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Current Affairs for UPSC IAS Exam – 20 February 2021 | Legacy IAS Academy

Contents

  1. U.S. President: Transatlantic Alliance is back
  2. Indian IT workers to benefit from U.S. immigration bill
  3. Sambhar Lake: New tourist points to be identified

U.S. PRESIDENT: TRANSATLANTIC ALLIANCE IS BACK

Context:

U.S. President Joe Biden used his first address before a global audience to declare that “the transatlantic alliance is back”, at the annual Munich Security Conference on international security policy that has taken place in Munich, Bavaria (Germany) since 1963.

Biden said that the United States is determined to reengage and consult with Europe, “to earn back U.S.’s position of trusted leadership.”

Relevance:

GS-II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About the Transatlantic alliance
  2. Significance of the Current U.S. Presidents statements
  3. About NATO
  4. Major pointers regarding NATO
  5. India and NATO – Non-NATO Ally Status

About the Transatlantic alliance

  • The Transatlantic Alliance can be thought of as a bloc of the “Western world” countries as it includes Countries in the American and European continent (both sides of the Atlantic Ocean).
  • The origin of the Transatlantic alliance came after the second world war, when the United States and Canada both desired a permanent role in the defence of Europe, and the European states wanted protection from the Soviet Union.
  • It is the foundation on which the collective security and shared prosperity of the USA and Europe are built.
  • Atlanticism is a philosophy which advocates for close cooperation between North America and Europe.
  • However, the former U.S. Administration under Trump which wielded its foreign policy through an “America First” lens has strained the long-established friendship between the world’s two largest economies.
  • Also, it should be noted that the former U.S. president Trump attacked the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and virtually withdrew from the multinational agreements promoted by the European Union (EU) mostly unilaterally.

Significance of the Current U.S. Presidents statements

  • U.S.’s decision to be a part of the transatlantic alliance can lead to the development multilateral relations and also pave way for sustenance of the past agreements like Iran nuclear deal and the Paris climate agreement which the previous administration had unilaterally withdrawn from.
  • With the U.S. reversing its withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement, this can help in averting most catastrophic impacts of climate change and the development of an EU-USA carbon border adjustment mechanism.
  • On Iran, Europeans can anticipate renewed negotiations on a revamped nuclear deal aimed at de-escalating tensions across the region.

About NATO

  • The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) is an international organisation for collective security by the United States, Canada, and several Western European nations to provide collective security against the Soviet Union in 1949, in support of the North Atlantic Treaty signed in Washington.
  • NATO’s Headquarters are located in Evere, Brussels, Belgium.
  • Since its founding, the admission of new member states has increased the alliance from the original 12 countries to 30 member states with North Macedonia being the most recent member state to be added to NATO in March 2020.
  • An additional 20 countries participate in NATO’s Partnership for Peace program, with 15 other countries involved in institutionalized dialogue programs.

Major pointers regarding NATO

  • A key provision of the treaty, the so-called Article 5, states that if one member of the alliance is attacked in Europe or North America, it is to be considered an attack on all members. That effectively put Western Europe under the “nuclear umbrella” of the US.
  • From a political perspective: NATO promotes democratic values and enables members to consult and cooperate on defence and security-related issues to solve problems, build trust and, in the long run, prevent conflict.
  • The North Atlantic Council (NAC) is the body which has effective governance authority and powers of decision in NATO, consisting of member states’ permanent representatives or representatives at higher level (ministers of foreign affairs or defence, or heads of state or government).
  • All 30 allies have an equal say, the Alliance’s decisions must be unanimous and consensual, and its members must respect the basic values that underpin the Alliance, namely democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law.
  • NATO has an integrated military command structure but very few forces or assets are exclusively its own. Most forces remain under full national command and control until member countries agree to undertake NATO-related tasks.

India and NATO – Non-NATO Ally Status

  • Non-NATO Ally Status is a designation given by the United States government to close allies that have strategic working relationships with the US Armed Forces but are not members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
  • While the status does not automatically include a mutual defense pact with the United States, it still confers a variety of military and financial advantages that otherwise are not obtainable by non-NATO countries.
  • The move brings India on par with North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies and countries such as Israel and South Korea for increasing defence cooperation.
  • Increased cooperation between the United States and India in the areas of humanitarian assistance, counter-terrorism, counter-piracy and maritime security in the Indian Ocean.

-Source: The Hindu


INDIAN IT WORKERS TO BENEFIT FROM U.S. IMMIGRATION BILL

Context:

In a major move that will benefit thousands of Indian IT professionals in America, the Biden administration has introduced an immigration bill in Congress, which, among other things, proposes to eliminate the per-country cap for employment-based green cards.

Relevance:

GS-II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Indian Diaspora in the U.S.
  2. About the changes in U.S. Immigration laws that will benefit Indians
  3. What is H-1B Visa?
  4. What is a Green Card?

Indian Diaspora in the U.S.

  • Immigrants from India first arrived in the United States in small numbers during the early 19th century, primarily as low-skilled farm laborers.
  • In recent decades the population has grown substantially, with 2.4 million Indian immigrants residing in the United States as of 2015.
  • This makes the foreign born from India the second-largest immigrant group after Mexicans, accounting for almost 6 percent of the 43.3 million foreign-born population.

About the changes in U.S. Immigration laws that will benefit Indians

  • The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 proposes a pathway to citizenship to 11 million undocumented workers, elimination of per-country quota for employment-based green cards and work authorisation for dependents of H-1B foreign workers.
  • This law, if passed, would bring citizenship to millions of foreign nationals, including undocumented workers and those who came to the country legally.
  • Those waiting for a green card for more than 10 years would get the legal permanent residency immediately as they would be exempted from the visa cap.
  • Indian IT professionals waiting for more than a decade now, and whose number runs into thousands, are likely to be the biggest beneficiaries

What is H-1B Visa?

  • The H-1B is a United States visa under the Immigration and Nationality Act, and it is one of the most popular visas for foreigners visiting the US for business or trade purpose.
  • It is a non-immigrant visa that allows U.S. companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise.
  • Speciality occupations include specialized fields like IT, finance, accounting, architecture, engineering, mathematics, science, medicine, etc. which usually require a bachelor’s degree or higher.
  • US employers wishing to bring in staff for long-term assignment prefer H1B visa because its application is quicker than applying for a US Green Card.

What is a Green Card?

  • A green card is a colloquial name for the identification card issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to permanent residents, who are legally allowed to live and work in the U.S. indefinitely. Green cards got their nickname because they were green in color from 1946 to 1964.
  • In 2010 they became green again, but the nickname persisted during the intervening decades of blue, pink and yellow “green cards.”
  • The green card is a permanent resident ID issued to immigrants in the U.S.
  • The green card lottery gives away up to 55,000 annual permanent visas to other countries.
  • Permanent residents can be fined or jailed for not having their green card on their person.
  • Green Cards must be renewed every 10 years.

-Source: The Hindu


SAMBHAR LAKE: NEW TOURIST POINTS TO BE IDENTIFIED

Context:

  • New tourist points for witnessing the flora and fauna and having a glimpse of salt harvesting will be identified shortly at the world-famous Sambhar Salt Lake.
  • The Sambhar Lake forms part of the desert circuit in the Centre’s Swadesh Darshan Scheme launched by the Ministry of Tourism in 2014 -15 for integrated development of theme-based tourist circuits in the country.

Relevance:

Prelims, GS-III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Sambhar Salt Lake
  2. Swadesh Darshan scheme

About Sambhar Salt Lake

  • Sambhar Salt Lake is the largest inland salt-lake in India representing the depression of the Aravalli Range.
  • It is a wetland of ‘international importance’ under the Ramsar Convention, declared in 1990.
  • The area occupied by this lake differs from season to season and since it is an extensive saline wetland, the depth of the lake also fluctuates from season to season.
  • It is known for the production of brine/salt and also houses one of the largest salt manufacturing units in the country.
  • It receives water from six rivers, namely Samaod, Khari, Mantha, Khandela, Medtha, and Roopangarh.
  • It is located near the Sambhar Wildlife Sanctuary
  • The vegetation present in the catchment area is mostly xerophytic type (i.e., plants adapted for growth under dry conditions).
  • Flamingoes, pelicans and the waterfowls are commonly sighted at the Sambhar Lake.
  • In 2019, almost 22,000 migratory birds died at the Lake due to avian botulism, a neuromuscular illness.
  • Before 2020’s winter season, the Rajasthan government decided to build temporary shelters for migratory birds near the Lake.

Swadesh Darshan scheme

  • Swadesh Darshan scheme was launched by the Ministry of Tourism in 2015 to develop theme-based tourist circuits in the country.
  • These tourist circuits will be developed on the principles of high tourist value, competitiveness and sustainability in an integrated manner.
  • The scheme is 100% centrally funded for the project components undertaken for public funding and to leverage the voluntary funding available for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives of Central Public Sector Undertakings and corporate sector.
  • Funding of individual project will vary from state to state and will be finalized on the basis of detailed project reports prepared by PMC (Programme Management Consultant).
  • A National Steering Committee (NSC)will be constituted with Minister in charge of M/O Tourism as Chairman, to steer the mission objectives and vision of the scheme.
  • A Mission Directorate headed by the Member Secretary, NSC as a nodal officer will help in identification of projects in consultation with the States/ UTs governments and other stake holders.

Under the Scheme 15 circuits have been identified for development namely

  1. Himalayan Circuit,
  2. North East Circuit,
  3. Krishna Circuit,
  4. Buddhist Circuit,
  5. Coastal Circuit,
  6. Desert Circuit,
  7. Tribal Circuit,
  8. Eco Circuit,
  9. Wildlife Circuit,
  10. Rural Circuit,
  11. Spiritual Circuit,
  12. Ramayana Circuit,
  13. Heritage Circuit,
  14. Tirthankar Circuit and
  15. Sufi Circuit.

-Source: The Hindu

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