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Foreign Policy Watch: India-Nepal

For a reset in India-Nepal relations

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Treat of Sugauli in 1816

Mains level : Paper 2- Indiao-Nepal relations and territorial dispute.

Over the past few years, we have been  witness to the deteriorating India-Nepal relations. Reserves of goodwill which India had accumulated is fast depleting in Nepal. The latest issue over the map is a new addition to the decline in relations. This article stresses the need for political maturity to find the solution to the complex issue of the underlying problem.

Need for the fundamental reset in relations between Indian and Nepal

  • The immediate provocation for the contention is the long-standing territorial issue surrounding Kalapani.
  • It is a patch of land near the India-Nepal border, close to the Lipulekh Pass on the India-China border.
  • However, the underlying reasons are far more complex.
  • Yet, Nepali Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli’s exploitation of the matter, by raising the banner of Nepali nationalism and painting India as a hegemon, is part of a frequent pattern.
  • Which indicates that relations between the two countries need a fundamental reset.

Let’s look at the historical background of the India-Nepal border

  • India inherited the boundary with Nepal, established between Nepal and the East India Company in the Treaty of Sugauli in 1816.
  • Kali river constituted the boundary, and the territory to its east was Nepal.
  • The dispute relates to the origin of Kali.
  • Near Garbyang village in Dharchula Tehsil of the Pithoragarh district of Uttarakhand, there is a confluence of different streams coming from north-east from Kalapani and north-west from Limpiyadhura.
  • The early British survey maps identified the north-west stream, Kuti Yangti, from Limpiyadhura as the origin.
  • But after 1857 changed the alignment to Lipu Gad, and in 1879 to Pankha Gad, the north-east streams, thus defining the origin as just below Kalapani.
  • Nepal accepted the change and India inherited this boundary in 1947.

More past events dealing with the LIpulech pass

  • The Maoist revolution in China in 1949, followed by the takeover of Tibet, created deep misgivings in Nepal.
  • So, India was ‘invited’ by Nepal to set up 18 border posts along the Nepal-Tibet border.
  • The westernmost post was at Tinkar Pass, about 6 km further east of Lipulekh.
  • In 1953, India and China identified Lipulekh Pass for both pilgrims and border trade. After the 1962 war, pilgrimage through Lipulekh resumed in 1981, and border trade, in 1991.
  • In 1961, King Mahendra visited Beijing to sign the China-Nepal Boundary Treaty that defines the zero point in the west, just north of Tinkar Pass.
  • By 1969, India had withdrawn its border posts from Nepali territory.
  • The base camp for Lipulekh remained at Kalapani, less than 10 km west of Lipulekh.
  • In their respective maps, both countries showed Kalapani as the origin of Kali river and as part of their territory.
  • After 1979, the Indo-Tibetan Border Police has manned the Lipulekh Pass.

So, when was the issue of the origin of Kali river raised?

  • After the 1996 Treaty of Mahakali -Kali river is also called Mahakali/Sarada further downstream-the issue of the origin of Kali river was first raised in 1997.
  • The matter was referred to the Joint Technical Level Boundary Committee that had been set up in 1981 to re-identify and replace the old and damaged boundary pillars along the India-Nepal border.
  • The Committee clarified 98% of the boundary, leaving behind the unresolved issues of Kalapani and Susta when it was dissolved in 2008.
  • It was subsequently agreed that the matter would be discussed at the Foreign Secretary level.
  • Meanwhile, the project to convert the 80-km track from Ghatibagar to Lipulekh into a hardtop road began in 2009 without any objections from Nepal.

Objections raised by Nepal to the new map released by India

  • The Survey of India issued a new political map (eighth edition) on November 2, 2019, to reflect the change in the status of Jammu and Kashmir as two Union Territories.
  • Nepal registered a protest though the map in no way had changed the boundary between India and Nepal.
  • However, on November 8, the ninth edition was issued.
  • The delineation remained identical but the name Kali river had been deleted.
  • Predictably, this led to stronger protests, with Nepal invoking Foreign Secretary-level talks to resolve issues.

New map released by Nepal and issues with it

  • A new map of Nepal based on the older British survey reflecting Kali river originating from Limpiyadhura in the north-west of Garbyang was adopted by parliament and notified on May 20.
  • On May 22, a constitutional amendment proposal was tabled to include it in a relevant Schedule.
  • The new alignment adds 335 sq km to Nepali territory, territory that has never been reflected in a Nepali map for nearly 170 years.

Following issue explains why there is need for rewriting the fundamental of India-Nepal relations

1. Nepali nationalism is being equated to anti-Indianism

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi has often spoken of the “neighbourhood first” policy.
  • But the relationship took a nosedive in 2015 when India first got blamed for interfering in the Constitution-drafting in Nepal.
  • And then for an “unofficial blockade” that generated widespread resentment against the country.
  • It reinforced the notion that Nepali nationalism and anti-Indianism were two sides of the same coin.

2. China factor

  • In Nepali thinking, the China card has provided them the leverage to practise their version of non-alignment.
  • In the past, China maintained a link with the Palace and its concerns were primarily related to keeping tabs on the Tibetan refugee community.
  • With the abolition of the monarchy, China has shifted attention to the political parties as also to institutions like the Army and Armed Police Force.
  • Also, today’s China is pursuing a more assertive foreign policy and considers Nepal an important element in its growing South Asian footprint.

3. India has ignored the changing political narrative for long

  • The reality is that India has ignored the changing political narrative in Nepal for far too long.
  • India remained content that its interests were safeguarded by quiet diplomacy even when Nepali leaders publicly adopted anti-Indian postures.
  • Long ignored by India, it has spawned distortions in Nepali history textbooks and led to long-term negative consequences.
  • For too long India has invoked a “special relationship”, based on shared culture, language and religion, to anchor its ties with Nepal.
  • Today, this term carries a negative connotation — that of a paternalistic India that is often insensitive and, worse still, a bully.
  • The 1950 Treaty of Peace and Friendship which was sought by the Nepali authorities in 1949  is viewed as a sign of an unequal relationship, and an Indian imposition.
  • The purpose of the treaty was to continue the special links Nepal had with British India and it  provides for an open border and right to work for Nepali nationals
  • Yet, Nepali authorities have studiously avoided taking it up bilaterally even though Nepali leaders thunder against it in their domestic rhetoric.

Consider the question, “Examine the issues that have been testing the old ties between India and Nepal.”

Conclusion

The urgent need today is to pause the rhetoric on territorial nationalism and lay the groundwork for a quiet dialogue where both sides need to display sensitivity as they explore the terms of a reset of the “special relationship”. A normal relationship where India can be a generous partner will be a better foundation for “neighbourhood first” in the 21st century.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Africa

Deepening India’s engagement with Africa amid pandemic

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : India-Africa Forum summit

Mains level : Paper 3- Scope to increase the ties between India and Africa amid covid pandemic.

Long thought to be the backwater of the world, Africa has been successful in shading its past image and emerge on the global stage as region hard to ignore. And countries across the world are vying to increase their engagement with the region. This article examines the scope for increasing the ties with the region amid the pandemic.

India’s association with African Union

  • Africa Day is observed every year on May 25 to commemorate the founding of the Organisation of African Unity, now known as the African Union.
  • India has been closely associated with it on account of its shared colonial past and rich contemporary ties.
  • The Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses has hosted an Africa Day Round Table annually for the last four years in order to commemorate this epochal event.

Economy and pandemic

  • The World Bank in its April report, assessed that the COVID-19 outbreak has sparked off the Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) region’s first recession in 25 years.
  • Growth is expected to plummet to between -2.1 and -5.1 per cent in 2020, from a modest 2.4 per cent in 2019.
  • With high rates of HIV, malaria, diabetes, hypertension and malnourishment prevalent, a large number of Africans were already faced with a health and economic crisis.
  • The steep decline in commodity prices has spelt disaster for the economies of Nigeria, Zambia and Angola.

Need for financial support

  • Precarious fiscal positions have ruled out any major governmental stimulus.
  • Public debt has mounted.
  • According to the World Bank, the SSA region paid $35.8 billion in total debt service in 2018.
  • Which is 2.1 per cent of regional gross domestic product (GDP).
  • Together, African countries have sought a $100 billion rescue package.
  • This rescue package includes a $44 billion waiver of interest payment by the world’s 20 largest economies.
  • The IMF’s debt service relief of $500 million is meant for 25 countries of which 19 are in Africa, but that is a drop in the bucket.
  • It is clear that without outside support, Africa will find it very difficult to meet the challenge.

Why the increased interest in engagement with Africa?

  • Africa’s rich natural resources, long-term economic potential, youthful demography and influence as a bloc of 54 countries in multi-lateral organisations is apparent.
  • Many have an eye for economic opportunities, including in energy, mining, infrastructure and connectivity. 
  • Japan hosted the 7th Tokyo International Conference for African Development (TICAD) in August 2019.
  • Russia hosted the first-ever Russia-Africa Summit last year.
  • Brazil, home to the largest population of people of African descent outside of Africa, has also sought to develop closer ties.
  • Cuba has sent medical teams to help Africa.

Chinese Bonhomie with the region

  • China’s engagement of Africa, as elsewhere, is huge but increasingly regarded as predatory and exploitative.
  • Its annual trade with Africa in 2019 stood at $208 billion, in addition to investments and loans worth $200 billion.
  • Traditionally, China’s participation in infrastructure projects has been astonishing.
  • Having famously built the 1,860 km Tanzania-Zambia railway line in 1975, and the Addis Ababa-Djibouti and Mombasa-Nairobi lines more recently, China is now eyeing to develop the vast East Africa Master Railway Plan.
  • It is also developing the Trans-Maghreb Highway, the Mambilla Hydropower Plant in Nigeria, the Walvis Bay Container Terminal in Windhoek and the Caculo Cabaca Hydropower project in Angola.
  • At the Forum for China-Africa Cooperation (COCAC) in 2018, China set aside $60 billion in developmental assistance.
  • And it was followed by a whopping $1 billion Belt and Road (BRI) Infrastructure Fund for Africa.
  • China has followed up with robust health sector diplomacy in the wake of the pandemic.
  • But its image has been tarnished by defective supplies of PPE gear and discriminatory behaviour against Africans in Guangzhou.
  • This also led to an embarrassing diplomatic row.

India’s relations with Africa

  • In the last few years, India’s relations with Africa saw a revival.
  • India-Africa trade reached $62 billion in 2018 compared to $39 billion during 2009-10.
  • After South Asia, Africa is the second-largest recipient of Indian overseas assistance with Lines of Credit (LOC) worth nearly $10 billion (42 per cent of the total) spread over 100 projects in 41 countries.
  • Ties were boosted at the India Africa Forum Summit (IAFS) in 2015.
  • 40 per cent of all training and capacity building slots under the ITEC programme have traditionally been reserved for Africa.
  • Approximately 6,000 Indian soldiers are deployed in UN peace-keeping missions in five conflict zones in Africa.
  • Bilateral cooperation includes solar energy development, information technology, cyber security, maritime security, disaster relief, counter-terrorism and military training.
  • India has also launched several initiatives to develop closer relations, including the first-ever India Africa Defence Ministers conclave in February this year on the margins of the Defence Expo 2020.
  • India provides about 50,000 scholarships to African students each year.
  • The huge Indian diaspora is a major asset.
  • India had planned to host the Fourth India Africa Forum Summit in September this year.
  • However, the COVID-19 pandemic may cause it to be delayed.

India’s support amid covid pandemic

  • India has already despatched medical assistance to 25 African countries.
  • PM Modi has had a telephonic talk with President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa who is the current chairperson of the African Union, and separately others such as the presidents of Uganda and Ethiopia.
  • India could consider structuring a series of virtual summits in zonal groups with African leaders across the continent over the next few months.
  • That could both provide a platform for a cooperative response to the pandemic and also serve as a precursor to the actual summit in the future.
  • The Ministry of External Affairs has already extended the e-ITEC course on “COVID-19 Pandemic: Prevention and Management Guidelines for Healthcare Professionals” to healthcare workers in Africa.
  • The Aarogya Setu App and the E-Gram Swaraj App for rural areas for mapping COVID-19 are technological achievements that could be shared with Africa.
  • Since the movement of African students to India for higher education has been disrupted, India may expand the e-VidyaBharti (tele education) project to establish an India-Africa Virtual University. Agriculture and food security can also be a fulcrum for deepening ties.
  • With the locust scourge devastating the Horn of Africa and the pandemic worsening the food crisis, India could ramp up its collaboration in this sector.
  • India could also create a new fund for Africa and adapt its grant-in-aid assistance to reflect the current priorities.
  • This could include support for new investment projects by Indian entrepreneurs especially in the pharmaceutical and healthcare sectors in Africa.

Time for Quad Plus to propose cooperation with African countries

  • Both India and Japan share a common interest in forging a partnership for Africa’s development.
  • It is time for the Quad Plus, in which the US, India, Japan and Australia have recently engaged other countries such as the ROK, Vietnam, New Zealand, Israel and Brazil, to exchange views and propose cooperation with select African countries abutting the Indian Ocean.
  • After all, the Indo-Pacific straddles the entire maritime space of the Indian Ocean.

Consider the 2015 question asked by the UPSC “Increasing interest of India in Africa has its pros and cons. Critically examine”

Conclusion

The pandemic is a colossal challenge but it may create fresh opportunities to bring India and Africa closer together.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

India-China confrontation: Not a standalone event

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Hong Kong, Taiwan location in the map

Mains level : Paper 2- India-China relation and tension over border dispute

The recent India-China standoff in Ladakh points to a larger picture of the Chinese agenda of regional dominance. The US-China tension has proved to be the backdrop against which the Ladakh standoff is playing out. This article suggests that this standoff is not a standalone event. It could well be a trigger for domino effect.

What the intensification of tension between India-China suggests?

1) China is feeling threatened

  • An authoritarian regime whose legitimacy rests primarily on its economic performance is faced with a situation where growth is expected to plummet.
  • It is a sign that Beijing is increasingly feeling beleaguered.
  • In response, it has embarked on a strategy of brinkmanship with several goals in mind.
  • External adventurism, when cloaked in the garb of ultra-nationalism, can shore up a regime’s legitimacy at home.

2) It could be a move to divert the attention of the world

  • Simultaneously, it can act as a diversionary measure to escape international criticism for Beijing’s attempt to cover up the spread of the coronavirus.
  • Many countries hold China responsible for the huge cost in human lives and suffering as well as the unprecedented economic distress.
  • In the face of such criticism, the Chinese regime is increasingly using jingoistic jargon to build up domestic support.
  • President Xi Jinping’s recent speech to the PLA is an outstanding example of this strategy.
  • He exhorted the Chinese armed forces to “prepare for war” in order to “resolutely safeguard national sovereignty” and “the overall strategic stability of the country”.
  • This is a sign that the Communist Party of China (CPC) feels increasingly threatened both domestically and externally.

Let’s look at the deterioration of the US-China relations

  • China’s relations with the U.S. have been going downhill almost since the beginning of the Donald Trump presidency.
  • Washington has periodically imposed economic sanctions on China and Beijing has retaliated in kind.
  • Trade talks have faltered because of growing protectionist sentiments in the U.S. and Chinese inability to adequately respond to them.
  • The chipping away at Hong Kong’s autonomous status by Beijing and the suppression of the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong has led to severe criticism by the U.S. administration and in the Congress.
  • Differences over the issue of Taiwan have added to tensions, with China viewing the U.S. as the primary impediment preventing Taiwan’s integration.
  • The Trump administration has significantly increased support to Taiwan with arms sales that have added to China’s concern.

U.S.-China rivalry in South-China Sea

  • Above all, the U.S.-China rivalry in the South China Sea acts as the potential flashpoint that may well lead to a shooting war.
  • So far, it has been careful that these moves do not trigger a serious confrontation with the U.S.
  • Washington has a strong interest in preventing China from asserting control over the South China Sea as maintaining free access to this waterway is important to it for economic reasons.
  • It also has defence treaty obligations to the Philippines, which has vigorously contested Chinese territorial claims.
  • Further, China’s control of the South China Sea would be a major step toward replacing the U.S. as the foremost power in the Indo-Pacific region.

India-China relation questions have been the leitmotif in the UPSC papers. Just the theme of the question changes. Consider 2017 question “China is using its economic relations and positive trade surplus as a tool to develop potential military power status in Asia. In light of this statement, discuss its impact on India as her neighbour.”

Conclusion

Increased Chinese adventurism could result in an escalation of U.S.-China confrontation in the South China Sea. If that happens, the India-China face-off in Ladakh could become part of a much larger “great game”, with the U.S. trying to preserve the status quo and China attempting to change it to further its objective of regional dominance at the U.S.’s expense. The current India-China crisis should, therefore, be seen in its proper context and not as an isolated event.

FDI in Indian economy

Foreign direct investment (FDI) in India

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : FDI

Mains level : Features of India's FDI Policy

The FDI in India grew by 13% to a record of $49.97 billion in the 2019-20 financial years, according to official data.

Get aware with the recently updated FDI norms. Key facts mentioned in this newscard can make a direct statement based MCQ in the prelims.

Ex. FDI source in decreasing order: Singapore – Mauritius – Netherland – Ceyman Islands – Japan – France

Data on FDI

  • The country had received an FDI of $44.36 billion during April-March 2018-19.
  • The sectors which attracted maximum foreign inflows during 2019-20 include services ($7.85 billion), computer software and hardware ($7.67 billion), telecommunications ($4.44 billion), trading ($4.57 billion), automobile ($2.82 billion), construction ($2 billion), and chemicals ($1 billion).
  • Singapore emerged as the largest source of FDI in India during the last fiscal with $14.67 billion investments.
  • It was followed by Mauritius ($8.24 billion), the Netherlands ($6.5 billion), the U.S. ($4.22 billion), Caymen Islands ($3.7 billion), Japan ($3.22 billion), and France ($1.89 billion).

What is FDI?

  • An FDI is an investment in the form of a controlling ownership in a business in one country by an entity based in another country.
  • It is thus distinguished from a foreign portfolio investment by a notion of direct control.
  • FDI may be made either “inorganically” by buying a company in the target country or “organically” by expanding the operations of an existing business in that country.
  • Broadly, FDI includes “mergers and acquisitions, building new facilities, reinvesting profits earned from overseas operations, and intra company loans”.
  • In a narrow sense, it refers just to building a new facility, and lasting management interest.

FDI in India

  • Foreign investment was introduced in 1991 under Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA), driven by then FM Manmohan Singh.
  • There are two routes by which India gets FDI.

1) Automatic route: By this route, FDI is allowed without prior approval by Government or RBI.

2) Government route: Prior approval by the government is needed via this route. The application needs to be made through Foreign Investment Facilitation Portal, which will facilitate the single-window clearance of FDI application under Approval Route.

  • India imposes a cap on equity holding by foreign investors in various sectors, current FDI in aviation and insurance sectors is limited to a maximum of 49%.
  • In 2015 India overtook China and the US as the top destination for the Foreign Direct Investment.

Back2Basics

Amendment in the FDI Policy for curbing opportunistic takeovers/acquisitions of Indian companies

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Pakistan

India-Pak cooperation against Locusts Attack

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Locusts invasion

Mains level : Locusts invasion and its threats

As another locust swarm comes from Pakistan, the spotlight is again on the India-Pakistan dynamic that has come into play.

Do you know?

The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) believes locusts have decimated close to 70,000 hectares of crops in Kenya, 30,000 hectares in Ethiopia and 42,000 hectares of crops in the state of Rajasthan.
Just so you can perhaps assess the kind of damage we are talking about here. A large swarm can eat as much as about 35,000 people in one day 😀 !

What are Locusts?

  • The desert locust (Schistocerca gregaria) is a short-horned grasshopper that is innocuous while it is in a “solitary phase” and moving about independently.
  • These winged insects differ from normal hoppers and become dangerous only when their populations build up rapidly and the close physical contact in crowded conditions triggers behavioural changes.
  • They, then, enter the “gregarious phase”, by grouping into bands and forming swarms that can travel great distances (up to 150 km daily), while eating up every bit of vegetation on the way.
  • If not controlled at the right time, these insect swarms can threaten the food security of countries.

India reaches out to Pak

  • The Ministry of External Affairs said that it has reached out to Pakistan for cooperation, and is awaiting their response.
  • Despite the ups and downs in the bilateral relationship, cooperation on the locust warning system has survived the wars, terrorist attacks, and political turmoil.

History of outbreaks in India

  • Records suggest that since the beginning of the 19th century, there have been at least eight “outbreaks” in India from 1812 to 1889, and a ninth in 1896-1897.
  • According to the history of the Locust Warning Office published by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), there were “serious invasions” of locusts in India every few years during the 1900s.
  • A “five-year invasion” from 1926 to 1931 is estimated to have damaged crops worth Rs 2 crore (about $100 million at today’s prices).
  • The princely states and provinces had their own structures to deal with this, but there was no coordination.

The Locust Warning Organization (LWO)

  • After the 1926-32 “invasion”, the British Indian government-sponsored a research scheme, starting in 1931, which led to the permanent Locust Warning Organization (LWO) in 1939.
  • It had its headquarters in New Delhi and a substation in Karachi.
  • In 1941, a conference of princely states in desert areas and provinces affected by locusts was held.
  • Its role was expanded in 1942, and in 1946 a bureaucratic structure was put in place.

Beginning of cooperation

  • Iran too suffered locust attacks, in 1876, and in 1926-1932.
  • Apparently the first case of collaboration between countries in the region occurred in 1942 when a delegation from India helped with locust control work in southwest Persia.
  • Over the next two years, Indian help was also provided to Oman and Persia.
  • This was followed by the first conference within the region on Desert Locust, which was held in Tehran in 1945 and involved Iran, India, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
  • A second conference took place in 1950 also in Tehran with Pakistan participating.

Bringing in Pakistan

  • In the 1950s, India and Iran cooperated and Pakistan provided two aircraft for locust surveys in Saudi Arabia.
  • Following another attack during 1958-61, a decision was taken to group Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India together and the FAO Desert Locust commission was formed in 1964.
  • The commission held annual sessions skipped in 1965 and 1999 but held in 1971.
  • Even in the last six years when the relationship between India and Pakistan has deteriorated, it has been held in 2014, 2016 and 2018.
  • The meetings are attended by locust control experts, with no diplomats.

India and Pakistan

  • In 1977, the two countries began to meet on the border.
  • From 1991 to 2003, special border surveys took place during the summer, undertaken by locust control officers in their respective countries.
  • Joint border meetings have taken place every year since 2005 till 2019, except in 2011. This has been despite every diplomatic strain; including the 26/11 Mumbai attacks.
  • Arrangements are made in advance and protocols are followed for crossing the border.
  • While politics and diplomacy is kept out of the technical discussions, locust control authorities feel that one of the more difficult challenges faced by the commission is that of “insecurity and sensitivities” in the region.

Also read:

Risk of Early Locusts Attacks: A new concern

Try this:

Q. Time and again normal ocean cycles got more pronounced or disrupted, resulting in all kinds of unintended consequences, like an ever-increasing domino effect of locust attacks in Asia and the Indian Sub Continent. We need to understand these links if we are to plan effectively for climate change mitigation and adaptation. Discuss. (250W)

Digital India Initiatives

[pib] Instant PAN through Aadhaar based e-KYC

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : PAN

Mains level : Income tax reforms in India

The Union Finance Ministry has launched the facility for instant allotment of (Permanent Account Number) PAN.

Try this question from CSP 2018:

Q.) Consider the following gatemen.

1. Aadhaar card can be used as a proof of citizenship or domicile.

2. Once issued, the Aadhaar number cannot be deactivated or omitted by the Issuing Authority.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 only

(c) Both 1 and 2

(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Can’t you expect a similar question based on PAN card? If not , go through this newscard.

What is a Permanent Account Number?

  • A PAN is a ten-character alphanumeric identifier, issued in the form of a laminated “PAN card”, by the Income Tax Department.
  • It is issued to any “person” who applies for it or to whom the department allots the number without an application.
  • A PAN is a unique identifier issued to all judicial entities identifiable under the Indian Income Tax Act, 1961.
  • The income tax PAN and its linked card are issued under Section 139A of the Income Tax Act.
  • It is issued by the Indian Department under the supervision of the Central Board for Direct Taxes (CBDT) and it also serves as an important proof of identification.
  • It is also issued to foreign nationals (such as investors) subject to a valid visa, and hence a PAN card is not acceptable as proof of Indian citizenship.

Uses of PAN

  • The primary purpose of the PAN is to bring a universal identification to all financial transactions and to prevent tax evasion by keeping track of monetary transactions.
  • The PAN is mandatory when filing income tax returns, tax deduction at source, or any other communication with the IT Department.
  • PAN is also steadily becoming a mandatory document for opening a new bank account, a new landline telephone connection / a mobile phone connection, purchase of foreign currency, bank deposits above ₹50,000, purchase and sale of immovable properties, vehicles etc.

Why it is in the news?

  • A PAN is necessary for filing income tax returns.
  • This facility is now available for those PAN applicants who possess a valid Aadhaar number and have a mobile number registered with Aadhaar.
  • The allotment process is paperless and an electronic PAN (e-PAN) is issued to the applicants free of cost.

International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

Starman Suits in Demo-2 Mission

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Demo 2 Mission

Mains level : Not Much

NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 test flight has now been rescheduled for May 31, due to weather conditions. Apart from the test flight itself, what’s getting attention are the spacesuits that the astronauts will wear while travelling in the SpaceX capsule, called Crew Dragon.

Try this question from CSP 2014:

Q. Which of the following pair is/are correctly matched?

Spacecraft Purpose
1. Cassini-Huygens Orbiting the Venus and transmitting data to the Earth
2. Messenger Mapping and investigating the Mercury
3. Voyager 1 and 2 Exploring the outer solar system

Select the correct answer using the code given below.

a) 1 only

b) 2 and 3 only

c) 1 and 3 only

d) 1, 2 and 3

The SpaceX spacesuit

  • The so-called “Starman suits” the astronauts will wear on the Demo-2 mission have been designed by a famous Hollywood costume designer.
  • The SpaceX spacesuits are different from other spacesuits typically worn by astronauts because of their sleek design and are being described as resembling a tuxedo.
  • These spacesuits are meant to be lighter and more flexible, are equipped with touchscreen gloves, have vents that allow astronauts to be cooler while maintaining pressure inside the suit, and have an incorporated helmet and visor.
  • The helmets of these suits are 3D printed with touchscreen-sensitive gloves and the suit is all in one piece, customised for the wearer.

How are launch-and-entry spacesuits different from EMUs?

  • The SpaceX suits are only meant to be worn inside the space shuttle and are not suitable for carrying out spacewalks.
  • Spacesuits for spacewalks, called Extravehicular Mobility Units (EMUs), are heavier than launch-entry suits (LES) and are already present aboard the ISS.
  • While inside the spacecraft, the atmosphere can be controlled, to explore and work in space, humans require that they take their environment with them because there are atmospheric pressure and no oxygen to sustain life.
  • Such spacesuits – EMUs are worn for spacewalks or extravehicular activities (EVA) conducted outside a space shuttle.
  • These provide astronauts with oxygen supply and protect them against extreme temperatures, radiation and space dust.

Back2Basics

Demo-2 Mission by SpaceX

Innovations in Biotechnology and Medical Sciences

Species in news: Super mushroom “Cordyceps militaris”

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Cordyceps militaris

Mains level : NA

A university in Assam has developed a fungal powder to help people boost their immunity to disease.

Try this question from CSP 2019:

Q.) Recently, there was a growing awareness in our country about the importance of Himalayan nettle (Girardinia diversifolia) because it is found to be a sustainable source of

(a) anti-malarial drug

(b) bio-diesel

(c) pulp for paper industry

(d) textile fibre

A similar question related to Cordyceps militaris can be asked. UPSC may ask whether it is a Fungi, Algae, a Moss or a Lichen.

Cordyceps militaris

  • The powder is from a parasitic but rare “super mushroom” called Cordyceps militaris.
  • The militaris underwent powdering through lyophilisation or freeze-drying at –80°C.
  • The earth has more than 400 species of Cordyceps, a fungus parasitic on insects as well as other fungi.
  • Often referred to as a super mushroom, Cordyceps known for its anti-ageing, anti-viral, energy and immunity-boosting effect.
  • Natural Cordyceps is hard to get and if dried, costs at least ₹8 lakh per kg.

New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Species in news: Asian Koel

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Asian Koel

Mains level : NA

Asian Koel, the state bird of Puducherry, is now breeding across Delhi-NCR.

For such species, related question, always focus on their habitat, endemic area, IUCN/Wildlife Protection Acr status.

Another caution: Imp birds in the news that are almost “Least Concerned” eg. Amur Falcon (Nagaland), Asian Koel

Asian Koel

IUCN status: Least Concerned

  • The Asian Koel (Eudynamys scolopaceus) is a member of the cuckoo order of birds, the Cuculiformes.
  • It is found in the Indian Subcontinent, China, and Southeast Asia.
  • It forms a superspecies with the closely related black-billed koels, Indian cuckoos, and Pacific koels which are sometimes treated as subspecies.
  • The Asian Koel like many of its related cuckoo kin is a brood parasite that lays its eggs in the nests of crows and other hosts, who raise its young.

Key Features

  • Sexual dimorphism is evident, where males are a glossy black with a greenish sheen to their bodies and females are brown with white dots on their wings and heavy streaking on their head and throat.
  • Both sexes have strong long greenish bills and captivating ruby-red eyes.
  • In the bird world, the males are generally more pleasant looking than the females, considering they woo females.