Daily Current Affairs for UPSC – 23rd August 2023

GS 2

The BRICS test for India’s multipolarity rhetoric

Source: https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/2023-08-22/th_delhi/articleG7LBL9BGE-3991838.ece

Context: The upcoming BRICS summit in South Africa, scheduled from August 22 to August 24, is poised to test Indian diplomacy’s agility and could potentially set the tone for future geopolitical dynamics.

Relevance: GS 2 International Relations

BRICS’ Limited Global Impact:

  • BRICS’ capacity to significantly reshape the global economy is questionable.
  • The group’s internal economic agreements remain limited.
  • BRICS’ historical influence on global geopolitics is often overestimated.
  • It is not perceived as an attractive destination for investment.

BRICS’ Potential and Challenges:

  • Despite its current lack of clear direction, BRICS has the potential to become a global influencer.
  • Recent geopolitical developments and challenges in the United Nations system have revitalized BRICS.
  • The bloc is more globally representative than the UN Security Council (UNSC) and G-7 but less than the G-20.
  • Choices made by BRICS could have substantial implications for the international order.

Global Governance Imperfections:

  • Global governance’s undemocratic nature and failures are well-recognized.
  • In the absence of inclusive systems, forums like BRICS could fill institutional voids, despite their limitations.
  • About 40 countries have expressed interest in joining BRICS, reflecting discontent in the global South about their standing.

Global Geopolitics and Middle Powers:

  • Amid geopolitical uncertainty, middle powers and regional leaders seek platforms to navigate emerging dynamics.
  • Forums like BRICS help these nations make sense of global headwinds, influence geopolitics, and hedge their bets.
  • The Ukraine conflict and China’s rise have breathed new life into BRICS.

BRICS’ Potential for Conversation on Governance:

  • BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) won’t necessarily lead to democratic global governance.
  • These forums, despite competing interests, could stimulate discussions about making global governance more representative and inclusive.
  • Imperfect institutions that reflect current realities are preferable to imposing an alien structure.

India’s Geopolitical Dilemmas:

  • India faces complex geopolitical choices.
  • Participation in BRICS and SCO is a response to undemocratic post-World War II institutions.
  • India doesn’t aim to form an anti-West bloc.
  • India’s identity aligns with BRICS, SCO, and the global South, but it also has aspirations toward other forums.
  • Structural complexities place India at an emerging geopolitical faultline, with interests on both sides.

Rise of Competing Blocs and India’s Role:

  • The current geopolitical churn raises the risk of competing global blocs.
  • China and Russia’s alignment could pit them against the U.S. and its allies.
  • India traditionally opposes bloc politics, but the emerging landscape could draw it in.

The China Question:

  • India must consider whether its actions contribute to China’s global rise.
  • Alternative forums may strengthen China’s yuan and influence.
  • India and China have divergent end goals, despite finding value in non-Western institutions.

Balancing India’s Geopolitical Position:

  • India’s challenge lies in maintaining equilibrium between Western and non-Western forums.
  • It must check China’s influence in non-Western forums while not alienating other global South countries.
  • Navigating Western normative expectations alongside positioning in Eurocentric forums is complex.

The Saudi Arabia-UAE divide becomes public

Source: https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/2023-08-22/th_delhi/articleG7LBL9BGC-3991839.ece

Context: United Arab Emirates (UAE), as Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) expressed frustration and threatened retaliation against the UAE.

Relevance: GS 2 International Relations

Evolving Differences:

  • Differences emerged with UAE’s rejection of “OPEC +” oil production cut in 2017, focusing on boosting its own oil production.
  • UAE’s separate agenda in Yemen, supporting secessionist movement, and expanding maritime footprint caused divergence.
  • UAE established bases in Eritrea and Somaliland, solidifying a strategic network linking the Gulf with the Red Sea and Horn of Africa.
  • Saudi Arabia faced setbacks in Yemen, Syria, and Iran, prompting a shift toward de-escalation and dialogue.

Diverse Approaches to Diplomacy:

  • Saudi Arabia pursued de-escalation with Qatar and initiated dialogue with Iran.
  • UAE pursued its own engagement with Iran and normalized ties with Israel, diverging from Saudi-led Arab Peace Initiative.
  • Saudi Arabia readmitted Syria into Arab League, while UAE distanced itself from the process.

Domestic and Economic Competition:

  • Competition extends to various sectors including business, tourism, finance, and technology.
  • Both countries vie for regional primacy, particularly in trade, logistics, and port development.
  • UAE, despite its smaller size, competes with its vision, dynamism, and established global interactions.

Implications and Future Dynamics:

  • Competition is likely to characterize Saudi-UAE ties due to diverging interests and ambitions.
  • Saudi Arabia’s leadership role in Arab, Islamic, and global energy sectors ensures its continued prominence.
  • Despite competition, Saudi Arabia’s position in regional and world politics, economics, and finance remains unrivaled.

Deep in disarray

Source: https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/2023-08-22/th_delhi/articleG7LBL9BGI-3991836.ece

Context: The Legislative Assembly of Manipur wasn’t convened on the designated date, highlighting the severity of the crisis in the state.

Relevance: GS Paper – 2 Constitutional Bodies Role of Governor

Constitutional Role of the Governor:

  • The Governor’s responsibility to summon the Assembly is based on the advice of the government, as established by the Constitutional Bench in Nabam Rebia (2016).
  • It’s unclear whether the Governor is acting independently or being influenced by the Union government’s assessment.

Importance of Assembly Session:

  • The last Manipur Assembly session was held in March, necessitating another session before the six-month period ends on September 2.
  • Demands from both political and civil society circles urge the Assembly to convene to address the violence triggered by a High Court order concerning Scheduled Tribe status for the Meitei community.

Impact of Delay on Constitutional Order:

  • The Manipur High Court has operated under an Acting Chief Justice for several months, indicating instability.
  • Ongoing disorder and violence have resulted from the chain of events triggered by the Acting Chief Justice’s order.
  • The delay in appointments and decision-making contributes to further constitutional uncertainty and chaos.

GS 3

What are the concerns about drilling in the North Sea?

Source: https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/2023-08-22/th_delhi/articleG7LBL9BF4-3991852.ece

Context: UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak supported new fossil fuel drilling off Britain’s coast.

Relevance: GS 1 World Geography

  • The North Sea Transition Authority (NTSA) will award licenses for oil, gas, and carbon storage industries.
  • This move is intended to enhance Britain’s energy independence.

History of North Sea Drilling:

  • The North Sea lies between several countries.
  • The 1958 Geneva Convention on the Continental Shelf established countries’ rights over their continental shelves.
  • The UK passed the Continental Shelf Act in 1964 based on the 1958 convention.
  • BP received the first exploration license in the UK North Sea in 1964 and discovered natural gas and oil in subsequent years.
  • Exploration in the North Sea led to the establishment of multiple installations for oil and gas production.
  • Production peaked in 1999 but has since declined significantly.

Challenges of Offshore Drilling:

  • Offshore drilling poses risks to workers, marine life, and the environment.
  • It contributes to climate change by warming oceans, raising sea levels, and increasing carbon pollution.
  • Acidic waters resulting from carbon pollution can harm marine ecosystems and biodiversity, including coral reefs and shellfish.

Climate Commitments and Adaptation:

  • The Climate Change Committee (CCC) reported that the UK’s preparation for climate change is inadequate under the second National Adaptation Programme.
  • The National Adaptation Programme helps countries prepare for climate change.
  • The Climate Action Tracker indicates that the UK’s climate actions don’t align with the Paris Agreement, as its NDCs and long-term targets fall short of a fair global effort.
  • Licensing new oil and gas extraction plans contradicts the goal of limiting temperature rise to 1.5°C, according to the Climate Action Tracker.


Ecuadorians reject oil drilling in the Amazon in historic decision

Source: https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/2023-08-22/th_chennai/articleGQ3BL8IEN-3985996.ece

Context: Ecuadorians voted against oil drilling in a protected area in the Amazon.

  • The area, situated within Yasuni National Park, is home to two uncontacted tribes and is a biodiversity hotspot.
  • Around 60% of Ecuadorians rejected oil exploration in Block 44 within Yasuni National Park.

Yasuni National Park and Biodiversity:

  • In 1989, Yasuni was designated a world biosphere reserve by UNESCO.
  • The park covers over 1 million hectares and is incredibly biodiverse.
  • It houses 610 species of birds, 139 species of amphibians, 121 species of reptiles, and at least three endemic species.

ICSSR to develop Indianised research methodology tools

Source: https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/2023-08-22/th_delhi/articleG7LBL9BC9-3991876.ece

Context: The Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) will announce research award results for studying the impact of Union government schemes and policies.

  • About 500 researchers will receive funding for fieldwork focused on specific geographical regions.
  • The ICSSR aims to develop “Indianised research methodology tools” for studying social and economic changes in India.

Covered Schemes and Initiatives:

  • PM Ujjwala Yojana
  • PM Awas Yojana
  • Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana
  • PM Krishi Sinchai Yojana
  • PM Fasal Bima Yojana
  • PM Kisan Samman Nidhi
  • Year of Millet 2023
  • Ayushman Bharat
  • Jan Aushadhi Yojana
  • Swachh Bharat Abhiyan
  • Make-in-India
  • PM Gati Shakti
  • New Education Policy 2020
  • Black Money (Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets) and Imposition of Tax Act, 2015
  • Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Amendment Act, 2016, and more.

Research Approach and Funding:

  • The ICSSR focuses on primary data-driven empirical research on the social and economic impact of government policies.
  • Collaborative studies (₹30 lakh for six months) and individual studies (₹6 lakh for six months) will be supported.
  • The selection of proposals will be conducted by an expert committee.

Role of Social Science in Development:

  • Social science plays a crucial role as India aims to become a developed country by 2047.
  • The research outcomes aim to recommend the direction of policy initiatives and inform the public about government schemes.
  • The goal is equitable and sustainable development, with input from 24 research institutes and six regional centers.

‘India must maintain close watch on new variants of COVID-19′

Source: https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/2023-08-22/th_delhi/articleG7LBL9BC1-3991880.ece

Context: The COVID-19 situation in the country is stable, and India’s public health systems are prepared. However, there’s a need for states to closely monitor trends in Influenza-like Illness (ILI) and Severe Acute Respiratory Infections (SARI) cases.

Global Variant Overview:

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that the EG.5 (Eris) variant has been identified in more than 50 countries.
  • The BA.2.86 (Pirola) variant has been reported in four countries.
  • Global COVID-19 statistics indicate that there have been a total of 296,219 new cases reported in the past seven days.

India’s Contribution and Comparison:

  • Despite making up about 17% of the global population, India has reported only 223 new COVID-19 cases in the past week.
  • This constitutes only 0.075% of the global new cases reported during the same period.

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