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Current Affairs 09 November 2023

  1. India Bhutan Relations
  2. NATO Suspends Cold War-Era Treaty Due to Russia’s Withdrawal
  3. China’s White Paper and Shared Vision of India and China
  4. India’s Hypertension Map
  5. Artificial Intelligence (AI) Safety Summit 2023
  6. Lower Subansiri Hydroelectric Project
  7. Project Dolphin


Context:

Recently, India and Bhutan agreed to discuss new routes of Regional Connectivity, and upgrade border and immigration posts, in order to enhance trade and Partnership during Bhutan King’s India visit.

Relevance:

GS II: International Relations 

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Key Highlights of the Discussion between India and Bhutan
  2. Significance of Bhutan for India
  3. Challenges in India-Bhutan Relations

Key Highlights of the Discussion between India and Bhutan:

Regional Connectivity:
  • Agreement to explore new routes of regional connectivity, including a 58 km cross-border rail link between Gelephu (Bhutan) and Kokrajhar (Assam).
  • Plans to investigate a second 18 km rail link between Samtse (Bhutan) and Banarhat (West Bengal).
  • Discussions on upgrading border and immigration posts to support these projects.
Trade Facilitation:
  • Facilitating trade by extending Bhutanese trade items from Haldibari (West Bengal) to Chilahati (Bangladesh) through Indian territory.
  • Designation of the Darranga-Samdrup Jongkhar border crossing as an immigration check post to promote tourism and enhance connectivity.
Trade Infrastructure:
  • Plans to upgrade the Dadgiri land customs station (Assam) to a modernized “Integrated Check Post.”
  • Support for Bhutan’s Special Economic Zone (SEZ) project, with development efforts on the Bhutanese side at Gelephu.
Socio-economic Development:
  • India’s commitment to continue supporting Bhutan’s socio-economic development, with a focus on the 13th Five-Year Plan.
  • Recognition of India’s substantial contribution to Bhutan’s 12th Five-Year Plan, constituting 73% of the external grant component.
G20 Summit and Global South Priorities:
  • Bhutan’s commendation of India’s successful organization of the G20 Summit and its role in fostering consensus and constructive decisions, as outlined in the Delhi Declaration.
  • Acknowledgment of India’s dedication to integrating the interests and priorities of Global South countries in G20 deliberations.
Hydropower and Energy Partnership:
  • Progress noted on the 1020 MW Punatsangchhu-II hydropower project, expected to commission in 2024.
  • Agreement to expand the India-Bhutan Energy Partnership to include non-hydro renewables, solar energy, green initiatives related to hydrogen, and e-mobility.
  • India’s assurance of technical and financial support for projects in these areas.
Operation All Clear:
  • Recollection of Operation All Clear, a military operation conducted by the Royal Bhutan Army in 2003 against Assam separatist insurgent groups in southern Bhutan.

Significance of Bhutan for India:

  • Strategic Buffer State: Bhutan’s location between India and China serves as a strategic buffer state, enhancing India’s security interests.
  • Sovereignty and Territorial Integrity: India’s assistance in defense, infrastructure, and communication has contributed to maintaining Bhutan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
  • Border Infrastructure Development: India’s support in building border infrastructure, including roads and bridges, has strengthened Bhutan’s defense capabilities and ensured territorial integrity.
  • Doklam Standoff Support: During the Doklam standoff with China in 2017, Bhutan played a crucial role by allowing Indian troops to enter its territory to resist Chinese incursions.
  • Trading Partner: India is Bhutan’s largest trading partner and primary export destination.
  • Hydropower Development: Bhutan’s hydropower potential is a significant revenue source, with India’s assistance in developing hydropower projects.
  • Financial Assistance: India provides financial assistance for Bhutan’s development projects.
  • Cultural Ties: Strong cultural ties exist due to shared Buddhist traditions, with India helping preserve Bhutan’s cultural heritage, and Bhutanese students studying in India.
  • Environmental Stewardship: Bhutan’s commitment to being carbon-neutral aligns with India’s efforts to promote environmental sustainability. India supports Bhutan in renewable energy, forest conservation, and sustainable tourism, contributing to Bhutan’s carbon-neutral goals.

Challenges in India-Bhutan Relations:

China’s Increasing Presence:

  • China’s growing economic and military influence in Bhutan, particularly along the disputed border, poses a challenge to India’s strategic interests in Bhutan.

Border Incursions:

  • Incidents of border incursions by Chinese forces along the India-Bhutan border have raised concerns.
  • The Doklam standoff in 2017 was a significant flashpoint that could strain India-Bhutan relations if similar disputes escalate.

Hydropower Projects Concerns:

  • While India has been a major partner in Bhutan’s hydropower sector, there have been concerns in Bhutan regarding the terms of some hydropower projects, seen as too favorable to India.
  • Public opposition in Bhutan to Indian involvement in the sector has arisen.

Trade Imbalance:

  • India is Bhutan’s largest trading partner, but Bhutan faces a trade imbalance, importing more from India than it exports.
  • Bhutan seeks greater access to the Indian market to reduce the trade deficit.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

NATO has officially suspended a Cold War-era security treaty in response to Russia’s withdrawal from the agreement. The Treaty of Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, signed by most NATO allies in 1990, has seen its members freeze their participation in the pact in light of recent developments.

Relevance:

GS II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Treaty of Conventional Armed Forces in Europe
  2. What is NATO?

Treaty of Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE)

  • The Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) was signed in November 1990 in Paris.
  • It was established after the fall of the Berlin Wall with the aim of imposing restrictions on conventional arms and equipment.
  • The primary goal of the CFE was to prevent Cold War adversaries from amassing forces that could be swiftly employed in an attack.
  • It sought to decrease the risk of a sudden armed assault and the initiation of major offensive operations in Europe.
  • Key provisions of the treaty included:
    • Imposing comprehensive limits on various categories of conventional military equipment across Europe, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Ural Mountains.
    • Requiring the destruction of surplus weaponry.
    • Eliminating the Soviet Union’s significant numerical advantage in conventional weapons in Europe.
    • Establishing verifiable limits on the categories of conventional military equipment that NATO and the former Warsaw Pact nations could deploy.
    • Enforcing constraints on conventional arms and equipment.
  • The CFE treaty is often referred to as the “cornerstone of European security.”

What is NATO?

  • The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, or NATO, is a political and military alliance of 28 European countries and two countries in North America (United States and Canada).
  • It was set up in 1949 by the US, Canada, and several western European nations to ensure their collective security against the Soviet Union.
  • It was the US’s first peacetime military alliance outside the western hemisphere.
  • Thirty countries are currently members of NATO, which is headquartered in Brussels, Belgium.
  • The headquarters of the Allied Command Operations is near Mons, also in Belgium.
What is important about NATO’s collective defence?
  • Members of NATO are committed to mutual defence in response to an attack by any external party.
  • Collective defence lies at the very heart of NATO, “a unique and enduring principle that binds its members together, committing them to protect each other and setting a spirit of solidarity within the Alliance”.
  • This is laid out in Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, the founding treaty of NATO.

Article 5 reads: “The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognized by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.”

India’s Engagement with NATO
  • India has been in contact with NATO at multiple levels since August 2022.
  • The first political dialogue between India and NATO occurred in Brussels on December 12, 2019.
  • A second round of dialogue was scheduled for 2020 in New Delhi but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • These interactions are part of India’s efforts to engage with different stakeholders on matters of mutual interest.

-Source: Indian Express



Context:

China released a white paper outlining its proposals and actions to address global challenges and opportunities in the 21st century. In a world marked by turmoil, including the Russia-Ukraine crisis and issues in West Asia, there is potential for global harmony by considering the shared visions and historically linked civilizations of India and China.

Relevance:

GS II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Key Vision Points for the Global Community of Shared Future:
  2. Cooperative Initiatives between India and China for Building a Global Community of a Shared Future:
  3. Obstacles in India-China Collaboration

Key Vision Points for the Global Community of Shared Future:

Economic Globalization:

  • Promote economic globalization that benefits developing nations.
  • Reject unilateralism, protectionism, and zero-sum games.

Peace and Cooperation:

  • Advocate peace, development, cooperation, and win-win results.
  • Avoid colonialism and hegemony, work together for global peace.

Global Community of Shared Destiny:

  • Build a global community of shared destiny.
  • Focus on mutual respect, equity, and beneficial cooperation for global partnerships.

International System:

  • Oppose bloc politics and unilateral thinking.
  • Support a fair, UN-centered international system.
  • Uphold international law as the basis for global norms and true multilateralism.

Equity and Freedom:

  • Promote equity, justice, democracy, and freedom.
  • Avoid imposing a singular model of democracy.

Harmony Amidst Diversity:

  • Embrace diversity and respect each nation’s right to choose its social systems and development paths.

Cooperative Initiatives between India and China for Building a Global Community of a Shared Future:

Shared Values and Principles:
  • Embrace shared values rooted in ancient civilizations, such as fairness, justice, and the concept of the world as one family.
  • Uphold principles like “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” and the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence.
Areas and Platforms of Cooperation:
Economic CooperationLeverage existing platforms like BRICS, SCO, AIIB, and NDB for enhancing economic cooperation. Focus on open and inclusive world economy and explore new areas such as digital economy and green economy.
Security Cooperation Collaborate on combating terrorism, extremism, and separatism, contributing to regional peace and stability.
Cultural CooperationStrengthen cultural ties through increased people-to-people contact, education, tourism, sports, youth, and media interactions.
Environmental CooperationEnhance coordination on climate change, biodiversity conservation, emission reduction, renewable energy, and disaster management, supporting Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Benefits of India-China Cooperation for Building a Global Community of Shared Future:

Economic Growth and Trade Opportunities:

  • Expanding markets with massive consumer bases.
  • Leveraging complementary economies for mutual benefits.

Technological Advancements and Innovation:

  • Accelerated progress through collaborative research and innovation in various sectors.
  • Enhanced capabilities in space exploration, cybersecurity, and climate change mitigation.

Global Governance and Diplomacy:

  • Counterbalancing unilateral actions by global powers.
  • Influencing international forums and addressing global issues collectively.

Obstacles in India-China Collaboration:

Border Disputes and Military Standoffs:

  • Long-standing border disputes, particularly along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), have resulted in military standoffs, creating mistrust and potential escalation.

Mistrust Due to Historical Conflicts:

  • Historical conflicts, including the 1962 Sino-Indian war, have led to deep-seated mistrust between the two nations, hindering cooperative efforts.

Geopolitical Complexities:

  • China’s use of its UNSC veto power against India, close ties with Pakistan, and India’s abstention from China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) contribute to the complexity of relations.
  • These issues add layers of geopolitical tension and mutual suspicion.

Strategic Competition:

  • Strategic competition is a reality due to both countries having distinct national interests and aspirations.
  • External pressure, especially from the United States and its allies, who seek to contain China’s rise, further fuels this competition.

Clashing Interests:

  • Strategic interests sometimes clash, especially in regions like South Asia, where both countries seek influence.
  • China’s investments in India’s neighboring countries may be seen as encroaching on India’s sphere of influence.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

A new study finds significant variations in the occurrence and treatment of hypertension among Indian states, and also in districts within the states.

Relevance:

GS II: Health

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Hypertension
  2. Study Highlights
  3. Controlling Hypertension in India

About Hypertension:

  • High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a common condition that affects the arteries in the body.
  • It occurs when the force of the blood pushing against the artery walls is consistently too high, requiring the heart to work harder to pump blood.
  • Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg), and hypertension is generally defined as a blood pressure reading of 130/80 mm Hg or higher.
  • If left untreated, high blood pressure increases the risk of serious health problems, including heart attacks and strokes.
  • Healthy lifestyle habits, such as not smoking, regular exercise, and a balanced diet, can help prevent and manage high blood pressure.

Study Highlights:

  • The study revealed significant disparities in the prevalence, diagnosis, treatment, and control of hypertension among various states and even within districts of these states.
  • A substantial portion of individuals with hypertension remain undiagnosed, many of those diagnosed do not initiate treatment, and a significant number of those who start treatment are unable to effectively control their blood pressure.
  • The study found that only one in three individuals with hypertension receives a formal diagnosis, one in five initiates treatment, and one in twelve successfully manages their blood pressure.
At the State Level:
  • The prevalence of hypertension was similar among the southern states, but it was higher than the national average. In the southern states, 29.9% of the population was affected by hypertension, compared to the national average of 26.8%.
  • The proportion of people diagnosed with hypertension in the southern states was similar to the rest of India. However, the proportion of people undergoing treatment and achieving blood pressure control was higher in these southern states.
At the District Level:
  • Similar disparities were observed at the district level within states. For instance, in Meghalaya, the prevalence of hypertension was comparable in the districts of Garo Hills (21.8%), Jaintia Hills (19.8%), and Khasi Hills (23.1%). However, the proportion of those diagnosed was lower in Garo Hills at 18.6% compared to 29.4% in Khasi Hills and 41.1% in Jaintia Hills.
  • In Karnataka, four districts—Chikmagalur, Shimoga, Udupi, and Chitradurga—exhibited similar prevalence of hypertension. Still, the proportion of individuals who received treatment and effectively controlled their blood pressure was higher in Chikmagalur and Udupi.
Role of Age, Gender & Education:
  • There were significant variations in the levels of hypertension care based on gender, age, socio-economic status, and education at the national level.
  • While men are more likely to have hypertension, women were more likely to be diagnosed, receive treatment, and achieve blood pressure control.
  • Individuals aged over 65 years exhibited higher prevalence, diagnosis, treatment, and control of hypertension compared to younger age groups.
  • The highest prevalence, diagnosis, treatment, and control of hypertension were found among the wealthiest segment of the population.
  • Regarding education, individuals who had completed their schooling had higher rates of diagnosis, treatment, and blood pressure control compared to those with no formal education or those who had passed class 11.

Controlling Hypertension in India:

  • A WHO report highlighted that nearly 4.6 million deaths in India could be prevented by 2040 if half of hypertensive individuals could effectively manage their blood pressure.
  • The government launched an initiative to provide treatment to 75 million people with hypertension or diabetes by 2025.
  • Key measures to control hypertension in India include active screening of individuals, facilitating access to treatment, ensuring medication availability near their residences, and implementing follow-up procedures to support effective management of hypertension.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

The Artificial Intelligence (AI) Safety Summit 2023 held at Bletchley Park, England has marked a significant turning point in the global approach to tackling the challenges posed by frontier AI technologies.

Relevance:

GS II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Key Highlights of Artificial Intelligence Safety Summit 2023
  2. India’s Stance at the Summit

Key Highlights of Artificial Intelligence Safety Summit 2023:

Bletchley Park Declaration:

  • The summit resulted in the Bletchley Park Declaration, which is the world’s first global pact aimed at addressing frontier AI risks.
  • The declaration signifies a high-level political consensus and commitment among major global AI players.

Acknowledgment of AI’s Potential and Risks:

  • The declaration acknowledges AI’s potential to enhance human well-being while recognizing the risks posed by frontier AI.
  • These risks may lead to significant harm, either intentionally or unintentionally, particularly in domains like cybersecurity, biotechnology, and disinformation.

Importance of International Cooperation:

  • The Bletchley Park Declaration stresses the need for international collaboration to address AI-related risks, as these risks are inherently global.
  • It calls for cooperation among all stakeholders, including companies, civil society, and academia.

Establishment of AI Safety Summit:

  • The declaration announces the establishment of a regular AI Safety Summit, which will serve as a platform for dialogue and collaboration focused on frontier AI safety.

Upcoming Summits:

  • The next AI Safety Summit will be hosted by France within a year.
  • Additionally, South Korea will co-host a mini virtual AI summit in the next six months.

India’s Stance at the Summit:

Shift Towards AI Regulation:

  • India has transitioned from a previous stance of not considering AI regulation to actively working on the formulation of regulations.
  • These regulations are being developed with a risk-based and user-harm approach, reflecting a commitment to addressing AI-related risks.

Advocating for “Ethical” AI Tools:

  • India has called for the establishment of a global framework to promote the development and expansion of “ethical” AI tools.
  • This signifies India’s commitment to the responsible and ethical usage of AI technologies.

Interest in Regulatory Bodies:

  • India has expressed interest in setting up regulatory bodies at both domestic and international levels.
  • These regulatory bodies are intended to ensure the responsible and ethical use of AI, indicating a proactive approach to AI governance.

Digital India Act, 2023:

  • India has introduced the Digital India Act, 2023, which is yet to be implemented.
  • This act is expected to introduce issue-specific regulations for online intermediaries, including platforms that utilize AI.

-Source: Indian Express



Context:

A landslide has damaged part of the under-construction 2000 MW Lower Subansiri Hydroelectric project in Arunachal Pradesh and Assam which has affected the flow in the Subansiri river downstream.

Relevance:

GS I: Geography

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Subansiri Hydel Project Incident
  2. About the Subansiri River
  3. About the Subansiri Lower Hydroelectric Project (SLHEP)

Subansiri Hydel Project Incident:

Hydel Project Operations:

  • Hydropower projects involve the construction of tunnels to channel water from a reservoir to a powerhouse. This water, upon reaching the powerhouse, is used to turn turbines that generate electricity, after which it is returned to the river.
  • Once operational, the powerhouse becomes the primary route for water, while spillways (gates) are used intermittently.

Recent Setback:

  • On October 27, the Subansiri Lower Hydropower Project (SLHEP) faced a significant setback.
  • A substantial portion of the hill on the left side of the dam collapsed into the reservoir.
  • This incident marked the sixth landslide at the dam site since April 2022.

Blockage of Diversion Tunnel:

  • The landslides resulted in deposits blocking the sole functional diversion tunnel (DT).
  • As a consequence, the flow of water downstream of the dam into the Subansiri River was interrupted.

Central Electricity Authority’s (CEA) Recommendation:

  • The CEA, which serves as the statutory body advising the government on electricity system-related policies, had suggested that the impact of the diversion tunnels on the slope stability of the project site be assessed.

NHPC’s Response:

  • However, NHPC Ltd, the entity responsible for executing the Subansiri Lower Project, disregarded this recommendation.
  • NHPC claimed that no further evaluation of landslide hazards and their effects was necessary and that essential stabilization measures had already been carried out.
  • The incident thus raises concerns regarding the project’s safety and environmental impact.

About the Subansiri River:

  • Trans-Himalayan River: The Subansiri River, known as Chayul Chu in Tibet, is a trans-Himalayan river that flows through Tibet’s Lhuntse County in the Shannan Prefecture. It serves as a tributary on the right bank of the Brahmaputra River.
  • Geographical Extent: This river extends its flow into the Indian states of Arunachal Pradesh and Assam. The Subansiri River stretches approximately 518 kilometers (322 miles) in length and covers a drainage basin of around 32,640 square kilometers (12,600 square miles).
  • Significant Contributor: Among its distinctions, the Subansiri River holds the status of being the largest tributary of the Brahmaputra River and contributes about 7.92% of the total flow in the Brahmaputra.

About the Subansiri Lower Hydroelectric Project (SLHEP):

  • Hydroelectric Project Location: The Subansiri Lower Dam, officially known as SLHEP, is an ongoing gravity dam project located on the Subansiri River. It is situated in North Eastern India near the borders of Arunachal Pradesh and Assam.
  • Gravity Dam: A gravity dam is so named because it relies on its own weight to withstand the pressure of the water it retains.
  • Projected Capacity: The National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) Limited categorizes the Subansiri Lower Hydroelectric Project as a run-of-the-river project. It is designed to provide 2,000 MW of power, featuring eight units each with a capacity of 250 MW.
  • Run-of-River Hydro Project: Run-of-river hydro projects leverage the natural flow of rivers and micro turbine generators to harness the kinetic energy carried by water.
  • Construction and Delays: NHPC Limited initiated construction work on the SLHEP in 2005 following the acquisition of forest clearance. However, the project encountered various challenges during construction, including landslides, redesigns, and local opposition. Due to protests and demonstrations by local stakeholders, construction work on the project was halted between 2011 and 2019. It subsequently resumed in 2019 following clearance by the National Green Tribunal (NGT), with operations anticipated to begin from March 2024.
  • Prominence: Upon completion as planned, the Subansiri Lower Hydroelectric Project will rank as the largest hydroelectric project in India.

-Source: Indian Express



Context:

Recently, the Tamil Nadu Government issued an order to implement ‘Project Dolphin’ under the Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitat programme of the government of India.

Relevance:

GS III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Project Dolphin
  2. Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitat Programme
  3. Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve

Project Dolphin:

  • Objective: Project Dolphin aims to enhance the marine ecology and overall health of the marine environment.
  • Components: The project involves strengthening patrolling and surveillance, habitat improvement through the restoration of coastal ecosystems, removal of ghost nets, and encouraging local community involvement with incentives.
  • Budget: The project will be implemented at a cost of 8.13 crore rupees during 2023-2024. The funding will be shared, with 60% provided by the Union government and the remaining cost borne by the State.
  • Significance: Project Dolphin seeks to improve the population of dolphin species, protect their habitat, and enhance the livelihoods of local communities. Over nine species of marine dolphins inhabit the coastal waters of Tamil Nadu, with major habitats in the Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve.

Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitat Programme:

  • It is an ongoing Centrally Sponsored Scheme that has evolved by adding more components and activities to the former Centrally Sponsored Scheme, “Assistance for the Development of National Parks and Sanctuaries,” during the 11th Plan Period.
  • Components: The programme includes support for protected areas (national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, conservation reserves, and community reserves), wildlife protection outside protected areas, and recovery programmes for critically endangered species and habitats.

Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve:

  • The reserve comprises three distinct coastal ecosystems: coral reefs, seagrass beds, and mangroves.
  • It is renowned as one of the world’s richest regions in terms of marine biodiversity.
  • The Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve holds the distinction of being the first Marine Biosphere Reserve in South and Southeast Asia.
  • Recognized by UNESCO’s Man and Biosphere (MAB) Programme, the reserve is home to several globally significant and highly endangered species, including the Dugong, whale shark, sea horses, Balanoglossus, green sea turtle, Hawksbill turtle, dolphins, sacred chanks, and more.

-Source: The Hindu


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