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DAILY NEWS ANALYSIS | 19 March , 2024

India and EU Trade Negotiations: A Year of Waiting and the Role of Global Politics 

UPSC CSE Mains Question     

 Why in the News?  

Simon Coveney, Ireland’s Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, in an interview, highlighted the delay in the India-European Union Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement talks due to upcoming elections in the EU and India. He also discussed Ireland’s stance on the conflict in Gaza, criticizing Israel’s actions.

Background  

The India-EU Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement aims to enhance trade relations between India and the European Union. The negotiation has been in process for some time but faces delays due to political reasons, including elections in both India and the European Union. Meanwhile, the conflict in Gaza has escalated, drawing international attention and criticism.

Key Points of the News

  1. Trade Agreement Delays:
    • The delay in the India-EU BTIA talks is attributed to the political climates and upcoming elections in both India and the EU, suggesting that trade negotiations are often influenced by domestic and regional political contexts.
  2. Ireland-India Trade Relations:
    • Despite the small size of Ireland compared to India, there is significant potential for growth in trade, especially in technology, pharmaceuticals, and semiconductors, with current trade figures around 10 billion Euros.
  3. Sticking Points in Negotiations:
    • The main challenges in finalizing the trade agreement include disagreements over agricultural policies and the need for compromises from both sides.
  4. Global Tensions and Trade:
    • The discussion emphasizes the importance of trade agreements as stabilizers in times of international conflicts and disruptions, showcasing the EU’s interest in strengthening ties with India amidst global tensions.

Important Terms Meaning

  1. Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA):
    • A treaty between two countries or regions to facilitate trade and investment by reducing or eliminating tariffs, import quotas, and other trade restrictions.
  2. European Free Trade Association (EFTA):
    • A regional trade organization and free trade area consisting of four European states: Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland.
  3. Free Trade Agreement (FTA):
    • A pact between two or more nations to reduce barriers to imports and exports among them through elimination or reduction of tariffs, quotas, and preferences on most (if not all) goods and services traded between them.
  4. Semiconductors:
    • Materials that have a conductivity between conductors (generally metals) and nonconductors or insulators (such as most ceramics). Semiconductors are used extensively in electronic circuits.

Way Forward

The resolution of the India-EU BTIA talks requires patience, mutual understanding, and compromises from both parties. It is essential for both India and the EU to evaluate their long-term economic and strategic interests and work towards a mutually beneficial agreement. Additionally, the international community must address conflicts like the one in Gaza with a focus on humanitarian solutions and adherence to international law.

UPSC CSE Prelims Question

1. Which country is Europe’s largest producer of semiconductors, as mentioned in the context of India-Ireland trade relations?

a. Germany
b. France
c. Ireland
d. Netherlands
Answer: c. Ireland

2. What is the main reason for the delay in the India-European Union Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement talks according to Simon Coveney?
a. Economic disparities between India and EU countries
b. Upcoming elections in both India and the EU
c. Disagreements over agricultural policies
d. Global tensions and trade disruptions
Answer: b. Upcoming elections in both India and the EU

Operation Sankalp: Indian Military Forces Neutralize Pirates, Save Crew of Hijacked Ship                

UPSC CSE Mains Question    

Why in the News?    

The Indian Navy and Indian Air Force successfully executed a joint operation resulting in the surrender of Somali pirates aboard the hijacked Maltese-flagged vessel MV Ruen, ensuring the safety of 17 crew members.      

Background

MV Ruen was hijacked by Somali pirates in December 2023. The Indian Navy and Air Force undertook a coordinated operation involving aerial and maritime tactics to intercept and neutralize the pirate threat, demonstrating India’s capabilities in safeguarding maritime security.

Key Points of the News

  1. Joint Military Operation:
    • The operation showcases the synergistic capabilities of the Indian Navy and Air Force in conducting precise, long-range, and high-stakes missions against piracy.
  2. Technological and Tactical Proficiency:
    • The use of drones, precision airdrop of CRRC boats, and advanced surveillance aircraft underscore India’s technological edge and tactical proficiency in maritime security operations.
  3. International Law and Humanitarian Considerations:
    • The calibrated response, adhering to international laws even in the face of aggression from pirates, highlights India’s commitment to maintaining high ethical and humanitarian standards.
  4. Pirate Tactics and Countermeasures:
    • The pirates’ use of human shields and aggressive actions against military assets, and the strategic countermeasures taken by the Indian military forces, underscore the complex nature of modern piracy and anti-piracy operations.

Important Terms Meaning

  1. Combat Rubberised Raiding Craft (CRRC):
    • A small, fast, inflatable boat used by military forces for amphibious operations, often for deploying troops or conducting raids on coastal areas.
  2. INS Kolkata:
    • An Indian Navy stealth guided-missile destroyer, part of India’s maritime security arsenal.
  3. Marine Commandos (MARCOS):
    • Special operations unit of the Indian Navy involved in amphibious warfare, counter-terrorism, direct action, special reconnaissance, and unconventional warfare.
  4. MQ-9A:
    • A high-altitude, long-endurance remotely piloted aircraft used for surveillance and reconnaissance missions.
  5. P8I:
    • A maritime reconnaissance aircraft of the Indian Navy, designed for long-range anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions.   

Way Forward  

Strengthening international collaboration and intelligence-sharing, enhancing surveillance capabilities, and conducting regular joint exercises can further bolster global efforts against piracy. India’s continued investment in maritime security and collaboration with international partners will be crucial in addressing piracy and safeguarding global maritime commerce.  

UPSC CSE Prelims Question

1. What was the primary objective of deploying INS Kolkata in the operation against Somali pirates?

a. To provide medical assistance to the crew
b. To disable the hijacked vessel’s steering system and navigational aids
c. To escort the pirate ship to India
d. To initiate a diplomatic negotiation with the pirates
Answer: b. To disable the hijacked vessel’s steering system and navigational aids

2. Which aircraft was used by the Indian Air Force to airdrop Marine Commandos and Combat Rubberised Raiding Craft during the anti-piracy operation?
a. Sukhoi Su-30MKI
b. Boeing C-17 Globemaster III
c. Dassault Rafale
d. HAL Tejas
Answer: b. Boeing C-17 Globemaster III

Nature’s Viewfinder: A New Lens on Animal Vision and Color Perception         

UPSC CSE Mains Question  

Why in the News?

Researchers have developed a new camera system that allows humans to view the world through the eyes of animals, revealing how different species perceive moving objects in colors beyond the human visible spectrum.   

Background  

Humans and animals perceive the world differently due to variations in their visual systems. Animals, unlike humans, can detect ultraviolet and infrared light, allowing them to see a broader spectrum of colors. This capability plays a crucial role in their survival, aiding in predator avoidance, mate attraction, and finding food. To bridge the gap in understanding how animals see the world, scientists from the University of Sussex and George Mason University have innovated a camera that simulates animal vision.  

Key Points of the News

  1. Innovative Camera System:
    • The camera combines multispectral photography, a custom beam-splitter, and a 3D-printed unit to record videos in both visible and ultraviolet light, translating them into visuals interpretable by the human eye.
  2. Application of Python:
    • The team utilized Python programming to convert the camera’s output into signals that mimic how an animal’s photoreceptors would process visual data, enabling the creation of videos that replicate animal vision.
  3. Real-time Visualization:
    • This technological advancement allows for real-time visualization of how animals perceive their environment, moving beyond static images to capture the dynamics of animal vision in their natural settings.
  4. Potential Uses:
    • The camera opens up new possibilities for navigating wild landscapes, agricultural pest detection, and wildlife documentary filmmaking, providing a tool for both practical applications and educational outreach.

Important Terms Meaning

  1. Photoreceptors:
    • Specialized cells in the eyes that respond to light and enable vision.
  2. Umwelt:
    • A term used in semiotics and perception studies, referring to the unique world each organism perceives, shaped by its sensory experiences.
  3. Multispectral photography:
    • A technique that captures image data at specific frequencies across the electromagnetic spectrum.
  4. False colour:
    • A technique used to convert data from non-visible spectrums into visible colors, helping to visualize information that the human eye cannot naturally see.

Way Forward  

The next steps involve expanding the application of this camera system to study a wider range of species and ecological interactions. This could involve collaborations with wildlife researchers, documentary filmmakers, and educators to explore the full potential of this technology. Additionally, further development could focus on improving the camera’s accessibility and functionality for various scientific and practical applications.   

UPSC CSE Prelims Question

1. What technological approach did the researchers use to create a camera that simulates animal vision?

a. Infrared photography
b. High-speed videography
c. Multispectral photography combined with a custom beam-splitter
d. Standard digital photography
Answer: c. Multispectral photography combined with a custom beam-splitter

2. Which of the following potential applications of the animal-vision camera was mentioned in the article?
a. Enhancing the accuracy of GPS navigation systems
b. Improving human night vision for driving
c. Assisting farmers in spotting fruit pests invisible to the human eye
d. Developing new video games
Answer: c. Assisting farmers in spotting fruit pests invisible to the human eye

Electoral Bond Scheme Scrutiny: SC Calls for Detailed Donor Information from Parties           

UPSC CSE Mains Question     

 Why in the News?     

Major political parties in India, including the BJP, Congress, and Trinamool Congress, have not disclosed details about their electoral bond donors to the Election Commission (EC), despite directives from the Supreme Court.  

Background

The Supreme Court, in May 2019 and November 2023, directed political parties to submit detailed particulars of their electoral bond donors to the EC. However, most large recipients of electoral bond funding have failed to comply, citing limitations within the electoral bonds scheme itself, which was recently struck down as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

Key Points of the News

  1. Non-disclosure of Donor Details:
    • The BJP, Congress, and Trinamool Congress, among other parties, have not revealed donor details for electoral bonds, citing the anonymity provided by the scheme’s design. This has raised concerns about transparency in political funding.
  2. Supreme Court Directives:
    • The SC’s directives aimed at increasing transparency have been partially thwarted by the structural features of the electoral bonds scheme, which did not require political parties to maintain donor details.
  3. Selective Compliance:
    • While most parties have not disclosed donor information, a few, such as the DMK, AIADMK, and JD(S), have fully complied with the SC’s orders, showcasing a disparity in adherence to transparency requirements.
  4. Questions of Accountability:
    • The issue highlights the challenges in ensuring transparency and accountability in political funding, with the Supreme Court and Election Commission seeking to enforce compliance.  

Important Terms Meaning

  1. Electoral Bonds:
    • Financial instruments for donating money to political parties, intended to ensure transparency in political funding. The identity of the donor is kept anonymous.
  2. Bearer Bonds:
    • Bonds that are owned by the holder rather than a registered owner, making the transfer of ownership easy but anonymity preserved.
  3. Supreme Court (SC):
    • The highest judicial court in India.

Way Forward  

The Supreme Court is set to debate the issue further, seeking explanations from parties and the State Bank of India (SBI) on the non-inclusion of unique alphanumeric serial numbers of each electoral bond. Ensuring complete disclosure and compliance with judicial directives is crucial for enhancing transparency and public trust in political funding mechanisms.

UPSC CSE Prelims Question

1. What is the primary reason cited by political parties for not disclosing electoral bond donor details to the Election Commission?

a. Lack of technical resources
b. Privacy concerns of the donors
c. Rules of the electoral bonds scheme precluding maintenance of donor details
d. Electoral bonds do not have unique identification numbers
Answer: c. Rules of the electoral bonds scheme precluding maintenance of donor details

2. Which Supreme Court order specifically required political parties to divulge detailed particulars of electoral bond donors to the Election Commission?
a. May 2019
b. November 2023
c. April 12, 2019
d. February 15, 2024
Answer: c. April 12, 2019

Editorial Analysis(I) – Artificial Intelligence and Democracy: A New Frontier in Electoral Dynamics

  1. Context
    • M.K. Narayanan discusses the rapid development of Artificial Intelligence (AI), particularly Generative Artificial Intelligence (GAI), and its potential transformation into Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) that mimics human capabilities. This evolution could dramatically affect human existence and our interaction with technology. The article specifically focuses on the implications of AI in the electoral processes of India and globally, emphasizing both the potential benefits and significant risks associated with AI’s influence on democracy and misinformation.
  2. Background
    • Narayanan, with his extensive background in intelligence, national security, and cybersecurity, brings a critical perspective on the intersection of technology and governance. His experience provides a unique insight into the complexities of AI in the context of global elections, highlighting concerns about AI-generated misinformation (deep fakes), the manipulation of electoral processes, and the broader existential risks posed by advanced AI systems.
  3. Important Terminology
    • Artificial General Intelligence (AGI): AI systems that simulate human intelligence across a wide range of tasks.
    • Generative AI (GAI): AI that can generate content, such as text, images, and videos, mimicking real-world interactions.
    • Deep Fakes: Highly realistic digital manipulations of audio or video, often used to spread misinformation.
  4. In-Depth Analysis
    • Impact on Elections
      • Narayanan raises concerns about the use of AI in influencing elections, from generating persuasive disinformation to manipulating public opinion. The potential for AI to enhance traditional tactics of misinformation, creating more convincing and thus potentially more damaging falsehoods, poses a significant challenge to democratic processes.
    • Existential Risks
      • Beyond electoral manipulation, Narayanan touches on broader existential risks associated with AI, such as biases in AI design, adversarial capabilities (like poisoning, back dooring, and evasion), and the undependability of AI models. These risks could undermine trust in AI technologies and have unforeseen negative impacts on society.
  5. Significance
    • Narayanan’s editorial is significant for its timely discussion on the dual-edged nature of AI’s rapid development. By focusing on the electoral implications, he highlights a critical area where AI’s influence could have immediate and profound consequences. The piece serves as a cautionary tale, urging policymakers, technologists, and the public to consider the broader implications of AI and to implement safeguards against its potential misuses.
  6. Concluding Thoughts
    • The editorial emphasizes the urgent need for a balanced approach to AI development, advocating for the benefits of AI while safeguarding against its risks. Narayanan’s call for vigilance and proactive measures to mitigate AI’s adverse effects on democracy and society is a crucial message for a global audience facing the realities of an AI-integrated future.
  7. Way Forward   
    • To address the challenges outlined by Narayanan, a multi-pronged strategy is essential:
      • Policy and Regulation: Develop and enforce strict guidelines for AI usage in electoral processes, emphasizing transparency and accountability.
      • Public Awareness: Increase public education on AI’s capabilities and risks, particularly regarding misinformation and deep fakes.
      • Technological Safeguards: Invest in research and development of AI technologies that prioritize ethical standards, including mechanisms to detect and counteract AI-generated misinformation.
      • International Cooperation: Collaborate with international bodies to create a global framework for managing AI’s impact on democracy and security.

Editorial Analysis (II)– From Repression to Resistance: The Ongoing Battle for Democracy in Myanmar      

  1. Context
    • Soe Myint articulates the extensive repercussions of the Myanmar military coup on February 2021, focusing on the dire situation faced by the independent media and the broader regional instability it has caused. The article delves into the aftermath of the coup, highlighting the forced exodus of journalists, the resultant poverty, and the surge in criminal activities. It critiques ASEAN’s ineffective response to the crisis and stresses the importance of a collective regional approach to resolve the conflict and restore democracy in Myanmar.
  2. Background
    • Soe Myint, with his deep connections to Myanmar’s media landscape and firsthand experience of the junta’s crackdown, provides a poignant narrative of the challenges facing the country and its neighbors. The military’s overtaking of the government and the suppression of the media have led to a widespread humanitarian crisis, with millions displaced and living in poverty. The conflict’s spill-over effects threaten regional security and hinder economic development, underscoring the need for a concerted international response.
  3. Important Terminology
    • Junta: The military government that seized power in Myanmar.
    • ASEAN: Association of Southeast Asian Nations, a regional intergovernmental organization.
    • State Administration Council (SAC): The self-proclaimed government body established by the military following the coup.
    • Operation 1027: An offensive launched by ethnic forces against junta positions.
  4. In-depth Analysis
    • Regional Impact and ASEAN’s Role
      • Myint’s editorial brings to light the Myanmar conflict’s deep-seated effects on regional stability and the inadequacy of ASEAN’s efforts to mediate the situation. The spill-over of refugees, the rise in cross-border criminal activities, and the disruption of regional trade underscore the interconnectedness of Southeast Asian countries and their shared stake in Myanmar’s future.
    • The Struggle for Press Freedom
      • The narrative emphasizes the critical role of independent media in safeguarding democracy and the truth. Despite facing persecution, Myanmar’s independent media outlets persist in their mission, underscoring the resilience of journalists and the importance of international support for press freedom.
  5. Significance
    • The article is significant for its firsthand perspective on the Myanmar conflict and its call to action for ASEAN and the international community. By highlighting the regional dimensions of the crisis, Myint challenges policymakers to rethink their approach to Myanmar, advocating for a strategy that promotes regional stability and democracy.
  6. Concluding Thoughts
    • Soe Myint’s editorial is a compelling reminder of the far-reaching consequences of the Myanmar military coup, not only for the country’s citizens but for the entire Southeast Asian region. It underscores the urgency of a coordinated international response that prioritizes the restoration of democracy and the protection of human rights in Myanmar.  
  7. Way Forward   
    • Enhanced International Cooperation: Strengthened collaboration among ASEAN members and global stakeholders to apply concerted pressure on the Myanmar military government.
    • Support for Independent Media: International backing for Myanmar’s independent media as a bulwark against state propaganda and a means to ensure the flow of accurate information.
    • Comprehensive Policy Approach: Policies that address both the immediate humanitarian needs and the longer-term goal of restoring democracy in Myanmar, considering the broader implications for regional security and development.
    • Engagement with Civil Society: Encourage and support the involvement of civil society organizations and the diaspora in efforts to resolve the conflict and build a democratic post-junta Myanmar.
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