Daily Current Affairs : 24th June 2023

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

Topics Covered

  1. PMs visit to US and Key agreements signed
  2. Upanishads
  3. Artemis Accord
  4. Facts for Prelims

1 . PMs visit to US and Key agreements signed

Context: The Joint Statement issued by India and the United States affirmed a vision of the two countries as “among the closest partners in the world.

What are the Key agreements signed between India and US?

Technology Partnership

  • Strengthening semiconductor supply chains: Micron Technology, with support from the India Semiconductor Mission, will invest more than $800 million toward a new $2.75 billion semiconductor assembly and test facility in India. Applied Materials will build a Semiconductor Centre for Commercialization and Innovation in India to strengthen the two nations’ semiconductor supply chain diversification. And Lam Research will train 60,000 Indian engineers through its “Semiverse Solution” to accelerate India’s semiconductor education and workforce development goals
  • Critical Minerals Partnership: India has become the newest partner of the US-led Minerals Security Partnership (MSP) that has been established to accelerate the development of diverse and sustainable critical energy minerals supply chains globally.
    • The MSP, which started in june 2022, has 12 other partner countries, plus the European Union. India’s Epsilon Carbon Limited will invest $650 million in a greenfield electric vehicle battery component factory, which will be the largest ever Indian investment in the US electric vehicle battery industry.
  • Advanced Telecommunications: India and the US have launched public-private Joint Task Forces on the development and deployment of Open RAN systems and on advanced telecoms research and development.
    • India’s Bharat 6G and the US Next G Alliance will co-lead this public-private research. This work will reduce costs, increase security, and improve resiliency of telecommunication networks.
  • NASA-ISRO collaboration in space: India has signed the Artemis Accords, joining 26 other countries committed to peaceful, sustainable, and transparent cooperation that will enable exploration of the Moon, Mars, and beyond.
    • NASA will provide advanced training to Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) astronauts with the goal of launching a joint effort to the International Space Station in 2024.
    • NASA and ISRO are also developing a strategic framework for human spaceflight cooperation by the end of 2023.
  • Quantum, Advanced Computing, and Artificial Intelligence: The two countries have established a Joint Indo-US Quantum Coordination Mechanism to facilitate joint research between the public and private sectors across the two countries.
    • They have also signed an implanting arrangement to support joint research on quantum, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and advanced wireless technologies
  • Cutting-edge Research: The US National Science Foundation has announced 35 joint research collaborations with India’s Department of Science and Technology and signed a new cooperative arrangement with India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology on emerging technologies.
  • Innovation Handshake: To support the US-India Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technology (iCET), the US-India Commercial Dialogue will launch a new “Innovation Handshake” to connect the startup ecosystems of the two countries.
  • Fiber Optics Investments: India’s Sterlite Technologies Limited has invested $100 million in the construction of an optical fibre cable manufacturing unit near Columbia, South Carolina, which will facilitate $150 million in annual exports of optical fibre from India

Defence partnership

  • The highlight of the next-generation defence partnership is the deal to co-produce GE’s F414 combat aircraft engines in India. There are several other initiatives as well. Some of them are:
  • GE F414 Engine Co-Production: The Joint Statement welcomed the groundbreaking proposal by General Electric to jointly produce the F414 jet engine in India.
    • GE and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) have signed a MoU, and a manufacturing licence agreement has been submitted for Congressional Notification. The first-of-its-kind initiative to manufacture F414 engines in India will enable greater transfer of US jet engine technology than ever before.
  • General Atomics MQ-9Bs: India intends to procure armed MQ-9B Sea Guardian UAVs. The drones will increase India’s intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities.
  • More robust defence cooperation: The two countries advanced steps to operationalize tools to increase defence cooperation. They have resolved to strengthen undersea domain awareness cooperation and agreed to place three Indian liaison officers in US commands for the first time.
    • The US and India have also begun negotiations for a Security of Supply Arrangement and Reciprocal Defence Procurement Arrangement that will enable the supply of defence goods in the event of unanticipated supply chain disruptions.
  • Defence “Innovation Bridge”: The India-US Defence Acceleration Ecosystem (INDUS-X) — a network of university, incubator, corporate, think tank, and private investment stakeholders — was inaugurated on June 21, 2023.
    • This programme will facilitate joint innovation on defence technologies and accelerate the integration of India’s private sector defence industry with the US defence sector.

People-centric efforts

  • The Joint Statement mentions initiatives on visas and student exchanges. It also refers to the historic aviation deal between Air India and Boeing to acquire more than 200 American-made aircraft, and the efforts to resolve trade issues between the two countries.
  • Domestic visa renewals: The State Department will launch a pilot this year to adjudicate domestic renewals of certain petition-based temporary work visas, including for Indian nationals, who will no longer be required to leave the country for renewal in eligible categories. This will be implemented for an expanded pool of H1B and L visa holders in 2024, with the aim of broadening the programme to include other eligible categories.
  • New consulates: The US intends to open new consulates in Bengaluru and Ahmedabad, and India looks forward to opening its consulate in Seattle later this year, and to announcing two new consulates in the US.
  • Student exchanges and scholarships: India and the US have launched a new Joint Task Force of the Association of American Universities and leading Indian educational institutions, including the IITs.
    • Additional Fulbright-Kalam Climate Fellowships for research, administered by the US-India Educational Fund, will advance cooperation between leading scholars in India and the US on climate change.
    • The US is also enabling up to 100 additional US undergraduate students to study or intern in India via the Benjamin A Gilman International Scholarship Program.
  • Agreement on cultural property: The US and India are continuing negotiations for a Cultural Property Agreement which would help to prevent illegal trafficking of cultural property from India and enhance cooperation on the protection and lawful exchange of cultural property.

Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific

  • Under the heading ‘Leading on the Global Stage’, the Joint Statement refers to various strategic initiatives taken by the two countries.
  • Indo-Pacific and Indian Ocean: The US will join the Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative, a regional initiative inaugurated by Prime Minister Modi in 2015 to promote a safe, secure, and stable maritime domain and promote its conservation and sustainable use. India will continue to participate as an observer in the Partners in the Blue Pacific. The US and India will hold an Indian Ocean Dialogue with experts and stakeholders from across the Indian Ocean region to promote greater regional coordination.

Sustainable development

  • Energy collaboration: India and the US will continue to work together to achieve their national climate and energy goals. The US welcomes India’s decision to co-lead the multilateral Hydrogen Breakthrough Agenda to make affordable renewable and low carbon hydrogen globally available by 2030
  • Green technology: The Joint Statement mentioned the two countries’ commitment to creating innovative investment platforms that will lower the cost of capital and attract international private finance at scale for renewable energy, battery storage, and emerging green technology projects in India. It also refers to initiatives taken to decarbonise the transportation sector, and the Global Biofuels Alliance, which has been established by India with the US as a founding member.

Initiatives on health

  • Fighting cancer and diabetes: The US National Cancer Institute will foster collaboration between US and Indian scientists through two new grants to develop an Artificial Intelligence (AI)-enabled digital pathology platform, which will be utilized for cancer diagnosis, prognosis, and prediction of therapeutic benefit, as well as AI-based automated radiotherapy treatment for cancers of the cervix, head, and neck.
  • The US National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases will also sign an agreement with the Indian Council of Medical Research to further basic, clinical, and translational research on diabetes.
  •  The United States and India will hold a US-India Cancer Dialogue, hosted by President Biden’s Cancer Moonshot, to bring experts together from both countries to identify concrete areas of collaboration to accelerate the rate of progress against cancer.

Fighting terror and drugs

  • The Joint Statement reiterated that the US and India stand together to counter global terrorism, and unequivocally condemn terrorism and violent extremism in all its forms and manifestations.
  • President Biden and Prime Minister Modi reiterated the call for concerted action against all UN-listed terrorist groups including al-Qa’ida, ISIS/Daesh, Lashkar e-Tayyeba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), and Hizb-ul-Mujhahideen.
  • They strongly condemned cross-border terrorism, the use of terrorist proxies and called on Pakistan to take immediate action to ensure that no territory under its control is used for launching terrorist attacks. They called for the perpetrators of the 26/11 Mumbai and Pathankot attacks to be brought to justice.
  • The Joint Statement also said that the US and India are developing a broader and deeper bilateral counternarcotics framework to disrupt the illicit production and international trafficking of illicit drugs, including synthetic drugs, fentanyl, and precursors.

2 . Upanishads

Context: Prime Minister Narendra Modi presented US President Joe Biden with a rare first edition print of The Ten Principal Upanishads, recognising the leader’s profound admiration for Irish poet William Butler Yeats.

About The Ten Principal Upanishads

  • In 1937, Yeats published an English translation of the Indian Upanishads, co-authored with Purohit Swami. The translation and collaboration between the two authors occurred throughout the 1930s and it was one of the final works of Yeats.

What are Upanishads?

  • The Upanishads are the philosophical-religious texts of Hinduism which develop and explain the fundamental tenets of the religion.
  • The name is translated as to “sit down closely” as one would to listen attentively to instruction by a teacher or other authority figure.
  • At the same time, Upanishad has also been interpreted to mean “secret teaching” or “revealing underlying truth”.
  • The truths addressed are the concepts expressed in the religious texts known as the Vedas which orthodox Hindus consider the revealed knowledge of creation and the operation of the universe.
  • Upanishad one of four genres of texts that together constitute each of the Vedas, the sacred scriptures of most Hindu traditions. Each of the four Vedas—the Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda, and Atharvaveda—consists of a Samhita (a “collection” of hymns or sacred formulas); a liturgical prose exposition called a Brahmana; and two appendices to the Brahmana—an Aranyaka (“Book of the Wilderness”), which contains esoteric doctrines meant to be studied by the initiated in the forest or some other remote place, and an Upanishad, which speculates about the ontological connection between humanity and the cosmos.
  • Vedanta- Because the Upanishads constitute the concluding portions of the Vedas, they are called vedanta (“the conclusion of the Vedas”), and they serve as the foundational texts in the theological discourses of many Hindu traditions that are also known as Vedanta.

13 best known Upanishads

  • There are between 180-200 Upanishads but the best known are the 13 which are embedded in the four Vedas.
  • The Rig Veda is the oldest and the Sama Veda and Yajur Veda draw from it directly while the Atharva Veda takes a different course. All four, however, maintain the same vision, and the Upanishads for each of these addresses the themes and concepts expressed. The 13 Upanishads are:
    • Brhadaranyaka Upanishad
    • Chandogya Upanishad
    • Taittiriya Upanishad
    • Aitareya Upanishad
    • Kausitaki Upanishad
    • Kena Upanishad
    • Katha Upanishad
    • Isha Upanishad
    • Svetasvatara Upanishad
    • Mundaka Upanishad
    • Prashna Upanishad
    • Maitri Upanishad
    • Mandukya Upanishad
  • The Upanishads’ impact on later theological and religious expression and the abiding interest they have attracted are greater than that of any of the other Vedic texts.
  • Central Concept of Upanishads – The Upanishads deal with ritual observance and the individual’s place in the universe and, in doing so, develop the fundamental concepts of the Supreme Over Soul (God) known as Brahman (who both created and is the universe) and that of the Atman, the individual’s higher self, whose goal in life is union with Brahman.
  • These works defined, and continue to define, the essential tenets of Hinduism but the earliest of them would also influence the development of Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, and, after their translation to European languages in the 19th century CE, philosophical thought around the world

Who was WB Yeats?

  • William Butler Yeats was born in Dublin, Ireland, into a family where his father was both a lawyer and a renowned portrait painter.
  • Although Yeats published his first volume of poetry in 1887, his early career was marked more by his prolific output of plays rather than poetry, both in terms of quantity and significance. Alongside Lady Gregory, he co-founded the Irish Theatre, which eventually evolved into the renowned Abbey Theatre. Yeats served as the principal playwright for the theatre until the arrival of John Synge. His plays primarily revolve around Irish legends and demonstrate his keen interest in mysticism and spiritualism.
  • Some of his well-known plays include “The Countess Cathleen” (1892), “The Land of Heart’s Desire” (1894), “Cathleen ni Houlihan” (1902), “The King’s Threshold” (1904), and “Deirdre” (1907). These works showcase Yeats’s profound engagement with Irish folklore and his exploration of mystical and spiritual themes.

How did WB Yeats get into Hinduism?

  • Yeats’s initial encounter with Hindu philosophy occurred in 1885 or 1886 when he listened to Mohini Chatterjee speak. This encounter confirmed his vague speculations and provided him with a logical and boundless philosophy.
  • His interest in Hinduism grew even more intense when he met Purohit Swami in 1931, and it continued until the end of his life.

3 . Artemis Accord

Context : ‘Even the sky is not the limit,’ declared Prime Minister Narendra Modi on June 25, Thursday, while announcing that India has decided to join the Artemis Accords, marking a leap in Indo-US space cooperation.

What are the Artemis Accords?

  • Based on the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 (OST), the Artemis Accords were established by the U.S. State Department and NASA with seven other founding members — Australia, Canada, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom— in 2020 for setting common principles to govern civil exploration and use of outer space, the moon, Mars, comets, and asteroids, for peaceful purposes.
  • The 27 signatories to the Artemis Accords are the US, Australia, Canada, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, the United Arab Emirates, the U.K,. Ukraine, South Korea, New Zealand, Brazil, Poland, Mexico, Israel, Romania, Bahrain, Singapore, Colombia, France, Saudi Arabia, Rwanda, Nigeria, Czech Republic, Spain, Ecuador, and now, India.

Commitments under the Accords

  • Under the Artemis Accords, the signatories will implement memorandum of understanding (MOUs) between governments or agencies to conduct space activities for peaceful purposes in accordance with international law.
  • They are committed to share national space policies transparently with one another and scientific information resulting from their activities with the public and the international scientific community on a good-faith basis.
  • The signatories recognise common exploration infrastructure including fuel storage and delivery systems, landing structures, communications systems, and power systems to enhance scientific discovery and commercial utilisation. The members will have to render necessary assistance to personnel in outer space who are in distress.
  • All relevant space objects must be registered by the signatories and they must openly share scientific data in a timely fashion. Private sectors are exempted from sharing scientific data unless they are performing space activities on behalf of a signatory.
  • The members are expected to preserve outer space heritage, including historic human or robotic landing sites, artefacts and evidence of activity on celestial bodies.
  • The utilisation of space resources, including recoveries from the surface of the moon, Mars, comets, or asteroid should be done in support of safe and sustainable space activities. The usage of such resources by a signatory must not interfere with that of another signatory and information regarding the location and nature of space-based activities must be shared to avoid this. Signatories must notify and coordinate with one another to create a ‘safety zone’ to avoid any such interference.
  • Members must plan for mitigation of orbital debri, including safe and timely disposal of spacecraft at the end of missions. They must also limit the generation of new, long-lived harmful debris to a minimum.
  • The principles under these Accords must be periodically reviewed and potential areas of future cooperation must be discussed.

What are the activities under Artemis programme?

The initial three missions of the programme are Artemis-I, II and III.

  • Artemis-I – NASA launched its spacecraft ‘Orion’ on its indigenously built super heavy-lift launch vehicle (SLS) directly to the moon on a single mission. On November 16, 2022, the SLS carrying Orion commenced its first uncrewed integrated flight test from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida. The Orion completed a lunar flyby, performing a half revolution around the moon before returning to the earth’s orbit and splashing down on December 11, 2022, in the Pacific Ocean.
  • In 2024, NASA’s Artemis-2 programme will commence, with a crew of four astronauts onboard the SLS performing multiple manoeuvres on an expanding orbit around the Earth on the Orion, conducting a lunar flyby and returning to the earth. The crew will perform tests on systems like communication, life support, and navigation and perform a proximity operations demonstration which will help in docking and undocking for Artemis-III. The mission will create history by sending the first woman and person of colour to land on the moon.
  • Under Artemis-III, humans will return to the moon in 2025. This mission will witness the four-member crew land on the moon, conduct a week-long lunar exploration, perform a lunar flyby, and return to earth.
  • In future missions under the Artemis programme, NASA aims to land a second crew on the moon in 2028 and establish a Lunar Gateway station where astronauts will land in 2029. NASA also aims to set up a permanent base on the lunar surface and then proceed to send astronauts to Mars.

India’s space/moon mission & role in Artemis

  • India’s space agency ISRO already had two programmes — Chandrayaan and Gaganyaan — before the country signed the Artemis Accords. Under Gaganyaan, ISRO will demonstrate its capability for human spaceflight to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and a safe return to the earth. The mission has two unmanned flights and one manned flight planned to the ISS.
  • While the first unmanned mission was to be launched in 2022, the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the schedule by a year. Now, the first unmanned flight will happen at the beginning of next year and the crewed mission is projected to be done by the end of 2024. The four astronauts selected for the mission completed their generic space flight training at Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre, Russia, and since then have been in India undergoing tests and physical training. They will be sent for final training to the Kennedy Space Centre, US, in 2024.
  • India’s second attempt to ‘soft land’ on the moon — Chandrayaan-3 — is set to launch in mid-July this year. Similar to Chandrayaan-2, India will attempt to launch an orbiter to the lunar orbit and land a rover on the south pole of the lunar surface.
  • With India signing the Artemis Accords, it will be a part of the US’ attempt to land humans on the moon by 2025. Moreover, ISRO is likely to collaborate on further Artemis missions including the Lunar Gateway, Mars landing and establishing a permanent lunar base. India also aims to establish its own space station similar to the ISS and China’s Tiangong space station.

4 . Facts for Prelims

International Portability of social security funds

  • International portability of social security rights allows international migrants, who have contributed to a social security scheme for some time in a particular country, to maintain acquired benefits or benefits in the process of being acquired when moving to another country.
  • Two-day Labour 20 Summit concludes in Patna. The conference resolves to develop multilateral mechanism among the G20 member states and other invited countries on the portability of social security benefits
  • The task force on ‘International Portability of social security funds’ recommended that data on the susceptibilities and needs of migrants should be collected and analysed for the efficiency of social protection systems.
  • It called for disaggregating national data pertaining to social safety schemes, considering citizenship and residency status as reliable indicators of migrant status. This would facilitate the computation of the potential financial ramifications of transferable benefits and the estimation of the labour migrants’ effective or de facto social protection coverage.
  • Private and social partnerships should be considered to implement the portability of funds through third party service providers.

Samosa Caucus

  • Samosa Caucus is an informal grouping of Indian-American lawmakers who are either part of the House of Representatives or the Senate.
  • The term was coined by Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi to give credence to the growing number of “desi” lawmakers in the US Congress.
  • While the caucus itself is relatively young, its purpose is the same as that of any other Congressional caucus – to pursue common legislative objectives.
  • The Samosa caucus comprises five Indian-American lawmakers, including four members of the House of Representatives – Dr Ami Bera, Ro Khana, Raja Krishnamoorthi and Pramila Jayapal – and Senator as well as Democratic vice-presidential nominee Kamala Harris.

Gateway (Space)

  • An orbital outpost around the Moon that provides vital support for a sustainable, long-term human return to the lunar surface

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