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Daily Current Affairs

Malabar drills aim at giving regional security, says Japan

In News:

  • The trilateral Naval exercise, Malabar 2017, involving India, the U.S. and Japan, is strategically very important and meant to maintain the rule of law and maritime security in the region, Japanese Ambassador to India, Kenji Hiramatsu said on Friday.

Cooperation in Africa

  • Asked whether the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor project — envisaging an India-Japan collaboration in Africa — was to counter China’s Belt and Road project, the Ambassador said it was not aimed at any specific initiative.

  • Concrete plans

  • On whether India and Japan would take up specific pilot projects in Africa, the Ambassador said there was a “good win-win situation”


Web nod soon for dry ports, cargo stations

In News:

  • The Centre will soon announce a mechanism that will facilitate online submission and processing of applications for setting up Inland Container Depots (ICD), Container Freight Stations (CFS) and Air Freight Stations (AFS).

  • ICDs (considered as dry ports), CFS and AFS provide “services for handling and temporary storage of import/export laden and empty containers carried under customs control. Transhipment of cargo can also take place from such stations.”

  • The proposed reform — with a view to boost India’s foreign trade — comes at a time when demands for setting up more ICDs, CFSs and AFSs in India have risen following the Rs. 8 lakh crore Sagarmala Programme on port-linked development as well as the Dedicated Freight Corridors (DFC).

  • The last reform of the ICD/CFS/AFS approval process was carried out in 1992 when an Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) — under the aegis of Department of Commerce (DoC) — was constituted for the purpose.

  • The newly proposed web-based mechanism, being developed by the government-owned National Informatics Centre Services Inc., is aimed at enabling the developer to submit applications online and track their status on a real-time basis.

More transparency

  • The objective is also to ensure greater transparency and accountability in the IMC mechanism,

  • The web-based module is also expected to lower entry barriers and help more players enter the field.

  • According to a July 2016 report on Dry Ports/ICDs/CFS sector in India by ‘Reports Worldwide,’ “India is the 16th largest maritime country in the world and it has got 12 major and 187 non-major ports.”

What is Sagarmala Programme?

  • The Sagarmala Programme is Union Government’s flagship strategic, customer-oriented initiative to achieve the broad objective of promoting port-led economic development in India.

  • The ambitious programme seeks to harness vast potential of India’s 7,500 km long coastline, 14,500 km of potentially navigable waterways and strategic location on key international maritime trade routes.

  • It envisages the growth of coastal and inland shipping as a major mode of transport for carriage of goods and people along the coastal and riverine economic centres.

  • Sagarmala when integrated with the development of inland waterways will help to reduce cost and time for transporting goods, benefiting industries and export/import trade.

  • The Union Ministry of Shipping has sanctioned the Capital Dredging Project of Ro Pax Ferry Services between Gogha & Dahej, in Gulf of Cambay in Gujarat under Sagarmala programme.

EU, India set up fund for investments 

In News:

  • The European Union (EU) and India on Friday announced the establishment of an Investment Facilitation Mechanism (IFM) for EU investments in India.

  • Ramesh Abhishek, secretary, Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (or DIPP — the nodal body for foreign direct investment policy), said: “The IFM has been established with the key objectives of paving the way for identifying and solving problems faced by EU companies and investors with regard to their operations in India.”

  • He added that the IFM will cover new investors as well as those already established in India.

  • Ease of doing business is a fundamental priority of the Indian Government’s Make in India Campaign and the establishment of IFM for facilitating EU investments in India is another step to achieve this goal, he said.

Brussels statement

  • The IFM builds on the Joint Statement of the 13th EU-India Summit held in Brussels in March 2016, where the EU had welcomed India’s readiness to establish such a mechanism and leaders from both sides had reaffirmed their shared commitment to oppose protectionism and to work in favour of a fair, transparent and rule-based trade and investment environment, according to the statement.

  • As part of the IFM, the EU Delegation to India and the DIPP will hold regular high level meetings to assess and facilitate “ease of doing business” for EU investors in India.This will include identifying and putting in place solutions to procedural impediments faced by EU firms and investors in establishing or running their operations in India.

  • Invest India, the Indian government’s official Investment Promotion and Facilitation Agency, will also be part of the IFM.

Trade deficit widens to $13 bn 

In News:

  • With goods imports outpacing exports in June, trade deficit for the month widened to $12.95 billion, according to data released by the commerce ministry on Friday. In June 2016, the goods trade deficit was only $8.1 billion.

  • Continuing with growth indicated since September 2016, goods exports in June 2017 rose 4.39% year-on-year to $23.56 billion.

  • However, imports in June jumped 19% to $36.5 billion.

Commodity imports

  • Major commodity group of imports showing high growth in June were petroleum, crude & products (12.04%), electronic goods (24.22%), pearls, precious & semi-precious stones (86.31%), machinery, electrical & non-electrical (7.02%) and gold(102.99%).

  • Unabated global liquidity flows into Indian financial markets are casting a shadow on the competitiveness of Indian exports.

  • Oil imports in June rose 12.04% to $8.12 billion.


Saraswati, a supercluster of galaxies 

In News:

  • A group of Indian astronomers have discovered a massive supercluster of galaxies, and have named it Saraswati.

  • The supercluster is about 4 billion light years away and spreads over a “great wall” about 600 million light years across. This makes it one of the largest superclusters to be discovered and also the furthest.

  • The astronomers belong to Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA) and Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research (IISER) in Pune, besides NIT, Jamshedpur and Newman College, Thodupuzha.

  • The first supercluster of galaxies, the Shapley Supercluster, was discovered in 1989, and the second, the Sloan Great Wall in 2003.

  • The Milky Way galaxy is part of the Laniakea Supercluster, which was discovered in 2014.

Clumpy universe

  • The structure of the universe is not a homogeneous distribution of matter. It is clumpy with galaxies forming clusters and these in turn forming superclusters. There are thin “filaments” that connect galaxies, forming a cosmic web, and there are large voids in between.

  • The current belief is that infant galaxies form in these filaments and then drift to the intersections of the filaments where they grow. The Saraswati supercluster could challenge this premise, because it had formed so early and building such a big structure far back might have been difficult.

  • Dark matter and dark energy are invoked to explain the structure of the universe. Dark matter, being massive, binds together the universe while dark energy, exciting the surrounding space, drives it apart; the balance of the two effects helps in maintaining the universe in its present form.

A light year is the distance travelled by light in one year.

Cook Islands creates Pacific Ocean reserve 

In News:

  • The Cook Islands has created one of the world’s largest marine sanctuaries, protecting a vast swathe of the Pacific Ocean more than three times the size of France.

Remote location

  • The Cook Islands has a population of just 10,000 and its 15 islands have a combined landmass of 236 sq km., barely the size of Washington, D.C.

  • But its isolated position in the Pacific, about halfway between New Zealand and Hawaii with no near neighbours, means it has a huge maritime territory.

  • Mr. Iro said Cook Islanders had an affinity with the ocean and viewed it as sacred but overfishing and pollution had damaged the marine environment, including the coral reefs that once ringed all the islands.

  • He said the marine reserve, known as Marae Moana, would give the environment a chance to heal, allowing the islanders to protect their legacy.

Blueprint for others

  • The idea is not to ban commercial fishing or mineral exploration outright, but to ensure it is carried out in a sustainable manner.