Daily Current Affairs for 10th August 2020

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Amid pandemic, India & Pak. spar over Indus water talks


Mains: General Studies- II: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations.

Why in news:

India has refused a request by Pakistan to hold a meeting on issues around the Indus Water Treaty (IWT) at the Atari check post near the India-Pakistan border.

Key Details:

  • The last such meeting between the two countries was in October 2019 in Islamabad.
  • As per the agreement in IWT, a meeting was to be scheduled in India before March 31, 2020.
  • The practice at the IWT meetings is that they are led by Indus Water Commissioners from both countries.
  • A range of issues on the construction of dams and hydropower projects concerning the Indus river system are discussed.

Key points on the table:

  • Evolving a procedure to solve differences on technical aspects governing the construction of the Ratle run-of-the-river (RoR) project on the Chenab in the Kishtwar district of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • A consensus is yet to be reached upon a final resolution on the design parameters of this hydropower project.
  • India has called for the appointment of a ‘neutral’ party.
  • Pakistan favours a Court of Arbitration to agree upon a final resolution.


  • According to the terms of the IWT, India has the right to build RoR projects on the three ‘western’ rivers — the Chenab, Jhelum and Indus — provided it does so without substantially impeding water flow in Pakistan downstream.
  • Pakistan believes that the project’s current design does pose a serious impediment and has told the World Bank that it wants a Court of Arbitration (CoA) set up to decide on the issue.
  • India says this is only a technical issue and mutually solvable. It has agreed to a ‘neutral party’ since a CoA potentially could stall any construction on all Indus projects.

Indus Water Treaty:

  • The Indus Waters Treaty is a water-distribution treaty between India and Pakistan, brokered by the World Bank to use the water available in the Indus System of Rivers located in India.
  • The agreement was signed because the source of all the rivers of the Indus basin were in India (Indus and Sutlej, though, originate in China).
  • The rivers flow across the Himalayan ranges to end in the Arabian sea south of Karachi.
  • Preceding partition, it was one common network for both India and Pakistan. However, while partition managed to draw terrestrial borders, the question of how to divide the Indus waters was something that needed to be worked out.
  • Since the rivers flowed from India to Pakistan, Pakistan was unsurprisingly threatened by the prospect of being fed by India.
  • In 1960, the two countries reached a decisive step with the intervention of the World Bank wherein precise details were laid out regarding the way in which the waters would be distributed.
  • The components of the treaty were fairly simple.
  • The three western rivers (Jhelum, Chenab and Indus) were allocated to Pakistan while India was given control over the three eastern rivers (Ravi, Beas and Sutlej).
  • While India could use the western rivers for consumption purpose, restrictions were placed on building of storage systems.
  • The treaty states that aside of certain specific cases, no storage and irrigation systems can be built by India on the western rivers.

What is the issue?

  • Historically, India has never made full use of its rights, neither on the Eastern nor on the Western rivers.
  • On the Western rivers specifically, there has been no pressing demand for creation of new infrastructure on the Indus rivers, either for hydroelectricity or irrigation.
  • With a large proportion of farmers in Jammu and Kashmir having moved to horticulture from traditional crops, the demand for irrigation has gone down over the years.
  • After the devastating floods of 2014, it was argued that storage infrastructure could have been built on these rivers as a flood-control measure.
  • As a result of India’s under-utilisation of its share of waters, Pakistan has over the years benefited more than it is entitled to under the Treaty.
  • Pakistan’s dependence on the waters of the Indus basin cannot be overstated. More than 95% of Pakistan’s irrigation infrastructure is in the Indus basin — about 15 million hectares of land. It has now become the world’s largest contiguous irrigation system, comprising over 60,000 km of canals. Three of Pakistan’s biggest dams, including Mangla, which is one of the largest in the world, is built on the Jhelum river. These dams produce a substantial proportion of Pakistan’s electricity.

Loya jirga approves prisoner release


Mains: General Studies- II: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations.

Why in news:

  • The Afghan government and the Taliban are on the verge of peace talks after thousands of prominent Afghans approved the release of about 400 contentious militant prisoners.
  • The resolution was passed at the end of a three-day loya jirga.


  • The prisoners’ fate has been a crucial hurdle in launching peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, which had committed to completing a prisoner exchange before negotiations can start.
  • “The decision of the loya jirga has removed the last excuse and obstacles on the way to peace talks. We are on the verge of peace talks,” said Abdullah, who is leading the government’s peace process and was appointed head of the loya jirga.
  • Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said he would sign a decree to release the prisoners.
  • The decision has raised hopes for talks between the two warring sides.
  • The Afghan government has demanded the Taliban to agree to serious, immediate and lasting ceasefire.

What is Loya Jirga?

  • A loya jirga is a special type of jirga, or legal assembly, in Pashtunwali, the traditional code of laws of the Pashtun people.
  • It is mainly organized for choosing a new head of state in case of sudden death, adopting a new constitution, or to settle national or regional issues such as war.


  • Post September 2019 elections in Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah both declared themselves the winner of the presidential election leading to political disarray in the war-torn nation.
  • They have been locked in a power struggle since then.

Afghan peace process:

  • A peace agreement between the U.S. and the Taliban calls for U.S. and NATO troops to leave Afghanistan.
  • The U.S. has been trying to get the Taliban and the Afghan Government to begin intra-Afghan negotiations, but the political turmoil and personal acrimony between Mr. Ghani and Mr. Abdullah have impeded talks.

Afghan issues:

  • Despite billions of dollars in international aid, Afghanistan remains extremely poor. The poverty level soared from 35% of the population in 2012 to more than 55% last year.
  • Poverty in Afghanistan is defined as a person who survives on $1 or less a day.
  • The country has more than 6,400 confirmed infections of COVID-19. The country’s health care system, devastated by four decades of war, is woefully unprepared for a major outbreak.


  • As per the concluded political deal, Mr. Ghani would remain President of Afghanistan, while Mr. Abdullah would lead Afghanistan’s National Reconciliation High Council and some members of Abdullah’s team would be included in Ghani’s Cabinet.
  • The Reconciliation Council has been given the authority to handle and approve all affairs related to Afghanistan’s peace process and talks with the Taliban.
  • The agreement is expected to speed up the intra-Afghan dialogue preparations that have been delayed.

India’s response:

  • India has welcomed the agreement and hopes that the political agreement and creation of the High Council of National Reconciliation will result in renewed efforts for establishing enduring peace and stability; and putting an end to externally sponsored terrorism and violence.

PM launches farm infra scheme


Mains: General Studies-III: Technology, Economic Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management

Why in news:

A new financing scheme has been launched under the ₹1 lakh crore Agriculture Infrastructure Fund meant for setting up storage and processing facilities, which will help farmers get higher prices for their crops.

Key Details:

  • The scheme will support farmers, PACS [primary agricultural credit societies], FPOs [farmer producer organisations], agri-entrepreneurs, etc. in building community farming assets and post-harvest agriculture infrastructure.
  • These assets will enable farmers to get greater value for their produce as they will be able to store and sell at higher prices, reduce wastage, and increase processing and value addition.

About the Agriculture Infrastructure Fund:

The scheme shall provide a medium – long term debt financing facility for investment in viable projects for post-harvest management infrastructure and community farming assets through interest subvention and financial support.

Under the scheme, Rs. One Lakh Crore will be provided by banks and financial institutions as loans to:

  • Primary Agricultural Credit Societies (PACS)
  • Marketing Cooperative Societies
  • Farmer Producers Organizations (FPOs)
  • Self Help Group (SHG)
  • Farmers
  • Joint Liability Groups (JLG)
  • Multipurpose Cooperative Societies
  • Agri-entrepreneurs
  • Startups
  • Aggregation Infrastructure Providers
  • Central/State agency or Local Body sponsored Public Private Partnership Project
  • Loans will be disbursed in four years starting with the sanction of Rs. 10,000 crore in the current year and Rs. 30,000 crore each in the next three financial years.
  • All loans under this financing facility will have an interest subvention of 3% per annum up to a limit of Rs. 2 crore.
  • This subvention will be available for a maximum period of seven years.
  • Further, credit guarantee coverage will be available for eligible borrowers from this financing facility under Credit Guarantee Fund Trust for Micro and Small Enterprises (CGTMSE) scheme for a loan up to Rs. 2 crore.
  • The Project by way of facilitating formal credit to farm and farm processing-based activities is expected to create numerous job opportunities in rural areas.
  • The Fund will be managed and monitored through an online Management Information System (MIS) platform.
  • It will enable all the qualified entities to apply for a loan under the Fund.

Defence Ministry to impose import embargo on 101 items


Mains: General Studies-III: Technology, Economic Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management

Why in News:

The Defence Minister has stated that the Defence Ministry will introduce import embargo on 101 items beyond the given timeline.

Key Details:

  • The government intends to boost indigenization of defence production.
  • It aims to reach a turnover of $25 billion through indigenously manufactured defence products.
  • It also expects to export products worth $5 billion.
  • In any government contract over ₹200 crore, no foreign company can participate in the tendering process.
  • A list of 101 items has been prepared by the Ministry for which there would be an embargo on the import beyond the timeline indicated against them.
  • The list is prepared after several rounds of consultations with all stakeholders.
  • Current and future capabilities of the Indian industry for manufacturing various ammunition & equipment within India have been assessed.
  • The embargo on imports is planned to be progressively implemented between 2020 to 2024.
  • The items comprise of not just simple parts but also some high technology weapon systems like artillery guns, assault rifles, corvettes, sonar systems, transport aircraft, LCHs, radars.
  • The list also includes wheeled Armored Fighting Vehicles (AFVs) with indicative import embargo date of December 2021.
  • The Army is expected to contract almost 200 AFVs at an approximate cost of over ₹5,000 crore.
  • In another relevant step, MoD has bifurcated the capital procurement budget for 2020-21 between domestic and foreign capital procurement routes.


  • These measures are considered a big step towards self-reliance in defence.
  • It offers a great opportunity to the Indian defence industry to manufacture the items in the negative list by using their own design and development capabilities or adopting the technologies designed and developed by the Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO) to meet the requirements of the Armed Forces.

Andaman and Nicobar will be a maritime hub: Modi


Mains: General Studies-III: Technology, Economic Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management

Why in News:

  • Prime Minister has said that the Andaman and Nicobar Islands region, owing to its strategic importance, is going to be developed as a maritime and startup hub.

Key Details:

  • 12 islands of the archipelago have been selected for high-impact projects with an emphasis on boosting trade of sea-based, organic and coconut-based products of the region.

Government initiatives:

  • Proposed transshipment hub in the Andaman will help the group of islands become an important centre of blue economy and a maritime and startup hub.
  • Over 300 km of national highway is expected to be completed in record time.
  • The government is working to improve air connectivity within these islands and between them and the rest of the country.
  • A submarine optical fiber cable between Chennai and the islands has been installed.

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