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Current Affairs for UPSC IAS Exam – 15 June 2021

Contents

  1. SIPRI Year Book 2021 on expanding nuclear arsenal
  2. The 47th G7 Summit on Internet curbs and China
  3. National AI Portal (INDIAai)
  4. NGT notice for rehabilitating displaced Brus

SIPRI Year Book 2021 on expanding nuclear arsenal

Context:

China is in the middle of a significant modernisation and expansion of its nuclear weapon inventory, and India and Pakistan also appear to be expanding their nuclear arsenals, according to Swedish think tank Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) Year Book 2021.

Relevance:

GS-II: International Relations (Foreign Treaties and Policies affecting India’s Interests), GS-III: Science and Technology (Nuclear Technology)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. SIPRI Year Book 2021
  2. Chinese Nuclear Advancement
  3. India’s Cause for concern
  4. International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) report
  5. Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)

SIPRI Year Book 2021

  • The overall number of warheads in global military stockpiles now appears to be increasing, a worrisome sign that the declining trend that has characterized global nuclear arsenals since the end of the cold war has stalled.
  • According to the year book, India possessed an estimated 156 nuclear warheads at the start of 2021 compared to 150 at the start of 2020, while Pakistan had 165 warheads, up from 160 in 2020.
  • China’s nuclear arsenal consisted of 350 warheads up from 320 at the start of 2020.
  • The nine nuclear armed states – the U.S., Russia, the U.K., France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea – together possessed an estimated 13,080 nuclear weapons at the start of 2021.
  • Russia and the U.S. together possessed over 90% of global nuclear weapons and have extensive and expensive modernisation programmes under way, SIPRI said.

Signs that decline in nuclear arsenals has stalled

  • The nine nuclear-armed states—the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea)—together possessed an estimated 13080 nuclear weapons at the start of 2021. This marked a decrease from the 13400 that SIPRI estimated these states possessed at the beginning of 2020.
  • Despite this overall decrease, the estimated number of nuclear weapons currently deployed with operational forces increased to 3825, from 3720 last year. Around 2000 of these—nearly all of which belonged to Russia or the USA—were kept in a state of high operational alert.
  • While the USA and Russia continued to reduce their overall nuclear weapon inventories by dismantling retired warheads in 2020, both are estimated to have had around 50 more nuclear warheads in operational deployment at the start of 2021 than a year earlier.
  • Russia also increased its overall military nuclear stockpile by around 180 warheads, mainly due to deployment of more multi-warhead land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and sea-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs).
  • Both countries’ deployed strategic nuclear forces remained within the limits set by the 2010 Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (New START), although the treaty does not limit total nuclear warhead inventories.

Other nuclear-armed states investing in future capabilities

  • All the other seven nuclear-armed states are also either developing or deploying new weapon systems or have announced their intention to do so.
  • The UK’s ‘Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy’, published in early 2021, reversed a policy of reducing the country’s nuclear arsenal and raised its planned ceiling for nuclear weapons from 180 to 260.
  • China is in the middle of a significant modernization and expansion of its nuclear weapon inventory, and India and Pakistan also appear to be expanding their nuclear arsenals.
  • North Korea continues to enhance its military nuclear programme as a central element of its national security strategy. While it conducted no nuclear test explosions or long-range ballistic missile tests during 2020, it continued production of fissile material and development of short- and long-range ballistic missiles.

Chinese Nuclear Advancement

  • China is pursuing a planned modernisation of its nuclear arsenal because it fears the multi-layered missile defence capabilities of the United States.
  • China is arming its missiles with Multiple Independently Targetable Re-entry Vehicles (MIRVs) capabilities to neutralise America’s missile shield.
  • The Peoples Liberation Army Rocket Force (PLARF) fields a range of Medium Range Ballistic Missiles (MRBMs) and Short-Range Ballistic Missiles (SRBMs), and China also on a sizeable inventory of fissile material.
  • China’s expansion is cause for concern because even as the U.S. and Russia are attempting to reduce the size of their respective arsenals, the PRC is on an expansionist mode.

India’s Cause for concern

  • This increase might not seem large relative to the size of the nuclear arsenal of the U.S. and Russia but it indicates a gradual shift toward a larger arsenal.
  • This presents India with challenges because New Delhi has to contend with a nuclear-armed Pakistan as well.
  • The Indian nuclear arsenal, according to the SIPRI, stands at roughly 150 nuclear warheads with the Pakistani slightly ahead with 160 warheads.
  • China’s nuclear modernisation and diversified nuclear capabilities during conventional military escalation along the China-India boundary is one of the major concerns for India.
  • The PRC is believed to base a part of its nuclear arsenal in inland territories such as in the Far-Western Xinjiang Region, which is close to Aksai Chin.

International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) report

  • A report by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), London, in May titled ‘Nuclear Deterrence and Stability in South Asia: Perceptions and Realities’ said that chance played an important ameliorative role in the India-Pakistan crisis of February 2019 and the two countries “risk stumbling into using their nuclear weapons through miscalculation or misinterpretation in a future crisis.”

Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)

  • The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, commonly known as the Non-Proliferation Treaty or NPT, is an international treaty whose objective is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and to further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament
  • The NPT is often seen to be based on a central bargain: “the NPT non-nuclear-weapon states agree never to acquire nuclear weapons and the NPT nuclear-weapon states in exchange agree to share the benefits of peaceful nuclear technology and to pursue nuclear disarmament aimed at the ultimate elimination of their nuclear arsenals.”
  • The treaty defines nuclear-weapon states as those that have built and tested a nuclear explosive device before 1 January 1967; these are the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, and China.
  • Four other states are known or believed to possess nuclear weapons: India, Pakistan, and North Korea have openly tested and declared that they possess nuclear weapons, while Israel is deliberately ambiguous regarding its nuclear weapons status.
  • The Treaty has 189 States Parties, which is the largest number of any arms control agreement.
  • However, India, Israel and Pakistan have not signed the NPT.
  • North Korea announced its withdrawal in 2003, and further announced that it had conducted an underground nuclear explosion in 2006 and 2009.

-Source: The Hindu


The 47th G7 Summit on Internet curbs and China

Context:

Recently, the Indian Prime Minister addressed the 47th G7 Summit 2021 through video conferencing.

Relevance:

GS-II: International Relations (Important International Groupings, Foreign Policies affecting India’s Interests)

Click Here to read more about the G7 group and G7 Summit

Click Here to read more about the new G7 recommendation on minimum corporate tax rate

Highlights of the 47th G7 Summit 2021

Earlier, the Finance Ministers from the G7 nations reached a landmark accord setting a Global Minimum Corporate Tax Rate (GMCTR).

Apart from India, Australia and South Korea were also invited to participate in the proceedings of the summit as “guest countries”.

This year’s summit was hosted by the UK. The last G-7 summit was in France in 2019, with last year’s event in the US canceled due to the pandemic.

Build Back Better for the World Project

The Build Back Better for the World Project  is aimed squarely at competing with China’s trillion-dollar Belt and Road infrastructure initiative, which has been widely criticised for saddling small countries with unmanageable debt but has included even G7 member Italy since launching in 2013.

It will collectively catalyse hundreds of billions of infrastructure investment for low- and middle-income countries (in Asia and Africa) and offer a values-driven, high-standard and transparent partnership with G7.

Democracies 11

Signed off on a joint statement (Democracies 11) by G-7 and guest countries on “open societies” that reaffirm and encourage the values of freedom of expression, both online and offline, as a freedom that safeguards democracy and helps people live free from fear and oppression.

The statement also refers to politically motivated internet shutdowns as one of the threats to freedom and democracy.

While the statement is directed at China and Russia, India has been under scrutiny over Internet curbs in Jammu and Kashmir even as the Government is locked in a face-off over its New IT rules 2021 with tech giants.

Democracies 11 is facing threats to freedom and democracy from rising authoritarianism, electoral interference, corruption, economic coercion, manipulation of information, including disinformation, online harms and cyber attacks, politically motivated internet shutdowns, human rights violations and abuses, terrorism and violent extremism.

Carbis Bay Declaration

The G7 signed the Carbis Bay Declaration. It is aimed at preventing future pandemics.

The G7 also pledged over 1 billion coronavirus vaccine doses for poorer nations with half of that coming from the United States and 100 million from Britain.

Climate Change

Renewed a pledge to raise their contributions to meet an overdue spending pledge of USD 100 billion a year to help poorer countries cut carbon emissions.

Promised to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030.

Pledged to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Against China

The G-7 statement which was not signed by India and other outreach countries hit out at China on “human rights and fundamental freedoms” in Xinjiang (Uyghur Muslims) and Hong Kong, and the unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the South China Sea.

It also called for a transparent and timely World Health Organization’s Covid origins study in China.

India had also called for the same in a statement during the World Health Assembly.

On Internet shutdowns

Internet freedoms are subject to national security, said government sources, claiming that India’s tough negotiations on the joint communique issued by G7 and Guest Countries at the session on Open Societies, had ensured that the original language criticising “Internet shutdowns” had been amended to include New Delhi’s concerns.

The explanation came after the ‘G7 and Guest Countries: 2021 Open Societies Statement’ referred to “politically motivated Internet shutdowns” which indirectly addresses Internet blackouts in various parts of the world including India.

-Source: The Hindu


National AI Portal (INDIAai)

Context:

The ‘National AI Portal’, celebrated its first anniversary on May 28, 2021, in a virtual event attended by nearly 400 participants and dignitaries.

Relevance:

Prelims, GS-III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is Artificial Intelligence (AI)?
  2. Significance of Artificial Intelligence:
  3. Pros and Cons of AI
  4. About the ‘National AI Portal’

What is Artificial Intelligence (AI)?

  • Artificial intelligence is the branch of computer science concerned with making computers behave like humans.
  • AI refers to the ability of machines to perform cognitive tasks like thinking, perceiving, learning, problem solving and decision making.
  • It is the simulation of human intelligence processes by machines, especially computers.
  • It refers to the ability of machines to perform cognitive tasks like thinking, perceiving, learning, problem solving and decision making and execute tasks in real time situations without constant supervision.
  • Particular applications of AI include expert systems, speech recognition and machine vision.

Significance of Artificial Intelligence:

  • NITI Aayog’s national strategy for AI envisages ‘AI for all’ for inclusive growth, and identifies healthcare, agriculture, education, smart cities and infrastructure, and smart mobility and transportation as focus areas for AI-led solutions for social impact.
  • Data and AI services are expected to help boost India’s economic growth in a big way. NASSCOM believes that data and AI will contribute $450 billion-$500 billion to India’s GDP by 2025, which is around 10% of the government’s aspiration of a $5 trillion economy.
  • It has the potential to overcome the physical limitations of capital and labour and open up new sources of value and growth.
  • The growing AI economy is estimated to create over 20 million technical roles alone.
  • AI can create not just niche solutions to specific problems that banks and other service providers are deploying, such as speeding up loan application processing or improving customer service;
  • it can also provide solutions for better governance and social impact. For example, during the lockdown, the Telangana police used AI-enabled automated number plate recognition software to catch violations.
  • It has the potential to drive growth by enabling
  • Intelligent automation i.e., ability to automate complex physical world tasks. Innovation diffusion i.e., propelling innovations through the economy.
  • Role in social development and inclusive growth: access to quality health facilities, addressing location barriers, providing real-time advisory to farmers and help in increasing productivity, building smart and efficient cities etc.
  • The exponential growth of data is constantly feeding AI improvements.
  • AI has varied applications in fields like Healthcare, Education, Smart Cities, Environment, Agriculture, smart Mobility etc.

Pros and Cons of AI

Benefits of AI

  • Already, AI has helped increase crop yields, raised business productivity, improved access to credit and made cancer detection faster and more precise.
  • It could contribute more than $15 trillion to the world economy by 2030 adding 14% to global GDP.
  • A study reviewing the impact of AI on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) finds that AI may act as an enabler on 134 — or 79% — of all SDG targets.

Drawbacks of AI

  • A study o finds that AI can actively hinder 59 — or 35% — of SDG targets.
  • AI requires massive computational capacity, which means more power-hungry data centres — and a big carbon footprint.
  • AI could also compound digital exclusion.
  • Robotics and AI companies are building intelligent machines that perform tasks typically carried out by low-income workers: self-service kiosks to replace cashiers, fruit-picking robots to replace field workers, etc.; but the day is not far when many desk jobs will also be edged out by AI, such as accountants, financial traders and middle managers.
  • Without clear policies on reskilling workers, the promise of new opportunities will in fact create serious new inequalities.
  • Investment is likely to shift to countries where AI-related work is already established widening gaps among and within countries.

About the ‘National AI Portal’

  • The National AI Portal is a joint initiative by Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY), National e-Governance Division (NeGD) and NASSCOM and serves as a central hub for AI related news, learning, articles, events and activities etc., in India and beyond.
  • In 2009, NeGD was created as an Independent Business Division under the Digital India Corporation (a not-for-profit company set up by MeitY).
  • A not-for-profit industry association, is the apex body for the IT and IT enabled products and services sector in India.
  • It serves as a central hub for Artificial Intelligence (AI) related news, learning, articles, events and activities etc., in India and beyond.

-Source: PIB


NGT notice for rehabilitating displaced Brus

Context:

  • The Eastern Zonal Bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has sought response from the Tripura Forest Department and the North Tripura district administration on a public complaint regarding the state government’s move to resettle over 40,000 displaced Brus of western Mizoram in the reserved forest.
  • The NGT asked the state to submit the Bru rehabilitation plan to the bench before July 2021.

Relevance:

GS-I: Indian Society, GS-III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Bru
  2. Background on Bru resettlement and their concern

Click Here to read about National Green Tribunal (NGT)

Bru

  • Bru (aka Reang) are one of the 21 scheduled tribes of the Indian state of Tripura.
  • The Bru community is present in the state of Tripura, and they also have presence in Mizoram and Assam.
  • They speak the Reang dialect of Kokborok language which is of Tibeto-Burmese origin and is locally referred to as Kau Bru.
  • In 2018, the Union Home Ministry decided to give voting rights to around 30,000 people of the Bru community who had fled from Mizoram to Tripura in 1997 in the wake of inter-community violence.
  • In 2020, a quadripartite agreement was signed among the Centre, state governments of Tripura and Mizoram and Bru-Reang representatives to facilitate permanent settlement of Bru refugees from Mizoram in Tripura.
  • The Tripura government resettled 493 members of 426 Bru families, who spent 24 years in relief camps in Mizoram, in two forest locations of Dhalai district in April 2020.
  • The government has cleaned jungles to make dwelling sheds for their temporary stay and provided funds for construction of pucca houses, according to the quadripartite agreement signed last year in New Delhi.

Background on Bru resettlement and their concern

  • Three organisations representing the Bru community displaced from Mizoram have rejected the sites proposed by the Joint Movement Committee (JMC).
  • The Joint Movement Committee (JMC) is an umbrella group of non-Brus in Tripura, for their resettlement.
  • The demand for inclusion of four JMC members in the monitoring team for the resettlement of the Brus has been rejected by organizations representing the Bru community.
  • The JMC comprising the Bengali, Mizo, Buddhist Barua and other communities, submitted a memorandum to the Tripura government specifying places for the resettlement of the Brus who fled ethnic violence in Mizoram since 1997.
  • A quadrilateral agreement was signed among the Bru groups, the Centre and the State governments of Mizoram and Tripura.

Why did the Bru reject the JMC resettlement site proposals?

  • The organisations representing the Bru Community rejected the sites suggested because inclusion of four JMC members in the monitoring team for the settlement of Bru internally-displaced people is not applicable since they are not having any connection or involvement in the issue of either repatriation to Mizoram or resettlement in Tripura.
  • According to the Bru, the interference of the Kanchanpur Nagarik Suraksha Mancha and Mizo Convention, prime constituents of JMC, in site selection is unjustified as they are not a part of either the quadrilateral agreement or signatory.

What are the requests of the Bru?

  • The three refugee groups insisted on resettling some 6,500 families in clusters of at least 500 families at each of the sites of their choice.
  • They want to be relocated to sites of their choice because the sites proposed by the JMC, they said, are unconnected by road and electricity and too far from hospitals, schools and other facilities.
  • The Bru groups also demanded the arrest of the JMC leaders for “abusive, derogatory and inflammatory statements” against the Bru community.

-Source: Down to Earth Magazine

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