Daily Current Affairs

Prelims Prominence - December 8, 2017

Bilateral Agreements

Indian and Italy sign a new MoU for cooperation in Agriculture and Phytosanitary issues

  • Bilateral ties between the two countries ties between the two countries in various areas including in the Agriculture sector.
  • Areas such as agriculture machinery, training, investment, institutional linkages, precision farming, cattle breeding and fisheries having much potential for cooperation, and briefly provides the initiatives taken by the Government in the field of agriculture market, soil health, irrigation, crop insurance etc.

Issue Raised -

  • The issue of Indian exports of grapes and rice suffering on account of arbitrary Maximum Residue Levels (MRLs) set by European Commission.
  • A mutually acceptable solution can found to this issue, as these limits were set by EU without any scientific assessment being shared to India.

Enlighten about the MoU

  • A new MoU has been signed for cooperation in Agriculture and Phytosanitary issues that will replace the one signed in 2008.
  • The MOU provides a good framework for cooperation in this field.

Enlighten about IFAD ( International Fund for Agriculture Development)

  • India has always had an active association with IFAD ever since it was set up in 1977 as the 13th specialized agency of the United Nations.
  • India is a founder member of IFAD, a key contributor among the member Countries, participates actively in the Fund's governing bodies, and holds a permanent seat in IFAD Executive Board.
  • It currently holds the chairmanship of the Governing Council and of the Evaluation Committee.
  • The new country strategy for IFAD engagement in India for the period 2018-2024
  • To strategically focus on 'smallholder food and agricultural production systems that are remunerative, sustainable and resilient' and achieving India’s goal of doubling farmers' incomes.
  • IFAD plans to establish sub-regional hubs in New Delhi to serve as a sub-regional hub, covering Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Maldives besides India.
  • This will significantly enhance opportunities for further investment, technology and knowledge cooperation, including South-South Technical Cooperation (SSTC).
  • India has contributed 37 million USD in the 10th replenishment of IFAD for the period 2016-2018.

India and Cuba sign MoU for enhanced cooperation in the health sector

  • The MOU on cooperation in the field of health and medicine between India and Cuba is important for exchanges in the health sector and to develop institutional framework for cooperation in the health sector between the two countries.
  • One potential area is pharmaceutical and biotechnology.
  • Cuba has made remarkable strides in the field of bio-technology and pharmaceuticals. We need to encourage greater institutional collaborations for joint production of medicines on commercial basis
  • The objective of this MoU is to establish comprehensive inter-ministerial and inter-institutional cooperation between the two countries in the field of health by pooling technical, scientific, financial and human resources with the ultimate goal of upgrading the quality and reach of human, material and infrastructural resources involved in health care, medical education & training, and research in both countries.

Economy

RBI keeps repo rate unchanged at 6%

  • The six member Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has decided to maintain status quo in policy rates by keeping repo rate unchanged at 6.0% under liquidity adjustment facility (LAF).
  • It was RBI’s fifth bimonthly policy review for financial year 2017-18.
  • The decision was in line with market expectations and consistent with neutral stance of monetary policy in consonance with objective of achieving medium-term inflation target of 4% within a band of +/- 2%, while supporting growth.

Policy Rates Repo rate:

  • It is rate at which RBI lends to its clients generally against government securities.
  • It was unchanged at 6%.

Reverse Repo Rate:

  • It is rate at which banks lend funds to RBI.
  • It was unchanged at 5.75%.

Marginal Standing Facility (MSF) Rate:

  • It is rate at which scheduled banks can borrow funds overnight from RBI against government securities.
  • It is very short term borrowing scheme for scheduled banks.
  • It was unchanged at 6.25%.

Bank Rate:

  • It is rate charged by central bank for lending funds to commercial banks.
  • It was unchanged 6.25%.
  • It influences lending rates of commercial banks.
  • Higher bank rate will translate to higher lending rates by banks.

Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR):

  • It is amount of funds that banks have to keep with RBI.
  • It was unchanged at 4%.
  • The RBI uses CRR to drain out excessive money from system.

Statutory Liquidity Ratio (SLR):

  • It was changed to 19.5% from 20%.
  • It is amount that banks have to maintain a stipulated proportion of their net demand and time liabilities (NDTL) in form of liquid assets like cash, gold and unencumbered securities, treasury bills, dated securities etc.

Renewable Energy -

International Solar Alliance becomes Treaty-based International Intergovernmental organization

  • The International Solar Alliance (ISA) became treaty-based international intergovernmental organization on 6th December 2017 one month after Guinea became 15th country to ratify it.
  • ISA is first treaty-based international government organisation to be based in India.
  • So far, 46 countries have signed and 19 ratified Framework Agreement of ISA International Solar Alliance (ISA)
  • The ISA, also sees itself as on a mission to mobilise more than $1000 billion in investments needed by 2030 for “massive deployment” of solar energy, pave the way for future technologies adapted to the needs of moving to a fossil-free future and keep global temperatures from rising above 2C by the end of the century.
  • India has committed itself to having 175,000 MW of renewed energy in the grid by 2022.
  • As part of the agreement, India will contribute $27 million (₹175.5 crore approx) to the ISA for creating corpus, building infrastructure and recurring expenditure over five years from 2016-17 to 2020-21.
  • In addition, public sector undertakings of the Government of India, Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) and Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA), have made a contribution of $1 million (₹6.5 crore) each for creating the ISA corpus fund.

Enlighten about ISA

  • The ISA is brainchild of India, jointly launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Francois Hollande in November 2015 in Paris on sidelines of COP-21 of UN Climate Conference.
  • Its secretariat is located in campus of National Institute of Solar Energy (NISE), Gwalpahari, Gurgaon, Haryana.
  • It aims at addressing obstacles to deployment at scale of solar energy through better harmonization and aggregation of demand from solar rich countries by bringing standardization in solar technologies and fostering research and development.
  • Under this alliance, 121 countries that fall within tropics i.e. between Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn have been invited to make collaborative efforts to harness solar energy to generate the electricity.
  • Most of these countries fall within Asia, Africa and South America
  • The institutional structure of ISA consists of an Assembly, a Council and a Secretariat.
  • Its members will take coordinated actions through programmes and activities that will aggregate demands for solar finance, solar technologies, innovation, R&D and capacity building. Tags: Intergovernmental Organization • International Solar Allianc

Defence

Godrej Aero gets new contract for BrahMos missile airframes

  • Godrej Aerospace has won order from BrahMos Aerospace Pvt. Ltd. (BAPL) for supply of additional 100 units airframe fuel management systems for BrahMos Air-Launched Cruise Missile.
  • Godrej Aerospace is unit of Godrej & Boyce Mfg. Co. Ltd. It has been associated with BrahMos since 2000 and mostrecently it had completed supply of its 100th airframe for the missile.

Enlighten about the contract

  • Godrej Aerospace supplies airframes for land and sea versions of the BrahMos missile to BrahMos Aerospace.
  • Both versions have been inducted by army and navy.
  • The air version currently has 65% of sub-systems indigenously manufactured, while a little more than 50% of entire missile is indigenously produced.

Enlighten about BrahMos missile

  • Brahmos is supersonic cruise missile developed by BrahMos Aerospace, a jointventure between Russia’s Mashinostroyenia and India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
  • It operates on ‘fire and forget principal’ and is capable of being launched from land, sea, sub-sea and air against sea and land targets.
  • It is hailed as world’s fastest anti-ship cruise missile in operation.
  • It is two-stage missile, the first one being solid and the second one ramjet liquid propellant.
  • It is capable of carrying warhead of 300 kilogram (both conventional as well as nuclear).
  • It has top supersonic speed of Mach 2.8 to 3 (roughly three times speed of sound).
  • Its range was extended 600-km plus and capability to strike the targets with pinpoint accuracy after India became member of Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) in 2016.
  • The Indian Navy and Army already operate different variants of Brahmos missile.
  • In November 2017, air version of BrahMos missile was successfully red from Sukhoi.
  • BrahMos Aerospace is currently working on miniature version of missile, called BrahMos NG.
  • It is still in the design stage and development is a few years away. The mini version will enable Sukhois to carry multiple missiles. Currently, the Sukhoi can carry only one BrahMos at a time

Medical Sector

22nd Conference of Asian Harmonization Working Party

  • Held in New Delhi
  • The 22nd conference of Asian Harmonization Working Party (AHWP) was recently held New Delhi.
  • It was inaugurated by Minister of State (MoS) Health & Family Welfare Anupriya Patel.
  • The five day conference was organised by Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) and National Drug Regulatory Authority (NDRA) of India in collaboration with Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare.

Objective -

  • The key objective of the conference was to develop and recommend approaches for convergence and harmonization of medical device regulations in Asia and beyond.
  • It also aimed at facilitating exchange of knowledge and expertise amongst regulators and industry.
  • Asian Harmonization Working Party (AHWP) AHWP is voluntary non-profit organization that aims to promote regulatory harmonization on medical device regulations in Asia and other regions in accordance with the guidance issued by International Medical Device Regulators Forums (IMDRF).
  • It was established in 1999 by of 30 national regulators of member countries and industry members.
  • It works in collaboration with international organizations such as IMDRF, International Organization for Standardization (ISO), World Health Organisation (WHO) etc.

Focus

Wassenaar Arrangement plenary begins: After MTCR, regime one of three other export control regimes India hopes to enter

  • The two-day plenary session of the Wassenaar Arrangement regime commenced in Vienna on Thursday.
  • One of the key export control regimes that deals with non-proliferation, the group is expected to look on India's candidature for membership.
  • Russia, France, Germany and the United States are strongly supporting India's entry into the group.
  • India's case is further strengthened by the fact that China which blocked New Delhi's plea for admission into the NSG is not a member of the Wassenaar Arrangement.
  • Earlier in 2017, India approved SCOMET (Special Chemicals, Organisms, Materials, Equipment, and Technologies) items, mandatory under the Wassenaar Arrangement.
  • Through the revised list of items, India also seeks to send a message about its larger commitment to non-proliferation. India's intensified engagement with the other export control regimes — the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), Australia Group and the Wassenaar Arrangement

The Wassenaar Agreement

  • The 41-member group was established in December 1995 and has since become a measure to coordinate and harmonise policies governing exports of arms, dual-use equipment and sensitive technologies,
  • The regulations are implemented through two lists: the Munitions List which tracks conventional weapons, and the Dual-Use Goods and Technologies List.
  • New members are accepted based on specific criteria, including countries which produce/export arms or associated dual-use goods and technologies; establish national policies that restrict sale of arms and sensitive technologies to countries of concern; and adhere to non-proliferation regimes.
  • The members meet regularly in Vienna where the Wassenaar Arrangement has established its headquarters and Secretariat.
  • The Wassenaar Arrangement Plenary is the group’s decision making body It is composed of representatives of all Participating States and normally meets once a year, usually in December.

The four non-proliferation regimes

  • The Wassenaar Agreement is one of the four regimes that govern transfers of potentially dangerous technologies.

The other three are

  • The Nuclear Suppliers' Group (NSG) - which controls export of nuclear material and technology,
  • The Australia Group - which restricts trade in materials used to make chemical and biological weapons, and
  • The Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) – which keeps a check on transfer of missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) capable of carrying a payload of at least 500 kg over a range of at least 300 kilometres.
  • Membership to the Wassenaar Arrangement and Australia Group would give India a chance for a closer interaction with member states and also hold up its credentials, despite not being a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
  • These four groups would end decades of denial of technology by the US and allow India to import high-level technology to build capability and become a suitable counter-weight to China.

MTCR -

  • India became a member of the MTCR in 2016.
  • The membership gives India access to high-end missile technology from across the world and will allow India to purchase top-of-the-line missile systems.
  • The MTCR has also paved the way for India to sell its supersonic BrahMos cruise missiles — developed jointly with Russia — to other countries.

NSG

  • The NSG focuses on stemming the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
  • India has attempted to join the NSG multiple times but has been stonewalled by China.

Australia Group

  • The fourth group India seeks to join is the Australia Group formed in 1985 prompted by Iraq’s use of chemical weapons during the Iran-Iraq War between 1980 to 1988.
  • Australia concerned with Iraq’s development of chemical weapons recommended putting checks on international export controls on chemical weapons and precursor chemicals.
  • As more members joined, it expanded its focus to include chemical production equipment/technologies and measures to prevent proliferation of biological weapons.