Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE
- India – France Relationship
- Retail inflation
- Facts for Prelims
1 . India – France Relationship
Context: As the India-France strategic partnership hits the quarter-century mark, it has been given “strong guidance” by the “common vision” of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron.
India- France Relationship
- The Indo-French strategic partnership, established in 1998, has grown stronger over the years based on shared values and the pursuit of strategic autonomy.
- Pillars of cooperation- India– France partnership covers all aspects of bilateral cooperation which involve a strategic component. It is based on close cooperation in the sectors of defence, civil nuclear energy, space and security (cyber security, counter-terrorism, intelligence) and now includes a strong Indo-Pacific component.
- Civil Nuclear cooperation– France played a crucial role in mitigating India’s isolation in the non-proliferation order after its nuclear tests in 1998, demonstrating the depth of their relationship. France was the first country to recognise the strategic importance of India after the nuclear tests in 1998. The partnership with France is India’s most important strategic partnership in Europe.
- Economic cooperation- Trade and commerce between the two nations have flourished, with France emerging as a key trading partner for India. The annual trade volume reached $12.42 billion in 2021-22, and France stands as the 11th largest foreign investor in India, with a cumulative investment of$10.31 billion over the past two decades.
- Military cooperation- France has emerged as a reliable partner for India, becoming the second-largest defense supplier between 2017 and 2021.
- Crucial defense deals, such as the induction of French Scorpene submarines and the procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets, highlight the depth of their defense cooperation.
- Joint military exercises and dialogues, including Varuna, Garuda, and Shakti, further strengthen these ties.
- The PM’s visit is likely to see agreements or announcements on the acquisition of 26 Rafale-M (the marine version) fighters for the Indian Navy, and co-production of three more Scorpene class submarines at the public sector Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Ltd, which has already produced six Scorpene/Kalvari-class submarines under an earlier agreement.
- Climate change– India’s commitment to combating climate change aligns with France’s goals, as demonstrated by their joint efforts under the Paris Agreement and the establishment of the International Solar Alliance in 2015.
- France and India signed a Road Map on Green Hydrogen, which aims “to bring the French and Indian hydrogen ecosystems together” to establish a reliable and sustainable value chain for a global supply of decarbonised hydrogen.
- Earlier in February 2022, they signed a Road Map on the Blue Economy and Ocean Governance.
- Indo- Pacific component: As resident powers of the Indian Ocean and the Indo-Pacific, India and France have forged a Joint Strategic Vision for Cooperation in the Indian Ocean Region. Joint patrolling in the Indian Ocean and the establishment of the Indo-Pacific Trilateral Development Cooperation Fund show case their commitment to strengthening ties in the region. The trilateral grouping with the United Arab Emirates aims to ensure security from the east coast of Africa to the Pacific.
- As the only EU state with territories in the Indo-Pacific, France could be an important partner for building maritime domain awareness and keeping an eye on China’s presence in the region, augmenting New Delhi’s participation in the Quad.
- Support to India for Permanent Membership in UN- France has been supportive of India’s aspirations for permanent membership in the United Nations Security Council and entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group. Both countries share concerns over China’s regional and global behaviour and are committed to working together to maintain balance in the Indo-Pacific.
- Space cooperation– The collaboration between India and France in the space domain spans several decades. In the 1970s, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the French space agency, CNES, jointly worked on the development of the Viking engine, which subsequently paved the way for the Indian ‘Vikas’ engine.
- Over the years, India and France have joined forces to develop satellites such as ‘SARAL’ (Satellite with ARGOS and ALTIKA) and Megha-Tropiques. Notably, the recently launched Indian satellite, EOS-6/OceanSat, dedicated to observing and studying the oceans, carries a French-origin payload. The two countries also collaborate closely on India’s ambitious Gaganyaan Human Spaceflight program.
- Technology transfer- French offered their own Safran engine that would be fully made in India. While the US offer, which signalled a major breakthrough in India-US defence ties, does not include the transfer of a critical part of the technology, the French are said to have promised 100 per cent technology transfer.
- Digital Technology- A roadmap on digital technology co-operation may be on the cards for 6G, artificial intelligence, and quantum computing. An MoU signed between NPCI International Payments Limited (NIPL) and Lyra, a France-based payment services provider, may be implemented soon to enable UPI and RuPay payments in Europe.
- France, India and the world- Both India and France value their strategic autonomy, pursue independence in their foreign policies, and seek a multipolar world, even as both acknowledge the place and importance of the US in the world order.
- Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the geopolitical changes it triggered have brought a new European awareness of the strategic importance of India and vice versa. As India’s foremost partner in Europe, France, with its more nuanced view of the war than most other countries in the continent, has a better appreciation than other European states of New Delhi’s position on the war, including that the world has to make serious diplomatic efforts to restore peace.
2 . UNHRC
Context: India voted in favour of a draft resolution tabled in the UN Human Rights Council that condemns and strongly rejects recent “public and premeditated” acts of desecration of the Koran.
About the news
- The Geneva-based 47-member UN Human Rights Council adopted the draft resolution ‘Countering religious hatred constituting incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence’, with 28 members voting in favour, seven abstentions and 12 nations voting against.
- India voted in favour of the resolution that “condemns and strongly rejects the recent public and premeditated acts of desecration of the Holy Koran, and underscores the need for holding the perpetrators of these acts of religious hatred to account in line with obligations of States arising from international human rights law”.
- The Human Rights Council is an intergovernmental body within the United Nations system responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe and for addressing situations of human rights violations and making recommendations on them.
- It has the ability to discuss all thematic human rights issues and situations that require its attention throughout the year.
- It meets at the United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG).
- The Human Rights Council was established in 2006 by Resolution 60/251 as a subsidiary body to the UN General Assembly. It replaced the former Commission on Human Rights, which operated from 1946 to 2006.
- Composition- The Council is composed of 47 Member States elected from the UN General Assembly to staggered three-year terms, with a specified number of seats going to each major geographic region.
- Functions– The Council serves as a forum for dialogue among States, with input from other stakeholders. As a result of its discussions, the Council may issue resolutions calling on States to take specific actions or uphold certain principles, or it may create mechanisms to investigate or monitor questions of concern.
- Its mechanisms include the universal periodic review, which serves to assess the situations of human rights in all States Members of the United Nations. The Advisory Committee serves as the Council’s “think tank”, providing it with expertise and advice on thematic human rights issues. The complaint procedure allows individuals and organizations to bring human rights violations to the attention of the Council.
- In addition, the Council receives complaints alleging patterns of human rights violations, which are considered by the Working Group on Communications and may be referred to the Working Group on Situations. The Working Group on Situations reports substantiated claims of consistent patterns of gross violations to the Council and makes recommendations for action.
3 . Retail inflation
Context: India’s retail inflation hardened in June to a three-month high of 4.81% from 4.31% in May, driven by a spike in food price inflation to 4.5% from less than 3% in the previous month, owing to rising costs faced by households for items like cereals, pulses, milk and tomatoes.
About the News
- Surging prices of vegetables — specifically tomato, onion and potato, known as the ‘TOP’ grouping — along with other factors may put a brake on the easing of retail inflation based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for June.
- It could simultaneously have a cascading effect on inflation in the following three months — July, August and September.
- The “tomato shock” would mean vegetable price inflation would resurge sharply this month, while cereals and pulses will also remain under pressure as the area under irrigation is lower.
- The ‘TOP’ vegetables have a combined weight of 2.2 per cent in headline index (CPI-Combined) and 36.5 per cent in the CPI-Vegetables basket. Vegetables with a weight of 13.2 per cent in the CPI-Food and beverages baskets have historically been one of the major drivers of food inflation, a study published by the Development Research Group (DRG) of Reserve Bank of India
- Reason– The rise in the prices of vegetables in the last two months is due to unseasonal rains, crop damage, and the niggles/challenges growers face in the supply-chain phase
- What are the impacts? – The impact could be felt through decreased purchasing power, altered consumption patterns, and increased production costs, thereby affecting businesses and individuals alike.
- Such a large price variation not only affects the domestic market, but also the market segments that rely on exports of agricultural produce.
- Rising inflation and the consequent impact on household budgets could also affect overall consumer sentiment as people will have less disposable money to buy durables or spend on services such as short leisure travel.
- Costs of business production would increase. Prices of vegetables could drive up production costs for businesses that use them.
About Retail Inflation
- Inflation can be described as the general rise in the price of goods and services in an economy over time. It’s calculated by tracking the increase in prices of essentials. The primary index that tracks the change in retail prices of essential goods and services consumed by Indian households is the Consumer Price Index or CPI.
- The index assigns different weights to various goods and services in the basket and tracks the movement of their prices. It also tracks the price movement of the entire basket on a pan-India level to calculate the overall inflation figure or CPI inflation.
- CPI is not the cost-of-living index, and is, therefore, not an accurate reflection of consumer spending. The weightage of food in the CPI is close to 50%, but most households don’t spend nearly that much of their overall expenditure on food. People spend more on are services such as education, health care and transportation, where inflation levels are much higher.
4 . National Research Foundation
Context: The proposed National Research Foundation (NRF) envisages an allocation of ₹50,000 crore over the next five years, with close to ₹36,000 crore coming in from the private sector. But there is an uncertainty on the measures in place to ensure that such funds flow in as well as the degree of autonomy the body can exert.
About the news
- The NRF Bill, 2023, was approved by the Union Cabinet. The main objectives of the NRF are to boost private sector contribution to research in India and ensure that a greater slice of the funds makes its way to State universities and colleges.
- Among the measures being mooted is to have private companies and public sector entities contribute from their ‘corporate social responsibility (CSR)’ corpus to the NRF.
- Statistics from the Ministry of Science and Technology suggest that only 36% of India’s research expenditure — of roughly ₹1.2 lakh crore — came from the private sector in 2019-20. This is the reason why India’s expenditure on research and development was hovering around 0.6% of the Gross Domestic Product, below the 1-2% which was characteristic of countries with a stronger science and technology infrastructure and the global average of 1.8%
- There are programmes within the Science and Engineering Research Board where industry and government collaborate on industrial research by investing 50% each.
- The Department of Science and Technology will be the administrative department of the NRF, which will be governed by a board of eminent researchers and professionals across disciplines.
What is the NRF?
- Setting up the NRF was one of the key recommendations of the National Education Policy 2020.
- The NRF intends to act as a coordinating agency between researchers, various government bodies and industry, thus bringing industry into the mainstream of research.
- In addition to providing research grants to individuals, the NRF plans to seed, grow and facilitate research in India’s universities, especially State universities, by funding research infrastructure and researchers.
How will it be funded?
- The NRF will operate with a budget of ₹50,000 crore for five years, of which 28% (₹14,000 crore) will be the government’s share, and the remaining 72% (₹36,000 crore) will come from the private sector. The NRF draft proposes the government’s share to increase eventually to ₹20,000 crore per year.
- Out of the government’s share, ₹4,000 crore will be used from the existing Science and Engineering Research Board’s budget, which will be subsumed under the NRF. Therefore, the government has earmarked an additional ₹10,000 crore over the next five years for the NRF.
- However, this increase in the nation’s gross domestic expenditure on research and development (GERD) seems too meagre, (less than 2% of GERD) especially if one compares the GDP and the comparative spending in other big economies, such as the U.S. and China
How can the National Research Foundation facilitate the ease of doing Science?
- First, the time between applying for a research grant and receiving the money must be minimal, preferably within six months.
- Second, all the paperwork must be digitally processed without sending stacks of papers in hard copies to the NRF.
- Third, all finance-related queries, paperwork, approval, and acceptance need to be between the NRF and the finance department of the university/research institution keeping the scientist free to focus on research
- Fourth, the NRF needs explicit spending guidelines away from the General Financial Rules (GFR) and the government’s e-Marketplace (GeM) usage.
- Finally, the release of money needs to be timely.
What are the concerns?
- The proposed NRF is largely modelled after the National Science Foundation of the U.S. It borrows some of the best practices from the German, U.K., Swiss, Norwegian, South Korean, and Singapore science agencies. Even if the NRF draft discusses critical thinking, creativity, and bringing innovation to the forefront, it is unclear how the NRF will transparently seed, fund and coordinate research across institutions.
5 . Facts for Prelims
Duchenne Muscular Dystophy
- Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is one of the most severe forms of inherited muscular dystrophies. It is the most common hereditary neuromuscular disease and does not exhibit a predilection for any race or ethnic group. Mutations in the dystrophin gene lead to progressive muscle fiber degeneration and weakness.
- Dystrophin, an enzyme secreted in the muscles, helps in wear and tear and regeneration of muscles. Because of the genetic disorder, muscles cannot produce dystrophin. This damages and weakens the muscles, and patients become wheelchair-bound in their early teens and die prematurely.
- DMD symptom onset is in early childhood, usually between ages 2 and 3. The disease primarily affects boys, but in rare cases it can affect girls.
Virtual launch control centre
- Virtual launch control centre established at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) had allowed the ISRO to remotely carry out system checkouts on the launch vehicle from Thiruvananthapuram
- The facility has helped the space agency reduce movement of personnel to Sriharikota,
- The VSSC is ISRO’s lead unit for launch vehicles, and is responsible for the design and development of the LVM3 (formerly GSLV Mk-III) launch vehicle.
- The European Parliament is an important forum for political debate and decision-making at the EU level.
- The Members of the European Parliament are directly elected by voters in all Member States to represent people’s interests with regard to EU law-making and to make sure other EU institutions are working democratically.
- The Parliament acts as a co-legislator, sharing with the Council the power to adopt and amend legislative proposals and to decide on the EU budget. It also supervises the work of the Commission and other EU bodies and cooperates with national parliaments of EU countries to get their input.
- Together with the Council of the European Union, it adopts European legislation, following a proposal by the European Commission. The Parliament is composed of 705 members.
First GIS Survey of Siachen Glacier
- In June 1958, V. K. Raina, a top Indian geologist, led the first Geological Survey of India expedition to the Siachen glacier. This event is of historical and geostrategic significance as it puts to rest all myths to the effect that Pakistan was in control of the glacier since the beginning.
- This becomes a bone of contention between India and Pakistan in the future and the site of Operation Meghdoot launched by the Indian Armed forces in 1984.
- The Siachen Glacier is a glacier located in the eastern Karakoram range in the Himalayas where the Line of Control between India and Pakistan ends.
- It is the longest glacier in the Karakoram and second-longest in the world’s non-polar areas. The Siachen Glacier lies immediately south of the great drainage divide that separates the Eurasian Plate from the Indian subcontinent in the extensively glaciated portion of the Karakoram sometimes called the “Third Pole”.
Stand by Arrangement(SBA)
- The Stand-by Arrangement (SBA) is an IMF lending instrument which provides short-term financial assistance to countries facing balance of payments problems.
- Historically, it has been the IMF lending instrument most used by advanced and emerging market countries. Through the years, the SBA has been upgraded to be more flexible and responsive to countries’ needs.
- All member countries facing actual or potential external financing needs. Most often used by advanced and emerging market countries, but low-income countries sometimes use the SBA together with the Standby Credit Facility (SCF).
Cultural Significance of Lahaul Spiti Valley
- The Lahaul and Spiti district in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh consists of the two formerly separate districts of Lahaul and Spiti
- Lahaul-Spiti is bordered by Tibet in the east, Chamba in the west, Jammu and Kashmir in the north and Kangra-Kullu and Kinnaur in the south. This is the coldest region where Chandra, Bhaga, Spiti and Sarab rivers flow and there are many glaciers here.
- Religion- Buddhism and Hinduism are two major religions most people follow a mix of the two. ‘Lung Pe Chhoi’ similar to Bön religion of Tibet used to be popular before these two. Followers of this religion regularly offered animal and human sacrifices to spirits which were believed to inhabit natural world.
- Languages Spoken– Four major dialects are spoken in Lahauli and Spiti: these are Bhoti, Gehri, Manchal and Changsa.
- Festivals– Fagli is an important Lahauli festival celebrating New Year according to Tibetan New Year between February and March. Losar (Halda) is another important festival celebrated by lighting communal bonfires between January and February in which people pray to Shiskar Apa (Vasudhara), goddess of wealth. It’s exact date is determined by Buddhist Lamas
- Monasteries– A number of important Buddhist monasteries are located in Lahaul; Spiti valley are Ki, Kaza, Dhankar and Tabo. Lahauli people mostly follow Drukpa Kagyu order from Tibetan Buddhism. Then there are some temples which have a mix of Hindu and Buddhist idols and customs. Trilokinath Temple is one of the more famous ones.
- Social Structure– Due to proximity with Tibet, people of Spiti share a lot of Tibetan traits, language and customs while Lahauli people have a mix of Indo-Aryan and Tibetan. Languages even though different, belong to the Tibetan family.
- Bhotia families in Spiti follow the traditional Tibetan heritance system in which eldest daughter inherits the mother’s jewellery, eldest son inherits family property and the younger siblings don’t get anything. Social security system of Gompas is an important source of support in local communities. Polyandry was a common system in Lahaul but it’s almost out of fashion right now.