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27th July Current Affairs

What is Nauka, the module Russia is sending to the ISS?

(GS-III: Science and Technology)

In News:

Nauka was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on July 21 using a Proton rocket. It is scheduled to be integrated with the ISS on July 29.

What is Nauka?

Nauka, meaning “science” in Russian, is the biggest space laboratory Russia has launched to date.

It will replace Pirs, a Russian module on the International Space Station (ISS) used as a docking port for spacecraft and as a door for cosmonauts to go out on spacewalks.

Now, Nauka will serve as the country’s main research facility on the space station.

Nauka is 42 feet long and weighs 20 tonnes.

It is also bringing to the ISS another oxygen generator, a spare bed, another toilet, and a robotic cargo crane built by the European Space Agency (ESA).

On the ISS, Nauka will be attached to the critical Zvezda module, which provides all of the space station’s life support systems and serves as the structural and functional centre of the Russian Orbital Segment (ROS) — the Russian part of ISS.

What is the International Space Station?

A space station is essentially a large spacecraft that remains in low-earth orbit for extended periods of time.

The ISS has been in space since 1998.

It is a result of cooperation between the five participating space agencies that run it: NASA (United States), Roscosmos (Russia), JAXA (Japan), ESA (Europe), and CSA (Canada).

The ISS circles the Earth in roughly 93 minutes, completing 15.5 orbits per day.

The ISS serves as a microgravity and space environment research laboratory in which scientific experiments are conducted in astrobiology, astronomy, meteorology, physics, and other fields.

Pradhan Mantri Jan Vikas Karyakaram (PMJVK)

(GS-II: Government policies)

In News:

The Ministry of Minority Affairs is implementing the Pradhan Mantri Jan Vikas Karyakaram (PMJVK), in the identified Minority Concentration Areas (MCAs) of the country.

About the PMJVK:

The erstwhile Multi-sectoral Development Programme (MsDP) has been restructured and renamed as Pradhan Mantri Jan Vikas Karyakram for effective implementation since 2018.

It seeks to provide better socio-economic infrastructure facilities to the minority communities.

Special focus by earmarking funds:

80% of the resources under the PMJVK would be earmarked for projects related to education, health and skill development.

33 to 40% of resources under the PMJVK would be specifically allocated for women centric projects.

Beneficiaries of PMJVK:

As far as PMJVK is concerned, the communities notified as minority communities under Section 2 (c) of the National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992 would be taken as Minority Communities.

At present 6 (six) communities namely Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists, Zoroastrians (Parsis) and Jains have been notified as Minority Communities.

Assam-Mizoram border dispute

(GS-III: Internal Security)

In News:

Earlier in June this year, two abandoned houses along the Mizoram-Assam border were burned down by unidentified persons, fuelling tension along the volatile inter-state border.

Details:

Now, early a month after this incident, the border dispute between the two neighbouring states has cropped up again, with both accusing each other of encroaching on their respective territories.

Immediate cause for the dispute:

According to the Mizoram side, people from Assam have violated the status quo – as agreed upon between the two State governments a few years ago – in “no man’s land” to trigger the present crisis.

About the dispute:

Mizoram was carved out of Assam as a Union Territory in 1972 and by 1987, it became a full-fledged state.

The two states have sparred over this 164.6 km long inter-state border over the past, sometimes leading to violent clashes.

The dispute stems from two notifications passed under British era:

First, notification of 1875, that differentiated Lushai Hills from the plains of Cachar.

Second, notification of 1933, that demarcates a boundary between Lushai Hills and Manipur.

What are the present claims?

Mizoram claims that the land is theirs is based on an 1875 notification, which came from the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation Act of 1873.

Assam for its part, claims that the land is theirs. It goes by a 1933 notification by the state government that demarcated the Lushai Hills, which Mizoram was formerly known as, from the province of Manipur.

During colonial times, Mizoram was known as Lushai Hills, a district of Assam.

What leads to these clashes?

The border between the two neighbouring states is an imaginary line that changes with the natural obstacles of rivers, hills, valleys and forests. People of Assam and Mizoram have attributed the border conflicts to the differences over this not-so-clear boundary. Hence, often people living in the border areas cross over to the other side as they are not fully aware of the border demarcation.

China, Pak. outline ‘joint action’ to align Afghanistan strategies

(GS-II: India and its neighbourhood- relations)

In News:

China and Pakistan have announced to closely cooperate and work together in Afghanistan amid the changing situation in the country.

Background:

Both China and Pakistan are most directly affected by the situation in Afghanistan” as its neighbours and it is “necessary for both sides to strengthen cooperation to cope with the change.

They have outlined a five-point joint plan on working in Afghanistan. This includes:

Avoid the expansion of war and prevent Afghanistan from falling into a full-scale civil war.

Promote the intra-Afghan negotiations between Kabul and the Taliban and establish “a broad and inclusive political structure”.

Resolutely combat terrorist forces.

Promote cooperation among Afghanistan’s neighbours” and “explore the construction of a platform for cooperation among them”.

Closely work on international fora on the Afghan issue.

Background:

Many countries criticise the hasty U.S. withdrawal of troops for having neither fulfilled the purpose of fighting terrorism nor brought peace to Afghanistan but created a new security black hole.

What happened in Afghanistan so far?

A month after 9/11 attacks, the US launched airstrikes against Afghanistan (Operation Enduring Freedom).

After the attacks, the NATO coalition troops declared war on Afghanistan.

The US dislodged the Taliban regime and established a transitional government in Afghanistan.

Now, in July 2020, the US troops departed from the biggest airbase in Afghanistan after the 20-year-long war, effectively ending their military operations in the country.

What next for India?

India’s Afghan policy is at a major crossroads; to safeguard its civilian assets there as well as to stay relevant in the unfolding ‘great game’ in and around Afghanistan, India must fundamentally reset its Afghanistan policy.

India must, in its own national interest, begin ‘open talks’ with the Taliban before it is too late. The time for hesitant, half-embarrassed backchannel parleys is over.

If India is not proactive in Afghanistan at least now, late as it is, Russia, Iran, Pakistan and China will emerge as the shapers of Afghanistan’s political and geopolitical destiny, which for sure will be detrimental to Indian interests.