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Daily News Analysis 03-11-2015

S.NO.

NEWS ITEM

SYLLUBUS

ESSENCE OF THE ARTICLE

1.         

 

Modi to raise issue of radical Sikh elements with Cameron (Pages 1 and 12)

a)     I.R

a)     When PM Modi visits the United Kingdom on Nov 12, he is likely to raise the issue of radical Sikh organisations with his counterpart David Cameron.

2.

Downstream concerns on the Brahmaputra (Page 11)

a)     I.R

a)     It is in Indias interests to start a serious conversation with China on some of the larger questions of benefit sharing, risk allocation and trade-offs on Brahmaputra.

3.

India pushes for NSG membership (Page 12)

a)     International

a)     With the visit of the Nuclear Suppliers Group chairperson last week, India is fast-pacing its pitch for membership to the 48-member nuclear club.

4.

Indias APEC membership not on the agenda, says US (Page 14)

a)     International

a)     The US said that Indias desire for membership is not on the agenda of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum meeting in Manila in Philippines, on November 18 and 19.

5.

Nepal crisis escalates after Madhesis cancel dialogue (Pages 1 and 12)

a)     International

a)     In a two-pronged escalation of the crisis in Nepal, the United Madhesi Democratic Front ended the national dialogue with the govt of PM K.P. Sharma Oli, even as Deputy PM and Foreign Minister Kamal Thapa, in an unprecedented internationalisation of the crisis, left for Geneva to present Nepals case against the blockade before the United Nations Human Rights Council.

6.

Erdogans comeback (Page 10)

a)     International

a)     In a stunning reversal of the June election results, President Recep Tayyip Erdogans Justice and Development Party has returned with an absolute majority in Turkey.

7.

Suggestions to improve collegium system pour in (Page 13)

a)     National

b)     Polity

a)     With the Supreme Court collegium system here to stay, a Constitution Bench will kick-start a brainstorming to better and make transparent the mechanism to appoint judges to the higher judiciary.

8.

Unsure if justice done in Nirbhaya case (Page 13)

a)     National

b)     Polity

a)     Ahead of the release of the juvenile convict in the Nirbhaya gangrape case next month, Union Minister Maneka Gandhi has expressed helplessness in extending punishment to him.

9.

SC takes serious view of job scheme arrears (Page 1)

a)     National

b)     Social issue

a)     The Supreme Court sought the Centres response on a Public Interest Litigation petition, alleging haphazard implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and delay in payment of wages to labourers.

10.

Fast forwarding to thorium (Page 11)

a)     National

b)     S&T

a)     A new worldwide plutonium market brought under safeguards is a safe bet to help India advance its ambitious thorium reactor programme.

 

S.NO.

NEWS ITEM

SYLLUBUS

BACKGROUND

IMPORTANT POINTS

1.         

 

Modi to raise issue of radical Sikh elements with Cameron (Pages 1 and 12)

a)     I.R

a)     India – UK relations

b)     Issue of radial Sikh elements

c)     Pakistans ISI

a)     When PM Modi visits the United Kingdom on Nov 12, he is likely to raise the issue of radical Sikh organisations with his counterpart David Cameron. Modi is likely to ask authorities there to rein in Sikh television channels promoting radical sentiments among the diaspora.

b)     There was a strong possibility of these channels being funded by Pakistans ISI and an investigation should be launched. This comes in the background of resurgence of pro-Khalistan sentiments in Punjab, which witnessed State-wide protests and violence on account of desecration of holy books of the Sikhs.

2.

Downstream concerns on the Brahmaputra (Page 11)

a)     I.R

a)     India – China relations

b)     Brahmaputra river (Yarlung Tsangpo)

c)     Zangmu hydroelectric dam

d)     Lhasa river

e)     Nyangchu river

f)     Gyama valley

g)     Global warming    

 

a)     As Chinas largest hydroelectric dam on the Brahmaputra (or Yarlung Tsangpo) became fully operational this month, it has once again evoked concerns in India. The $1.5 billion Zangmu hydroelectric dam has stoked a virtual paranoia over Chinas resource choices and their likely downstream impact.

b)    An overwhelming focus on diversion has moved attention away from other critical issues such as water quality that India needs to raise with China. There are growing concerns over worsening environmental degradation facing Tibets Three Rivers area comprising the Yarlung Tsangpo, Lhasa river and Nyangchu basins in central Tibet. One of the most intensely exploited areas in this region is the Gyama valley (situated south of the Lhasa river) with large polymetallic deposits of copper, molybdenum, gold, silver, lead and zinc.

c)     Studies by Chinese scientists are pointing to the possibility of a high content of heavy metals in the stream sediments and tailings that could pose a potential threat to downstream water users. Global warming could further accelerate the movement of these heavy metals besides projected spatial and temporal variations in water availability.

d)     By 2050, the annual runoff in the Brahmaputra is projected to decline by 14 percent. This will have significant implications for food security and social stability, given the impact on climate-sensitive sectors such as agriculture.

e)     These also raise the larger question about the cumulative impact of massive dam-building projects across the entire Himalayan region and the consequences of such intensive interventions in a region that is ecologically fragile. The dangers of water accumulation behind dams could also induce devastating artificial earthquakes. In the geo-dynamically active Himalayas, earthquakes are an ever-present danger with a recorded history going back to the 13th century.

f)     A sobering reminder is the devastating earthquake of 1950 in Assam in which the Brahmaputra Valley suffered the most damage. Recent research by Chinese scientists has shown that the Sichuan earthquake of 2008 could have been caused by the Zipingpu Dam in Sichuan province.

g)     What sort of normative bargains should we be mindful of while designing data-sharing protocols between India and China? Are these to be seen only as commercial transactions or do these raise larger questions regarding contested market-based mechanisms such as Payment for Ecosystem Services?

h)   While India provides flood-forecasting data to Pakistan and Bangladesh free of cost, it pays to receive the data from China. India pays China Rs. 82 lakh annually to receive advance flood data as per MOUs reached in 2008, 2010 and 2013. These provide flow data from May to October on water level, discharge and rainfall from three measuring stations on the Brahmaputra, namely Nugesha, Yangcun and Nuxia.

i)     The justification for payments is being advanced on the premise that downstream users are disproportionate beneficiaries of data flows. But then it can also be argued that location bestows a disproportionate advantage on upper riparian and consequently a primary responsibility to build cultures of trust and confidence within the region.

j)     The core issue in a shared transboundary basin becomes criticality of perception, right or wrong. These become vectors through which the actions of the upper riparian get refracted and processed. While technical issues of measurements, flow patterns and runoffs have their importance, it is just as often the more intangible, perceptual aspects that create and entrench positions and produce or retard cooperation at the transboundary level.

k)     For its part, China has assured India that nothing will be done that will affect Indias interest. Indias official narrative has largely tended to downplay many of these concerns with official pronouncements that India trusts China.

l)    India can no longer stand at waters edge and expect answers or solutions to these critical questions without wading in. It is in Indias interests as a lower riparian state to start a serious conversation with China on some of these larger questions of benefit sharing, risk allocation and trade-offs on the Brahmaputra.

3.

India pushes for NSG membership (Page 12)

a)     International

a)     Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG)

b)     Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR)

c)     Australian group

d)     Wassenaar Arrangement

e)     UNGA

f)     NPT

g)     G-20 summit

h)     Paris Climate summit 2015

a)     With the visit of the NSG chairperson last week, India is fast-pacing its pitch for membership to the 48-member nuclear club.

b)     In a string of visits by officials abroad, as well as incoming visits planned, NSG membership, as well as membership of the other major groupings: MTCR, Australian and Wassenaar Arrangement are in focus.

c)     The push for the nuclear clubs (whose members can trade in and export nuclear technology) comes despite a setback to Indias efforts in early October this year, when the MTCR group met in Oslo, but failed to take up the membership application.

d)     Officials are now hopeful of being considered for MTCR membership in early spring 2016, and for the NSG at its plenary session in June 2016.

e)     As the 48-member NSG works by consensus (not majority), India is reaching out to every possible country, much like the push at the UNGA for reforms.

f)     In the past few months, President Pranabs visit to Sweden, PM Modis visit to Ireland and Foreign Secretary Jaishankars visit to Switzerland all saw intense discussions over the NSG question. The support of all these countries (including Norway is critical) as previously they had all been seen as non-proliferation hardliners, insisting that India sign the NPT before it could be admitted.

g)     Modis visit to Turkey for the G-20 summit as well as to France for the COP-21 climate change summit will see India finessing its pitch for the nuclear club memberships, with the help of both US and Russia, two countries that have pledged support.

h)     Officials confirmed that Indias biggest worry remains possible opposition from China, but hopes to smooth this over as the two sides engage on climate change and nuclear energy ahead of the Paris summit. China noted Indias aspirations to the NSG for the first time in May 2015, but also recognised Pakistans aspirations for the same in June 2015, leading to speculation that when the NSG decides on Indias membership it would open the way for other non-NPT states like Pakistan and Israel as well.

i)     Finally, India hopes to conclude its nuclear deal with Australia as early as this month, possibly ahead of Modis meeting with Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull on the sidelines of G-20 on Nov 15.

4.

Indias APEC membership not on the agenda, says US (Page 14)

a)     International

a)     Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)

b)     Indias Act East Policy

c)     US-India Joint Strategic Vision for the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean Region

a)     The US said that Indias desire for membership is not on the agenda of the APEC forum meeting in Manila in Philippines, on Nov 18 and 19.

b)     US-India Joint Strategic Vision for the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean Region released during Obamas New Delhi visit had said that the US welcomes Indias interest in joining the APEC forum, as the Indian economy is a dynamic part of the Asian economy.

c)     The 21-member APEC (established in 1989) has nearly half of the world trade among the members and India has been lobbying for its membership for the last two decades.

d)     India has been an observer at the forum since 2011 and a membership would have been in tune with the Modi governments Act East Policy, the purported improvement it claims to have brought about in the earlier Look East Policy.

5.

Nepal crisis escalates after Madhesis cancel dialogue (Pages 1 and 12)

a)     International

a)     Nepal crisis

b)     United Madhesi Democratic Front (UMDF)

c)     United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC)

d)     Nepals new Constitution

e)     Madhesis concerns

a)    In a two-pronged escalation of crisis in Nepal, the United Madhesi Democratic Front ended the national dialogue with govt of PM K.P. Sharma Oli, even as Deputy PM and Foreign Minister Kamal Thapa, in an unprecedented internationalisation of the crisis, left for Geneva to present Nepals case against the blockade before the UNHRC.

b)  The dialogue between Thapa and the Madhesi leadership had given the hint that the ruling coalition (led by CPN(UML)) had sounded out all parties in Parliament, to provide the foundation for bringing in constitutional amendments addressing the grievances of the Madhesi population.

c)     In the meanwhile, Thapas flight to Geneva to address the UNHRCs review meeting has acquired a new meaning given the chaos and violence in Nepal. Though Nepal has periodically presented its case in Geneva like other countries, the present circumstances hint that Thapa will highlight the humanitarian crisis caused by the blockade. 

6.

Erdogans comeback (Page 10)

a)     International

a)     Turkeys internal issues

b)     Justice and Development Party (AKP)

c)     Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK)

d)     Peoples Democratic Party (HDP)

e)     Kurdish forces

a)   In a stunning reversal of the June election results, President Recep Tayyip Erdogans Justice and Development Party has returned with an absolute majority in Turkey. With 49.4 percent of the popular vote, the AKP has secured 316 seats in the 550-member Parliament, well past the 276 needed to form a government.

b)     More important, Erdogan is now closer to realising his ambition of rewriting the countrys Constitution so that his ceremonial presidency could be turned into an executive authority.

c)     There were reports that Erdogan undermined efforts to build a coalition govt with the support of smaller parties after the June election so that he could portray the AKP as the only option for a stable govt. And he succeeded in making the case that the AKP should be given a stronger mandate.

d)     Even if the AKP has not got enough numbers to change the Constitution, he will remain the countrys most powerful political leader. But political victories cannot whitewash the damage done to Turkish democracy by his dictatorial tendencies, divisive politics and a foreign policy pinned on regional ambitions. As PM for 11 years, he not only imposed total control over the AKP, but also weakened institutions that could challenge his authority.

e)     The period between the AKPs June election defeat and the November victory is a case in point. Immediately after the electoral loss, Erdogan took a confrontational approach towards the Kurds. The peace process between the PKK and govt crumbled, while he often attacked the left-wing Kurdish political party (the HDP) as a proxy of the PKK.

f)     The bomb blasts and other violent incidents that occurred recently strengthened his narrative that Turkey needs strong hands to tackle its mounting security challenges - making it easier for the AKP to clinch the victory.

g)     Now, he can use the mandate to carve out more powers for himself, and thereby further damage the Turkish polity. He can also be mindful of the constitutional limits of the ceremonial presidency and guide the AKP-led government to strengthen democratic institutions and promote peace between the govt and rebels as well as different ethnic groups.

7.

Suggestions to improve collegium system pour in (Page 13)

a)     National

b)     Polity

a)     Collegium system

b)     National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) law

c)     RTI Act

 

a)     With the Supreme Court collegium system here to stay, a Constitution Bench will kick-start a brainstorming to better and make transparent the mechanism to appoint judges to the higher judiciary.

b)   Though delivering the NDA govts first legislative victory - the NJAC law – a crushing blow in a majority verdict on October 16, a five-judge Bench led by Justice J.S. Khehar held that all is not well with the two-decade old Collegium manner of appointing judges.

c)  As a result of the misgivings commonly felt among all the judges about the opaqueness of the collegium system, the Bench had fixed Nov 3 to invite suggestions from the govt, petitioners in NJAC challenge and senior advocate on how to improve the mechanism.

d) Detailed written submissions filed by the main petitioner to improve the collegium system (which includes bringing judicial appointments under the RTI) is contrasted by total silence from the govt side.

8.

Unsure if justice done in Nirbhaya case (Page 13)

a)     National

b)     Polity

a)     Juvenile Justice Act

b)     Nirbhaya Act

a)     Ahead of the release of the juvenile convict in the Nirbhaya gangrape case next month, Union Minister Maneka Gandhi has expressed helplessness in extending punishment to him. While the law was adhered to, she was not sure whether justice was done in this most gruesome case.

b)     The juvenile found guilty in the 2012 Delhi gangrape will be released on December 15. He has turned 21 and will complete his three-year term at the prohibition centre.  

9.

SC takes serious view of job scheme arrears (Page 1)

a)     National

b)     Social issue

a)     Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS)

b)     Public Interest Litigation (PIL)

c)     Supreme Court

a)     The Supreme Court sought the Centres response on a PIL petition, alleging haphazard implementation of the MGNREGS and delay in payment of wages to labourers.

b)     The petition sought a directive to the Centre to restore the demand-based fund release system as envisaged in the Operational Guidelines 2008 under the scheme.

10.

Fast forwarding to thorium (Page 11)

a)     National

b)     S&T

a)     Advanced Heavy-Water Reactor (AHWR)

b)     Pressurised Heavy-Water Reactors (PHWR)

c)     Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR)

d)     Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)

e)     Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC)

a)     What is the single greatest factor that prevents the large-scale deployment of thorium-fuelled reactors in India? Most people would assume that it is a limitation of technology. After all, the construction of AHWR (a 300 MWe, indigenously designed, thorium-fuelled, commercial technology demonstrator) has been put off several times since it was first announced in 2004.

b)     However, scientists at the BARC have successfully tested all relevant thorium-related technologies in the laboratory, achieving even industrial scale capability in some of them. India could probably begin full-scale deployment of thorium reactors in ten years. The single greatest hurdle is the critical shortage of fissile material.

c)     A fissile material is one that can sustain a chain reaction upon bombardment by neutrons. Thorium is by itself fertile, meaning that it can transmute into a fissile radioisotope but cannot itself keep a chain reaction going. In a thorium reactor, a fissile material like uranium or plutonium is blanketed by thorium. The fissile material drives chain reaction to produce energy while simultaneously transmuting the fertile material into fissile material.

d)     India has very modest deposits of uranium and some of the worlds largest sources of thorium. It was keeping this in mind that in 1954, Homi Bhabha envisioned Indias nuclear power programme in three stages to suit the countrys resource profile.

e)     In the first stage, heavy water reactors fuelled by natural uranium would produce plutonium; the second stage would initially be fuelled by a mix of plutonium from the first stage and natural uranium. This uranium would transmute into more plutonium and once sufficient stocks have been built up, thorium would be introduced into the fuel cycle to convert it into uranium 233 for third stage.

f)     In the final stage, a mix of thorium and uranium fuels the reactors. The thorium transmutes to U-233 as in the second stage, which powers the reactor. Fresh thorium can replace the depleted thorium in the reactor core, making it essentially a thorium-fuelled reactor even though it is the U-233 that is undergoing fission to produce electricity.

g)     After decades of operating PHWR, India is finally ready to start the second stage. A 500 MW PFBR at Kalpakkam is set to achieve criticality any day now and four more fast breeder reactors have been sanctioned, two at the same site and two elsewhere. However, experts estimate that it would take India many more FBRs and at least another four decades before it has built up a sufficient fissile material inventory to launch the third stage.

h)     The obvious solution to Indias shortage of fissile material is to procure it from the international market. The NPT only mandates that special fissionable material (which includes plutonium) if transferred, be done so under safeguards. Thus, the legal rubric for safeguarded sale of plutonium already exists. The physical and safety procedures for moving radioactive spent fuel and plutonium also already exists.

i)     If India were to start purchasing plutonium and spent fuel, it would immediately alleviate the pressure on countries like Japan and the UK who are looking to reduce their stockpile of plutonium. India is unlikely to remain the only customer for too long either. Thorium reactors have come to be of great interest to many countries in the last few years, and Europe yet remains intrigued by FBRs as their work on ASTRID, ALFRED, and ELSY shows.

j)     The unseemly emphasis on thorium technology has many reasons. One, thorium reactors produce far less waste than present-day reactors. Two, they have the ability to burn up most of the highly radioactive and long-lasting minor actinides that makes nuclear waste from Light Water Reactors a nuisance to deal with. Three, the minuscule waste that is generated is toxic for only three or four hundred years rather than thousands of years.

k)     Four, thorium reactors are cheaper because they have higher burnup. Five, thorium reactors are significantly more proliferation-resistant than present reactors. This is because the U-233 produced by transmuting thorium also contains U-232, a strong source of gamma radiation that makes it difficult to work with. Its daughter product (thallium-208) is equally difficult to handle and easy to detect.

l)     It is clear that India stands to profit greatly from plutonium trading but what compelling reason does the world have to accommodate India? The most significant carrot would be that all of Indias FBRs that are tasked for civilian purposes can come under international safeguards in a system similar to the Indo-US nuclear deal. The US could perhaps emerge as the greatest obstacle to plutonium commerce.

m)     Scientists predict that the impact of climate change will be worse on India. Advancing the deployment of thorium reactors by four to six decades via a plutonium market might be most effective step towards curtailing carbon emissions.

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