Daily Current Affairs Date : 19thFebruary,2022
(30+ Questions hit in Prelims 2021 from this series)
Covers 4 Most relevant Sources
- The Hindu
- Indian Express
- MILAN 2022: Indian Navy’s Biggest Maritime Exercise (TH, pg 5)
- Indian Neutrino Observatory (INO) (TH, pg 8)
- All About Stem Cells (TH, pg 15)
- Minsk II Ceasefire Agreement(TH, pg 8)
- Military Takeover in Mali (TH, pg 11)
- Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) in Detail (TH, pg 1)
- Australia banned far-right extremist group (TH, pg 11)
MILAN 2022: Indian Navy’s Biggest Maritime Exercise (TH, pg 5)
- Context: The Indian Navy will host its biggest maritime exercise, from February 26 to March 4 off the coast of Visakhapatnam, which will include anti-submarine warfare drills for the first time.
- The exercises aim to hone operational skills, instil best practises and procedures, and enable doctrinal learning in the maritime domain through professional interaction between friendly navies.
- This addition of Milan envisages further enhancement of the scope and complexity with a focus on exercises at sea in surface, subsurface, and air domains, including weapon firings.
- The exercise is divided into two phases- the harbour phase (February 26-28) and the sea phase (March 1-4).
- This is the first time the exercise has been shifted from the Andaman to Vizag, as the scale of the exercise has been enhanced.
- The exercise was supposed to take place in 2020 as it’s a biennial event, but was called off due to Covid-19.
- MILAN, a Multilateral Naval Exercise hosted by India, made a modest beginning in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in 1995 with participation of four littoral navies.
- This biennial congregation of friendly navies, has metamorphosed into a prestigious maritime exercise with participation by about 46 friendly foreign countries across continents in MILAN 2022.
- MILAN 2022 is the eleventh edition of the event and would be held under the aegis of Eastern Naval Command.
- The theme for MILAN 2022 is ‘Camaraderie Cohesion Collaboration’.
Indian Neutrino Observatory (INO) (TH, pg 8)
- Context:Tamil Nadu has made it clear to the Supreme Court that it does not want the Indian Neutrino Observatory (INO) to be set up in a sensitive ecological zone in the Western Ghats at a great cost to wildlife and biodiversity, and by ignoring the local opposition to the project.
- The proposed INO project primarily aims to study atmospheric neutrinos in a 1,300-m deep cavern in the Bodi West Hills in Theni district, Tamil Nadu.
- This observation will tell us more about the properties of neutrino particles, whose main source is the Sun and the Earth’s atmosphere.
- The neutrino detector will be a magnetized iron calorimeter, which will be the heaviest one made by any country.
- When completed, the INO would house the largest magnet in the world.
- The underground laboratory will be located nearly 1.5 km below the Earth’s surface, where a giant neutrino detector is to be placedin the cavern at the end of a 2 km horizontal tunnel at the INO site.
- Once built, INO would be the biggest research facility in India.
- The project is jointly funded by Dept. of Atomic Energy (DAE) and the Dept. of Science and Technology (DST), Govt. of India.
- Neutrinos are subatomic particles produced by the decay of radioactive elements and lack an electric charge.
- They are almost mass less, and travel at near light speeds.
- Born from violent astrophysical events such as exploding stars and gamma ray bursts, they are abundant in the universe, and can move as easily through matter as we move through air.
- They are notoriously difficult to track down/detect because they pass seamlessly through all kinds of matter.
- These little wisps hold the blueprint of nature, which the INO project aims to use to understand some of the unsolved mysteries of the universe.
- The Sun emits billions of neutrinos every second.
- Neutrinos are now considered to be the second most abundant particle in the universe — after the photon, or light particle.
- Research on neutrinos has led to award of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2002 and 2015, and before that, in 1988 and 1995.
- The characteristics which make neutrinos useful for astronomy are:
- they are produced in large quantities in high-energy collisions,
- they travel essentially at the speed of light,
- they are unaffected by magnetic fields,
- they are affected only by gravity because of their energy content and
- they are unabsorbed as they travel cosmological distances between their origin and us.
Series of holdups
- The project has been mired in all kinds of trouble — litigation, public protests, opposition from NGOs and political parties, besides government apathy. It has had to move locations once, because the nearby Mudhumalai National Park had been declared a tiger reserve during the same time.
- The India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO) project has become controversial on environmental grounds, given the proposed site’s proximity to the Mathikettan Shola National Park in Kerala’s Western Ghats, a global biodiversity hotspot.
Eco Sensitive Areas
- Ecologically Sensitive Areas (ESAs), as identified by the High Level Working Group chaired by Dr. Kasturirangan, have been identified and notified by the Indian Ministry of Environment & Forests (MoEF) since 1989.
- Notifications declaring areas as ESAs are issued under the Environment (Protection) Act 1986.
- However, the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 does not mention the word “Eco-Sensitive Zones”.
- The clauses of the EPA which allow for the notification of ESAs hold the possibility of realising landscape-level conservation.
All About Stem Cells (TH, pg 15)
- Context: A woman patient has been cured of HIV Infection by using Stem-Cell Transplant. While this approach is certainly a welcome addition, stem cell therapy is a cumbersome exercise and barely accessible to most HIV patients in the world.
- A vaccine for HIV or a drug that eliminates the virus is still elusive for HIV/AIDS.
What are stem cells, and why are they important?
- Stem cells are special human cells that are able to develop into many different cell types.
- In some cases, they can also fix damaged tissues as they serve as a sort of internal repair system dividing essentially without limit to replenish other cells as long as the person or animal is still alive.
- When a stem cell divides, each new cell has the potential either to remain a stem cell or become another type of cell with a more specialized function, such as a muscle cell, a red blood cell, or a brain cell.
What are the unique properties of all stem cells?
- Stem cells differ from other kinds of cells in the body.
- All stem cells—regardless of their source—have three general properties:
- they are capable of dividing and renewing themselves for long periods;
- they are unspecialized; and
- they can give rise to specialized cell types.
Types of stem cells
- Stem cells are of 2 main types: embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells.
Embryonic stem cells
- The embryonic stem cells used in research today come from unused embryos that develop from eggs that have been fertilized in vitro—in an in vitro fertilization (IVF) clinic—and then donated for research purposes with informed consent of the donors.
- These embryonic stem cells are pluripotent. This means that they can turn into more than one type of cell.
- Embryonic stem cells, as their name suggests, are derived from embryos.
Adult stem cells
- There are 2 types of adult stem cells. One type comes from fully developed tissues such as the brain, skin, and bone marrow.
- There are only small numbers of stem cells in these tissues.
- They are more likely to generate only certain types of cells.
- The primary roles of adult stem cells in a living organism are to maintain and repair the tissue in which they are found.
- For example, a stem cell that comes from the liver will only make more liver cells.
- The second type is induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS Cells)
- iPS Cells are basically adult stem cells that have been changed in a lab to be more like embryonic stem cells.
- iPS Cells have been genetically reprogrammed to behave like embryonic stem cells.
- The main advantage of iPS Cells is that it does not involves the destruction of human embryos. This deals with the ethical concerns being raised about embryonic stem cells.
- The 2012 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded jointly to Sir John B. Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka for the discovery that adult cells can be reprogrammed to become pluripotent i.e. iPS cells.
Uses of stem cells
- Stem cells are frequently used in regenerative medicine research and therapies in several ways.
- It repairs organs or tissues that are damaged by disease, aging or trauma, such that function is restored, or at least improved.
Benefits of Stem cell therapy
- The main disadvantage of stem cell research has to do with the way that they’re acquired-that is, it involves the destruction of human embryos.
- This makes it immoral for those who believe that life begins at contraception.
- Another risks include tumour formation and transforming of few cells into malignant cells resulting in cancer.
- Transplanted stem cells can have high rejection rates.
Do you know?
- In some organs, such as the gut and bone marrow, stem cells regularly divide to repair and replace worn out or damaged tissues.
- In other organs, however, such as the pancreas and the heart, stem cells only divide under special conditions.
Minsk II Ceasefire Agreement(TH, pg 8)
- Context:At a meeting at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) called by Russia to discuss the Ukraine crisis, on the seventh anniversary of the Minsk II ceasefire agreement, India called for a diplomatic solution to the tensions.
- Minsk II agreement was signed in February 2015 with an aim to bring peace in the rebel-held regions of the Donbas region of Ukraine.
- The agreement was signed by Russia, Ukraine, separatist leaders and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
- Minsk II has not been fully implemented (its predecessor, Minsk I, broke down).
Military Takeover in Mali (TH, pg 11)
- Context:France has announced that it would withdraw its troops from Mali over a breakdown in relations with the country’s ruling junta, after nearly 10 years of fighting a jihadist insurgency that still poses a major threat to the West African nation and beyond.
- The deployment has been fraught with problems for France — of the 53 French soldiers killed serving in West Africa’s Sahel region, 48 died in Mali.
- In August 2020, the military in Mali arrested the country’s president and prime minister in a coup staged after weeks of destabilizing protests over a disputed election, government corruption and a violent Islamist insurgency that has lasted for eight years.
- France was deeply involved in the affairs of Mali, its former colony, decades after the country gained independence.
- For the French forces battling Islamists in the region, Mali was part of what some call France’s “Forever War” in the Sahel, the far-stretching land beneath the Sahara.
- However, the coup leader said, “MINUSMA (the UN force in Mali), (France’s) Barkhane force, the G5 Sahel, Takuba(a European special-forces initiative) remain our partners.”
- G5 Sahel isa UN-backed initiative of the countries of the Sahel (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger).
- The Algiers process is a 2015 peace agreement between the Malian government and armed groups in the north of the country.
Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) in Detail (TH, pg 1)
- Context:India and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) signed a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA).
What are Free Trade Agreements (FTAs)?
- FTAs are arrangements between two or more countries or trading blocs that primarily agree to reduce or eliminate customs tariff and non-tariff barriers on substantial trade between them.
- FTAs, normally cover trade in goods (such as agricultural or industrial products) or trade in services (such as banking, construction, trading etc.).
- FTAs can also cover other areas such as intellectual property rights (IPRs), investment, government procurement and competition policy, etc.
What is the difference between the terms such as PTA, CECA, RTA, CEPA, Customs Union, Common Market and Economic Union? How are these related to FTAs?
Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA)
- In a PTA, two or more partners agree to reduce tariffs on agreed number of tariff lines.
- The list of products on which the partners agree to reduce duty is called positive list.
- India MERCOSUR PTA is such an example.
- The Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR for its Spanish initials) is a regional integration process, initially established by Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, and subsequently joined by Venezuela and Bolivia* -the latter still complying with the accession procedure.
- Venezuela’s membership has been suspended for violating the bloc’s democratic principles since 2016.
- India is neither an associated state nor an observer state for this bloc.
- However, in general PTAs do not cover substantially all trade.
Free Trade Agreement (FTA)
- In FTAs, tariffs on items covering substantial bilateral trade are eliminated between the partner countries; however, each maintains individual tariff structure for non-members.
- India Sri Lanka FTA is an example.
- The key difference between an FTA and a PTA is that while in a PTA there is a positive list of products on which duty is to be reduced; in an FTA there is a negative list on which duty is not reduced or eliminated.
- Thus, compared to a PTA, FTAs are generally more ambitious in coverage of tariff lines (products) on which duty is to be reduced.
Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) and Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA)
- These terms describe agreements which consist of an integrated package on goods, services and investment along with other areas including IPR, competition etc.
- The India Korea CEPA is one such example and it covers a broad range of other areas like trade facilitation and customs cooperation, investment, competition, IPR etc.
How is CECA/CEPA different from FTA?
- A Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) or a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) is different from a traditional Free Trade Agreement (FTA) on two counts.
- Firstly, CECA/CEPA are more comprehensive and ambitious that an FTA in terms of coverage of areas and the type of commitments.
- While a traditional FTA focuses mainly on goods; a CECA/CEPA is more ambitious in terms of a holistic coverage of many areas like services, investment, competition, government procurement, disputes etc.
- Secondly, CECA/CEPA looks deeper at the regulatory aspects of trade than an FTA.
- In a Customs union, partner countries may decide to trade at zero duty among themselves, however they maintain common tariffs against rest of the world.
- An example is Southern African Customs Union (SACU) amongst South Africa, Lesotho, Namibia, Botswana and Swaziland.
- European Union is also an outstanding example.
- Integration provided by a Common market is one step deeper than that by a Customs Union.
- A common market is a Customs Union with provisions to facilitate free movements of labour and capital, harmonize technical standards across members etc.
- European Common Market is an example.
- Economic Union is a Common Market extended through further harmonization of fiscal/monetary policies and shared executive, judicial & legislative institutions.
- European Union (EU) is an example.
Increasing order of economic integration
- Free Trade Area-> Custom Union-> Common Market-> Economic Union
What is an Early Harvest Scheme/Programme (EHS) and how different is it from an FTA?
- Early harvest scheme is a precursor to a free trade agreement (FTA) between two trading partners.
- This is to help the two trading countries to identify certain products for tariff liberalisation pending the conclusion of FTA negotiation.
How is tariff reduction under an FTA different from WTO tariff negotiation?
- In an FTA tariff reduction is generally undertaken with reference to the base rate i.e., from the applied MFN tariffs.
- However, the WTO negotiations are always based on “bound duty rates” and not the MFN applied duties.
Why are almost all the countries signing Free Trade Agreements?
- By eliminating tariffs and some non-tariff barriers FTA partners get easier market access into one another’s markets.
- Exporters prefer FTAs to multilateral trade liberalization because they get preferential treatment over non-FTA member country competitors.
- Possibility of increased foreign investment from outside the FTA.
- Consider 2 countries A and B having an FTA. Country A has high tariff and large domestic market. The firms based in country C may decide to invest in country A to cater to A’s domestic market. However, once A and B sign an FTA and B offers better business environment, C may decide to locate its plant in B to supply its products to A.
What are SPS and TBT measures? Do they figure in FTAs?
- SPS measures is an acronym for “sanitary and phytosanitary” measures and broadly includes measures for the protection of plant, animal and human health.
- The World Trade Organisation’s (WTO’s) SPS Agreement describes these measures in detail.
- TBT is an acronym for “technical barriers to trade” and broadly includes standards, technical regulations and conformity assessment procedures as defined in WTO’s TBT Agreement.
The major bilateral agreements of India are:
- India-Sri Lanka: FTA
- India-Malaysia: FTA
- India-Singapore CECA
- India-Japan: CEPA
- India-South Korea: CEPA
Tariff and Non-Tariff Barriers to Trade
Tariff Barriers to Trade
- Specific Tariffs
- A fixed fee levied on one unit of an imported good is referred to as a specific tariff.
- Ad Valorem Tariffs
- The phrase ad valorem is Latin for “according to value,” and this type of tariff is levied on a good based on a percentage of that good’s value.
- An example of an ad valorem tariff would be a 15% tariff levied by Japan on U.S. automobiles.
Non-Tariff Barriers to Trade
- Import Licensing
- Import Quotas
- An import quota is a restriction placed on the amount of a particular good that can be imported.
- Voluntary Export Restraints (VER)
- This type of trade barrier is “voluntary” in that it is created by the exporting country rather than the importing one.
- A voluntary export restraint is usually levied at the behest of the importing country and could be accompanied by a reciprocal VER.
- For example, Brazil could place a VER on the exportation of sugar to Canada, based on a request by Canada. Canada could then place a VER on the exportation of coal to Brazil. This increases the price of both coal and sugar but protects the domestic industries.
- Local Content Requirement
- Instead of placing a quota on the number of goods that can be imported, the government can require that a certain percentage of a good be made domestically.
- The restriction can be a percentage of the good itself or a percentage of the value of the good.
- Rules for the valuation of goods at customs
- Pre-shipment inspection: further checks on imports
- Rules of origin: made in … where?
- Investment measures
- Trade documentation
- Technical barriers to trade (TBT)
- Sanitary and Phytosanitary measures (SPS) (Plant and animal health regulations)
Australia banned far-right extremist group (TH, pg 11)
- Australia has added the U.S.-based far-right extremist group National Socialist Order and planned to add the entirety of the Palestinian group Hamas to its list of outlawed terrorist organisations as concerns rise about radicalised children.