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Current Affairs for UPSC IAS Exam – 20 October 2021 | Legacy IAS Academy

Contents

  1. India, Israel, UAE, U.S. decide to launch Quad
  2. Global Food Security index 2021
  3. PM’s 60-point action plan
  4. EU food recall linked to India’s GM rice exports

India, Israel, UAE, U.S. decide to launch Quad

Context:

India, Israel, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the United States decided to launch a new quadrilateral economic forum.

Relevance:

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

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Details about the new Quad – India, Israel, UAE and U.S.
  2. Importance of the new Quad for India
  3. Abraham Accords

Details about the new Quad – India, Israel, UAE and U.S.

  • The quadrilateral builds on ongoing cooperation between the U.S., Israel and the UAE after the Abraham Accords in 2020, and the India, Israel and UAE cooperation that was subsequently launched. Through this process, the Israeli government normalised relations with Morocco, Sudan and Bahrain.
  • The grouping has decided to establish an international forum for economic cooperation, and specifically discussed possibilities for joint infrastructure projects.
  • The newly announced quadrilateral meeting between India, Israel, the UAE and the U.S. is a forum for economic cooperation for the moment.
  • Deepening of maritime cooperation, enhancing connectivity, transport and digital infrastructure topped the agenda of discussion.
  • The ministers discussed expanding economic and political cooperation in the Middle East and Asia, including through trade, combating climate change, energy cooperation, increasing maritime security and ways to counter the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • However, the quadrilateral meeting did not discuss the issue of Palestine and resuming the “Middle East peace process”, although the Joe Biden administration has expressed support for a “two-state solution”, that is in line with India’s broader position.

Significance of the new Quad for India

Allow for a regional foreign policy:

  • The new grouping would allow India to adopt a regional foreign policy strategy towards West Asia, transcending its traditional approach of bilateralism wherein India had sought to build separate vibrant bilateral ties with the countries in the grouping.
  • As in the Indo-Pacific, so in the Middle East, regional coalitions are bound to widen Delhi’s reach and deepen its impact.

Strategic significance of the grouping:

  • The strategic significance of the new grouping should not be missed out given that it excludes countries like China which has been seeking to deepen its influence in the region and has been trying to woo Israel and UAE even as the U.S. has sought to play only a limited role in the region.

Significance of the relationship with the members:

  • India has been exhibiting a great degree of strategic alignment with the U.S. They form part of the Quad grouping with Australia and Japan, which have common concerns and shared interests on East Asia.
  • Israel is one of India’s top defence suppliers and it has been open to sharing critical weapon systems with India. This becomes critical given the security situation along India’s borders. Also, Israel with its technological advancement in areas such as agriculture and water management could offer India the much needed technical know-how in these sectors.
  • The UAE is vital for India’s energy security given the fact that it accounts for a large share of fossil fuels supplies to India. UAE also hosts a substantial number of Indian diaspora and contributes to inward remittances into India. Given that UAE enjoys strategic influence in the region and beyond including in countries like Pakistan, it could offer India some leverage while dealing with Pakistan.

Potential benefits:

  • The new grouping’s engagement in the areas of trade, energy, climate action and maritime security could yield rich dividends for member countries like India and also benefit the region.
  • Combining India’s scale with Israeli innovation and Emirati capital could produce immense benefits to all three countries. Adding American strategic support to this would see a powerful dynamic unfolding in the region.

Abraham Accords

  • Abraham Accords are a joint statement between Israel, the US and the UAE. It was signed on August 13, 2020.
  • The term was also used to refer to normalisation agreements between Israel & UAE and Israel & Bahrain collectively.
  • It is the first public normalization of relations between any Arab country and Israel since 1994.
  • The accords have been named after Abraham, emphasizing the shared belief between Judaism and Islam. Both of them are Abrahamic religions which strictly support monotheistic worship of the God of Abraham.

-Source: The Hindu

 


Global Food Security index 2021

Context:

Global Food Security (GFS) Index 2021 of 113 countries – a global report was released by Economist Impact and Corteva Agriscience.

Relevance:

GS-II: Social Justice and Governance (Issues related to Hunger and Poverty, Government Policies and Interventions), GS-III: Agriculture (Food Security, Types of Resources)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About the Global Food Security (GFS) Index 2021
  2. Highlights of the Global Food Security (GFS) Index 2021
  3. Back to Basics: What is Food Security?

About the Global Food Security (GFS) Index 2021

  • The Global Food Security Index 2021 is the 10th edition that looks back over the past 10 years of data to assess the action towards the UN Sustainable Development Goal of Zero Hunger by 2030.
  • The GFS Index was designed and constructed by London-based Economist Impact and is sponsored by Corteva Agriscience.
  • The Economist Impact defines the Global Food Security Index (GFSI) as a model that indexes the core issues of food affordability, availability, quality and safety, and natural resources and resilience across a set of 113 countries.
  • The GFSI has been built has a dynamic quantitative and qualitative benchmarking model using 58 unique indicators that measure food security across both developed and developing countries.
  • The GFSI aims to provide insight to enable action to fill systematic gaps and accelerate progress towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of Zero Hunger by 2030.

Highlights of the Global Food Security (GFS) Index 2021

  • Ireland, Australia, the UK, Finland, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Canada, Japan, France and the US shared the top rank with the overall GFS score in the rangeh of 77.8 and 80 points on the index.
  • India is ranked at 71st position of 113 countries – faring better than Pakistan (75th position), Sri Lanka (77th Position), Nepal (79th position) and Bangladesh (84th position), however, India is way behind China (34th position).
  • But India lags behind its neighbours Pakistan and Sri Lanka in terms food affordability – Pakistan (with 52.6 points) scored better than India (50.2 points) in the category of food affordability. Sri Lanka was even better with 62.9 points in this category on the GFS Index 2021.
  • Also, over the past 10 years, India’s incremental gains in overall food security score were lagging behind that of Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh.

Back to Basics: What is Food Security?

Food security, as defined by the United Nations’ Committee on World Food Security, means that all people, at all times, have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets their food preferences and dietary needs for an active and healthy life.

Implications of Covid-19 on the six dimensions of food security

The dynamics outlined above affect food security and nutrition in complex ways. The HLPE Global Narrative report highlights six dimensions of food security, proposing to add agency and sustainability as key dimensions alongside the four traditional “pillars” of food availability, access, stability and utilization.

  1. Availability: While world grain stocks were relatively high at the start of the pandemic and remain strong, this global situation masks local variability and could shift over time. Grain production in high-income countries tends to be highly mechanized and requires little labour, making it less vulnerable to disease outbreaks among farm workers.
  2. Access: More than any other dimension of food security, food access has arguably been the most affected by the COVID-19 crisis. The global economic recession triggered by lockdowns has had a very negative impact on people’s ability to access food.
  3. Utilization: Utilization and nutrition have been affected by the pandemic in important ways. Good nutrition is essential for supporting the human immune system and reducing the risk of infections. However, as people’s ability to access food diminished in the crisis, this had a negative impact on their ability to afford a healthy diet.
  4. Stability: The severe disruptions to food supply chains noted above are affecting the stability of global food supply and access (Bene, 2020). The export restrictions placed on staples like wheat and rice led to higher world prices for those crops, compared to prices for other foods, which generally fell.
  5. Agency: The most marginalized food system participants—including food producers and food system workers—have had little agency as the crisis has unfolded. As outlined above, food system producers and workers have been on the front lines and have suffered higher rates of disease and are affected by supply chain disruptions the most.
  6. Sustainability: The pandemic is intertwined with the sustainability dimension of food security in complex ways. The expansion of industrial agriculture is associated with a rising prevalence of zoonoses—diseases that transmit from animals to humans—of which COVID-19 is a prime example.

-Source: The Hindu


PM’s 60-point action plan

Context:

The Prime Minister announced the 60-point action plan  targeted at specific ministries and departments, but a closer analysis suggests they fall under broadly three buckets: leveraging IT and technology for governance, improving business climate, and upgrading the civil services.

Relevance:

GS-II: Governance (Government Policies & Interventions)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Highlights of the 60-point action plan

Highlights of the 60-point action plan

Civil Services

  • Capacity building (Mission Karamyogi) – training of officers on various aspects of infrastructure in both the Centre and states, infusion of expertise and exposure to latest technologies for higher civil services.
  • Performance-based working, clear and specific targets for ministries and departments just like that for public sector undertakings, institutional mechanisms for addressing issues of states given their limited capacities and restructuring of departments through Government Process Re-engineering (GPR) every 10 years.
  • Appointment of more Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and Chief Technology Officers (CTOs) as data is not being used efficiently. All government data should be made accessible to all ministries.

Business Climate

  • The plan for Business Climate includes doing away completely with certain permissions, reducing the cost of starting a business in 10 sectors and bringing it on a par with Vietnam and Indonesia, automatic notification of clearances, single-point access to all government services.
  • Incentives to states for timely land acquisition and forest clearances, one comprehensive Environment Management Act that subsumes various laws in the sector.
  • Using Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping for decision making to increase the country’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product).
  • Mentoring platform for start-ups and skilling programmes for emerging sectors. Pushing for jobs while negotiating trade pacts.

IT

  • There are several actionable inputs for the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology from streamlining disbursement of scholarships to bridging digital divide for underprivileged students by developing indigenous tablets and laptops.
  • Digitising all land records by 2023 under the central database called ‘Matribhumi.’ Integration with e-Courts system will provide transparency on title/possession related issues.
  • Citizenship may be linked to birth certificates through technology and mainstreamed.

Miscellaneous

  • NITI Aayog has also been asked to target poverty eradication within five years.
  • Asks the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs to ab initio plan residential facilities for service staff engaged in construction to prevent formation of slums.
  • Using Aadhaar for “bringing together beneficiary oriented schemes of different ministries” and also adds that a ‘family database design’ has been developed by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment and “may be promoted like Aadhaar.”
  • Directs the culture and tourism ministries to identify and develop 100-200 iconic structures and sites.
  • “Centres of excellence” may be set up in rural areas through PPP (Public Private Partnership), taking a cue from such centres in Singapore.

-Source: The Hindu


EU food recall linked to India’s GM rice exports

Context:

One of the leading manufacturers of cf

hocolate & mints in Europe, has alleged that one of its ingredients – rice flour was contaminated with genetically modified (GM) rice that originated in India.

France issued a notification for unauthorised genetically modified rice flour, identifying India as the point of origin.

Relevance:

GS-III: Science and Technology, GS-II: Social Justice and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. India’s Rice Exports
  2. What is Golden rice?
  3. India’s Stance on EU’s allegations of GM rice

India’s Rice Exports

  • India emerged the world’s largest rice exporter in 2011-12, displacing Thailand from its leadership position.
  • As opposed to exports of around 1,00,000 tons of non-basmati rice in 2010-11, exports soared to 4 million tons in 2011-12.
  • Exports of basmati rice in those two years stood at 2.3 and 3.2 million tons respectively.
  • The continuous increase in exports of non-basmati varieties since then, to 8.2 million tons in 2014-15.
  • After a fall to 6.4 million tons in the subsequent year, a rise again to 8.6 million tons in 2017-18.
  • The consequent increase in domestic prices obviously reduced the incentive to sell in export markets rather than to the government or in the local market.
  • India was a major beneficiary, recording a sharp increase in exports of non-basmati varieties.
  • India’s share in world exports in recent years (2014-18) has stayed at 25-26 per cent, Thailand’s has fluctuated between 22 and 25 per cent, and Vietnam’s between 13 and 16 per cent.

What is Golden rice?

  • Golden rice is a genetically modified, biofortified crop. Golden rice is a variety of rice produced through genetic engineering to biosynthesize beta-carotene, a precursor of vitamin A, in the edible parts of rice.
  • It is intended to produce a fortified food to be grown and consumed in areas with a shortage of dietary vitamin A.
  • Lack of vitamin A is a leading cause of childhood blindness and can also make children more susceptible to death from other illness like measles.

India’s Stance on EU’s allegations of GM rice

  • Commerce Ministry has pointed out that GM rice is not grown commercially in India, let alone exported.
  • It has promised a thorough enquiry by its agricultural exports authority.
  • It has said that APEDA is collecting all the details and will enquire every aspect of it thoroughly with the technical and scientific institutions like GEAC and the strictest form of action will be taken accordingly.
  • In 2007, when there was widespread concern about GM rice trials and the possibility of cross-contamination, the All India Rice Exporters Association took up the issue with the Department of Biotechnology and the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee.
  • A policy decision was taken that field trials would not be allowed in the basmati belt, because of worries that the export crop could be affected.
  • India’s Basmati belt includes Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and (western) Uttar Pradesh.

Concerns

  • Worried farmers’ groups and environmental activists have noted that multiple GM rice varieties had been approved for confined field trials, and warned that any cross-contamination could dampen the country’s agricultural export ambitions.
  • The issue with GM field trials is that once they take place, they can contaminate crops long after the actual trials either directly or through seed leakages.

-Source: The Hindu

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