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8th Feb Current Affairs

COVID-19 performance ranking

In News:

The COVID-19 “performance index” has been put together by the Lowy Institute, an Australian think tank.

About the Index:

The index seeks “to gauge the relative performance of countries”.

The index is based on six different indicators, including confirmed cases and deaths per million people and the scale of testing.

Publicly available and comparable data on Covid-19 response was used for this index.

How were the countries ranked?

Countries were sorted into broad categories on the basis of regions, political systems, population size, and economic development.

This was done to determine the variations that may have existed in the way different nations handled the pandemic.

China was excluded from the list due to lack of publicly available data.

Performance of various countries:

New Zealand, Vietnam and Taiwan have been ranked the top three spots, respectively.

India has ranked 86th.

Sri Lanka was the best faring nation in South Asia, ranking 10.

Maldives was at 25, Pakistan at 69, Nepal at 70, and Bangladesh at 84.

The lowest score was given to Brazil.

Mexico, Colombia, Iran and the United States too featured among the bottom five countries in terms of performance.

General Observations:

While some countries managed the coronavirus crisis better than others, the index noted that most countries “outcompeted each other only by degrees of underperformance”.

Levels of economic development and differences in political systems didn’t have as much of an impact on coronavirus response as expected.

On an average, countries with authoritarian establishments had no “prolonged advantage” in containing the virus.

It was found that democracies had “marginally” more success than other governments in their handling of the pandemic.

There was little “discernible difference” in a country’s performance by population size.

Smaller countries with populations of fewer than 10 million people consistently outperformed their larger counterparts throughout 2020, although this lead narrowed slightly towards the end of the examined period.

Jaishankar suggests way forward for China ties

In News:

Calling 2020 as a year of “exceptional stress” in a relationship “profoundly disturbed” by the border crisis, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar has said a recognition of “mutual respect, mutual sensitivity and mutual interests” was key to repairing India-China relations.

Background:

Twenty Indian soldiers, and an unknown number of Chinese soldiers, lost their lives in a clash on June 15 last year in the Galwan Valley, following tensions that erupted in early May triggered by transgressions by China across the Line of Actual Control (LAC), massing of troops, and what India has described as a unilateral attempt to redraw the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in several areas in eastern Ladakh.

Actions by China which went against India’s interests:

Issuing of stapled visas to Indian citizens from Jammu and Kashmir in 2010.

A reluctance from China to deal with some of India’s military commands (Beijing had that same year refused to host the Northern Army Commander).

China’s opposition to India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group and the UN Security Council as a permanent member.

Blocking of UN listings of Pakistani terrorists.

The China Pakistan Economic Corridor, a flagship project under China’s Belt and Road Initiative, violating India’s sovereignty in J&K.

To solve the crisis, the External Affairs Minister suggested “three mutuals” and “eight broad propositions” as a way forward for the relationship. They are:

Agreements already reached must be adhered to in their entirety, both in letter and spirit.

Both sides also needed to strictly observe and respect the LAC, and any attempt to unilaterally change the status quo was completely unacceptable.

Peace and tranquillity in border areas was the basis for the development of the relationship in other domains. If that was disturbed, the rest of the relationship would be too.

While both remain committed to a multipolar world, they should recognise that a multipolar Asia was one of its essential constituents.

Conclusion:

While each state had its interests, concerns and priorities, sensitivities to them could not be be one-sided and relations were reciprocal in nature. As rising powers, neither should ignore the other’s set of aspirations.

Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) or the “Iran deal”

In News:

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently confirmed that if Iran were to become compliant with the terms of the now defunct Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA, or the “Iran deal”), the U.S. would re-enter it too.

The Trump administration had pulled out of the deal in 2018.

About the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA:

Iran agreed to rein in its nuclear programme in a 2015 deal struck with the US, UK, Russia, China, France and Germany.

The 2015 nuclear deal gave Iran relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear programme.

Under the deal:

Iran agreed to rein in its nuclear programme in a 2015 deal struck with the US, UK, Russia, China, France and Germany.

Tehran agreed to significantly cut its stores of centrifuges, enriched uranium and heavy-water, all key components for nuclear weapons.

The Joint Commission was established, with the negotiating parties all represented, to monitor implementation of the agreement.

A global challenge to deliver vaccine, says WHO executive board

In News:

If 2020 was the year of discovery of COVID-19 vaccines, 2021 will be the year India faces the challenge of getting them to people across the world who most need it, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, who is the Chairman of the Executive Board of the World Health Organization, has said.

What is the WHO Executive Board?

It is one of the WHO’s two decision making bodies. The other one is the World Health Assembly. The agency’s headquarters are located at Geneva in Switzerland.

Composition:

The executive Board is composed of 34 members technically qualified in the field of health.

The Board chairman’s post is held by rotation for one year by each of the WHO’s six regional groups: African Region, Region of the Americas, South-East Asia Region, European Region, Eastern Mediterranean Region, and Western Pacific Region.

Term:

Members are elected for three-year terms.

Functions:

Sets out agenda for the Health Assembly and resolutions for forwarding to the Assembly are adopted.

Gives effect to the decisions and policies of the Health Assembly.

Advises it and facilitates its work.

The Board and the Assembly create a forum for debate on health issues and for addressing concerns raised by Member States.

Both the Board and the Assembly produce three kinds of documents — Resolutions and Decisions passed by the two bodies, Official Records as published in WHO Official publications, and Documents that are presented “in session” of the two bodies.

Key facts:

  • India became a party to the WHO Constitution on 12 January 1948.
  • The first Regional Director for South East Asia was an Indian, Dr Chandra Mani, who served between 1948-1968.