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Current Affairs for UPSC IAS Exam – 30 July 2021 | Legacy IAS Academy

Contents

  1. U.S. Navy ships in Taiwan Strait pose threat: China
  2. China for a larger role in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan
  3. BCG vaccine against TB: 100 years and counting

U.S. Navy ships in Taiwan Strait pose threat: China

Context:

China’s Defence Ministry protested the passage of a U.S. Navy warship and Coast Guard cutter through the waters between China and Taiwan, a self-governing island claimed by China.

In a move that could have ramifications for the free passage of both military and commercial vessels in the South China Sea, Chinese authorities said that they will require a range of vessels “to report their information” when passing through what China sees as its “territorial waters”, starting from September 1, 2021.

Relevance:

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

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About China’s order on foreign vessels to report in ‘territorial waters’
  2. Significance of South China Sea as a Geopolitical Water Body
  3. The Precarious Triangle: China, Taiwan, and United States
  4. Freedom of Navigation 
  5. US and Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOPS)
  6. United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)

About China’s order on foreign vessels to report in ‘territorial waters’

  • Chinese authorities said that they will require a range of vessels “to report their information” when passing through what China sees as its “territorial waters.
  • While it remains unclear how, whether, and where China plans to enforce this new regulation, China sees these regulations as a sign of stepped-up efforts to safeguard China’s national security at sea.
  • Maritime Safety Administration of China “has the power to dispel or reject a vessel’s entry to Chinese waters if the vessel is found to pose threat to China’s national security.”

Nine-Dash Line Claim

  • China claims under a so-called “nine dash line” on its maps most of the South China Sea’s waters, which are disputed by several other countries, including the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia. Indian officials say Beijing has generally only sought to enforce its claims in response to the passage of foreign military vessels not in the entire sea but in the territorial waters around the islands, reefs and other features, some artificially constructed, that China claims.
  • The “nine dash line” is deemed by most countries as being inconsistent with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which only gives states the right to establish a territorial sea up to 12 nautical miles. The requirements of the latest notice will also be seen as being inconsistent with UNCLOS, which states that ships of all countries “enjoy the right of innocent passage through the territorial sea”.

Significance of South China Sea as a Geopolitical Water Body

  • The South China Sea (SCS) is the connecting link between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. (Strait of Malacca)
  • The South China Sea is a busy international waterway, one of the main arteries of global trade worth more than $5 trillion and is growing year on year. According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) one-third of the global shipping passes through it.
  • Over 55% of India’s trade pass through its waters and the Malacca Straits, according to estimates by India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA). 
  • South China Sea has one-third of the entire world’s marine biodiversity and has significant fisheries as a huge contributor to food security in the region.
  • Oil and gas reserves beneath the South China Sea are also believed to exist
  • It is a rich source of hydrocarbons and natural resources.
  • It contains numerous shoals, reefs, atolls and islands. The Paracel Islands, the Spratly Islands and the Scarborough Shoal are the most important.

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”.

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.

-Source: The Hindu


China for a larger role in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan

Context:

Following the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan, China has emerged as one of the first nations to develop diplomatic channels with the Taliban. 

China has over the past two decades of US-led governance of Afghanistan, maintained a low profile, quietly observing as the longest war in history raged on taking its toll in terms of both resources and lives.

Relevance:

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

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is China’s economic interest in Afghanistan?
  2. China’s Security Interest in Afghanistan
  3. India’s Interests in Afghanistan
  4. Impact of China-Taliban Engagement on India

What is China’s economic interest in Afghanistan?

  • Afghanistan is sitting on mineral deposits estimated to be worth up to $3 trillion according to a a former mines minister of Afghanistan.
  • The country is probably home to what may be the world’s largest reserves of lithium – the key ingredient of the large-capacity lithium-ion batteries. Since, China dominates Lithium-Ion Battery Production worldwide, it may seek long-term a contract with the Taliban to develop Afghanistan’s massive untapped lithium reserves in return for mining rights and ownership arrangements.
  • Afghanistan is also rich in several other resources such as gold, oil, bauxite, rare earths, chromium, copper, natural gas, uranium, coal, iron ore, lead, zinc, gemstones, talc, sulphur, travertine, gypsum and marble.
  • China’s Belt and Road Initiative: China’s strategic Belt-and-Road Initiative (BRI) could get more reach if it able to extend the initiative from Pakistan to Afghanistan, with a Peshawar-to-Kabul motorway. The road, which is already being discussed, would create a much shorter land route for faster and convenient access to markets in the Middle East for Chinese goods. A new route through Kabul would also render India’s reluctance to join BRI less consequential.

China’s Security Interest in Afghanistan

  • According to the UN security council, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) had roots in Afghanistan as it received support from the Taliban and Al Qaeda in the 2000s.
  • ETIM is an Uyghur Islamic extremist organisation founded in Western China with the aim to establish an independent state called East Turkestan in the place of Xinjiang.
  • Thus, ETIM poses a direct threat to China’s national security and territorial integrity.
  • China is worried that Afghanistan could become a potential haven for the Uyghur extremist group, which could retaliate against the widespread repression of Uyghurs.

India’s Interests in Afghanistan

  • Economic and Strategic Interest: Afghanistan is a gateway to the oil and mineral-rich Central Asian republics.
  • Afghanistan’s main advantage is its geography, as anyone who is in power in Afghanistan controls the land routes connecting India with Central Asia (via Afghanistan).
  • Developmental Projects: The massive reconstruction plans for the country to offer a lot of opportunities for Indian companies.
  • Three major projects: the Afghan Parliament, the Zaranj-Delaram Highway, and the Afghanistan-India Friendship Dam (Salma Dam), along with India’s assistance of more than $3 billion in projects, hundreds of small development projects (of schools, hospitals and water projects) have cemented India’s position in Afghanistan.
  • Security Interest: India has been the victim of state-sponsored terrorism emanating from Pakistan supported terrorist group operating in the region (e,g. Haqqani network).

Impact of China-Taliban Engagement on India

  • A new route of BRI through Kabul would render India’s reluctance to join BRI less consequential.
  • With China-Taliban engagement, there can be formation of a new regional geopolitical axis between China-Pakistan-Taliban, which may go against the interests of India.
  • China’s stronghold in Afghanistan will also hamper connectivity projects to Central Asia via Afghanistan. For example, Chabahar Port, International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC), TAPI Pipeline.

-Source: Indian Express


BCG vaccine against TB: 100 years and counting

Context:

The Bacillus Calmette–Guérin (BCG) vaccine has been used since 1921 to prevent tuberculosis (TB) and 2021 marks 100 years of BCG.

Relevance:

Prelims, GS-III: Science and Technology, GS-II: Social Justice (Issues related to Health, Government Policies and Initiatives)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is BCG Vaccine?
  2. What is Tuberculosis?
  3. Achievements highlighted in the Annual TB Report
  4. BCG Vaccine for TB
  5. Nikshay Poshan Yojana (NPY)

What is BCG Vaccine?

  • Bacillus Calmette–Guérin (BCG) vaccine is a vaccine primarily used against tuberculosis (TB).
  • In countries where tuberculosis or leprosy is common, one dose is recommended in healthy babies as close to the time of birth as possible.
  • In areas where tuberculosis is not common, only children at high risk are typically immunized, while suspected cases of tuberculosis are individually tested for and treated.
  • Adults who do not have tuberculosis and have not been previously immunized but are frequently exposed may be immunized as well.
  • BCG also has some effectiveness against Buruli ulcer infection and other nontuberculous mycobacteria infections.
  • Additionally it is sometimes used as part of the treatment of bladder cancer.
  • India and Pakistan introduced BCG mass immunization in 1948, the first countries outside Europe to do so.

What is Tuberculosis?

  • Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease usually caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) bacteria belonging to the Mycobacteriaceae family consisting of about 200 members.
  • Most infections do not have symptoms, in which case it is known as latent tuberculosis.
  • The bacteria that cause TB are spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
  • In 15–20% of active cases, the infection spreads outside the lungs, causing other kinds of TB.
  • TB is a very ancient disease and has been documented to have existed in Egypt as early as 3000 BC.
  • In humans, TB most commonly affects the lungs (pulmonary TB), but it can also affect other organs (extra-pulmonary TB).
  • Other historically dreaded diseases like smallpox, leprosy, plague and cholera have been either eradicated or controlled to a large extent due to advances in science and technology.
  • However, TB continues to be a major public health problem in the world.
  • According to the WHO’s Global TB Report, 10 million people developed TB in 2019 with 1.4 million deaths. India accounts for 27% of these cases.

Achievements highlighted in the Annual TB Report

  • 2019 has amounted to a 14% increase in TB notification as compared to the year 2018.
  • A near-complete on-line notification of TB patients through the NIKSHAY system has been achieved.
  • Reduction in the number of missing cases to 2.9 lakh cases as against more than 10 lakhs in 2017 has been achieved.
  • Expansion of treatment services has resulted in a 12% improvement in the treatment success rate of notified patients.
  • NIKSHAY also expanded the provision of four Direct Benefit Transfers (DBT) schemes of the programme –
    1. Nikshay Poshan Yojana (NPY) to TB patients
    2. The incentive to Treatment Supporters
    3. Incentive to Private Providers and
    4. Transport incentive to TB patients in the notified tribal areas

Other Details

  • Revised National Tuberculosis Control Program (RNTCP) has been renamed to National Tuberculosis Elimination Program (NTEP).
  • India is committed to achieving the SDG goal of eliminating TB in the country by 2025, five years ahead of the Global Target at 2030.
  • The salient feature of this year is that for the first time Central TB Division (CTD) introduced a quarterly ranking on TB elimination efforts by all the states and UTs.

BCG Vaccine for TB

  • BCG was developed by two Frenchmen, Albert Calmette and Camille Guerin, by modifying a strain of Mycobacterium bovis (that causes TB in cattle) till it lost its capacity to cause disease while retaining its property to stimulate the immune system.
  • It was first used in humans in 1921.
  • Currently, BCG is the only licensed vaccine available for the prevention of TB.
  • It is the world’s most widely used vaccine with about 120 million doses every year and has an excellent safety record.
  • In India, BCG was first introduced in a limited scale in 1948 and became a part of the National TB Control Programme in 1962.
  • India is committed to eliminate TB as a public health problem by 2025.

Effectiveness of BCG

  • One intriguing fact about BCG is that it works well in some geographic locations and not so well in others.
  • Generally, the farther a country is from the equator, the higher is the efficacy.
  • In children, BCG provides strong protection against severe forms of TB.
  • This protective effect appears to wane with age and is far more variable in adolescents and adults, ranging from 0–80%.
  • In addition to its primary use as a vaccine against TB, BCG also protects against respiratory and bacterial infections of the newborns and other mycobacterial diseases like leprosy and Buruli’s ulcer.
  • It is also used as an immunotherapy agent in cancer of the urinary bladder and malignant melanoma.

Nikshay Poshan Yojana (NPY)

  • Nikshay Poshan Yojana (NPY) is a direct benefit transfer (DBT) scheme for nutritional support to Tuberculosis (TB) patients rolled out by Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
  • The scheme is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme under National Health Mission (NHM).
  • This scheme is implemented across all States and UTs in India.
  • All TB patients, including all existing TB patients under treatment are eligible to receive incentives.

Note: The scheme is not related to Poshan Mission which is an initiative of Ministry of Women and Child Development.

-Source: Indian Express

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