- India takes over UNSC presidency for August.
- e-RUPI digital payment system
- Provisional status to Gilgit-Baltistan
- Integrated tri-service theatre commands
- Ashwagandha and Covid-19
- Delhi-Alwar RRTS (Rapid Rail transit system)
1.India takes over UNSC presidency for August.
#GS2 #Important International Institutions, agencies and fora – their Structure, Mandate
#Global Groupings and Agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests
Context: Recently, India assumed the presidency of the United Nations Security Council for the month of August and is set to organise key events in three major areas of maritime security, peacekeeping and counter-terrorism. Key Details:
- As part of its new role, India will decide the UN body’s agenda for the month and coordinate important meetings on a range of issues.
- Security Council will also have on its agenda several important meetings including Syria, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, and the Middle East.
- Security Council will also be adopting important resolutions on Somalia, Mali, & UN Interim Force in Lebanon.
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be the first Indian PM to preside over a meeting of the UNSC.
- This will be India’s first presidency during its 2021-22 tenure as a non-permanent member of the Security Council.
- India began its two-year tenure as a non-permanent member of the UNSC on January 1, this year.
- This is India’s eighth term on the UNSC.
Support from France & Russia:
- India took over the presidency from France.
- France has stated that it is dedicated to collaborating with India over strategic problems such as maritime security, peacekeeping, and counter-terrorism.
- Russia welcomed the country gaining the UNSC presidency saying it is very impressed by India’s agenda, which embraces critical global concerns.
Challenges for India at UNSC:
Post Covid World Order:
- India assumes the role against the backdrop of a world ravaged by the covid-19 pandemic
- Normal processes of international relations have been strained by frictions among the permanent veto-wielding members of the UNSC and increasing traditional and non-traditional security challenges.
Balancing USA and Russia and Unstable West Asia:
- India’s propensity either to side with Russia and China on specific issues or abstain from voting on them altogether, has often come under criticism from Western nations that have questioned India’s credentials in its charge to take up a leadership position at the UNSC.
- 2020 has witnessed a marked shift in the geopolitical tides marked by an intense and persisting trade war between the United States and China.
- With the situation deteriorating between the US and Russia and increasing tensions between US and Iran, it will be a tough situation to handle for India.
- India needs to uphold rule-based world order with due respect to human rights ensuring the national interest.
- Balancing act India has engaged in at the UN remains an apt strategy in preserving both New Delhi-Washington ties as well as New Delhi-Moscow ones.
United Nation Security Council:
- The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is one of the organs of the United Nations and is charged with the maintenance of international peace and security.
- Its powers include the establishment of peacekeeping operations, the establishment of international sanctions, and the authorization of military action through Security Council resolutions; it is the only UN body with the authority to issue binding resolutions to member states.
- While other organs of the UN make recommendations to member states, only the Security Council has the power to make decisions that member states are then obligated to implement under the Charter.
- Members: The Security Council consists of fifteen members. Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, and the United States—serve as the body’s five permanent members.
- These permanent members can veto any substantive Security Council resolution, including those on the admission of new member states or candidates for Secretary-General.
- The Security Council also has 10 non-permanent members, elected on a regional basis to serve two-year terms. The body’s presidency rotates monthly among its member
- The council is headquartered at NewYork.
Voting and Discussions at UNSC:
- Each member of the Security Council has one vote. Decisions of the Security Council on matters are made by an affirmative vote of nine members including the concurring votes of the permanent members.
- A “No” vote from one of the five permanent members blocks the passage of the resolution.
- Any member of the UN which is not a member of the Security Council may participate, without vote, in the discussion of any question brought before the Security Council whenever the latter considers that the interests of that member are specially affected.
2.e-RUPI digital payment system
#GS3 # Mobilisation of Resources #Inclusive Growth # IT & Computers
Context: Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently launched e-RUPI, a cashless and contactless instrument for digital payments, this evening.
What is e-RUPI:
- It is a cashless and contactless digital payment medium, which will be delivered to mobile phones of beneficiaries in form of an SMS-string or a QR code.
- The users will be able to redeem the voucher without needing any credit or debit card, digital payments mobile applications, or internet banking, at the service provider.
- It connects the sponsors of the services with the beneficiaries and service providers in a digital mode without any physical interface.
- The mechanism also ensures that the payment to the service provider is made only after the transaction is completed.
- The system is pre-paid in nature and hence, assures timely payment to the service provider without the involvement of any intermediary.
How will these vouchers be issued?
- The system has been built by National Payments Corporation of India on its Unified Payments Interface (UPI) platform, in collaboration with the Department of Financial Services, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, and National Health Authority and has onboarded banks that will be the issuing entities.
- Any corporate or government agency will have to approach the partner banks, which are both private and public-sector lenders, with the details of specific persons and the purpose for which payments have to be made.
- The beneficiaries will be identified using their mobile number and a voucher allocated by a bank to the service provider in the name of a given person would only be delivered to that person.
- e-RUPI is expected to ensure a leak-proof delivery of welfare services.
- It can also be used for delivering services under schemes meant for providing drugs and nutritional support under Mother and Child welfare schemes, TB eradication programmes, drugs & diagnostics under schemes like Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana, fertiliser subsidies etc.
- Private Sector: Even the private sector can leverage these digital vouchers as part of their employee welfare and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programmes.
- e-RUPI could potentially highlight the gaps in digital payments infrastructure that will be necessary for the success of the future digital currency.
How it is different from Virtual currency:
- e-RUPI is still backed by the existing Indian rupee as the underlying asset and specificity of its purpose makes it different to a virtual currency and puts it closer to a voucher-based payment system.
- E-RUPI is not a platform.
Central bank digital currency (CBDC):
- The Reserve Bank of India is working towards a phased implementation strategy for central bank digital currency or CBDC.
- CBDC is a digital currency issued by a central bank that generally take on a digital form of the nation’s existing fiat currency such as the rupee.
- Although CBDCs are conceptually similar to currency notes, the introduction of CBDC would involve changes to the enabling legal framework since the current provisions are primarily synced for currency in paper form.
- According to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), there are at least four reasons why digital currencies are expected to do well in India:
- There is increasing penetration of digital payments in the country that exists alongside sustained interest in cash usage, especially for small value transactions.
- : India’s high currency to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratio holds out another benefit of CBDCs.
- Cash-to-GDP Ratio or Currency in Circulation (CIC) to GDP Ratio or simply currency-to-GDP ratio shows the value of cash in circulation as a ratio of GDP.
- The spread of private virtual currencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum may be yet another reason why CBDCs become important from the point of view of the central bank.
- Central bank digital currencies might also cushion the general public in an environment of volatile private virtual currencies.
3.Provisional status to Gilgit-Baltistan
#GS2 # India and its neighbourhood- relations.
Context: Pakistan’s Law and Justice Ministry has finalised draft legislation to incorporate Gilgit-Baltistan, the region known before 2009 as Northern Areas, as a province of the country, according to a report in Dawn newspaper.
- As per the proposal, the Supreme Appellate Court (SAC) of Gilgit-Baltistan may be abolished and the region’s election commission is likely to be merged with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
Present Status of Gilgit-Baltistan:
- Gilgit-Baltistan is an autonomous region now and after the bill is passed, it will become the 5th province of the country.
- Presently, it has been ruled mostly by executive orders.
- Currently, Pakistan has four provinces namely Baluchistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab, and Sindh.
Reasons for Making Gilgit-Baltistan a Province now:
- The change in status, will meet a long-standing demand of the 1.5 million people of Gilgit-Baltistan.
- There is outrage against Pakistan for releasing sectarian militant groups that target Shias, but the predominant sentiment is that all this will improve once they are part of the Pakistani federation. There is a small movement for independence with very little resistance.
- It is Pakistan’s only territorial frontier, and thus a land route, with China.
- Therefore, some reports suggested that Pakistan’s decision is under pressure from China, wary that Gilgit-Baltistan’s ambiguous status might undermine the legality of its projects there
- The Gilgit-Baltistan region is at the centre of the USD 65 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Infrastructure development plan.
- Some experts on India-Pakistan relations also assert that Pakistan’s decision might have come from India’s reassertion of its claims after the 5th August, 2019 reorganisation of Jammu & Kashmir.
- India has many times clearly gave the message to Pakistan that the entire Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, including the areas of Gilgit and Baltistan, are an integral part of the country by virtue of its fully legal and irrevocable accession.
- The area’s strategic importance for India has increased in light of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor agreement, under which Beijing is investing hugely to develop the area as part of its Belt and Road Initiative, and the concerns of a two-front war after the standoff in Eastern Ladakh last year.
Where is Gilgit Baltistan located?
- It shares a geographical boundary with Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
- It is located strategically as it borders Pakistan, Afghanistan and China.
- The region was a part of the erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, but has been under Pakistan’s control since 4th November, 1947, following the invasion of Kashmir by tribal militias and the Pakistan army.
- Following this invasion, India moved to the United Nations Security Council to raise the issue of Pakistan’s invasion, in 1948.
- The UN Security Council passed a resolution, calling for Pakistan to withdraw from all of Jammu and Kashmir and then India had to reduce its forces to the minimum level following which a plebiscite would be held to ascertain people’s wishes.
- However, no withdrawal was ever carried out and it remains a point of contention between two countries.
4.Integrated tri-service theatre commands
#GS3 # Security Challenges & their Management in Border Areas # Various Security Forces & Agencies & Their Mandate
Context: A table-top war-gaming exercise was held recently among the three services of the armed forces (Navy, Army and Airforce).
- The aim of this exercise was to evolve a consensus among the three services on the reorganisation of the forces into integrated tri-service theatre commands and fine-tune the model.
- India currently has 19 military commands with 17 of them service-oriented.
- The Army has seven commands: Northern, Eastern, Southern, Western, Central, Southwestern and Army Training Command (ARTRAC).
- The Air Force has seven as well: Western, Eastern, Southern, Southwestern, Central, Training, and Maintenance commands.
- The Navy has three: Western, Eastern and Southern, of which Southern is largely about training.
- There are two existing tri-Service commands as well,
- The Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC), which is headed by rotation by officers from the three Services, and
- The Strategic Force Command, which is responsible for India’s nuclear assets.
What are integrated theatre commands?
- In the simplest words, it is a unified command under which all the resources of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force are pooled under a single commander depending on the threat perception.
- The commands could be geographical — like looking at a border with a particular country — or thematic, like a command for all maritime threats.
- The integrated theatre commander will not be answerable to individual Services.
- Several nations in the world have theatre commands, including the United States and China.
Why does India seek theatre commands?
- This will help in better planning and military response and also bring down cost.
- While the cost may go up in the immediate future since all theatres would have to be armed with sufficient systems, it will prove to be cost-effective in the long term as all acquisitions will be a unified one.
- It will provide a unified approach to fighting the future wars.
Proposals in this regard:
- The idea of creating an integrated tri-Services command in India is not new — it had been recommended at various levels after the Kargil conflict.
- It was the Shekatkar committee, headed by Lt Gen. (retd) D.B. Shekatkar, which had recommended the creation of the post of CDS and theatre commands.
- When Gen Rawat was appointed Chief of Defence Staff in January 2020 with a mandate to raise such commands within his three-year tenure, the idea was finally brought to the design table.
- Many studies were commissioned within each armed forces to come up with ideas regarding this.
- Last year, Chief of Defence staff had suggested that the first of these commands, the Air Defence Command, could come up by the end of 2020.
- However, the process has been delayed due to multiple factors, including the Covid-19 pandemic.
Proposed Commands so far:
- A Maritime Theatre Command, which will take care of all the maritime security needs of the country on both the eastern and the western seaboards, and will include air strike assets and amphibian forces of the Army.
- An Air Defence Command, which will be mandated with air defence across the country and beyond. The fighter jets will have reconnaissance and surveillance assets as well.
- Two or three land-based commands are proposed.
- If there are two commands, there will be one each for India’s borders with China and Pakistan.
- But there is also a proposal to have another command looking at India’s borders with Pakistan and China in Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh, given the unique territory and security needs of the country in that region.
5.Ashwagandha and Covid-19
#GS2 #Health related issues #GS3 #Biotechnology
Context: The Ministry of Ayush has collaborated with the U.K.’s London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) to conduct a study on ‘Ashwagandha’ for promoting recovery from COVID-19.
- ‘Ashwagandha’ (Withania somnifera), commonly known as ‘Indian winter cherry’, is a traditional Indian herb that boosts energy, reduces stress and makes the immune system stronger.
- It is classified as an adaptogen, which means that it can help the body to manage stress.
- The study suggests Ashwagandha as a potential therapeutic candidate for alleviating the long-term symptoms of Covid-19.
- Ashwagandha has shown clinical success in treating both acute and chronic rheumatoid arthritis.
- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that can cause joint pain and damage throughout your body.
- An autoimmune disease is a condition in which your immune system mistakenly attacks your body.
- All India Institute of Ayurveda (AIIA), an autonomous body under the Ministry of Ayush, and the LSHTM recently signed a MoU to conduct clinical trials of ‘Ashwagandha’ on 2,000 participants in three U.K. cities — Leicester, Birmingham and London (Southall and Wembley).
- While there have been several studies on ‘Ashwagandha’ to understand its benefits in various ailments, this is the first time the Ministry of Ayush has collaborated with a foreign institution to investigate its efficacy on COVID-19 patients”.
6.Delhi-Alwar RRTS (Rapid Rail transit system)
#GS3 #Infrastructure #Bio-Diversity and Conservation
Context: A Supreme Court-appointed committee has recommended to the apex court to permit construction of a stretch of the proposed Delhi-Alwar high speed rail corridor under the Aravalli Biodiversity Park and the extended ridge area, observing that the project is in “public interest” and does not involve felling of trees.
Central Empowered Committee’s (CEC) report:
- The committee observed that the project is in public interest and since the proposed rail corridor will run 20 metres below the ground, trees will not have to be cut.
- There will be no construction on the surface in the Morphological Ridge area.
- A ridge or a mountain ridge is a geographical feature consisting of a chain of mountains or hills that form a continuous elevated crest for some distance.
- The Aravalli ridge areas, which are essentially extensions of the Aravalli ranges and extend over 7,000 hectares in Delhi, are considered the lungs of the capital (Delhi).
Delhi-Alwar RRTS Corridor:
- It is a 164-km rapid rail corridor, which will be a mix of elevated tracks and tunnels. It is slated to be implemented in three phases.
- A 3.6-km stretch of the corridor is supposed to pass below the extended or ‘morphological’ ridge in South Delhi.
- 7-km of the 3.6-km stretch under consideration will pass below the Aravalli Biodiversity Park near Vasant Kunj, Delhi.
Need of this Corridor:
- It is expected to reduce travel time between these places to 117 minutes – a little less than two hours.
- It is expected to improve the air quality in Delhi/NCR (National Capital Region), because the share of public transport is expected to increase.
- Road traffic congestion is expected to ease with a better transport network and the project is expected to address regional connectivity issues and develop an efficient multimodal transport system connecting Delhi-NCR with road, rail and air.