CURRENT AFFAIRS – 24/08/2023

CURRENT AFFAIRS - 24/08/2023

CURRENT AFFAIRS – 24/08/2023

CURRENT AFFAIRS – 24/08/2023

Why Luna 25 failed?

(General Studies- Paper III)

What the fate of Luna 25 means for Russia?

Source : The Hindu

The Luna-25 spacecraft, part of Russia’s lunar exploration mission, crashed into the moon due to engine failure during landing on August 21.

  • The spacecraft was aiming to be the first to touch down on the moon’s South Pole, where scientists believe valuable resources like frozen water and precious elements could exist.

Key Highlights

  • The engines of Luna-25 were supposed to shut down after 84 seconds, but they operated for 127 seconds, causing the emergency landing, according to Roscosmos Director General YuryBorisov.
  • The spacecraft’s engines did not shut down correctly, leading to its crash on the moon’s surface.
  • Roscosmos had contact with the spacecraft until communication was lost.
  • The Luna-25 mission was Russia’s first attempt at lunar exploration since 1976, with the Soviet Union.
  • Roscosmos cited the long hiatus in the lunar program as a contributing factor to the failure and emphasized the importance of continuing the program.
  • The Luna-25 launch from the VostochnyCosmodrome was part of Russia’s effort to demonstrate its space capabilities and ensure access to the moon’s surface.
  • The lunar South Pole is a focus of scientific interest due to its potentially containing frozen water that could be converted into air and rocket fuel.
  • The crash highlights the challenges faced by Russia’s space program, including limited access to Western technology due to sanctions and the need for technological sovereignty.
  • Russia’s lunar exploration mission faced competition from India’s mission, launched on July 14, which also aimed to reach the moon’s South Pole.

History is created: Bharat is on the Moon

General Studies- Paper III)

On the moon, over the moon

Source : The Hindu

India’s Chandrayaan-3 mission successfully achieved a soft landing on the moon, making India the fourth country to accomplish this feat.

The successful landing happened at 6.03 p.m. and was celebrated at the Mission Operations Complex (MOX) at ISRO Telemetry, Tracking, and Command Network (ISTRAC), Bengaluru.

Key Highlights

  • ISRO Chairman S. Somanath announced the achievement and stated that the lander had met most of the nominal landing conditions, including a velocity of less than 2 meters per second.
  • The communication link between the lander and MOX-ISTRAC was established, and images from the lander’s horizontal velocity camera during descent were shared.

In Image: Chandrayaan-3’s landing site as clicked by Vikram lander.

  • This success erased the memory of Chandrayaan-2’s Vikram lander failure in 2019 when it crashed during descent.
  • The powered descent of Chandrayaan-3’s lander was divided into four phases:
    • rough braking,
    • attitude-hold,
    • fine-braking, and
    • terminal descent phase, all of which were completed seamlessly.
  • Chandrayaan-3 includes an indigenous lander module, a propulsion module, and a rover, aiming to develop and demonstrate technologies for inter-planetary missions.
  • Objectives of the mission include demonstrating safe and soft lunar landing, rover roving on the moon, and conducting in-situ scientific experiments.
  • The successful landing occurred shortly after Russia’s Luna-25 spacecraft crashed into the moon due to losing control.
  • The lander was equipped with sensors such as accelerometers, altimeters, dopplervelocimeters, inclinometers, touchdown sensors, and cameras for hazard avoidance.
  • Key individuals behind Chandrayaan-3’s success were introduced, including Project Director P. Veeramuthuvel, Mission Director Sreekanth, and Associate Project Director Kalpana K.
  • Sankaran, Director of U.R. Rao Satellite Centre, expressed that India would now look towards putting a human in space, sending spacecraft to Venus, and landing on Mars.
  • Chandrayaan-3’s success followed a review process that ensured accuracy in targeting.
  • The achievement was celebrated as a great moment of happiness and success for ISRO and the entire team involved in the mission.

How it happened and Other details?

Historic Soft Landing of Chandrayaan-3:

  • On August 23, at 5:40 p.m., India’s Chandrayaan-3 lander was in orbit around the moon.
  • In the next 23 minutes, it successfully slowed down, adjusted its position, and gently landed on the moon’s surface, marking a historic achievement.
  • Chandrayaan-3 is only the fourth spacecraft to achieve a soft landing on the moon, and the first to do so in the moon’s South Polar Region.
  • The success highlighted the determination and willpower required to triumph in complex space missions.

Learning from Chandrayaan-2’s Failure:

  • Chandrayaan-2, India’s previous lunar mission, faced a setback when the lander lost contact while descending in September 2019.
  • ISRO learned from this failure, analyzing data from the lander and other sources to understand the causes.
  • As a result, 21 subsystems were modified, leading to the upgraded Chandrayaan-3 lander.
  • Chandrayaan-3’s redundancies ensured that if one component failed, another would take over, increasing its chances of success.

India’s Role in Lunar Exploration:

  • India’s successful landing on the moon’s South Pole positioned it as a member of the Artemis Accords, a U.S.-led initiative for lunar exploration and beyond.
  • India’s achievements provide an opportunity to lead other Artemis countries interested in utilizing space contributions for economic growth.

Expanding Interplanetary Expertise:

  • Chandrayaan-3 demonstrated India’s proficiency in various interplanetary spacecraft types, including orbiters, landers, and rovers.
  • While the rover is rudimentary, it underscores India’s focus on planning and implementing scientific missions.
  • Chandrayaan-3’s scientific instruments will provide valuable data on the moon’s South Polar region’s characteristics.

Future Space Exploration and Research:

  • India’s technological edge necessitates further investment in research, especially for space-based scientific instruments beyond earth observation.
  • The Chandrayaan-3 landing signifies the end of the second phase of India’s lunar exploration program.
  • The third phase will involve a collaboration with JAXA for the Lunar Polar Exploration (LUPEX) mission, studying water-ice on the moon’s South Pole.

Path Forward for ISRO:

  • Chandrayaan-3’s success boosts ISRO’s confidence for future missions, including satellites with electric motors, quantum communications, human space flight, reusable launch vehicles, and planetary habitation.
  • Private sector contributions will be crucial to accelerate innovation and reduce launch costs.
  • The success places ISRO in a position to lead space exploration and enterprise.

UK launches the ‘Alive with Opportunity’ marketing campaign

(General Studies- Paper II and III)

The U.K.-India relationship is alive with opportunity

Source : The Hindu

The UK launches the ‘Alive with Opportunity’ marketing campaign, with a budget of £1.5 million.

The campaign celebrates the strong bond between the UK and India, promoting trade, cultural exchange, and business opportunities.

  • It aims to stimulate interest in UK goods and services, enhance trade growth, and attract Indian inward investment.
  • The campaign will highlight the trade, cultural, and sporting connections between the two nations.

Key Highlights

Strong UK-India Trade Relationship:

  • The UK and India share a robust trading relationship, with bilateral trade worth £36 billion in 2022.
  • India is the UK’s second-largest source of investment projects, with 118 new projects creating over 8,000 jobs in the UK.
  • The UK has invested $34 billion in India as the sixth-largest investor, with numerous UK companies operating in India.

Focus on Free Trade Agreement (FTA):

  • The UK aims for an ambitious Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with India to further enhance bilateral trade.

About U.K. – India trade relations

  • The bilateral trade volume between India and the U.K. has demonstrated fluctuations over the past few decades due to global economic conditions and policy changes.
  • According to data from the U.K. Office for National Statistics (ONS), in 2020, the total trade in goods and services between India and the U.K. was valued at approximately £23.8 billion (around $32.6 billion).
  • Trade Balance:
  • Historically, India has had a trade surplus with the U.K., implying that India’s exports to the U.K. have exceeded its imports from the U.K.
  • Bilateral trade between India and the U.K. increased to $17.5 billion in the fiscal year 2021-22, up from $13.2 billion in 2020-21.
  • India’s exports to the U.K. in 2021-22 amounted to $10.5 billion, while imports from the U.K. totaled $7 billion.

Key Exports and Imports:

  • India’s major exports to the U.K. include textiles, clothing, machinery, vehicles, and pharmaceutical products.
  • Key imports from the U.K. to India comprise machinery, iron and steel, electrical machinery, and organic chemicals.

Trade Policies and Agreements:

  • Both countries have worked towards enhancing trade relations through various mechanisms and negotiations.
  • In 2021, India and the U.K. announced the Enhanced Trade Partnership (ETP), a stepping stone towards a comprehensive free trade agreement (FTA) between the two nations.
  • The ETP aims to address barriers to trade and facilitate greater market access for goods and services.

Challenges and Opportunities:

  • Trade barriers, regulatory hurdles, and non-tariff barriers have posed challenges to the trade relationship.
  • Both countries recognize the need to address these challenges to unlock the full potential of bilateral trade.

Post-Brexit Implications:

  • The U.K.’s exit from the European Union (Brexit) has provided an impetus for India and the U.K. to forge stronger trade ties outside existing frameworks.
  • Both countries are keen on maximizing the benefits of a post-Brexit scenario through trade agreements that promote economic growth.

What is a Free Trade Agreement?

A Free Trade Agreement (FTA) is a formal agreement between two or more countries to facilitate trade by reducing or eliminating tariffs, import quotas, and other trade barriers between the participating nations.

The primary goal of an FTA is to promote economic integration, enhance bilateral or multilateral trade relationships, and stimulate economic growth and cooperation among the involved countries.

Key features of a Free Trade Agreement include:

  • Tariff Reduction or Elimination: FTAs typically involve the reduction or elimination of tariffs (taxes on imports) on a wide range of goods traded between the participating countries.
    • This reduction in tariffs aims to make imported goods more affordable, encouraging increased trade.
  • Trade Facilitation:
    • FTAs may include provisions to simplify customs procedures, streamline documentation requirements, and expedite the movement of goods across borders, reducing administrative burdens and delays.
  • Market Access:
    • FTAs grant preferential treatment to goods and services originating from the member countries, enhancing market access and competitiveness.
    • This preferential treatment can include lower tariffs, reduced import quotas, and fewer regulatory barriers.
  • Rules of Origin:
    • Rules of origin determine the criteria that a product must meet to qualify as originating from a member country and benefit from preferential tariff rates under the FTA.
    • These rules prevent non-member countries from circumventing the agreement by exporting goods through a member country.
  • Services and Investment:
    • Many FTAs also cover trade in services and investment.
    • This can involve opening up sectors like banking, telecommunications, and professional services for cross-border investment and trade.
  • Intellectual Property Rights:
    • FTAs often include provisions related to the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights, such as patents, copyrights, and trademarks.
  • Dispute Resolution Mechanisms:
    • FTAs typically establish mechanisms to resolve disputes that may arise among member countries.
    • These mechanisms help ensure that the terms of the agreement are effectively enforced.
  • Bilateral or Multilateral: FTAs can be bilateral (between two countries) or multilateral (involving more than two countries).

India’s Free Trade Agreements

India has Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with several countries and regional groupings. Some of them are as follows:

  • ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations): India has an FTA with ASEAN, which includes Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.
  • South Korea: India has an FTA with South Korea, known as the India-Korea Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA).
  • Japan: India has an FTA with Japan, known as the India-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA).
  • Malaysia: India has a bilateral FTA with Malaysia.
  • Singapore: India has an FTA with Singapore, known as the India-Singapore Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA).
  • Sri Lanka: India has a bilateral FTA with Sri Lanka, known as the India-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement (ISLFTA).
  • Thailand: India has a bilateral FTA with Thailand.
  • Mauritius: India has a bilateral FTA with Mauritius, known as the India-Mauritius Comprehensive Economic Cooperation and Partnership Agreement (CECPA).
  • India has bilateral trade treaties with Nepal, Bhutan, and Bangladesh also.

Statistician C. Radhakrishna Rao passes away

(General Studies- Paper I and III)

C.R. Rao, who pioneered several fundamental statistical concepts, dead

Source : The Hindu

India lost the eminent mathematician and statistician C. Radhakrishna Rao on August 23, shortly before his 103rd birthday.

  • Dr. Rao, known for his significant contributions to mathematics and statistics, had a distinguished career and was a former director of the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI).

Key Highlights

  • He gained international recognition earlier in the year when he was awarded the International Prize in Statistics, often likened to a Nobel Prize in the field.
  • Rao’s impact on the academic community was profound, and he was known for his humility and willingness to guide and assist students and colleagues.
  • Rao’s education in mathematics started at Andhra University, where he demonstrated remarkable talent, prompting him to pursue higher studies.
  • Notable among Rao’s achievements were his contributions to experimental design and hypothesis testing in statistics.
  • His tenure at the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI) in Kolkata led to the development of significant statistical concepts like the Cramer–Rao inequality and Rao–Blackwellization, which are now integral to statistics and econometrics curricula.
  • These contributions had a profound impact on statistical estimation, providing reliable methods for obtaining estimates from limited data.
  • Rao pursued his PhD at Cambridge University under Ronald Fisher, a pioneer in modern statistical science.
  • During his doctoral studies, he developed Rao’s Score Test, a method widely used across scientific disciplines.
  • Rao returned to India in 1948 and became a professor at ISI, eventually serving as its director in 1964.
  • Post his retirement, Dr. Rao continued his academic pursuits in the United States, earning accolades such as the National Medal of Science from former U.S. President George Bush.
  • He received prestigious honors from India, including the Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan in 1969 and 2001, respectively.
  • Dr. Rao contributed extensively to national statistical development, serving on government committees focused on statistics, demographic studies, and science and technology.

About Indian Statistical Institute (ISI)

  • The Indian Statistical Institute (ISI) is an autonomous research and educational institution that specializes in statistics, mathematics, and computer science.
  • It was established on December 17, 1931, by Professor Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis in Kolkata, India.
  • ISI is renowned for its contributions to the field of statistics and its applications in various domains, including social sciences, economics, engineering, and biological sciences.

Mission and Objectives:

  • ISI’s primary mission is to promote research, training, and application of statistics, mathematics, and computer science to solve real-world problems.

It’s time for Africa

(General Studies- Paper II and III)

Source : The Indian Express

Africa’s potential as a valuable market for investments needs wider recognition.

  • Encouraging investments in Africa can diversify supply and value chains, contributing to a stable global economy.
  • Regional economic integration of Africa is a crucial component of this strategy.

Key Highlights

Africa’s Significance and Potential:

  • Africa possesses significant resources, including 30% of global mineral reserves, 12% of oil, and 8% of natural gas.
  • It will be home to over half of the world’s projected population growth by 2050, with a young workforce and rising disposable incomes.

India’s Role in African Integration:

  • India, under its G20 presidency, emphasized Africa’s inclusion by advocating for the African Union’s membership in the G20.
  • The establishment of the B20 Action Council on African Economic Integration reflects India’s commitment.

Coordination for Economic Integration:

  • Africa contributes less than 3% of global manufacturing and trade.
  • To unlock Africa’s potential, a coordinated effort involving governments, businesses, and civil society is needed.
  • The B20 Action Council identified five key priorities for catalyzing economic integration.

Strengthening Human Capital:

  • Africa’s demographic dividend underscores the importance of enhancing healthcare and education outcomes.
  • Private investments can support quality skilling, education, and healthcare, fostering a skilled workforce.

Agriculture and Food Systems:

  • Around 70% of Africa’s population is employed in the agrarian sector.
  • Focusing on training, education, mechanization, and value addition can enhance agricultural productivity and sustainability.

Industrial Activities and Manufacturing:

  • African nations should supplement resource-based activities with manufacturing to boost productivity.
  • Empowering micro, small, and medium enterprises through finance and access to electricity can drive industrialization.

African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA):

  • AfCFTA enhances competitiveness, integration with global value chains, and investments.
  • G20 support is essential for trade facilitation through technology and implementation.

Digital and Physical Connectivity:

  • Strong logistical foundations of digital and physical connectivity are crucial for a healthy economy.
  • Investments in roads, railways, and digital infrastructure can lead to growth, modernization, and financial inclusion.

About B20 Action Council on African Economic Integration

  • The B20 Action Council on African Economic Integration is a significant initiative that focuses on promoting and advancing economic integration within the African continent.
  • The council’s main objective is to advocate for and facilitate economic integration within the African continent.
  • The initiative was launched under India’s presidency of the G20, indicating India’s commitment to promoting Africa’s economic integration and development.
    • The council’s activities align with India’s broader agenda for its G20 presidency.
  • The B20 India Action Council on African Economic Integration is led by Sunil Bharti Mittal, Founder & Chairman of Bharti Enterprises.

About B20

  • The Business 20 (B20) is a significant dialogue forum that serves as the official engagement platform between the global business community and the Group of Twenty (G20) nations.
  • Established in 2010, the B20 holds a prominent position among the G20 Engagement Groups and consists of companies and business organizations as its participants.
  • The primary objective of the B20 is to gather perspectives and insights from global business leaders on matters related to global economic and trade governance.
  • It represents the unified voice of the entire G20 business community on these critical issues.

Key Features of the B20:

  • Annual Dialogue: The B20 operates on an annual basis, aligning with the G20 summit and the presidency of the host country.
  • Leadership Structure: Each year, the G20 presidency designates a prominent business leader from the host country to serve as the B20 Chair.
    • This Chair is supported by a B20 Sherpa and the B20 secretariat in organizing and facilitating the dialogue and policy formulation process.
  • Policy Recommendations: One of the central purposes of the B20 is to develop actionable policy recommendations that address the priorities of the G20 presidency.
    • These recommendations are aimed at fostering economic growth and development, and they are based on consensus-building among business leaders within the B20.
  • Task Forces and Action Councils:
    • To effectively address diverse issues, the B20 organizes its work through Task Forces (TFs) and Action Councils (ACs).
    • These groups are responsible for developing comprehensive and well-informed policy proposals that are presented to the G20 leadership for consideration.

The B20 plays a crucial role in bridging the gap between the business sector and global economic governance.

Note: B20 India Theme: The theme of B20 India is R.A.I.S.E – Responsible, Accelerated, Innovative, Sustainable, Equitable Businesses.

India to seek revival of WTO dispute resolution mechanism

(General Studies- Paper III)

Source : The Indian Express

India is advocating for the re-establishment of the non-functional dispute resolution mechanism under the World Trade Organisation (WTO) based on the principle of ‘common but differentiated responsibility’.

  • The issue will be discussed during the G20 Trade and Investment Ministerial Meeting in Jaipur.

Key Highlights

  • Under the WTO, countries can appeal to the appellate body to resolve disputes.
  • However, the appellate body has not been functioning since December 2019, though the panels are still operational.
  • Various countries, including the US, have been advocating for reforms within the WTO.
  • Piyush Goyal, India’s Commerce and Industry Minister, emphasized India’s support for WTO reforms and highlighted that India’s engagement in the WTO ministerial meetings will further the agenda of representing the interests of less developed and developing countries.
  • Goyal emphasized the need for WTO modernization and the re-establishment of the dispute resolution mechanism, which has been dysfunctional in recent years.
  • India aims to ensure that WTO decisions consider varying growth rates and development levels among countries, emphasizing consensus-based decision-making.
  • A “Jaipur Call for Action” has been invoked, aiming to promote industries, enhance the MSME sector, improve global trade assistance for businesses, and bridge information gaps for MSMEs to facilitate their expansion in trade.
  • While there has been convergence on major trade issues among G20 member countries, there are some realities, like the Russia-Ukraine conflict, on which a consensus is not possible.

About WTO

  • The World Trade Organization (WTO) is an international organization that deals with the global rules of trade between nations.
  • Its main goal is to ensure that trade flows as smoothly, predictably, and freely as possible.
  • The WTO was established on January 1, 1995, following the Uruguay Round of multilateral trade negotiations, which lasted from 1986 to 1994.
  • It replaced the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which was created in 1948.
  • The WTO operates as a permanent institution with its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.
  • The WTO has 164 members (including European Union) and 23 observer governments (like Iran, Iraq, Bhutan, Libya etc).

The WTO has three main functions:

  • Trade Negotiations: The WTO facilitates negotiations among its member countries to create new trade agreements and update existing ones.
  • Dispute Settlement: The WTO provides a mechanism for member countries to resolve disputes over trade issues.
    • The Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) is responsible for settling trade disputes between countries through a structured legal process.
  • Monitoring and Enforcement: The WTO monitors the trade policies of its member countries and ensures that they adhere to the agreed-upon rules.

Trade Rounds and Agreements: The WTO has conducted several rounds of negotiations to establish multilateral trade agreements. The most notable rounds include:

  • Uruguay Round (1986-1994): This round led to the establishment of the WTO and resulted in the creation of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) and the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).
  • Doha Development Agenda (2001-Present): Launched in 2001, this round aims to address the trade concerns of developing countries, including agriculture, services, and market access for goods.
    • Progress in this round has been slow due to various challenges.

What is ‘common but differentiated responsibility’ (CBDR)?

  • CBDR is a fundamental concept in global agreements for trade, climate change, and sustainable development.
  • It recognizes that countries have a shared responsibility for global challenges, but their actions can vary based on historical contributions, capabilities, and development levels.
  • Within the WTO, CBDR acknowledges differing capacities of developed and developing countries in trade engagement and rule adherence.
  • CBDR considers economic disparities, aiming to prevent trade policies from unfairly burdening less developed economies.

Amendments to the Pakistan Army Act

(General Studies- Paper II)

What are the amendments to the Pakistan Army Act?

Source : The Hindu

On July 27, the Pakistan Senate passed a Bill to amend the Pakistan Army Act, 1952.

  • The amendments aim to expand the scope of the Army Act to include civilians affiliated with or controlled by the Pakistan Army.

Key Highlights

New sections, 26A and 26B, have been added to the Act:

  • 26A addresses “unauthorized disclosure” of information prejudicial to Pakistan’s security, punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment.
  • 26B restricts political activity for two years after retirement, discharge, or dismissal from service.
  • Section 55A prohibits subjects of the Act from engaging with entities conflicting with the Armed Forces, and Section 55B outlines punishments for undermining or ridiculing the Armed Forces.
  • These amendments are believed to be connected to the May 9 incident, where supporters of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf attacked army installations, raising concerns about leaks from within the Army.
  • The amendments seem to target Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Faiz Hameed, former DG of ISI, a supporter of former PM Imran Khan, aiming to curb his influence.
  • The changes also formalize the Pakistan Army’s intervention in national welfare, development, and strategic interests.
  • Critics worry that the manner of passing the Bill shows the government’s subservience to the Army.
  • The amendments aim to silence criticism of the Army, particularly from retired personnel who support Imran Khan.
  • Concerns have been raised about the potential impact on individual rights, liberties, and the dissemination of information.
  • The amendments grant authorities extensive power and could lead to targeting individuals.