Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE
- Iran – Saudi Arabia agreement
- Semi-Conductor Sub committee
- Landslide Atlas
- UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy
- Facts for Prelims
1 . Iran – Saudi Arabia Relationship
Context: Regional rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia agreed on to restore ties and reopen diplomatic missions in Chinese-brokered talks, they said in a joint statement, seven years after relations were severed.
About the News
- Saudi Arabia and Iran have announced the restoration of diplomatic ties after four days of previously undisclosed talks in Beijing. The announcement could not only lead to a major realignment in West Asia, but it also poses a major geopolitical threat to the United States, with China acting as a peace broker for the historic deal.
- Under the agreement announced, Iran and Saudi Arabia will patch up a seven-year split by reviving a security cooperation pact, reopening embassies in each other’s countries within two months, and resuming trade, investment and cultural accords
Background of the issue
- The rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran is rooted in Islamic sectarianism. While Iran is the foremost Shia state in the world, Saudi Arabia is considered to be the religious home of Sunni Islam. In modern times, this sectarian rivalry has translated into a tussle for regional hegemony. This has played a role in both sides being involved in multiple proxy conflicts against each other in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and most devastatingly, Yemen.
- Riyadh cut ties with Tehran after Iranian protesters attacked Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran in 2016 following the Saudi execution of the revered Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr. The rivalry between predominantly Shia Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia has dominated Middle East politics in recent years, spreading into Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen.
- After the several round of talks, the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have agreed to resume diplomatic relations and reopen embassies and missions within two months. After implementing the decision, the foreign ministers of both nations will meet to prepare for exchange of ambassadors.
- Iraq, a neighbour to both countries, had hosted several rounds of talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia since April 2021.Those encounters were held at a relatively low level, involving security and intelligence officials.
What is significance of the agreement?
- The agreement has potentially wide implications for the Iran nuclear deal and the civil war in Yemen, where the two sides are locked in a proxy war, and shows the new determination of Saudi Arabia to conduct a foreign policy independent of the west.
- The agreement implies that two countries had agreed to respect state sovereignty and not interfere in each other’s internal affairs.
- Both the countries had agreed to activate a security cooperation agreement signed in 2001.
- The deal could, however, have implications for a US-led effort to isolate Iran economically through sanctions.
- A further potential consequence of the diplomatic re-engagement is that Saudi Arabia may rein back its London-based satellite channel Iran International, which has proved popular inside Iran by siding with the protesters.
- The pact does not necessarily mean any change in the Saudi approach to the Palestinian conflict
Some challenges ahead
- One of the major roadblocks in a true thaw in relationships is the underlying sectarian tension between Shias and Sunnis. A diplomatic deal does little to change this.
- Furthermore, there are specific geopolitical questions which have not been directly addressed. For instance, in both the wars in Yemen and Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia find themselves on opposite sides – these conflicts will continue to fuel antagonism between the two countries.
- Also, Iran is highly critical of Saudi Arabia’s closeness with the United States. The US has crippled Iranian economy with its sanction’s regime for decades. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia is varied of the large network of armed militias across West Asia that Iran funds and backs, seeing them as a threat to its own sovereignty as well as the regional balance of power.
- These tangible issues will continue to be roadblocks in building any sort of close ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia. However, the newly struck diplomatic deal can be a good starting point for more negotiations and agreements.
2 . Semi conductor Sub Committee
Context: India and the United States signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that will pave the way for creating a Semiconductor Sub-Committee under the Commercial Dialogue between the U.S. Department of Commerce and India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) and the Ministry of Commerce.
India-U.S. Commercial Dialogue
- The Commercial Dialogue is part of ongoing efforts to strengthen the U.S.-India Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership, develop inclusive and fair trade and investment policies, and leverage the interests of the private sector in pursuing new market opportunities that advance prosperity in both countries.
Memorandum of Understanding on establishing Semiconductor sub committee
- It was signed under the framework of India-US Commercial Dialogue which is being held for the first time since 2019.
- It seeks to establish a collaborative mechanism between the two governments on Semiconductor Supply chain resiliency and diversification in view of US’s CHIPS and Science Act and India’s Semiconductor Mission.
- It aims to leverage complementary strengths of both countries and facilitate commercial opportunities and development of semiconductor innovation ecosystems through discussions on various aspects of semiconductor value chain.
- The discussions between the two sides have looked at transparency in incentives, coordinating on their respective semiconductor initiatives, sharing information, preventing over-subsidising and a glut of certain kinds of chips, jointly mapping supply chains, and alignments based on the demand for semiconductors.
What is semiconductor?
- A semiconductor is a material that has conductivity properties between a conductor, which has the ability to conduct electricity, and a non-conductor or insulator, which doesn’t allow electrical charges to flow through it.
- This means that, under certain conditions, semiconductors have the ability to act either as a conductor or an insulator. Semiconductors can be pure elements such as the most commonly used silicon, or compounds such as gallium arsenide.
Types of Semiconductors
- Semiconductors come in two main types based on the elements that are included alongside silicon, a process known as “doping.” These “impurities” are introduced to the crystalline silicon to alter the properties of the finished semiconductor:
- An n-type semiconductor contains one or more impurities based on pentavalent atoms like phosphorus, arsenic, antimony, and bismuth
- A p-type semiconductor has dopants with five electrons in its valence layer. Phosphorus is commonly used for this purpose, as well as arsenic, or antimony.
Uses of semiconductors
- The main application of semiconductors is in the creation of semiconductor devices which are essential for a multitude of electronic products.
- Semiconductor devices conduct electric currents in the solid state, instead of as free electrons across a vacuum, and are the successor to vacuum tubes in almost all applications.
- One of the most commonly used semiconductor components is the diode, which acts as a one-way valve in a circuit, only allowing the flow of current in one direction. Conversely, conductors allow current to flow in both directions.
- Semiconductors are also used in the design of transistors, which are used both for fast switching and for current amplification.
- The MOSFET (metal-oxide-semiconductor field-effect transistor) is the most common semiconductor device in the world.
3 . Landslide Atlas
Context: In 2022, heavy rain, floods and landslides claimed 835 lives in the country, according to the Statement of Climate of India 2022 released by the India Meteorological Department. With a steady rise in the number of extreme weather events, especially heavy rainfall capable of triggering landslides and floods, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) recently released the Landslide Atlas of India, a detailed guide identifying landslide hotspots in the country.
- Landslides are natural disasters occurring mainly in mountainous terrains where there are conducive conditions of soil, rock, geology and slope. A sudden movement of rock, boulders, earth or debris down a slope is termed a landslide.
What are the causes of Landslides?
- Natural causes that trigger it include heavy rainfall, earthquakes, snow melting and undercutting of slopes due to flooding.
- Landslides can also be caused by anthropogenic activities such as excavation, cutting of hills and trees, excessive infrastructure development, and overgrazing by cattle.
- Some of the main factors that influence landslides are lithology, geological structures like faults, hill slopes, drainage, geomorphology, land use and land cover, soil texture and depth, and weathering of rocks.
Consequences of Landslides
- Considered among the most frequent natural disasters, landslides are extremely hazardous, posing a threat to human and animal lives, damaging property, roads and bridges, disrupting communication lines and snapping power lines.
How are landslides are classified and Mapped?
- Landslides are broadly classified based on the type of materials involved (rock, debris, soil, loose mud), type of movement of the material (fall, topple, slide, rotational slide or translational slide), and type of flow of the material. Another category is landslides that spread laterally. Landslides mapped in the ISRO atlas are mainly event-based and season-based.
- ISRO’s National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC), Hyderabad, has created a database of landslide-prone regions of India based on events during 1998 – 2022, primarily along the Himalayas and the Western Ghats.
How prone is India to landslides?
- India is considered among the top five landslide-prone countries globally, where at least one death per 100 sq km is reported in a year due to a landslide event. Rainfall variability pattern is the single biggest cause for landslides in the country, with the Himalayas and the Western Ghats remaining highly vulnerable.
- Excluding snow covered areas, approximately 12.6 per cent of the country’s geographical land area (0.42 million sq km) is prone to landslides. As many as 66.5 per cent of the landslides are reported from the North-western Himalayas, about 18.8 per cent from the North-eastern Himalayas, and about 14.7 per cent from the Western Ghats.
- Nearly half of the country’s landslide-prone area (0.18 sq km) is located in the states of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Manipur, Tripura and Nagaland. Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir cover 0.14 million sq km of the total landslide-prone areas, whereas Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu account for 0.09 million sq km. A relatively small area (0.01 million sq km) of the Araku region in Andhra Pradesh along the Eastern Ghats, too, reports landslide events.
- In the Western Ghats, despite fewer events, landslides were found to be making inhabitants significantly vulnerable to fatalities, especially in Kerala.
What does the landslide atlas suggest?
- Uttarakhand, Kerala, Jammu and Kashmir, Mizoram, Tripura, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh reported the highest number of landslides during 1998 – 2022.
- Mizoram topped the list, recording 12,385 landslide events in the past 25 years, of which 8,926 were recorded in 2017 alone. Likewise, 2,071 events of the total 2,132 landslides reported in Nagaland during this period occurred during the 2017 monsoon season. Manipur, too, showed a similar trend, wherein 4,559 out of 5,494 landslide events were experienced during the rainy season of 2017. Of the total 690, Tamil Nadu suffered 603 landslide events in 2018 alone.
- Among all these states, an alarming situation is emerging from Uttarakhand and Kerala.
- While Uttarakhand’s fragility was recently exposed during the land subsidence events reported from Joshimath since January, this Himalayan state has experienced the second highest number (11,219) of landslides since 1998, all events since occurring post 2000. The year-wise number of landslide events in the state is: 2003 (32), 2010 (307), 2012 (473), 2013 (6,610), 2017 (1), 2021 (329) and 2022 (1).
- The number of districts with the maximum landslide exposure are in Arunachal Pradesh (16), Kerala (14), Uttarakhand and Jammu and Kashmir (13 each), Himachal Pradesh, Assam and Maharashtra (11 each), Mizoram (8) and Nagaland (7).
- Kerala has been consistently reporting massive landslides since it suffered the century’s worst floods in 2018. The year-wise landslide events here are 2018 (5,191), 2019 (756), 2020 (9) and 2021 (29).
- From the events and images obtained, the NRSC ranked Rudraprayag in Uttarakhand at the top of 147 vulnerable districts. It has the highest landslide density in the country, along with having the highest exposure to total population and number of houses.
4 . UN Global Counter Terrorism Strategy
Context: India has said that the tendency to categorise terrorism on the basis of motivations behind terrorist acts is “dangerous” and asserted that all kinds of terror attacks, whether motivated by Islamophobia, anti-Sikh, anti-Buddhist or anti-Hindu prejudices, are condemnable.
UN Global Counter- Terrorism Strategy
- The UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy is a “unique global instrument” to enhance national, regional and international efforts to counter-terrorism. Through its adoption by consensus in 2006, all UN member states agreed for the first time to a common strategic and operational approach to fighting terrorism.
- The Strategy does not only send a clear message that terrorism is unacceptable in all its forms and manifestations but it also resolves to take practical steps, individually and collectively, to prevent and combat terrorism.
- The UN General Assembly reviews the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy every two years, “making it a living document attuned to Member States’ counter-terrorism priorities”
What are the Pillars of the UN Global Counter- Terrorism Strategy
- The global strategy is composed of four pillars-
- addressing the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism;
- measures to prevent and combat terrorism;
- measures to build states’ capacity to prevent and combat terrorism and to strengthen the role of the United Nations system in that regard; and
- measures to ensure respect for human rights for all and the rule of law as the fundamental basis for the fight against terrorism.
5 . Facts for Prelims
National Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction
- NPDRR is a multi-stakeholder platform constituted by the Government of India to facilitate dialogue, sharing experiences, views, ideas, action-oriented research & explore opportunities in the area of Disaster Risk Reduction.
- The National Platform aims to bring together the whole range of India’s disaster risk community from Government, Parliamentarians, Mayors, Media, International Organizations, NGOs, local community representatives, scientific and academic institutions and corporate businesses etc.
- The output from the National Platform will offer a strategic direction and a road map for the formulation of our future National Action Plans on DRR.
- Theme for the year 2023 – “Building Local Resilience in a Changing Climate”.
Financial Intelligence Unit – India (FIU- IND)
- Financial Intelligence Unit – India was set by the Government of India 18th November 2004 as the central national agency responsible for receiving, processing, analyzing and disseminating information relating to suspect financial transactions.
- FIU-IND is also responsible for coordinating and strengthening efforts of national and international intelligence, investigation and enforcement agencies in pursuing the global efforts against money laundering and related crimes.
- FIU-IND is an independent body reporting directly to the Economic Intelligence Council (EIC) headed by the finance minister.
The functions of FIU-IND are:
- Collection of Information: FIU-IND is the nodal agency for receiving the following reports from various reporting entities.
- Cash Transaction reports (CTRs)
- Non-Profit Organisation Transaction Reports (NTRs)
- Cross Border Wire Transfer Reports (CBWTRs)
- Reports on Purchase or Sale of Immovable Property (IPRs)
- Suspicious Transaction Reports (STRs)
- Analysis of Information: to uncover patterns of transactions suggesting suspicion of money laundering and related crimes.
- Sharing of Information: with national intelligence/law enforcement agencies, national regulatory authorities and foreign Financial Intelligence Units.
- Act as Central Repository: to maintain the national data base on the basis of reports received from reporting entities.
- Coordination: Coordinate and strengthen collection and sharing of financial intelligence through an effective national, regional and global network to combat money laundering and related crimes.
- Research and Analysis: Monitor and identify strategic key areas on money laundering trends, typologies and developments.
- Punitive Action: The agency can also take punitive action for violations of the PMLA.
- Influenza viruses, which cause the infectious disease known as flu, are of four different types: A, B, C and D. Influenza A is further classified into different subtypes and one of them is H3N2.
- Symptoms- Its symptoms are similar to that of any other flu. They include cough, fever, body ache and headache, sore throat, a runny or stuffy nose and extreme fatigue. Nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea have been seen in very few cases.
- According to the Indian Medical Association (IMA), an infection caused by H3N2 generally lasts for five to seven days and the fever starts going away after three days. However, the coughing can persist for up to three weeks.
- Vulnerable groups- As per the IMA, this virus usually preys on individuals below the age of 15 years or above 50 years of age. Children and those with co-morbidities like asthma, diabetes, heart disease, weakened immune systems and neurological or neurodevelopmental conditions are at a higher risk.
- Washing hands before eating or touching your face, nose or mouth, carrying pocket sanitizer, and avoiding people already infected with the virus or any other seasonal flu are some of the measures to prevent spread of the virus.