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IAS Foundation 2023-24, Batch Starts: 27th July

13th May 2022

Indian Air Force successfully fires extended range version of Brahmos missile from Su-30 MKI

Context

Extended range version of BrahMos Air Launched missile successfully fired from Su-30 MKI fighter aircraft.

About
  • It was the first launch of extended range version of BrahMos missile from Su-30 MKI aircraft.
  • With this, the Indian Air Force has achieved the capability to carry out precision strikes from Su-30 MKI aircraft.
  • The extended range capability of the missile coupled with the high performance of the Su-30 MKI aircraft gives the IAF a strategic reach and allows it to dominate the future battle fields.

About BrahMos:

  • BrahMos - the name represents the fury of Brahmaputra and the grace of Moskva Rivers.
  • BrahMos Aerospace, an India-Russian joint venture, produces supersonic cruise missiles that can be launched from submarines, ships, aircraft, or land platforms.
  • Stealth technology and guidance system with advanced embedded software provides the missile with special features.
  • The missile has a flight range of up to 290-km with supersonic speed all through the flight, leading to shorter flight time, consequently ensuring lower dispersion of targets, quicker engagement time and non-interception by any known weapon system in the world.
  • It operates on ‘Fire and Forget Principle’, adopting varieties of flights on its way to the target.
  • BrahMos missile flies at a speed of 2.8 Mach or almost three times the speed of sound.
  • The range of the advanced version of the missile is learnt to have been extended to around 350 km from the original 290 km.
  • Previously, an anti-ship version of the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile was successfully test-fired jointly by the Indian Navy and the Andaman and Nicobar Command.

Court order on Kashi Vishwanath Temple-Gyanvapi Mosque site in Varanasi

Context

A Varanasi court recently ordered that the video survey of the Gyanvapi Mosque located next to the Kashi Vishwanath Temple be resumed and a report submitted by May 17.

About

The Case:

  • The court had ordered the inspection last month on a petition by five Hindu women seeking round-the-year access to pray at “a shrine behind the western wall of the mosque complex”.
  • The site is currently opened for Hindu prayers once a year — on the fourth day of the chaitra navratri in April.
  • The petitioners have also sought permission to pray to other “visible and invisible deities within the old temple complex”.

Gyanvapi Mosque:

  • The Gyanvapi Mosque is believed to have been built in 1669 during the reign of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, who ordered the demolition of the existing Vishweshwar temple and its replacement by a mosque. 
  • The plinth of the temple was left untouched, and served as the courtyard of the mosque.
  • The name of the mosque is said to have derived from an adjoining well, the Gyanvapi, or Well of Knowledge.

Kashi Vishwanath Temple:

  • The present Kashi Vishwanath Temple was built in the 18th century by Rani Ahilyabai Holkar of Indore, immediately to the south of the mosque. 
  • The Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991 — which mandates that the nature of all places of worship, except the one in Ayodhya that was then under litigation, shall be maintained as it was on August 15, 1947.
  • No encroachment of any such place prior to the date can be challenged in courts — applies to the disputed complex in Varanasi.

Why Thailand will distribute 1 million cannabis plants to households

Context

With about a third of its labour force engaged in agriculture, Thailand has been trying to promote cannabis as a cash crop for some time now. In fact, in 2018, it became the first country in the Southeast Asian region to legalise the use of cannabis for medical use.

About
  • The Thai government has announced plans to distribute a million cannabis plants to households across the nation soon, when most of the legal restrictions on cultivating weed at home will be lifted.
  • In 2018, it became the first country in the Southeast Asian region to legalise the use of cannabis for medical use.

About the new law:

  • The country’s new rule will permit people to grow cannabis plants at home after informing their local government.
  • However, the cannabis cultivated at home must be of medical grade.
  • Extracted contents will remain illegal if it contains more than 0.2 per cent of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which is the part of the plant that is responsible for getting people intoxicated.
  • Large-scale enterprises will still be required to seek permission from the country’s Food and Drug Administration.

Which countries permit the use of cannabis?

  • In 2018, Canada became the first G20 country to legalise the recreational use of cannabis. Meanwhile, Uruguay legalised the recreational use of marijuana for all adults above the age of 18 in 2013. Here, you can purchase weed at pharmacies.
  • Several European countries — including the Netherlands, Spain and the Czech Republic — permit smoking marijuana in public places.
  • In the US, consumption of marijuana is legal in at least 20 states, including Washington DC, New York and California.

Cannabis:

  • Cannabis is a generic term used to denote the several psychoactive preparations of the plant Cannabis sativa.
  • The major psychoactive constituent in cannabis is delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
  • Compounds which are structurally similar to THC are referred to as cannabinoids.


Protected Mobility Vehicles

Context

The Army has floated a Request for Information (RFI) to purchase Protected Mobility Vehicles (PMV) for high-altitude areas and for deserts and plains.

About

Protected Mobility Vehicles (PMV):

  • The PMV is essentially a wheeled armoured personnel carrier. It provides protection to the soldiers travelling inside the vehicle from mine blasts and sudden attack by small arms.
  • The troops in these vehicles could be members of any quick reaction team heading to a point of conflict, or members of patrolling parties heading to border areas.
  • They could also be members of a reconnaissance squad operating behind enemy lines or in forward positions of own troops.

Request for Information (RFI)

  • The Army floated an RFI on May 12 for information from vendors for PMV to deploy in areas above the height of 4000 metres and for deserts and plains.
  • The detailed instructions given by the Army along with the RFI specifies that these vehicles should be wheeled, 4X4 drive mode and should have automatic transmission.
  • These vehicles should be able to carry ten personnel excluding the driver and co-driver with each person carrying a combat load of not less than 30 kg.

Technical specifications:

  • The PMVs must have ballistic protection and should be able to protect the vehicle from grenade and mine blasts.
  • It should have a maximum speed of 90 km on road and 40 km per hour on cross country terrain.
  • They should be able to operate in temperature range of 40 degree centigrade to minus 15 degree in high-altitude areas.
  • The vehicles are required to have a weapon mount to enable a 7.62 mm Light Machine Gun (LMG) to be fitted and a turret with 360 degree rotation for a LMG.
  • It is also required to have 11 firing ports with five each on the starboard and port side of the vehicle and one at the rear.
  • The PMV should be able to ford in water with depth of 1000 mm without any special preparation.

Vaquita Porpoise

Context

Vaquita Porpoise is believed to be on the brink of extinction, with 10 or fewer still living in Mexico's Gulf of California, their sole habitat. 

About

Vaquita Porpoise:

  • Category: Mammal
  • Length: 4-5 feet
  • Habitat: Gulf of California
  • Threat: The biggest threat to the species is not habitat loss or genetic factors but illegal "gillnet" fishing.
  • The porpoises often become entangled and die in the large mesh gillnets used by poachers hunting the totoaba, an endangered fish highly valued in some countries for its perceived medicinal properties. 
  • Status: Critically Endangered

Finland and Sweden are set to apply for NATO membership

Context

Finland and Sweden could apply for membership of the 30-nation NATO alliance within days, ending decades of military non-alignment in a historic shift triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

About

North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO):

  • North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is an intergovernmental military alliance30 different countries from Europe, North American and Asia.
  • It was established by the North Atlantic Treaty (also called the Washington Treaty) of April 4, 1949, which sought to create a counterweight to Soviet armies stationed in Central and Eastern Europe after World War II. 
  • Its original members were Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom, and the United States
  • The heart of NATO is expressed in Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, in which the signatory members agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and collective action must be taken to assist party or parties so attacked.
  • The NATO headquarters are located in Brussels, Belgium, while the headquarters of Allied Command Operations is near Mons, Belgium.
  • Its member countries include Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Montenegro, Netherlands, North Macedonia, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey, UK and USA.
  • North Macedonia is the latest entry in the organization.

Why are Finland and Sweden not already members?

  • Both considered that joining the alliance would represent an unnecessary provocation of Moscow, and so have long pursued policies of neutrality, and then non-alignment, to avoid antagonising a major regional power.
  • Finland’s concerns have been largely practical:
  • It shares an 810-mile (1,300km) border with Russia, declared independence in 1917 after more than a century of rule by Moscow, and
  • Its army twice fought off Soviet forces during the Second World War before ceding about 10% of its territory.
  • Sweden’s opposition to NATO membership has been more ideological.
  • Its post-war foreign policy has focused on multilateral dialogue and nuclear disarmament and it has long seen itself as a mediator on the international stage, running down its military after the end of the cold war.

Would NATO welcome them?

  • Both countries switched from formal neutrality to military non-alignment in 1995 when they joined the EU.
  • They are already NATO partners, taking part in exercises and exchanging intelligence with the alliance.
  • Finland already meets NATO’s defence spending target of 2% of GDP, while Sweden is on course to do so.
  • From the military perspective, the addition of Finland’s and Sweden’s armed forces would represent a major boost to NATO’s assets in northern Europe, filling a hole in the alliance’s defences by doubling the length of its border with Russia and improving security and stability in the Baltic region.

 

Editorial

Did the RBI wait too long to raise interest rates?

Should the RBI have acted on interest rates much earlier?

 

  • Growth vs Inflation: With the disruption caused by the pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war, central banks had to walk a tightrope walk between growth and inflation. Supply shock Central banks around the world did everything they could to support growth by lowering interest rates.
  • Flawed Expectations: There were indications in the market that demand conditions would improve from the pandemic years. The Purchasing Managers’ Index has begun to show consistent expansion, both for manufacturing and services. Services have bounced back even more strongly, given demand recovery. However, rising input costs have begun to now manifest in the pricing power.
  • February Action: February would have been the policy time when the RBI could have articulated its concerns on not just the headline Price Index, but more on the core inflation as the economic monitor, which reflects more of underlying demand conditions.

 

 

 

 

With little impact of repo rate action, what else should the RBI do to rein in inflation?

 

  • Hike Cash Reserve Ratio: An interest rate hike is a necessary but not sufficient condition to rein in inflation. RBI needs to manage liquidity by raising the Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR) for banks by 50 points. There will be a sacrifice on output but it will help moderate demand.
  • Sacrifice growth: In the backdrop of coal shortage and the ongoing war, fuels and food prices are going to increase further resulting in high inflation. Between inflation and growth, RBI has to sacrifice on growth because inflation is a very inequitable tax on the less privileged.
  • Tweak external benchmark rates: More than 75% of the assets are loans and quite a lot of these are based on T-bills or external benchmark related rates. All these notes linked to external benchmarks were already getting re-priced. So, interest rates in the market are determined by the market forces, not by fiat.
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ThinkQ

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QUIZ - 13th May 2022

Mains Question:

Q1. In the light of recent developments, re-evaluate NATO members’ foreign policies and defence commitments. (150 words) 

Approach 

  • Introduction-brief history of NATO
  • Structure and role
  • Swift expansion towards east 
  • Current foreign policy of NATO and required changes
  • Russia -NATO tensions 
  • Way forward
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