• Current Affairs, 11 May 2020

    FOREIGN MINISTRY DISMISSES NEPAL CLAIM THAT UTTARAKHAND ROAD CUTS THEIR TERRITORY

    RELEVANT FOR: INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS | TOPIC: INDIA – NEPAL

    • In a statement, Indian foreign ministry spokesman Anurag Srivastava said the recently inaugurated road section in Pithoragarh district in Uttarakhand ‘lies completely within the territory of India’
    • India on Saturday dismissed a statement by Nepal that a road it had recently constructed in Uttarakhand state cut across Nepalese territory.
    • In a statement, Indian foreign ministry spokesman Anurag Srivastava said the recently inaugurated road section in Pithoragarh district in Uttarakhand “lies completely within the territory of India.”
    • “The road follows the pre-existing route used by the pilgrims of the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra. Under the present project, the same road has been made pliable for the ease and convenience of pilgrims, locals and traders,” he said.
    • The statement follows Nepal on Saturday objecting to the construction and inauguration of the so called “Link Road” connecting to Lipu Lekh which Kathmandu said was in its territory. The road too passes through the territory of Nepal, the Nepalese foriegn ministry said, according to news reports from Kathmandu.
    • This came after India’s defence minister Rajnath Singh on Friday inaugurated the “Link Road” from Dharchula to Lipulekh, identifying Lipulekh as lying on India’s border with “China border”.
    • Lipulekh is a strip of land on the northwestern edge of Nepal, lodged between Nepal, India and Tibet. While India calls it a tri-junction between these three countries, Nepal has refused to recognise it as a tri-junction and says it is part of its territory.
    • According to Indian foreign ministry spokesman Anurag Srivastava, “India and Nepal have established mechanism to deal with all boundary matters. The boundary delineation exercise with Nepal is ongoing. India is committed to resolving outstanding boundary issues through diplomatic dialogue and in the spirit of our close and friendly bilateral relations with Nepal.”
    • “Both sides are also in the process of scheduling Foreign Secretary level talks which will be held once the dates are finalised between the two sides after the two societies and governments have successfully dealt with the challenge of covid-19 emergency,” he added.

     

    INDIAN, CHINESE TROOPS CLASH OVER BORDER DISPUTE

    RELEVANT FOR: INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS | TOPIC: INDIA – CHINA

    • NEW DELHI: The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and the Indian Army clashed in Ladakh and Sikkim along the border recently in separate incidents, spiking tensions between the Asian neighbours.
    • The Indian Army on Sunday said its soldiers were engaged in a tense face-off with Chinese troops along the border in northern Sikkim over undemarcated boundary issues between the two countries.
    • The face-off, which involved “aggressive behaviour and minor injuries on both sides”, said the Indian Army, took place after a long time. The Indian Army’s statement comes after Hindustan Times reported Saturday’s face-off involving scores of Indian and Chinese soldiers. The confrontation between the troops took place near the Naku La sector at over 5,000 metres, the Hindustan Times report said.
    • In Ladakh Indian and Chinese troops got into “a physical fight”” late on Tuesday/early Wednesday, a person said, adding that the scuffle took place on the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
    • The last major stand-off between the two sides took place at Doklam in 2017 when the two armies faced off against each other for 73 days.
    • The development comes as India, like most of the world, is focused on arresting the spread of the novel coronavirus, which first surfaced in China in December.
    • According to the Indian Army statement on Sunday, “temporary and short duration face-offs occur as boundaries are not resolved”. The reference was to the undemarcated India-China border seen as a legacy of the 1962 war between the two countries.
    • The Sino-India border dispute covers the 3,488-km-long Line of Actual Control. China claims Arunachal Pradesh as part of southern Tibet while India contests it.Many rounds of talks have been held between the two sides, but these are yet to yield any result.
    • Indian Army said troops “disengaged after dialogue and interaction at the local level”. “Troops resolve such issues mutually as per established protocols..”

     

    GOLD BONDS OPEN TODAY FOR SUBSCRIPTION WHEN INVESTMENT DEMAND IS RISING

    RELEVANT FOR: INDIAN ECONOMY | TOPIC: ISSUES RELATING TO GROWTH & DEVELOPMENT – BANKING, NPAS AND RBI

    • The second tranche of gold bonds of this fiscal year (2020-21) will open for subscription today at a time when the investment demand for the precious metal is rising. Series II of sovereign gold bond scheme 2020-21 will close for subscription on May 15. The issue price of the latest gold bond scheme has been fixed at 4,590 per gram while the issue date is May 19. Those applying online and making payment through digital mode will get a discount of ₹50 per gram. For such investors, the issue price of bond will be ₹4,540 per gram of gold.
    • Sovereign gold bondsare issued by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on behalf of the government.
    • Here are 10 things to know about the latest Sovereign Gold Bond Scheme 2020-21 Series II:
    • In April the government had also issued the Series 1 tranche of gold bonds and the latest one comes at a time when gold is attracting strong investment demand.
    • Gold holdings with SPDR ETF, the world’s biggest gold exchange traded fund, have risen to multi-year highs of 1075.8 tonnes.
    • In April, gold futures prices on MCX had surged to record high above ₹47,000 per 10 gram. In the past one year, gold prices are up about 40%. Fears of a deeper global recession due to coronavirus-related lockdowns and widespread stimulus from central banks has helped lift prices of gold, which is seen as a hedge against inflation and currency debasement.
    • Gold ETFs, offered by mutual funds in India, saw an inflow of ₹731 crore last month, after withdrawals of ₹195 crore in March.
    • The issue price of sovereign gold bonds is fixed based on recent closing price of gold as published by the India Bullion and Jewellers Association Ltd for gold of 999 purity.
    • The minimum permissible investment in gold bonds is one gram of gold and they have a maturity period of eight years.
    • Investors will have the option to exit after the fifth year. Bonds are also traded on stock exchanges, offering buy or sell option to investors, subject to liquidity.
    • Gold bonds offer an annual interest rate of 2.50% to investors.
    • Capital gains, if any, at maturity is tax-free. This is an exclusive benefit available on gold bonds. Physical gold or other forms of investments like gold ETF or gold mutual funds don’t qualify for this benefit.
    • The RBI had earlier released the timeline of issuances of gold bonds for the first six months of the year. Here is the timeline of gold bond that will be issued for next four months:
    • Tranche | Date of Subscription | Date of Issuance
    • 2020-21 Series III June 08-12, 2020 June 16, 2020
    • 2020-21 Series IV July 06-10, 2020 July 14, 2020
    • 2020-21 Series V August 03-07, 2020 August 11, 2020
    • 2020-21 Series VI Aug.31-Sept.04, 2020 September 08, 2020
    • The sovereign gold bond scheme was launched in November 2015 with an objective to reduce the demand for physical gold and shift a part of the domestic savings – used for the purchase of gold – into financial savings.

     

    FACE-OFF BETWEEN INDIA AND CHINA

    RELEVANT FOR :- INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS/ TOPICS :- INDIA AND ITS NEIGHBOURHOOD, GOVERNMENT POLICIES & INTERVENTIONS

    • Recently, Indian and Chinese troops engaged in atemporary and short duration face-off along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) at Naku La (Sikkim) and near Pangong Tso Lake (Eastern Ladakh).

    Naku La

    • Naku La sector is a pass at a height of more than 5,000 metres above Mean Sea Level (MSL) in the state of Sikkim.
    • It is located ahead of Muguthang or Cho Lhamu (source of River Teesta).
    • At Muguthang, the road on the Chinese side is motorable, and on the Indian side, it is a remote area.
    • The other passes located in the state of Sikkim are Nathu La Pass and Jelep La Pass.

    Pangong Tso Lake

    • Pangong Lake is located in the Union Territory of Ladakh.
    • It is situated at a height of almost 4,350m and is the world’s highest saltwater lake.
    • Extending to almost 160km, one-third of the Pangong Lake lies in India and the other two-thirds in China.

    Important Points

    • The temporary and brief face-offs occur because the unresolved and undemarcated boundary issues.
    • TheIndia-China border shares the 3,488-km-long Line of Actual Control.
    • Both countries have differing perceptions owing to the undemarcated boundary,which lead to transgressions and face-offs as each side patrols up to the areas.
    • Any such issue is resolved through the mutually established protocolsto maintain peace and tranquillity on the border. The resolving mechanism also involves the local Border Personnel Meeting (BPM).
    • These protocols with China have been established to resolve issues amicably at the local formation commander level.
    • The recent clash happened three years after the Doklam stand-off between India and China (2017),which was also experienced across the border in Sikkim.
    • Doklam, or Donglang in Chinese, is an area spread over less than a 100 sq kmcomprising a plateau and a valley at the trijunction between India, Bhutan and China.
    • The Doklam issue was discussed in the Wuhan Summit (2018)and two nations decided to issue “strategic guidance” to their militaries to strengthen communications so that they can build trust and understanding.
    McMahon Line Line of Actual Control
    §  The 890-km McMahon Line separating British India and Tibet was drawn by Sir Henry McMahon at the China-Tibet-Britain Simla Convention (1914). §  The Line of Actual Control (LAC) is the effective border between India and China.
    §  The line marked out previously unclaimed/undefined borders between Britain and Tibet. Also the Line put Tawang (a region of the present Arunachal Pradesh) in the British empire. §  LAC was supposed to divide areas under Indian and Chinese control since the end of the Sino-Indian War of 1962.
    §  The line was forgotten until the British government published the documents in 1937. Subsequently, China refused to accept the line. §  Unlike the LoC (between India and Pakistan), the LAC was not mutually agreed upon. This was because the war ended with a unilateral ceasefire by China.

    Global Examples of Aggressive Diplomacy by China

    • Covid-19 Origin:
    • China has been engaged in aggressive diplomacywith western countries, which have sought clarity on the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic that has crippled the world economy, and led to almost four million people across the globe falling ill.
    • South China Sea:
    • It has also reported that China has established new administrative districts for the Spratly and Paracel archipelagosin the South China Sea.
    • China has also named 80 islands and other geographical features in the sea, claiming sovereignty over underwater features in the contested

    INDIA-NEPAL ON KAILASH MANSAROVAR LINK ROAD

    RELEVANT FOR :- INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS/ TOPICS:- INDIA AND ITS NEIGHBOURHOOD, BILATERAL GROUPINGS & AGREEMENTS, EFFECT OF POLICIES & POLITICS OF COUNTRIES ON INDIA’S INTERESTS, SECURITY CHALLENGES & THEIR MANAGEMENT IN BORDER AREAS

    Nepal has strongly objected to the newly inaugurated link road which connects Pithoragarh (Uttarakhand) to Lipulekh pass (China border) significantly reducing the time of Kailash Mansarovar Yatra.

    • Nepal claims the territoryat the Lipulekh pass around 400 sq km area east of Kali river in the tri-junction of Nepal, Tibet and India, through which the road passes as its own.

    Important Points

    • Nepal’s Stand
    • Nepal referred to the 2014 agreementbetween Prime Ministers of both countries, for Foreign Secretaries to work out the “outstanding boundary issues” on Kalapani (where Lipulekh lies) and Susta (bordering Bihar).
    • According to Nepal’s Foreign Ministry, the unilateral decision to build a road there, is abreach of the 2014 agreement.
    • For evidence, Nepal has the mapsduring the 1816 Sugauli treaty and other complementing treaties that followed, fixing that Limpiadhura, Kalapani and Lipulekh were shown east of Kali river and part of Nepal.
    • These arrangements were made following Nepal’s war with the Britishdue to which Nepal had to cede a large part of territory which currently forms the present Uttarakhand.
    • Nepal seeks to question China as wellbecause China and India had signed an agreement in May 2015 to develop Lipulekh as a commercial passage without consulting Nepal which majorly affected the triangulation of the countries.
    • The government of Nepal remains committed to seek diplomatic solutions to the boundary issueson the basis of historical treaty, documents, facts and maps in keeping with the spirit of close and friendly bilateral ties between the two countries.

    Kali River

    • It is also known as Sharda river or Kali Ganga in Uttarakhand.
    • It joins Ghagra river in Uttar Pradesh, which is a tributary of Ganga.
    • River Projects: Tanakpur hydro-electric project, Chameliya hydro-electric project, Sharda Barrage.

    Lipulekh Pass

    • It is also known as Lipu-Lekh Pass/Qiangla or Tri-Corner is a high altitude mountain pass situated in the western Himalayas with a height of 5,334 metre or 17,500 feet.
    • It is an International mountain pass between India, China and Nepal.
    • India’s Response
      • According to India’s Ministry of External Affairs,the road going through Pithoragarh lies completely within the territory of India.
      • The road follows the pre-existing routeused by the pilgrims of the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra which has been made pliable for the ease and convenience of pilgrims, locals and traders, under the present project.
      • India held that theboundary delineation exercise with Nepal is in process and it is committed to resolving outstanding boundary issues through diplomatic dialogue.
    • Other Issues
      • In November 2019,Nepal protested against the publication of Indian maps that included the Kalapani area.
      • However, India rejected Nepal’s contention,asserting that the map accurately depicts the sovereign territory of India.
    • Both nations are in the process of scheduling foreign secretary-level talks, which will be held once dates are finalised after the two governments have successfully dealt with the challenge ofCovid-19

    MISSION SAGAR

    RELEVANT FOR:- INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS/ TOPICS :- INDIA AND ITS NEIGHBOURHOOD, GOVERNMENT POLICIES & INTERVENTIONS

    • India has sent Indian Naval Ship (INS) Kesari,carrying food items and medical assistance teams, to countries in the southern Indian Ocean to deal with Covid-19 pandemic as part of a “Mission Sagar”

    Important Points

    • The countries including Maldives, Mauritius, Madagascar, Comoros and Seychelleshad requested India for assistance in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic.
    • Mauritius, Madagascar, Comoros and Seychellesalong with La Réunion are part of Indian Ocean Commission. India has recently become an observer to the Commission.
    • This is the first time that a single assistance mission is covering all island countries of the western Indian Oceanin one go — except Sri Lanka, for which a second set of medicines have been airlifted.
    • The assistanceis in line with India’s role as the first responder in the Indian Ocean region.
    • It highlights the importance accorded by India to relations with her neighbouring countries and further strengthens the existing bond.
    • The deployment is also in consonance with the Prime Minister’s vision of Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR).
    • Under the Mission, India will
    • Deploy Medical Assistance Teamsin Mauritius and Comoros, helping their Governments deal with Covid emergency and in case of Comoros, with dengue fever
    • Deliver consignments of Covid related essential medicinesto Mauritius, Madagascar, Comoros and Seychelles and about 600 tonnes of food items to Maldives.
    • In addition, in case of Mauritius, aspecial consignment of Ayurvedic medicines is also being sent.
    • The consignments also include Hydroxychloroquine tablets.

    SAGAR

    • Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR) was launched in 2015. It is India’s strategic vision for the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).
    • Through SAGAR, India seeks to deepen economic and security cooperation with its maritime neighbours and assist in building their maritime security capabilities.
    • Further, India seeks to safeguard its national interests and ensure Indian Ocean region to become inclusive, collaborative and respect international law.
    • The key relevance of SAGAR emerges when seen in conjunction with India’s other policies impacting the maritime domain like Act East Policy, Project Sagarmala, Project Mausam, India as ‘net security provider’, focus on Blue Economy etc.

    DATA RELATED TO BIRTH RATE AND DEATH RATE

    RELEVANT FOR:- INDIAN SOCIETY/ TOPICS :-POPULATION AND ASSOCIATED ISSUES, HEALTH

    • Recently, the Registrar General of Indiareleased data related to birth rate, death rate and infant mortality rate in its Sample Registration System (SRS) bulletin for 2018.
    • The rates are calculated per one thousand of the population.

    Important Points

    • Birth rate:
    • India’s birth rate has declined drastically over the last four decades from 36.9 in 1971 to 20.0 in 2018.
    • The rural-urban differential has also narrowed. However, the birth rate has continued to be higher in rural areas compared to urban areas.
    • Bihar(26.2) continues to remain at the top of list in birth rate while Andaman and Nicobar (11.2) is at the bottom.
    • Birth rate is a crude measure of fertility of a populationand a crucial determinant of population growth.
    • Death rate:
    • The death rate of India has witnessed a significant decline over the last four decades from 14.9 in 1971 to 6.2 in 2018.
    • In the last decade, death rate at an all-India level has declined from 7.3 to 6.2.
    • The decline has been steeper in rural areas.
    • Chhattisgarh has the highest death rateat 8 and Delhi, an almost entirely urban state, has a lowest death rate of 3.3.
    • Mortality is one of the basic components of population change.The data related to it is essential for demographic studies and public health administration.
    • Infant mortality rate:
    • IMR has decreased to 32 about one-fourth as compared to 1971 (129).
    • The IMR at an all-India level has declined from 50 to 32 in the last decade.
    • Madhya Pradesh has the highestIMR of 48 and Nagaland has the lowest IMR of 4.
    • Infant mortality isthe number of deaths of children under one year of age per 1000 live births.

    Sample Registration System

    • The SRS is a demographic survey for providing reliable annual estimates of infant mortality rate, birth rate, death rate and other fertility and mortality indicators at the national and sub-national levels.
    • It was initiated on a pilot basis by the Registrar General of India in a few states in 1964-65, it became fully operational during 1969-70.
    • The field investigation consists of continuous enumeration of births and deaths in selected sample units by resident part time enumerators, generally anganwadi workers & teachers, and an independent survey every six months by SRS supervisors. The data obtained by these two independent functionaries are matched.

    Registrar General of India

    • Registrar General of India was founded in 1961 by the Government of India under the Ministry of Home Affairs.
    • It arranges, conducts and analyses the results of the demographic surveys of India including Census of India and Linguistic Survey of India.
    • The position of Registrar is usually held by a civil servant holding the rank of Joint Secretary.

    FELUDA TEST FOR COVID-19

    RELEVANT FOR :- SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY/ TOPICS :-INDIGENIZATION OF TECHNOLOGY

    • Recently, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research’sInstitute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (CSIR-IGIB) has developed India’s first paper strip test for Covid-19 namely, ‘Feluda’.

    Important Points

    • Description:
      • The Feluda is apaper strip test that detects the coronavirus in an hour.
      • Feluda is an acronym forFNCAS9 Editor Linked Uniform Detection.
      • It is expected to help to fulfil an urgent need of the rapid testing in India.
      • It is the first such indigenous test kit to be developed in India based on Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR) technology.
        • CRISPRis a gene editing technology, which replicates natural defence mechanisms in bacteria to fight virus attacks, using a special protein called
        • CRISPR-Cas9 technology behaves like a cut-and-paste mechanismon DNA strands that contain genetic information. The specific location of the genetic codes that need to be changed, or edited, is identified on the DNA strand, and then, using the Cas9 protein, which acts like a pair of scissors, that location is cut off from the strand.
        • A DNA strand, when broken, has a natural tendency to repair itself. Scientists intervene during this auto-repair process, supplying the desired sequence of genetic codes that binds itself with the broken DNA strand.
      • Comparison to the RT-PCR Test:
        • Working Principle:The Feluda test uses the gene-editing tool-Crispr-Cas9 to target and identify genomic sequences of the novel coronavirus in suspected individual samples.
          • RT-PCR test (Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction)detects the virus genetic material, which is the Ribonucleic acid (RNA) .
        • Cost:The Feluda test will cost less than Rs.500 compared to Rs. 4500 for the real-time PCR test which is currently being used for Covid-19 diagnosis in India.
        • Required Medical Machinery:The Feluda test also does not rely on expensive real-time PCR machines for RNA isolation, DNA conversion, and amplification which are already in limited supply in the country.

    RBI’S GOLD RESERVE INCREASED

    RELEVANT FOR :- INDIAN ECONOMY/ TOPICS :- CAPITAL MARKET

    • According to the ‘Report on Management of Foreign Exchange Reserves’,the Reserve Bank of India’s total holdings of gold reached 653.01 tonnes in the financial year 2019-20.
    • The Reserve Bank of India publishes half-yearly reports on management of foreign exchange reserves as part of its efforts towards enhanced transparency and levels of disclosure.
    • These reports are prepared half yearly with reference to the position as at end-March and end-September each year.

    Important Points

    • The RBI’s total gold reserves were 612.56 tonnes in the preceding fiscal ended March 2019.
    • The addition of 40.45 tonnes of gold has raised the value of gold reserves to $30.57 billion by March 2020 from $23.07 billion in March 2019.
    • Theshare of gold in the total foreign exchange (forex) reserves rose from about 5.59% as of March 2019 to about 6.40% by March 2020.
      • India’s Forex Reserve include: Foreign Currency Assets, Gold reserves, Special Drawing Rightsand Reserve position with the International Monetary Fund (IMF)
    • Around 360.71 tonnes of gold is held overseas in safe custody with the Bank of England and the Bank for International Settlements, while the remaining gold is held domestically.
    • The gold reserves will help the central banks around the globe to focus on the measures needed to contain the economic impact of Covid-19.
    • Gains or losses on valuation of foreign currency assetsand gold due to movements in the exchange rates and/or price of gold are booked under a balance sheet head named the Currency and Gold Revaluation Account (CGRA).
      • CGRA represents the value of the gold and foreign currency that the RBI holds on behalf of India.
      • It shows funds that are available to compensate RBI’s lossin the value of gold and foreign exchange reserve holdings.
      • The balances in CGRA provide a bufferagainst exchange rate/gold price fluctuations.

    Gold & Economy

    • As Currency:
      • Gold was used as the world reserve currency up through most of the 20th century. The United States used the gold standard until 1971.
      • The paper money had to be backed up by equal amounts of gold in their reserves.
      • Although the gold standard has been discontinued, some economists feel that we should return to it due to the volatility of the U.S. dollar and other currencies.
    • As a hedge against inflation:
      • The demand for gold increases during inflationary times due to its inherent value and limited supply. As it cannot be diluted, gold is able to retain value much better than other forms of currency.
    • Strength of Currency:
      • When a country imports more than it exports, the value of its currency will decline.
      • On the other hand, the value of its currency will increase when a country is a net exporter.
      • Thus, a country that exports gold or has access to gold reserves will see an increase in the strength of its currency when gold prices increase, since this increases the value of the country’s total exports.
        • Since, the central banks rely on printing more money to buy gold, they create an excess supply of the currency. This increases the supply and thereby reduces the value of the currency used to purchase it.

     

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