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28 February 2024 The Hindu Newspaper Analysis | 28 February Current Affairs | Editorial Analysis

1. PANDA DIPLOMACY EXPLAINED

Panda Diplomacy

Renewed Panda Diplomacy Plans:

  • China considering loaning a pair of giant pandas to the San Diego Zoo.

  • Cooperation agreements signed with San Diego and Madrid, Spain, and talks underway with zoos in Washington D.C. and Vienna, Austria.

Panda Diplomacy Defined:

  • Giant pandas, native to central China, are gifted or loaned to other countries as a symbol of friendship or soft diplomacy.

  • The practice is known as "panda diplomacy."

Historical Roots of Panda Diplomacy:

  • Possible existence during the Tang Dynasty (7th to 10th century).

  • Records suggest pandas were presented to the Japanese court during Empress Wu Zetian's rule.

Modern Era of Panda Diplomacy:

  • Picked up in the mid-to-late 20th century.

  • 1972 marked the modern start when Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai gifted pandas to the U.S. during President Nixon's state visit.

Transition from Gifting to Loaning:

  • China shifted from gifting pandas in the early 1980s.

  • Pandas are now loaned with conditions, including a fee of around $1 million per year and requirements like building proper facilities.

Environmental and Economic Implications:

  • A 2013 study from the University of Oxford highlighted potential long-term environmental consequences of panda diplomacy.

  • Examples cited, such as Edinburgh Zoo's panda deal coinciding with China negotiating contracts across various sectors with the UK.

Beyond Symbolism:

  • Panda deals with countries like Canada, France, and Australia coincided with uranium deals and contracts with China.

  • Suggests a broader economic dimension to panda diplomacy beyond symbolic gestures.


2. Importance of NATO’s Steadfast Defender 2024 military exercise

Key Points:

  • Largest NATO exercise since the Cold War: This exercise involves over 90,000 troops from 31 countries and aims to showcase NATO's collective military power. Launched in late January 2024, it is expected to run until late May 2024.

  • Show of unity against Russia: The exercise is seen as a response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, deterring further aggression and assuring member states' security.

  • Multi-domain training: The exercise incorporates land, air, sea, cyber, and space operations, reflecting the evolving nature of warfare.

  • Strategic locations: The exercise focuses on areas near the Baltic Sea, strategically important due to Russia's exclave Kaliningrad and its significance for oil exports.

  • Enhanced collaboration: Training together strengthens NATO's ability to work cohesively in real-world scenarios.

Significance:

  • Demonstrates NATO's solidarity and commitment to defending its members.

  • Serves as a potential deterrent against Russian expansion in Ukraine.

  • Strengthens NATO's collective military capabilities through multi-domain training and collaboration.

Some other significant facts

NATO Steadfast Defender 24 Exercise

Steadfast Defender 24 is NATO's largest military exercise since the Cold War. Following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, the allies have created comprehensive defence plans which will be put into action during this exercise.




3. India's Space Plans


India's Ambitious Space Plans:

  • Own Space Station by 2035:

  • PM Modi announced India's goal to have its own space station by 2035.

  • This marks a significant step in the country's space exploration ambitions.

  • Return to the Moon:

  • Plans for another Moon mission unveiled.

  • India aims to bring back lunar surface samples.

  • Venus Exploration on ISRO's Radar:

  • PM Modi revealed that ISRO has Venus exploration plans.

  • Expanding India's reach beyond Earth and the Moon.

  • Crewed Lunar Mission by 2040:

  • Reference to 'Amrit Kaal,' indicating a crewed lunar mission by 2040.

  • Indian astronaut to land on the Moon using indigenous spacecraft.

  • Gaganyaan Astronaut-Designates:

  • Four astronauts named for the Gaganyaan program.

  • PM Modi referred to them as 'Shaktiyaan' carrying India's aspirations into space.

  • The names of the Indian Air Force (IAF) pilots — Group Captain Prasanth Balakrishnan Nair, Group Captain Ajit Krishnan, Group Captain Angad Pratap and Wing Commander Shubhanshu Shukla. The final crew for the mission will be picked from among the four.

  • Proud Moment for India:

  • PM Modi called for a standing ovation for astronaut-designates.

  • Described it as a special and defining moment in India's progress.

  • Space Sector Growth and Economic Impact:

  • Modi highlighted India's space economy projected to reach $44 billion in the next decade.

  • Predicted five-fold growth, positioning India as a global commercial space hub.

  • National Pride and Progress:

  • Emphasized the historic achievements on land, air, water, and space.

  • Acknowledged the nation's wishes and blessings for the astronauts.

  • ISRO's Contribution and Self-Reliance:

  • PM Modi commended ISRO staff associated with the Gaganyaan project.

  • Noted that most equipment for the mission is made in India.

  • Global Leadership in Space:

  • Modi sees India becoming a global commercial hub in space.

  • New space reforms expected to add impetus to the sector.

4. Former Supreme Court judge A.M. Khanwilkar appointed Lokpal chairperson


What is the background and genesis of Lokpal and Lokayukta in India?

  • The concept of ombudsman originated in 1809 in Sweden.

  • In India, the former law minister Ashok Kumar Sen became the first Indian to propose the concept of a constitutional Ombudsman in Parliament in the early 1960s.

  • Further, Dr. L. M. Singhvi coined the term Lokpal and Lokayukta in 1963. Later in the year 1966, the First Administrative Reform Commission passed recommendations regarding the setting up of two independent authorities at the central and at the state level.


What are the key provisions of the Lokpal and Lokayukta Act 2013?

Key provisions of the Act include

  • Selection Committee: which includes the Prime Minister as Chairperson, Speaker of Lok Sabha, Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha,  Chief Justice of India or a Judge nominated by him/her and one eminent jurist appointed by President.

  • Jurisdiction: Jurisdiction includes the Prime Minister, Ministers, Members of Parliament, and group A, B, C, and D  of government employees.

  • Composition: It is composed of a chairperson and a maximum of eight members, with half of them being judicial members. 50% of members belong to Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes, minorities, and women.

  • Superintendence: It has the power of superintendence and directs any investigative agency, including the Central Bureau of Investigation, for cases referred to it by the Lokpal.

  • Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010 (FCRA): Jurisdiction includes foreign donations in excess of Rs 10 Lakhs per year under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act.

  • The Act provides a requirement for establishing Lokayukta institutions through state legislation within 365 days of the Act coming into effect.

Lokpal and Lokayukta (Amendment) Act 2016

The amendment changes the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act 2013 with regard to the reporting of assets and liabilities by public officials.

  • Allows the leader of the largest opposition party in the Lok Sabha, in the absence of a recognized Leader of Opposition, to be a member of the selection committee that chooses the ombudsman.

  • The bill modifies section 44 of the Act, which originally dealt with the requirement for public officials to report their assets and liabilities within 30 days of starting their government service.

  • The amendment eliminates the 30-day time frame in section 44, and public officials will report their assets and liabilities as outlined by the government.

Changes with respect to the functions of the CVC

The enactment of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act will help the Central Vigilance Commission work in an independent and assertive manner:

  • Sections 8A and 8B were added in CVC Act, 2003 empowering the commission to enquire into references made by the Lokpal in respect of members of Group 'B', 'C', 'D' services of the central government and such level of officials or staff of the corporations, companies, societies and local authorities owned by the central government.

  • The CVC also has been bestowed with the powers of superintendence over the CBI in so far as it relates to the investigation of offenses alleged to have been committed under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, to ensure greater objectivity and accountability in its functioning.


5. India vs Vietnam in smartphone export race

  • Emphasis on Smartphone Exports:

  • India has prioritized smartphone exports, with PM Modi celebrating the $5 billion milestone in November 2022.

  • Ambitious Targets and Production Linked Incentive:

  • National Policy on Electronics 2019 aimed at exporting 600 million phones worth $110 billion by 2025.

  • Production Linked Incentive scheme credited for major smartphone companies shifting suppliers to India.

  • Current Export Status:

  • India's smartphone exports are below $10 billion annually, a fraction of the ambitious 2025 target.

  • Concerns Raised by IT Ministry:

  • Minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar expressed concerns about India losing ground to China and Vietnam.

  • High tariffs on mobile components were identified as a key challenge.

  • Import Duty Reductions:

  • Import duty on mobile parts reduced from 15% to 10% by January-end to attract manufacturers.

  • However, a 20% tax still imposed on chargers and circuit boards.

  • Data Reflecting Challenges:

  • Data reveals Vietnam's success in attracting firms away from China, steadily increasing its export share.

  • India ranks seventh with a little over 2.5% export share, falling short of the 2025 target.

  • Comparison with Vietnam:

  • Both India and Vietnam had less than 1% export share before 2010.

  • By 2022, Vietnam's share rose to 12%, surpassing South Korea to become the second-largest smartphone exporter.

  • China's Dominance and Shifting Trends:

  • China, while still dominating, faced a changing trend with Vietnam gaining export share.

  • Hong Kong, UAE, the Czech Republic, the U.S., and South Korea also play roles in the global smartphone export market.

6. Indian Banks’ Association (IBA):

Why in news: -As part of its efforts to spread voter awareness, the Election Commission has tied up with the Indian Banks’ Association (IBA) and the Department of Posts (DoP) to amplify its outreach to electors ahead of the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.


Context:

The managing committee of Indian Banks’ Association (IBA) has elected Union Bank of India’s MD and CEO Rajkiran Rai G. as the association’s chairman for 2020-21.

About Indian Banks’ Association (IBA):

Formed in 1946.

  • It is a representative body of management of banking in India operating in India – an association of Indian banks and financial institutions based in Mumbai.

  • IBA was formed for development, coordination and strengthening of Indian banking, and assist the member banks in various ways including implementation of new systems and adoption of standards among the members.

Members:

With an initial membership representing 22 banks in India in 1946, IBA currently represents 237 banking companies operating in India.


7. Odysseus Spacecraft by IM (USA)

Private Lander Touches Down

  • A private spacecraft named Odysseus, built by Intuitive Machines, successfully landed on the Moon on February 22nd.

  • This marks the first U.S. lunar landing in over 52 years and the first ever by a private company.

Weak Signal Raises Concerns

  • However, communication with the lander is weak, causing initial concerns and prompting engineers to work on improving the signal.

Details of the Mission

  • The mission is part of a renewed interest in lunar exploration by both government agencies and private companies.

  • Odysseus carried six experiments for NASA, focusing on commercializing lunar deliveries in preparation for future astronaut missions.

  • The landing site is near the Moon's south pole, an area rich in potential resources like frozen water and crucial for future exploration.

  • The mission also included commercial payloads, such as testing new fabric technology and capturing images of the descent.

Historical Context

  • The U.S. last landed astronauts on the Moon in 1972 during the Apollo program.

  • This private mission follows a failed attempt by another company last month.

  • Other countries, including Japan, Russia, China, and India, have also achieved lunar landings in recent years.

Significance

  • This successful landing marks a significant milestone for private space exploration and rekindles U.S. interest in the Moon.

  • The mission paves the way for further exploration and potential resource utilization on the lunar surface.

Noteworthy Points

  • The weak signal initially caused tension but was eventually confirmed by the company.

  • The specific location and condition of the lander are still unknown due to communication limitations.

  • Odysseus is designed to operate for a week on solar power before the lunar night arrives.


Editorial Analysis


Burden of power: On India’s astronauts and the Indian space policy


Four Air Force pilots named: Prasanth Balakrishnan Nair, Ajit Krishnan, Angad Pratap, and Shubhanshu Shukla are the final four competing to become India's first astronauts for the Gaganyaan mission.

Timeline: The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) plans two test flights of the launch vehicle in 2024 and 2025, aiming for a crewed mission by 2025.

Beyond Politics: Focus on Scientific Exploration

Concerns about political influence: The article acknowledges the possibility of political influence in the mission but argues against solely focusing on national pride or competition with other countries.

Democratization of Space Exploration:

  • Advocates for a more democratic approach in space exploration, moving away from geopolitical aspirations.

  • Stresses the importance of public scrutiny and debate in shaping the future of space exploration.

Scientific goals: The primary focus should be on scientific exploration, societal value, and expanding human knowledge in space.

Competing with China, Not for "Space Superpower" Status

India's space program: While India may be behind countries like China in space technology, achieving the status of a "space superpower" shouldn't be the primary goal.

Shifting focus: The emphasis should be on scientific advancement and exploration, not geopolitical competition.



28 February 2024 The Hindu Newspaper Analysis | 28 February Current Affairs | Editorial Analysis


28 February 2024 The Hindu Newspaper Analysis | 28 February Current Affairs | Editorial Analysis


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