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Prelims Booster

29th September – Prelims Booster

Green Strategic Partnership

India and Denmark have agreed to elevate India-Denmark relations to a Green Strategic Partnership.

What is ‘Green Strategic Partnership’?

  • The Green Strategic Partnership is a mutually beneficial arrangement to advance political cooperation, expand economic relations and green growth, create jobs and strengthen cooperation on addressing global challenges and opportunities; with focus on an ambitious implementation of the Paris Agreement and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
  • This partnership would build on and consolidate the existing agreement establishing a Joint Commission for Cooperation between India and Denmark which envisaged cooperation within the political field; economic and commercial field; science and technology; environment; energy; education and culture.
  • In addition, it builds on and complements the existing Joint Working Groups on Renewable Energy, Urban Development, Environment, Agriculture and Animal Husbandry, Food Processing, Science, Technology and Innovation, Shipping, Labour Mobility and Digitisation.

Defence Acquisition Procedure-2020

Raksha Mantri Shri Rajnath Singh has unveiled the ‘Defence Acquisition Procedure (DAP) – 2020’. 

Background –

  • The first Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) was promulgated in the year 2002 and has since been revised periodically to provide impetus to the growing domestic industry and achieve enhanced self reliance in defence manufacturing.
  • Raksha Mantri had approved constitution of Main Review Committee under Chairmanship of DG (Acquisition) Shri Apurva Chandra in August 2019 for preparation of DAP-2020.
  • DAP 2020 will be applicable with effect from 01 October 2020.

Salient features of DAP-2020

With the new Foreign Direct Investment policy announced,  DAP 2020 has adequately included provisions to encourage FDI to establish manufacturing hubs both for import substitution and exports while protecting interests of Indian domestic industry. Specific reforms enunciated in Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan, have been incorporated as under –

  • Notify a List of Weapons/Platforms for Ban on Import – Relevant incorporation has been done in the DAP to ensure that NO equipment is procured ex import post timelines notified.
  • Indigenisation of Imported Spares.
  • Request For Information – RFI stage will explore willingness of the prospective foreign vendors to progressively undertake manufacture and setup an indigenous eco system at the spares/sub component level.
  • New Category of Buy (Global – Manufacture in India) – The new category incorporates manufacture of either the entire/part of the equipment or spares/assemblies/sub-assemblies/Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facility for the equipment, through its subsidiary in India.
  • Co-production through Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) – This enables establishment of co-production facilities through IGA achieving Import Substitution’ and reduce Life Cycle Cost.
  • Contractual Enablement – Buyer’s Right to optimise Life Cycle Support costs and system enhancements through indigenous eco system incorporated.
  • FDI in Defence Manufacturing – With the announcement of new FDI Policy, suitable provisions have been incorporated like new category ‘Buy (Global – Manufacture in India)’ done to encourage foreign OEMs to setup ‘manufacturing/maintenance entities’ through its subsidiary in India while enabling requisite protections to domestic industry.
  • Time Bound Defence Procurement Process and Faster Decision Making –  As part of the Defence Reforms announced in the Atmanirbhar Abhiyan, setting up of a PMU has been mandated to support contract management. The PMU will facilitate obtaining advisory and consultancy support in specified areas to streamline Acquisition process. Other issues included in these reforms are:-
  • Simplification of Trial Procedures – DAP 2020 emphasises the need to conduct trials with an objective to nurture competition based on the principles of transparency, fairness and equal opportunities to all and not as a process of elimination.
  • Ease of Doing Business –  One of the key focus areas of the review was to implement Ease of Doing Business’ with emphasis on simplification, delegation and making the process industry friendly with certain specific provisions.
  • Reservation in Categories for Indian Vendors – The categories of Buy(Indian-IDDM), Make I, Make II, Production Agency in Design &Development, OFB/DPSU and SP model will be exclusively reserved for Indian Vendors meeting the criteria of Ownership and Control by resident Indian Citizens with FDI not more than 49%. This reservation will provide exclusivity in participation to domestic Indian industry.
  • Enhancement of Indigenous Content
  • Offsets – The Offset guidelines have been revised, wherein preference will be given to manufacture of complete defence products over components and various multipliers have been added to give incentivisation in discharge of Offsets.

Himalayan Chandra Telescope

In the cold, dry desert of Ladakh, 4500 meters above the mean sea level, for two decades, the 2-m diameter optical-infrared Himalayan Chandra Telescope (HCT) at the Indian Astronomical Observatory (IAO) has been scanning the night sky in search of stellar explosions, comets, asteroids, and exo-planets.

About Himalayan-Chandra Telescope –

  • The Himalayan Chandra Telescope is a 2.01-meter (6.5 feet) diameter optical-infrared telescope named after India-born Nobel laureate Subrahmanyam Chandrasekhar.
  • It was installed at the Indian Astronomical Observatory (IAO), Mt. Saraswati, Digpa-ratsa Ri, Hanle, Ladakh at an altitude of 4500 m (15000 ft) above mean sea level (msl) by the Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA), Bangalore, in August 2000.
  • Its primary goal is to study electromagnetic counterparts to gravitational wave sources, young supernovae and near-earth asteroids.
  • It contains a modified Ritchey-Chretien system with a primary mirror made of ULE ceramic which is designed to withstand low temperatures it experiences.
  • The telescope is mounted with 3 science instruments called – Himalaya Faint Object Spectrograph (HFOSC), Near-IR imager and Optical CCD imager.
  • The telescope is remotely operated via an INSAT-3B satellite link which allows operation even in sub-zero temperatures in winter.
  • This dedicated link is provided by the Centre for Research & Education in Science & Technology (CREST), Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bangalore.
  • It is the country’s first robotic telescope and the first one designed to observe dynamic or transient events in the universe.

ESG Funds

Although big in global investments, ESG funds — that imbibe environment, social responsibility and corporate governance in their investing process — are witnessing growing interest in the Indian mutual fund industry too.

What is ESG?

  • ESG investing is used synonymously with sustainable investing or socially responsible investing. It looks at three core areas: environment, social responsibility and corporate governance.
  • So, while picking up a stock for investment, the ESG fund first shortlists companies that score high on these three parameters and then look into the fundamentals and financial factors in its investment decision-making process.
  • So, the schemes will focus on companies that adopt environment-friendly practices, follow ethical business practices and are employee-friendly among others.

Why is there so much focus on ESG now?

Fund houses say that modern investors are re-evaluating traditional investment approaches and when they invest, they look at the impact it is having on the planet as a whole. This paradigm change is forcing corporations, investment companies and asset managers to realise that investors are no longer only worried about returns. As a result, asset managers have swiftly started incorporating ESG factors into the investment practices.

How big is ESG?

  • There are over 3,300 ESG funds globally and the number has tripled over the last decade. The value of global assets applying ESG for investment decisions today stands at $40.5 trillion.
  • In India, as of now there are three schemes — SBI Magnum Equity ESG (Rs 2,772 crore), Axis ESG (Rs 1,755 crore) and Quantum India ESG Equity (Rs 18 cr) — following the ESG investment strategy in India. While ICICI Prudential’s scheme launched its NFO recently, Kotak Mahindra AMC is expected to launch its NFO soon and more are expected to follow.

Significance –

  • As ESG funds gain momentum in India, fund managers say companies will be forced to follow better governance, ethical practices, environment friendly and social responsibility.
  • Globally there has been a big shift on this front as many of the pension funds, sovereign wealth funds etc don’t invest in companies that are seen a polluting, don’t follow social responsibility or tobacco companies and so experts feel this will force companies to do business more responsibly.
  • Industry insiders say while tobacco and coal sector companies, those that generate hazardous waste from their chemical plant and do not manage them properly as well as sectors that use lot of water and do not follow best practices on reuse of water along with companies that discharge untreated waste in soil, water or air will find it tough to get funds parked in them.

Nagorno-Karabakh conflict

The contested Nagorno-Karabakh region, a mountainous and heavily-forested patch of land (in South Caucasus), is at the heart of a decades-long armed standoff between neighbours Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Under international law, Nagorno-Karabakh is recognised as part of Azerbaijan. But the ethnic Armenians who make up the vast majority of the population reject Azerbaijani rule. They have been running their own affairs, with support from Armenia, since Azerbaijan’s forces were pushed out in a war in the 1990s.

What is the conflict?

  • The status of the region has been disputed at least since 1918, when Armenia and Azerbaijan became independent from the Russian empire.
  • In the early 1920s, Soviet rule was imposed in the south Caucasus and the predominantly Armenian-populated Nagorno-Karabakh became an autonomous region within the then-Soviet republic of Azerbaijan, with most decisions being made in Moscow.
  • But decades later, as the Soviet Union started to crumble, it became apparent that Nagorno-Karabakh would come under the direct rule of the government in the Azerbaijani capital, Baku. The ethnic Armenians did not accept that.
  • In 1988, the Nagorno-Karabakh legislature voted to join the Armenian republic, a demand strongly opposed by both the Azerbaijani Soviet government and Moscow.
  • After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Yerevan-backed Armenian separatists seized the territory, home to a significant Azerbaijani minority, as well as seven adjacent Azerbaijani districts. At least 30,000 people were killed and hundreds of thousands were forced from their homes in the fighting.
  • Despite an internationally-brokered ceasefire agreed in 1994, peace negotiations have stalled and clashes erupt frequently around Nagorno-Karabakh and along the Azerbaijan-Armenia border.
  • In April 2016, dozens of people from both sides were killed in the most serious fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh in years.

OSCE Minsk Group –

  • The OSCE Minsk Group was created in 1992 by the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE, now Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)) to encourage a peaceful, negotiated resolution to the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh.
  • The Minsk Group is headed by a co-chairmanship consisting of France, Russia and the United States. Furthermore, the Minsk Group also includes the following participating states: Belarus, Germany, Italy, Portugal, the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, Turkey as well as Armenia and Azerbaijan.
  • The main objectives of the Minsk Process are as follows –
    • Providing an appropriate framework for conflict resolution in the way of assuring the negotiation process supported by the Minsk Group;
    • Obtaining conclusion by the Parties of an agreement on the cessation of the armed conflict in order to permit the convening of the Minsk Conference;
    • Promoting the peace process by deploying OSCE multinational peacekeeping forces.
  • Surprisingly, the conference at Minsk that was scheduled to happen after the Helsinki Additional meeting of the CSCE Council in the year 1992 has not happened till this date. The decision to deploy multilateral peacekeeping forces as an essential part of the overall settlement of the conflict was decided in the Budapest Summit of the co-chairmanship (i.e. France, Russia and the United States) in the year 1994.
  • Criticism – Azerbaijanis have long distrusted the OSCE’s Minsk group, co-chaired by Russia, France, and the United States. All three countries have large Armenian diasporas, while Russia and Armenia are strategic allies, something Azerbaijan argues is grounds for them to consider it as favouring the Armenians in the conflict. Many Azerbaijanis accuse the Minsk Group of not being effective and fair in their work.

Ramifications for India –

  • India has good ties with both Armenia and Azerbaijan. The North-South international transport corridor goes from Mumbai to Chabahar via Azerbaijan to Moscow, something crucial for India’s connectivity plans.
  • In fact, in 2018, the then Indian External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj had visited Fire Temple in Baku in Azerbaijan. The temple was once used by Hindu and Zoroastrian communities, probably by visiting merchants from India as a place of worship.
  • But when it comes to Armenia, it backs India on some key several fronts. In the year 2019, Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan said,”In the Kashmir issue we fully defend the Indian position and it is our firm position.”
  • Pakistan is the only country in the world that does not recognise Armenia. Islamabad’s close ties with Azerbaijan and Turkey have a substantial role in this decision.
  • Like Turkey, Islamabad doesn’t recognise the Armenian Genocide during World War 1. During the world war one, Ottomans or present-day Turkey killed 1.5 million ethnic Armenians. Turkey continues to deny the genocide till this date but a number of countries including the US, Russia recognise it.

MCQs

1. India has recently signed a ‘Green Strategic Partnership’ agreement with –

  1. Japan
  2. Australia
  3. Netherlands
  4. Denmark

Answer – D

Explanation – India and Denmark have agreed to elevate India-Denmark relations to a Green Strategic Partnership. The Green Strategic Partnership is a mutually beneficial arrangement to advance political cooperation, expand economic relations and green growth, create jobs and strengthen cooperation on addressing global challenges and opportunities; with focus on an ambitious implementation of the Paris Agreement and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. This partnership would build on and consolidate the existing agreement establishing a Joint Commission for Cooperation between India and Denmark which envisaged cooperation within the political field; economic and commercial field; science and technology; environment; energy; education and culture. In addition, it builds on and complements the existing Joint Working Groups on Renewable Energy, Urban Development, Environment, Agriculture and Animal Husbandry, Food Processing, Science, Technology and Innovation, Shipping, Labour Mobility and Digitisation.

2. Which of the following statement(s) is/are correct about the ‘Defence Acquisition Procedure-2020’?

  1. It is the second defence procurement procedure that was released by the Ministry of Defence after the first one in the year 2016.
  2. It introduces a new category of buy (global – manufacture in India) which mandates a foreign supplier to manufacture either the entire or part of the equipment or spares/assemblies/sub-assemblies/MRO through a subsidiary in India.
  3. It was designed under the Satish Chandra Committee set up in August 2019.

Select the correct codes from below –

  1. 1 and 2 only
  2. 2 only
  3. 1 and 3 only
  4. 2 and 3 only

Answer – B

Explanation – The first Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) was promulgated in the year 2002 and has since been revised periodically to provide impetus to the growing domestic industry and achieve enhanced self reliance in defence manufacturing. Raksha Mantri had approved constitution of Main Review Committee under Chairmanship of DG (Acquisition) Shri Apurva Chandra in August 2019 for preparation of DAP-2020. New Category of Buy (Global – Manufacture in India) – The new category incorporates manufacture of either the entire/part of the equipment or spares/assemblies/sub-assemblies/Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facility for the equipment, through its subsidiary in India.

3. Which of the following statement(s) is/are correct about the ‘Himalayan Chandra Telescope’?

  1. It is an optical-infrared telescope named after Indian-born Nobel laureate Subrahmanyam Chandrasekhar.
  2. It aims to study electromagnetic counterparts to gravitational wave sources, young supernovae and near-earth asteroids.
  3. It is located in Devasthal Observatory site near the Nainital District of Uttarakhand.
  4. It is the country’s first robotic telescope and the first one designed to observe dynamic or transient events in the Universe.

Select the correct codes from below –

  1. 1, 2 and 3 only
  2. 2, 3 and 4 only
  3. 1, 2 and 4 only
  4. All of the above

Answer – C

Explanation – The Himalayan Chandra Telescope is a 2.01-meter (6.5 feet) diameter optical-infrared telescope named after India-born Nobel laureate Subrahmanyam Chandrasekhar. It was installed at the Indian Astronomical Observatory (IAO), Mt. Saraswati, Digpa-ratsa Ri, Hanle, Ladakh at an altitude of 4500 m (15000 ft) above mean sea level (msl) by the Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA), Bangalore, in August 2000. Its primary goal is to study electromagnetic counterparts to gravitational wave sources, young supernovae and near-earth asteroids. It contains a modified Ritchey-Chretien system with a primary mirror made of ULE ceramic which is designed to withstand low temperatures it experiences. The telescope is mounted with 3 science instruments called – Himalaya Faint Object Spectrograph (HFOSC), Near-IR imager and Optical CCD imager. The telescope is remotely operated via an INSAT-3B satellite link which allows operation even in sub-zero temperatures in winter. This dedicated link is provided by the Centre for Research & Education in Science & Technology (CREST), Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bangalore. It is the country’s first robotic telescope and the first one designed to observe dynamic or transient events in the universe.

4. Which of the following statements is/are correct about the ‘ESG Funds’?

  1. The ESG funds imbibe environment, social responsibility and corporate governance in their investing process.
  2. Currently, there is no ESG fund in India now but SBI plans to launch it in late December 2020.

Select the correct codes from below –

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

Answer – A

Explanation – ESG investing is used synonymously with sustainable investing or socially responsible investing. It looks at three core areas: environment, social responsibility and corporate governance. So, while picking up a stock for investment, the ESG fund first shortlists companies that score high on these three parameters and then look into the fundamentals and financial factors in its investment decision-making process. So, the schemes will focus on companies that adopt environment-friendly practices, follow ethical business practices and are employee-friendly among others. There are over 3,300 ESG funds globally and the number has tripled over the last decade. The value of global assets applying ESG for investment decisions today stands at $40.5 trillion. In India, as of now there are three schemes — SBI Magnum Equity ESG (Rs 2,772 crore), Axis ESG (Rs 1,755 crore) and Quantum India ESG Equity (Rs 18 cr) — following the ESG investment strategy in India. While ICICI Prudential’s scheme launched its NFO recently, Kotak Mahindra AMC is expected to launch its NFO soon and more are expected to follow.

5. Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is a historical conflict between –

  1. Armenia and Georgia
  2. Georgia and Russia
  3. Syria and Turkey
  4. None of the above

Answer – D

Explanation – The contested Nagorno-Karabakh region, a mountainous and heavily-forested patch of land (in South Caucasus), is at the heart of a decades-long armed standoff between neighbours Armenia and Azerbaijan. Under international law, Nagorno-Karabakh is recognised as part of Azerbaijan. But the ethnic Armenians who make up the vast majority of the population reject Azerbaijani rule. They have been running their own affairs, with support from Armenia, since Azerbaijan’s forces were pushed out in a war in the 1990s.

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