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28th September Current Affairs

Energizing India-Nepal ties

(GS-II: Bilateral, regional and global groupings involving India and affecting India’s interests)

In News:

The Investment Board Nepal signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with India’s National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) Limited to develop the West Seti and Seti River (SR6) projects — a total of 1,200 MW.

Background:

Withdrawal of China: China withdrew from the Seti project before Nepal decided to grant the project to India

Issues of Resettlement and rehabilitation: In an MoU in 2012, China’s Three Gorges International Corporation was assigned to develop the project, but it withdrew in 2018, citing issues of resettlement and rehabilitation.

Other Projects involving India:

Mahakali Treaty (6,480 MW)

Upper Karnali Project (900 MW)

Arun Three projects (900 MW)

Benefit of this project for India:

Geopolitical influence of China: It will help India minimize the Chinese influence and firm its presence in Nepal.

The West Seti Hydroelectric Project was a major Chinese venture under the Belt and Road Initiative.

Cross-border exchange: The project has the potential to enhance cross-border power exchanges between the two countries.

Growing energy demand: The West Seti Hydroelectric Project can provide an added alternative and viable way to address power deficits.

Steps needed for its success:

Investment-related constraints: There needs to be a careful study of investment scenarios, particularly a conducive investment environment, distribution and transmission network and cost of resettlement and rehabilitation, at the preliminary stage.

Nepal’s concern about electricity rates and supply from India: To address these concerns, the new MoU has already revised the percentage share of energy that Nepal will receive free of cost from the generation projects to 9(twenty-one point nine)% from 10%.

Domestic demand: The MoU allows Nepal to request the NHPC to sell the power generated from the projects to the domestic market before selling whole or part to the export market.

BBIN energy cooperation: The project can also be extended to other regional partners under the Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal (BBIN) framework for cross-border energy cooperation.

U.S. says relationships with India, and Pakistan distinct

In News:

The U.S. has said its relationship with India and Pakistan is not in relation to each other.

Key Highlights:

India’s External Affairs Minister criticized $450 million in U.S. assistance to Pakistan for “sustainment and related equipment” for its F-16 fighter jets.

The US has asked Pakistan “to engage China on some of the important issues of debt relief and restructure.

Pakistan’s engagement through the US:

Counterterrorism commitments

Commitments to safe passage

Commitments to the citizens of Afghanistan

F-16:

The F-16 is a lightweight, simple and relatively cheap aircraft making it immensely popular.

It has a fly-by-wire control system, which is its most innovative feature.

In an F-16, the pilot gives electronic inputs through the control stick, which is read by a computer that moves the control surfaces.

This feature makes it more manoeuvrable and stable.

Each jet can carry up to six air-to-air missiles such as the AIM-9 Sidewinder, AIM-120 AMRAAM, and other Air-to-Air Missiles (AAM).

QUAD will increase India’s Trade

In News:

India’s membership of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue would give it an opportunity to benefit from greater trade and investment flows as economic ties are expected to deepen among members seeking to reduce their dependence on China.

Benefits of India in Quad:

India is poised to become a growing destination market for goods from the other Quad countries, including commodities, machinery and chemicals.

The U.S. and Japan will continue to be major sources of FDI to India in services, telecommunications and software

Australia’s presence will grow as a result of a free-trade agreement with India

Issues:

India’s business climate and the level of investment attractiveness, which ‘remains weak’ compared with that of other Asia Pacific economies and other Quad members.

A lack of cohesion between Quad members on any given issue, exemplified by India opting out of the trade pillar of the IPEF

About Quad:

Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) is the informal strategic dialogue between India, USA, Japan and Australia with a shared objective to ensure and support a “free, open and prosperous” Indo-Pacific region.

The idea of Quad was first mooted by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2007 but took shape only in 2017.

Architectural grandeur – Taj Mahal

(GS-I: Architecture)

In News:

The apex court has repeatedly called attention to the failures in protecting the Taj Mahal known for its architectural marvels – intricate lattice structures and designs from various forms of pollution.

About Taj Mahal:

The Taj Mahal is a mausoleum of white marble built by the Mughal emperor, Shahjahanin memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal. It stands on the banks of the river Yamuna.

It is also a brilliant representation of the pinnacle of Mughal architecture and grandeur.

The construction of the Taj Mahal was completed within a period of 17 years from 1631 to 1648 AD.

The Taj Trapezium Zone case and increasing pollution:

SC in M.C. Mehta case (1996): In order to protect the monument from pollution, the central government had demarcated an area of 10,400 sq km around the Taj, called the Taj Trapezium Zone (TTZ).

It also directed the 292 industries operating in the zone to switch to natural gas as an industrial fuel or relocate from their area.

In 2010, a report submitted by the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) found that despite various government schemes to reduce pollution in the TTZ area, the iconic Taj Mahal continued to face a threat from water and air pollution.

Damage caused by insects:

In a Report on Insect Activities at Taj Mahal and Other Monuments of Agra’, Mehta stated that green and black patches had developed on the marble facade due to the presence of a specific type of insects, mainly on the northern side of the Taj Mahal.