Current Affairs 23rd October

India weighs ‘net zero’ target ahead of CoP #GS3 #Environment

India has not entirely ruled out the possibility of agreeing to a “net zero” climate target, though it will not budge on demanding that developed nations make good their previous commitments, such as an annual $100 billion to developing countries for mitigating the impacts of climate change, facilitating technology transfer and putting in place a tangible market-based mechanism to activate the moribund carbon credit markets, senior officials said.

Ahead of the 26th meeting of the United Nations’ Conference of Parties (CoP) that begins in Glasgow on November 1, the focus on making the meet a success is to have all nations commit to “net zero”, or a year by when a country’s fossil fuel emissions will peak and at some point be neutralised by taking out excess carbon from the atmosphere.

All countries doing this by 2050, scientists say, will mean a chance of restricting the average temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, provided emissions fall to around 45% of the 2010 levels by 2030.

Impact on development

This, however, means deep and significant cuts to fossil fuel use that can affect the development trajectory of India and other developing countries.

A study by the think tank Council for Energy Environment and Water projects said that for India to achieve the net zero target even by 2070, usage of coal, especially for power generation, will need to peak by 2040 and drop by 99% between 2040 and 2060. The consumption of crude oil across sectors will need to peak by 2050 and fall substantially by 90% between 2050 and 2070.

India’s long-term position in climate talks has always been that it will eschew the use of fossil fuels but only gradually because it cannot compromise on development, which is now primarily reliant on coal.

Also because it goes against the core principle of “common but differentiated responsibility” that requires developed countries, which are responsible for the climate crisis, to take on deeper cuts and pay developing countries for the environmental damage from rising temperature as well as finance their transition to clean energy sources.

However, the U.S, and EU delegations, in recent months, had several meetings with the Indian officials to chart out a more ambitious pathway to cut emissions.

“All options are on the platter,” a senior official who will be representing India at Glasgow told The Hindu , “but it will depend on how the negotiations will progress and whether we will be able to move ahead on getting developed countries to honour their commitments”.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to be in Glasgow for the Leaders’ Summit on the first two days. At least 120 heads of state have confirmed their participation.

There are also expectations that even if India doesn’t announce a net zero target, it may hint at an updated set of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC), or a firmer set of commitments that could include higher clean-energy targets or reductions in specific categories of emissions.

Army’s array of rocket systems along LAC #GS3 #Defence

India’s military posture in the Tawang sector of Arunachal Pradesh has added an offensive punch with the Army deploying Pinaka and Smerch long-range, multi-barrel rocket launch systems as well as BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles in the region.

In a rare demonstration, the Army showcased its Pinaka and Smerch units deployed on the Arunachal Pradesh-Assam border to a group of visiting journalists from Delhi.

“The Pinaka and Smerch rocket systems have been deployed closer to the LAC,” said a senior officer at the demonstration. The BrahMos has also been deployed in the Tawang sector, the officer stated.

In addition to the rocket systems, deployment of BrahMos missiles, which have a range of over 290 km, gives the Army the ability to hit targets deep inside China in case of any Chinese misadventure in this sector.

90-km range

Smerch, procured from Russia, is the longest range conventional rocket system in the Army’s inventory with a maximum range of 90 km, said Col. Gaurav Sood explaining about the rocket systems at the demonstration.

A battery of four launchers can fire a salvo of 48 rockets in 40 seconds, neutralising an area of 1200mX1200m, explained Major Sreenath V.E., Battery Commander of a Smerch unit.

Pinaka, indigenously designed and developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation, has a range of 38 km. “A battery of six launchers of Pinaka can fire a salvo of 72 rockets in 44 seconds, thereby neutralising an area of 1000mX800m,” said Lt. Col. Samarth.

The upgraded version of the Pinaka ammunition systems were already in production line and could fire up to a range of 75 km with superior precision, he added.

Both Pinaka and Smerch have 12 rockets in each launcher. “In high-attitude areas, the ranges are enhanced significantly which further augments the deep strike capability of the weapon system,” Col. Sood added.

Currently, the Army has five Grad rocket regiments, three Smerch regiments and four Pinaka regiments. Another six Pinaka regiments are in the process of being procured.

Integrated rocket force

The Chief of the Defence Staff had recently talked of creating an integrated rocket force in addition to the proposed integrated theatre commands, which a senior official had stated was a concept under examination. As reported by The Hindu recently, the Army has significantly augmented its firepower along the 1,300 km-long Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the eastern sector and also beefed up overall defences in the region.

43 countries call on China at UN to respect Uighur rights #GS2 #IR

Forty-three countries have called on China to “ensure full respect for the rule of law” for the Muslim Uighur community in Xinjiang, in a statement read at the United Nations on Thursday that sparked outrage from Beijing.

The declaration, signed by the United States as well as several European and Asian member states and others, accused China of a litany of human rights violations against the Uighurs, including torture, forced sterilisation and forced disappearances.

“We call on China to allow immediate, meaningful and unfettered access to Xinjiang for independent observers, including the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and her office,” the countries said in a joint statement, read at the United Nations by France.

“We are particularly concerned about the situation in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region,” the statement continued, citing “credible” reports that “indicate the existence of a large network of ‘political reeducation’ camps where over a million people have been arbitrarily detained.”

‘Emancipating people’

Beijing has long denied accusations of ethnic cleansing against Uighurs and other Muslim Turkic people in Xinjiang, where experts have estimated that more than one million people are incarcerated in camps. Its ambassador to the United Nations Zhang Jun furiously denounced on Thursday what he termed the “lies” and “a plot to hurt China”. “Xinjiang enjoys development and the people are emancipating themselves every day and are proud of the progress made,” he said.

Up for a friendly visit

And while Mr. Zhang told media that China was willing to host a “friendly” visit to the region, he did not agree to an inquiry by the UN human rights commissioner.

He accused Washington, Paris and London of having a “terrible human rights record.” Beijing accused the U.S. for “ethnic cleansing” against Native Americans and accused France of committing “crimes against humanity” in its former colonies.

India-U.K. ties vital in coming decades #GS2 #IR

Relation between the United Kingdom and India is vital over the coming decades, U.K. Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss said here on Friday. Ms. Truss, who is on a three-day visit to India, met External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and is scheduled to be a special guest at a ceremony to mark the visit of the U.K. Carrier Strike Group in Mumbai.

“India is our great friend, an economic powerhouse and the world’s largest democracy. Our relationship will be vital over the coming decades,” Ms. Truss said after meeting Mr. Jaishankar where the two discussed closer collaboration. Ms. Truss said her visit would boost the partnership, and pointed out technology and infrastructure, security and defence, and “building back after COVID” as the areas of collaboration between the two sides.

“You are a fellow democracy, you believe in free enterprise and you believe in freedom. I think it’s very important that countries like ours work together on our shared plans for the future,” Ms. Truss said in her opening remarks in the meeting with Mr. Jaishankar.

Ms. Truss and Mr. Jaishankar “welcomed the progress in delivering the Enhanced Trade Partnership” that was announced at the India-U.K. virtual summit held on May 4, the Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement after Friday’s meeting. Both Ministers agreed on the need for launching FTA negotiations “at the earliest, with a focus on negotiating an interim agreement that can deliver quick gains to businesses in both India and the U.K.”

Ms. Truss’s visit comes against the backdrop of developments in Afghanistan after the departure of U.S. and U.K. troops. There is a vocal section within the Government of Prime Minister Boris Johnson that believes that the people of Afghanistan should not made to suffer while the world waits on the Taliban build an inclusive government in Kabul.

Energy transition poses inflation risks #GS3 #Economy

The ongoing worldwide transition to green energy poses a significant risk of triggering energy price shocks similar to the 1970s, which would accelerate inflation, said Jayanth Varma, the sole member of the RBI’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) to vote against continuing with the central bank’s ‘accommodative’ policy stance.

“This means that the upside risks to long term inflation and to inflation expectations are now more aggravated,” Mr. Varma said at the last MPC meeting, the minutes of which were released on Friday.

“My second recent concern is about the tail risk to global growth posed by emerging financial sector fragility in China reminiscent of Japan of the late 1980s,” he said. “Both of these risks… are well beyond the control of the MPC, but they warrant a heightened degree of flexibility and agility,” Mr. Varma stressed.

‘Slow motion’

“A pattern of policy making in slow motion that is guided by an excessive desire to avoid surprises is no longer appropriate,” he asserted, adding that he was in favour of raising the reverse repo rate from the current 3.35% towards 4% so as to ‘demonstrate the MPC’s commitment to the inflation target, help anchor expectations and enhance macroeconomic stability’.

Reiterating his reservations from August, Mr. Varma said his central argument was that the COVID-19 pandemic had mutated into a human tragedy rather than an economic crisis, and monetary policy would be far less effective than fiscal measures in providing targeted relief to the worst hit segments of the economy. Also, inflationary pressures were showing signs of greater persistence than anticipated earlier, he added.

Other members who voted to hold interest rates and retain the ‘accommodative’ stance too flagged concerns about the outlook for inflation as the MPC observed that core inflation, inflation excluding food and fuel, remained elevated and sticky at 5.8% in July-August 2021.

“Core inflation is affected by the prices of transport fuels and transport services that are directly affected by the crude oil price shocks,” noted Shashanka Bhide, adding that ‘reduction in indirect taxes would play an important role in easing shocks on transport costs and overall inflation’. A view echoed by Ashima Goyal, who too urged tax cuts on fuels.