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27th April – Editorials/Opinions Analyses

Contents

  1. At the edge of a new nuclear arms race
  2. Protecting the poor from becoming poorer
  3. Nations opting to trade with economies having political trust
  4. Where does COVID-19 virus first strike?

AT THE EDGE OF A NEW NUCLEAR ARMS RACE

Focus: GS-II International Relations, GS-III Science and Technology

Why in news?

  • In mid-April, a report issued by the United States State Department on “Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments (Compliance Report)” raised concerns that China might be conducting nuclear tests with low yields at its Lop Nur test site, in violation of its Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) undertakings.
  • The U.S. report also claims that Russia has conducted nuclear weapons experiments that produced a nuclear yield and were inconsistent with ‘zero yield’ understanding underlying the CTBT
  • Russia and China have rejected the U.S.’s claims, but with growing rivalry among major powers the report is a likely harbinger of a new nuclear arms race which would also mark the demise of the CTBT that came into being in 1996 but has failed to enter into force even after a quarter century.

How did CTBT Ban come to be, and what does it mean?

  • For decades, a ban on nuclear testing was seen as the necessary first step towards curbing the nuclear arms race but Cold War politics made it impossible.
  • By the time the CTBT negotiations began in Geneva in 1994, The Cold War had ended and the nuclear arms race was over.
  • In 1991, Russia declared a unilateral moratorium on testing, followed by the U.S. in 1992.
  • France and China continued testing, claiming that they had conducted far fewer tests.
  • France and the U.S. even toyed with the idea of a CTBT that would permit testing at a low threshold, below 500 tonnes of TNT equivalent.
  • Some countries proposed that the best way to verify a comprehensive test ban would be to permanently shut down all test sites, an idea that was unwelcome to the nuclear weapon states.
  • Eventually, the U.S. came up with the idea of defining the “comprehensive test ban” as a “zero yield” test ban that would prohibit supercritical hydro-nuclear tests but not sub-critical hydrodynamic nuclear tests.
  • U.K. and France came on board and Russia and China came to accept this understanding.
  • The CTBT prohibits all parties from carrying out “any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion”; these terms are neither defined nor elaborated.

India and other countries signing the CTBT- Why CTBT lacks authority?

  • India’s proposals for anchoring the CTBT in a disarmament framework did not find acceptance, in June 1996, India announced its decision to withdraw from the negotiations.
  • Unhappy at this turn, the U.K., China and Pakistan took the lead in revising the entry-into-force provisions.
  • The new provisions listed 44 countries by name whose ratification was necessary for the treaty to enter into force and included India.
  • India protested that this attempt at arm-twisting violated a country’s sovereign right to decide if it wanted to join a treaty but was ignored.
  • The CTBT was adopted by a majority vote and opened for signature.
  • Of the 44 listed countries, to date only 36 have ratified the treaty.
  • China, Egypt, Iran, Israel and the U.S. have signed but not ratified.
  • China maintains that it will only ratify it after the U.S. does.
  • In addition, North Korea, India and Pakistan are the three who have not signed. All three have also undertaken tests after 1996; India and Pakistan in May 1998 and North Korea six times between 2006 and 2017.
  • The CTBT has therefore not entered into force and lacks legal authority.

CTBTO

  • The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO) is an international organisation to verify the CTBT which was established in Vienna.
  • The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO) runs an elaborate verification system built around a network of over 325 seismic, radionuclide, infrasound and hydroacoustic (underwater) monitoring stations.
  • The U.S. is the largest contributor to the organisation.

Competition is back

  • The U.S. now identifies Russia and China as “rivals”.
  • Its Nuclear Posture Review asserts that the U.S. faces new nuclear threats because both Russia and China are increasing their reliance on nuclear weapons.
  • The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) limits U.S. and Russian arsenals but will expire in 2021.

Conclusion of the Current Scenario

  • Both China and Russia have dismissed the U.S.’s allegations, pointing to the Trump administration’s backtracking from other negotiated agreements such as the Iran nuclear deal or the U.S.-Russia Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.
  • Tensions with China are already high with trade and technology disputes, militarisation in the South China Sea and most recently, with the novel coronavirus pandemic.
  • Resumption of nuclear testing may signal the demise of the ill-fated CTBT, marking the beginnings of a new nuclear arms race.

-Source: The Hindu


PROTECTING THE POOR FROM BECOMING POORER

Focus: GS-II Social Justice

Need to take a long-term view

  • Economically vulnerable groups are being forced to sacrifice disproportionately more for the better health of society.
  • To mitigate these deprivations, it is necessary for government safety net programmes to provide broad-based long-term support focused on specific vulnerable populations.
  • Social inequities are seen in the current COVID-19 pandemic — note, for instance, the disproportionately higher mortality rates among minority groups in the U.S.

These inequities are not surprising

  1. Economically vulnerable people have poor nutrition which lowers immunity.
  2. They live in crowded spaces making it easier for a disease to spread.
  3. They have inadequate access to safe water, sanitation, and quality health care.
  • The death of an earning family member is a huge financial loss anywhere, but particularly so for those living on the margins of the economy.
  • Studies on populations exposed to tropical diseases and poor nutrition in-utero or during early childhood have found that the effects of the disease continue into later years of life by affecting cognitive ability, educational achievement, and income as adults.
  • CMIE survey indicates that 44% of households currently report a loss in income, up from around 10% in early March.
  • Another survey found that 84% of respondents reported loss of income, and nearly 30% experienced shortages of food, fuel and medicines.
  • These outcomes were concentrated among the poorer households and in rural areas.
  • Poor nutrition during pregnancy or in early childhood has been associated with increased infant and child mortality.
  • The closing of schools due to the lockdown has deprived many children of their only nutritious meal through school-feeding programmes.
  • Moreover, children who experienced poor nutrition in-utero or during their early years find that their cognitive levels, educational achievement, and adult incomes are impacted.

Extending safety nets

  • The Central government and several State governments have announced a range of important measures to address the economic hardship faced by vulnerable households.
  • They promise to provide free or subsidised food to low-wage households, and direct cash transfers to vulnerable groups such as senior citizens, farmers, rural workers, construction workers and widows.
  • The effectiveness of these safety nets will depend on the adequacy of the relief package, how well they reach the neediest groups, and efficiencies in the delivery system.

Way Forward- Moving from Short-term to Long Term

  • More challenging is addressing the long-term health and economic effects of COVID-19. It will require extending current relief measures for a longer duration, to a few years.
  • To prevent human capital deprivation in the future, both long- and short-term relief measures will need to target specific populations like pregnant women and young children.
  • Recent government actions in this direction are helpful but they are focused on the short term.
  • As such, governments need to take a long-term view of mitigating the many economic and human capital effects of COVID-19 and its control measures.

-Source: The Hindu


NATIONS OPTING TO TRADE WITH ECONOMIES HAVING POLITICAL TRUST

Focus: GS-II International Relations

Context

  • For decades, the West, led by US strategic thinking, bet that full-on engagement with Beijing would alter the opaque nature of Chinese politics, making it more liberal and open.
  • The free and open liberal world order has run into the great political wall of China with deleterious consequences.
  • Many liberal democracies have also adopted Chinese-style industrial planning policies.
  • The irony of today’s geopolitical moment is that Western taxpayers underwrote China’s bid for global influence.

China Building its Appetite

  • The subsequent outsourcing of manufacturing and industrial capabilities from the West to China allowed Beijing to ‘bide its time’ as it strategically built its influence through control over global supply chains.
  • The hyper-globalisation processes that were steadily building up China’s industrial might were simultaneously causing enormous social and political churn among the Western working and middle classes.

Two large projects define China’s recent emergence:

  1. The first, reminiscent of Pax Britannia and Pax Americana, is the much-discussed BRI. China’s outward expansion through the construction of new supply chains and trade routes has been designed to serve its economic interests by capturing the flow of raw materials from Asia and Africa and, thereafter, supplying finished products to the world.
  2. The second aspect of its expansion relates to technology, and its concerted effort to control and leverage the global data economy for itself. By globalising its technological prowess — from building next-generation communications infrastructure and digital platforms to offering surveillance tools to authoritarian governments — Beijing is well-positioned to script future administrations and regimes around development, finance, and even war and conflict. And it does this even as it isolates its own people from external flows of information and technology.

There is, however, no equivalence between the two. US society was largely open —individuals, communities and nations from around the world could engage, convince or petition its institutions; write in its media; and, often, participate in its politics. Its hegemony was constrained by a democratic society and conditioned by its electoral cycles.

Current Scenario

  • It is worth recalling that at the peak of its might, the US withdrew from Vietnam because intense media scrutiny dramatically undermined public support for the war at home.
  • The question is if the images of damage to the livelihood and ecology along the Mekong convince the Communist Party of China (CPC) to abandon its damming projects upstream.
  • To balance China’s global ambitions, nations may opt to trade with geographies and nations where political trust exists, thereby fragmenting supply chains
  • Governments will ‘gate-keep’ flows of goods, services, finance and labour when national strategic interests are at stake.
  • Indeed, we should be ready for a new phase of ‘gated globalisation’. Even as the recovery and progress of the post-Covid-19 world will be worse for it.

-Source: Economic Times


WHERE DOES COVID-19 VIRUS FIRST STRIKE?

Focus: GS-III Science and Technology

Why in news?

Scientists reported that they have identified two specific types of cells in the nose as the likely initial infection points for SARS-CoV2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

How does it work?

  • The entry of the virus takes place by means of a “lock and key” effect. Like all coronaviruses, SARS-CoV2 consists of a fatty envelope with a “spike protein” on the surface.
  • The spike acts as the “key” to “unlock” a protein on the human cell, called ACE2, which acts as the receptor for the virus.
  • Once inside the cell, the virus uses a second protein, called TMPRSS2, to complete its entry.
  • TMPRSS2 has protein-splitting abilities, which allow the virus to reproduce and transmit itself inside the cell.

Understanding the study’s findings

  • The new study has identified the specific cells where the mechanism of entry most likely comes into play when the virus begins it attack – these are the goblet and ciliated cells in the nose.
  • The two entry proteins were also found in cells in the cornea of the eye and in the lining of the intestine.
  • The researchers said this suggests another possible route of infection via the eye and tear ducts, and possible oral-faecal transmission.
  • The two cell types in the nose, where the proteins were expressed at the highest levels, are located at a place that is highly accessible for the virus.
  • The virus is thought to be spread through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
  • Goblet cells are mucus-producing cells on the surface of organs, and are found along the respiratory tract, along the intestinal tract, in the upper eyelid etc.
  • Ciliated cells are hair-like cells, again occurring on the surface of various organs, and help sweep mucus, dust etc to the throat, where it can be swallowed.

How does the knowledge help?

This information can be used to better understand how coronavirus spreads. Knowing which exact cell types are important for virus transmission also provides a basis for developing potential treatments to reduce the spread of the virus.

-Source: Indian Express

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