Current Affairs 22nd February

India waited till China pulled back its troops #GS2 #IR

India waited for China to clear the north and south banks of Pangong Tso (lake) first before reciprocating the first phase of disengagement agreement reached between the two countries in eastern Ladakh

The official told The Hindu that a decision was taken to “wait and watch” and the process — removal of armaments and infantry by India — was accelerated only after the ground commanders were convinced and had verified that People’s Liberation Army (PLA) was sincere in honouring the agreement.

The disengagement at Pangong Tso, where Indian and Chinese troops were in an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation in the north and south banks since June and August last year respectively. The process got completed on February 19. The official added that though disengagement had taken place, de-escalation is yet to be implemented.

The hundreds of troops on the north and south banks have been pulled back from the friction points and moved to the depth areas. The area continues to see the presence of a large number of troops. To avoid a repeat of the June 15 Galwan incident, when 20 soldiers were killed while implementing a disengagement plan, it was decided to move slow.

Earlier also China agreed to withdraw in meetings but the words were not matched by action. This time we decided to slow down the withdrawal and wrapped up the process only the last day. The Chinese showed alacrity though and withdrew at an enhanced pace than the daily target. 

Another official added that India could afford to take it slow as the ingress by China was deep in north bank — upto Finger 4 where they had constructed semi-permanent structures and in south bank where Indian troops were in an advantageous position, the tanks were positioned at the foothills.

With the disengagement now complete on the north and south banks of Pangong Tso, the focus of the talks was to work out a phased disengagement plan for the other friction areas in eastern Ladakh. These include Gogra, Hot Springs, Depsang and Demchok.

At the first Corps Commander talks last June, both sides had mutually agreed and identified five friction areas — Patrolling Points (PP) 14 at Galwan, PP15 and 17 at Gogra and Hotsprings, North bank of Pangong Tso and Chushul. Despite the violent clash at Galwan on June 15, the disengagement there has been completed, while partial disengagement was done at PP15 and PP17A.

However, in end of August, tensions flared on the south bank of Pangong Tso, with the Army occupying several dominating peaks on the Indian side of the LAC lying vacant since 1962.

No plans to merge EPF, NPS: FinMin #GS3 #Economy

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has said there is no intent to discourage higher income earners from saving with the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) and that she was open to reviewing the contribution limit of Rs. 2.5 lakh a year for tax-free interest, imposed in the recent Union Budget.

Reiterating that the EPF will continue to remain in its present form, the Minister said there was no plan to merge the EPF with the National Pension Scheme. We have taken a call not to discourage those earning more than Rs. 15,000 from being part of EPF.

Amid surge in cases, Centre orders more RT-PCR tests #GS3 #SnT

The Centre has written to six States — Kerala, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab and Jammu & Kashmir — which are witnessing a surge in the number of daily COVID-19 cases, calling for an increase in the proportion of RT-PCR tests while ensuring that those testing negative with the Rapid Antigen Tests be retested by RT-PCR. The Centre has also asked the States to look into strict, comprehensive surveillance and stringent containment to curb the spread of the virus.

In its release issued on Sunday, the Health Ministry said more than 74% of the active COVID-19 cases of the country are in Kerala and Maharashtra and that a spike in cases had been seen in some States. “India has been witnessing a rise in the active caseload over the past few days and its total active caseload is pegged at 1,45,634 currently

It added that in the last four weeks in Kerala, the average weekly cases had fluctuated between a high of 42,000 to a low of 34,800 and the weekly positivity here has ranged from 13.9% to 8.9%. In the State, Alappuzha district was a cause for special concern, where the weekly positivity rate had increased to 10.7% and weekly cases had increased to 2,833, the Ministry added.

In Maharashtra, in the last four weeks, the weekly cases had shown a rising trend and had increased from 18,200 to 21,300. The areas of concern were the Mumbai suburban areas, where the weekly cases had risen by 19%. In Nagpur, Amravati, Nashik, Akola and Yavatmal, the weekly cases had increased by 33%, 47%, 23%, 55% and 48% respectively.

Data released by the Ministry said Punjab, too, was rapidly assuming a critical dimension with infections registering a positivity rate from 1.4% to 1.6 % in the last four weeks. The States have also been told to “regularly monitor for mutant strains through testing followed by genome sequencing, as well as monitoring the emerging cluster of cases and focusing on clinical management in districts reporting higher deaths.” The Ministry added that 22 States/UTs had not reported any COVID-19 deaths in the last 24 hours.

India and Maldives sign defence pact #GS2 #IR

India and the Maldives on Sunday signed a defence Line of Credit agreement worth $50 million during the ongoing visit by External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar.

Both sides agreed to maintain peace and security in the Indian Ocean Region. The defence Line of Credit will “facilitate capability building in the maritime domain. The two sides agreed to strengthen coordination in enhancing regional maritime security. Indicating deepening security cooperation, an agreement to develop, support and maintain a Maldives National Defence Force Coast Guard Harbour at Sifvaru was also signed.

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