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Current Affairs for UPSC IAS Exam – 20 May 2021

Contents

  1. Tentative 6 UNESCO heritage sites added in India
  2. Government enhances DAP fertiliser subsidy
  3. China protests as U.S. warship transits Taiwan Strait
  4. Russia is helping build nuclear plants in China

Tentative 6 UNESCO heritage sites added in India

Context:

Six sites have been added to India’s tentative list of UNESCO world heritage sites. Six of the nine sites submitted by the Archaeological Survey of India had been accepted by UNESCO for inclusion in the tentative list, which is a requirement before the final nomination of any site.

Relevance:

GS-I: Art and Culture

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What are UNESCO World Heritage Sites?
  2. More about selection and protection of World Heritage Sites
  3. World heritages sites of India
  4. UNESCO World Heritage Committee

What are UNESCO World Heritage Sites?

  • UNESCO World Heritage Site is a place that is recognized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as of distinctive cultural or physical importance which is considered of outstanding value to humanity.
  • It may be a building, a city, a complex, a desert, a forest, an island, a lake, a monument, or a mountain.
  • They have been inscribed on the World Heritage List to be protected for future generations to appreciate and enjoy as they have a special cultural or physical significance and outstanding universal value to the humanity.
  • Italy is home to the greatest number of World Heritage Sites.
  • At present, India has 38 World Heritage Properties. All the sites under the Ministry are conserved as per ASI’s Conservation Policy and are in good shape.

More about selection and protection of World Heritage Sites

  • The sites are judged to be important for the collective and preservative interests of humanity.
  • To be selected, a WHS must be an already-classified landmark, unique in some respect as a geographically and historically identifiable place having special cultural or physical significance (such as an ancient ruin or historical structure, building, city, complex, desert, forest, island, lake, monument, mountain, or wilderness area).
  • It may signify a remarkable accomplishment of humanity, and serve as evidence of our intellectual history on the planet.
  • The sites are intended for practical conservation for posterity, which otherwise would be subject to risk from human or animal trespassing, unmonitored/uncontrolled/unrestricted access, or threat from local administrative negligence.
  • The list is maintained by the international World Heritage Program administered by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, composed of 21 “states parties” that are elected by their General Assembly.

What are the recently proposed sites by India?

The recently-included proposals are:

  1. Maratha military architecture in Maharashtra,
  2. The Hire Bengal megalithic site in Karnataka,
  3. Bhedaghat-Lametaghat of Narmada Valley in Madhya Pradesh,
  4. Ganga ghats in Varanasi,
  5. Temples of Kancheepuram in Tamil Nadu,
  6. The Satpura Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh.

World heritages sites of India

S.No.Name of SiteState
1Agra Fort (1983)Uttar Pradesh
2Ajanta Caves (1983)Maharashtra
3Ellora Caves (1983)Maharashtra
4Taj Mahal (1983)Uttar Pradesh
5Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram (1984)Tamil Nadu
6Sun Temple, Konark (1984)Odisha
7Churches and Convents of Goa (1986)Goa
8FatehpurSikri (1986)Uttar Pradesh
9Group of Monuments at Hampi (1986)Karnataka
10Khajuraho, Group of Temples (1986)Madhya Pradesh
11Elephanta Caves (1987)Maharashtra
12Great Living Chola Temples at Thanjavur, Gangaikondacholapuram and Darasuram (1987 & 2004)Tamil Nadu
13Group of Monuments at Pattadakal (1987)Karnataka
14Buddhist Monuments at Sanchi (1989)Madhya Pradesh
15Humayun’s Tomb, Delhi (1993)Delhi
16Qutb Minar and its Monuments, Delhi (1993)Delhi
17Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka (2003)Madhya Pradesh
18Champaner-Pavagarh Archaeological Park (2004)Gujarat
19Red Fort Complex, Delhi (2007)Delhi
20Hill Forts of Rajasthan Kumbhalgarh, Jaisalmer and Ranthambhore, Amber and Gagron Forts) (2013) (Amber and Gagron Forts are under protection of Rajasthan State Archaeology and Museums)Rajasthan
21Rani-ki-Vav (The Queen’s Stepwell) at Patna (2014)Gujarat
22Archaeological Site of Nalanda Mahavihara (Nalanda University) at Nalanda (2016)Bihar
23.Mountain Railways of India Darjeeling,(1999), Nilgiri (2005), Kalka-Shimla (2008)West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Himachal Pradesh
24.Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (formerly Victoria Terminus) (2004)Maharashtra
25Mahabodhi Temple Complex at Bodh Gaya, (2002)Bihar
26.The Jantar Mantar, Jaipur (2010)Rajasthan
27.The Architectural Work of Le Corbusier, an Outstanding Contribution to the Modern Movement (2016)Chandigarh
28.Historic City of Ahmedabad (2017)Gujarat
29.Victorian and Art Deco Ensemble of Mumbai (2018)Govt of Maharashtra
30.Jaipur City, Rajasthan (2019)Govt of Rajasthan
31.Kaziranga National Park (1985)Assam
32.Keoladeo National Park (1985)Rajasthan
33.Manas Wildlife Sanctuary (1985)Assam
34.Sunderbans National Park (1987)West Bengal
35.Nanda Devi and Valley of Flowers National Parks (1988, 2005)Uttarakhand
36.Western Ghats (2012)Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra,Tamil Nadu
37Great Himalayan National Park (2014)Himachal Pradesh
38.Khangchendzonga National Park (2016)Sikkim

UNESCO World Heritage Committee

  • The World Heritage Committee selects the sites to be listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the World Heritage List and the List of World Heritage in Danger.
  • It monitors the state of conservation of the World Heritage properties, defines the use of the World Heritage Fund and allocates financial assistance upon requests from States Parties.
  • It is composed of 21 states parties that are elected by the General Assembly of States Parties for a four-year term.
  • India is NOT a member of this Committee.

-Source: The Hindu


Government enhances DAP fertiliser subsidy

Context:

The government has enhanced the subsidy on di-ammonium phosphate or DAP fertilisers in order to retain the selling price for farmers at the current level, following a review meeting on fertiliser prices chaired by Prime Minister.

Recently, the international prices of phosphoric acid, ammonia etc. used in DAP have gone up by 60% to 70%.

Relevance:

GS-III: Agriculture, GS-III: Indian Economy (Growth and Development of Indian Economy, Mobilization of Resources)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Nutrient-Based Subsidy Regime
  2. Issues Related to NBS

About Nutrient-Based Subsidy Regime

  • Under the Nutrient-based subsidy (NBS) regime – fertilizers are provided to the farmers at the subsidized rates based on the nutrients (N, P, K & S) contained in these fertilizers.
  • Also, the fertilizers which are fortified with secondary and micronutrients such as molybdenum (Mo) and zinc are given additional subsidy.
  • Under the Nutrient-based subsidy (NBS) regime, the subsidy on Phosphatic and Potassic (P&K) fertilizers is announced by the Government on an annual basis for each nutrient on a per kg basis – which are determined taking into account the international and domestic prices of P&K fertilizers, exchange rate, inventory level in the country etc.
  • NBS policy intends to increase the consumption of P&K fertilizers so that optimum balance (N:P:K= 4:2:1 ) of NPK fertilization is achieved.
  • This would improve soil health and as a result the yield from the crops would increase resulting in enhanced income to the farmers.
  • Also, as the government expects rational use of fertilizers, this would also ease off the burden of fertilizer subsidy.
  • It is being implemented from April 2010 by the Department of Fertilizers, Ministry of Chemicals & Fertilizers.

Issues Related to NBS

  • Urea is left-out in the scheme and hence it remains under price control as NBS has been implemented only in other fertilizers.
  • There is an imbalance as the price of fertilizers (other than urea) — which were decontrolled have gone up from 2.5 to four times during the 2010-2020 decade. However, since 2010, the price of urea has increased only by 11%. This has led to farmers using more urea than before, which has further worsened fertilizer imbalance.
  • Considering that fertilizer subsidy is the second-biggest subsidy after food subsidy, the NBS policy is not only damaging the fiscal health of the economy but also proving detrimental to the soil health of the country.
  • Subsidised urea is getting diverted to bulk buyers/traders or even non-agricultural users such as plywood and animal feed makers. It is being smuggled to neighbouring countries like Bangladesh and Nepal.

-Source: PIB, The Hindu


China protests as U.S. warship transits Taiwan Strait

Context:

  • China accused the United States of threatening the peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait after a U.S. warship sailed through the sensitive waterway that separates Taiwan from its giant neighbour.
  • The U.S. said that the ship’s transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific.
  • Recently, India protested the U.S. decision to conduct a patrol in the Indian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the western Indian Ocean, rejecting the U.S.’s claim that its domestic maritime law was in violation of international law.

Relevance:

GS-II: International Relations (India’s neighbors, Foreign Policies and interventions affecting India’s policies), GS-I Geography

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)
  2. The Precarious Triangle: China, Taiwan, and United States
  3. Taiwan Strait
  4. China’s Position on Taiwan

Freedom of navigation

  • Freedom of navigation (FON) is a principle of customary international law that ships flying the flag of any sovereign state shall not suffer interference from other states, apart from the exceptions provided for in international law.
  • In the realm of international law, it has been defined as freedom of movement for vessels, freedom to enter ports and to make use of plant and docks, to load and unload goods and to transport goods and passengers. This right is now also codified in the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
  • Not all UN member states have ratified the convention, notably, the United States has signed, but not ratified the convention – However, United states enforces the practice.

US and Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOPS)

  • The US Department of Defense defines FONOPs as “operational challenges against excessive maritime claims” through which “the United States demonstrates its resistance to excessive maritime claims.”
  • The United States has an institutionalized FONOPs program called the Freedom of Navigation Program, which undertakes many FONOPs around the world every year.
  • U.S. armed forces have conducted FONOPs in areas claimed by other countries but considered by the U.S. to be international waters.

United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)

  • United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) is the international agreement defining the rights and responsibilities of nations with respect to their use of the world’s oceans, establishing guidelines for businesses, the environment, and the management of marine natural resources.
  • UNCLOS replaces the older ‘freedom of the seas’ concept, dating from the 17th century: national rights were limited to a specified belt of water extending from a nation’s coastlines according to the ‘cannon shot’ rule.
  • All waters beyond national boundaries were considered international waters: free to all nations, but belonging to none of them.
  • While India ratified UNCLOS in 1995, the U.S. has failed to do it so far.

The Precarious Triangle: China, Taiwan, and United States

  • Taiwan continues to be used as a ploy in the political games between the world’s two superpowers, with both sides turning up the heat in the Taiwan Strait.
  • Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen’s inauguration coincides with U.S. lobbying efforts to help Taiwan secure observer status at the World Health Organization (WHO)’s 73rd World Health Assembly, as well as increased pressure from Beijing to have more say in the self-ruling island’s status
  • Taiwan’s actions of transparency and willingness to help and share information in the advent of the virus stand in stark contrast to claims from Beijing that its model for combating COVID-19 is superior. It remains to be seen if Beijing’s attempts to keep Taiwan out of the international spotlight and recognition will succeed
  • These developments are all the more relevant when viewed against the backdrop of U.S.-China competition plunging into an abyss.

Taiwan Strait

  • The Taiwan Strait is a strait separating the island of Taiwan and continental Asia.
  • The strait is currently part of the South China Sea and connects to the East China Sea to the north.
  • The entire strait is on Asia’s continental shelf and there are many islands in the strait.
  • Historically both the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the Republic of China (ROC) on Taiwan espoused a One-China Policy that considered the strait part of the exclusive economic zone of a single “China”.

China’s Position on Taiwan

  • China has also stepped-up warnings on any attempt to include or support Taiwan’s role at the WHA.
  • Chine referred to the “One-China” principle as “a widely accepted universal consensus of the international community including the Indian government.”
  • China asserts that there is only “One China” and that Taiwan is an inalienable part of it.
  • China put forward a formula, known as “one country, two systems”, under which both Beijing and Taipei agree that Taiwan belongs to China, while the two still disagree on which entity is China’s legitimate governing body.
  • China also stated its right to use “non-peaceful means” against Taiwan if it tried to secede from China.

-Source: The Hindu


Russia is helping build nuclear plants in China

Context:

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping hailed close ties between their countries as they launched via videoconference work on Russian-built nuclear power plants in China.
  • They initiated work on pouring concrete into new units of the Tianwan and Xudabao nuclear power plants.

Relevance:

GS-II: International Relations (India’s neighbors, Foreign Policies and interventions affecting India’s policies)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Columns of the China – Russia partnership
  2. Advantage for China in trade
  3. Significance of Russia-China ties and RIC to India
  4. Russia-India-China Grouping (RIC)

Columns of the China – Russia partnership

  • The three pillars on which the Sino-Russian partnership currently rests are a peaceful boundary, expanding trade and a shared distrust of American intentions.
  • Western sanctions have tended to push the Russians closer to China.
  • Falling oil prices and fears of new sanctions on Russian gas supplies (Nord Stream 2) are demolishing the core of Russian exports to Europe, thus compelling them to depend to an even greater degree on the Chinese.
  • After the western sanctions, China-Russia trade has more than doubled to $108 billion and China has surpassed Germany as the principal supplier of industrial plant and technology.
  • Coordinated action in multilateral forums, increasingly sophisticated joint military exercises, and including activities with third countries such as Iran, reinforce western beliefs about it morphing into an alliance.

China’s rise, Russia’s unease

  • Mr. Xi’s talk of “rejuvenation of the Chinese Nation” has raised fears about Chinese revanchism.
  • Add to this the Russian concerns over Chinese migration in the Russian Far East, and it would not be improper to surmise that policymakers in Moscow must be concerned about the possibility of China becoming a threat Russia’s territorial integrity.

Advantage for China in trade

  • As for the economic pillar, while Russia presently enjoys a nominal trade surplus, going beyond gross trade to value-added trade, China has a clear advantage going forward.
  • Most of its exports to Russia are now at a higher technology level while the share of labour-intensive goods has declined.
  • At the other end of the spectrum, Russian exports have continued to focus on raw materials, especially oil and gas.
  • Despite Chinese promises, the investment relationship remains subdued except where it has suited China’s core energy interests.
  • Russia remains wary about allowing any dominating role for China in oil and gas.
  • As for their shared dislike of Washington, each still hopes to repair ties and, therefore, neither trusts the other fully with respect to the third leg of the strategic triangle.

Significance of Russia-China ties and RIC to India

  • India is in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which is driven by Russia and China and includes four Central Asian countries.
  • Pakistan’s membership of SCO and the potential admission of Iran and Afghanistan (as member states) heighten the significance of the SCO for India.
  • Growing Chinese influence is testing the informal Russia-China understanding that Russia handles the politico-security issues in the region and China extends economic support.
  • The ongoing India-Iran-Russia project for a sea/road/rail link from western India through Iran to Afghanistan and Central Asia, is an important initiative for achieving an effective Indian presence in Central Asia, alongside Russia and China.
  • Access to Russia’s abundant natural resources can enhance our materials security — the importance of which has been highlighted by COVID-19.

Russia-India-China Grouping (RIC)

  • Russia-India-China (RIC) is a strategic grouping that first took shape in the late 1990s under the leadership of Russia as “a counterbalance to the Western alliance.”
  • The group was founded on the basis of ending its subservient foreign policy guided by the USA and renewing old ties with India and fostering the newly discovered friendship with China.
  • Together, the RIC countries occupy over 19% of the global landmass and contribute to over 33% of global GDP.
  • Even though India, China and Russia may disagree on a number of security issues in Eurasia, there are areas where their interests converge, like, for instance, on Afghanistan. RIC can ensure stable peace in Afghanistan and by extension, in Central Asia.

-Source: The Hindu

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