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Insights Daily Current Affairs + PIB: 06 November 2019


Insights Daily Current Affairs + PIB: 06 November 2019


Table of contents:

 

GS Paper 1:

  1. The third battle of Panipat.

 

GS Paper 2:

  1. China proposes to treat Alzheimer’s with new drug.
  2. Iran nuclear deal.
  3. US exiting the Paris Agreement. 

 

GS Paper 3:

  1. What is trade deficit?
  2. Wasteland Atlas.

 

Facts for prelims:

  1. What is the Danakil Depression?

 

GS Paper 1:

 

Topics Covered:

  1. Modern Indian history from about the middle of the eighteenth century until the present- significant events, personalities, issues

 

Third battle of Panipat

 

What to study?

For Prelims and mains: Battles that took place in panipat- overview, causes and outcomes.

 

Context: The trailer for the upcoming Hindi film ‘Panipat’, directed by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Ashutosh Gowariker, was recently released. The title refers to the Third Battle of Panipat, fought in 1761.

 

Background:

Two other major battles had been fought on the Panipat plains:

  1. The First Battle of Panipat, in 1526, laid the foundation of the Mughal Empire in India after its first ruler, Babur, ended the Delhi Sultanate, which at the time was led by the Lodi dynasty.
  2. The Second Battle of Panipat, in 1556, cemented Mughal rule when Akbar fought off a threat from the king Hemu ‘Vikramaditya’.

 

What was the Third Battle of Panipat all about?

Fought between Maratha forces and invading armies of Afghan general Ahmed Shah Abdali of Durrani Empire in 1761.

Abdali was supported by two Indian allies—the Rohillas Najib-ud-daulah, Afghans of the Doab region and Shuja-ud-Daula-the Nawab of Awadh.

 

How it started?

  1. After the death of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, there was a sudden rise of the Marathas. The Marathas reversed all his territorial gains in the Deccan and conquered a considerable part of India.
  2. The decline was hastened by the invasion of India by Nader Shah, who also took away Takht-i-Taus (the Peacock Throne) and the Kohinoor Diamond in 1739.
  3. Abdali planned to attack the Marathas when his son was driven out of Lahore.
  4. By the end of 1759, Abdali with his Afghan tribes reached Lahore as well as Delhi and defeated the smaller enemy garrisons.
  5. The two armies fought at Karnal and Kunjpura where the entire Afghan garrison was killed or enslaved.
  6. The massacre of the Kunjpura garrison infuriated Durrani to such an extent that he ordered for crossing the river at all costs to attack the Marathas.
  7. Smaller battles continued through months and forces from both the sides amassed for the final assault. But food was running out for the Marathas.

 

Outcomes:

  1. The Marathas were defeated in the battle, with 40,000 of their troops killed, while Abdali’s army is estimated to have suffered around 20,000 casualties.
  2. It marked a loss of prestige for the Marathas, who lost their preeminent position in north India after this war, paving the way for British colonial power to expand here.
  3. The Marathas lost some of their most important generals and administrators, including Sadashivrao and heir-apparent Vishwasrao of the Peshwa household, Ibrahim Khan Gardi, Jankojirao Scindia, and Yashwantrao Puar.

 

Sources: Indian Express.


 

GS Paper 2:

 

Topics Covered:

  1. Issues related to health.

 

China proposes to treat Alzheimer’s with new drug

 

What to study?

For Prelims and mains: All about Alzheimer’s, treatment and concerns.

 

Context: China recently announced that a new drug, meant to potentially treat Alzheimer’s disease, will be available to Chinese patients by the end of this year.

Called GV-971 or “Oligomannate”, it is a seaweed-based drug, administered orally.

 

What is Alzheimer’s?

  • It is a progressive brain disorder that typically affects people older than 65. When it affects younger individuals, it is considered early onset.
  • The disease destroys brain cells and nerves, and disrupts the message-carrying neurotransmitters.
  • Eventually, a person with Alzheimer’s loses the ability to perform day-to-day activities.

Symptoms include memory loss, difficulty in completing familiar tasks, confusion with time or place, problems in speaking and writing, decreased or poor judgment, and changes in mood and personality. Alzheimer’s disease is also the most common cause of dementia — which is a syndrome and not a disease in itself, and whose symptoms include loss of memory, thinking skills, problems with language, changes in mood and deterioration in behaviour.

 

Treatment:

There is no cure for Alzheimer’s, because its exact causes are not known. Most drugs being developed try to slow down or stop the progression of the disease.

  • There is a degree of consensus in the scientific community that Alzheimer’s involves two proteins, called beta amyloids and tau. When levels of either protein reach abnormal levels in the brain, it leads to the formation of plaque, which gets deposited between neurons, damaging and disrupting nerve cells.
  • Most existing drugs for Alzheimer’s try to target these proteins to manage some of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s.

 

Sources: Indian Express.


Topics Covered:

  1. Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.

 

Iran nuclear deal

 

What to study?

For prelims and Mains: Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)- objectives, why US has withdrawn from this, implications and what needs to be done?

 

Context: Iran has taken further steps away from its crumbling nuclear deal with world powers by announcing it is doubling the number of its advanced centrifuges, calling the move a direct result of the United States’ withdrawal from the agreement last year.

 

What next?

By doing so, Iran is trying to increase the pressure on Britain, France and Germany in particular to find some arrangement that will allow them to sell the oil they were buying when Iran was not under sanctions. That requires some level of US support to waive sanctions against European firms by the United States. So far, the US has no agreed to do that.

 

What’s happening?

Iran is now operating 60 IR-6 advanced centrifuges. Such a centrifuge can produce enriched uranium 10 times as fast as the first-generation IR-1s allowed under the accord.

By starting up these advanced centrifuges, Iran further cuts into the one year that experts estimate Tehran would need to have enough material for building a nuclear weapon – if it chose to pursue one.

 

What was the iran nuclear deal?

Iran agreed to rein in its nuclear programme in a 2015 deal struck with the US, UK, Russia, China, France and Germany.

Under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA) Tehran agreed to significantly cut its stores of centrifuges, enriched uranium and heavy-water, all key components for nuclear weapons.

The JCPOA established the Joint Commission, with the negotiating parties all represented, to monitor implementation of the agreement.

 

Why did Iran agree to the deal?

It had been hit with devastating economic sanctions by the United Nations, United States and the European Union that are estimated to have cost it tens of billions of pounds a year in lost oil export revenues. Billions in overseas assets had also been frozen.

 

Why has US pulled out of the deal now?

Trump and opponents to the deal say it is flawed because it gives Iran access to billions of dollars but does not address Iran’s support for groups the U.S. considers terrorists, like Hamas and Hezbollah. They note it also doesn’t curb Iran’s development of ballistic missiles and that the deal phases out by 2030. They say Iran has lied about its nuclear program in the past.

 

Impact of escalated tension between Iran and the US:

  1. Iran can make things difficult for the U.S. in Afghanistan as also in Iraq and Syria.
  2. The U.S.’s ability to work with Russia in Syria or with China regarding North Korea will also be impacted.
  3. And sooner or later, questions may be asked in Iran about why it should continue with other restrictions and inspections that it accepted under the JCPOA, which would have far-reaching implications for the global nuclear architecture.
  4. Coming after the rejection of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Paris climate change accord and the North American Free Trade Agreement, President’s decision further diminishes U.S. credibility.

 

Implications for India:

Oil and Gas: The impact on world oil prices will be the immediately visible impact of the U.S. decision. Iran is presently India’s third biggest supplier (after Iraq and Saudi Arabia), and any increase in prices will hit both inflation levels as well as the Indian rupee.

It would impact the development of Chahbahar port.

INSTC: New U.S. sanctions will affect these plans, especially if any of the countries along the route or banking and insurance companies dealing with the INSTC plan also decide to adhere to U.S. restrictions on trade with Iran.

Shanghai Cooperation Organisation: China may consider inducting Iran into the SCO. If the proposal is accepted by the SCO, which is led by China and Russia, India will become a member of a bloc that will be seen as anti-American, and will run counter to some of the government’s other initiatives like the Indo-Pacific quadrilateral with the U.S., Australia and Japan.

Rules-based order: By walking out of the JCPOA, the U.S. government has overturned the precept that such international agreements are made by “States” not just with prevailing governments or regimes.

 

What role does the U.N. Security Council play in this crisis?

The Security Council adopted a resolution in 2015 that endorsed the nuclear agreement and ended U.N. sanctions against Iran. The resolution, 2231, includes what is known as a “snapback” provision that could reinstate those sanctions if other parties to the agreement complained that Iran was cheating. Such a step would likely doom the agreement.

 

Global Implications:

  1. Down trends in global economy.
  2. Fuel prices would reach high points.
  3. Iran may block Strait of Hormuz which is a strategic choke point which inturn would affect global trade.
  4. Giant economy like India, China and Russia will suffer.
  5. US has cancelled airlines from US to India because they pass over Iran which would affect airspace industry.

 

Sources: Indian Express.


Topics Covered:

Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.

 

US exiting the Paris Agreement

 

What to study?

For Prelims: Overview of the Paris agreement.

For Mains: Concerns and issues over US exit, it’s implications.

 

Context: United States initiated the process of leaving the Paris Agreement, notifying the United Nations of its withdrawal from the landmark climate deal. The withdrawal will take effect one year from delivery of the notification.

After it leaves, the US will be the only country left out of the global protocol. Syria and Nicaragua, the last remaining countries who were earlier holding out, also became signatories in 2017.

 

What is the Paris Agreement?

The Paris Agreement of 2016 is a historic international accord that brings almost 200 countries together in setting a common target to reduce global greenhouse emissions in an effort to fight climate change.

  • The pact seeks to keep global temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels, and to try and limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
  • To this end, each country has pledged to implement targeted action plans that will limit their greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The Agreement asks rich and developed countries to provide financial and technological support to the developing world in its quest to fight and adapt to climate change.

 

How does a country leave the Agreement?

Article 28 of the Paris Agreement allows countries to leave the Paris Agreement and lays down the process for leaving.

  • A country can only give a notice for leaving at least three years after the Paris Agreement came into force.
  • This happened on November 4, 2016. Therefore, the US was eligible to move a notice for leaving on November 4 this year, which it did.
  • The withdrawal is not immediate, however. It takes effect one year after the submission of the notice. It means the United States will be out of Paris Agreement only on November 4 next year.

 

But why does the United States want to leave a deal on which literally the whole world agrees?

During his 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump had said the Paris Agreement was “unfair” to US interests. He had promised to pull out of the Agreement if he was elected.

The United States is the world’s second largest emitter of greenhouse gases. If it does not reduce its emissions befitting its status as the second largest emitter, it could seriously jeopardise the world’s objective of keeping the global temperature rise to within 2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial times.

As part of its commitment to the Paris Agreement, the United States had promised to reduce its emissions by 26 per cent to 28 per cent by the year 2025 from 2005 levels.

  • The United States plays a preeminent role in mobilising financial resources globally, and its absence from the scene could seriously hamper that effort.
  • Under the Paris Agreement, developed countries are under obligation to mobilise at least $100 billion every year from the year 2020 in climate finance meant for the developing world. This amount has to be revised upwards after five years. As it is, countries are struggling to reach this amount by next year.
  • The US was opposed to this move.

 

Implications of this move:

  1. While exiting the Paris Agreement does not automatically mean the abandonment of this target or of any future action by the United States on climate change, it would no longer be committed to these actions.
  2. But the biggest impact of the exit of the United States from the Agreement might be on the financial flows to enable climate actions.

 

Is it possible that the US returns to the Paris Agreement at a later date?

  1. It can indeed, return. There is no bar on a country rejoining the Paris Agreement.
  2. It is also possible that the United States does a rethink and actually never leaves the Paris Agreement. It has one full year to reconsider its decision.

 

But assuming the US finally walks, will it mean the end of its entire association with the war on climate change?

  • No, the US will not be entirely missing from the climate negotiations.
  • While it is pulling out of the Paris Agreement, it remains part of the UNFCCC, the mother agreement that was finalised in 1994.
  • The Framework Convention was the first international agreement to identify and acknowledge the problem of climate change.
  • It had laid down the principles and guidelines to achieve the objective of stabilising the greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere to levels that would cause least damage to climate system.
  • The Paris Agreement is an instrument of the Framework Convention to achieve that objective.
  • The United States will be out of the Paris Agreement, but by virtue of being a signatory to the UNFCCC would continue to be a part of the other processes and meetings under the Framework Convention.

 

Sources: the Hindu.

 


GS Paper 3:

 

Topics Covered:

Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.

 

What is trade deficit?

 

What to study?

For Prelims: Meaning and impact.

For Mains: Concerns and impact of trade deficits.

 

Context: India decided that it won’t sign the Regional Comprehensive Economic Participation agreement.

A key reason that India forwarded for declining to sign on was the existence of trade deficits with many of the constituents of the RCEP.

 

How RCEP would have affected India?

India was concerned that joining the RCEP trade pact could lead to Chinese goods flooding the Indian markets, and India’s trade deficit ballooning against most of the RCEP members. This, India argued, would have led to several sectoral producers such as those in the dairy and steel sector being dominated by foreign competition.

 

What is trade deficit?

Simply put, the trade “balance” of a country shows the difference between what it earns from its exports and what it pays for its imports.

  • If this number is in negative – that is, the total value of goods imported by a country is more than the total value of goods exported by that country – then it is referred to as a “trade deficit”.
  • If India has a trade deficit with China then China would necessarily have a “trade surplus” with India.

 

What does a trade deficit signify?

A trade deficit means broadly can mean two things:

  1. The demand in the domestic economy is not being met by the domestic producers.
  2. Many a time a deficit signifies the lack of competitiveness of the domestic industry.

 

More often than not, the trade deficit of a country is due to a combination of both these main factors.

Is a trade deficit a bad thing?

Not necessarily. No trade is ever balanced. That’s because all countries have different strengths and weaknesses.

Trade typically enhances wellbeing all across the world by forcing countries to do what they can do most efficiently and procure (import) from the rest of the world what they cannot produce efficiently.

Another way to look at trade deficits is to look at the outcome of trade agreements on consumers instead of producers. For instance, if cheaper and better quality milk or steel was to come into India, Indian consumers would benefit as their health improves and their cars become more affordable. Of course, Indian producers of steel and milk will cry foul but then if they are not efficient, they should be producing something else.

 

Way ahead:

Trade doesn’t have elements that compromise a country’s strategic interests and that is why there are some commodities in which every country wants to maintain self-sufficiency.

But merely levying higher tariffs or not choosing to trade do not bring about self-sufficiency. For attaining self-reliance, a country’s domestic industry has to improve and the best of this happening is when one learns from the competition.

 

Sources: Indian Express.


Topics Covered:

  1. Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

 

Wasteland Atlas

 

What to study?

For Prelims: Key findings of the atlas.

For Mains: Wasteland- causes, concerns and how to improve them.

 

Context: Ministry of rural development releases fifth edition of Wasteland Atlas. The last edition was published in 2011.

  • This is significant as it takes into account 08 MHa of unmapped area of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) for the first time. 
  • The new wastelands mapping exercise was carried out by NRSC using the Indian Remote Sensing Satellite data.

 

Background:

Department of land resources in collaboration with National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC), Department of Space has published Wastelands Atlases of India – 2000, 2005, 2010 & 2011 editions. 

 

Key findings:

  1. Spatial extent of wastelands in India is 55.76 Mha (16.96 per cent of geographical area of the country i.e. 328.72 Mha) for the year 2015-16 as compared to 56.60 Mha (17.21 per cent) in the year 2008-09.
  2. As per the Atlas, during this period 1.45 Mha of wastelands are converted into non wastelands categories.
  3. India with 2.4 per cent of total land area of the world is supporting 18 per cent of the world’s population. The per capita availability of agriculture land in India is 0.12 ha whereas world per capita agriculture land is 0.29 ha.

Significance and the need for information:

Unprecedented pressure on the land beyond its carrying capacity is resulting into degradation of lands in the country. Therefore, robust geospatial information on wastelands assumes significance and effectively helpful in rolling back the wastelands for productive use through various land development programmes/schemes.

 

Sources: the Hindu.


 

Facts for prelims:

 

What is the Danakil Depression?

Context: A new study says that active and naturally occurring life cannot be sustained at Danakil.

Why? It identifies two barriers: magnesium-dominated brines that cause cells to break down; and an environment having simultaneously very low pH and high salt, a combination that makes adaptation highly difficult.

Where is Danakil?

  • The Danakil Depression in northeastern Ethiopia is one of the world’s hottest places, as well as one of its lowest, at 100 metres below sea level.
  • At the northern end of the Great Rift Valley, and separated by live volcanoes from the Red Sea, the plain was formed by the evaporation of an inland water body.
  • All the water entering Danakil evaporates, and no streams flow out from its extreme environment. It is covered with more than 10 lakh tonnes of salt.