Bilateral & International Relations
- US to Declare China as Among World’s Worst Human Trafficking Offenders
- Kaushik Basu leads International Economic Association
- India, Netherlands sign 3 agreements
- Netherlands backs UNSC, NSG bids
Defence & Security Issues
- Withdraw troops to reopen Nathu La Pass, China tells India
Science & Technology
- Water exists as two different liquids
- Uranus’ Unusual Rotation Creates Light Switch Effect
Key Facts for Prelims
- Type 055
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Bilateral & International Relations
US to Declare China as Among World’s Worst Human Trafficking Offenders
The United States plans to place China on its global list of worst offenders in human trafficking and forced labor.
- US has decided to drop China to “Tier 3,” the lowest grade, putting it alongside Iran, North Korea and Syria among others.
- In last year’s annual report, the US placed China on its “watch list” of countries that aren’t meeting minimum standards and could be downgraded to the lowest classification.
What does it mean to be listed under “Tier 3”?
- “Tier 3,” is the ranking system’s lowest category which applies to countries failing to meet minimum standards to prevent human trafficking or making significant improvement efforts.
- According to the US, Beijing was not doing enough to curb “state sponsored forced labor,” and did not meet “minimum standards” for fighting human trafficking, even though it was making progress.
- Concerns have also been raised about forced begging in China that particularly affects children. Girls and women from rural areas are at higher risk of being recruited for sex trafficking in cities.
What if any country is placed under “Tier 3”?
- Countries placed on Tier 3 are liable to be penalised with sanctions, including the withholding of non-humanitarian aid and assistance that could affect agreements with the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.
- Officials of the Tier-3 countries are also liable to be barred from participating in US government educational and cultural exchange programs.
- However, the US president retains the authority to waive the sanctions taking into account national interest or if he feels that the penalties could adversely affect vulnerable populations. The previous administrations of the US have often granted waivers for the tier-3 countries.
Kaushik Basu leads International Economic Association
The Finance Ministry’s former Chief Economic Advisor Kaushik Basu has taken over as President of the International Economic Association (IEA).
- He will hold the office for a term of three years.
Founded in 1950, the International Economic Association (IEA) is a Non-Governmental Organization, at the instigation of the Social Sciences Department of UNESCO.
- The IEA is one of the key organisations of professional economists and has been significant in determining global economic policy and research.
- Since its creation, it is maintained information and consultative relations with UNESCO and is since 1973 a federated member of the International Social Science Council.
- Its aim from the beginning has been to promote personal contacts and mutual understanding among economists in different parts of the world through the organization of scientific meetings, through common research programs and by means of publications of an international character on problems of current importance.
- The IEA is governed by a Council, composed of representatives of all Member Associations as well as a limited number of co-opted members. The Council meets triennially when it reviews the general policy of the Association and elects the President and other Officers and members of the Executive Committee for a three-year term of office.
- IEA produces a large number of research papers and books and organises roundtables on topics of present-day interest.
- Its principal activities include International Congress organised every 3 years. The occasion serves as one of the major assemblies of economists from around the world.
- Amongst the past presidents of IEA were the Nobel Laureates Robert Solow, Amartya Sen and Joseph Stiglitz.
India, Netherlands sign 3 agreements
During Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s latest visit to Netherlands, both nations have signed three MOUs.
- This year, the two countries are celebrating 70 years of the establishment of Indo-Dutch diplomatic relations.
Three agreements include:
- MOU on Cultural Cooperation,
- MOU on Water Cooperation
- Agreement on Amending Social Security Arrangement
India- Netherlands bilateral relations:
- Indo-Dutch contacts go back to more than 400 years. Official relations, which were established in 1947, have been cordial and friendly.
- The two countries also share common ideals of democracy, pluralism and the rule of law.
- India’s economic growth, its large market, its pool of knowledge workers are of interest to the Netherlands.
- The main plank of the bilateral ties has been the strong economic and commercial relations.
- Since the early 1980s, the Dutch Government has identified India as an important economic partner. The bilateral relations underwent further intensification after India’s economic liberalization in the early 1990s.
- The Netherlands has the second largest population of people of Indian origin in Europe, next only to the UK.
- A 225,000-strong Indian Diaspora (200,000 Surinami-Hindustani community and 25,000 NRIs/PIOs) is an important element that helps foster closer ties with the Netherlands.
- Water is a prime sector for cooperation between the two countries. During talks Modi referred to a joint water technology initiative, Dutch Indian Water Alliance for Leadership Initiative (DIWALI).
- Irrigation and water conservation are the areas where the two countries can boost cooperation.
- Netherlands is the 5th largest investment partner globally and in the last three years it has emerged as the 3rd largest source of FDI for the country.
- Europe is India’s biggest trading partner and 20 per cent of India’s export to Europe enters through the Netherlands.
- Both the countries have the potential to further collaborate in areas like water management; infrastructure, logistics, ports, highways; inland water transportation; ICT; biotech; agriculture, agro-processing, floriculture; creative design industry etc.
Location of Netherlands:
[Ref: Business Standard, MEA]
Netherlands backs UNSC, NSG bids
The Netherlands has backed India’s early entry into the NSG and other multilateral export control regimes like Wassenaar Arrangement and the Australia Group, and supported the country’s bid for a permanent UN Security Council seat.
- The Netherlands’ support came after Prime Minister Narendra Modi held talks with his Dutch counterpart, Mark Rutte.
Why India needs permanent membership?
- India is currently engaged in nuclear trade with international partners based on a waiver from the NSG in 2008.
- The waiver is in the form of a concession without according India the status of a full member and therefore has an element of unpredictability and attendant risks in the long run for India’s long-term nuclear power programme.
- The NSG took a consensus decision in September 2008 to permit its members to engage in civil nuclear cooperation with India despite India not being a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
Since then, India has been trying to upgrade the “waiver” into a full member status.
Benefits of full membership:
- Full membership of the NSG would enable India to have enhanced and predictable global access to nuclear technology, fuel, materials and components required for our expanding civil nuclear programme.
- It would advance energy security, contribute to India’s growth strategy based on clean energy to combat climate change, and strengthen global nuclear non-proliferation.
- The NSG will take up India’s membership issue at its next plenary session in June 2017.
- Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) is a multinational body concerned with reducing nuclear proliferation by controlling the export and re-transfer of materials that may be applicable to nuclear weapon development and by improving safeguards and protection on existing materials.
- The NSG was founded in response to the Indian nuclear test in May 1974 to stop what it called the misuse of nuclear material meant for peaceful purposes.
- Currently, it has 48 members and European Commission is its Permanent Observer.
Defence & Security Issues
Withdraw troops to reopen Nathu La Pass, China tells India
China accused Indian troops of “crossing the boundary” in the Sikkim sector and put their immediate withdrawal as condition to reopen the Nathu La Pass for Indian pilgrims travelling to Kailash Mansarovar.
- China has land-related disputes with India and Bhutan.
- China’s accusations are seen as a tactic by Beijing to gain control over a section along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Sikkim that would enable it to link Bhutan with the Tibetan Autonomous Region.
About Nathu La pass:
- Nathu La is a mountain pass in the Himalayas.
- It connects the Indian state of Sikkim with China’s Tibet Autonomous Region.
- The pass forms a part of an offshoot of the ancient Silk Road.
- On the Indian side, the pass is 54 km east of Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim. Only citizens of India can visit the pass, and then only after obtaining a permit in Gangtok.
- Nathu La is one of the three open trading border posts between China and India; the others are Shipkila in Himachal Pradesh and Lipulekh (or Lipulech) at the trisection point of Uttarakhand–India, Nepal and China.
- Sealed by India after the 1962 Sino-Indian War, Nathu La was re-opened in 2006 following numerous bilateral trade agreements.
- The opening of the pass shortens the travel distance to important Hindu and Buddhist pilgrimage sites in the region and was expected to bolster the economy of the region by playing a key role in the growing Sino-Indian trade. However, trade is limited to specific types of goods and to specific days of the week.
- It is also one of the four officially agreed BPM (Border Personnel Meeting) points between the Indian Army and People’s Liberation Army of China for regular consultations and interactions between the two armies, which helps in defusing stand-offs.
- The four BPM are:
- Chushul in Ladakh,
- Nathu La in Sikkim,
- Bum La Pass in Tawang district of Arunachal Pradesh, and
- Lipulekh Pass in Uttarakhand.
Science & Technology
Water exists as two different liquids
Scientists at Stockholm University have discovered two phases of water with large differences in structure and density.
- The results are based on experimental studies using X-rays.
About the study:
- In this study, the researchers investigated whether liquid water can have low- and high-density forms.
- The new results give very strong support to a picture where water at room temperature can’t decide in which of the two forms it should be, high or low density, which results in local fluctuations between the two.
Significance of this discovery:
- These new results not only create an overall understanding of water at different temperatures and pressures, but also how water is affected by salts and biomolecules important for life.
- The researchers believe that the increased understanding of water can lead to new insights on how to purify and desalinate water in the future.
Uranus’ Unusual Rotation Creates Light Switch Effect
A discovery was made based on the data from NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft that flew closely past Uranus the seventh planet from the Sun more than 30 years ago in January 1986.
- Uranus’ magnetosphere, the region defined by the icy planet’s magnetic field and the material trapped inside it gets flipped on and off like a light switch every day as it rotates along with the planet.
- When the magnetised solar wind meets this tumbling field in the right way, it can reconnect and Uranus’ magnetosphere goes from open to closed to open on a daily basis.
- Magnetosphere is open in one orientation, allowing solar wind to flow into it.
- It is later closed, forming a shield against the solar wind and deflecting it away from the planet.
- Uranus’ rapid rotational change in field strength and orientation lead to a periodic open-close-open-close scenario as it tumbles through the solar wind.
- Reconnection of magnetic fields is a phenomenon throughout the solar system. It is one reason for the Earth’s auroras.
- Since the same alignment of the Earth’s magnetosphere is always facing toward the sun, the magnetic field threaded in the solar wind must change direction in order to reconfigure the Earth’s field from closed to open.
Key Facts for Prelims
- The World Health Organization (WHO) released a single device called the GeneXpert which can be used to diagnose TB and HIV infections, and quantitatively measure HIV and hepatitis C viral loads.
- The WHO is recommending use of these state-of-the-art portable machines the size of a microwave oven, which can run molecular tests. However, most countries do not use them for multi-disease testing.
- India recently procured 600 GeneXpert machines for the National Tuberculosis programme.
- China launched its newest warship, a large guided-missile destroyer touted as the latest in naval technology and seen as a challenge to naval rivals in Asia.
- The ship, dubbed the Type 055 class, represents a big step in the country’s military modernization.
- The ship is equipped with the latest air, missile, ship and submarine defense systems.
- The Type 055 is significantly larger than China’s other modern destroyer, the Type 052, representing the rising sophistication of China’s defense industries.
- The new ship is comparable in size to the latest destroyers fielded in Asian waters by the United States, Japan and South Korea.
- China says it needs a powerful navy to defend its 14,500 kilometers (9,010 miles) of coastline, as well as its crucial maritime shipping routes.
- India has grown increasingly concerned over the Chinese Navy’s growing presence in the Indian Ocean, facilitated in part by Beijing’s close alliance with New Delhi’s arch rival Pakistan.