Topic 1 : Global Centre for Excellence – DAKSHIN
Why in news: Prime Minister of India inaugurated a global centre for excellence for the Global South countries called DAKSHIN.
- A Global South Centre of Excellence for the Global South was launched at the first Voice of Global South Summit.
- It is named as the Dakshin Development and Knowledge Sharing Initiative Global South Centre for Excellence.
- It is a Global South Science & Technology initiative, a project to provide essential medical supplies and Global South Scholarships for students in developing countries.
- This institution will undertake research on development solutions or best-practices of any of these countries, which can be scaled and implemented in other members of the Global South.
- For example:
- The digital public goods developed by India in fields like electronic-payments, health, education, or e-governance, can be useful for many other developing countries.
- A Global-South Young Diplomats Forum was also announced to connect youthful officers of our foreign ministries.Topic 2 : Anti-Submarine Waterfare Craft ‘Amini’
Why in news: Navy’s 4th Anti-Submarine Waterfare Craft ‘Amini’ was launched recently.
- Amini is the fourth in a series of eight Anti-Submarine Warfare Shallow Water Craft (ASW-SWC) projects.
- It was built by Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers (GRSE) for the Indian Navy.
- The ship has been named ‘Amini’ to signify the strategic maritime importance accorded to the island of Amini at Lakshadweep, located about 400 km west of Kochi.
About Anti-Submarine Waterfare Craft:
- The Anti-Submarine Warfare Craft corvettes, are a class of anti-submarine warfare (ASW) vessels currently being built for the Indian Navy.
- They were conceived as a replacement to the ageing Abhay-class corvettes of the Indian Navy.
- These are designed to undertake:
- subsurface surveillance in littoral waters,
- search-and-attack unit (SAU) missions and
- coordinated anti-submarine warfare operations with naval aircraft.
- They were also designed to provide secondary duties:
- defense against intruding aircraft,
- minelaying and
- search-and-rescue (SAR)
Topic 3 : India-UK Free Trade Agreement
Why in news: India discussed the India-UK Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Britain recently.
- When signed, the India-UK FTA will serve as a template for an agreement with India’s second-largest trade partner, the European Union (EU).
- Breaking from the look east policy for trade deals that saw widening deficits with Japan, South Korea, and ASEAN countries, the government is counting on economic integration with Western and African nations to fuel export growth.
- Factors that led to the FTA:
- The China factor
- The disruption of supply chains during the pandemic brought home to Western companies the risks of over-dependence on China, and the need for a ‘China-plus one’ policy.
- Australia’s tensions with China, along with the complementarities with the Indian economy, presented a case for a trade deal with India.
- Similar factors brought New Delhi and London to the negotiating table.
- India, after exiting the China-dominated Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), has been looking at trade deals with the UK, Australia, the EU, to hold off China in the region.
- Spurred by Brexit
- A trade deal with India is crucial for the UK as the ruling Conservatives face a tough election in early 2025.
- The insecurities that spurred the vote for Brexit is a reason why the UK is hesitant to offer work permits to Indian service sector workers under the FTA.
- However, the size and potential of the Indian market offers London a way to compensate for the loss of access to the European Single Market.
- The China factor
Benefits for India:
- India’s labour-intensive sectors such as apparel and gems and jewellery have seen a steep decline in market share over the last five years.
- Indian textile exports face tariffs walls as high as 10% in the UK.
- A trade deal could put India on par with competition such as Bangladesh, and revive textile exports.
Benefits for UK:
- Past deals with Japan and the ASEAN countries have shown that the elimination of duty does not automatically result in export growth.
- Many Indian exports to the UK already enjoy low or zero tariffs, while British exports to India such as cars, Scotch whisky, and wines, face considerable tariffs of 100-150%.
- Tariff reductions on these goods will potentially offer them deeper access into Indian markets.
- A case for Non-tariff barriers
- India could use the negotiations to eliminate non-tariff barriers (NTBs) that have historically been a concern for exporters, especially for agri exports.
- NTBs often come in the form of regulations, standards, testing, certification, or preshipment inspection that are aimed at protecting human, animal, or plant health and the environment.
- Vegetable and fruit exporters often face strict limits imposed by European economies on pesticides and other contaminants in agri imports.
- In manufacturing too, Indian products face high rejection based on conformity assessments and technical requirements.
- Issue of carbon tax
- Like the EU, the UK is looking to impose a levy on metal imports based on carbon emissions.
- An EU-style carbon border adjustment mechanism (CBAM) will hurt India’s exports to the UK even if India wins significant removal of tariffs.
- The UK’s carbon tax could be harsh, as one of its aims is to reduce dependence on Russian energy imports.
What are Free Trade Agreements?
- A Free trade Agreement (FTA) is an agreement between two or more countries where the countries agree on certain obligations that affect trade in goods and services, and protections for investors and intellectual property rights.
- FTAs can help a country to enter and compete more easily in the global marketplace through zero or reduced tariffs and other provisions.
- They generally provide for the reduction of trade barriers and the creation of a more predictable and transparent trading and investment environment.
- Key Benefits of Free Trade Agreements
- Reduction or elimination of tariffs:
- For example, a country that normally charges a tariff of 12% of the value of the incoming product will eliminate that tariff for products that originate (as defined in the FTA) in a particular country.
- This makes the products more competitive in the market.
- Intellectual Property Protection:
- Protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights in the FTA partner country.
- Product Standards:
- The ability for exporters to participate in the development of product standards in the FTA partner country.
- Selling to the government:
- The ability for a company to bid on certain government procurements in the FTA partner country.
- Service companies:
- The ability for service suppliers to supply their services in the FTA partner country.
- Fair treatment for investors providing they be treated as favorably as the FTA partner country treats its own investors and their investments or investors and investments from any third country. Topic 4 : COP28 in Dubai
Why in news: COP 28 climate conference will be held in Dubai soon.
Context of the conference
- Warmest year on record:
- This year is set to overtake 2016 as the warmest ever and saw almost every month setting some or the other warming record.
- The World Meteorological Organisation says one of the next four years — perhaps 2023 itself — will almost certainly breach the 1.5 degree Celsius threshold.
- Inadequate Global response:
- Although temperatures have gone up rapidly, the global response to it has not kept pace.
- A latest assessment in the new synthesis report on countries’ climate action plans, suggests that climate action agreed upon by countries so far would, in an optimistic scenario, result in just a 2 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030, from 2019 levels.
- A 43 per cent reduction, something that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said was absolutely essential for the 1.5 degree Celsius goal, currently seems to be a pipe dream.
- Inadequate finance to developed countries:
- Another UN report suggests that despite a swift rise in climate risks, the amount of money being made available to developing countries for adaptation measures was actually declining, and nowhere close to the scale of the requirement.
- Developing countries need at least $215 billion each year to do meaningful adaptation work, but barely $21 billion is actually flowing in according to the Adaptation Gap report.
- The availability of financial resources is a perennial problem, particularly for developing and least developed countries, which face the maximum risk but are mostly dependent on financial flows from rich nations to fund their protective actions.
Expectations from the COP28
- Tripling of Renewable Energy
- Currently, the total installed capacity of renewable energy across the world is a little less than 3,400 GW.
- The idea is to triple it by 2030.
- That would mean that nearly 70 per cent of all electricity in 2030 would be generated through renewable energy, instead of the 28 per cent now.
- This single measure has the potential to avoid 7 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions between now and 2030, or about 1 billion tonnes every year on an average.
- The proposal already has the endorsement of G20 countries, and with most other countries lending their support.
- Delivery of $100 billion
- Rich countries have promised to mobilise (at least) this much in climate finance every year from 2020 which they have not met.
- This year, developed countries are likely to finally claim to have delivered on their promise of $100 billion.
- While meeting this goal would still be an achievement, the real challenge would be making progress on finalising a new amount, over and above the $100 billion figure, that has to be raised every year.
- Money for Loss and Damage Fund
- The fund, meant to provide financial help to countries damaged by impacts of climate change, had been a long pending demand.
- It was created last year, but no one put money into it.
- The Dubai meeting is likely to see some money flowing into the fund.
- Global Stocktake
- As mandated by the 2015 Paris Agreement, the findings of the first stocktake exercise is supposed to be presented at this meeting.
- Countries are supposed to assess where they are in the fight against climate change, and what needs to be done in the next five year period to make this fight more effective and potent.
- The stocktake exercise has been carried out over the last one year, and its findings would inform the discussions taking place in Dubai.
- Phase-down of Fossil Fuels
- This is likely to come up repeatedly at the Dubai meeting but remains contentious.
- Countries still do not agree to a scheduled phase-down or phase-out of fossil fuels, particularly coal, over which deep divisions exist.
- This is one matter that is unlikely to be solved in Dubai.
About COP 28:
- The 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference or Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC, more commonly referred to as COP28, will be the 28th United Nations Climate Change conference.
- The conference has been held annually since the first UN climate agreement in 1992.
- The COP conferences are intended for governments to agree on policies to limit global temperature rises and adapt to impacts associated with climate change.Topic 5 : Exercise Mitra Shakti
Why in news: India – Sri Lanka Joint Exercise Mitra Shakti – 2023 commenced recently.
- This is the ninth edition of Joint Military exercise.
- The Exercise MITRA SHAKTI-2023 commenced in Aundh (Pune).
- The Indian contingent, of 120 personnel, is being represented mainly by troops from the Maratha Light Infantry Regiment.
- The aim of the exercise is to jointly rehearse conduct of Sub Conventional operations under Chapter VII of United Nations Charter.
- The Scope of the exercise includes synergising joint responses during counter-terrorist operations.
- Exercise MITRA SHAKTI – 2023 will also involve employment of Drones and Counter Unmanned Aerial Systems besides helicopters.
Topic 6 : Technical textiles
Why in news: India’s market for technical textiles is targeted to touch $40 billion by 2030 from the current $23 billion.
- The export of technical-textile products was expected to touch $10 billion from the current $2.5 billion in seven years.
- The National Technical Textile Mission, unveiled three years ago, has been extended till 2026.
- The government allocated ₹1,000 crore under the Mission for research and development and so far, 126 projects, with a total value of ₹371 crore, have been approved.
- A portal for start-ups in technical textiles segment to submit applications for support under the Mission would be unveiled soon.
What is Technical Textile?
- Technical textiles are defined as textile materials and products used primarily for their technical performance and functional properties rather than their aesthetic or decorative characteristics.
- It involves manufacturing high-tech, high-performance fabric designed not just to look attractive, but to present a significant added value in terms of functionality.
- The textile coating process is widely used in the manufacturing of technical textiles.
- The non-clothing application of textiles is known as Technical textiles.
Classification of Technical Textiles
Topic 7 : Measles
Why in news: 11 lakh children in India missed 1st measles shot in 2022 according to a report.
- This puts India among 10 countries with the highest number of children who did not receive the first shot.
- India is also among the 37 countries that witnessed large or disruptive outbreaks, reporting 40,967 measles cases in 2022.
- Globally, immunisation against measles dropped to lowest levels since 2008 during the pandemic, leading to an 18% rise in cases and 43% increase in deaths in 2022.
- There was a dip in routine immunisation during 2020 and 2021 because of the pandemic.
- The challenge with measles is even if a single cohort misses out on vaccination, they become extremely vulnerable to the infection.
- The gaps in immunisation during the pandemic were mainly in peri-urban areas and clusters where the outbreaks were later reported.
- Two doses of the measles vaccine offers 97% protection for life.
- Measles is a highly contagious disease caused by a virus.
- It spreads easily when an infected person breathes, coughs or sneezes.
- Measles can affect anyone but is most common in children.
- Measles infects the respiratory tract and then spreads throughout the body.
- a high fever,
- runny nose and
- a rash all over the body.
- Being vaccinated is the best way to prevent getting sick with measles or spreading it to other people.
- Measles is one of the world’s most contagious diseases, spread by contact with infected nasal or throat secretions (coughing or sneezing) or breathing the air that was breathed by someone with measles.
- There is no specific treatment for measles.
- Caregiving should focus on relieving symptoms, making the person comfortable and preventing complications.
Measles in India
- It is a leading cause of childhood mortality among the vaccine preventable diseases in India.
- Measles spreads through respiratory route via aerosol droplets from infected persons.
- India accounts for a significant proportion of measles related deaths in the world.Topic 8 : India invites Global South to join biofuel alliance
Why in news: India has extended an invitation to countries in the Global South to join the recently inaugurated Global Biofuels Alliance.
- India invited Global South to join the recently launched Global Biofuels Alliance, saying it is willing to share its expertise with developing and less developed nations.
- A global alliance for promoting biofuels was launched at the Group of 20 leaders meeting recently with a view to reducing emissions in the transportation and industrial sectors.
- The Global Biofuel Alliance, which includes top producers Brazil and the US, will help build the worldwide market for trade in biofuel, which is obtained from biomass.
- Turning biomass into fuel helped the world’s third largest energy consumer provide an additional source of income for farmers as well as cut emissions.
- Going up from a 1.4 per cent biofuels blending in petrol in 2014, India achieved 10 per cent blending of ethanol in petrol in May 2022.
- It helped boost farmers’ income with a payment of USD 8.7 billion and also lowering carbon dioxide emission by more than 40 million metric tonnes in last 9 years.
- Today, India has become the world’s largest producer of renewable energy with 40 per cent of its installed electricity capacity coming from non-fossil fuel sources.
- India has also launched a national green hydrogen mission with a target of producing 5 million tonnes by 2030, making India a global hub for the production, usage and export of green hydrogen and its derivatives, he said.
- Currently, India ranks as the third largest energy consumer globally.
What are biofuels?
- The International Energy Agency (IEA) defines biofuels as “liquid fuels derived from biomass and used as an alternative to fossil fuel based liquid transportation fuels such as gasoline, diesel and aviation fuels.”
- Biofuels are acquired from the waste of plants, agriculture or industry.
- Sugarcane, rice and corn are major feedstock used in the production of the fuel.
Do biofuels aid energy transition?
- Most biofuels today are blended with petrol or diesel at varying degrees.
- For instance, India blends about 10% of biofuels and has plans to double this in the coming years.
- Developing alternatives like green hydrogen must be the focus of the ongoing energy transition, others argue that 2G ethanol would soften the impending disruption.
- It would do so by allowing to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions even while stretching the life of internal combustion engines, giving time for automakers to develop robust alternatives, while increasing farmers’ incomes and providing jobs.
About the Global Biofuels Alliance:
- It is an India-led grouping that came together to give impetus to the production and use of biofuels, an alternative to fossil fuels like petroleum and diesel.
- The Global Biofuels Alliance (GBA) would attempt to bring countries together to co-develop, accelerate technological advances in production processes, and advocate for the use of biofuels particularly in the transport sector.
- The grouping include top producers Brazil and the United States, along with India.
- It aims to extend and develop markets for sustainable biofuels and has been one of India’s key priorities while hosting the summit as it pushes towards its net-zero aim.
- At present, 19 countries – including Singapore, Argentina, South Africa and the United Arab Emirates – and 12 international organisations – inclusive of the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and World Economic Forum – have joined the alliance.
Key targets of the Global Biofuel Alliance
- The Global Biofuel Alliance is positioning itself as a key knowledge hub for biofuels, with the primary goal of expanding biofuel usage.
- The alliance seeks to ensure the affordability and accessibility of biofuels and emphasises sustainability as a core principle, promoting responsible biofuel deployment.
- To achieve these objectives, the alliance needs to look at the diversification of fuel sources.
- Alternative options such as algae, biomass, and various renewable energy sources will be explored to ensure a stable and environmentally friendly energy future.
- The alliance has also committed to enhancing the efficiency of existing biofuels through the adoption of advanced technologies and conservation measures.
- This approach is essential in reducing the environmental impact associated with biofuel production while bolstering the economic viability of renewable energy sources.
- Food vs fuel debate:
- The “food versus fuel” debate is a significant concern surrounding the Global Biofuel Alliance.
- Biofuel production relies on crops and could potentially divert agricultural resources away from food production.
- The ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict has intensified these concerns, as it has already led to food shortages in certain regions.
- India has also banned rice exports due to a scarcity of this food crop.
- Since rice is a major source of ethanol, the increased demand for biofuels could worsen existing food shortages.
- Necessary infrastructure and environmental hazards:
- The availability of feedstock for biofuel production depends on factors such as climate conditions, land availability and competition with other agricultural needs.
- Building the necessary infrastructure for biofuel production requires substantial investment and may lead to deforestation, as fertile land is converted for crop cultivation.
- The elevated use of water resources for out-of-season crop production to meet biofuel demands is an environmental hazard.
- The three founding members of the GBA produce 85% of global biofuels and consume about 81% of it.
- India had announced the setting up of 12 new refineries as early as 2018 with the aim to meet 20% ethanol blending by 2025.
- This becomes even more significant following India’s announcement to become net zero (removing as much carbon from the atmosphere as human activity emits) by 2070.
- About two-thirds of the global biofuel demand will come from three emerging economies – India, Brazil and Indonesia.
- They have ample domestic feedstocks, additional production capacity, relatively low production costs and a package of policies they can leverage to increase demand.
- However, it remains to be seen if this would indeed hasten decarbonising of the energy sector.
- There is a need for exploring alternative sources for biofuel production, such as utilising waste products like animal and human waste, rather than relying solely on feedstock derived from crops.
- This approach could help mitigate some environmental and food security concerns with biofuel production.