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Current Affairs 20 July 2023


  1. 25th Anniversary of the Strategic Partnership between France and India
  2. Henley Passport Index
  3. UNAIDS Report
  4. Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership
  5. Hoolock gibbon
  6. BepiColombo

25th Anniversary of the Strategic Partnership between France and India


The Indian Prime Minister joined French President as the Guest of Honour at the Bastille Day Parade, where an Indian tri-services marching contingent participated. Rafale jets from the Indian Air Force were also part of the flypast.


GS II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Details
  2. Major Highlights of the Visit
  3. Other Highlights
  4. Major Areas of Cooperation between India and France


  • The joint statement titled “25th Anniversary of the Strategic Partnership between France and India: towards a Century of Indo-French Relations” outlines the future of bilateral relations until 2047.
  • The roadmap is based on three pillars: partnership for security and sovereignty, partnership for the planet, and partnership for the people.
  • The partnership aims to strengthen security and sovereignty cooperation between the two nations.
  • It also focuses on enhancing collaboration on environmental and climate issues, promoting sustainability and protecting the planet.
  • The partnership is committed to improving the lives of people in both countries through various joint initiatives and projects.

Major Highlights of the Visit

Partnership for Security and Sovereignty:

Continuation of Defense Cooperation:

  • Further collaboration on fighter jets and submarines, building upon the successful delivery of 36 Rafale jets to the Indian Air Force and the P75 program with six Scorpene submarines.

Space and Satellite Collaboration:

  • Strengthening scientific and commercial partnership between France’s CNES and India’s ISRO.
  • Joint Earth observation satellite project TRISHNA and maritime surveillance satellites in the Indian Ocean.
  • Ensuring the protection of Indo-French satellites in orbit.

Nuclear Power and Energy:

  • Progress on the 6-European Pressurized Reactors power plant project in Jaitapur, Maharashtra.
  • Launch of a cooperation program on small modular reactors and advanced modular reactors.

Indo-Pacific Strategy:

  • Adoption of a comprehensive roadmap for joint actions in the Indo-Pacific region.
  • Covering all aspects of the comprehensive strategy for security and development in the region.

Sustainable Development Financing:

  • Discussion on finalizing an Indo-French development fund for third countries in the Indo-Pacific.
  • Enabling joint financing of sustainable development projects in the region.

Counterterrorism and Security:

  • Strengthening cooperation between France’s GIGN and India’s National Security Guard.

Cutting-Edge Digital Technology:

  • Enhancing cooperation on advanced digital technologies, including supercomputing, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and quantum computing.
  • Announcement of an agreement between Atos and India’s Ministry of Earth Sciences for the supply of supercomputers.

Civil Aviation Agreements:

  • Signing of technical and safety agreements in the field of civil aviation to support the expansion of routes between France and India.
  • Promoting the growth of the Indian civil aviation market.
Partnership for the Planet and Global Issues:

Combatting Plastic Pollution:

  • Joint commitment by France and India to adopt an international treaty to tackle plastic pollution across the entire life cycle of plastic products.

Health and Medicine Cooperation:

  • Signing of a Letter of Intent to strengthen cooperation in hospitals, medical research, digital technology, biotechnology, public health, and combatting micro-bacterial resistance.

Ocean Research and Blue Economy:

  • Launch of a partnership between France’s IFREMER and India’s National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT) under the Blue Economy and Ocean Governance roadmap.
  • Collaboration on ocean research and sustainable use of marine resources.

Sustainable Cities and Finance:

  • Financing support from the French Development Agency for India’s sustainable cities program “CITIIS 2.0.”
  • Financing from Proparco for the South Asia Growth Fund (SAGF III) to promote sustainable and inclusive growth in the region.

Decarbonized Hydrogen:

  • Agreement to manufacture electrolyzers in India, aligning with the Indo-French roadmap for decarbonized hydrogen.
  • Efforts to promote clean and renewable energy technologies for a greener future.
Partnership for People:

Enhancing Educational Exchange:

  • Target of welcoming 30,000 Indian students in France by 2030 to promote academic and cultural ties.
  • Issuance of 5-year short-stay Schengen visas for Indian students with a Master’s degree from a French university to facilitate travel and academic pursuits.

Strengthening Diplomatic Presence:

  • Opening of a Consulate General of India in Marseille, France, and a Bureau de France in Hyderabad, India to bolster bilateral relations and facilitate consular services.

Cultural Collaboration:

  • France selected as India’s partner for establishing a major new National Museum in New Delhi to promote cultural exchange and preserve heritage.
  • Agreement between France Médias Monde and Prasar Bharati for the exchange of audio-visual content and co-production of programs to foster media collaboration and promote cultural understanding.

Support for Research and Innovation:

  • Increase in funding for the Indo-French Centre for the Promotion of Advanced Research to support new projects and enhance scientific cooperation between the two nations.

Other Highlights:

Cultural Gifts:

  • France gifted India a framed facsimile of a 1916 photograph depicting a Parisian presenting flowers to a Sikh officer, showcasing historical and cultural ties.
  • France also presented a replica of the Charlemagne chessmen and a series of novels by Marcel Proust, promoting cultural exchange and literature appreciation.

Honors and Awards:

  • Indian Prime Minister was honored with the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour, France’s highest civilian and military honor, during his visit, recognizing his contributions to bilateral relations.

Notable Omissions:

  • The final joint statement did not include any reference to the pact on buying three Scorpene submarines and joint development of a combat aircraft engine, which might indicate the need for further discussion and clarification on these matters.

Major Areas of Cooperation between India and France:

  • Strategic Partnership: India and France have a long-standing strategic partnership since 1998, and France was one of the early countries to support India’s decision to test nuclear weapons.
  • Defence Cooperation: France has emerged as a significant defence partner for India, becoming the second-largest defence supplier during 2017-2021. Joint military exercises such as Exercise Shakti, Exercise Varuna, and Exercise Garuda are conducted regularly.
  • Bilateral Trade: Both countries have seen an increase in bilateral trade, reaching USD 13.4 billion in 2022-23, with India’s exports crossing USD 7 billion. France is the 11th largest foreign investor in India, with substantial investments over the years.
  • Support for International Positions: France supports India’s bid for permanent membership in the United Nations Security Council and its entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group, showcasing mutual backing on global issues.
  • Climate Change: Both nations share concerns about climate change and have expressed strong commitments to mitigating its effects. They jointly launched the International Solar Alliance in 2015 to promote renewable energy and sustainability.

-Source: Indian Express

Henley Passport Index


Recently, the Henley Passport Index 2023 was published by the consultancy firm named ‘Henley & Partners’.


GS II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Henley Passport Index
  2. Henley Passport Index 2023: Key Rankings
  3. Henley Openness Index: Top Findings

About Henley Passport Index:

  • Henley Passport Index is a comprehensive global ranking that assesses the travel freedom of citizens based on their passports.
  • Initially known as Henley & Partners Visa Restrictions Index (HVRI), it was established in 2006.
  • The index evaluates all the world’s passports based on the number of countries their holders can access without requiring a prior visa.
  • It covers 199 different passports and 227 travel destinations.
  • The “visa-free score” of a passport corresponds to the number of countries its holders can visit without a visa.
  • Henley & Partners collaborates with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and utilizes official data from their global database to analyze visa regulations worldwide.
International Air Transport Association (IATA)
  • IATA is a trade association that represents the world’s airlines and was founded in 1945.
  • The primary purpose of IATA is to support and promote airline activity, as well as to facilitate the formulation of industry policies and standards.
  • The association’s headquarters is located in Montreal, Canada.

Henley Passport Index 2023: Key Rankings

Singapore Tops the List:

  • Singapore has taken over the top spot from Japan as the most powerful passport in the world on the Henley Passport Index 2023.
  • Citizens of Singapore can now travel to 192 destinations visa-free out of 227 around the world.

Germany, Italy, and Spain in Second Place:

  • Germany, Italy, and Spain share the second spot on the index, offering visa-free access to a significant number of countries.

Japan Drops to Third Place:

  • Japan, which held the top position for the past five years, has now dropped to the third place along with Austria, Finland, France, Luxembourg, South Korea, and Sweden.

India’s Ranking:

  • India has shown improvement in the rankings, climbing seven places to the 80th rank in the Henley Passport Index 2023.
  • Indian passport holders can now access 57 destinations visa-free.
  • India’s performance on the index has varied over the years, with rankings of 76 in 2014, 88 in 2015, 85 in 2016, 87 in 2017, 81 in 2018, 82 in 2019 and 2020, and 81 in 2021.

Henley Openness Index: Top Findings

The Henley Openness Index provides insights into how many nations each country allows visa-free access to, showcasing the openness and travel freedom of different countries worldwide.

Small Island Nations and African States Dominate:

  • The Top 20 ‘most open’ countries on the Henley Openness Index are mostly small island nations or African states, with one exception – Cambodia.

12 Completely Open Countries:

  • There are 12 countries that have been classified as completely open, meaning they offer visa-free or visa-on-arrival entry to all 198 passports in the world (excluding their own).

India’s Ranking:

  • India was ranked 94 out of a total of 97 ranks on the Henley Openness Index.
  • India allows visa-free access to only four countries, putting it among the least open countries in terms of travel freedom.

Four Countries with Zero Access:

  • At the bottom of the Index are four countries that scored zero for not permitting visa-free access for any passport holders.
  • These countries are Afghanistan, North Korea, Papua New Guinea, and Turkmenistan.

-Source: The Hindu



The “The Path That Ends AIDS” report by UNAIDS highlights the progress and challenges in the global fight against AIDS and HIV. It stresses the importance of ongoing efforts to improve access to treatment, tackle inequalities, combat stigma, and secure sufficient funding for the cause. Continued dedication is essential to achieve the goal of ending AIDS and HIV worldwide.


GS II: Health

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Key Highlights of the UNAIDS Report
  2. AIDS Disease
  3. Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS:

Key Highlights of the UNAIDS Report:

Global Treatment Situation:
  • AIDS claimed a life every minute in 2022.
  • Around 9.2 million people with HIV lacked treatment access in 2022.
  • Many of the 2.1 million receiving treatment were not virally suppressed.
  • 29.8 million out of 39 million people living with HIV worldwide are receiving treatment.
  • 1.6 million additional people received HIV treatment each year between 2020 and 2022.
  • Global target of 35 million people receiving HIV treatment by 2025 is achievable if progress is sustained.
Regional Challenges:
  • Eastern Europe, Central Asia, Middle East, and North Africa showed slower treatment progress.
  • Only about half of the 2+ million people living with HIV in these regions received antiretroviral therapy in 2022.
  • Men living with HIV in certain regions are less likely to receive treatment compared to women.
  • Gender discrimination must be addressed for equal access to treatment.
HIV Incidence and Prevention:
  • AIDS-related deaths among children decreased by 64% from 2010 to 2022.
  • About 84,000 children lost their lives to HIV in 2022, and 43% of children with HIV did not receive treatment.
  • Women and girls accounted for 63% of new HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Only 42% of high-incidence districts in the region have dedicated prevention programs.
Funding Challenges:
  • HIV incidence declined in regions with increased prevention funding.
  • Eastern Europe, Central Asia, Middle East, and North Africa face HIV epidemic challenges due to lack of funding.
  • In 2022, only USD 20.8 billion was available for HIV programs in low- and middle-income countries, falling short of the required USD 29.3 billion by 2025.
  • Funding increased in the early 2010s but has since dropped to 2013 levels.
  • There was a 2.6% funding drop in 2022 compared to the previous year.

AIDS Disease

  • AIDS is a chronic and potentially life-threatening health condition caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) that weakens the body’s ability to fight infections.

HIV and CD4 Cells:

  • HIV targets CD4 cells, a type of White Blood Cell (T cells) crucial for immune response.
  • CD4 cells roam the body detecting anomalies and infections in cells.

HIV Replication and Immune System Damage:

  • Once inside the body, HIV multiplies and destroys CD4 cells, severely impairing the immune system.
  • The virus becomes a permanent part of the body once it enters, and there is no cure.

CD4 Count and Immune Function:

  • HIV-infected individuals experience a significant reduction in CD4 cell count.
  • In healthy individuals, CD4 count ranges from 500 to 1600, but in infected individuals, it can drop as low as 200.

Transmission Routes:

  • HIV spreads through certain body fluids, including blood and semen.
  • Common transmission routes include unprotected sex, sharing contaminated needles, and mother-to-child transmission during childbirth or breastfeeding.

Symptoms and Progression:

  • Initial symptoms of HIV infection may include fatigue, fever, and sores.
  • Progression to AIDS can lead to severe symptoms like pneumonia and certain cancers.

Preventive Measures:

  • Precautions can be taken to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
  • Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial for managing the disease.
  • Pre-marital testing, including HIV testing, can ensure overall safety.
  • Adopting protective techniques is essential to prevent the spread of Sexually Transmitted Diseases.

Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS:

  • The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) is a global initiative launched in 1996 with the goal of ending AIDS as a public health threat by 2030, in alignment with the Sustainable Development Goals.
  • UNAIDS envisions achieving zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination, and zero AIDS-related deaths, and adheres to the principle of leaving no one behind.
  • In 2016, the UN adopted a Political Declaration on ending AIDS, which outlines the objective of eliminating AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.

-Source: Down To Earth

Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership


U.K. government signed the accession protocol for the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) in New Zealand. It makes the United Kingdom the first new member and first European nation to join the bloc since it was created in 2018.


GS II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is CPTPP?
  2. How much does Britain trade with CPTPP?
  3. Benefits of Rules of Origin under CPTPP for Exporters
  4. Sectoral Impact and Geopolitical Factors of UK Joining CPTPP

What is CPTPP?

  • CPTPP is a free trade agreement (FTA) that was agreed in 2018 between 11 countries – Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
  • Britain will become the 12th member, and the first to join since the partnership since its inception.
  • Prime Minister office said that CPTPP countries will have a combined GDP of 11 trillion pounds ($13.6 trillion) once Britain joins, or 15% of global GDP.
  • It does not have a single market for goods or services, and so regulatory harmonisation is not required, unlike the European Union, whose trading orbit Britain left at the end of 2020.

How much does Britain trade with CPTPP?

  • Britain says that exports to CPTPP countries were worth 60.5 billion pounds in the twelve months to end-Sept. 2022.
  • Membership of the grouping will add another 1.8 billion pounds each year in the long run, and possibly more if other countries join.
  • But in an impact assessment of the deal when negotiations started in 2021, Britain said the agreement is estimated to deliver an increase of just 0.08% to GDP over the long term.

Benefits of Rules of Origin under CPTPP for Exporters

The Rules of Origin (RoO) under the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) can provide benefits for exporters. Here are the key points:

  • Preferential Tariffs: Exporters can benefit from preferential tariffs by demonstrating that their product is made up of a sufficient proportion of “locally” sourced parts.
  • RoO under FTAs: Even when trading with countries where there is a bilateral Free Trade Agreement (FTA), exporters can benefit from CPTPP membership.
  • EU Inputs Count as “Local”: RoO under post-Brexit FTAs with Japan, Mexico, and Canada allow exporters to count inputs from the European Union (EU) as “local.”
  • Inputs from CPTPP Members: Under CPTPP, inputs from other CPTPP members can be considered local, giving exporters more options.
  • Practical Benefit: The practical benefit for UK exporters is optionality. They can choose between counting EU inputs or CPTPP inputs as “local,” depending on which option is more beneficial.

Sectoral Impact and Geopolitical Factors of UK Joining CPTPP

The UK’s accession to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) has sectoral impact and geopolitical factors. Here are the key points:

Sectoral Impact:
  • Beef Quota: The UK agreed to a quota on beef imports but did not agree to lower food standards, including the ban on hormone-treated beef.
  • Tariff Reductions: Tariffs on palm oil from Malaysia will be liberalized, and the UK also agreed to tariff reductions on bananas, rice, and crab sticks following requests from Peru, Vietnam, and Singapore respectively.
  • Zero Tariffs: 99% of UK exports to CPTPP would be eligible for zero tariffs, including cheese, cars, chocolate, machinery, gin, and whisky.
  • Whisky Tariff: The phased elimination of Malaysia’s 165% tariff on whisky was welcomed by the Chief Executive of the Scottish Whisky Association, who sees the UK’s accession to CPTPP as opening up new opportunities for Scotch Whisky and other UK products in key markets in the region.
Geopolitical Factors:
  • Small Economic Gain: While the long-term economic benefits for the UK are modest, the country has other reasons for joining the bloc.
  • Geopolitical Strategy Gain: According to Minako Morita-Jaeger, a policy research fellow at the UK Trade Policy Observatory, the UK’s accession to CPTPP is a “big geopolitical strategy gain with a small economic gain.”
  • China’s Application: China has applied to join CPTPP, and the UK’s pivot towards the Indo-Pacific, where it highlights China as an “epoch-defining challenge,” could enable the country to enhance strategic ties with like-minded countries to protect a free and open Indo-Pacific region.

-Source: Indian Express

Hoolock Gibbon


The conservation status of India’s sole ape species, the hoolock gibbon, has become a pressing global concern.


GS III: Species in News

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Hoolock Gibbon
  2. Gibbon Species in India

About Hoolock Gibbon:

  • Habitat: Hoolock gibbons inhabit tropical and subtropical forests in Southeast Asia. They are found in forested areas of Northeast India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Southern China.
  • Apes: Hoolock gibbons are classified as apes and are known as the smallest and fastest of all apes. They share high intelligence, distinct personalities, and strong family bonds with other apes.
  • Species: They represent one of the 20 gibbon species found worldwide, making them a part of the diverse gibbon family.
  • Population: The current population of hoolock gibbons is estimated to be around 12,000 individuals, highlighting their vulnerability and the need for conservation efforts.

Gibbon Species in India:

  • Eastern Hoolock Gibbon (Hoolock leuconedys): Found in India’s northeastern region.
  • Western Hoolock Gibbon (Hoolock hoolock): Also found in India’s northeastern region.

Genetic Study:

  • A recent study by the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) in Hyderabad analyzed the genetics of hoolock gibbons in India.
  • The study found that there is actually only one species of gibbon in India, debunking the previous belief of separate eastern and western species based on coat color.
  • The populations previously thought to be eastern and western hoolock gibbons diverged approximately 1.48 million years ago.


  • All 20 gibbon species, including hoolock gibbons, are at a high risk of extinction due to conservation challenges.
  • Gibbon populations and their habitats have significantly declined over the past century, leaving small populations restricted to tropical rainforests.
  • In India, the primary threat to hoolock gibbons is the loss of their natural habitat caused by deforestation for infrastructure projects.

Conservation Status:

  • Western Hoolock Gibbon: Endangered (as per the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List)
  • Eastern Hoolock Gibbon: Vulnerable (as per the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List)
  • Both species are listed on Schedule 1 of the Indian (Wildlife) Protection Act 1972, providing them with legal protection.

-Source: The Hindu



During a close Mercury flyby, the BepiColombo spacecraft collected data that showed how electrons raining down on the planet’s surface are triggering X-ray auroras.


GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. BepiColombo Mission: Exploring Mercury
  2. Objectives of BepiColombo

BepiColombo Mission: Exploring Mercury

BepiColombo is a collaborative mission between the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) to explore Mercury, the closest planet to the Sun.

Named After Giuseppe “Bepi” Colombo:

  • The mission is named after Giuseppe “Bepi” Colombo, an Italian mathematician and engineer who made significant contributions to understanding Mercury’s orbit.

Launch and Purpose:

  • Launched on October 20, 2018, BepiColombo aims to study various aspects of Mercury, including its surface, composition, magnetic field, and interaction with the solar environment.

Two Main Components:

BepiColombo consists of two main components:

  • Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO): Provided by ESA, the MPO focuses on mapping and studying Mercury’s surface, composition, and topography.
  • Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO): Provided by JAXA, the MMO studies Mercury’s magnetic field and magnetosphere.
Objectives of BepiColombo:
  • Investigate Mercury’s surface and composition to gain insights into its geological history and formation processes.
  • Study Mercury’s magnetic field and magnetosphere to understand its internal structure and interactions with the solar wind.
  • Measure Mercury’s exosphere (thin atmosphere) and understand its composition and dynamics.
  • Conduct experiments to test principles of general relativity and improve our understanding of gravity.

-Source: Indian Express

May 2024