China accuses India of trespass, LAC heats up

Paper:II

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

Why in news?

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing has released a statement referring to the recent skirmish in Sikkim, claiming that the Indian Army crossed the line across the western section of the Sino-Indian border and the Sikkim section to enter Chinese territory.

Key points:

  • The statement marks an escalation in the current tensions at the LAC, threatening to bring what India has thus far maintained were “actions by both armies on the ground” into a diplomatic face-off between the countries, the most serious such event since the Doklam face-off in 2017.
  • Sikkim’s Naku La pass is one of four areas that has seen aggressive action between the troops in 2020. Similar skirmishes had been reported along a stretch in eastern Ladakh at the Pangong Tso lake, Demchok and the Galwan river nalah. Both sides had rushed more personnel to the area.

Background:

  • There were two incidents of face-off between Indian and Chinese troops recently which resulted in injuries to several soldiers on both sides.
  • The first incident occurred near Pangong Tso in eastern Ladakh while the second face-off occurred at Naku La in Sikkim.
  • Pangong Tso has seen such several incidents in the past including in 2017 and in 2019.
  • In September 2019, a scuffle broke out between Indian and Chinese soldiers on the bank of the Pangong Tso in eastern Ladakh but the matter was resolved through talks between the two militaries.
  • In one of the longest confrontations between the two sides, troops of India and China were locked in a 73-day face-off in Doklam from June 16, 2017, after the Indian side stopped the building of a road in the disputed area by the Chinese Army.
  • As per existing agreements between India and China, operation of fighter aircraft and armed helicopters is restricted to a distance from the LAC.
  • According to the ‘Agreement on Maintenance of Peace and Tranquillity along the LAC in India-China Border Area’ of 1996, “combat aircraft (to include fighter, bomber, reconnaissance, military trainer, armed helicopter and other armed aircraft) shall not fly within 10 km of the LAC.

Abbas says Israel’s annexation plan has derailed Oslo accord

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

Why in news:

Raising the stakes over Israel’s drive to annex land the Palestinians have long claimed, President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority declared it free of its commitments under the Oslo peace process, including security understandings that have protected Israelis and preserved the Authority’s political hold over the occupied West Bank.

Key points:

  • The Oslo accords and other agreements in the 1990s created the Palestinian Authority and govern its political, economic and security relations with Israel.
  • “The Palestinian Liberation Organization and the State of Palestine are no longer committed to all signed agreements and understandings with the Israeli government and the American government, including the security commitments,” Abbas said.
  • He said Israel would now have to “uphold responsibilities before the international community as the occupying power.”
  • Abbas said his move was a response to the new Israeli government’s push to annex large portions of the West Bank.
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to annex the Jordan Valley and Jewish settlements in the West Bank in line with President Donald Trump’s Middle East plan, which overwhelmingly favours Israel and was rejected by the Palestinians.
  • Netanyahu formed a new Israeli government in May 2020 with his chief rival, Benny Gantz, following three elections and more than a year of gridlock.
  • The coalition agreement allows Netanyahu to present an annexation proposal to the government as soon as July 1, 2020.
  • Israel captured the West Bank, along with east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, in the 1967 war.
  • The Palestinians want all three territories for their future state, but the Trump plan would leave them with scattered clusters of enclaves surrounded by Israel.
  • Most of the international community is opposed to annexation, which many fear would make it impossible to create a viable Palestinian state.
  • The two-state solution is still widely seen as the only way of resolving the decades-long conflict.
  • The Palestinian Authority governs and provides basic services to populated areas of the occupied West Bank. Dismantling it would risk chaos and leave tens of thousands of civil servants unemployed.
  • But by referring to the “state of Palestine,” Abbas appeared to leave room for it to continue in its present form under a different, and contested, name.
  • Abbas has always been opposed to violence, meaning Palestinian security forces would likely continue to act against any armed groups, even without formal coordination with Israel.

Oslo Accords:

  • The Oslo Accords are a set of agreements between the Government of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
  • The first Oslo Accord was signed in Washington, D.C., in 1993 and the second Oslo Accord was signed in Taba, Egypt, in 1995.
  • The Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement was signed in Washington in 1995, subsequent to the Oslo Accords. The Oslo Accords marked the start of the Oslo process, a peace process aimed at achieving a peace treaty between Israel and Palestine.
  • The Oslo Accords created a Palestinian Authority tasked with limited self-governance of parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The agreement set out the scope of Palestinian autonomy in the West Bank and Gaza. It even acknowledged the PLO as Israel’s partner in permanent-status negotiations and other questions.
  • The most important questions are related to the borders of Israel and Palestine, Israeli settlements, the status of Jerusalem, Israel’s military presence in and control over remaining territories after Israel’s recognition of Palestinian autonomy, and the Palestinian right of return. The Oslo Accords, however, did not create a Palestinian state.
  • The Oslo Accords are based on the 1978 Camp David Accords.

Locusts cross Thar desert to invade 16 districts in Rajasthan

Paper: III

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

Why in news:

The invasion of locusts had started from the India-Pakistan border in April 2020 and have now crossed the Thar desert and affected 16 of the 33 districts in Rajasthan, taking advantage of favourable wind conditions with the onset of summer.

Key Points:

  • It is believed that the locust swarms have travelled far in search of food because of lack of vegetation in the agricultural fields after the Rabi crop harvest.
  • The locust swarms have reached Sikar, Bundi, Bhilwara, Pratapgarh and Chittorgarh districts, situated far away from the desert. These are the areas where the tropical grasshoppers had not reached in 2019 during its invasion which took place after a gap of 26 years, and damaged crops across 6.70 lakh hectares in 12 districts. The loss caused by the invasion was pegged at ₹1,000 crore.

Locust menace:

  • Locusts are a group of short-horned grasshoppers that multiply in numbers as they migrate long distances in destructive swarms (up to 150 km in one day).
  • Four species of locusts are found in India: Desert locust (Schistocerca gregaria), Migratory locust (Locusta migratoria), Bombay Locust (Nomadacris succincta) and Tree locust (Anacridium sp.).
  • The desert locust is regarded as the most destructive pest in India, as well as, internationally.
  • The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation had recently warned that locusts were breeding in large numbers in Sudan and Eritrea on Africa’s Red Sea Coast as well as in Iran.
  • The grasshoppers emerged in January 2019 from eastern Africa and travelled through Saudi Arabia and Iran to enter Pakistan, where they invaded the cotton-producing belt of Sindh.
  • The adult locusts then flew in to the Indian side of Thar desert, damaging the crops in western Rajasthan and northern Gujarat.

Russian team at Kudankulam to address problems in generator

Paper: III

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

Why in news:

A seven-member Russian technocrat team reached the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP) site to inspect the unusual vibrations in the generator section of the second reactor that has temporarily hampered the operation of the reactor at its maximum power generation capacity of 1,000 MWe.

Key Points:

  • The Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) is operating 2 x 1,000 MWe VVER reactors at Kudankulam with Russian assistance.
  • The first reactor has been generating power since July 2013 even as the construction of the third and fourth reactors is under way at a cost of ₹39,747 crore.
  • Excavation work for the construction of the fifth and sixth reactors is progressing ahead of schedule and the ‘first pouring of concrete’ for these last two reactors, to be built on an outlay of ₹50,000 crore, is likely to happen any time as decided by the NPCIL, the project proponent.
  • The issue is that while the first reactor that attained criticality in July 2013 is generating 1,000 MWe power, the quantum of power being supplied by the second reactor cannot be elevated to its maximum capacity — though this reactor too generated in the past 1,000 MWe electricity — owing to some unusual vibrations noticed in the generator section.
  • To address these technical glitches, the KKNPP sought the help of the Russians tasked with creating the nuclear park at Kudankulam with six reactors for the NPCIL.

Background:

  • The Kudankulam power plant is located in the coastal Tamil Nadu. It is a Civilian Nuclear Power Plant, built by India in joint-collaboration with Russia.
  • Critical Infrastructure refers to the infrastructure that is the backbone of the country and in a situation wherein the attacks are enforced upon these infrastructures, it can have a severe impact upon the National Security and also on the economy of the country.
  • The Information Technology systems which are a part of the country’s critical infrastructure are called Critical Information Infrastructure.
  • The following sectors and their Information Technology can be identified as a part of India’s Critical Information Infrastructure:
  1. Power and Energy
  2. Defence: which includes the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), Armed Forces, and the Ministry of Defence, etc.
  3. Sensitive government departments such as Prime Minister’s Office, Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of External Affairs which also includes intelligence and security etc.
  4. Banking and Finance, which covers the stock exchanges as well.
  5. Space: The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)
  6. Railways and Airport
  • An attack on the IT Infrastructure of these sectors will have a severe impact on India’s economy and on its national security. Hence it becomes quintessential to defend the cyberspace of this critical information infrastructure through special measures, one of which is known as AIR GAPPING.

AIR GAPPING

  • It refers to the physical and virtual isolation of the sensitive classified systems from the rest of the network or from the rest of the world. A system inaccessible from outside is referred to as Air-Gapped system or a standalone system.
  • Every electronic device is connected to the outside world in multiple ways, such as through a Wi-Fi-router, CD Drives, LAN cable, USB ports, and wireless modes such as through Bluetooth and NFC.
  • Such a vast multitude of connections to the outside world make the device susceptible to a cyber-attack. So, to ensure a classified computer is prevented from a cyber-attack, it is isolated from the outside world through the concept of Air Gapping.
  • This concept is widely utilized in India to protect sensitive information from cyber-attacks in the Prime Minister’s office, DRDO and in the Ministry of Defence, and of nodal importance in computers controlling the operations of the nuclear power plants, Hydro power plants etc.

ISSUES:

  • The Kudankulam Nuclear power plant’s officials have categorically denied any cyber-attacks on the nuclear power plant, in response to the statement given by an independent cybersecurity expert that the computer systems at the nuclear power plant had been breached and the control systems were taken over, which had resulted in the disruption in the power generation.
  • The officials, however, have denied these allegations and stated that the disruption was a result of a malfunction of a mechanical device and not due to an electronic complication.
  • The officials have stated that since the power plant is a part of India’s critical information infrastructure, sufficient precautionary measures have been taken and all the computers have been Air Gapped.
  • Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd, responsible for managing India’s civilian nuclear reactor, stated that, after the Iranian nuclear power plant cyber-attack, further precautionary measures have been implemented to completely isolate such sensitive infrastructure and classified networks in addition to regular cybersecurity audits at such facilities to detect any loopholes in the system’s security.
  • The officials, in response to the breaching of the physical Air Gap with newer technologies, using handheld devices such as mobile phones stated that it’s impossible to bring any handheld device such as mobile phones into the facility due to enhanced physical security and checks.
  • The Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) has, in a latest statement, admitted to a malware attack on one of the computers in the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant. It, however, added that the plant systems were not affected.