For first time since 1565, a Kamakhya festival sans fair

Paper: I

Mains: General Studies-I: Indian Heritage and Culture, History and Geography of the World and Society.

Why in news:

The Ambubachi Mela began at the Kamakhya temple without mendicants, hermits and devotees for the first time in almost 500 years.

Key Details:

  • The festival marks the annual menstruation of the presiding Goddess – Kamakhya.
  • Owing to the pandemic situation, the rituals are being conducted behind locked gates.

Kamakhya Temple:

  • Legends say the temple atop the Nilachal Hills, whose northern face slopes down to the Brahmaputra river, was built by the demon king Narakasura.
  • Records are available from 1565 when Koch King Naranarayana had the temple rebuilt.
  • Kamakhya is one of the 51 shaktipeeths, or holy sites, for the followers of the Shakti cult, each representing a body part of Sati, Lord Shiva’s companion.
  • There is no idol of the presiding deity but she is worshipped in the form of a yoni-like (female genitals) stone instead, over which a natural spring flow.

Ambubachi Mela:

  • Ambubachi Mela is an annual Hindu mela held at Kamakhya Temple in Guwahati, Assam.
  • The annual festival marks the menstruation of the goddess.
  • The Ambubachi Mela symbolizes the fertility cult of goddess Kamakhya.
  • The festival is also known as ‘Mahakumbh of the East’ as it draws lakhs of devotees from all over the world.

Jaishankar to take part in China-Russia trilateral amidst LAC tensions

Paper: II

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

Why in news:

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar will take part in the Russia-India-China trilateral, in an indicator that New Delhi is prepared to press on with diplomatic moves with China despite clashes between Indian and Chinese troops at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) that left at least 20 Indian soldiers dead.

Key Details:

  • The RIC meeting coincides with the Defence Minister’s visit to Moscow to attend Russia’s Victory Day parade, and for high-level meetings.
  • The Russian reiteration of support for dialogue between China and India came even though Moscow’s Foreign Minister had said bilateral issues were usually not taken up at RIC.
  • The situation in Afghanistan and regional connectivity projects such as the International North South Transport Corridor involving India, Russia and Iran are expected to figure in the agenda.

Significance:

  • The Indian decision to go ahead with the ministerial level exchange has created an opening for de-escalation of tension along the Line of Actual Control with the Russian diplomatic sources indicating that they support constructive dialogue over the tension in eastern Ladakh. Read more about the India-China military standoff along the Line of Actual Control.
  • Russia can act as a bridge in the strained relations between India and China.
  • It can act as a platform to discuss and address the areas of cooperation and understand mutual differences.

Russia-India-China trilateral grouping:

  • During the 2019 G-20 Summit in Osaka, Russia, India, and China (RIC) held the latest iteration of a trilateral meeting between them.
  • RIC as a strategic grouping first took shape in the late 1990s under the leadership of Yevgeny Primakov as a counterbalance to the Western alliance.
  • Primakov, a Russian politician and diplomat who was also the Prime Minister of Russia from 1998 to 1999, is credited with the idea for RIC.
  • The group was founded on the basis of “end[ing] its subservient foreign policy guided by the U.S.,” and “renewing old ties with India and fostering the newly discovered friendship with China.”
  • But the idea of meeting at the leader’s level on a more sustained basis has only surfaced over the past couple of years.

Importance of RIC:

  • RIC brings together three largest Eurasian countries.
  • It is a significant trilateral grouping as all three countries are nuclear powers.
  • Russia and China are permanent members of the UN Security Council, India aspires to be one.
  • In the period of geopolitical transition, it is an effort to renew and rebuild some of these old initiatives as a way to counter the U.S.-led world order.
  • Here, Russia becomes the bridge between India and China, since it enjoys strong relations with both.
  • RIC can complement India’s continental ambitions and bring about more balance in its strategic autonomy.

China to join UN arms trade treaty

Paper: II

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

Why in news:

  • China will join a global pact to regulate arms sales.
  • The Communist Party leadership’s top legislative body voted to adopt a decision on joining the UN Arms Trade Treaty that is designed to control the flow of weapons into conflict zones.
  • It comes after U.S. President Donald Trump announced plans last year to pull the U.S. out of the agreement — which entered into force in 2014. China will join a global pact to regulate arms sales.

Key Details:

  • The Communist Party leadership’s top legislative body has voted to adopt a decision on joining the UN Arms Trade Treaty.
  • It comes after U.S. President Donald Trump announced plans to pull the U.S. out of the agreement in 2019, which entered into force in 2014.
  • Beijing has stated that it is committed to efforts to enhance peace and stability in the world.
  • Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman told that joining the treaty was “another important measure for China to support multilateralism”.

UN Arms Trade Treaty:

  • The UN Arms Trade Treaty is a multilateral treaty aimed at regulating the global arms trade.
  • It was envisioned as a tool to prevent conflict and human rights violations fuelled by poorly regulated trade in arms, which could not conceivably be controlled via national legislation alone.
  • It is designed to control the flow of weapons into conflict zones.
  • The treaty calls for the international sale of weapons to be linked to the human rights records of buyers.
  • It requires countries to establish regulations for selling conventional weapons.
  • It seeks to prevent conventional military weapons from falling into the hands of terrorists or organized criminal groups, and to stop deals that would violate UN arms embargoes.
  • Conventional weapons covered by the UN Arms Trade Treaty include tanks and other armoured combat vehicles, artillery, attack helicopters, naval warships, missiles and missile launchers, and small arms.
  • It establishes common international standards for the regulation of the international trade in ammunition, weapons parts, and arms components.
  • It does not regulate the domestic sale or use of weapons in any country.
  • It recognizes the legitimacy of the arms trade to enable states to provide for their own security.

 India’s Position:

  • India has not signed the treaty.
  • One of the arguments made by India in 2013 against the treaty was that New Delhi had “strong and effective national export controls” on military hardware to ensure they don’t fall into the wrong hands.
  • Also, one of India’s concerns is that the treaty does not include non-state actors in its purview, and therefore does not address the pressing concern of illicit trafficking and use of conventional arms by non-state actors. This is a major lacuna which may serve to make the treaty ineffective.

India can reduce trade deficit with China by $8.4 bn: study

Paper: II

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

Why in news:

India can potentially reduce its trade deficit with China by $8.4 billion over FY21-22, which is equivalent to 17.3% of the deficit with China and 0.3% of India’s GDP, Acuité Ratings & Research said in a study.

Key Details:

  • India recorded a trade deficit of $48.5 billion with China in FY20.
  • While imports from China have moderately declined by 15% since FY18 due to imposition of anti-dumping duties on some products, the dependence of the domestic economy on Chinese imports remains high with direct contribution to over 30% of India’s aggregate trade deficit.
  • Over the past 3 decades, India’s exports to China grew at a CAGR of 30% but its imports expanded at 47%, leading to lower capacity utilisation of domestic players in a few sectors.

Findings of the study:

  • The study says that, trade deficit can be reduced by the rationalisation of just a quarter of India’s imports from China in select sectors where India has well-established manufacturing capabilities.
  • It states that, without any significant additional investments, the Indian domestic manufacturing sector can substitute 25% of the total imports from specified sectors in the first phase.
  • It is highlighted that nearly 40 sub-sectors of India have the potential to lower their import dependency on China.
  • The sectors include chemicals, automotive components, bicycles parts, drug formulations, cosmetics, consumer electronics and leather-based goods.

Japan to rename islands disputed with China

Paper:II

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

Why in news:

A local council in southern Japan has voted to rename an area, including islands disputed with China and Taiwan.

Key Details:

  • The local assembly of Ishigaki city in Japan approved a plan to change the name of the area covering the Tokyo-controlled Senkaku Islands, known by Taiwan and China as the Diaoyus, from “Tonoshiro” to “Tonoshiro Senkaku”.
  • Local media said another part of Ishigaki is also known as Tonoshiro, and the name change was cast as a bid to avoid confusion.

Issue:

  • The uninhabited islands are at the centre of a festering row between Tokyo and Beijing and the move sparked anger in both Taiwan and mainland China.
  • Beijing has denounced the move as illegal and a serious provocation.
  • Taiwan says the islands are part of its territory, and also protested the move.

SBI mobilises 13,212 kg gold through GMS

Paper: III

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

Why in news:

The State Bank of India (SBI) has mobilised 13,212 kg of household and institutional gold through the Gold Monetisation Scheme (GMS), according to the bank’s annual report.

Key Details:

  • The Gold Monetisation Scheme was first addressed during the Union Budget 2015-16 by the Union Cabinet in accordance with PM Narendra Modi.
  • Gold Monetisation Scheme (GMS) was launched by the Government of India on 5th November 2015 as an initiative for mobilizing the golds lying in the Indian households and using it for productive purpose.
  • Along with the launch of Gold Monetisation Scheme, the government also announced the launch of the Sovereign Gold Bond Scheme and development of Indian Gold Coin.
  • Gold Monetisation Scheme was introduced to replace the Gold Deposit Scheme (GDS), 1999.

Pollution board may revoke OIL well closure order

Paper: III

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

Why in news:

The Pollution Control Board Assam (PCBA) is likely to revoke its order to Oil India Limited (OIL) to close down all its crude oil and natural gas wells around the blowout-affected one in the Baghjan area of eastern Assam’s Tinsukia district.

Key Details:

  • Following a blowout at the natural gas well, PCBA had asked OIL to immediately cease all drilling and production operations in its Baghjan oilfield.
  • The order would have meant shutting down 17 crude oil and four natural gas wells that together produce a sizeable quantity of OIL’s total output.
  • After receiving the notice, OIL said shutting down the wells was not an option, as it could lead to an ecological disaster besides hampering the operations to cap the blowout well that burst into flames later.