Today's Headlines

Today's Headlines - 03 April 2023

ISRO succeeds in landing RLV

GS Paper -3 (Space Technology)

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) successfully conducted the Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) Autonomous Landing Mission (LEX) at the Aeronautical Test Range of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) in Karnataka’s ChitradurgaAccording to ISRO, the RLV took an under-slung load of a Chinook Helicopter of the Indian Air Force and flew to a height of 4.5 km.

More about the news:

  • The technique adopted to launch the vehicle was “a first in the world” where a winged body was carried to an altitude of 4.5 km by a helicopter and released for carrying an autonomous landing on a runway.
  • The autonomous landing was carried out under the exact conditions of Space Re-entry vehicle’s landing (such as) high speed, unmanned, precise landing from the same return path as if the vehicle arrived from space.
  • The RLV is essentially a space plane with a low lift-to-drag ratio, requiring an approach at high glide angles that necessitated a landing at high velocities of 350 kmph.
  • ISRO said the LEX utilised several indigenous systems such as Localized Navigation systems based on pseudolite systems, instrumentation and sensor systems, etc. were developed by ISRO.
  • According to the space agency, adaptation of contemporary technologies developed for RLV LEX turns other operational launch vehicles of ISRO more cost-effective.
  • ISRO had first demonstrated the re-entry of its winged vehicle RLV-TD in its HEX Mission in May 2016.
  • During that experiment, the vehicle had landed on a hypothetical runway over the Bay of Bengal as “precise landing on a runway was an aspect not included in the HEX mission.
  • The LEX mission achieved the final approach phase that coincided with the re-entry flight path exhibiting an autonomous, high-speed (350 kmph) landing.
  • More experiments are in the pipeline to ensure that the RLV succeeds in payload delivery to low earth orbit, as ISRO plans to reduce the cost of the process by 80 per centThe Return Flight Experiment and other related tests of the RLV are also being planned.


Reusable Launch Vehicle:

  • It is one of the most technologically challenging endeavours of ISRO towards developing essential technologies for a fully reusable launch vehicle to enable low cost access to space.
  • With this various technologies, namely, hypersonic flight, autonomous landing and powered cruise flightcan be attained.
  • The selection of materials like special alloys, composites and insulation materials for developing an RLV.
  •  The crafting of its parts is very complex and demands highly skilled manpower.

    Britain joining a trans-Pacific trade pact

    GS Paper -2 (International Organization)

Britain agreed to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), a trade pact based around the Pacific Rim, as it seeks to build ties around the world after leaving the European Union.

More about the news:

Britain seeks post-Brexit trade wins in geographically distant but faster growing economies.

About CPTPP:

  • It is a free trade agreement (FTA) that was agreed in 2018 between 11 countries – Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
  • Britain will become the 12th member, and the first to join the partnership since its inception.
  • CPTPP countries will have a combined GDP of 11 trillion pounds ($13.6 trillion) once Britain joins, or 15% of global GDP.
  • It does not have a single market for goods or services, and so regulatory harmonisation is not required, unlike the European Union, whose trading orbit Britain left at the end of 2020.

Britain trade with CPTPP:

  • It exports to CPTPP countries were worth 60.5 billion pounds in the twelve months to end-Sept. 2022.Membership of the grouping will add another 1.8 billion pounds each year in the long run, and possibly more if other countries join.
  • Early analysis of CPTPP operations suggested that it was making little difference to trade flows, and adding it did little for Britain’s service sectors but imports from countries like Vietnam would grow over time.

Rules of Origin Benefits:

  • It said that exporters could benefit from CPTPP membership even when trading with countries where there is a bilateral FTA.
  • To benefit from preferential tariffs, exporters must demonstrate a product as a sufficient proportion of “locally” sourced parts.
  • Rules of origin under rolled-over post-Brexit free trade agreements with Japan, Mexico and Canada, for instance, allow exporters to count EU inputs as “local”.
  • Under CPTPP, inputs from CPTPP members can usually be considered local, giving exporters another option if it is beneficial.

Sectoral Impact:

  •  Britain has agreed a quota on beef imports, but did not agree to lower food standards, under which hormone-treated beef is banned.
  • Tariffs on palm oil from Malaysia will be liberalised, and Britain also agreed tariff reductions on bananas, rice and crab sticks following requests from Peru, Vietnam and Singapore respectively.
  • Britain highlighted that 99% of exports to CPTPP would be eligible for zero tariffs, including for on cheese, cars, chocolate, machinery, gin and whisky,
  • The UK’s accession to CPTPP will open up new opportunities for Scotch Whisky and other UK products in key markets in the region.”

    Geopolitical factors:
  • The long-term benefit for Britain’s economy is set to be modest; its accession was a big geopolitical strategy gain with a small economic gain.
  • The CPTPP could enable the UK to enhance strategic ties with like-minded countries to protect a free and open Indo-Pacific region.

UN resolution for climate extremities

GS Paper -3 (Environment)

The United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution that asked the International Court of Justice at The Hague to provide an opinion on what kind of obligations countries have towards climate change reduction, based on the promises they have made to the U.N. Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC).

More about the news:

It was particularly important because the resolution passed byconsensus, had been pushed through by one of the smallest countries in the world, the Pacific Island of Vanuatu.

What does the resolution seek?

The draft resolution (A/77/L.58) invoked article 96 of the U.N. Charter to ask the ICJ to deliberate on two questions:

  • About the obligations of states under international laws to ensure the protection of the climate system for present and future generations.
  • About the legal consequences under these obligations for states where they, by their acts and omissions, have caused significant harm to the climate system, particularly for Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and for people who are harmed.

It refers to several international protocols including the Paris Agreement (2015), the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and even the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

What is India’s position?

  • India has thus far been cautiously silent about the move, although it is generally supportive of the need for climate justice, and holding the developed world accountable for global warming.
  • The government is understood to have referred the resolution to legal authorities in the country who will look into the implications and international ramifications of the ICJ opinion.
  • India has updated its NDC (nationally determined contribution) commitments, as required by the 2015 Paris Agreement and has said it’s on its way to sourcing half its electricity from renewable sources by 2030.
  • It is significant that India did not join the overwhelming majority of countries that co-sponsored the draft resolution.
  • In the neighbourhood, the list of co-sponsors included Bangladesh, Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and a number of island countries in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).
  • India is also watching how global powers like the U.S. and China respond to the resolution, as without their support, it will be hard to implement.
  • Pointing to the Paris agreement as a landmark shift towards a “bottom-up” approach, where states themselves determine their ability to mitigate climate change, they also said any attempt to impose an opinion in a “top-down” manner would be resisted.

What do sponsors of the resolution want?

  • A legal opinion from the ICJ, the highest global court recognised by all 193 UN members is expected to bolster the efforts under the UNFCCC to ensure all countries work towards mitigating climate change and global warming to the suggested 1.5-2°C limit.
  • According to the latest IPCC “Synthesis report”, global climate levels have already increased 1.1 degrees since pre-industrial levels in the past century, and deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions reductions, as much as by a half are required by 2030 to keep this goal.
  • UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres who has called for measures to defuse the “climate-time bomb” said that the ICJ opinion was “essential”, and would “guide the actions and conduct of states in their relations with each other, as well as towards their own citizens.”
  • The UNGA route adopted by Vanuatu and its supporters also appears to have been more inclusive than two other attempts for an Advisory Opinion sought in December 2022 by Small Island States to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea specifically asking about marine environment commitments.

What sparked the idea for the resolution?

  • The original idea for taking the case for climate obligations to the highest legal court came from a group of 27 Pacific Island law students, who set up a campaign and brought it to the Pacific Islands Forum.
  • Since 2019, the Vanuatu government, with the support of an 18-member “core group” of countries, has been promoting the idea of an Advisory Opinion from the ICJ.

Is the advisory opinion of the ICJ binding?

  • The ICJ is being asked for an “advisory opinion”, which by definition would not be legally binding as an ICJ judgment.
  • Its clarification of international environmental laws would make the process more streamlined, particularly as the COP (Conference of the Parties) process looks at various issues like climate finance, climate justice, and the most recently agreed to “loss and damages” fund at the COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh last year.
  • The ICJ carries “legal weight and moral authority”, said the sponsors of the resolution, and gave as examples advisory opinions given in the past on the Palestinian issue (Construction of the Wall), nuclear threats and on the dispute between the U.K. and Mauritius over the Chagos Islands, that have been respected.

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