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11th March 2023

India, US ink pact in semiconductor sector


India and the United States signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to create a semiconductor sub-committee under the Commercial Dialogue between the U.S. Department of Commerce and India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) and the Ministry of Commerce.

About the semiconductor sub-committee 

  • The semiconductor sub-committee would be led by the 
  • Department of Commerce for the US side 
  • Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) and Ministry of Commerce and Industry for the Indian side
  • The committee will convene its first engagement in mid-year to review recommendations from the joint industry-led task force launched in connection with the iCET (Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technologies).

Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technologies (iCET)

  • Launched in: 2022
  • The Initiative for Critical and Emerging Technologies (iCET) is an inter-governmental initiative between the United States and India.
  • Objective: to elevate and expand strategic technology partnership and defence industrial cooperation between the country’s governments, businesses and academic institutions.

Need of the move

  • Objective: Its objective is to reduce its dependency on China and Taiwan

China-Taiwan’s dominance & tussle

  • Taiwan is home to some of the world’s leading semiconductor manufacturers.
  • China, as the world’s largest market for semiconductor products.
  • According to reports, China has sanctioned USD 140 billion to boost domestic chip manufacturing to overcome the US export restrictions.
  • However, the China-Taiwan semiconductor war has started which has significant implications for the global tech industry.
  • China claims Taiwan to be part of its territory and has been looking for "reunification". The relations between the two countries appear to have deteriorated sharply.

Important missions in India & US to promote the semiconductor industry

  • US's CHIPS and Science Act: The CHIPS and Science Act was signed by President Joe Biden in 2022 to boost funding for the American semiconductor industry.
  • India's Semiconductor Mission:  The programme aims to provide financial support to companies investing in semiconductors, display manufacturing and design ecosystems.
    • The Indian government has also approved a Rs 76,000 crore scheme to boost semiconductor and display manufacturing in the country in a bid to position India as a global hub for hi-tech production and attract large chip makers.
    • Incentives have been lined up for companies engaged in silicon semiconductor fabs, display fabs, compound semiconductors, silicon photonics, sensor fabs, semiconductor packaging and semiconductor design.

Budget 2023

The semiconductor development programme of the government has been given a budget estimate of Rs 3,000 crore from the Rs 200 crore in the revised estimate last year. PLI scheme for large-scale electronic manufacturing also received a whopping over Rs 4,000 crore estimate.

How significant are semiconductors?

  • From automobiles to electronic goods and to smartphones, all need semiconductors. These are the chips. And disruption in semiconductor supply has led to billions of dollars of losses for major companies across the globe.
  • Semiconductor chips are made from silicon, one of the most available substances on Earth, and are fitted into microcircuits that power electronic goods and components. The raw materials come mostly from Japan and Mexico.

Significance of the agreement:

  • Promoting business: It would facilitate business opportunities and develop an ecosystem. 
  • An opportunity to become a leader: India will achieve its aspirations to play a larger role in the electronics supply chain and realize its potential to become a leader in the automobile and electronics industry. 
  • Boost for industries: Industries like automobiles, communications etc., will get much-needed push and the government’s efforts for digitization and digital growth will be supported. 
  • Self-reliance: The MoU will pave the way for India to Atmanirbhar in this strategic sector.

Landslide Atlas of India


According to the India Meteorological Department’s Statement of Climate of India 2022, heavy rain, floods and landslides claimed 835 lives in the country in the year 2022. 

About Landslides
  • Landslides are natural disasters occurring mainly in mountainous terrains where there are conducive conditions of soil, rock, geology and slope. 
  • A sudden movement of rock, boulders, earth or debris down a slope is termed as a landslide. 
  • Classification: Landslides are broadly classified based on the 
    • type of materials involved (rock, debris, soil, loose mud)
    • type of movement of the material (fall, topple, slide, rotational slide or translational slide)
    • type of flow of the material
  • Another category is of landslides that spread laterally. Landslides mapped in the ISRO atlas are mainly event-based and season-based.

What causes landslides?

  • Natural factors: Natural causes that trigger it include heavy rainfall, earthquakes, snow melting and undercutting of slopes due to flooding. 
  • Anthropogenic factors: Landslides can also be caused by anthropogenic activities such as excavation, cutting of hills and trees, excessive infrastructure development, and overgrazing by cattle.

  • Other influential factors: Some of the main factors that influence landslides are lithology, geological structures like faults, hill slopes, drainage, geomorphology, land use and land cover, soil texture and depth, and weathering of rocks.

Proneness of India to landslides

  • India is considered among the top five landslide-prone countries globally. In India, at least one death per 100 sq km is reported in a year due to a landslide event. 
    • Himalayas and the Western Ghats remaining highly vulnerable because rainfall variability pattern is the single biggest cause for landslides.
    • North-Eastern states: Nearly half of the country’s landslide-prone area (0.18 sq km) is located in the states of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Manipur, Tripura and Nagaland. 

What factors influence landslides?

  • Main factors: The main factors that influence landslides are lithology, geological structures like faults, hill slopes, drainage, geomorphology, land use and land cover, soil texture and depth, and weathering of rocks. All these are factored in when a landslide susceptibility zone is earmarked for planning and making predictions.
  • Natural causes that trigger it include heavy rainfall, earthquakes, snowmelting and undercutting of slopes due to flooding. 
  • Anthropogenic activities: Landslides can also be caused by anthropogenic activities such as excavation, cutting of hills and trees, excessive infrastructure development, and overgrazing by cattle.

Way forward

  • Environmental Impact assessment: There should be proper implementation of Environmental impact assessment norms before initiating mining or dam construction.
  • Micro Zoning procedures: there should be the adoption of landslide micro zoning procedures for mountainous and other highly vulnerable regions.
  • Locally trained Manpower: there should be involvement of locally available trained manpower to intensify the hazard reduction and public awareness programs.

H3N2 influenza A virus


The H3N2 virus has recently been gaining traction as the number of people contracting the seasonal flu-like virus has increased in India.

What is H3N2 Virus?

  • Influenza is a viral disease. It is caused by Orthomyxovirus (influenza virus) pathogen. 
  • The four types of influenza viruses that cause the contagious illness known as the flu are A, B, C, and D.
  • H3N2 is a subtype of virus in the classification 'A'.
  • The virus causes respiratory infection and can infect birds and mammals.
  • According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), H3N2 caused the 1968 flu pandemic that led to the death of around one million people globally. 
  • Symptoms: Cough, runny or congested nose, sore throat, headache, body aches and pains, fever, chills, fatigue, diarrhoea, vomiting
  • Vaccine:  flu vaccine reduces the risk of flu illness in the general population by between 40 and 60 per cent 
  • Prevention:  Washing hands before eating or touching your face, nose or mouth, carrying pocket sanitiser, and avoiding people already infected with the virus or any other seasonal flu are some of the steps to prevent infectious disease. 

Iran-Saudi Arabia diplomatic agreement


Recently, Iran and Saudi Arabia signed an agreement to resume diplomatic relations which were brokered by China. 

Background (Tensions between Iran-Saudi Arabia)

  • The feud between Iran and Saudi Arabia is a struggle for regional dominance and religious supremacy.
  • The Middle East regional rivals, Iran and Saudi Arabia have had tense relationships since 2016
  • Over the years both countries have supported proxies across the region, including in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen.
  • Iran has supported Shia Houthi rebels in Yemen who forced out the Saudi-backed government in 2014, while Saudi Arabia has responded with a devastating air campaign against the Houthis since the following year.
  • In January 2016, Saudi Arabia cut its diplomatic ties with Iran after its embassy in Tehran was attacked by demonstrators following Riyadh's execution of a prominent Shia Muslim cleric.
  • In 2019, drones and missiles struck major Saudi Arabian oil facilities, which was blamed on Iran causing a further tense situation. 
  • Previously, there have been many attempts to broker a peace deal between the two countries but without any success. 

Key highlights of the Agreements

  • The agreement has been brokered by China
  • According to the agreement, Iran and Saudi Arabia will resume diplomatic relations after 7 years and reopen embassies within two months. 
  • The countries will also re-establish trade and security relations.

Impacts on the region 

  • The agreement will complement the ongoing peace efforts in the region. 
  • In September 2022, Israel, the US and UAE signed the Abraham Accords which paved the way for the resumption of trade and diplomatic relations between Israel and the UAE. 
  • The latest agreement will lead to improved regional stability and security as well as increased cooperation among Persian Gulf nations. 

Impacts on India 

  • India has been walking tight a tightrope in balancing its ties with Iran and Saudi Arabia over the years. 
  • Both of these countries are important for India for its trade, connectivity and energy security. 
  • Normal trade and diplomatic relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia will provide India with an opportunity to increase its cooperation in the extended neighbourhood.

Categorisation of terrorism on the basis of motivation is ‘dangerous’: India


India has said that the tendency to categorise terrorism on the basis of motivations behind terrorist acts is “dangerous”. 

  • India also asserted that all kinds of terror attacks, whether motivated by Islamophobia, anti-Sikh, anti-Buddhist or anti-Hindu prejudices, are condemnable.
About terrorism
  • Terrorism, by definition, is always a crime, but it can also be a strategy in a war. In the international community (including UN), terrorism has no legally binding, criminal law definition.
  • For the sake of discussion, it can be described as; according to the FBI: “Terrorism is the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.”

Challenges in Combating Terrorism

  • Terror Financing: IMF and the World Bank estimate that criminals launder up to four trillion dollars annually, which is used to finance terrorism. Terrorists have also used charities and auxiliary remittance methods to conceal their financial movements.
  • Use of Emerging Technology by Terrorists: New advancements in computing and communications, such as widespread internet access, end-to-end encryption, and virtual private network (VPN), have allowed more radicalised people around the world to carry out new kinds of operations, raising the threat.
  • Politicization of Terrorism Countermeasures: To varying degrees, the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (P5) have used their veto power to block efforts to identify terrorists.
  • Terrorism through social networking: Terrorist networks and their "ideological fellow-travelers" now have powerful tools at their disposal in the form of social media platforms.

Framework for Combating Terrorism in India

  • India recently hosted a special meeting of the UNSC's Counter Terrorism Committee (CTC), with theme of 'Countering the use of new and emerging technologies for terrorist purposes' 
  • India also hosted the meeting of “No Money For Terror“, which was initiative of the French government, to specifically focus on cooperation between countries to choke terror funding.
  • In August 2019, the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act of 1967 was revised to include the ability to label individuals as terrorists.
  • National Investigation Agency is the lead law enforcement investigative agency to combat terrorism.
    • The National Investigation Agency (NIA) Act of 2008 has been amended by the Indian Parliament to give NIA the ability to investigate terrorism cases overseas.

Way Forward

  • Re-energizing the Global Counter-Terrorism Agenda: It is essential to re-energize the global counter-terrorism agenda by highlighting the necessity of cooperation and limiting the P5's veto power over the identification of terrorists globally.
  • Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT): In 1986, India proposed a draft document on Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT) at the UN. However, it is yet to be adopted by the UNGA. It should be implemented in letter and spirit.
  • Curbing Terror Funding: Strengthened laws that mandate due diligence on clients and the reporting of suspicious transactions are needed to stop the funding of terrorism.

Short News Article

International Relations

India and Australia sign audio-visual co-production agreement

India and Australia have signed an audio-visual co-production agreement.


  • Under the agreement, private, quasi-government or governmental agencies of the two countries enter into contracts to produce films together.
  • The agreement seeks to offer filmmakers financial incentives amounting to up to 30 per cent of the expenditure incurred in the respective countries.
  • Producers’ contributions: The respective contributions of the producers of the two countries may vary from 20% to 80% of the final total cost of co-produced work.
  • The government has so far entered into 15 such agreements with various countries, including the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy and Canada.

Film Facilitation Office (FFO)

  • The government established a Film Facilitation Office (FFO) to ease the process of film shooting in India. 
  • The FFO acts as a single-window platform for coordination with various states as well as bodies such as the Indian Railways and the Archaeological Survey of India among others.


Saffron Farmers Fight Climate Change with Indoor Farming

To tackle the impacts of climate change and increase saffron production, farmers in Kashmir have resorted to a new technique: indoor farming.


  • Saffron (Crocus sativus L.), commonly known as red gold, is one of the most expensive and valuable spice crops in the world market.
  • Crocus sativus, commonly known as saffron crocus or autumn crocus, is a species of flowering plant in the iris family Iridaceae. 
  • Cultivation: Saffron cultivation is simple and easy. Its harvest cycle is also 3 - 4 months, and it can reach a height of 15-20 cm.
  • Major Saffron Production states: Jammu & Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh 
  • Ideal Conditions: fertile soil, good climate, a long photoperiod and a dry, moist soil.
  • Soil type required: loamy, sandy, calcareous, gravelly soil 
  • Water requirement: Less

Science & Technology

Severe scrub typhus

A team of Indian scientists has identified a significantly more effective treatment for severe scrub typhus.

Effective treatment: 

Combination of intravenous antibiotics doxycycline and azithromycin is more effective than the current monotherapy of using either drug alone.

About Scrub typhus

  • Scrub typhus is a life-threatening bacterial infection that kills thousands of people every year.
  • Also known as bush typhus, it is a disease caused by a bacteria called Orientia tsutsugamushi. 
  • Scrub typhus is spread to people through bites of infected chiggers (larval mites). 
  • The most common symptoms of scrub typhus include fever, headache, body aches, and sometimes rash. 

Science & Technology

STEM courses in India

Prime Minister Modi said the enrolment of girls in STEM in India is at 43%, more than countries like America, the U.K. and Germany. 

About STEM

  • STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.
  • STEM is an educational program developed to prepare primary and secondary students for college, graduate study and careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

The International Day of Women and Girls in Science, celebrated on 11 February, is implemented by UNESCO and UN-Women.


Belated but Essential

In a gazette notification, the Finance Ministry said the anti-money laundering legislation has been applied to crypto trading, safekeeping and related financial services.

  • After this, Indian crypto exchanges will have to report suspicious activity to the Financial Intelligence Unit India (FIU-IND).

Issues with crypto currencies

  • Criminal misuse: FATF has been continuously flagging the potential that virtual digital assets have for criminal misuse considering the speed and anonymity. 
  • Absence of a regulatory framework: Few countries have moved to regulate virtual assets, while a majority have not taken any action. It has created a global system with loopholes for criminals and terrorists to abuse.
  • Money laundering: ED was ‘investigating several cases related to cryptocurrency frauds wherein a few crypto exchanges had been found involved in money laundering’.

Steps taken in India

  • Application of PLMA: The Government placed all transactions involving virtual digital assets under the purview of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). 
  • Introduction of a tax regime: Government has introduced the tax regime for the virtual digital assets in previous year’s Budget. 
  • Draft legislation: Government has formulated the draft legislation seeks to prohibit mining, holding, selling, trade, issuance, disposal or use of cryptocurrency in the country.
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