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Today’s important articles/news in various newspapers (8th December)

Dear aspirants, following are the links of various articles taken from various newspapers. Click the link to read further. To get notification, follow the blog. Thank you

1. Island hopping

The Maldives’ FTA with Chinasignals a drift in Delhi-Male ties.

Prelims level: Geographical Position of Maldives in the South Asia
Mains level: Concerns and worries

China’s diplomatic success in the South Asia

  1. The announcement of a free trade agreement between the Maldives and China is another sign of China’s success in its outreach in South Asia
  2. China already has an FTA with Pakistan, and is exploring or negotiating FTAs with Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal
  3. The negotiations with the Maldives took about three years and were completed in September this year and it was ratified overnight by Parliament in Male

The rapid growth in China-Maldives ties

  1. The growth is driven by massive infrastructure projects, including the development of Hulhule island and the “Friendship” bridge connecting it to Male
  2. Apart from investments of $1 billion, Chinese companies are exploring tourism prospects in the Maldives, leases to resort islands, and reclamation projects

Worries for India

  1. The Maldives government also said this week that it is not satisfied with the working of the FTA with India
  2. The manner in which the FTA was rushed through Parliament, with opposition members complaining they had not received enough notice, suggests a haste that would naturally worry India
  3. The move also shows that the Yameen government is not inclined to pay much heed to international concerns over internal unrest
  4. The biggest worry for India is that the FTA will draw the Maldives more closely into China’s security net
  5. Although Maldivian government has categorically stated that the Maldives will remain a “demilitarised zone”
  6. But there are concerns that the PLA-Navy might be looking for a military base in the islands linked to projects in Djibouti, Gwadar and Hambantota

2. Labour-intensive exports need a policy push

Challenges on the export front may increase owing to the growing threat of protectionism and rising automation

Prelims level: Ease of doing business,
Mains level: Opportunity for India to take China’s place in labour intensive manufacturing sector

India losing exports to smaller economies

  1. It is often argued that India stands to gain as labour-intensive manufacturing is moving out of China due to rising wages and an ageing population
  2. But this is not happening in a big way, and India is losing out to other Asian countries such as Bangladesh and Vietnam
  3. India’s “revealed comparative advantage”, an indicator of competitiveness, in some of the labour-intensive sectors has actually declined over the past decade
  4. The latest Economic Survey (2016-17) also highlighted how India is losing out in labour-intensive sectors like apparel and footwear, and why it is important to focus on these sectors

What India can do to increase competitiveness?

India will have to work on multiple levels to increase its competitiveness

  1. It will need to improve logistics to increase efficiency, both in terms of the time and costs involved
  • The trade policy review shows that the government is addressing this issue

2. The government will need to move forward with reforms in the factor market

  • India has a large number of small enterprises, which are not in a position to attain economies of scale and compete in international markets
  • Economic Survey highlighted, Indian firms in the apparel and leather sectors are smaller than those in China, Vietnam and Bangladesh
  • The reason for this is regressive labour laws
  • Similarly, more flexibility in land acquisition will also help the manufacturing sector

3. India needs to be prepared to protect its interests without compromising on its open trade policy

  • There is a threat of rising protectionism
  • India has always supported rule-based multilateral trade negotiations under the WTO
  • Seeing low progress on these, India should also look for opportunities to reduce trade barriers at the regional and bilateral levels

4. Keep the currency competitive

  • India doesn’t need an undervalued currency, but the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) should not allow the rupee to appreciate sharply
  • The 36-currency exports-based real effective exchange rate is still showing significant overvaluation
  • Now that India has adequate forex reserves, policymakers should reassess the kind of funds it needs
  • This will not only assist in keeping the rupee competitive and stable but will also help in conducting the monetary policy

Way forward

  1. Challenges on the export front may increase owing to the growing threat of protectionism and rising automation
  2. The government is working on increasing the ease of doing business, which should also help India’s exports

Q. Exports are an important driver of economic growth and will also help create much needed jobs for India’s growing workforce. What are the measures govt has taken recently to boost export?

3. Let us be realistic about the UNSC

Prelims: About UNSC and UN mains organs
Mains: UNSC reform
Essay: Relevance of UN in 21st Century

Why is the UNSC important?

  1. It deals with questions of peace and security as well as terrorism and has developed a tendency to widen its ambit into other fields, including human rights and eventually environment
  2. In addition to the Kashmir issue, which Pakistan forever tries to raise, there are other matters in which India would be interested
  3. Since it is in permanent session, we have to try to be its member as often as possible

How is representation in the ICJ different from that in the UNSC?

  1. The ICJ is required to represent the principal civilisations and legal systems of the world
  2. The judges sitting on ICJ are expected to act impartially, not as representatives of the countries of their origin
  3. That is why they are nominated, not by their governments but by their national groups in the Permanent Court of Arbitration based in The Hague

Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions(ACABQ) and the Committee on Contributions

  1. There are other bodies in the UN that are not as well known but are important enough to be represented on like the ACABQ and the Committee on Contributions
  2. ACABQ: It consists of 16 members elected by the UNGA on the recommendation of the Fifth Committee of the UNGA dealing with the budget of the UN
  3. The Committee on Contributions: It ecommends the scale of assessments to the budget and the share of each member
  4. This is a very important function, since the share decided by the UNGA applies to all the specialised agencies, etc.

Controversial question of the VETO

  1. There is near unanimous support for increasing the number of non-permanent seats
  2. The controversial question is about the increase in the category of permanent seats
  3. The rationale for expansion has been accepted in-principle by nearly all, but the difficulty arises when the actual numbers and their rights are discussed
  4. The G-4’s initial position was for the same rights as the present permanent members, essentially the veto right
  5. Over the years, they have become more realistic and would be willing to forego the veto right
  6. Also, the general membership of the UN wants to eliminate the existing veto
  7. They will never agree to new veto-wielding powers(France supports veto for additional permanent members)

What should be India’s Strategy?

  1. The principal P-5 member opposing us is China.
  2. We should not be misled by their ambiguous statements on the subject
  3. It has to be underscored that there is no way that India alone, by itself, can be elected as permanent member
  4. It will have to be a package deal in which the demands of all the geographical groups, including the Latin America and Caribbean group which, like Africa, does not have a single permanent member

The US support for India

  1. Even if the Americans are sincere in their support for us, they will simply not lobby for India alone
  2. It will be unthinkable for them to try to get India in without at the same time getting Japan also in
  3. It is equally unthinkable, for a long time to come, for China to support Japan’s candidature

4. Found: Most Distant Black Hole

Prelims: Black hole, Big Bang, quasar
Mains: Space related discoveries by NASA, ISRO and other space agencies have been appearing in Mains year after year

Supermassive black hole identified

  1. Scientists have discovered the farthest known supermassive black hole
  2. It is 800 million times the mass of our Sun

Deviation from theory of black hole formation

  1. This black hole grew far larger than expected in only 690 million years after the Big Bang, which challenges the theories about how black holes form
  2. For black holes to become so large in the early universe, astronomers speculate there must have been special conditions to allow rapid growth

Quasar

  1. The newly-found black hole is voraciously devouring material at the centre of a galaxy—a phenomenon called a quasar
  2. Quasars are among the brightest and most distant known celestial objects and are crucial to understanding the early universe
  3. This quasar is also the only example that can be seen before the universe became re-ionised

Evolution of universe

  1. The universe began in a hot soup of particles that rapidly spread apart in a period called inflation
  2. About 400,000 years after the Big Bang, these particles cooled and coalesced into neutral hydrogen gas
  3. However, the universe stayed dark, without any luminous sources, until gravity condensed matter into the first stars and galaxies
  4. The energy released by these ancient galaxies caused the neutral hydrogen to get excited and ionise, or lose an electron
  5. The gas has remained in that state since that time
  6. Once the universe became re-ionised, photons could travel freely throughout space
  7. This is the point at which the universe became transparent to light

5. Wassenaar Arrangement decides to make India its member

Prelims: Wassenaar Arrangement, Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), MTCR, Australia Group
Mains: Importance of joining NSG and other export control regimes by India

India joins Wassenaar agreement

  1. Elite export control regime Wassenaar Arrangement (WA) decided to admit India as its new member
  2. This is expected to raise New Delhi’s stature in the field of non-proliferation besides helping it acquire critical technologies

Strong case for NSG membership

  1. India’s entry into the export control regime would enhance its credentials in the field of non-proliferation despite not being a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)
  2. The WA membership is also expected to build up a strong case for India’s entry into the 48-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG)
  3. China, which stonewalled India’s entry into the 48-nation NSG is not a memberof the Wassenaar Arrangement

About Wassenaar Arrangement

  1. The Wassenaar Arrangement plays a significant role in promoting transparency and greater responsibility in transfers of conventional arms and dual-use goods and technologies
  2. Its member countries are required to ensure that transfers of these items do not contribute to the development or enhancement of military capabilities which undermine these goals
  3. The aim is also to prevent the acquisition of these items by terrorists

India’s rise in non proliferation field

  1. In June last year, India joined the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), another key export control regime, as a full member
  2. Since its civil nuclear deal with the U.S., India has been trying to get into export control regimes such as the NSG, the MTCR, the Australia Group and the Wassenaar Arrangement that regulate the conventional, nuclear, biological and chemicals weapons and technologies

6. UNESCO names Kumbh Mela Intangible Cultural Heritage

Prelims: Intangible Cultural Heritage, UNESCO
Mains: India’s rich cultural treasure and ways to preserve it

Intangible Cultural Heritage under UNESCO

  1. After ‘yoga’ and ‘Nouroz’, Kumbh Mela/ KumbhMela, the largest congregation of pilgrims on the planet, has been listed as an Intangible Cultural Heritage under UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation)
  2. The inscription of ‘Kumbh Mela’ in the list was undertaken following recommendation by an expert body which examines nominations submitted by member countries of the UNESCO
  3. The Kumbh Mela is held in Haridwar, Allahabad, Ujjain and Nashik

7. No law provides change of woman’s religion after marriage: SC

Prelims: Religious rights, Fundamental rights
Mains: Issue of inter-faith marriages and need of uniform civil code
Essay: Women empowerment

Woman does not lose her religious identity if she marries a man from a different religion

  1. The Supreme Court said the law does not sanction the concept of a woman’s religion getting merged with her husband’s faith after an inter-religion marriage
  2. A five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice was dealing a legal question whether a Parsi woman loses her religious identity if she marries a man from a different religion

About the case

  1. Applicant has challenged the customary law, upheld by the Gujarat High Court in 2010, that a Parsi woman marrying a Hindu loses her religious rights in the Parsi community
  2. Hence, she loses the right to visit the ‘Tower of Silence’ in the event of her father’s death to perform the last rites

SC order

  1. There is no law which says that a woman loses religious identity after marrying a man from another faith
  2. The Special Marriage Act is there and allows that two persons can marry and maintain their respective religious identities
  3. The bench said it was only the woman who can decide about her religious identity by exercising her right to choice

What is ‘Tower of Silence’?

  1. The Tower is used for funerary purposes by the adherents of the Zoroastrian faith, in which the traditional practice for disposal of the dead involves the exposure of the corpse to the sun and vultures
  2. Agiari, a Parsi temple hosts the ‘holy fire’ and the ‘Tower of Silence’

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