sector. On the other, SOEs strengthened their presence in strategically important sectors such as petrochemicals and telecommunication as well as in technologically dynamic industries such as electronics and machinery.

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