Current Affairs for NDA, CDS, AFCAT, Airforce X&Y Groups
News Analysis from THE HINDU (December 2, 2018)
1. Time-travelling, on the corridor to Kartarpur shrine
As they sat down to the ‘Guru ka Langar’ or community meal at the Kartarpur shrine after attending the ground-breaking ceremony for the Kartarpur corridor, conducted by Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan and Indian Ministers earlier this week, Sikh pilgrims from India were served more than just a hot meal.
The concept of the organised langar, which became a precept of the Sikh faith, was started very near where they sat on the banks of the Ravi, believed to have been instituted by the founder of the Sikh faith Guru Nanak himself. Guru Nanak spent the last 18 years of his life at Kartarpur before his demise in 1539.
The present gurdwara was rebuilt in 1925 at a slight distance from the original after it was damaged by floods on two occasions. And it was Raja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala, grandfather of Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, who paid the ₹1,35,000 for the reconstruction.
Historians say that while the Kartarpur shrine is now in the limelight for presenting an opportunity for engagement between India and Pakistan at a time when there is no dialogue process between them, the corridor to link the shrine to the Indian border just four kilometres away will also focus a much needed spotlight on the history of the shrine itself.
2. Modi, Xi upbeat on relations post-Wuhan
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed that there had been a “perceptible improvement” in bilateral ties after their Wuhan summit and both sides are optimistic that 2019 would be an even better year for India-China relations.
During their fourth meeting this year on the sidelines of the G-20 summit, Mr. Modi and Mr. Xi on Friday discussed joint efforts to further enhance mutual trust and friendship.
3. Ex-President George H.W. Bush dead
Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush, who guided America through the end of the Cold War and launched the international campaign to drive Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein’s forces from Kuwait, died on Friday at his home in Houston. He was 94.
Tributes quickly poured in for the 41st U.S. President — a decorated World War II pilot, skilled diplomat and one-time CIA chief, who also saw his son George W. Bush follow in his footsteps to the Oval Office. His passing comes months after the death in April of his wife Barbara to whom he was married for 73 years.
4. Central guidelines for crèches at workplaces
The Centre has prepared guidelines for setting up of crèches at workplaces, which prescribe trained personnel to man the facility as well as infrastructure requirements and safety norms.
In March this year, Parliament passed the Maternity Benefit Amendment Act, 2017, enhancing paid maternity leave from a period of 12 weeks to 26 weeks. The law is applicable to all institutions with 10 or more employees. It also makes it mandatory for every organisation with 50 or more employees to have a crèche.
The guidelines made public last month recommend that a crèche be either at the workplace or within 500 metres of it. Alternatively, it could also be in the beneficiaries’ neighbourhood.
The facility should be open for eight to 10 hours and if the employees have a shift system, then the crèche should also be run accordingly. A crèche must have a minimum space of 10 to 12 square feet per child to ensure that she or he can play, rest and learn. There should be no unsafe places such as open drains, pits, garbage bins near the centre.
The crèches should have at least one guard, who should have undergone police verification. There should also be at least one supervisor per crèche and a trained worker for every 10 children under three years of age or for every 20 children above the age of three, along with a helper.
The government has also recommended that no outsiders such as plumbers, drivers, electricians be allowed inside the crèche when children are present.
A crèche monitoring committee with representations from among crèche workers, parents and administration should be formed. There should also be a grievance redressal committee for inquiring into instances of sexual abuse. The guidelines are not mandatory but are a yardstick for NGOs and organisations for setting up of creches.
5. India, U.S. to review defence deals
India and the U.S. will review the progress of their expanding defence cooperation as well as discuss the issue of sanctions waiver for the arms purchases from Russia during Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s six-day visit starting Sunday.
Ms. Sitharaman will hold talks with her counterpart, James Mattis.
The Ministers are expected to review the progress of several defence deals in the pipeline as well as the developments in the region.
Discussion are in an advanced stage for the purchase of 24 MH-60R multi-role helicopters for the Indian Navy through the Foreign Military Sales route and also Predator armed drones for which the U.S. has already given in-principle approval.
India would also like to get some clarity on the waiver for sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).
India has signed or approved several big-ticket defence deals with Russia recently including a $5.43-bn deal for S-400 long-range air-defence systems.
According to official sources, Ms. Sitharaman will also visit the recently renamed U.S. Indo-Pacific Command at Hawaii. Further, she will visit the Mountain View headquarters of Pentagon’s U.S. Defence Innovation Unit (DIU) to take forward joint development projects.
At the inaugural 2+2 dialogue in New Delhi, a Memorandum of Intent was signed between the DIU and the Indian Defence Innovation Organisation – Innovation for Defence Excellence (DIO-iDEX) which will look into joint projects for co-production and co-development through the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI).
Ms. Sitharaman was earlier scheduled to visit the U.S. for the 2+2 dialogue and then proceed on a bilateral visit but that was deferred.
6. Ramaphosa to be Republic Day guest
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday met South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on the sidelines of the G20 summit here and invited him to be the chief guest at the Republic Day celebrations next year.
Mr. Ramaphosa has accepted the invitation.
“Glad to have met President @CyrilRamaphosa. At a time when India is marking the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, it is our honour to welcome President Ramaphosa as the Chief Guest for the 2019 Republic Day celebrations. Bapu’s close link with South Africa is well known,” Mr. Modi tweeted. He said Mr. Ramaphosa’s visit would further cement ties between the two countries.
7. New frigates to get BrahMos
The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) on Saturday approved procurements estimated at ₹3,000 crore. These include BrahMos cruise missiles for two stealth frigates to be bought directly from Russia and armoured recovery vehicles for the Arjun tanks.
“As a follow-up to the decision of the Cabinet Committee on Security in October 2018 for procurement of four P1135.6 follow-on ships, the DAC granted approval for procurement of the indigenous BrahMos missiles for two Navy ships to be built in Russia,” the Defence Ministry said in a statement. The BrahMos missiles will be the primary weapon on these ships.
In October 2016, India and Russia signed an inter-governmental agreement for four Krivak, or Talwar, stealth frigates. Two of them will be procured directly from Russia and two will be built by Goa Shipyard Ltd. (GSL). The commercial agreement was signed recently.
The DAC also approved the procurement of armoured recovery vehicles for Arjun, the Army’s main battle tank. They have been designed and developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), and will be made by Bharat Earth Movers Ltd. (BEML). The vehicles will ensure efficient and speedy repair and recovery of tanks in combat.
8. Brexit road ahead is going to be hard
What are the terms?
On November 25, leaders of the EU-27 group of nations signed off on the 585-word treaty setting out the terms of Britain’s withdrawal from the union as well as a non-binding political declaration of aspirations for the future relationship. While insisting that she did not share European Commission president Jean Claude Juncker’s sentiment that it was a “very sad day,” British Prime Minister Theresa May has little reason to celebrate. After 18 months of negotiation, the deal that must be approved by Parliament pleases very few. The document sets out everything from Britain’s “divorce payment” to the end of free movement, changes to fishery policy, and customs arrangements.
What about Northern Ireland?
Crucially, it deals with the seemingly-intractable problem of avoiding a hard border between Northern Ireland (part of the U.K.) and the Republic of Ireland (the EU nation), through a backstop or insurance scheme that would kick in and keep the border open in the event of a hard Brexit. The trouble is that, as it is an insurance mechanism, it can only be ended under very specific conditions, so its existence riles the “hard” Brexiteers, who believe it undermines the “taking back control” aspect so crucial to their Brexit vision. It also displeases Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) which believes it would lead to different rules across the U.K., threatening national integrity. The Labour Party also opposes the deal on the grounds that it fails its six tests, including providing the “exact same benefits” Britain has as a member of the single market and customs union. Even U.S. President Donald Trump has weighed in, suggesting the deal was more in favour of Europe than anyone else. Ms. May has insisted that it is the best deal on offer, though her threat that voting it down would take Britain back to square one is being ignored by and large by MPs convinced their opponents will blink first.
What happens in Parliament?
The situation will reach High Noon on December 11 when the deal goes to Parliament, potentially involving “hard” Brexiteers, Labour and those campaigning for a second referendum uniting to defeat the deal. The DUP, on whose votes the government depends to pass legislation thanks to the 2017 general election, has fired warning shots, abstaining from some votes relating to the Finance Bill.
What could happen then is anyone’s guess. Some are suggesting a so-called TARP scenario to avoid economic Armageddon, named after the 2008 battle to get the U.S.’s Troubled Assets Relief Programme through the House of Representatives. Then, the House initially rejected the programme that bailed out the banking sector but passed it after markets tanked: could British MPs react in a similar way to the prospect of crashing out? Or could the British government be forced to delay Brexit or hold a second referendum? The Labour Party — whose support would be crucial for achieving this — has sent mixed signals, including whether the option of remaining should be part of a new vote. Within the Conservative Party. some like Jacob Rees-Mogg continue to plug away for a no-deal exit. He remains influential despite a failed attempt to trigger a no-confidence vote in May, and there are chances that those who have remained in the Cabinet could join forces with him if they fail to exact further concessions from Europe. There are also surprise voices such as former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab who recently suggested that leaving the EU on the terms of the current deal could be worse than remaining in the EU on current terms.
9. Alexander Zverev, powerful challenger
A fortnight ago in London, the rising German tennis star Alexander Zverev won the biggest title of his career, the ATP Finals. Clinching the year-ending finale is a tough ask, for it pits the eight best players on the planet against each other. That he beat two all-time greats in Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic in the semifinal and the final, both in straight sets, was astonishing.
With the triumph, he became the first German to win the ATP Finals since Boris Becker in 1995, and at 21, the youngest champion since Djokovic beat Russian Nikolay Davydenko in Shanghai in 2008.
Why is it significant?
Normally someone ranked No. 4 in the world beating the No. 3 and No. 1 players is no big shock. But it is when those felled are Federer and Djokovic. Only three other players have beaten the Swiss and the Serb in the semifinal and final of the same tournament — Rafael Nadal, David Nalbandian and Andy Murray.
In fact, no one had accomplished this feat since Murray did it at the 2012 London Olympics. More significantly, Federer and Djokovic had swept 11 off the last 15 ATP Finals titles. The indoor O2 arena has over the years been perfect for Federer’s game because with the elements not in play, the 20-time Major winner’s shot-making is precise and lethal. On the other hand to beat Djokovic at his peak on a slow and low bouncing surface like in London is considered near-impossible.
10. IISER Pune’s novel anode increases Li-ion capacity, quickens charging
A novel anode developed by researchers at Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) Pune for use in lithium-ion batteries has five times more capacity than carbon-based electrodes and can be fully charged in about 15 minutes. The team led by Satishchandra Ogale from the Department of Physics at IISER Pune used a composite made of phosphorene (few-layer black phosphorus) and silicon nanoparticles to fabricate the anode.
Unlike carbon-based anodes that have a theoretical capacity limit of just 372 mA h per gram, silicon has 10-12 times higher limit (4,200 mA h per gram). Yet, it has proved very difficult to fully harness the potential of silicon to make electrodes for Li-ion batteries. The reason: when lithium forms an alloy with silicon, the alloy undergoes massive volume expansion of up to 300% during charging. The huge and repeated volume expansion and contraction (during discharging) breaks the electrode thus making it highly unstable and hence unfit for use in a battery.
11. GRAVITY wins
In a feat comparable to spotting a coin on the moon, researchers observed the quasar 3C 273, lying 2.4 billion light years away. Using the GRAVITY telescope in Chile, the team observed a velocity gradient in the gas at scales of about 10 microarcseconds.
12. Can iron be used in solar cells?
Iron is a good conductor of electricity and can at best be used as a medium for transmitting electricity. To use metals in solar cells would mean being able to make metals store solar energy and release it as electricity. Only hard-to-find noble metals such as ruthenium, osmium and iridium are capable of this. However researchers in Sweden now report success in rearranging the molecules of iron and creating a new iron-based molecule. It has the ability to capture and utilise the energy of solar light for a sufficiently long time for it to react with another molecule. A paper on this has been published in the journal Science. — Science Daily
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14. France to host 2024 Olympics
15. Tokyo organisers continue boxing preparations
The organisers of Tokyo’s 2020 Olympics said on Saturday that they would continue working to stage a boxing tournament at the games despite a freeze by the International Olympic Committee.
On Friday, the IOC said it was freezing preparations for boxing at the 2020 Games and launched a probe into the sport’s troubled governing body — the International Boxing Association (AIBA).
It said it wanted the sport included in 2020, but warned its inquiry could see boxing excluded.
On Saturday, Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto said that while “official level contact” was halted by the IOC’s decision, working-level contact with AIBA would continue.
The IOC’s final decision on whether to include boxing in the 2020 programme is not expected until next June, Muto said.
16. Euro ’20: incentive for 12 hosts
For the first time 12 nations will head into Sunday’s qualifying draw for Euro 2020 with the extra incentive of playing on home soil should they make it to the 24-team tournament in two years time.
Amsterdam, Baku, Bilbao, Bucharest, Budapest, Copenhagen, Dublin, Glasgow, London, Munich, Rome and Saint Petersburg are the 12 cities that will host matches across the continent to celebrate the 60th anniversary since the first European Championships.
The draw in Dublin will see UEFA’s 55 nations split into 10 groups with the top two in each section making up the first 20 teams to qualify.
However, a maximum of two of the hosts nations can be paired together in each group to give all 12 the chance of experiencing a home tournament with a guarantee of at least two home games in the group stages.
England stands to gain most from home advantage with both semifinals and the final, as well as three group games and a last 16 tie set to be played at Wembley.
Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA)
Defence Innovation Organisation – Innovation for Defence Excellence (DIO-iDEX)
Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI)
18. Things to Remember:
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman
19. Improve your Vocabulary:
Meaning 1 – Giving off light; bright or shining.
Example – ‘the luminous dial on his watch’
Synonyms – shining, bright, brilliant, radiant, dazzling, glowing, gleaming, coruscating, scintillating, lustrous, luminescent, phosphorescent, incandescent
Meaning 1.1 – Very bright in colour; lurid.
Example – ‘he wore luminous green socks’
Synonyms – vivid, striking, intense, brilliant, bright, strong, rich, deep, warm, full