- Foreign Secretary on medical support & ‘Vaccine Maitri’
- EU Parliament approves post-Brexit trade treaty
- China launches “Tianhe” module for its space station
- Fires rage on in Mizoram’s Lawngtlai
- India’s Foreign Secretary said that Medical and oxygen-related support is being worked out from at least 40 countries that will send items to help India deal with the pandemic’s second wave.
- India is unlikely to resume its Vaccine Maitri programme for the neighbourhood, including Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka, until at least July 2021, given the sudden crunch in the availability of vaccines amidst a surge in COVID-19 cases, and the government’s plan for universal vaccination set to start on May 1.
GS-II: International Relations (India’s Neighbors, Foreign Policies and development affecting India’s Interests)
Dimensions of the Article:
- What is Vaccine Maitri?
- About the support to India from Foreign Countries
What is Vaccine Maitri?
- India commenced its vaccine diplomacy (use of vaccines to increase a country’s diplomatic relationship with other countries) with the name “Vaccine Maitri” under its Neighborhood First policy.
- Under Vaccine Maitri – India will supply Covid-19 vaccines which are Made in India to its neighboring and key partner countries under its Neighborhood First policy.
- Bhutan and Maldives were set to be the first to get the vaccines followed by Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and Seychelles.
- Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Mauritius were also targeted for supplying vaccines following their necessary regulatory approvals.
- Pakistan was the only neighboring country which was not named to get the vaccine.
Earlier Diplomacy measures by India:
- India had earlier supplied Hydroxychloroquine, Remdesivir and Paracetamol tablets as well as diagnostic kits, ventilators, masks, gloves and other medical supplies to a large number of countries during the pandemic.
- Under the Partnerships for Accelerating Clinical Trials (PACT) programme, India has also provided training to several neighboring countries to enhance and strengthen their clinical capabilities. PACT programme implemented by Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) and Clinical Development Services Agency (CDSA) under the aegis of the National Biopharma Mission and Ind-CEPI Mission of DBT, had been launched for supporting COVID-19 vaccine development activities in partnering countries.
About the support to India from Foreign Countries
- The capacity-boosting supplies are expected to arrive in the coming days from Egypt, Uzbekistan, Bangladesh, apart from the big powers like Russia, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia.
- India has got commitment of assistance from Europe, Gulf region and even further parts of the world, Australia, New Zealand and countries like Guyana which are located geographically further away.
- Around over 550 oxygen generating plants being sourced from governments, community groups, corporates and private individuals are being brought.
- While the large-scale support from the big powers is being flown in, important assistance is on the way also from the developing countries.
- The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh has announced 10,000 anti-viral vials, 30,000 PPE kits, and several thousand zinc, calcium, vitamin C and other necessary tablets that will be sent to India in the coming days.
- From Egypt, Gilead Sciences has committed 4,50,000 doses of remdesivir to India.
- A special cargo for medical aid including 157 ventilators, 480 BiPAPs and other medical supplies arrived from the UAE recently as well.
- Three oxygen generation units will be sent from surplus stocks in Northern Ireland.
-Source: The Hindu
European lawmakers have approved the final ratification of the post-Brexit trade deal between the European Union and the United Kingdom, nearly five years after Britain decided to leave the bloc.
GS-II: International Relations (Foreign Policies and development affecting India’s Interests)
Dimensions of the Article:
- About the recent developments regarding Brexit
- What is Brexit?
- Reasons of growing relationship between India and EU
- Impact of Brexit
About the recent developments regarding Brexit
- The EU–UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) is a free trade agreement signed in December 2020, between the EU, the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) and the United Kingdom (UK).
- The deal was ratified nearly five years after Britain decided to leave the European Union. It has already been ratified by the UK Parliament.
About the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) for Brexit
- This Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) deal was provisionally enacted in January 2020 in order to minimize trade disruptions between the EU and the UK.
- Provisional approval was set to expire on 30th April 2021, so the European Parliament’s ratification ensures that the flow of trade between the EU and the UK will continue uninterrupted.
- It essentially means that in order to trade with the EU’s single market, the UK will have to follow the same rules and regulations to ensure that it does not have an unfair advantage over other EU businesses.
- The agreement gives free access to EU fleets to fish in UK waters, including up to six miles off the shoreline for a five-year transition period. At the end of the transition, everything will return to normal arrangements and the UK will have full control over its waters.
- It also provides for a framework governing law enforcement matters, which will allow UK and EU policing agencies to coordinate in the future.
- Agreement addresses other key aspects of international trade, including intellectual property protections and road transportation provisions.
What is Brexit?
- It is an abbreviation for the term “British exit”, similar to “Grexit” that was used for many years to refer to the possibility of Greece leaving the Eurozone. Brexit refers to the possibility of Britain withdrawing from the European Union (EU).
Understanding the United Kingdom (UK) and the European Union (EU)
- The United Kingdom is an island nation in northwestern Europe.
- It is made up of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
- The United Kingdom borders one European Union member state: Ireland.
- Relations between the EU and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (UK) date back to the foundation of the European Communities (EU predecessor) in 1957.
- The UK was a member state of the European Union after joining it in 1973, until it became the first country to voluntarily end its membership on 31st January 2020 after a referendum was held in 2016.
Reasons of growing relationship between India and EU
- Changing Geopolitical developments: As highlighted by EU strategy on India, released in 2018, EU sees EU-India relations in the context of broader geopolitical developments, primarily the rise of China. Impact of China in Europe and Asia (e.g. Belt and Road initiative) has pushed EU to change the nature of its partnerships in the region, particularly with India.
- Convergence of interests in the Indian Ocean as the Indian Ocean is the main conduit for global trade and energy flows. India, EU see each other as partners in securing the Indian Ocean by strengthening institutions, rule of law, and a regional security architecture.
- Retreat of the U.S. from global leadership and uncertainty of US policy under Trump has provided opportunities for EU- India cooperation and trilateral dialogues with countries in the Middle Fast, Central Asia and Africa.
- Strategic rivalry between the US and China: Both EU and India have a common interest in avoiding a bipolarized world and sustaining a rules-based multilateral trading system with the United Nations and the World Trade Organization at its core.
- Green governance: After the US exit from the Paris climate agreement, India and the EU stand to gain from a joint leadership on global governance matters such as climate change, clean energy or circular economy.
- New emerging world order after COVID-19: As EU seeks to move away from a global supply chain that is overly dependent on China, India can emerge as its most natural ally.
Impact of Brexit
- Free Trade Agreement (FTA): India may start talks on free trade deals with Britain, EU after Brexit. EU and India have been negotiating a FTA since 2007. Despite growing trade between the EU and India, talks stalled in 2013, only resuming in 2018. Potential sectors to benefit from an FTA between the UK and Indian include textile, machinery, engineering goods, information technology and banking.
- Demand for Indian Labour: India’s high proportion of skilled working-age population and high growth rate will be of particular interest for the UK.
- Service sector: India which is laying greater emphasis on innovation and high-end works could emerge as a major source of high-tech exports for the UK.
- Easy market access: India is the major Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) source for the UK because many Indian firms have used it as a gateway to Europe. With the UK moving out of EU, it might offer more incentives such as tax breaks, easy regulations and opening up markets to Indian firms to keep them attracted.
- Cheaper imports: The UK’s currency is expected to remain weaker, so it would be less expensive for Indian firms to import from their subsidiaries in the UK.
On World Economy
- Uncertainty: Its global implications are harder to predict and may differ for different regions. It could also lead to a setback for free trade and globalisation.
- Flight to safety: Investors may start selling riskier assets such as stocks and seeking safety in government bonds.
-Source: The Hindu
China launched an unmanned module containing what will become living quarters for three crew on a permanent space station that it plans to complete by the end of 2022.
GS-III: Science and Technology (Space technology, Developments in Science and Technology), Prelims
Dimensions of the Article:
- About China’s Tiangong Space Station
- About Tianhe
About China’s Tiangong Space Station
- The Tiangong Space Station or Chinese large modular space station is a planned space station to be placed in low Earth orbit between 340 and 450 km above the surface.
- The Chinese Space Station will be roughly one-fifth the mass of the International Space Station and about the size of the decommissioned Russian Mir space station.
- Operations will be controlled from the Beijing Aerospace Command and Control Center in China.
- The Tiangong-3 will be a third generation, modular space station.
Understanding the Generations of space stations
- First generation space stations, such as early Salyut, Almaz, and Skylab, were single piece stations and not designed for resupply.
- Second generation Salyut 6 and 7, and Tiangong 1 and 2 stations, are designed for mid-mission resupply.
- Third generation stations such as Mir, the International Space Station, are modular space stations, assembled on-orbit from pieces launched separately. Modularised design methods can greatly improve reliability, reduce costs, shorten development cycle, and meet diversified task requirements.
- The module, named “Tianhe”, or “Harmony of the Heavens”, was launched on the Long March 5B, China’s largest carrier rocket from the Wenchang Space Launch Centre on the southern island of Hainan.
- Tianhe is one of three main components of what would be China’s first self-developed space station, rivalling the only other station in service – the International Space Station (ISS).
- Tianhe forms the main living quarters for three crew members in the Chinese space station, which will have a life span of at least 10 years.
- The Tianhe launch was the first of 11 missions needed to complete the space station, which will orbit Earth at an altitude of 340 to 450 km (211-280 miles).
- In the later missions, China will launch the two other core modules, four manned spacecraft and four cargo spacecraft.
- Work on the space station programme began a decade ago with the launch of a space lab Tiangong-1 in 2011, and later, Tiangong-2 in 2016.
-Source: The Hindu
Recently, Mizoram Minister of State (Forest and Environment) said that fires were raging in some parts of Mizoram’s Lawngtlai district though they were almost under control in Lunglei, Serchhip and Hnahthial districts.
GS-III: Disaster Management (Forest Fires)
Dimensions of the Article:
- Forest Survey of India (FSI) report on Forest Fires in India
- Causes of Forest Fires
- India’s Initiatives to Tackle Forest Fires
- About the Mizoram Forest Fires
Forest Survey of India (FSI) report on Forest Fires in India
- More than 5000 forest fires were recorded in Odisha between February & March 1, 2021 — the highest in the country for the same period.
- Collection of mahua flowers and kendu leaves, practice of shifting cultivation and grazing in forest areas are some of the reasons for forest fires in Odisha.
- Telangana recorded the second-highest fires in the country during the same period, followed by Madhya Pradesh (both Telangana and MP with over 1500 fires) and Andhra Pradesh (almost 1300 fires), according to FSI data.
Causes of Forest Fires
Forest fires are caused by Natural causes as well as Man-made or anthropogenic causes.
- Natural causes such as lightning which set trees on fire. High atmospheric temperatures and low humidity offer favourable circumstance for a fire to start.
- Man-made causes like flame, cigarette, electric spark or any source of ignition will also cause forest fires.
- Traditionally Indian forests have been affected by fires. The problem has been aggravated with rising human and cattle population and the increase in demand for grazing, shifting cultivation and Forest products by individuals and communities.
- High temperature, wind speed and direction, level of moisture in soil and atmosphere and duration of dry spells can intensify the forest fires.
India’s Initiatives to Tackle Forest Fires
- National Action Plan on Forest Fires (NAPFF) was launched in 2018 to minimise forest fires by informing, enabling and empowering forest fringe communities and incentivising them to work with the State Forest Departments.
- The Forest Fire Prevention and Management Scheme (FPM) is the only centrally funded program specifically dedicated to assist the states in dealing with forest fires.
About the Mizoram Forest Fires
- The fire first broke out at the Saisih forest area on the outskirts of Lunglei town and spread to the town.
- The fire had been mainly concentrated in uninhabited forest areas surrounding Lunglei town and had spread to many village council areas – hence, no human casualty has been reported so far due to the fire.
- Some of the suspected causes of the fire, according to the Mizoram Minister of State, could be the long dry season due to less rainfall, jhum (shifting) cultivation and possibility of human activity.
- The fire in the worst-affected Lunglei district in southern Mizoram has been under control due to the continuous efforts of the locals along with assistance from Indian Air force (IAF) helicopters, personnel from the paramilitary Assam Rifles and Border Security Force as well as state firemen.
- Most of the forest fires reported in Mizoram every year occurred in the month of March in 2021 according to the Fire & Emergency Services department records.
-Source: Down to Earth Magazine