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2nd March Current Affairs

CAATSA waiver

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

In News:

With tensions escalating between Russia and the West over the Ukraine crisis, India, which has major defence cooperation with Moscow and also with Kyiv, faces uncertainty over timely deliveries in the near future in addition to the lingering threat of U.S. sanctions under CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act) over the S-400 deal.

What’s the concern?

In the past, tensions between Russia and Ukraine had considerably delayed the modernisation of the AN-32 transport fleet of the Indian Air Force (IAF).

So, the latest concern is that this war could result in delays in deliveries from Russia both due to their own domestic commitments as well the sanctions imposed by the West.

Overview of India – Russia military trade:

While Russia has been a traditional military supplier sharing platforms and technologies that others wouldn’t, the cooperation has further deepened in recent years.

For instance, with the $5.43bn deal S-400 air defence systems as well as other big ticket deals, the defence trade between the two countries has crossed $15bn since 2018.

Even today, over 60% of Indian military inventory is of Russian origin, especially with respect to fighter jets, tanks, helicopters and submarines among others, while several major deals are in the pipeline.

India had also signed a separate deal with Ukraine for eight Zorya-Mashproekt gas turbine engines for the frigates.

Ukraine is also upgrading over 100 An-32 transport aircraft of the IAF under a deal finalized in 2009.

What is the S-400 air defence missile system? Why does India need it?

The S-400 Triumf is a mobile, surface-to-air missile system (SAM) designed by Russia.

It is the most dangerous operationally deployed modern long-range SAM (MLR SAM) in the world, considered much ahead of the US-developed Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system (THAAD).

What is CAATSA, and how did the S-400 deal fall foul of this Act?

Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA)‘s core objective is to counter Iran, Russia and North Korea through punitive measures.

Enacted in 2017.

Includes sanctions against countries that engage in significant transactions with Russia’s defence and intelligence sectors.

What sanctions will be imposed?

  • prohibition on loans to the sanctioned person.
  • prohibition of Export-Import bank assistance for exports to sanctioned persons.
  • prohibition on procurement by United States Government to procure goods or services from the sanctioned person.
  • denial of visas to persons closely associated with the sanctioned person.

Significance of the deal:

The S-400 decision is a very strong example of how advanced our defence and strategic partnership is, and how strong Indian sovereignty is, to choose its international partners, especially when it comes to issues of national interest and national security.

Russia-Ukraine crisis may worsen global chip shortage

(GS-III: Developments in Science and Technology)

In News:

Russia and Ukraine are important centres of the global semiconductor supply chain, providing rare metals like palladium, and gases like neon, that are needed in the production of the silicon wafers present in almost all modern devices and equipment.

Details:

Amid the ongoing Russia-Ukraine crisis, it is expected that the situation may worsen global chip shortage.

What’s the issue?

Just as Russia supplies the global semiconductor industry with rare metals, Ukraine supplies (speciality) gases required by the chip-making industry. Thus, there is potential to extend the stress in the supply chain of semiconductors, which are key to manufacturing autos and other electronic equipment in the Asia-Pacific region.

What are Semiconductor Chips?

Semiconductors are materials which have a conductivity between conductors and insulators. They can be pure elements, silicon or germanium or compounds; gallium, arsenide or cadmium selenide.

Significance of Semiconductor Chips:

They are the basic building blocks that serve as the heart and brain of all modern electronics and information and communications technology products.

They are now an integral part of contemporary automobiles, household gadgets and essential medical devices such as ECG machines.

Recent Increase in Demand:

The Covid-19 pandemic-driven push to take sizable parts of daily economic and essential activity online, or at least digitally enable them.

The pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns across the world also forced shut crucial chip-making facilities in countries including Japan, South Korea, China and the US.

India’s Semiconductor Demand and Related Initiatives:

India currently imports all chips and the market is estimated to touch $100 billion by 2025 from $24 billion now.

Efforts by the government to address the shortage:

Earmarked Rs 76,000 crore for semiconductors and display manufacturing segment.

Launched the PLI and other schemes to boost semiconductors.

Released a vision document for the electronics sector which envisages that the domestic electronic production has potential to reach around Rs 22 lakh crore by 2026.

Launched the Scheme for Promotion of Manufacturing of Electronic Components and Semiconductors (SPECS) under which a budget outlay of Rs 3,285 crore is spread over a period of eight years for manufacturing of electronics components and semiconductors.

What constitutes a war crime?

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

In News:

An International Criminal Court prosecutor has launched an investigation on the “situation in Ukraine” following Russia’s invasion.

Details:

There is a reasonable basis to believe that both alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed in Ukraine since 2014.

What’s the issue?

ICC had received many queries “with respect to the crime of aggression” but could not exercise “jurisdiction over this alleged crime” as neither Russia nor Ukraine were signatories to ICC’s founding Rome Statute.

But, now ICC believes that it has has jurisdiction because Ukraine had twice accepted the court’s mandate, once in 2014 after Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and again in 2015, when it recognised the court’s jurisdiction for “an indefinite duration”.

Has Russia committed war crimes in Ukraine?

On the morning of February 28th, Russian Grad missiles rained death on the centre of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city.

Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s president, said the missiles were deliberately targeted at civilians and described the attack as a war crime.

What is a war crime?

According to the United Nations, a war crime is a serious breach of international law committed against civilians or “enemy combatants” during an international or domestic armed conflict.

In contrast with genocide and crimes against humanity, war crimes have to occur in the context of armed conflict.

Geneva Conventions:

The meaning of war crimes was clarified in the four 1949 Geneva Conventions.

Article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention defines war crimes as “wilful killing, torture or inhuman treatment, including wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health, unlawful deportation or transfer or unlawful confinement of a protected person taking of hostages and extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly”.

ICC developments:

The Rome Statute of the ICC expanded the list of crimes that constitute war crimes. The statute, for example, recognises forced pregnancy as a war crime.

Proportionality, distinction and precaution:

The three main pillars of humanitarian law are the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution. If any or all of these principles are violated, it could be found that a war crime has been committed.

Artemis Program

(GS-III: Awareness in space)

In News:

NASA’s first crewed landing of the Artemis program on the moon is expected to take place in 2026. Meanwhile, NASA will launch Artemis 1 in May 2022.

Details:

Reasons for the delay: NASA said it needed time to develop and test the human landing system and NASA’s next generation spacesuits.

What is Artemis?

Artemis stands for Acceleration, Reconnection, Turbulence and Electrodynamics of Moon’s Interaction with the Sun.

It is NASA’s next mission to the Moon.

Objective:

To measure what happens when the Sun’s radiation hits our rocky moon, where there is no magnetic field to protect it.

Artemis was the twin sister of Apollo and goddess of the Moon in Greek mythology.

Significance of the mission:

With the Artemis program, NASA will land the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024.

Mission details:

NASA’s powerful new rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS), will send astronauts aboard the Orion spacecraft nearly a quarter million miles from Earth to lunar orbit.

Astronauts will dock Orion at the Gateway and transfer to a human landing system for expeditions to the surface of the Moon.

They will return to the orbital outpost to board Orion again before returning safely to Earth.

Artemis 1 vs. 2 vs. 3:

NASA will fly two missions around the Moon to test its deep space exploration systems.

Artemis 1 is aiming to send an uncrewed spacecraft around the moon using a combination of the never-flown Space Launch System rocket, along with the once-flown Orion spacecraft.

NASA hopes to extend the program with the moon-orbiting crewed Artemis 2 mission in 2024, then a landing on Artemis 3 in 2025, ahead of other crewed missions later in the 2020s.

Scientific objectives:

Find and use water and other critical resources needed for long-term exploration.

Investigate the Moon’s mysteries and learn more about our home planet and the universe.

Learn how to live and operate on the surface of another celestial body where astronauts are just three days from home.

Prove the technologies we need before sending astronauts on missions to Mars, which can take up to three years roundtrip.

Moon Exploration:

In 1959, the Soviet Union’s uncrewed Luna 1 and 2 became the first rover to visit the Moon.

Before the USA sent the Apollo 11 mission to the Moon, it sent three classes of robotic missions between 1961 and 1968.

After July 1969, 12 American astronauts walked on the surface of the Moon until 1972.

In the 1990s, the USA resumed lunar exploration with robotic missions Clementine and Lunar Prospector.

In 2009, it began a new series of robotic lunar missions with the launch of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) and the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS).

In 2011, NASA began the ARTEMIS.

In 2012, the Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) spacecraft studied the Moon’s gravity.

Apart from the USA, the European Space Agency, Japan, China, and India have sent missions to explore the Moon. China landed two rovers on the surface, which includes the first-ever landing on the Moon’s far side in 2019.