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UPSC Civil Services Daily Current Affairs 13th June 2022

CURRENT AFFAIRS

 

TOPICS :

 Why are economic stakes high in West Asia?

GSII international relations

What are SEBI’s concerns around crypto assets?

GSIII Science & Technology

Why is India ranked at the bottom of the 2022 Environmental Performance Index?

GSIII Environmental Pollution and Degradation

India in talks for more Apache, Chinook choppers: Boeing official

GSIII Security

 

Why are economic stakes high in West Asia?

Context:

The diplomatic fallout from the provocative and communally charged comments made by two erstwhile spokespersons of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

This forced the government into fire fighting mode earlier this month after several West Asian nations including Qatar, Kuwait, Iran, Bahrain, Oman, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the UAE as well as the 57nation Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the six member Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) took strong exception to the remarks denigrating Islam and the Prophet Muhammed.

India’s Response
  • In response, Indian officials strenuously asserted that the government stood by the country’s traditional values and respected all religions.
  • India also tasked its diplomats to reach out to individual OIC member states and reassure them on India’s position of an ‘inclusive’ approach to all communities.
What prompted the government response?
  • India’s cultural, economic and trade ties with the countries of the West Asian region are deep and abiding.
  • Maritime trade, the exchange of goods, services and cultures between the people of the Gulf region.
  • The West Asian region served as a land trade bridge to Greece, Rome and other early European empires and a flourishing trade in spices, cloth, silk and indigo in exchange for gold and silver is well recorded
  • In the British colonial era saw the advent of even a loose common monetary system with the rupee serving as legal tender in several Gulf States till the middle of the 20th century.
  • Discovery and subsequent commercial exploitation of oil in the Gulf region during the colonial era that started to alter the balance of trade flows between India and the countries in the region.
  • West Asian region collectively account for well over a sixth of India’s total bilateral merchandise trade.
  • This region contribute about three fifths of India’s crude oil supplies.
  • Region also the major provider of jobs and economic opportunities to Indian workers, professionals and entrepreneurs and houses about 89 lakh Indians.
  • These non-resident Indians (NRIs) annually send home about $40 billion, and account for more than 55% of the country’s total remittance inflows.
  • Earlier this year signed a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) with the UAE is looking to significantly boost trade ties.
  • Investments from sovereign wealth funds and other large investors from the GCC have also climbed steadily in recent years.
Why is India so dependent on West Asian countries for its energy needs?
  • An Observer Research Foundation (ORF) April 2022 paper analysing ‘India’s oil imports:
  • Trends in diversification’ notes that out of India’s total imports of crude oil, the share of the Gulf countries has remained fairly steady at about 60% over the last 15 years.
  • The ORF study observes that in 202021, the top oil exporter to India was Iraq, with a share of more than 22%, followed by Saudi Arabia — about 18%.
  • The UAE, Kuwait and Oman were other Gulf countries among the top10 suppliers of crude oil to India in the fiscal year ended March 2021.
How reliant is India on the region for nonoil trade?
  • Over the five years from 2017 through 2021, Iran and the GCC member states accounted for a 15.3% share of India’s cumulative two way merchandise trade of $3.98 trillion in that period, according to statistics available on the UN Comtrade database.
  • Of the $609 billion of exports and imports that the seven countries accounted for in this period.
  • UAE contributed the lion’s share of $277.4 billion, or almost 7%, making it one of India’s largest trading partners.
  • Saudi Arabia was next with $153 billion.
  • The region is today a key market for several Indian commodities ranging from tea and basmati rice to electrical equipment, apparel, and machinery.
  • The government of India is actively pursuing a broader FTA (Free Trade Agreement) with the GCC as a whole.

The West Asian region provides among the largest number of overseas jobs for Indians, with nearly 89 lakh Indians living and working in the Gulf economies.

Indians are today ubiquitous by their presence across a vast range of job categories in the region spanning construction labour to oil industry workers, nurses and doctors in the medical sector to the hospitality industry and finance professionals.

 

What are SEBI’s concerns around crypto assets?

Context:

The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), the watchdog which regulates the securities and commodities market, has reportedly told the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance led by Jayant Sinha that regulation of crypto assets would be difficult given the nature of technology that sustains them.

What exactly did the SEBI tell the committee?
  • Crypto assets are maintained in decentralised distributed ledgers, which are nested in computer nodes spread all across the globe.
  • The underlying technology for crypto assets is the same distributed ledgers that aren’t controlled by any one entity.
  • SEBI has said that crypto assets are not part of the definition of what constitutes as securities under the Securities Contracts (Regulation) Act of 1956.
  • SEBI has proposed to the committee that celebrities should not be allowed to endorse crypto currencies.
  • Crypto currencies can lead to “dollarisation” of a part of the economy. This was against India’s sovereign interest.
  • These exchanges, in case of a cross border transaction, in effect enable the use of a crypto currency as a bridge to convert one nation’s official currency to another.
  • These exchanges, SEBI has suggested, could be brought under the regulatory purview of the RBI.
  • The idea is to implement what are called KYC/AML/CFT (Know Your Customer/Anti Money Laundering/Combating of Financing of Terrorism) norms.
  • The subscribers or customers of crypto assets form another important part of the market.
  • SEBI has suggested that the Consumer Protection Act of 2019 be invoked to make sure their interests are safeguarded.
What has been the stance of the government?
  • There is still ambiguity around what it really wants to do.
  • A Bill that was sought to be introduced last year signalled its intention to ban crypto currencies outright. It, however, didn’t see the light of day.
  • The crypto currency industry saw a window of hope earlier this year when Finance Minister of India imposed a tax for the first time on crypto assets.
  • The tax, at 30%, was seen at first to settle the question of legality of such currencies.

The Sinha led committee last November also met with representatives of the crypto industry. The Bill aims to set up a facilitative framework for creation of the official digital currency to be issued by the RBI.

 

 

Why is India ranked at the bottom of the 2022 Environmental Performance Index?

Context

India rejected the 2022 Environmental Performance Index (EPI), saying that it makes use of “biased metrics and weights,” after it was placed last.

About the report

  • The report is generally prepared by researchers from Yale and Columbia Universities in the United States.
  • It used a method method of quantifying and numerically marking the environmental performance of a state’s policies.
  • Using 40 performance indicators across 11 issue categories, the EPI ranks 180 countries on climate change performance, environmental health, and ecosystem vitality.
  • The overall EPI rankings indicate which countries are best addressing the environmental challenges that every nation faces.
  • The 2022 EPI supports evolving climate policy discussions with a new indicator that projects countries’ progress towards net-zero emissions in 2050.
India’s ranking
  • EPI 2022 ranks India right at the bottom among 180 countries based on performance across parameters.
  • Denmark is ranked at the top with a score of 77.90, while India scored 18.90.
India’s greenhouse gas trends from the 2022 EPI:
  • According to the report, deteriorating air quality and rapidly increasing greenhouse gas emissions are the primary reasons behind India’s low score.
  • Greenhouse gases (GHG) include carbon dioxide, methane, fluorinated gases, and nitrous oxide.
Fossil fuel and air quality challenges
  • India rely heavily on coal to support economic growth as their population grows. Large-scale fossil fuel combustion adds to the poor air quality.
  • India is home to 21 of the 30 most polluted cities in the world and has an air quality rated one of the poorest in the world.
  • Over 16 lakh people in India die from air pollution every year.
  • It also identifies household fuel combustion as the largest contributor to the country’s particulate matter emissions.
  • Seven indicators — PM2.5 exposure, household solid fuels, ozone exposure, nitrogen oxides exposure, sulphur dioxide exposure, carbon monoxide exposure, and volatile organic compound exposure — are used to determine the air quality in the listed countries.
WHY INDIA REJECTED THIS?
  • India rejected this methodology, saying that for a developing country like India, the accurate method would be to calculate GHG emissions per capita.
  • It also said that a model should be created with coefficients taking into account the effect of policies to reduce emissions — such as increased use of renewable energy and electric vehicles or the creation of a carbon sink to project the values for future years.

 

India in talks for more Apache, Chinook choppers: Boeing official

Context:

India is negotiating the purchase of additional Chinook CH-47F(I) Chinook heavy-lift helicopters and AH-64E Apache attack helicopters, according to Torbjorn (Turbo) Sjogren, vice president, International Government and Defence, Boeing

AH-64E Apache Attack Helicopter
  • Better known as an attack helicopter are received from the Boeing production facility in Mesa, Arizona, USA
  • Apache will replace Russian origin MI-35 helicopters that are on the verge of retirement.
  • These are all-weather capable, easily maintainable and have high agility and survivability against battle damage.
Capabilities of the AH-64E Apache Attack Helicopter:
  • It can carry out precision attacks at standoff ranges and operate in hostile airspace with threats from the ground.
  • It can transmit and receive battlefield picture through data up linking and networking.
  • It can also shoot fire and forget anti-tank guided missiles, air to air missiles, rockets while providing versatility to helicopter in network-centric aerial warfare.
  • It also carries fire control radar, which has a 360° coverage and nose-mounted sensor suite for target acquisition and night vision systems.
CH-47F(I) Chinook Heavy-lift Helicopters:
  • It is capable of airlifting diverse military and non military loads into remote locations.
  • It has a fully integrated digital cockpit management system, advanced cargo handling capabilities and electronic warfare suite that complement the aircraft’s performance.
  • The helicopter has been customized to suit IAF’s future requirements and capability roadmap.
  • These are deployed in the Northern and Eastern regions of India.

UPSC Civil Services Daily Current Affairs 13th June 2022

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