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25th November Current Affairs

Contents

  1. U.S. Troops withdrawal: What’s next for Afghanistan?
  2. China’s negative yield bonds Explained
  3. Sentinel-6 satellite
  4. Permanent commission: women Army officers move SC
  5. NITI Aayog report on Nutrition Targets

U.S. TROOPS WITHDRAWAL: WHAT’S NEXT FOR AFGHANISTAN?

Focus: GS-II International Relations

Why in news?

  • With the U.S. prepared to reduce its troop presence in Afghanistan – Afghanistan is bracing for an uncertain future.
  • The Taliban, who were ousted from power in 2001 after the U.S. invasion and have since been fighting both foreign troops and the Afghan government in Kabul, now control more than half of the country and contest the whole of it.

Background

  • In 2020, the U.S. reached an agreement with the Taliban after prolonged negotiations in Doha, Qatar’s capital, where the insurgents have a political office.
  • According to the agreement, the U.S. would withdraw all of its troops from Afghanistan in 14 months in return for assurances from the Taliban that they would not allow Afghan soil to be used by transnational jihadist organisations such as al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.
  • The Taliban also committed that it would start direct talks with the Afghan government.
  • The talks began after the Afghan government released some 5,000 Taliban prisoners, which the U.S. had promised as part of its deal.
  • But the Taliban, while holding talks, continued its offensive. Since February, when the agreement with the U.S. was signed, the Taliban have conducted more than 13,000 attacks nationwide.

India’s Stand

  • India has been concerned that the Afghan peace process and premature withdrawal of NATO/US coalition forces could leave opportunities for terrorist networks that could target both Afghanistan and India.
  • As recently as May of this year, the UN issued a report providing evidence that despite assurances from the Taliban to the United States, Al Qaeda is still present and active in Afghanistan, harboured by the Taliban.
  • At a recent United Nations Security Council (UNSC) meeting India called for an “immediate comprehensive ceasefire” in Afghanistan, while welcoming all opportunities to bring peace to the country.
  • India also described its reconstruction and development assistance to Afghanistan over the last nearly two decades.
  • According to India, for durable peace in Afghanistan, there is a need to put an end to terrorist safe havens and sanctuaries operating across the Durand Line (in reference to Pakistan).

India outlined four requirements for peace and stability in Afghanistan:

  1. First, the process had to be Afghan-led and Afghan-owned.
  2. Second, there must be zero tolerance for terrorism.
  3. Third, the gains of the last two decades, like rights of women, cannot be lost.
  4. Fourth, the transit rights of Afghanistan should not be used by countries “to extract political price from Afghanistan”.

China’s Stand

  • China has called on foreign troops to leave Afghanistan in an orderly and responsible manner, give terrorist forces no breathing space and contribute to Afghanistan peace and reconciliation process.
  • China is concerned that the war-torn country Afghanistan, which shares borders with the volatile Xinjiang province of China, could become a breeding ground for Uighur Muslim militants.
  • USA’s withdrawal also coincides with its move to lift the ban on the Uighur militant group – the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM).

Significance Afghanistan with respect to India

Afghanistan is a strategic investment for India, and India has made significant contributions to the rebuilding of the country.

Indian is engaged with Afghanistan by following ways:

  1. Developing social infrastructure as hospitals, schools;
  2. Public infrastructure such as Salma dam, and parliament building;
  3. Humanitarian assistance such as medical missions;
  4. Training of military officer and soldiers;
  5. Military warfare such as military helicopters and repairing the old soviet era helicopters.

Afghanistan is a gateway for The International North–South Transport Corridor (INSTC) for India.

  • India’s development of the Chabahar Port is of great strategic importance for the development of regional maritime transit traffic to Afghanistan and Central Asia
  • Afghanistan is also involved in The Turkmenistan–Afghanistan–Pakistan–India Pipeline (TAPI) Project.
  • Afghanistan can help India to overcome/oppose China’s the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI, or B&R), formerly known as One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative.
  • Afghanistan can help fulfil India’s Oil demands.

-Source: The Hindu


CHINA’S NEGATIVE YIELD BONDS EXPLAINED

Focus: GS-II International Relations

Why in news?

  • Recently, China sold negative-yield debt for the first time, and this saw a high demand from investors across Europe.
  • China sold negative-yield debt for the first time, and this saw a high demand from investors across Europe.

What are negative-yield bonds?

  • These are debt instruments that offer to pay the investor a maturity amounts lower than the purchase price of the bond.
  • These are generally issued by central banks or governments, and investors pay interest to the borrower to keep their money with them.

Why do investors buy them?

  • Negative-yield bonds attract investments during times of stress and uncertainty as investors look to protect their capital from significant erosion.
  • At a time when the world is battling the Covid-19 pandemic and interest rates in developed markets across Europe are much lower, investors are looking for relatively better-yielding debt instruments to safeguard their interests.

Why is there a huge demand?

  • The fact that the 10-year and 15-year bonds are offering positive returns is a big attraction at a time when interest rates in Europe have dropped significantly.
  • As against minus —0.15% yield on the 5-year bond issued by China, the yields offered in safe European bonds are much lower, between –0.5% and —0.75%.
  • Also, it is important to note that while the majority of the large economies are facing a contraction in their GDP for 2020-21, China is one country that is set to witness positive growth in these challenging times: its GDP expanded by 4.9% in the third quarter of 2020.
  • While Europe, the US and other parts of the world are facing a second wave of Covid-19 cases, China has demonstrated that it has controlled the spread of the pandemic and is therefore seen as a more stable region.
  • Many feel that European investors are also looking to increase their exposure in China, and hence there is a huge demand for these bonds.

What is the key factor driving this demand?

  • It is the massive amount of liquidity injected by the global central banks after the pandemic began that has driven up prices of various assets including equities, debt and commodities.
  • Banking industry sources said many investors could also be temporarily parking money in negative-yielding government debt for the purpose of hedging their risk portfolio in equities.
  • In case the fresh wave of the Covid-19 pandemic leads to further lockdowns of economies, then there could be further negative pressure on interest rates, pushing yields down further, and leading to profits even for investors who put in money at the current juncture.
  • Global central banks have injected an estimated more than $10 trillion of liquidity through various instruments in the financial system — which is finding its way into various assets in the economy.
  • There is an expectation that the new US government may impose fresh lockdowns in the economy as Covid cases are picking up in various US states and European countries, whereas China seems relatively safe now from that perspective.
  • This is expected to lead to volatility in the financial markets in coming days, pushing up demand for safety of capital alongside flows into risk assets.

-Source: The Hindu


SENTINEL-6 SATELLITE

Focus: GS-II International Relations

Why in news?

Recently, Copernicus Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite was launched from the Vandenberg Air Force base in California aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

Details

  • Sentinel-6-Satellite is a part of the mission dedicated to measuring changes in the global sea level. The mission is called the Jason Continuity of Service (Jason-CS) mission.
  • The Objective of the mission is to measure the height of the ocean, which is a key component in understanding how the Earth’s climate is changing.
  • It consists of two satellites, Sentinel-6 and the other, called Sentinel-6B, to be launched in 2025.

How does it work?

  • The satellite will send pulses to the Earth’s surface and measure how long they take to return to it, which will help in measuring the sea surface height. It will also measure water vapour along this path and find its position using GPS and ground-based lasers.
  • As per NASA, this will help in monitoring critical changes in ocean currents and heat storage only from space, by measuring height of the sea surface.
  • This will in turn help in foreseeing the effects of the changing oceans on the climate.

-Source: The Hindu


PERMANENT COMMISSION: WOMEN ARMY OFFICERS MOVE SC

Focus: GS-II International Relations

Why in news?

Women Army officers moved the Supreme Court to debunk the defence establishment’s announcement that 422 of 615 women officers screened have been found “fit” for a permanent commission.

Details

  • Women Army Officers said the announcement regarding “fitness” for permanent commission was more optics than substance.
  • The said that only less than 50% of the women officers have been actually granted permanent commission (PC).
  • They stated that the actual number of women officers “granted” PC would come to about 277 – less than half of 615.
  • Compared to this number, 90% male officers have been cleared for PC in the Army.
  • Army set out arbitrary medical thresholds for them during the screening process for PC – which the Women Army Officers said, were criteria aimed to “eliminate women officers on arbitrary grounds”.

Supreme Court on Eligibility for Permanent Commission

  • The Supreme Court dismissed the Union government’s submissions that women are physiologically weaker than men as a “sex stereotype”.
  • The Supreme Court declared that Short Service Commission (SSC) women officers are eligible for permanent commission and command posts in the Army irrespective of their years of service
  • The court dismissed the government’s stand that only women officers with less than 14 years of service ought to be considered for permanent commission, and those with over 20 years of service should be pensioned immediately.
  • The court has done away with all discrimination on the basis of years of service for grant of PC in 10 streams of combat support arms and services, bringing them on a par with male officers.

Women in the Indian Defence Forces

Year wise induction details of women officers in the three armed-forces during the past three years and current year, given in a written reply is as follows:

 2017201820192020
Indian Army94981936401
Indian Air Force59595100
Indian Navy57385418 (in progress)

% of women officers is more in Indian air force than army and navy.

-Source: The Hindu


NITI AAYOG REPORT ON NUTRITION TARGETS

Focus: GS-II International Relations

Why in news?

  • The National Nutrition Mission or the Poshan Abhiyaan — the world’s largest nutrition programme for children and mothers — must be stepped up in order to meet the targets set by the Centre to reduce stunting, wasting, and anaemia by 2022, warns a report by NITI Aayog with only a little over a year left to reach its goals.
  • “Accelerating Progress on Nutrition In India: What Will It Take” is the third progress report on the National Nutrition Mission or the Poshan Abhiyaan by the NITI Aayog.

Highlights of the Report

  • The third progress report (October 2019-April 2020) takes stock of the roll-out status on the ground and implementation challenges encountered at various levels through large scale datasets.
  • The initial Reports I and II, focused majorly on the mission’s preparedness and implementation by States and UTs, respectively.
  • On stunting, India’s targets are conservative as compared to the global target defined by the World Health Assembly (WHA), which is a prevalence rate of 5% of stunting as opposed to India’s goal of reducing stunting levels to 13.3% by 2022.
  • The target of reducing prevalence levels of anaemia among pregnant women from 50.3% in 2016 to 34.4% in 2022 and among adolescent girls from 52.9% in 2016 to 39.66%, is also considered to be conservative as compared to the WHA’s target of halving prevalence levels.
  • In the wake of the pandemic, experts warn that deepening poverty and hunger may delay achieving the goals defined under the Mission.

Way Forwards Suggested

  1. To improve complementary feeding using both behaviour change interventions and complimentary food supplements in the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS).
  2. To work towards investments in girls and women (education during childhood, reducing early marriage and early pregnancy, improving care during and after pregnancy) along with other social determinants.
  3. To improve water, sanitation, handwashing with soap and hygienic disposal of children’s stools with other effective interventions.
  4. To include interventions that go beyond the treatment of severe acute malnutrition (SAM) and also address moderate wasting, have the potential to achieve larger declines in wasting.
  5. To scale-up to reach facility-based treatment of SAM to all those needing in-patient care.
  6. To urgently release a full strategy for prevention and integrated management of wasting nationally.
  7. To scale-up scenario that focuses only on health sector interventions which will achieve modest improvements in anaemia among women of reproductive age.

Poshan Abhiyaan

  • Poshan Abhiyaan (National Nutrition Mission) was launched in 2018 by the Prime Minister in Jhunjhunu, Rajasthan.
  • It targets to reduce level of under-nutrition and other related problems by ensuring convergence of various nutrition related schemes
  • It also targets stunting, under-nutrition, anaemia (among young children, women and adolescent girls) and low birth rate.
  • It will monitor and review implementation of all such schemes and utilize existing structural arrangements of line ministries wherever available.
  • Its large component involves gradual scaling-up of interventions supported by on-going World Bank assisted Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) Systems Strengthening and Nutrition Improvement Project (ISSNIP) to all districts in the country by 2022.
  • Its vision is to ensure attainment of malnutrition free India by 2022.

-Source: The Hindu

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