Daily Current Affairs

16TH DECEMBER,2020 : MOST POWERFUL DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS CONCEPTS

UPSC PRELIMS+MAINS 

A) Schemes, Policies, Initiatives, Awards and Social Issues

1. Green Buildings and Green Rating System in India (PIB)

  • Context: The Vice President of India virtually inaugurated the 12th GRIHA (Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment)
  • The theme of the 12thGRIHA Virtual Summit is ‘Rejuvenating Resilient Habitats’.
  • He also expressed happiness over the fact that despite the pandemic, GRIHA Council has continued in its endeavours to promote the sustainability agenda and has developed the Building Fitness Indicator (BFI) tool – a free-to-use self-assessment tool that allows organizations to measure the preparedness of workplaces to prevent exposure to COVID-19.
  • He also observed that the implementation of Bureau of Energy Efficiency’s Energy Conservation Building Code (ECBC) has not been uniform across the nation.

Analysis

Benefits of Green Buildings

  • A green building is one that makes minimal impact on the environment due to its climate responsive design.
  • Reducing negative environmental impact and providing occupant comfort are the key features of a green building.
  • Some of the tangible benefits of constructing green are as follows:
  • Reuse of the construction waste material to the maximum possible extent;
  • Reduce the energy and water demands of the building;
  • Reduce air and water pollution loads on the community;
  • Limited waste generation due to recycling and reuse;
  • Increase occupant productivity;
  • Enhance marketability for the community as a whole;
  • Reduction in operational cost of buildings.

Green Ratings in India

  • Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment (GRIHA) Council is an independent, not-for-profit society jointly set up by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) and the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), Government of India to promote and administer green buildings in India.
  • The GRIHA rating was adopted as the National Rating System for Green Buildings in India by MNRE in 2007.
  • The GRIHA rating has been acknowledged as the tool to evaluate reduction in emissions intensity through habitats as part of the mitigation strategy for combating climate change in India’s ‘Nationally Determined Contributions’ (NDCs) submitted to the UNFCCC.
  • GRIHA rates new and existing buildings of various built-up areas under residential, commercial, and institutional typologies.
  • GRIHA evaluates the environmental performance of all typologies of building, holistically over its entire life cycle, thereby providing a definitive standard for green buildings and sustainable habitats.
  • Public Works Department (PWD), Government of Maharashtra (GoM), has entered into a first of its kind agreement with GRIHA Council to ensure that all the upcoming government buildings are mandatorily rated under GRIHA and the evaluation of these projects with respect to GHG reduction is recorded and published publically.
  • As a signatory to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), India is expected to undertake actions to adapt buildings to climate change in a manner consistent with the multilateral framework.
  • The salient features of the GRIHA rating are as follows:
  • Performance-based rating system designed for different climatic zones and incorporating regional variations;
  • Unifies multiple national and state level codes and norms, such as National Building Code (NBC), Energy Conservation Building Code (ECBC) and Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), CPCB, and CGWB, into a simple set of criteria;
  • Common sense oriented with non-applicability clauses, that is, every project is unique and its rating is evaluated only on the basis of attempted criteria;
  • Places emphasis on using the integrated design approach and implementation of cost-effective strategies;
  • Emphasis on strategies to identify and reduce losses in energy consumption;
  • Ensures the acoustic, thermal, and visual comfort for all building occupants;
  • Recommends taking a realistic approach towards indoor air quality through usage of low VOC (volatile organic compounds) paints, adhesives, and sealants;
  • Construction stage linked due diligence visits to ensure that the commitments made during the design stage are being implemented.
  • MNRE has made it mandatory for buildings to obtain a GRIHA rating to avail subsidies and other financial assistance allocated for green development.
  • The Ministry also provides incentives to local bodies that offer rebate in property tax for GRIHA rated buildings.
  • Backed up by MNRE subsidies, GRIHA requires, as a mandatory criterion, 1 per cent of the total energy needs for the development to be sourced from solar power.
  • GRIHA mandates the treatment of ground water for drinking and irrigation to the norms as prescribed by ISI.
  • GRIHA requires adherence to Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and NBC guidelines for acceptable outdoor and indoor noise levels.
  • GRIHA considers many local issues, besides critical ideas such as embodied energy, minimising ozone depleting materials, adapting efficient construction technology and accepting non-air conditioned buildings.
  • TERI states that ‘by its qualitative and quantitative assessment criteria’, it would be able to ‘rate’ a building on the degree of its ‘greenness’.
  • There also are provisions for large developments, prequalification. Star-ratings and such others.
  • TERI accepts that “It is a known fact that it costs more to design and construct a green building. However, it is also a proven fact that it costs less to operate a green building that has tremendous environmental benefits and provides a better place for the occupants to live and work in.”
  • In late 2017, GRIHA Council and TERI developed PRAROOP’, a simulation tool which allows users to choose materials to design a virtual green building for themselves.
  • The simulation model generated a green score to indicate the level of sustainability and cost-effectiveness of the building.

LEED India

  • In 2007, LEED India (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-India) was adapted from the USGBC LEED programme.
  • This is a private initiative run by the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC), part of Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).

Energy Conservation Building Code 2017 (ECBC 2017)

  • The Energy Conservation Building Code 2017 (ECBC 2017) was launched in June 2017.
  • It has been developed by Ministry of Power and Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) with technical support from United States Agency for International Development (USAID) under the U.S.-India bilateral Partnership to Advance Clean Energy – Deployment Technical Assistance (PACE-D TA) Program.
  • ECBC 2017 prescribes the energy performance standards for new commercial buildings to be constructed across India.
  • ECBC sets minimum energy standards for commercial buildings having a connected load of 100kW or contract demand of 120 KVA and above.
  • While the Central Government has powers under the EC Act 2001, the state governments have the flexibility to modify the code to suit local or regional needs and notify them.
  • ECBC 2017 sets parameters for builders, designers and architects to integrate renewable energy sources in building design.
  • In order for a building to be considered ECBC-compliant, it would need to demonstrate minimum energy savings of 25%.
  • Additional improvements in energy efficiency performance would enable the new buildings to achieve higher grades like ECBC Plus or   Super ECBC status leading to further energy savings of 35% and 50%, respectively.
  • Presently, the code is in voluntary phase of implementation.
  • Complementing the efforts of the government of India, the ECBC has been integrated in other rating & compliance systems being followed in the country such as:
  • EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) for large area development under MoEF (Ministry of Environment & Forest),
  • Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment (GRIHA) rating system and
  • Leadership in Energy &Environmental Design (LEED) rating system of the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC).

Star Rating Programme for commercial buildings

  • To create a market pull for energy efficient buildings, BEE developed a voluntary Star Rating Programme for commercial buildings which is based on the actual performance of a building, in terms of energy usage in the building over its area expressed in kWh/sq. m/year.
  • This Programme rates buildings on a 1-5 star scale, with 5-Star labelled buildings being the most energy efficient.

State Energy Efficiency Index 2019

  • The ‘State Energy Efficiency Index 2019 tracks the progress of Energy Efficiency (EE) initiatives in 36 states and union territories based on 97 significant indicators.
  • The index is developed by Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) in association with Alliance for an Energy Efficient Economy (AEEE).
  • For rational comparison, States/UTs are grouped into four groups based on aggregated Total Primary Energy Supply (TPES) required to meet the state’s actual energy demand (electricity, coal, oil, gas, etc.) across sectors.

2. Recognition Scheme for Hygiene Rating Audit Agencies (PIB)

  • Context: Quality Council of India (QCI) at the behest of the FSSAI has come out with a Scheme for approval of Hygiene Rating Audit Agencies to scale up Hygiene Rating by increasing the number of recognised Hygiene Rating Audit Agencies in the country.

Analysis

  • FSSAI’s initiative of ‘Food Hygiene Rating Scheme’ is a certification system for food businesses supplying food directly to consumers, either on or off premise.
  • The food establishments are rated based on food hygiene and safety conditions observed at the time of audit. The hygiene rating will be in the form of smileys (1 up to 5) and the certificate should be displayed prominently in the consumer facing area.
  • The recognised Hygiene Rating Audit Agencies will be responsible for verifying the compliance with food hygiene and safety procedures laid by FSSAI and get Hygiene Rating.
  • Currently, this scheme is applicable for Food service establishments (such as hotels, restaurants, cafeteria, dhabhas, etc.), sweet shops, bakeries and meat retail stores.

Quality Council of India (QCI) 

  • It was set up in 1997 jointly by the Government of India and the Indian Industry represented by the three premier industry associations i.e., Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM), Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).
  • It aims to establish and operate national accreditation structure and promote quality through National Quality Campaign.
  • The Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion, Ministry of Commerce & Industry, is the nodal ministry for QCI.

3. Meghdoot awards and DakPay (PIB)

  • Context: Department of Posts under the Ministry of Communications conferred Meghdoot awards to Postal Employees for their achievements in 2019-20 and also launched DakPay.

Analysis

  • Department of Posts (DoP) and India Post Payments Bank (IPPB) unveiled a new digital payment app ‘DakPay’.
  • The App is launched as part of its ongoing efforts to provide Digital Financial inclusion at the last mile across India.
  • DakPay is not just a digital payment app but a suite of digital financial and assisted banking services provided by India Post & IPPB through the trusted Postal (‘Dak’) network across the nation to cater to the financial needs (‘Pay’) of various sections of the society –
  • sending money to the loved ones (Domestic Money Transfers – DMT),
  • Scan QR code and make payment for services/merchants digitally (Virtual debit card & with UPI),
  • enabling cashless ecosystem through biometrics,
  • providing interoperable banking services to the customers of ANY BANK (AePS) and
  • Utility Bill Payment services.
  • DakPay UPI app allows users to create UPI ID and link multiple accounts across banks in a single mobile app.
  • The app facilitates instant money transfers, QR based payments in merchant stores and online shopping on e-commerce websites.

About India Post Payments Bank

  • India Post Payments Bank (IPPB) has been established under the Department of Posts, Ministry of Communication with 100% equity owned by Government of India.
  • The fundamental mandate of India Post Payments Bank is to remove barriers for the unbanked & underbanked and reach the last mile leveraging the Postal network comprising 155,000 Post Offices (135,000 in rural areas) and 300,000 Postal employees.
  • IPPB’s reach and its operating model is built on the key pillars of India Stack – enabling Paperless, Cashless and Presence-less banking in a simple and secure manner at the customers’ doorstep, through a CBS-integrated smartphone and biometric device.

India Stack

  • India Stack is a set of APIs (application program interface) that allows governments, businesses, startups and developers to utilise a unique digital Infrastructure to solve India’s hard problems towards presence-less, paperless, and cashless service delivery.

B) Economy

4. India’s Foreign Trade (PIB)

  • Context: The Ministry of Commerce and Industry publishes India’s trade (export and import) data in net dollar terms.

Foreign Trade Values: Observations

  • India imports more goods than it exports.
  • India exports more services than it imports.

Foreign Trade Indicators: Observations

  • India’s trade represents around 40% of the country’s GDP.
  • India’s trade balance is structurally negative, given that the country imports nearly 80% of its energy needs.
  • India’s trade balance (including services) is also generally negative but is comparatively lesser when services are not included.
  • Trade balance or Balance of trade (BOT) is the difference between the value of a country’s imports and exports for a given period and is the largest component of a country’s balance of payments (BOP).
  • A country that imports more goods and services than it exports in terms of value has a trade deficit while a country that exports more goods and services than it imports has a trade surplus.

5. Financial Stability and Development Council (FSDC) (TH)

  • Context: Union Minister for Finance & Corporate Affairs chaired the 23rd Meeting of the Financial Stability and Development Council (FSDC) through video conference.

Analysis

  • In pursuance of the announcement made in the Union Budget 2010–11 and with a view to strengthen and institutionalize the mechanism for maintaining financial stability and enhancing inter-regulatory coordination, Indian Government has setup an apex-level Financial Stability and Development Council (FSDC).
  • The first meeting of the Council was held on 31st December, 2010.
  • FSDC is not a statutory body.
  • The idea to create such a super regulatory body was first mooted by the Raghuram Rajan Committee in 2008.
  • FSDC has replaced the High Level Coordination Committee on Financial Markets (HLCCFM), which was facilitating regulatory coordination, though informally, prior to the setting up of FSDC.

Composition

  • The Chairman of the FSDC is the Finance Minister of India and its members include the heads of the financial sector regulatory authorities (i.e., SEBI, IRDA, RBI, PFRDA and FMC), Finance Secretary and/or Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs (Ministry of Finance), Secretary, (Department of Financial Services, Ministry of Finance) and the Chief Economic Adviser.
  • The commodities markets regulator, Forward Markets Commission (FMC) was added to the FSDC in December 2013 subsequent to shifting of administrative jurisdiction of commodities market regulation from Ministry of consumer Affairs to Ministry of Finance.
  • Additional Secretary, DEA, Ministry of Finance, will be the Secretary of the Council.

Mandate

  • Without prejudice to the autonomy of regulators, this Council would monitor macro prudential supervision of the economy, including the functioning of large financial conglomerates.
  • It will address inter-regulatory coordination issues and thus spur financial sector development.
  • It will also focus on financial literacy and financial inclusion.
  • What distinguishes FSDC from other such similarly situated organizations across the globe is the additional mandate given for development of financial sector.

C) Indices, Reports, Surveys, Committees and Organisations

6. National Family Health Survey-5 (PIB)

  • Context: Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare released the factsheets of key indicators on population, reproductive and child health, family welfare, nutrition and others for 22 States/UTs of the first Phase of the 2019-20 National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) on Universal Health Coverage Day on 12thDecember, 2020.

Analysis

  • These 22 Phase-I States/UTs are Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Goa, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Telangana, Tripura, West Bengal, Andaman Nicobar Island, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu, Jammu & Kashmir, Ladakh and Lakshadweep.
  • The fieldwork in the remaining 14 (Phase-II) States/UTs is currently under progress.
  • The main objective of successive rounds of the NFHS is to provide reliable and comparable datasets on health, family welfare and other emerging issues.
  • Four rounds of NFHS (1992–93, 1998–99, 2005–06 and 2015–16) have been successfully completed in India.
  • All the rounds of NFHS have been conducted by the International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS), Mumbai, as the national nodal agency.
  • Earlier the Health Ministry itself used to conduct District Level Health Survey (DLHS) and Annual Health Survey (AHS).
  • MoHFW has decided to conduct integrated NFHS with a periodicity of three years in lieu of different surveys from 2015-16 onwards to meet the evolving requirements for frequent, timely and appropriate data at the National, State and District levels.
  • The state factsheet released include information on 131 key indicators.
  • These important indicators on population, health and family welfare, nutrition and others will help track progress of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the country.
  • Many indicators of NFHS-5 are similar to those of NFHS-4, carried out in 2015-16 to make possible comparisons over time.
  • However, NFHS-5 that includes new focal areas such as expanded domains of child immunization, components of micro-nutrients to children, menstrual hygiene, frequency of alcohol and tobacco use, additional components of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), expanded age ranges for measuring hypertension and diabetes among all, aged 15 years and above.

The key results from the State/UT factsheets are as follows:

  • The Total Fertility Rates (TFR) has further declined since NFHS-4 in almost all the Phase-1 States and UTs.
  • The replacement level of fertility (2.1) has been achieved in 19 out of the 22 States/UTs and only 3 states viz. Manipur (2.2), Meghalaya (2.9) and Bihar (3.0) have TFR above replacement levels now.
  • TFR is defined as the total number of children born or likely to be born to a woman in her lifetime at the prevailing rate of age-specific fertility.
  • Population stabilisation is said to be achieved at a TFR of 2.1 because a population just replaces itself at that rate or begin to decline.
  • If women in a nation or a region or a group have fewer than 2.1 children each, its population will go down over time, while those whose women have more than that will see their population continue to rise.
  • For India, the effective replacement level fertility is slightly higher than the normal benchmark due to the skewed gender ratio and is at 2.15-2.2.
  • Overall Contraceptive Prevalence Rate (CPR) has increased substantially in most States/UTs and it is the highest in HP and WB (74%).
  • Use of modern methods of contraception has also increased in almost all States/UTs.
  • Unmet needs of family planning have witnessed a declining trend in most of the Phase-1 States/UTs.
  • The unmet need for spacing which remained a major issue in India in the past has come down to less than 10 per cent in all the States except Meghalaya and Mizoram.
  • Full immunization drive among children aged 12-23 months has recorded substantial improvement across States/UTs/districts.
  • More than two-third of children are fully immunized in all the States and UTs except Nagaland, Meghalaya and Assam.
  • This can be attributed to the flagship initiative of Mission Indradhanush launched by the government since 2015.
  • Mission Indradhanush: To accelerate the process of immunization by covering 5% and more children every year, Indradhanush mission was adopted.
  • Mission Indradhanush aims to ensure that at least 90% of the children under the age of two years and pregnant women, who are either unvaccinated, or are partially vaccinated against vaccine preventable diseases, are fully immunized with all available vaccines by 2020.
  • Mission Indradhanush does not target to reduce post-natal death rate but targets to reduce diseases and death due to vaccine preventable diseases.
  • Intensified Mission Indradhanush (IMI)
  • It is a supplemental aggressive action plan to cover all left outs and drop outs in select districts and urban areas with low routine immunization coverage to achieve the target of more than 90% coverage in a specific time-frame (December 2018).
  • Mission Indradhanush is under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
  • There is increase in the per cent of women receiving the recommended four or more ANC (antenatal care contacts to reduce perinatal mortality) visits by health providers in many States/UTs. This percentage has increased in 13 States/UTs between 2015-16 to 2019-20.
  • Institutional births have increased substantially with over four-fifth of the women delivering in institutions in 19 States and UTs.
  • Along with an increase in institutional births, there has also been a substantial increase in C-section deliveries in many States/UTs especially in private health facilities.
  • Sex ratio at birth (SRB) has remained unchanged or increased in most States/UTs.
  • Majority of the states are in normal sex ratio of 952 or above. SRB is below 900 in Telangana, Himachal Pradesh, Goa, DNH & DD.
  • Child nutrition indicators show a mixed pattern across states.
  • While the situation improved in many States/UTs, there has been minor deterioration in others.
  • Drastic changes in respect of stunting and wasting are unlikely in a short period.
  • Anaemia among women and children continues to be a cause of concern.
  • More than half of the children and women are anaemic in 13 of the 22 States/UTs.
  • It has also been observed that anaemia among pregnant women has increased in half of the States/UTs compared to NFHS-4, in spite of substantial increase in the consumption of IFA tablets by pregnant women for 180 days or more.
  • For both women and men, there is a lot of variation in the high or very high random blood glucose levels across States/UTs.
  • Men are more likely to have slightly higher blood glucose levels in the range of high or very high compared to women.
  • The percentage of men with high or very high blood glucose is highest in Kerala (27%) followed by Goa (24%).
  • Prevalence of elevated blood pressure (hypertension) among men is somewhat higher than in women.
  • The percentage of households with improved sanitation facility and clean fuel for cooking has increased in almost all the 22 States/UTs over the last four years (from 2015-16  to  2019-20).
  • Women’s empowerment indicators portray considerable improvement across all the States/UTs included in Phase 1.
  • Considerable progress has been recorded between NFHS-4 and NFHS-5 in regard to women operating bank accounts. 
  • More than 60 per cent of women in every state and UTs in the first phase have operational bank accounts.
  • It may also be stated that recurrent floods in Kerala during the time of survey as well as the previous year may have affected the utilization of maternal care services and hence, it may have some unusual/unexpected trend in some of maternal care indicators for some of the districts.
  • In Tripura from the 4 districts which were previously existing at the time of NFHS-4, 8 new districts were formed which were covered in NFHS-5.
  • This could have led to compositional changes of the population thereby, being one of the factors impacting negatively the levels of some of the indicators of the state.

D) International Relations

7. Understanding U.S.’s sanctions on Turkey under CAASTA for its purchase of Russia’s S-400 and implications for India (TH)

  • Context: The U.S. has imposed sanctions on NATO-ally Turkey for its purchase of Russia’s S-400 missile defence system.

Analysis

  • The United States made clear to Turkey at the highest levels and on numerous occasions that its purchase of the S-400 system would endanger the security of U.S. military technology and personnel and provide substantial funds to Russia’s defense sector, as well as Russian access to the Turkish armed forces and defense industry.
  • Turkey nevertheless decided to move ahead with the procurement and testing of the S-400, despite the availability of alternative, NATO-interoperable systems to meet its defense requirements.
  • This decision resulted in Turkey’s suspension and pending removal from the global F-35 Joint Strike Fighter partnership (There are eight international program partners — the U.S., United Kingdom, Italy, Netherlands, Australia, Norway, Denmark and Canada).
  • Last year, the U.S. had removed Turkey from its F-35 jet programme over concerns that sensitive information could be accessed by Russia if Turkey used Russian systems along with U.S. jets.
  • The issue of sanctions under Section 231 of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) for purchase of Russian arms is of particular interest to India, which is also in the process of buying the S-400 from Moscow.

U.S.-Turkey relations in the recent past

  • Rising tensions in U.S.-Turkey relations are threatening to upset North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) unity.
  • In the latest of a series of incidents, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has threatened to shut down two U.S. bases (Incirlik and the Kurecik radar base) in retaliation for the proposed American sanctions on Ankara over purchasing Russian weapons.
  • There are U.S. nuclear warheads in the Incirlik airb̥ase, a critical facility for American operations in West Asia.
  • The U.S. and Turkey are the largest and second largest standing armies of NATO, respectively.
  • S.-Turkey ties began slumping in recent years after Washington’s refusal to extradite Fethullah Gülen, a U.S.-based Turkish Islamic preacher who is accused by Ankara of orchestrating the failed 2016 coup against Mr. Erdoğan.
  • The U.S. decision to arm and assist Kurdish rebels in Syria against the Islamic State was another blow.
  • Ankara sees the People’s Protection Units, the main Syrian Kurdish militia that became an American ally in the anti-IS war, as an affiliate of the Kurdistan Workers Party, the Kurdish militia on the Turkish side.
  • In return, Turkey moved closer towards Russia, now trying to raise its regional profile, and invaded Kurdish-held towns in northern Syria in 2019.
  • Turkey’s decision to purchase the Russian S-400 missile system despite U.S.-NATO opposition, was the tipping point.
  • After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, NATO — founded as a Soviet counterweight — remained as a vehicle of western military might and continued to expand to Russia’s borders, creating tensions between Russia and the West in the recent past.
  • But with the resurgence of populist, nationalist leaders in several western countries, the NATO’s relevance has been called into question several times.
  • The Trump administration has already suspended Turkey from the F-35 programme, citing concerns over Russia spying on the fighter jet’s capabilities using the S-400 system’s radar.
  • The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved a Bill (National Defense Authorization Bill (NDAA) 2021) seeking sanctions on Turkey over the S-400 purchase and the Syria offensive.

Turkey’s closeness to Iran

  • Turkey and Iran have overlapping strategic interests regarding:
  • Kurdish secessionism,
  • territorial integrity of Iraq, and
  • shared antipathy towards Saudi Arabia.
  • Iran is the second largest supplier of energy to Turkey and a leading trading partner as well.
  • Washington is also critical of Turkey in the counter-terrorism efforts in Syria and to stem the flow of refugees into Europe.

Criticism of Turkey over human rights

  • Further, the West’s persistent attacks on the Turkish regime’s human rights record has hardened Mr. Erdogan’s authoritarian stand. U.S. President Donald Trump’s erratic foreign policy approach has also helped Mr. Erdogan expand his regional influence.

S-400 Triumf Air-Defense System and CAATSA

  • The S-400 Triumf is Russia’s most advanced air-defense hardware, and comes at a lower price than its U.S. competitor, the Patriot.
  • It is capable of firing three types of missiles to create a layered defense.
  • It can bring down aircrafts and missiles at a range of up to 400km.
  • India is in talks with Russia to buy this system.
  • It also integrates a multi-function radar, autonomous detection and targeting systems, missile launchers, and command posts.
  • China was the first country to buy the weapon from Russia.
  • India is also in the process of buying five S-400 systems from Russia.
  • Russia plans to launch the S-500, the successor of the S-400, in the 2020s.

CAATSA

  • CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act) is an Act of U.S. which places sanctions on countries having significance interests in Russian, Iranian, and North Korean defence or intelligence sectors.
  • Sanctions under the CAATSA law could kick in when the first payment for the equipment is made, unless the U.S. President grants a waiver.

Why is the S-400 deal important for India?

  • Russia has traditionally been India’s biggest defence supplier, but was surpassed by the U.S. in the last few years, a fact that had added to a perceptible drift in bilateral ties.

Is India the only country facing CAATSA sanctions?

  • By coincidence, CAATSA has now been invoked by the United States twice already, first against China and then against Turkey, and both times for countries buying the Triumf system from Russia.
  • Washington expelled Turkey, a NATO ally of the U.S., from the F-35 fighter jet programme in July this year after the first delivery of S-400s was received, and says sanctions are still under consideration unless Turkey reverses its deal with Russia.

Is a sanctions waiver possible for India?

  • Written into the CAATSA language is also an exit clause, which states that “The [US] President may waive the application of [CAATSA] sanctions if the President determines that such a waiver is in the national security interest of the United States.”
  • The U.S. can exercise this waiver for the S-400 deal to India for a number of reasons:
  • that a militarily stronger India is in the U.S.’s interests, and
  • that India cannot completely drop its traditional dependence on Russian defence equipment without being weakened.
  • In addition, it is no secret that U.S. President Donald Trump has misgivings about the CAATSA sanctions, which he said were meant to curtail his own powers to deal with Russia, and the other countries included in the act — Iran and North Korea.
  • It is hoped that Mr. Trump will grant India a waiver on the deal, thanks to good bilateral relations with India and the fact that it is a “major defence partner” of the U.S.

What happens if a waiver is not granted?

  • Section 235 of the CAATSA legislation stipulates 12 kinds of punitive sanctions that the U.S. could place on a country conducting significant transactions in defence, energy, oil pipelines and cybersecurity technology with any of the U.S.’s “adversaries”, and according to the Act, the U.S. President may impose “five or more of the sanctions described”.
  • These measures include:
  • export sanctions,
  • cancellation of loans from U.S. and international financial institutions,
  • ban on investments and procurement,
  • restrictions on foreign exchange and banking transactions, and
  • a visa and travel ban on officials associated with any entity carrying out the sanctioned transactions.

Has India given the U.S. a fait accompli on the S-400?

  • India’s firm-footed response to the U.S. threat of sanctions on the Russian S-400 is in sharp contrast to its decision to “zero out” oil purchases from Iran, which were sanctioned by the U.S. last year, and denotes that while the government is prepared to diversify its energy sources, it will not be bullied on its defence security options.
  • Given the stakes involved, the government hopes that the U.S. will put its burgeoning strategic, defence and business bilateral relationship with India above its rancour with Russia. If not, however, officials say they are prepared to ride out the storm.
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