The HINDU Notes – 06th JUNE 2017(Daily News Paper Analysis For UPSC IAS)
The first developmental flight (GSLV MkIII-D1) of India’s heavy lift launch vehicle GSLV Mk-III was successfully conducted today (June 05, 2017) evening from Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR, Sriharikota with the launch of GSAT-19 satellite.
GSLV-Mk III is capable launching 4 ton class of satellites to Geosynchronous Transfer orbit (GTO). It is a three-stage vehicle with two solid motor strap-ons (S200), a liquid propellant core stage (L110) and a cryogenic stage (C25).
- This was the first orbital mission of GSLV MkIII which was mainly intended to evaluate the vehicle performance including that of its fully indigenous cryogenic upper stage during the flight.
- Weighing 3136 kg at lift-off, GSAT-19 is the heaviest satellite launched from the Indian soil.
- The upper stage of GSLV MkIII vehicle is a new cryogenic stage (C25) indigenously configured, designed and realised by ISRO.
- The cryogenic stage used liquid Hydrogen and liquid Oxygen as propellants with a total loading of 28 tons. The stage is powered by a 20 ton thrust cryogenic engine (CE20) operating on ‘gas generator cycle’.
- The performance of the engine and stage during the mission was as predicted. About sixteen minutes after lift-off, GSAT-19 satellite was successfully placed in orbit.
Four Arab nations cut diplomatic ties with Qatar, further deepening a rift between these nations and that country for its support to Islamist groups.
Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates all announced that they would withdraw their diplomatic staff from Qatar, a gas-rich nation that will host the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Saudi Arabia said Qatari troops would be pulled from its ongoing war in Yemen.
Why they have cut in ties?
- Yemen’s internationally recognised government also cut ties with Qatar, accusing it of working with its enemies in the Iran-aligned Houthi movement, state news agency Saba reported.
- Qatar’s practices of dealing with the (Houthi) coup militias and supporting extremist groups became clear,” the government said in a statement.
- It added that Yemen supported a decision by a Saudi-led coalition fighting for more than two years to oust the Houthis from the capital Sanaa to remove Qatar.
- Saudi Arabia and Qatar are both members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, the regional bloc of all Arab Gulf countries except Iraq, that was formed in 1981.
- They share several common geopolitical interests as well.
- In Syria, both the Saudis and Qataris support their respective proxies who work towards a common goal — overthrowing the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
- In Yemen, Qatar is part of the Saudi-led coalition that has been bombing the country for over two years.
- Qatar is also a member of the Islamic Military Alliance, also known as the Arab NATO, a counter-terror military alliance of Sunni countries. Even as bilateral economic and strategic ties remain so strong.
Rise of the Muslim Brotherhood
- Qatar has in recent years nurtured a strong ambition of following an independent foreign policy. Unlike the UAE or Bahrain, Qatar has refused to act like just another satellite in the Saudi geopolitical orbit.
- The fault-lines came out in the open when Qatar welcomed the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt after the fall of the Hosni Mubarak regime in 2011.
- The Saudis were furious at the turn of events in Egypt. For them, stability in the region is most important. Saudi Arabia and its allies see the Brotherhood as a revolutionary movement that threatens the regional stability whereas Qatar continued to deepen its engagement with the members of the Muslim Brotherhood.
- When the Brotherhood government of Mohamed Morsi in Egypt was toppled in 2013 through a coup by Abdel Fatteh al-Sisi, the Saudis welcomed the development.
- But Qatar and the royal family-funded television station al-Jazeera went against the Sisi regime. A diplomatic crisis broke out in 2014 when Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE temporarily suspended diplomatic ties with Qatar.
Qatar ties with Iran:
- Another flashpoint is Qatar’s ties with Iran.
- Historically, Doha has played off both sides of the Iran-Saudi rivalry.
- True, its policies were tilted towards the Saudis, but Qatar was keen not to undermine its ties with Iran completely. For example, when Saudi Arabia and some of its allies cut diplomatic ties with Iran following the crisis erupted after the Kingdom executed Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr in January 2016, Qatar recalled its ambassador, but refused to cut ties.
- The Saudis were upset with Qatar’s Tehran ties, at a time when they were trying to rally Sunni countries behind themselves to counter Tehran’s influence. The Saudis say Qatar is pursuing its own interests, either through supporting the Brotherhood or its ties with Iran, at the expense of the GCC.
How It Affects India?
Indians are the largest expatriate community in Qatar, the same way they are in Saudi Arabia and the UAE — the two key countries who are in the opposite camp. And, the immediate worry is the trouble Indians would face as measures to isolate Qatar would hit them there in terms of their travel.
- India also has robust defence and energy ties with Qatar. India is the third largest export destination for Qatar (behind Japan and South Korea) and ranks at 10th position for Qatar’s imports.
- The Gulf Arab state is the largest supplier of LNG to India, accounting for over 65% of India’s global import and 15% of Qatar’s export of LNG with an annual import of 7.5 million metric tons (MMT) of liquefied natural gas (LNG) under a long-term contract between Petronet LNG of India and RasGas Co Ltd of Qatar, and some spot purchases by Indian companies from time to time.
- India also imports ethylene, propylene, ammonia, urea and polyethene from Qatar. Therefore, the balance of trade continues to be heavily in Qatar’s favour.
- The only two helicopters available with the National Security Guard (NSG), India’s counter-terror force, have been grounded.
- It requires air mobility to cover short distances in case of a terror attack, but the force has been without a helicopter for two years.
- Home Minister Rajnath Singh reviewed the functioning of the NSG.
- While an MI-5 helicopter crash-landed two years ago, the other was unfit to fly. “One option is to request the BSF’s air wing for at least two helicopters on a 24/7 basis. The Air Force is also there.
- Though the NSG can requisition any commercial airline, to move forces…, helicopters are required to make intervention in a small area,” an official of the Home Ministry said.
- The NSG was set up in 1984 as a federal contingency deployment force to tackle terrorism.
- After the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, the government opened regional hubs of the NSG in Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chennai and Kolkata to reduce reaction time.
The Himalayas, northeast, Western Ghats. Andamans yield the most discoveries of flora and fauna
- On World Environment Day, India has 499 reasons to cheer: 313 species of animal and 186 of plants have been discovered from various areas of the country last year.
- Of the new animal species, 258 are invertebrates and 55 vertebrates. As many as 97 species of insects, 27 of fish, 12 species of amphibians, 10 of Platyhelminthes, nine of Crustacea and six of reptiles have been discovered and described by the scientists. There are 61 species of moths and butterflies (order Lepidoptera) and 38 of beetles (Coloeptera).
- Most of the new species were from the four biological hotspots of the country — the Himalayas, the northeast, the Western Ghats and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
- The geographical distribution of the new plant species reveals that most discoveries were made in the Western Ghats (17%), followed by the Eastern Himalayas (15%), the Western Himalayas (13%), the Eastern Ghats (12%) and the west coast (8%).
- Among the interesting discoveries of the year are eight new species of wild balsams, five species of wild ginger and one species of wild amla [Indian gooseberry]. Also, 39 varieties of mushrooms have been discovered. These new species will have use in horticulture and have medicinal value too.
Animal Discoveries 2016 says that for the first time, the number of animal species in the country, including protozoa, has crossed one lakh — 1,00,693 is the exact count.
Till last year, India was home to 97,514 species of animals.
- Nepal has signed an agreement with a Chinese company to build 1,200 megawatt Budhi-Gandaki hydroelectric project (the largest hydroelectric plant).
- Nepal suffers from a chronic energy shortage. Water-rich Nepal has a mountain river system that could make it an energy-producing powerhouse, but instead it imports much of its electricity from neighbouring India.
- Demand for electricity has long outstripped supply in Nepal due to chronic under-investment and inefficiencies in the power network. The result has been crippling for domestic industry and deterred foreign investment.
- India Inc. has told the U.S. government that contribution of India to the overall U.S. trade deficit is too low to create any significant adverse impact on the American economy.
- In its comments submitted recently to the U.S. Department of Commerce and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), India’s premier business association, the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) has also said: “In light of the large market share that U.S. products have in the Indian market, it is clear that the balance of trade issue that is perceived is not due to a market access problem.”
- This development assumes significance as the $24.3 billion goods trade deficit that the U.S. had with India in 2016 may prominently figure in the meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Donald Trump expected later this month in Washington DC.
- While the Trump administration may also take up its concerns over the protracted negotiations on the proposed Bilateral Investment Treaty, New Delhi would raise issues such as visa curbs and non-tariff barriers of the U.S. affecting India’s exports as well as the delay in talks on a bilateral totalisation (social security) pact.
- President Trump’s Executive Order on March 31, sought an ‘Omnibus Report’ from the U.S. Commerce Secretary and the USTR (in consultation with other U.S. government departments/agencies) within 90 days on ‘Significant Trade Deficits’.
- The U.S. government said: “The trading partners with which the U.S. had a significant trade deficit in goods in 2016 were Canada, China, the European Union, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam.“
- As per Trump’s Executive Order, “unfair and discriminatory practices by our trading partners can deny Americans the benefits that would otherwise accrue from free and fair trade…”
- The CII stated that: “… during 2011-2015, India’s contribution to the overall trade deficit of the U.S. was only 2.5% (average).
- As against this, China’s contribution to the overall trade deficit of the U.S. during 2011-2015 was 43.9% (average), while that of Japan was 9.4%. Germany (8.1%), Canada (4.4%), Mexico (8.2%) and Saudi Arabia (3.5%) were higher, the CII showed.
- As per the U.S. government, “the U.S. (overall) annual trade deficit in goods exceeds $700 billion, and the overall trade deficit exceeded $500 billion in 2016.”
- ‘High tariffs’
- While the National Association of Manufacturers, the largest manufacturing association in the U.S. – has said American manufacturers continue to be challenged by India’s “excessively high tariffs on imports of a range of manufactured products“, the CII countered this by saying that “the major products that the U.S. exports to India have tariffs between 0-10%. This is lower than the tariffs other countries place on the same products in which the U.S. trades.”
- The CII said though the U.S. is among the few countries that India has a trade surplus with, this must be put in context.
- “Regardless of this surplus, the U.S. is the second largest exporter to India, second only to China,” the CII said.
Context: Isolation of Qatar by the Gulf countries.
Political ties in the region
- Qatar is a part of the Islamic Military Alliance, as well as part of the Saudi coalition taking part in the Yemen intervention.
- Qatar challenges the Saudi monarchy as well as the regimes in many countries in the Gulf.
- Qatari Emir Al-Thani’s tie with Iran is the major trigger.
- There has been an increased call from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), as well as UAE, Bahrain and other countries for Qatar to proclaim which side it is on.
- India has traditionally stayed out of the “Shi’a-Sunni”, “Arab-Persian” or “Wahabbi-Salafi” divides, and maintained good ties with all.
Present scenario: fragmenting West Asia will require even more deft diplomacy from India’s side to keep these ties untouched by the tensions.
Trade and manpower
- India sources more than half of its energy import needs from countries in the Persian Gulf.
- Six million Indians live and work in West Asia and they sent home about $63 billion last year.
- Energy imports may not be affected immediately, unless the Gulf countries follow through with sanctions. However, as in the case of Yemen, Libya, Lebanon and other countries, any tensions in the region have an immediate impact on thousands of Indian workers.
Cooperation in fighting terror: The KSA and the UAE are important partners for India on counter-terrorism cooperation and intelligence sharing.
Air travel : the Saudi coalition has decided to cancel Qatar Airways flights to their countries. This will affect Indian passengers who hoped to use Doha as a hub to get to other destinations in the Gulf.