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DAILY NEWS ANALYSIS | 1 APRIL, 2024

Study Unravels the Recipe That Gives Kashmiri Rice Variety Unique Aroma        

 UPSC CSE Mains Question     


 Why in the News?  

  • Scientists at Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology (SKUAST), Srinagar, have identified key aromatic compounds in the Kashmiri rice variety mushk budiji, highlighting the role of altitude and temperature in its unique aroma, potentially boosting its export potential.

Background  

  • Mushk budiji, an indigenous rice variety known for its rich aroma and unique taste, is cultivated in the Kashmir Himalayas. However, it was on the brink of extinction due to rice blast disease, low yield, and lack of profitability until a revival program was initiated in 2007.

Key Points of the News

  1. The study published in Nature Scientific Reports by SKUAST researchers found around 35 aromatic compounds in mushk budiji rice at altitudes between 5,000 and 7,000 feet.
  2. This discovery points to the significant role of environmental factors, especially altitude, in the development of mushk budiji’s aroma.
  3. The research involved advanced techniques like GC-MS and an electronic nose to identify the volatile organic compounds responsible for the rice’s fragrance.
  4. Gene-expression analysis was used to further understand how environmental factors influence the flavor profile through genetic activation.

Important Terms Meaning

  1. GC-MS (Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectroscopy):
    • An analytical method for identifying different substances within a test sample.
  2. Electronic Nose (e-nose):
    • A device that identifies the specific components ofan odor and analyzes its chemical makeup to identify it.
  3. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs):
    • Organic chemicals that have a high vapor pressure at room temperature.
  4. 2-Acetyl-1-pyrroline (2-AP):
    • A compound giving rice its popcorn-like aroma.
  5. Gene-Expression Analysis:
    • A method to explore the expression levels of genes, understanding which genes are active and producing proteins at a certain time.

Way Forward

  • Further research is needed to fully understand the mechanisms driving the gene expression linked to aroma synthesis at higher altitudes. Expanding the study to include other environmental variables and conducting whole-sample transcriptome sequencing could provide a more comprehensive understanding of the genetic regulation involved in aroma development.


UPSC CSE Prelims Question

1. What role does 2-acetyl-1-pyrroline (2-AP) play in mushk budiji rice?

a. It enhances the rice's color.
b. It contributes to the rice's unique aroma.
c. It increases the rice's resistance to diseases.
d. It improves the rice's texture.
Answer: b. It contributes to the rice's unique aroma.

2. Which method was used by researchers to identify volatile organic compounds in mushk budiji rice?
a. PCR analysis
b. Electronic nose analysis
c. Gene sequencing
d. Gas chromatography-mass spectroscopy (GC-MS)
Answer: d. Gas chromatography-mass spectroscopy (GC-MS)

‘China to Develop Sri Lanka’s Deep Sea Port and Airport                

UPSC CSE Mains Question    

Why in the News?    

  • China has committed to the development of Sri Lanka’s strategic deep sea port and the capital’s airport, along with assisting in the restructuring of the island nation’s external debt, a pivotal move amidst Sri Lanka’s economic challenges.      

Background

  • Sri Lanka, facing significant economic turmoil, declared a sovereign default on its $46 billion foreign debt in 2022. This crisis has led to the necessity for restructuring the country’s external debt, with China being Sri Lanka’s largest bilateral creditor. The discussions between Sri Lankan Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena and Chinese officials in Beijing have led to China pledging support for Sri Lanka’s economic development and debt restructuring efforts.

Key Points of the News

  1. China’s involvement in developing Sri Lanka’s strategic assets like the deep sea port and the capital’s airport signifies a deepening of ties between the two countries amid Sri Lanka’s economic challenges.
  2. The agreement includes China assisting Sri Lanka in its debt restructuring process, crucial for maintaining a $2.9 billion IMF bailout package.
  3. This development comes after Sri Lanka declared a sovereign default due to a foreign exchange crisis, highlighting the gravity of its economic situation.
  4. China’s reluctance to reduce the principal amount owed (take a haircut) on its loans to Sri Lanka has led to discussions around alternative forms of debt relief, such as extending the tenure and adjusting interest rates.

Important Terms Meaning

  1. Bilateral Creditor:
    • A country (or government) that lends money to another country.
  2. Debt Restructuring:
    • The process of renegotiating the terms of loans to provide relief to the borrower, which may include extending loan terms, reducing interest rates, or in some cases, reducing the principal amount owed (a haircut).
  3. IMF Bailout:
    • Financial assistance provided by the International Monetary Fund to countries facing economic distress, under certain conditions.
  4. Sovereign Default:
    • When a country fails to meet its debt obligations, i.e., it cannot pay back its national debt.   

Way Forward  

  • For Sri Lanka, the way forward involves leveraging international partnerships effectively to navigate out of its economic crisis while ensuring that these strategic developments do not compromise its sovereignty or lead to unsustainable debt levels. It is crucial for the country to balance its economic interests with diplomatic relations in the region.  


UPSC CSE Prelims Question

1. What significant step has China pledged to undertake as part of its support for Sri Lanka amidst the latter’s economic crisis?

a. Write off all of Sri Lanka's external debt.
b. Assist in the development of Sri Lanka's strategic deep sea port and the capital’s airport.
c. Provide unconditional financial grants to Sri Lanka.
d. Increase tariffs on imports from Sri Lanka.
Answer: b. Assist in the development of Sri Lanka's strategic deep sea port and the capital’s airport.

2. Which of the following is a key condition for Sri Lanka to maintain its IMF bailout package?
a. Privatization of all public enterprises.
b. Restructuring of external debt.
c. Immediate repayment of all bilateral loans.
d. Doubling of export revenues within a year.
Answer: b. Restructuring of external debt.

India Releases Second Tranche of ₹500 Crore for Bhutan Infrastructure Work         

UPSC CSE Mains Question   

Why in the News?

  • India has disbursed the second installment of ₹500 crore to Bhutan for infrastructure development under the GyalSung Project, following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent state visit to Bhutan.   

Background  

  • India’s financial assistance to Bhutan, particularly for the GyalSung Project, exemplifies the strong bilateral relations between the two countries. This support is part of a larger commitment of ₹10,000 crore over the next five years, aimed at aiding Bhutan’s development efforts. The release of funds underscores India’s role as a key development partner for Bhutan and reflects the continued support and cooperation in various sectors including infrastructure development.  

Key Points of the News

  1. The second tranche of financial assistance from India to Bhutan for the GyalSung Project indicates a deepening of strategic and developmental cooperation between the two neighbors.
  2. This financial support is a continuation of India’s commitment to Bhutan’s development, following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s assurance during his state visit.
  3. The allocation of such significant financial resources highlights the importance India places on its relationship with Bhutan, especially in terms of supporting infrastructure and development projects.
  4. The timely release of funds, closely following the prime minister’s visit, underscores the swift action and importance India attaches to fulfilling its commitments to Bhutan.

Important Terms Meaning

  1. Tranche:
    • A portion or installment of a larger amount of money, often used in the context of financial aid or investment disbursements.
  2. GyalSung Project:
    • A project aimed at infrastructure development in Bhutan, specifics of which include enhancing national security and development capacities, though the exact details of the project’s scope are not specified here.
  3. Bilateral Relations:
    • Diplomatic relations between two countries involving cooperation and support across various sectors.

Way Forward  

  • Continued collaboration between India and Bhutan on infrastructure and other developmental projects will be crucial for fostering a stable and prosperous South Asia. It will be important for both nations to ensure that the projects funded by these tranches are implemented efficiently and effectively, leading to tangible benefits for Bhutan’s development and the strengthening of India-Bhutan relations.   


UPSC CSE Prelims Question

1. What is the total commitment made by India to Bhutan for development over the next five years?

a. ₹5,000 crore
b. ₹10,000 crore
c. ₹15,000 crore
d. ₹20,000 crore
Answer: b. ₹10,000 crore

2. What was the purpose of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's state visit to Bhutan in March?
a. To discuss security concerns in the region.
b. To initiate new trade agreements.
c. To assure Bhutan of India's support in development.
d. To negotiate border disputes.
Answer: c. To assure Bhutan of India's support in development.

ICMR Set to Bring in Evidence-Based Norms for Lung Cancer Management           

UPSC CSE Mains Question     

 Why in the News?     

  • The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) is preparing to launch a comprehensive initiative aimed at establishing evidence-based guidelines for the prevention, screening, diagnosis, management, and palliation of lung cancer in India.  

Background

  • Lung cancer, accounting for 10% of total cancer deaths in India, lacks standardized, evidence-based guidelines for its prevention, screening, diagnosis, and management. Recognizing this gap, the ICMR has initiated a process to synthesize existing evidence through systematic reviews and meta-analyses to inform clinical practice and enhance patient outcomes.

Key Points of the News

  1. The ICMR’s initiative represents a critical step towards establishing a unified standard for lung cancer care in India, where such guidelines are currently lacking.
  2. This effort will involve a systematic compilation and analysis of existing literature on lung cancer to address specific review questions, aiming to improve decision-making in clinical practice.
  3. Researchers will use the GRADE tool to assess the quality of evidence from systematic reviews and meta-analyses, which will then inform the formulation of recommendations based on the Evidence to Decision framework.
  4. The initiative underscores the importance of evidence-based healthcare in improving patient outcomes and standardizing treatment protocols.  

Important Terms Meaning

  1. Evidence-based Guidelines:
    • Recommendations for clinical practice that are informed by a systematic review of the evidence and an assessment of the benefits and harms of alternative care options.
  2. Systematic Review:
    • A form of research that synthesizes all empirical evidence that meets pre-specified eligibility criteria to answer a specific research question.
  3. Meta-analysis:
    • A statistical technique for combining the findings from independent studies.
  4. GRADE Tool:
    • A systematic approach to grading the quality of evidence and the strength of recommendations in healthcare.
  5. Evidence to Decision (EtD) Framework:
    • A tool used to structure and facilitate the decision-making process based on evidence, considering factors such as the benefits and harms, resource implications, and equity.

Way Forward  

  • The success of this initiative will depend on the comprehensive and meticulous execution of the systematic reviews and meta-analyses, followed by the effective implementation of the guidelines in clinical practice. It also calls for ongoing research to update these guidelines as new evidence emerges, ensuring that lung cancer management in India remains at the forefront of medical best practices.


UPSC CSE Prelims Question

1. What is the primary goal of the ICMR's initiative to launch systematic reviews and meta-analyses for lung cancer management?

a. To increase the profitability of lung cancer treatments.
b. To establish evidence-based guidelines for lung cancer care in India.
c. To reduce the incidence of lung cancer in India.
d. To promote the use of traditional medicines in lung cancer treatment.
Answer: b. To establish evidence-based guidelines for lung cancer care in India.

2. Which tool will researchers use to assess the quality of evidence in the ICMR's initiative on lung cancer?
a. The Randomized Control Trial (RCT) tool.
b. The Systematic Assessment Framework (SAF).
c. The Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development, and Evaluation (GRADE) tool.
d. The Quality Assurance Framework (QAF).
Answer: c. The Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development, and Evaluation (GRADE) tool.

Editorial Analysis – 1 The Politics of Humanitarian Aid

  1. Context
    • T.S. Tirumurti, with his rich experience as India’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations, New York, during 2020-22, and as India’s first Representative to the Palestinian Authority in Gaza during 1996-98, provides an insightful critique into the complexities and politicization of humanitarian aid. The editorial revolves around the consequential effects of the U.S. Congress’s decision to halt funding to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) amidst severe food insecurity in Gaza, signaling a deep interplay between geopolitical strategies and humanitarian efforts.
  2. Background
    • The editorial draws on the alarming declaration by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken regarding the unprecedented levels of acute food insecurity in Gaza. This statement is juxtaposed with the U.S. Congress’s cessation of funds to UNRWA, a critical agency providing humanitarian aid to Palestinian refugees. Tirumurti posits this act as a manifestation of geopolitical motives, undermining the essence of humanitarian aid and further complicating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He delves into the broader implications of such political decisions on global humanitarian crises, exemplified by the situation in Gaza, the politics surrounding the delivery of aid, and the international community’s response to such crises.
  3. Important Terminology
    • UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency): A UN agency tasked with providing education, health care, social services, and emergency aid to Palestinian refugees in the Middle East.
    • Acute Food Insecurity: A situation where individuals are at immediate risk of malnutrition and starvation.
    • Realpolitik: Politics or diplomacy based primarily on considerations of given circumstances and factors, rather than explicit ideological notions or moral or ethical premises.
  4. In-Depth Analysis
    • Geopolitical Maneuvering and Human Suffering
      • Tirumurti underscores the stark reality of geopolitical interests overshadowing humanitarian needs. The cessation of UNRWA funding by the U.S. Congress, according to him, serves not just as a denial of essential aid but as a political statement impacting the very recognition of Palestinian refugees and their rights. This act is critiqued as a deliberate geopolitical strategy rather than a humanitarian standpoint.
    • Humanitarian Aid as a Political Tool
      • The analysis further expands on the use of humanitarian aid as a leverage in international politics, citing the temporary pier project by U.S. President Joe Biden as a case where humanitarian efforts are entangled with political conditions and agendas. Tirumurti argues that such actions, while appearing benevolent, are laden with political motives, complicating the delivery of aid and exacerbating the sufferings of the affected populations.
  5. Significance
    • The editorial by T.S. Tirumurti sheds light on the complex interplay between politics and humanitarian aid, highlighting the ethical dilemmas and consequences of politicizing aid. It serves as a poignant reminder of the humanitarian principles at stake in the realm of international politics and diplomacy.
  6. Concluding Thoughts
    • Tirumurti’s analysis offers a critical perspective on the politicization of humanitarian aid, advocating for a reevaluation of international strategies and priorities. It calls for a commitment to humanitarian principles over geopolitical interests, emphasizing the need for compassionate and apolitical humanitarian efforts.
  7. Way Forward   
    • The editorial suggests a paradigm shift towards genuine humanitarianism in international relations, urging nations to transcend political motives and prioritize the welfare of individuals in crisis. It advocates for an international community that upholds and acts on the principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality, and independence in its humanitarian endeavors.

Editorial Analysis – 2 WTO’s investment facilitation negotiations are not illegal       

  1. Context
    • Prabhash Ranjan, a faculty member at the Faculty of Legal Studies, South Asian University, explores the intricacies of the investment facilitation for development (IFD) agreement within the World Trade Organization (WTO). The article delves into the recent developments at the 13th Ministerial Conference in Abu Dhabi, where the IFD agreement, supported by a significant majority of WTO member countries, faced opposition, particularly from India. Ranjan argues against the notion that the negotiations for the IFD agreement are illegal, emphasizing the legal frameworks and the necessity of such agreements in the evolving landscape of international trade.
  2. Background
    • The controversy at the heart of the editorial concerns the negotiation and proposed adoption of the IFD agreement, which aims to facilitate investment flows by creating legally binding provisions. Initiated in 2017 through a plurilateral approach by 70 countries, the agreement now enjoys the backing of over 70% of WTO members. However, its inclusion in the WTO framework has been contested, primarily by India, on the grounds of both substance and process.
  3. Important Terminology
    • Plurilateral Agreement (PA): A trade agreement between more than two countries but not necessarily involving all WTO members.
    • Investment Facilitation for Development (IFD): An agreement aiming to streamline and enhance regulatory transparency and administrative procedures to boost foreign investment.
    • Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS): A mechanism that allows foreign investors to sue governments for alleged discriminatory practices.
  4. In-depth Analysis
    • Legal Framework and Legitimacy
      • Ranjan provides a robust defense of the IFD negotiations’ legality, referencing specific articles within the WTO Agreement that permit plurilateral agreements. The contention revolves around whether investment topics, specifically facilitation, can be included within the WTO’s purview and the process adopted to negotiate the IFD agreement.
    • India’s Opposition
      • India’s resistance is twofold: questioning the inclusion of investment as a trade matter within the WTO’s domain and challenging the procedural legitimacy of the IFD agreement’s negotiation. Ranjan critically examines India’s stance, suggesting that it might be based on a narrow interpretation of the WTO’s mandate and a defensive approach towards new agreements.
  5. Significance
    • The discussion extends to the broader significance of plurilateral agreements within the WTO framework, arguing that they are essential for the organization’s adaptability and relevance in governing contemporary international trade issues. Such agreements are presented as viable pathways to overcome the deadlock in WTO decision-making processes.
  6. Concluding Thoughts
    • Ranjan’s editorial is a persuasive argument for the legal and practical necessity of the IFD agreement within the WTO framework. It calls for a reconsideration of oppositional stances, particularly by emerging economies like India, towards plurilateral agreements that facilitate investment and, by extension, trade development.   
  7. Way Forward   
    • The article suggests a strategic shift for countries like India towards a more open and constructive engagement with plurilateral agreements. Emphasizing the evolving nature of global trade, it advocates for an adaptive approach that embraces legal and procedural innovations to enhance investment facilitation and economic development.
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