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24th November Current Affairs

Philippines and China- South China Sea Dispute

(GS-II: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora)

In News:

The Philippines will resume a military resupply mission for the country’s troops stationed on an atoll (Second Thomas Shoal, locally known as Ayungin Shoal) in the South China Sea will resume this week, after it was aborted last week when it was blocked by Chinese coast guard.

Details:

Philippines was backed by the U.S. State Department, which released a statement calling the Chinese actions an “escalation that directly threatens regional peace and stability, escalates regional tensions, infringes upon freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.”

Significance of the atoll:

A small contingent of the Philippine Marine Corps has occupied the atoll, since its navy deliberately grounded World War II landing vessel BRP Sierra Madre to serve as an outpost in 1999.

The island is about 105 nautical miles off Palawan in the West Philippine Sea—Manila’s term for the eastern portion of the South China Sea that falls within the Philippine exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

What’s the issue?

Beijing has overlapping territorial claims with several Southeast Asian states in the South China Sea.

China claims almost all of the resource-rich sea, through which trillions of dollars in shipping trade passes annually, with competing claims from Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

Beijing has also been accused of deploying a range of military hardware, including anti-ship missiles and surface-to-air missiles there, and ignored a 2016 international tribunal decision that declared its historical claim over most of the waters to be without basis.

Where is the South China Sea?

  • The South China Sea is an arm of western Pacific Ocean in Southeast Asia.
  • It is south of China, east & south of Vietnam, west of the Philippines and north of the island of Borneo.
  • It is connected by Taiwan Strait with the East China Sea and by Luzon Strait with the Philippine Sea.
  • Bordering states & territories: the People’s Republic of China, the Republic of China (Taiwan), the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, Singapore and Vietnam.

Strategic Importance:

This sea holds tremendous strategic importance for its location as it is the connecting link between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean (Strait of Malacca).

According to the United Nations Conference on Trade And Development (UNCTAD) one-third of the global shipping passes through it, carrying trillions of trade which makes it a significant geopolitical water body.

Contesting Claims Over Islands:

The Paracel Islands are claimed by China, Taiwan and Vietnam.

The Spratly Islands are claimed by China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Brunei and Philippines.

The Scarborough Shoal is claimed by the Philippines, China and Taiwan.

Since 2010, China has been converting uninhabited islets into artificial islets to bring it under UNCLOS (For example, Haven Reef, Johnson South Reef and Fiery Cross Reef).

James Webb Space Telescope

(GS-III: Awareness in space)

In News:

The launch of the James Webb Space Telescope, which astronomers hope will herald a new era of discovery, has been delayed until December 22 after an accident at its launch facility in French Guiana.

The space telescope was originally supposed to launch on December 18.

About JSWT:

JWST is a joint venture between the US (Nasa), European (Esa) and Canadian space agencies (CSA).

It is an orbiting infrared observatory that will complement and extend the discoveries of the Hubble Space Telescope, with longer wavelength coverage and greatly improved sensitivity.

Webb was formerly known as the “Next Generation Space Telescope” (NGST) and it was renamed in 2002 after a former NASA administrator, James Webb.

It will be a large infrared telescope with an approximately 6.5 meter primary mirror.

Objectives and functions of the telescope:

It will look deeper into the cosmos – and thus further back in time – than is possible with Hubble.

It will do this with a much bigger mirror (6.5m in diameter versus 2.4m) and instruments that are tuned to the infrared.

Scientists hope this set-up can detect the light from the very first population of stars in the Universe to switch on more than 13.5 billion years ago.

Orbit:

The Hubble Space Telescope orbits around the Earth at an altitude of ~570 km above it.

Webb will not actually orbit the Earth, instead it will sit at the Earth-Sun L2 Lagrange point,5 million km away.

At the L2 point Webb’s solar shield will block the light from the Sun, Earth, and Moon which will help Webb stay cool, which is very important for an infrared telescope.

Rani Gaidinliu

(GS-I: Freedom movement and important personalities)

In News:

The ‘Rani Gaidinliu Tribal Freedom Fighters Museum’ is being built in Manipur’s Tamenglong district (Rani Gaidinliu’s birthplace).

Details:

The museum would help preserve and exhibit artefacts related to the tribal freedom fighters, involved in different stages of the fight against the British colonial rule like Anglo-Manipuri War, Kuki-Rebellion, Naga-Raj movements, among others.

Who was Rani Gaidinliu?

Rani Gaidinliu was a Naga spiritual leader.

Gaidinliu belonged to the Rongmei clan of the Zeliangrong tribe in the Tamenglong district of western Manipur.

Born on January 26, 1915.

At 13, she became associated with freedom fighter and religious leader, Haipou Jadonang, and became his lieutenant in his social, religious and political movement.

Jadonang, who was also a Rongmei, started the ‘Heraka movement’, based on ancestral Naga religion, and envisioned an independent Naga kingdom (or Naga-Raja).

Rani Gandiliu’s association with Jadonang prepared her to fight the British. After the execution of Jadonang, she took up the leadership of the movement — which slowly turned political from religious.

Rani started a serious revolt against the British and was eventually imprisoned for life. She was released after 14 years, in 1947.

Legacy:

Acknowledging her role in the struggle against the British, Jawaharlal Nehru called her the “Daughter of the Hills” and gave her the title “Rani” or queen.

Rani Gaidiliu was one of the few women political leaders who exhibited outstanding courage during the colonial period, despite limitations.

Unlike Jadonang, whose approach was inclined to be “millenarian”, Rani orchestrated for the need of an armed movement against colonial rule.

Vehicle scrappage policy

(GS-II: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation)

In News:

The Government is considering a proposal to give buyers additional concessions on buying new vehicles after scrapping of their old vehicles.

The final decision (on providing more incentives under the National Automobile Scrappage Policy) will be taken by the finance ministry and the GST Council.

About the Vehicle Scrappage Policy:

Old vehicles will have to pass a fitness test before re-registration and as per the policy government commercial vehicles more than 15 years old and private vehicles which are over 20 years old will be scrapped.

As a disincentive, increased re-registration fees would be applicable for vehicles 15 years or older from the initial date registration.

The state governments may be advised to offer a road-tax rebate of up to 25% for personal vehicles and up to 15% for commercial vehicles to provide incentive to owners of old vehicles to scrap old and unfit vehicles.

Significance:

The vehicle scrapping policy is aimed at creating an eco-system for phasing out unfit and polluting vehicles in an environmentally friendly and safe manner.

The initiative will promote a circular economy and make the process of economic development more sustainable and environment friendly.

The policy will also bring in investments of around Rs 10,000 crore and create 35,000 job opportunities.

Issues with the new policy:

  • Limited incentive and poor cost economics for trucks.
  • Lack of addressable volumes for other segments.
  • The potential benefit from scrapping a 15-year-old, entry-level small car will be ₹70,000, whereas its resale value is around ₹95,000. That makes scrapping unattractive.

Need of the hour:

With this background, for the scrappage policy to be seamlessly implemented, we should have a comprehensive plan in terms of removing ELV (End of life vehicles) from the road. Freight transporters need stronger financial support. However, that said, it is important to note that unless old fleet vehicles are off the road, the benefits of implementation of BSVI vehicles will not be fully leveraged.