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Note:  The following Current affairs has been selected from AIR, PIB, PRS, BBC, The Hindu, IDSA (Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses), Live mint, Indian Express, Quora.com, Hindustan Times, Telegraph, The Times , WTO, New Indian express , The Guardian and is highly recommended for UPSC Prelims and Mains Examination


News Analysis: 16-02-2019

National News

General Studies-III : Role of external state and non-state actors in creating challenges to internal security.


Terrible Thursday

  • As investigations into the Pulwama attack begin, Pakistan must act against the Jaish

  • As India mourns the death of 40 CRPF personnel in Thursday’s terrorist strike in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district, it is clear that the attack was meant to provoke.

  • The Jaish-e-Mohammed, the Pakistan-based terrorist organisation which has orchestrated numerous strikes in the Kashmir Valley, has taken responsibility for what is now the highest toll of security forces in any attack in the State.

  • Investigations should yield a better picture, but it is a matter of extreme concern that a suicide bomber could time his attack to hit a security convoy.

  • There is no question that Pakistan bears the onus to explain why Masood Azhar, the leader of the Jaish-e-Mohammed, enjoys such freedoms on its territory, if not outright support from the establishment.

  • Certainly, diplomatic backing by Pakistan and China has been crucial in defeating efforts at the United Nations to put Azhar on the list of banned terrorists.

  • Early details indicate that a sports utility vehicle laden with a huge quantity of explosives targeted the convoy of 78 buses carrying about 2,500 soldiers from Jammu to Kashmir.

  • The video of the presumed suicide bomber too hints at an altered standard operating procedure meant to provoke and escalate tensions.

  • Forensics teams have already begun work and answers to the disturbing questions the attack has raised on intelligence gathering, dissemination and coordination in the Valley must be pieced together.

  • However, if the terrorists have acted from an updated playbook, New Delhi’s response must not play into their plans with reflexive and precipitate official action.

  • India has withdrawn the Most Favoured Nation status to Pakistan in a signal that it will not wait for preliminaries in the effort to isolate Pakistan.

  • Coercive diplomacy is likely to continue, but to be effective the effort needs a wider net, especially at a time when the U.S. is seeking Pakistan’s help in firming up a deal with the Afghan Taliban.

  • Beijing too must not, and cannot, evade questions about its previous blocking of action at the UN, specifically against Azhar.

  • Post-Uri, after terrorist attacks the air is always thick with calls for retributive cross-border strikes.

  • The past history of limited, if any, returns from such precipitate action must serve as a cautionary check.

  • Instead, the effort must be to isolate Pakistan for its support to the Jaish and seek substantive action, to effectively upgrade intelligence and plug security gaps, and to win the confidence of the local population in the Valley.

  • Thursday’s attack was meant to provoke and polarise the country. New Delhi’s response must, instead, be to isolate the perpetrators and keep the peace on Indian territory.


India revokes Pak.’s MFN status day after terrorist strike in J&K

  • India on Friday revoked the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status of Pakistan and warned of more measures in response to its support for terrorist groups targeting India.

  • While Prime Minister Narendra Modi asserted that those responsible for Thursday’s terrorist attack in Jammu and Kashmir would be given a “befitting reply,” the Opposition rallied behind the government in a show of solemn unity

  • The suicide car bombing in Pulwama district killed 40 paramilitary personnel, making it one of the worst incidents of violence in the history of the State’s insurgency

  • As countries around the world shared India’s outrage and condemned the incident, the U.S. put Pakistan in the dock by asking it to “immediately end” all support to terrorist groups. The Pakistan-based terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) has claimed responsibility for the attack


What does Most Favoured Nation mean?

  • While the term suggests special preference for the country given MFN status, it actually means it would be treated equally as all others.

  • According to the World Trade Organisation rules, countries cannot normally discriminate between their trading partners.

  • If one country is granted a trade concession such as, for example, lower import duties, then all WTO members must be extended the same concessions.

  • This principle is known as the Most Favoured Nation treatment. Despite repeated promises, Pakistan has never granted MFN status to India.


What does revoking MFN mean?

  • Revoking it means India can levy whatever import tariffs it wants. India can now make it very expensive for Pakistan to export its goods or services to India.


Will this hurt Pakistan?

  • So far, India has only revoked the MFN status. It has not altered the import duties on Pakistan. However, if it does hike them, then this will likely have an impact on that country.

  • That said, the scale of that impact is questionable. India’s total trade with Pakistan stood at $2.4 billion in 2017-18, with just $488.56 million of this being imports from Pakistan, according to Commerce Ministry data.

  • Revoking Pakistan’s MFN status seems to be more of a symbolic move

Source: The Hindu










General Studies-III : Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.


Vande Bharat: India’s fastest train takes off

  • The inaugural trip of India’s first semi-high speed train, Vande Bharat Express, was flagged off by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the New Delhi railway station on Friday.

  • The train, named ‘Train 18’ at the concept stage, is a plush 16-coach, air-conditioned, self-propelled train set and doesn’t have a locomotive.

  • The express will ply between Delhi and Varanasi, with halts at Kanpur and Allahabad. It will complete the 780-km journey in eight hours, slicing off 180 minutes from the current travel time of 11-and-a-half hours. This is India’s fastest train to date, capable of commercial speeds up to 160 km per hour. On the Delhi-Varanasi route, however, its top speed would be restricted to 130 km per hour.

  • Keeping with the Railways’ stated aim of offering a “totally new travel experience” to passengers, the train’s interiors have the look and feel of a commercial airplane.

Source: The Hindu


General Studies-II : Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India's interests Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India's interests, Indian diaspora.


Forever president

  • Sisi stands to extend his reign if Egypt’s draft constitutional changes go through

  • Egypt’s proposed constitutional changes to extend presidential terms are a huge setback to the country’s democratic progress.

  • Re-elected last year, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the military leader who seized power in 2013, would be allowed to begin afresh a six-year term in 2022 under the new amendments.

  • Another provision envisages a political role for the military as a guardian of the Constitution.

  • Thursday’s parliamentary vote initiating these changes will have to be ratified in a popular referendum, but few doubt the establishment’s capacity to secure it.

  • The 2018 general elections were held without a serious challenger to Mr. Sisi, whose rival was in effect handpicked by the regime after other contenders were forced to quit the race.

  • The economy has returned to a growth trajectory following an International Monetary Fund loan in 2016, in exchange for cuts in public subsidies.

  • But soaring prices and double-digit unemployment have dimmed the government’s overall appeal. In the past five years, the popular upsurge that began with the overthrow of the three-decade-long autocratic rule of Hosni Mubarak in 2011 has subsided.

  • The military crackdown has vengefully targeted Islamists from the Muslim Brotherhood government of former President Mohamed Morsi, who has since been convicted.

  • The media and political activists anxious to consolidate the gains from the 2011 Tahrir Square mass protests have not been spared the authorities’ wrath either.

  • Egypt had begun nominal attempts at ushering in a multi-party system in 2005, when Mr. Mubarak got himself elected for a fifth term.

  • But within a few months, he declared himself President for life. Attempts to switch to popular representative government in the latter part of his tenure were merely cosmetic.

  • Within years, in 2011, followed the mass protests that demanded the overthrow of the Mubarak regime and formed the epicentre of the ‘Arab Spring’.

  • Today, events have turned a full circle under Mr. Sisi’s firm grip on the levers of power. The military has been never so powerful since the rule of Gamal Abdel Nasser.

  • As with several autocrats today, the Egyptian leader has leveraged the American and the Russian governments effectively, while they seem indifferent to the military’s excesses.

  • Egypt similarly benefits from the strategic partnership it signed with China, bringing trade flows and investment. But above all, China’s politically hands-off approach is a win-win for both regimes.

  • While such diversification may be smart diplomacy, it begs the question about Cairo’s long-standing position as the leader of the Arab world.

  • There is a simmering anger among sections of the youth contending with unemployment and the absence of avenues for dissent.

  • The Arab Spring is nearly a decade behind, but the conditions that brought the multitudes to Tahrir Square still prevail.


Source: The Hindu


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