February 2019

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Iran

[op-ed snap] The regional great gameop-ed snap


Mains Paper 2: International relations| India and its neighborhood- relations.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Basic knowledge of India and its neighborhood- relations.

Mains level: The news-card analyses the crystallisation of Pakistan-Saudi Arabia and India-Iran axes that might set off ripples in the region, in a brief manner.


  • Two neighbouring countries, Iran and Pakistan, which were trying to remain close, are today moving in opposite directions.
  • This movement is partly pushed by circumstances, evident from the way India’s presence in Chabahar has been recently upgraded and the way Saudi Arabia is increasing its presence in Pakistan.

Significance of Chabahar for India

  • Last month, India formally took over operations of the Chabahar port.
  • India Ports Global company, a joint venture between Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust and Deendayal Port Trust, Kandla, is now functioning from its offices at Shaheed Behesti Port Chabahar.
  • For New Delhi, Chabahar is important to reach out to Afghanistan.
  • In 2017, when Afghanistan was hit by drought, India already shipped 1.1 million tonnes of wheat through Chabahar.
  • Last month, senior bureaucrats of all the three countries (India, Iran and Afghanistan) held the first meeting for the implementation of the trilateral Chabahar agreement signed in 2016.
  • They agreed on the routes for trade and transit corridors between the three countries and finalised the protocol to “harmonise transit, roads, customs and consular matters”.


  • This achievement has something to do with the crisis affecting Iran in the wake of the new round of American sanctions.
  • New Delhi could persuade Washington to exempt Chabahar from these sanctions because, according to the US, this port “relates to reconstruction assistance and economic development of Afghanistan.
  • These activities are vital for the ongoing support of Afghanistan’s growth and humanitarian relief”.

India’s importance for Iran

  • Iran needs India more than before in order to resist American attempts at isolating it.
  • Ironically, Tehran benefits from good relations between New Delhi and Washington, which also made the waiving of sanctions on oil trade possible.
  • In late 2018, America granted waivers to eight countries including India for importing oil from Iran till March 2019.
  • New Delhi lobbied for such an exemption as Iran is India’s number one oil provider.
  • Iran’s isolation may further increase India’s leverage in the near future as Tehran will be forced to finalise deals for using local currencies in trade.
  • India and Iran are already working on a Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) that would reduce tariffs on 80 to 100 products.

Pakistan relationship with Saudi Arabia and UAE

  • Pakistan has similarly been pushed towards Saudi Arabia by the compulsions of financial circumstances.
  • Pakistan needs to raise money from abroad to make both ends meet and once again the most generous donors are Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
  • In the past few months, the dependence of Pakistan vis-à-vis these two countries has significantly increased because of the aid both countries agreed to give to Islamabad and because of industrial, strategic investments.
  • Pakistan has got the assurance from the Saudis that they would help the country to address its balance-of-payment crisis by offering a $6 billion package.
  • While the UAE committed themselves to give $3 billion.
  • Besides, Riyadh decided to invest $10 billion in a refinery in Gwadar.
  • For Riyadh, this move precludes any Iranian presence in Gwadar, contrary to some of the plans talked about in Tehran and Islamabad.

Pakistan relationship with Iran

  • Pakistan and Iran tried hard to ameliorate their collaboration till recently.
  • Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff General had paid an important visit to Tehran in October 2017.
  • The Iranians had been responsive to what he had to offer (some cooperation on missile technology was discussed) and expressed interest in being part of the RBI by branching the gas pipeline they have already built on CPEC at Gwadar and to connect Chabahar to CPEC too.
  • In March 2018 the visit of the Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs had enabled the two countries to reiterate their interest in collaboration.
  • That was in continuation to the decision made in 2015 not to join the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Iran-supported Houthi rebels in Yemen and the attempts Islamabad had made to mediate between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
  • While Pakistan will continue to try not to take sides, a significant upgrading of its relations with Iran may become more difficult — saying “no” to Saudi Arabia may also become more difficult.

India’s relationship with Saudi Arabia and UAE

  • The Modi government had invested in Saudi Arabia and the UAE in the first four years of his term which is evident from the invitation to Mohammed bin Zayed as guest of honour on Independence Day in January 2017.
  • And at a time when India expected massive investments from the UAE which is evident from the Indian PM’s visit to Riyadh in July 2018.
  • Modi and Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud then agreed to sign five MoUs regarding “exchange of intelligence related to money laundering, terrorism financing and related crimes amid the spread of Islamic State and threats from groups in Af-Pak region”.
  • Such collaboration may become more elusive if Saudi Arabia is even more strategically embedded in Pakistan and if both countries become more interdependent.

Implications of this dynamic are particularly negative for Pakistan

  • Iran will not support Baloch separatists since it is not in its interest to promote Baloch nationalism in its own frontiers.
  • But it can play in Afghanistan a role that will not be to the liking of Islamabad since each country is now harbouring a different sections of the Taliban.
  • This issue has gained momentum again with the announcement of American withdrawal by Trump and the beginning of negotiations in Doha.

Continuation of the dynamic described above depends upon several factors

  • In March, the US may ask India to stop importing oil from Iran and Tehran’s goodwill vis-à-vis New Delhi may then turn out to be more tactical than strategic.
  • Similarly, Pakistan-Saudi Arabia equations may not remain as smooth if the latter (and the UAE) seeks to play a major role in Afghanistan-related negotiations at the expense of Pakistan.


  • While the situation remains fluid, the present trends may eventually result in the crystallisation of two axes, bringing Pakistan closer to Saudi Arabia and Iran closer to India and this new regional game.
  • This evolution will foster the Arabisation (or Wahabisation) of Islam in Pakistan.
  • It may also relaunch sectarian tensions in the region under the aegis of foreign countries.
Agricultural Sector and Marketing Reforms – eNAM, Model APMC Act, Eco Survey Reco, etc.

[op-ed snap] For the farmer, things to doop-ed snapPriority 1


Mains Paper 3: Economic Development| Agriculture| Major crops cropping patterns in various parts of the country, different types of irrigation and irrigation systems storage, transport and marketing of agricultural produce and issues and related constraints; e-technology in the aid of farmers.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Nothing as such.

Mains level: The news-card analyses what are some of the urgent requirements for increasing the prosperity of India’s small and marginal farmers, in a brief manner.


  • According to Agriculture Census 2015-16, though more than 86 per cent farmers are small and marginal in India, they have belied the general assumption that farm size and productivity have an inverse relationship.


  • Despite small farm sizes, with better quality inputs and hard work combined with the scientific management of farming, productivity and production have gone up.
  • However, ensuring food security for the country through their hard work and increased production has not meant greater income and prosperity for the farmers.
  • There are several possible solutions being discussed in the policy circles as to how to increase the income of farmers.

Three fundamental sutras for a farmer’s prosperity

  • Reduction in cost of cultivation,
  • increase in productivity and production, and
  • remunerative price for produce

Important determinants/factors that can help increase Farmer’s income

  1. Price of seeds
  • The price of seeds is of critical importance in agriculture
  • Seed is the most important input as it is the carrier of scientific research and advancement in agriculture.
  • Newer varieties are high yielding and also pest and disease resistant.
  • Therefore, it is necessary that the newer seeds are affordable and accessible for the farmers.
  • Farmers go for hybrid seeds of fruit and vegetables and many cereals like paddy, jowar, bajra, maize, etc as these give better yield than the open-pollinated varieties.
  • The price of hybrid seeds has been going up and in the case of vegetables, it is actually prohibitive.
  • This is where the role of research becomes important.
  • Scientists must develop open pollinated varieties with better yields.
  • Farmers can grow seeds for their own use from the open-pollinated varieties whereas they have to buy hybrid seeds every year as these are terminal in nature.

2. Hybrid varieties developed through public-funded research should be available to the public sector institutions without paying any royalty amount on a non-exclusive basis.

  • Currently, the public sector units also have to pay a royalty for new discoveries by scientists of public sector institutions, achieved through public-funded research.
  • Scientists can be allowed to get a royalty from the private sector in order to incentivise them to continue doing high-end research but for the public sector, it should come free in order to make the fruits of science available to the farmers at a reasonable and affordable price.
  • In fact, this principle should apply to all public-funded research.

3. Access to formal credit should be made available to all farmers

  • Presently, the distribution of agricultural credit is severely skewed.
  • In 2017-18, with 18.68 per cent of the gross cropped area, the southern region took 42.53 per cent of agriculture credit.
  • Whereas the central and eastern regions got just 14.43 per cent and 8.10 per cent of agriculture credit with 27.26 per cent and 14.65 per cent of the gross cropped area, respectively.
  • Experts have been arguing that agricultural credit should be based on land holding rather than the scale of finance of crops.
  • This will bring equity in the flow of agri-credit and infuse capital in the backward regions in the agriculture sector.
  • This will also result in better uptake of the crop insurance scheme.
  • Farmers who have to access credit from the informal sector at usurious rates or fettering conditions can hardly become self-sustainable.
  • Even with the current provisioning by the central government for agriculture credit, it should be possible to provide Rs 1 lakh per hectare as crop loan to all farmers at a reduced rate of interest.
  • Beyond this, one can take credit on normal bank rates.

4. Direct investment subsidy to the farmers

  • Many states have recently opted for direct investment subsidy to the farmers.
  • This has been done on a flat area basis, without linking it to any particular input.
  • Rather than providing cash transfer on a flat basis of the area of landholding, this direct transfer can be designed to incentivise the desired cropping pattern.
  • While agricultural credit can be linked to the landholding and made crop neutral, direct investment subsidy can be linked to the cropping pattern to ensure demand-led cultivation and the judicious usage of natural resources.
  • Through direct subsidy transfer, it should be possible to motivate the farmer to grow millets in a water-scarce area rather than paddy or sugarcane, which further deplete the water table.
  • Thus, through deft manipulation of credit and subsidy, it should be possible to make cultivation environmentally sustainable and demand-led based on forecasts of consumption pattern.
  • This will help farmers to obtain better and remunerative prices.

5. Allowing the leasing of land

  • Allowing the leasing of land will help find out the real tiller of land and it will be possible to extend the benefits of various schemes to the real cultivator rather than the landowner.
  • Today, most sharecroppers are not able to access the various benefits extended by the government whether it is crop insurance, accident insurance or different input subsidies.
  • This will also make the scheme of direct investment subsidy more efficient and effective.

6. The unviable size of landholdings in most states

  • As per Agriculture Census data, the average landholding size in India came down from 2.28 ha in 1970-71 to 1.08 ha in 2015-16.
  • In some of the densely populated states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the average landholding size is 0.73 ha and 0.39 ha, respectively.
  • This implies that more than 50 per cent of farmers have less than 0.73 hectares of land in UP and less than 0.39 hectares of land in Bihar respectively.
  • If we take out the large farmers, then it will become obvious that most of the farmers in UP and Bihar own less than one and a half acres of land.
  • With this landholding size, it is simply not possible to have a decent standard of living unless there are other avenues of additional income for the family.


  • Therefore, affordable inputs, access to credit and formal land-leasing are some of the urgent requirements for increasing the prosperity of India’s small and marginal farmers.
Cyber Security – CERTs, Policy, etc

[op-ed snap] Heading towards strategic instabilityop-ed snap


Mains Paper 3: Security| Challenges to internal security through communication networks, role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges, basics of cyber security; money-laundering and its prevention.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Basic knowledge of the emerging military high-tech innovations.

Mains level: The news-card analyses the challenges that India might face as there is a possibility of emerging disruptive technologies prompting inadvertent conflict, in a brief manner.


  • In late 2018, the government decided to set up three new agencies — the Defence Cyber Agency, the Defence Space Agency and the Special Operations Division — in order to address the new age challenges to national security.

Recommendations given by Naresh Chandra Task Force and the Chiefs of Staff Committee

  • This is indeed a useful step in the right direction.
  • However, it is also important to note that the constitution of these agencies is a far cry from the crucial recommendations given by the Naresh Chandra Task Force and the Chiefs of Staff Committee.
  • Both the committees had suggested the formation of three separate joint commands to deal with new challenges to India’s national security in the cyber, space and special operations domains.
  • This lacklustre response to major ‘futuristic’ challenges to our national security have raised the question: is India adequately prepared for the new age wars?

World is moving away from traditional military hardware to high-tech innovations

  • There is a revolution in military affairs that seems to have attracted the attention of strategic analysts and policy planners across the world.
  • The current focus in military thinking across the world is increasingly moving away from traditional heavy-duty military hardware to high-tech innovations.
  • Such as artificial intelligence (AI), big data analytics, satellite jammers, hypersonic strike technology, advanced cyber capabilities and spectrum denial and high-energy lasers.
  • In the light of the unprecedented capabilities that these systems offer, there is also an increased focus on developing suitable command and control as well as doctrinal concepts to accommodate and calibrate them.


  • The arrival of these technologies might deeply frustrate strategic stability as we know it given their disruptive nature.
  • Strategic stability in the contemporary international system, especially among the nuclear weapon states, depends on several age-old certainties, the most important being the issue of survivability of a state’s nuclear arsenal and its ability to carry out a second strike after a first attack.
  • Once accuracies get better, hypersonic glide vehicles replace conventional delivery systems, real time tracking and surveillance make major strides, and AI-enabled systems take over, survivability of nuclear arsenal, which lies at the heart of great power stability, could take a severe beating.
  • There was an assumption that the naval leg of a nuclear triad is the most survivable part since it is hidden away in the depths of the ocean away from the adversary’s gaze.
  • However, the potential ability of deep-sea drones to detect ballistic-missile armed nuclear submarines or SSBNs may make this assurance a thing of the past thereby frustrating traditional calculations.

New era of strategic instability

  • The arrival of these new technologies is worrisome when we add it to the emerging strategic competition among great powers.
  • The U.S.’s withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty is perhaps an indication of a potential arms race in the offing.
  • According to experts, disruptive new technologies, worsening relations between Russia and America and a less cautious Russian leadership than in the cold war have raised fears that a new era of strategic instability may be approaching.

Inherent paradox vis-à-vis high technology-enabled military systems

(a) Vulnerable to covert cyberattacks

  • While it is imperative for states to redesign their systems in the light of these new technologies, especially the digital and cyber components, this also makes the cyber- and digital-enabled systems vulnerable to covert cyberattacks.
  • More so, given that such surreptitious attacks might take place in the early stages of a conflict.
  • This might ensue confusion and scare might lead to uncontrolled escalation with little time for assessment and judgement.

(b) Risks of nuclear use

  • The biggest fear about these technologies is their potential to increase the risks of intentional and inadvertent nuclear use.

(c) Inadvertent escalation and conflict

  • The fear of a bolt-from-the-blue attack against one’s command and control systems or a disabling strike against strategic arsenal using new technological solutions is likely to dominate the strategic mind-space of great powers in the days ahead, thereby further deepening mistrust and creating instability.
  • Therefore, the possibility of emerging military technologies prompting inadvertent escalation and conflict cannot and should not be ruled out.

Increasing Chinese capabilities

  • China has emerged as a key actor in the field of emerging military technologies.
  • This is something that will concern New Delhi in the days ahead.
  • Some analysts believe that Beijing is in the lead position in emerging technologies with potential military applications such as quantum computing, 3D printing, hypersonic missiles and AI.
  • If Beijing continues to develop hypersonic systems, for instance, it could potentially target a range of targets in the U.S.
  • While the Chinese focus is evidently on U.S. capabilities, which China interprets as a potential threat, this is not without latent concerns for New Delhi.
  • In turn, India might consider developing some of these technologies which will create dilemmas for Islamabad.
  • The cascading strategic competition then looks unavoidable and that is worrisome.
  • However, it might be difficult to avoid some of these developments given their dual use.

Way Forward

  • There is a need to ask how survivable India’s naval platforms are given the feverish developments of advanced sensory capability in the neighbourhood.
  • India needs to be sufficiently prepared to face the new age wars
  • It is in this context that we must revisit the government’s decision to set up the agencies to address cyber and space challenges.
  • This is a timely effort from the government to have finally decided to set them up — though they are not yet in place.
  • The reports indicate that the Space Command will be headed by the Air Force, the Army will head the Special Operations Command, and the Navy will be given the responsibility of the Cyber Command.
  • If that happens, their effectiveness in terms of tri-service synergy will be much less than anticipated given that the higher defence decision-making in the country is still civil services-dominated.
Nuclear Suppliers Group(NSG) Entry

China refuses to budge, says India must sign NPT to gain entry into NSGIOCR


Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional & global groupings & agreements involving India &/or affecting India’s interests

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level:  Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), MTCR, Australia Group

Mains level: Importance of joining NSG and other export control regimes by India


  • P5 countries have recently concluded their meetings to discuss issues related to nuclear disarmament, nuclear non-proliferation and peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

China maintains Status-quo

  1. China has once again refused to dilute its stand on India’s entry into the elite Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).
  2. It asserted that New Delhi must sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty to gain entry as there is no precedent for the inclusion of non-NPT countries.

Reasons cited

  1. China has been opposing India’s entry into the 48-member NSG on the ground that India is not a signatory to the NPT.
  2. The other P5 members, including the US and Russia backed its case based on New Delhi’s non-proliferation record.
  3. China along with P5 has decided to uphold the NPT mechanism.

Pakistan: the elephant in the room

  1. China has sought to club India and Pakistan together, on the basis of both being non-signatories of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
  2. It has asked the NSG countries to adopt a “criteria-based approach” — which essentially means that either both can get into the group or none.
  3. But most of the NSG countries, including the US, France and UK, make a clear distinction between India and Pakistan’s nuclear non-proliferation track record.

Why NSG for India?

  1. The NSG is the top club of countries which controls access to technology and guards against proliferation. Its membership is important for India to access cutting-edge high technology.
  2. Pakistan has violated all norms of nuclear non-proliferation and had links with the North Korean nuclear programme.


P5+1 Countries

  1. The P5+1 refers to the UN Security Council’s five permanent members (the P5); namely China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States; plus Germany.
  2. It is a group of six world powers which, in 2006, joined together in diplomatic efforts with Iran with regard to its nuclear program.

Explained: The President’s address to both Houses of ParliamentPrelims OnlyPriority 1


Mains Paper 2: Polity | Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions & basic structure

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Presidents Address

Mains level: Importance of Presidents Address in parliamentary democracy


  • The President’s address to the joint sitting of Parliament at the beginning of the Budget Session every year is a Constitutional requirement.

Presidential Address

Article 87(1) says: the President shall address both Houses of Parliament assembled together and inform Parliament of the causes of its summons:

  • At the commencement of the first session after each general election to the House of the People and
  • At the commencement of the first session of each year

Some Facts about President’s Address

  1. The Address at the beginning of the first session each year takes place at the time and date notified for the commencement of the session.
  2. Barring some exceptions in the early years of the Republic, it has generally taken place at 11 am.
  3. The President reads the Address either in English or in Hindi.
  4. After the conclusion of the Address, there is a roll of drums followed by the National Anthem.
  5. Half an hour after the President has finished speaking, the two Houses assemble separately in their respective Chambers for the transaction of formal business.

Adding exception

  1. The Rajya Sabha Secretariat records one instance of the first session of the year not commencing with the President’s Address.
  2. In 2004, when the House assembled for the first time in the year on 30 January 2004, it was not treated as the first session of the year but as Part II of the 200th session of Rajya Sabha which commenced on 2 December 2003.
  3. Therefore, the session did not commence with the Address by the President.
  4. The President addressed both Houses of Parliament assembled together on 7 June 2004 in the 201st Session after the general elections to the Fourteenth Lok Sabha,

First Amendment

  1. Originally, the Constitution required the President to address both Houses of Parliament at the commencement of “every session”.
  2. This requirement was changed by the First Amendment to the Constitution — PM Nehru argued in Parliament that it was too cumbersome process to have the President, complete with the entire paraphernalia that his office carries, address the Houses every time.

Arguments against the every session address

  1. Replying to the debate on Clause 7 of The Constitution (First Amendment) Bill, 1951, Nehru had argued that this involves a certain preparation outside this House which is often troublesome.
  2. Members are aware that when a coach and six horses come all kinds of things have to be done for that purpose.
  3. Anyhow that trouble does not fall on the House or members thereof, but on the administration of Delhi.

Importance of Presidents Address

  1. The President’s speech essentially highlights the government’s policy priorities and plans for the upcoming year.
  2. It highlights various development works and commitment to social justice by the government.
  3. The Indian President has the power to send messages not only on legislative matters but also ‘otherwise’.
  4. It is drafted by the Cabinet, and provides a broad framework of the government’s agenda and direction.
Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

What’s causing extreme cold in US MidwestPriority 1


Mains Paper 1: Geography | Salient features of World’s Physical Geography

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Polar Vortex

Mains level: Polar Vortex


  • A record-breaking cold wave has swept through the US Midwest, with 22 states hitting sub-zero temperatures.
  • The extreme cold has been caused by a blast of Arctic air, which in turn is a result of what is known as a “polar vortex” event.

Polar Vortex

  1. It is described as a whirling cone of low pressure over the poles that is strongest in the winter months due to the increased temperature contrast between the polar regions and the mid-latitudes, such as the US and Europe.
  2. The counter-clockwise flow of air helps keep the colder air near the poles.
  3. It spins in the stratosphere, a layer of the atmosphere 10-48 km above the ground and above the troposphere, where most familiar weather patterns develop.
  4. Usually, when the vortex is strongest, cold air is less-likely to plunge deep into North America or Europe.
  5. In other words, it forms a wall that protects the mid-latitudes from cold Arctic air.

When does the polar vortex cause extreme cold?

  1. In winter, the polar vortex sometimes becomes less stable and expands.
  2. Many times during winter in the northern hemisphere, the vortex expands, sending cold air southward with the jet stream.
  3. This is called as the “breaking off” of a part of the vortex.
  4. Normally, when the vortex is strong and healthy, it helps keep a current of air known as the jet stream traveling around the globe in a pretty circular path.
  5. This current keeps the cold air up north and the warm air down south.
  6. But without that strong low-pressure system, the jet stream doesn’t have much to keep it in line. It becomes wavy and rambling.

Is all cold weather the result of a polar vortex event?

  1. Though the polar vortex is always hanging out up North, it takes pretty “unusual conditions” for it to “weaken” for it to migrate far south.
  2. Portions of Europe and Asia also experience cold surges connected to the polar vortex.
  3. By itself, the only danger to humans is the magnitude of how cold temperatures will get when the polar vortex expands, sending Arctic air southward into areas that are not typically that cold.
Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

How will global warming affect El Niño in the 21st Century?Priority 1


Mains Paper 1: Geography | Salient features of World’s Physical Geography

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: El Nino, La Nino and ENSO

Mains level: Impact of El-Nino



  1. El Niño is the largest climate phenomenon that occurs frequently, producing droughts, floods, wildfires, dust and snow storms, fish kill, and even elevated risks of civil conflicts.
  2. The theatre of action for El Niño is the tropical Pacific Ocean but its global reach costs the global community tens of billions of dollars each time.

Why study El Nino occurrence?

  1. El Niños occur every two-to-seven years, with very strong El Niño’s occurring about every 15 years.
  2. How the frequency, time and strength between two events will change because of global warming remains a grand challenge for climate models.
  3. This also impacts projections of future climate since El Niños redistribute the heat gathered by the ocean between two El Niño events to cause a mini global warming.

Measuring El Nino

  1. El Niño is measured by an index that averages sea surface temperature anomalies over the central-eastern tropical Pacific.
  2. This has been an issue in finding a consensus among models as far as the El Niño response to global warming is concerned.
  3. But by using a model-specific El Niño index to make room for the inter-model differences, the latest projection shows that strong El Niños and extreme weather events associated.
  4. The results should serve as a warning to countries on all continents that suffer from these extreme weather events during strong El Niño events such as the ones during 1982-83, 1997-98 and 2015-16.

Major Caveats

  1. The first caveat is that the eagerly-awaited winter rain and snow storms over California did not occur over California during the latest extreme El Niño.
  2. It is thus unclear if global warming is already affecting El Niño and its remote impacts.
  3. Secondly, the models used for making future projections have not stood the test of time for their depiction of El Niño during the 20th century.

Lack of consensus

  1. Some models warm the eastern tropical Pacific more than the west while others produce a faster warming in the west.
  2. Whether the east warms faster or the west has serious consequences for global warming itself since the cold eastern Pacific soaks up a lot of heating from the atmosphere.
  3. A slower warming of the east would imply more heat uptake by the ocean and a slower global warming.

Data insufficient

  1. Available data is not sufficient to say with confidence how the tropical Pacific has responded to global warming till now.
  2. All available evidences indicates that El Niño is highly variable and its variability depends on weather noise over the western Pacific, volcanoes, impact of phytoplankton on penetration of solar radiation into the ocean, aerosols and so on.
  3. It is unclear if the impact of global warming on El Niño can easily be extracted.

Way Forward

  1. It is imperative that models be held to very stringent standards on their performance of El Niño behaviour during historic periods for their reliability for future projections.
  2. This would also be necessary for projecting other events such as droughts and floods.
  3. For example, droughts over India are closely tied with El Niño and any projections of how droughts will respond to global warming will depend on how models perform.

Assist this newscard with:

UN sees 70% chance of El Nino event this year

Promoting Science and Technology – Missions,Policies & Schemes

Periodic Table completes 150 yearsPrelims Only


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Basic knowledge of the Periodic Table

Mains level: Not Much


  • The International Year of the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements was launched on January 29, 2019, at the headquarters of UNESCO in Paris.
  • The UNESCO stated that the events and activities will be held throughout the year in order to mark 150 years of the formation of the periodic table.
  • Dmitri Mendeleev was the man who published the periodic table for the first time in 1869.

The modern Periodic Table

  1. The periodic table is an arrangement of all the elements known to man in accordance with their increasing atomic number and recurring chemical properties.
  2. They are assorted in a tabular arrangement wherein a row is a period and a column is a group.
  3. Until 1863, the world was aware of only 56 known elements.
  4. The rate of scientific progress was such that every year, a new element was being discovered.
  5. It was during this time that Mendeleev came up with the idea of the Periodic Table.
  6. He published the Periodic Table in his book– The Relation between the Properties and Atomic Weights of the Elements.
  7. Mendeleev said that he arrived at the idea in his dream, where he saw all chemical elements falling into place on a table according to their chemical properties.
  8. Mendeleev had found a definitive pattern following which, each element could be placed according to their atomic weight.
  9. He had also predicted the qualities of the ‘missing’ (yet to be discovered) elements and gave them Sanskrit names.

Its Evolution

  1. The noble gases including helium (He), neon (Ne), argon (Ar), krypton (Kr), xenon (Xe), and radon (Rn) were added to the table between 1895 and 1901.
  2. Likewise, additions have been made to the periodic table as new elements have been discovered in the last hundred years
  3. In 1914, English physicist Henry Gwyn-Jeffries Moseley found out that each atomic nucleus can be assigned a number, according to the number of protons in that atom.
  4. This changed the way the periodic table worked. The table was redesigned according to the atomic number of elements rather than their atomic weight
  5. Rare-earth elements, including the elements in the Lanthanide series, were included in the atomic table in the late 19th century.

About the UNESCO event

  1. The year 2019 was declared as the International Year of the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements (IYPT 2019) at the 74th Plenary Meeting.
  2. The event will highlight the importance of periodic table in various science disciplines.
  3. Scientists and representatives of the private sector will came together for the event.

Aim of the International Year of Periodic Table of Chemical Elements

  1. The fundamental motto of IYPT 2019 is to recognize the importance of periodic table of chemical elements as one of the most important and influential achievements in modern science.
  2. The periodic table reflects the essence of all basic science disciplines like- physics, biology and chemistry.