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Daily Current Affairs 27.02.2022 (‘Disturbed’ India abstains from vote against Russia at UNSC, Govt. tweaks FDI policy ahead of LIC public offer, ‘Judiciary needs more HC judges, not just money’, Wait for cheetah to get longer, Having enemies makes you stronger, finds a study of flies, Why did Russian President Vladimir Putin bring up the ‘disintegration’ of the USSR prior to declaring war?)

Daily Current Affairs 27.02.2022 (‘Disturbed’ India abstains from vote against Russia at UNSC, Govt. tweaks FDI policy ahead of LIC public offer, ‘Judiciary needs more HC judges, not just money’, Wait for cheetah to get longer, Having enemies makes you stronger, finds a study of flies, Why did Russian President Vladimir Putin bring up the ‘disintegration’ of the USSR prior to declaring war?)

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1. ‘Disturbed’ India abstains from vote against Russia at UNSC

‘Saddened’ Ukraine refers to plight of Indians in country under Russian attack

India, along with China and the UAE, abstained from the United Nations Security Coucil (UNSC) resolution sponsored by the U.S. and Albania on Saturday, and co-sponsored by nearly 80 countries that sought to condemn Russian aggression and called for the immediate withdrawal of Russian military from Ukraine.

The resolution, supported by 11 UNSC members, was vetoed by Russia. The U.S. vowed to take the issue to the General Assembly.

“India is deeply disturbed by the recent turn of developments in Ukraine,” said India’s UN Permanent Representative T.S. Tirumurti. “We are also deeply concerned about the security of the Indian community.”

Ukrainian Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya took a shot at India on this count. “It is exactly the safety of your nationals right now in Ukraine that you should be the first to vote to stop the war — to save your nationals in Ukraine. And not to think about whether you should or should not vote,” he said.

What is UNSC?

Established by the UN Charter in 1945, the UN Security Council or UNSC is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations. It is headquartered in New York. The primary responsibility of the UNSC is to maintain international peace and security. Further, UNSC is the only UN body with the authority to issue binding resolutions to member states.

Composition of UNSC: The UNSC consists of 15 members including 05 permanent members (the United States, the Russian Federation, France, China, and the United Kingdom) and 10 non-permanent members that are elected for a two-year term by United Nations General Assembly. The presidency of the council rotates every month among its 15 members.

India & UNSC

India is elected as a non-permanent member of UNSC for a two-year term  2021-22. The election process was carried out by the UN General Assembly in which India was elected after winning 184 votes out of a total of 193 votes. 

India was the only candidate from the Asia-Pacific category for the year 2021-22. This is India’s eighth time at the UNSC. Previously, India had been a member in the years 1950-1951, 1967-1968, 1972-1973, 1977-1978, 1984-1985, 1991-1992, and 2011-12.

India has committed to promoting international peace and security by its 5-S approach:

The 5S approach of India stands for

  • Samman – Respect
  • Samvad – Dialogue
  • Sahyog – Cooperation
  • Shanti – Peace
  • Samriddhi – Prosperity

UNSC Resolution 82: In 1950, India favoured the Security Council’s resolution condemning the attack on the Republic of Korea by North Korea and called for an immediate end to the fighting.

UNSC Resolution 95: In 1951, India abstained from voting on a resolution urging Egypt to stop restricting movement of ships bound for ports of Israel through the Suez Canal.

UNSC Resolution 240: In 1967, India voted in favour of the resolution condemning violations of ceasefire in West Asia that were worked out by the council in the past.

UNSC Resolution 242: In the aftermath of the 1967 Six-Day War fought between Israel and Egypt, Jordan and Syria, the Security Council pressed upon the need for the acknowledgement of the “sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence” of all States in the area. It also asked Israel to withdraw armed forces from territories occupied in recent conflicts. India voted in favour of the resolution.

UNSC Resolution 256: The resolution was adopted unanimously in August 1968 after Israel launched air attacks on Jordan. UNSC declared that grave violations of ceasefire will not be tolerated.

UNSC Resolution 338: The resolution was adopted by the UNSC after the 1973 Yom Kippur War between Israel and Arab States to ensure a ceasefire in the area. India voted in favour of the resolution.

UNSC Resolution 686: In 1991, India abstained from voting on a resolution on the Iraq-Kuwait War.

UNSC Resolution 688: India also abstained from voting on the matters of Iraq under this resolution that demanded an end of the “repression of civilian population” in the country.

UNSC Resolution 770: The UNSC adopted the resolution in 1992 demanding an end to fighting in Bosnia and Herzegovina. India abstained from voting on the resolution.

UNSC Resolution 1973: In 2011, India abstained from voting on the resolution that demanded an immediate ceasefire during the Libyan Civil War and also approved a no-fly zone over the country.

UNSC Resolution 2615: In 2021, India voted in favour of the Security Council resolution that demanded humanitarian access for people in Afghanistan after Taliban took over the country in August 2021.

What is the role of the UNSC in maintaining peace and security?

The UNSC has 15 members at any given time. Five members— China, France, Russia, the U.S., and the U.K. are permanent members while the rest ten non-permanent members are elected by the General Assembly for two-year terms. Nine “yes” votes are needed to pass a resolution in the UNSC, subject to the power of permanent members to “veto” a decision (except on procedural questions).

The UNSC’s primary responsibilities include maintaining peace and security around the world. The council promotes using peaceful means to solve most crises but can also resort to imposing sanctions in adverse cases.

2. Govt. tweaks FDI policy ahead of LIC public offer

The Cabinet on Saturday approved changes to India’s foreign direct investment (FDI) policy to allow global investors to participate in the initial public offering of Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) shares expected to be launched soon.

Foreign investors will now be able to invest up to 20% in LIC shares under the automatic approval route, government sources said. FDI in insurance ventures is already allowed up to 74% under the automatic approval route, but the policy was silent on foreign equity investments into the country’s largest insurer LIC, a statutory corporation set up under an Act of Parliament.

“As per the present FDI policy, the FDI ceiling for public sector banks is 20% on government approval route, so it has been decided to allow foreign investment up to 20% for LIC and such other bodies corporate,” an official said, adding that the approval has been made automatic for LIC so as to expedite the capital raising plan.

The Centre is offloading 5% of its stake in LIC.

3. ‘Judiciary needs more HC judges, not just money’

Infrastructure does not even meet ‘basic minimum standards’, says CJI N.V. Ramana

Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana on Saturday said there was a need to both increase the number of judges in High Courts and urgently fill existing vacancies.

“Not only do we need to fill the existing vacancies on an urgent basis, but there is also a need to increase the number of judges,” Chief Justice Ramana said.

Better the conditions

The Chief Justice of India said the government has to do more than just mechanically allocate funds for the judiciary. It has to better the conditions of the judiciary.

Judicial infrastructure does not even meet the “basic minimum standards”, the Chief Justice said.

The top judge was speaking at the national seminar on adjudication of intellectual property rights disputes. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman was present along with judges of the apex court and the High Courts.

More talent

The CJI said additional and new challenges like dealing with intellectual property rights (IPR) cases can be taken by the High Courts only if more and more talent opts to join the judiciary.

“With better service conditions, we may be able to attract more and more talents into our fold,” the Chief Justice of India hoped.

Judicial infrastructure too needs an overhaul, he said.

“Unfortunately, we are not even meeting the basic minimum standards in this area. It has been my endeavour since assuming the office of Chief Justice of India to put in place an institutional mechanism to coordinate and oversee the improvement of judicial infrastructure… Mere allocation of funds is not enough. The challenge is to put the available resources to optimum use. I have been pursuing the government for setting up of statutory authorities, both at the Centre and at the States. I hope for a positive response soon,” the Chief Justice of India said.

4. Wait for cheetah to get longer

Expert team visited Namibia last week, but MoU for transfer yet to be signed

It could be many months before cheetahs from Namibia make it to India. An expert team of wildlife officials from Madhya Pradesh, the Indian Forest Department and the Wildlife Institute of India that visited Namibia for a site visit last week is reportedly “satisfied”, but a formal Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) regarding the transfer is yet to be signed.

“It was a fruitful visit and we saw at least 70 cheetahs,” Y.V. Jhala, Dean, Wildlife Institute of India, told The Hindu. “A formal MoU is yet to be signed and the whole process of translocation can take months. The timeline is still to be determined.”

Union Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav launched an “action plan” at the 19th meeting of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) on January 7 saying, “The cheetah that became extinct in independent India, is all set to return.”

The action plan states that a cohort of 10-12 young cheetahs that are ideal for reintroduction would be imported from Namibia or South Africa as a founder stock during the first year. The animals’ lineage and genetic history will be examined to ensure that they are not from an excessively inbred stock and are in the ideal age group, so that they make up a suitable founding population. Mr. Jhala said that around 35 cheetah would be needed over time to establish such a stock.

The proposed site for introduction is the Kuno Palpur National Park (KNP) in Madhya Pradesh, though at least three other reserves in Central India are being considered.

According to the plan, the Central government, along with the Environment Ministry and the Cheetah Task Force, will create a formal framework to collaborate with governments of Namibia and/or South Africa, through the Ministry of External Affairs.

A press release from Namibia noted that a delegation from India had visited the Cheetah Conservation Fund and had held “bilateral and technical discussions” on introducing the animals.

The Kuno National Park was also supposed to be a site for the Asiatic Lion that is now confined to Gir. However, the Gujarat government, as well as the Centre, for more than a decade, has been dragging its feet on sending the lions to this habitat. Independent conservationists have warned that introducing the cheetah, the only big cat that went extinct in Independent India, would mean shifting the focus from the more urgent need for a second home for the lion.

Why cheetah is being reintroduced?

  • India had spotted its last Cheetah in Chhattisgarh in 1947. After the death of last Cheetah, it was declared extinct in 1952.
  • Supreme Court of India had also given its approval in January 2020 to introduce African cheetahs in a suitable habitat in India as an experiment to see if they can adapt to the environment.
  • Thus, Cheetah Reintroduction Project was prepared by Wildlife Institute of India (WII).

How it will be reintroduced?

Madhya Pradesh had started the process of creating an enclosure for around 10 cheetahs. It includes five females as well. They will be brought from South Africa.

Why Kuno National Park was selected?

Kuno is located in Chambal region. It is spread across an area of 750 sq km. Park has a conducive environment for cheetah. It is a protected area which is having considerable population of four-horned antelopes, nilgai, chinkara, spotted deer and wild boar. Thus, the park has a good prey base for cheetahs.

About Cheetah

The fastest land animal is native to Africa and central Iran. It can attain running speed of 80 to 128 km/h. Cheetah is listed in “vulnerable category” of International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) red list of threatened species. This is because, its population has declined to 7100 (as of 2016) and are found primarily in African savannas.

5. Having enemies makes you stronger, finds a study of flies

Because of selection, both fruit fly (host) and bacterium (pathogen) evolve having the maximum fitness

The natural world is rife with pairs of antagonists. Plants and viruses, insects and pathogens, bacteria and their phages, and so on. In these systems, it is an interesting question to study how the resistance to a pathogen, in the case of the host, and virulence towards the host, in the case of a pathogen, evolve. Towards understanding this better, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research Mohali researchers have taken up the system of the fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster) and a bacterial pathogen that affects the fruit fly, sometimes even causing death – Pseudomonas entomophilia – have been co-evolved to study the pathway of evolution taken by the system of antagonists. In this case, they find that being surrounded by enemies actually makes the organism stronger, or fitter, to combat the enemy.

Co-evolving systems

How does one set up a co-evolving system experimentally? A population of flies are infected by the pathogen and the infection is allowed to take its course. Among the infected flies, only those that survive the infection, namely the ones that have the best immune systems to combat the pathogen, are taken to breed the next generation. Similarly, bacteria are collected from the flies that die due to the infection. These are the bacteria that have the virulence sufficiently strong to cause death in the present population. These bacteria are taken to breed and also infect the flies in the next generation. Thus, both the host (fruit fly) and the pathogen (bacteria) are ‘selected’ for having the maximum fitness.

Four types

The methodology of the experiment is like this: Four types of populations were bred in the lab. One in which, as described above, the host and pathogen both co-evolved. The second was a population in which only the host was selected from the flies that did not die due to the infection. Every generation, infection was done from a stock of ancestral bacteria which was not evolving. The third and fourth were two types of control populations.

This methodology allowed the researchers to compare the evolution process in hosts that were co-evolved against their pathogen and the hosts that were adapted against a static, non-evolving pathogen. They found that the former category evolved higher survivorship against the co-evolved pathogen than the hosts that was adapted against a non-evolving, static pathogen. Further they also found that the co-evolved hosts showed higher survivorship with respect to ancestral, unevolved pathogens than their counterparts who have been pitted against static pathogens.

Pathogen virulence

From the point of view of the pathogens also a similar improvement in fitness was seen – the co-evolved pathogens develop greater virulence and capacity to cause death than the ancestral, unevolved pathogens. “This evolved virulence of co-evolving pathogens was higher towards both their local hosts (against which they coevolved each generation) and nonlocal hosts,” says Dr. Neetika Ahlawat, from the Department of Biological Sciences at IISER Mohali, who led the research. The work has been published in the journal Ecology and Evolution.

Stronger organism

The evolution pathways described above then lead to the conclusion that having enemies makes the organism stronger. Just as the host evolves a stronger, more resistant immune system when pitted against a co-evolving pathogen, the pathogen also becomes more virulent when allowed to evolve against a co-evolving host.

The experiment is the first to study co-evolving insect–pathogen pair, that is, Drosophila melanogaster and Pseudomonas entomophilia. Earlier studies have either studied insects evolving against static pathogens or have studied bacteria and virus pairs that are co-evolving. “This is also the first study to compare insect–host evolution to a co-evolving pathogen versus host evolution towards a non-evolving or static pathogen,” says Prof. N.G. Prasad, senior author in the study.

Surprises in store

The interactions being very complex, it was hard to predict the outcomes, and there were surprises: The researchers expected the co-evolving pathogens to show specificity towards their local co-evolving hosts as these two antagonists were allowed to co-evolve for several generations in closed association. “However, contrary to our expectations, we observed a rather more general effect of evolved virulence of the co-evolving pathogens,” he clarifies.

When the researchers started, they anticipated major challenges in conducting the study. There were four selection regimes (host–pathogen co-evolution, one-sided host evolution to a static pathogen and two controls) each with four population sets to evolve. “In view of the fly mortality caused due to pathogenic infection, we had to pick a relatively larger fly population size in both the selected populations,” says Dr. Ahlawat.

“In our lab, we manually infect each individual fly using a sterile needle dipped in bacterial solution every single time,” she says. Infecting about 1,000 flies individually for each group in one single day was a major challenge.

Each replicate (group) containing four populations (two selected and two control) were handled on different days. “This means 1,000 fly infections daily for four days. Therefore, we had to infect 4,000 flies each generation, over 20 generations,” says Dr. Ahlawat.

6. what history shows

Why did Russian President Vladimir Putin bring up the ‘disintegration’ of the USSR prior to declaring war?

The story so far: In an address to the nation on February 21, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced his decision to recognise the two breakaway republics of Ukraine — Donetsk and Luhansk — as independent states, which turned out to be a prelude for Russia’s eventual military operation in the region. In the speech, Mr. Putin blamed Soviet leaders, especially Lenin, the leader of the 1917 Bolshevik revolution, for the disintegration of what he called “historical Russia”. Lenin’s idea of building the country “on the principles of autonomisation” (“the right of self-determination, up to secession”) eventually led to the fall of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), he said. “Lenin’s principles of state development were not just a mistake; they were worse than a mistake, as the saying goes. This became patently clear after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991,” said Mr. Putin. From the speech it appears that Mr. Putin’s main grievance is the collapse of the Soviet Union — not as a communist superpower but as a geopolitical entity.

What was the context of the USSR’s collapse?

The unravelling of Soviet power began in the late 1980s with protests in the Eastern Bloc as well as in Soviet republics and the ignominious Soviet exit from Afghanistan. The Soviet Union sent troops to Afghanistan in 1979 to prop up the communist regime and after 10 years of fighting the Mujahideen, who were backed by the U.S., Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, the Soviets had to pull back in February 1989. Within months, Soviet-backed communist regimes in Eastern Europe started collapsing, practically bringing the Cold War to an end. It started in Poland, which hosted the headquarters of the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact security alliance. Protests spread to Hungary, East Germany, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia and Romania. In June 1989, the anti-communist Solidarity movement, led by Lech Wałęsa, won an overwhelming victory in a partially free election in Poland, leading to the peaceful fall of communist rule. It triggered a chain reaction across the Eastern Bloc. In November 1989, the Berlin Wall that had separated the capitalist West Berlin and the communist east, fell, leading to the German reunification a year later.

Domestically, the Soviet Union was going through a tough economic phase. Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union, stated that “an era of stagnation” gripped the country in the mid-1960s. By the time Gorbachev became the Soviet leader in 1985, the USSR was already in dire straits. Foreign trade was falling. Lower oil prices led to a fall in state revenues and an explosion in debt. Gorbachev introduced economic reforms, such as decentralisation (perestroika) and opening up of the economy for foreign trade. The reforms made the nationalists in the Soviet republics (administrative units) stronger, but failed to revitalise the economy.

How did the Soviet disintegration unfold?

The fall of communist states in the Eastern Bloc and the economic stagnation within the country had a debilitating impact on Moscow’s hold over the Union. In 1988, Estonia, a tiny republic on the Baltic coast, became the first Soviet administrative unit to declare state sovereignty inside the Union. On March 11, 1990, Lithuania, another Baltic republic, became the first to declare independence from the USSR. The old regime was falling under its own weight. The Eastern Bloc had collapsed. After the German reunification, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) expanded to East Germany. Crisis was spreading across the Soviet republics and Gorbachev was planning to decentralise much of the central government’s powers to the 15 republics through the New Union Treaty, which was also a bid to renegotiate the original treaty that established the USSR in 1922. In August 1991, faced with the crisis in the Union, a group of communist hardliners, including top military and civilian leaders, tried to take power in their hands by ousting Gorbachev in a coup. But the coup failed, and a further weakened Gorbachev continued to cling on to power. On December 8, 1991, leaders of three Soviet republics—Russian President Boris Yeltsin, Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk and Belarusian Prime Minister Vyacheslav Kebich — signed Belavezha Accords, announcing that the USSR no longer existed. They also announced the establishment of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) that would replace the USSR. Within weeks, Gorbachev announced his resignation.

What are Russia’s equations with the former Soviet States?

Of the former Soviet republics, nine are members of the CIS — Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan. And Turkmenistan is an associate member. Russia retains enormous influence in these countries. Russia has also formed a security organisation, the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), with former Soviet republics. Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are CSTO members, besides the Russian Federation. Of the 15 republics that became independent after the fall of the Soviet Union, the three Baltic countries — Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, all sharing borders with Russia — became members of NATO in 2004. Ukraine and Georgia were offered NATO membership in 2008. But in the same year, Russia sent troops to Georgia in the name of protecting two breakaway republics — South Ossetia and Abkhazia — against attacks from Georgian troops. In 2014, Russia annexed the Crimean republic, a Black Sea Peninsula, from Ukraine. This month, Russia recognised two more breakaway republics from Ukraine — Luhansk and Donetsk in the Donbas region — and sent troops there on Thursday. Russia also maintains a military presence in Transnistria, a breakaway republic from Moldova, and has dispatched troops to the borders between Armenia and Azerbaijan in 2020, to end a conflict between the two countries over Nagorno Karabakh (Republic of Artsakh), another breakaway republic.

Why did Ukraine fall out with Russia?

After it became independent in 1991, Ukraine largely adopted a neutral foreign policy. It was one of the founding members of the CIS, but did not join the CSTO, the security organisation. Ukraine stayed away from NATO as well. But the NATO offer of membership in 2008 started changing equations between Moscow and Kyiv. After the regime of pro-Russian Viktor Yanukovych was brought down in the 2014 Euromaidan protests and a pro-West government was established in Kyiv, relations turned hostile. Russia moved swiftly to take Crimea, which also hosts Russia’s Black Sea fleet, and started supporting separatist rebels in Donbass. Ukraine later exited the CIS and wrote its desire to join NATO into its Constitution.

These developments pulled the countries apart, setting the stage for permanent hostility, which led to the current conflict.

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