09, June 2017

1.What does Shanghai Cooperation Organisation membership mean for India?

Source: The Hindu

India will be admitted as a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) during the ongoing summit of the regional grouping in Kazakhstan.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, will attend the SCO summit and meet some foreign leaders, including Chinese President Xi Jinping. He is also scheduled to attend the inauguration of the Astana Expo with the theme of “Future Energy”.

What is the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO)?

  • The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation is a Eurasian political, economic, and military organisation which was founded in Shanghai by the leaders of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
  • The SCO’s objectives arecentred around cooperation between member nations on security-related concerns, military cooperation, intelligence sharing and counter-terrorism.
  • It is mainly aimed at military cooperation between the members and involves intelligence-sharing, counter-terrorism operations in Central Asia.
  • The presence of China and India, the world’s most populous countries, would make the SCO the organisation with the largest population coverage.
  • The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Charter was signed during the Petersburg SCO Heads of State meeting in June 2002, and entered into force on 19 September 2003.
  • This is the fundamental statutory document which outlines the organisation’s goals and principles, as well as its structure and core activities.

The SCO’s main goals are as follows:

  1. Strengthening mutual trust and neighborliness among the member states;
  2. Promoting their effective cooperation in politics, trade, the economy, research, technology and culture, as well as in education, energy, transport, tourism, environmental protection, and other areas;
  3. Making joint efforts to maintain and ensure peace, security and stability in the region; and
  4. Moving towards the establishment of a democratic, fair and rational new international political and economic order.

Who are the permanent members of the SCO?

  • The SCO was founded by leaders of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan in 2001. Uzbegistan joined the group later.
  • India and Pakistan signed the memoranda for becoming a permanent member of the SCO in 2016.
  • The inclusion of India and Pakistan into the SCO would mean the addition of another 1.45 billion people which would make the grouping cover around 40 per cent of the global population.

What does this mean for India?

  • Cooperation on counter-terrorism is expected to emerge as a major point of India’s exchange with SCO.
  • India is expected to have a greater say in pushing for effective action in combating terrorism and on issues relating to security when it becomes a full member of the SCO, seen as a counterweight to NATO.
  • India, one of the largest energy consuming countries in the world, is also likely to get greater access to major gas and oil exploration projects in Central Asia once it becomes part of the SCO.
  • India’s entry into the China-dominated grouping is seen as a major milestone as it is expected to increase the group’s heft in regional geo-politics and trade negotiations besides giving it a pan-Asian hue.
  • Experts say India’s inclusion may even bring down Beijing’s overarching influence over the SCO, reports PTI.

What is Pakistan’s role in the Astana summit?

  • Pakistan will also be admitted as a full member of the SCO along with India during the Astana summit.
  • However, with tension brewing between the two countries, there is no meeting scheduled between Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif.
  • Ahead of Mr. Modi’s visit to Astana, the External Affairs Ministry said that India is willing to join hands with Pakistan and China to combat terrorism.
  • The comment is significant as full membership will require India to coordinate with member countries both on the trade front in the SCO headquarters in Beijing and at the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) based in Tashkent.

2.‘Hottest’ planet in universe discovered – NASA

Source: The Hindu

Scientists have discovered the hottest known planet located 650 light years from Earth, which is warmer than most stars in the universe and sports a giant, glowing gas tail like a comet.

KELT-9b

  • The Jupiter-like planet orbits a massive star KELT-9 every day and a half, researchers said.
  • With a day-side temperature peaking at 4,326 degree Celsius, the newly discovered exoplanet, designated KELT-9b, is hotter than most stars and only 926 degree Celsius cooler than our Sun.

Glowing gas tail

  • The ultraviolet radiation from the star it orbits is so brutal that the planet may be evaporating away under the intense glare, producing a glowing gas tail.
  • The gas giant 2.8 times more massive than Jupiter but only half as dense, because the extreme radiation from its host star has caused its atmosphere to puff up like a balloon.
  • Since it is tidally locked to its star — as the moon is to Earth — the day side of the planet is perpetually bombarded by stellar radiation, and, as a result, the planet is so hot that molecules such as water, carbon dioxide and methane cannot form there.

3.‘DigiYatra’- A New Digital Experience for Air Travellers

Source: PIB

The Ministry of Civil Aviation is adding a Digital experience for Air Travellers through DigiYatra Platform.

  • The ‘DigiYatra’ is an industry-led initiative co-ordinated by the Ministry in line with the Prime Minister Digital India’s vision to transform the nation into a digitally empowered society.
  • This follows Air Sewa which brings together all the stakeholders on a common platform for handling customer grievances and disseminating real-time data.

DigiYatra:

  • The Minister of State for Civil Aviation, the report on ‘DigiYatra’.
  • ‘DigiYatra’ initiative aims to bring together entire industry to develop a digital ecosystem that will deliver Indian customers a seamless, consistent and paperless service experience at every touch point of their journey.
  • DigiYatra initiative envisages providing airline travellers in India, a pioneering ‘digitally unified flying experience’ across all stages of their journey.

4.$1 mn fund to bolster BRICS media

Source: The Hindu

Chinas state-run news agency Xinhua has announced a USD one million fund to institutionalise media cooperation among the BRICS countries including awards for journalists from the five member states. This was announced at the recently held BRICS media forum.

  • The plan will promote six objectives, including “balanced reporting”— a view shared by several speakers at the forum, who called for alternative media narrative, which did not take the cue from Washington or London.
  • The proposal would also focus on joint development of BRICS digital media, financial information services and promoting people- to-people contacts.

Background:

  • Journalists from 27 media organisations from BRICS countries took part in the BRICS Media Forum.
  • The forum with the theme Deepening media cooperation among BRICS countries, promoting equity and justice in international media was proposed by Xinhua and jointly initiated with Brazils CMA Group, Russias Sputnik News Agency and Radio, the Hindu Group of India and South Africas Independent Media.

BRICS:

  • BRICS brings together five major emerging economies, comprising 43% of the world population, having 30% of the world GDP and 17% share in the world trade.
  • The acronym BRIC was first used in 2001 by Goldman Sachs in their Global Economics Paper, “The World Needs Better Economic BRICs” on the basis of econometric analyses projecting that the economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China would individually and collectively occupy far greater economic space and would be amongst the world’s largest economies in the next 50 years or so.
  • As a formal grouping, BRIC started after the meeting of the Leaders of Russia, India and China in St. Petersburg on the margins of G8 Outreach Summit in 2006.
  • The grouping was formalized during the 1st meeting of BRIC Foreign Ministers on the margins of UNGA in New York in 2006. The 1st BRIC Summit was held in Yekaterinburg, Russia, on 16 June 2009.
  • It was agreed to expand BRIC into BRICS with the inclusion of South Africa at the BRIC Foreign Ministers’ meeting in New York in September 2010. Accordingly, South Africa attended the 3rd BRICS Summit in Sanya, China in April 2011.

5.DGFT may come under Revenue dept

Source: The Hindu

The Centre is considering a proposal to shift the entire Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) office to the Department of Revenue (DoR) from the Department of Commerce (DoC) — as part of measures to simplify processes relating to export and import.

Key facts:

  • The suggestion — billed as a major trade facilitation measure and in line with the Centre’s ‘Ease of Doing Business’ initiative — was mooted recently by the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) in the DoR within the Finance Ministry.
  • The DGFT’s role includes Foreign Trade Policy (FTP) formulation and implementation — to in turn boost India’s exports.
  • It is manned mainly by the Indian Trade Service (ITS) cadre officials, but is usually headed by an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer.

Proposals:

  • If the proposal, that the CBEC put forward in a recent inter-ministerial meeting convened by the Cabinet Secretariat, is accepted, the DGFT will be placed within the DoR and staffed entirely by Indian Revenue Service (IRS) official.
  • The proposal will be taken up again soon, most probably in the first week of July.
  • This development follows the DoC recently seeking to hive off non-core areas including FTP implementation. This is to better utilise the DoC’s resources (including ITS cadre officials) in ‘core focus areas’ such as FTP formulation as well as in India’s trade negotiations.
  • The CBEC, however, is learnt to have said that it was getting several complaints from those in the foreign trade sector saying the current division of trade facilitation-related work between DoC and DoR was resulting in ‘red tapism’ and delays.

Trade facilitation

To ensure greater ease of doing business, it will be better if the entire trade facilitation work is brought under a single interface, the CBEC said. India is currently ranked 130th out of 190 countries in the World Bank’s (ease of) Doing Business report (2017) and further lower at 143rd when it comes to ‘trading across borders’.

  • The shifting of DGFT office would require amendments in the concerned laws — the Foreign Trade (Development & Regulations) Act and the Customs Act.
  • Another factor that could strengthen the CBEC’s proposal is that it (CBEC) currently houses the Secretariat of the inter-ministerial National Committee on Trade Facilitation (NCTF), which was established in August 2016, consequent to India ratifying the WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) in April 2016.
  • The TFA has provisions to help ease flow of goods across borders. The pact has measures to ensure effective cooperation between customs and other concerned authorities on trade facilitation and customs compliance issues.

The NCTF is chaired by the Cabinet Secretary and comprises Secretaries of the departments concerned with trade issues including DoR and DoC.



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