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15th June 2024 (10 Topics)

15th June 2024

Mains Issues

Context

The recent G7 Summit, attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, concluded with a commitment to promote infrastructure initiatives like the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC). This commitment was part of the G7's efforts to enhance global infrastructure and investment under the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGII).

How countries are seeing IMEC as a ‘significant initiative’?

  • The IMEC is highlighted as a significant initiative aimed at creating extensive road, railroad, and shipping networks connecting Saudi Arabia, India, the United States, and Europe.
  • It aims to foster economic integration across Asia, the Middle East, and Western countries.
  • The G7's endorsement of the IMEC underscores its potential as a transformative project. It aligns with broader initiatives such as the EU Global Gateway and initiatives like the Great Green Wall Initiative and the Mattei Plan for Africa, emphasizing sustainable and inclusive development.
  • Comparison with BRI: Unlike the BRI, which has faced criticism for lack of transparency and respect for national sovereignty, the IMEC is positioned as a collaborative effort among like-minded nations to enhance their strategic influence through transparent and mutually beneficial infrastructure development.

Other key-highlights of the Summit:

  • G7 on China: G7 leaders promised to address what they called harmful business practices by China. They focused on China's economic influence and what they see as unfair markets in areas like electric vehicles, steel, and renewable energy.
  • Ukraine-Russia: The G7 countries reached a preliminary agreement to offer Ukraine $50 billion in loans supported by interest earned from frozen Russian assets. 
  • Other issues: The leaders discussed other major issues such as war in Gaza, Iran, situation in Red Sea, climate change, gender equality.

The G7, while recognized as a significant organization, faces a crucial imperative to evaluate its effectiveness in fulfilling responsibilities amidst recent global crises and conflicts. It is essential to assess how its decisions are perceived on the global stage in this context.

Why Global Influence of International Organisations is in Decline?

  • The current international system, established in the aftermath of World War II, was designed primarily by a specific set of states to promote peace and stability globally. However, its effectiveness in addressing contemporary challenges is increasingly questioned.
  • Conflicts like the Ukraine-Russia war and ongoing issues in the Middle East underscore the inability of international actors to effectively resolve regional conflicts.
  • International organisations are experiencing a decline in global influence because:
    • They have failed to adapt to the realities of a multipolar world emerging in the 21st century.
    • The dominance of a few superpowers and their political agendas has marginalized the voices and concerns of other nations, undermining the credibility and effectiveness of these organisations.
  • There is an urgent call for leading international organisations to take proactive steps in reshaping the global system to meet contemporary challenges.

Mains Issues

Context

For decades, the U.S. Navy prepared for potential conflicts with major global powers like the Soviet Union, Russia, and China. However, its current focus has shifted unexpectedly to combating Houthi rebels, an Iran-backed group based in Yemen. This conflict has become the most intense ongoing naval battle the Navy has faced since World War II.

Who are the Houthi Rebels?

  • The Houthis are an armed political and religious group which champions Yemen's Shia Muslim minority, the Zaidis.
  • They declare themselves to be part of the Iranian-led "axis of resistance"against Israel, the US and the wider West - along with armed groups such as Hamas and Lebanon's Hezbollah movement.
  • At present, they are targeting Red Sea and adjoining Gulf of Aden.

How could Houthi attacks affect the global economy?

  • Disruption of Trade: The attacks have resulted in significant disruptions to shipping in the Red Sea directly affecting global trade flows, particularly those relying on the efficient passage through the Suez Canal.
  • Impact on Energy Transit: Approximately 12 percent of seaborne oil and 8 percent of liquefied natural gas (LNG) pass through the Suez Canal, making any disruption in the Red Sea a critical concern for global energy markets.
  • Alternative Shipping Routes: Due to the risks associated with the Red Sea route, some commercial ships have opted to circumnavigate the Horn of Africa However, this alternative route entails additional costs estimated at approximately USD 1 million in extra fuel expenses for a round trip.
  • Economic Costs: The shift away from the Red Sea route has financial implications beyond fuel costs. Insurance premiums for ships navigating through the Red Sea have surged nearly tenfold since the onset of Houthi attacks, reflecting heightened risks and uncertainties associated with this route.

 

Red Sea Route

  • Geographical Location: The Red Sea is located between northeastern Africa (mainly Egypt, Sudan, and Eritrea) and the Arabian Peninsula (Saudi Arabia and Yemen).
  • It connects to the Mediterranean Sea via the Suez Canal to the north and the Indian Ocean via the Bab el-Mandeb strait to the south.
  • Dimensions: It is approximately 2,250 kilometers (1,400 miles) long, with a maximum width of about 355 kilometers (220 miles).
  • The sea's average depth is 490 meters (1,608 feet), with its deepest point reaching around 3,040 meters (9,970 feet) in the central Suakin Trough.
  • Strategic Importance: The Red Sea is a vital maritime route for international trade, linking Europe and Asia.
    • It serves as a key transit route for shipping between the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean, including the Suez Canal, which facilitates one of the shortest sea routes between Asia and Europe.

Prelims Articles

Context

The division of assets between Telangana and Andhra Pradesh has sparked debate over cultural heritage and historical artifacts, including relics of Gautama Buddha, housed in museums across Hyderabad. This division aims to distribute antiquities based on their origin and acquisition timelines, amidst concerns about preserving historical integrity and regional identity.

What are relics (Sariras)?

  • The Maha Parivirvana (passing away) of the Buddha took place in 544 B.C. at Kusinara in the country of the Mallas. After his death, his funeral relics, including bodily remains like tooth, bones, and hair, were collected and divided into eight shares among different communities.
  • His funeral relics were collected and divided into eight shares to be distributed among them:
    • Ajathsatrus of Magadha
    • Vaishali's Licchavis
    • the Sakyas of Kapilavastu
    • Housing in Kushinagar
    • Alakappa Bullies
    • Mallas of Pava
    • the Colossians of Ramagrama once
    • Brahmana of Vethadipa
  • Type of Relics:
    • Corporeal Relics (Saririras): Actual bodily remains of the Buddha, such as teeth and bones.
    • Utilitarian Relics (Paribhogika): Objects that belonged to the Buddha during his life, such as his alms bowl, robes, and staff.
    • Teachings Relics (Dharma): Objects associated with the Buddha's teachings, like sutras and mantras.
    • Commemorative Objects (Uddesika): Symbols like Buddha images and footprints that serve as reminders of his life and teachings.
  • Ashoka's Role: Emperor Ashoka (c. 268 to 232 B.C.), ruler of the Maurya Dynasty, played a pivotal role in spreading Buddhism beyond India, sending missionaries to various parts of Asia including Sri Lanka, Central Asia, and Southeast Asia.
    • According to Ashokavadana, Ashoka had relics of Buddha placed on 84,000 stupas made up of Yakshas (usually gentle natural spirits).

Fact Box: About Buddhism

  • Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism, was born in 563 BCE. He passed away in 483 BCE (Mahaparinirvana) at the age of 80 in Kushinagar, Uttar Pradesh.
  • Reason behind emergence of Buddhism: Buddhism arose as an alternative to the ritualistic and sacrificial practices prevalent in the Vedic tradition.
  • Four Noble Truths: The core teachings of Buddhism are encapsulated in the Four Noble Truths:
    • Suffering (Dukkha): Life is characterized by suffering and dissatisfaction.
    • Cause of Suffering (Samudaya): Craving and attachment lead to suffering.
    • Cessation of Suffering (Nirodha): Suffering can be ended, leading to Nirvana.
    • Path to the Cessation of Suffering (Magga): The Eightfold Path provides a way to achieve Nirvana.
  • Schools of Buddhism: Buddhism is broadly divided into two main schools:
    • Theravada (Hinayana): Emphasizes individual liberation and the original teachings of the Buddha.
    • Mahayana: Focuses on compassion and the potential for all beings to attain Buddhahood.
  • Vajrayana: A smaller school known for its esoteric practices and found primarily in Tibetan Buddhism.

Prelims Articles

Context

The 12th-century Shree Jagannath temple in Puri has opened all four gates.

About Shree Jagannath Temple:

  • The Shree Jagannath temple, also known as Srimandir, is located in Puri, Odisha.
  • Built during the rule of Anantavarman Chodaganga Deva of the Ganga dynasty, it covers an area of 10.734 acres.
  • The temple is enclosed by two walls: Meghanada Prachira (outer wall) and Kuruma Prachir (inner enclosure).
  • Four Gates of the Temple:
    • Singha Dwara (Lion's Gate): Located in the east, it is the main entrance. Traditionally believed to grant 'mokshya' (liberation) to devotees.
    • Vyaghra Dwara (Tiger Gate): Found in the west, symbolizes 'dharma' (duty and righteousness).
    • Hasti Dwara (Elephant Gate): Positioned in the north, signifies prosperity.
    • Aswa Dwara (Horse Gate): Situated in the south, represents 'kama' (desire), with entry requiring detachment from lustful feelings.
  • Significance of Each Gate:
    • Each gate is associated with specific rituals and beliefs:
      1. The south gate is used by the Puri Gajapati (Maharaja of Puri) during certain rituals. Seers and saints traditionally enter through the south gate.
      2. Sacred logs (Daru) for crafting new idols enter through the north gate (Uttara Dwara).
      3. Servitors typically use the west gate (Paschima Dwara) for temple duties.
    • Cultural and Ritual Practices:
      • The choice of gate for entry depends on the ritual or the status of the participant.
      • These gates play a significant role in the temple's administration and spiritual practices, reflecting different aspects of devotion and religious values.

Prelims Articles

Context

India’s merchandise trade deficit widened to a seven-month high in May, driven largely by a surge in imports, according to official data released by the commerce ministry.

What is Trade Deficit?

  • Trade deficit refers to a scenario in international trade where a country's expenditures on imports exceed its earnings from exports. It is also termed as a negative balance of trade.
  • Components of Trade Deficit Calculation: The calculation of trade deficit encompasses various transactions in international trade:
  • Goods and Services: Includes imports and exports of physical goods and intangible services.
  • Capital Account Transactions: Involves asset transfers like trademark rights or mining rights.
  • Current Account Transactions: Encompasses primary income (e.g., dividends, interest, remittances) and secondary income (e.g., private remittances, pension payments).
  • Impact of Trade Deficit: Trade deficit affects a country's balance of payments, reflecting all international transactions. It indicates the economic health concerning global interactions.
    • Consumption Patterns: Reflects residents' ability to purchase more goods than produced domestically.
    • Capital Account: Indicates foreign currency financing through loans and investments.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Trade Deficit

  • Advantages:
    • Availability of Goods: Ensures ample supply of imported goods for domestic consumption.
  • Disadvantages
    • External Payments Pressure: Puts strain on a country's external financial obligations.
    • Currency Pressure: Affects the stability and value of the country's currency.

Government Response: Governments may adjust import-export policies, impose tariffs, or encourage domestic production and exports.

Prelims Articles

Context

In the frigid waters of the Arctic, NATO scientists are conducting a critical mission to study the effects of climate change on underwater acoustic waves, crucial for tracking Russian submarines amidst shifting environmental dynamics.

About Acoustic Waves

  • Acoustic waves are the primary means through which submarines and marine life communicate and navigate underwater.
  • NATO's mission aims to analyze how global warming, which disproportionately affects the Arctic, alters the propagation of these crucial soundwaves.
  • During the mission, NATO vessels equipped with hydrophones are emitting sound signals underwater to be captured and analyzed.
  • This data will illuminate how changing temperatures and salinity levels in the Arctic Ocean influence the movement and clarity of acoustic signals.

Prelims Articles

S.No.

Term

About

1.

Acoustic wave

Acoustic wave is longitudinal wave generated as a result of the vibration from any source (such as a machine).

2. 

Mahaparinirvana

As per the Buddhist text Mahaparinibbana Sutta, the death of Lord Buddha at the age of 80 is regarded as Mahaparinirvana.

3.

Simultaneous election

Simultaneous election refers to single election in which voters cast their ballot for electing members for all tiers of the government in one go.

4.

Wholesale price index (WPI)

A wholesale price index (WPI) measures overall change in producer prices over time. It is a measure of inflation based on the prices of goods before they reach consumers.

Editorials

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Context

The recent tragic incident in Kuwait where 45 Indian workers died in a fire highlights the dire working conditions of a significant portion of the Indian diaspora in the Gulf region. This event underscores the lack of safety provisions and the exploitation faced by migrant workers, particularly under the kafala system.

Working Conditions and Safety Provisions:

  • Inadequate Safety Measures: The labour camp lacked basic fire safety provisions like fire exits and firefighting equipment, contributing to the high casualty count.
  • Overcrowding and Vulnerability: Reports indicate the building was overcrowded, exacerbating the rapid spread of the fire and highlighting the vulnerability of migrant workers.
  • Government Response: The Kuwait government has initiated an investigation and vowed to hold those responsible accountable, signaling recognition of systemic failures.

Exploitation and Legal Protections:

  • Vulnerability to Exploitation: Indian workers in the Gulf, including Kuwait, often face exploitation due to the kafala system that ties them to their employers, limiting their rights and mobility.
  • Remittance Contribution: Indian workers in the Gulf contribute significantly to India's economy through remittances, underscoring their economic importance despite challenging conditions.
  • Legal and Support Challenges: Legal redressal for migrant workers is cumbersome and expensive, compounded by language barriers and lack of legal aid, leaving them largely unprotected.

Policy Measures and Legislative Reforms:

  • Existing Policy Framework: India has signed MoUs with Gulf countries to improve worker recruitment and legal protections, but implementation remains ineffective.
  • Need for Legislative Updates: The outdated Emigration Act fails to adequately protect migrant workers, necessitating urgent legislative reforms.
  • Government Responsibility: There is a pressing need for the Indian government to prioritize migrant worker welfare in policy and law, ensuring their safety and rights are upheld abroad.
Mains Question:

Q. Discuss the challenges faced by Indian migrant workers in the Gulf region, with a focus on the recent incident in Kuwait, and suggest comprehensive policy measures and legislative reforms needed to safeguard their rights and improve working conditions.

Editorials

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Context

The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 has introduced significant changes in higher education, aiming to create a standardized and credit-based system to enhance mobility and employability of students. However, criticisms have emerged regarding the structure and content of the new educational framework.

Impact on Syllabi and Academic Rigor:

  • Reduction in Syllabi Coverage: NEP's credit-based system has led to truncated syllabi across disciplines, diminishing depth and critical engagement in subjects like literature and philosophy.
  • Example of Walt Whitman's Poem: Illustrates how complex literary works are now taught selectively, compromising holistic understanding and critical thinking skills.
  • Philosophical Critique: Argues against the American model of education as mere preparation for the job market, neglecting deeper cultural and intellectual pursuits.

Dilution of Core Subjects and Curriculum Overload:

  • Erosion of Core Subject Focus: Examples from St Xavier’s University, Kolkata, highlight how honours programs in economics include numerous peripheral courses, potentially diluting specialized knowledge.
  • Employability vs. Academic Depth: Questions whether a broad spectrum of courses enhances employability or detracts from core subject proficiency.
  • Relevance of Additional Courses: Challenges the necessity of non-core subjects like personality development and inter-religious studies within a specialized honours program.

Administrative Burden and Practical Challenges:

  • Examination and Assessment Burden: Critiques the heavy examination schedule of seven to eight exams per semester, coupled with continuous assessments and attendance marks.
  • Practical Examinations Controversy: Discusses impracticalities of conducting practical exams for non-core subjects, recently challenged by universities like Delhi University.
  • Stakeholder Discontent: Highlights widespread dissatisfaction among stakeholders in the university system regarding NEP 2020’s implementation and its bureaucratic complexities.
Mains Question:

Q. Critically analyze the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 in the context of higher education reforms in India. Discuss the challenges posed by its credit-based system and the dilution of core academic content.

Editorials

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Context

The amendment to the Indian Foreign Exchange Management (Non-debt Instruments) Rules, 2019, known as Press Note 3 of 2020, introduced the PN3 Requirement. This rule mandates prior government approval for investments in Indian companies originating from or involving entities in neighboring countries.

Key Issues and Solutions:

Vagueness and Compliance Burden:

  • Unclear Definitions of Beneficial Owners: Lack of clarity on the term "beneficial owner" leads to regulatory uncertainty.
  • Financial Risks for Indian Companies: Potential fines up to three times the investment received create financial instability.
  • Proposed Solution - Defining Ownership Thresholds: Define ownership thresholds and control tests to clarify compliance requirements.

Impact on Foreign Investments:

  • Investor Hesitation: Foreign investors are deterred by potential liabilities and indemnity requirements.
  • Sector-specific Sensitivities: Different sectors like telecom and defence require tailored scrutiny due to their strategic importance.
  • Proposed Solution - Sector-specific Guidelines: Introduce sector-specific guidelines aligning ownership thresholds with sensitivity levels of industries.

Proposed Amendments and Consultation Mechanism:

  • Enhancing Definition of Beneficial Owners: Include control-conferring rights beyond mere ownership stakes.
  • Consultation Mechanism: Implement a time-bound consultation process with regulatory authorities to resolve ambiguities.
  • Clarity on Control-Conferring Clauses: Specify and clarify clauses in charter documents that confer control to ensure compliance.
Mains Question:

Q. Discuss the challenges posed by the PN3 Requirement under the Indian Foreign Exchange Management Rules and suggest suitable amendments to ensure regulatory clarity and facilitate foreign investments in India, taking into account sector-specific sensitivities.

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