Today's Headlines

Today's Headlines - 06 July 2023

Newest member of the SCO

GS Paper - 2 (International Relations)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi welcomed Iran as the newest member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) at the virtual summit of the grouping. Prior to Iran’s joining, the SCO consisted of eight member countries: China, Russia, India, Pakistan, and the four Central Asian countries of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.

What is the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO)?

  • The grouping came into existence in Shanghai in 2001 with six members, minus India and Pakistan.
  • Its primary objective was to enhance regional cooperation for efforts to curb terrorism, separatism, and extremism in the Central Asian region.
  • Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran, and Mongolia enjoy Observer status in the SCO, while six other countries — Azerbaijan, Armenia, Cambodia, Nepal, Turkey and Sri Lanka — have Dialogue Partner status.

Iran and the SCO

  • The case for Iran’s full membership of the SCO has been made for several years.
  • In 2016, the year after Iran signed the nuclear deal (called JCPOA) with Western powers led by the United States, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin said, “We believe that after Iran’s nuclear problem was solved and United Nations sanctions lifted, there have been no obstacles left [for Iran’s membership in the SCO].”
  • However, the US under President Donald Trump pulled out of the deal in 2018, and the agreement became ineffective. A year later, the US ended all waivers, curbing Iran’s oil exports.
  • The chaotic exit of the US from Afghanistan has opened up space for Chinese influence and investments in the Central Asian region.
  • China has drawn Pakistan more tightly in its strategic embrace, and grown ever more assertive on the global stage.
  • As the war in Ukraine has raged on, and the West’s relations with Russia have plummeted to their worst-ever levels, Beijing has declared a “no-limits” friendship with Moscow.


SC to hear pleas against abrogation of Article 370

GS Paper - 2 (Polity)

The Supreme Court is set to hear a batch of nearly 23 petitions challenging the Centre’s decision to abrogate Article 370 of the Constitution, which had given special status to Jammu and Kashmir. A five-judge Bench headed by CJI Chandrachud will be hearing the pleas alongside Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Sanjiv Khanna, BR Gavai, and Surya Kant.

What are the issues involved this time?

  • The petitions challenge the Presidential Orders of 5–6 August 2019, as well as The Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019.
  • The 5 August 2019 order titled Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order, 2019, was passed in exercise of the power under Article 370(1)(d) of the Constitution, superseding the 1954 Presidential Order that introduced Article 35A, which empowered the state of J&K to define who is a permanent resident and make special laws for them.
  • Additionally, this order said that the provisions of the Indian Constitution shall apply to J&K and that reference to the Sadr-i-Riyasat and the Government of J&K will be construed as references to the J&K Governor acting on the advice of his Council of Ministers.
  • Moreover, any reference to the Constituent Assembly of J&K shall be construed as a reference to its Legislative Assembly.
  • Meanwhile, the 6 August 2019 order revoked the special status granted to J&K under Article 370.
  • Besides this, the J&K Reorganisation Act of 2019 reorganized the state of J&K into two different UTs and is also being challenged.
  • Apart from this, a few petitions also challenge the constitutional validity of Articles 370 and 35A.


NRF approved State of science

GS Paper - 2 (Education)

The government’s approval for a National Research Foundation (NRF) is being widely welcomed by the scientific community. The NRF has the potential to, single-handedly; address a whole range of deficiencies in India’s scientific research sector that have been flagged for years now. However, in comparative terms, India lags behind several countries, some with much more limited resources, on a variety of research indicators.

Expenditure on R&D

  • Primary among these is the money India spends on research and development activities. For more than two decades now, the Centre’s stated objective has been to allocate at least two per cent of the national GDP on R&D.
  • Not only has this objective not been met, the expenditure on research as a proportion of GDP has gone down, from about 0.8 per cent at the start of this millennium to about 0.65 per cent now. For the last decade or so, this s hare has remained stagnant.
  • This does not mean that money for research has not increased. The spending on research has more than tripled in the last 15 years, from Rs 39,437 crore in 2007-08 to over 1.27 lakh crore in 2020-21. But India’s GDP has grown faster, and so the share of research has gone down.
  • At least 37 countries spent more than 1 per cent of their GDP on R&D in 2018, the last year for which data from all countries is available, according to the 2021 UNESCO Science Report.
  • Fifteen of these spent two per cent or more. Globally, about 1.79 per cent of (world) GDP is spent on R&D activities. Unlike India, at the global level, growth in R&D expenditure has outpaced GDP growth.
  • India spent only 42 US dollars (in PPP terms) per researcher in 2020, compared with nearly 2,150 by Israel, 2,180 by South Korea and 2,183 by the United States.
  • Moreover, women comprise only 18 per cent of total scientific researchers in India, while globally this number was 33 per cent.

Research in universities

  • India has nearly 40,000 institutions of higher education, mostly colleges. More than 1,200 of these are full-fledged universities.
  • Only one per cent of these engage in active research, according to the detailed project report on NRF.
  • A comparative number for other countries is not available, but it is common knowledge that in most leading countries, universities are the centres of research and development activities.

Research output

  • India produced 25,550 doctorates in 2020-21, of which 14,983 were in science and engineering disciplines.
  • This 59 per cent proportion in the overall doctorates compares well with other countries, putting India in the seventh rank overall.
  • Even in absolute terms, India’s annual output of science and engineering doctorates is right at the top, with only the US, China and the United Kingdom producing more.
  • But because of India’s large population, this is not impressive in proportional terms. In fact, the number of researchers per million population in India, 262, is extremely low compared with even developing countries like Brazil (888), South Africa (484) or Mexico (349).

Publications and patents

  • Data from DST showed that Indian researchers published 149,213 articles in science and engineering journals across the world in 2020, almost two and a half times more than a decade earlier.
  • However, it still constituted only 5 per cent of all the articles. Chinese researchers contributed 23 per cent, while US researchers accounted for 15.5 per cent.
  • In 2021, a total of 61,573 patents were filed in India, making it the sixth largest in the world.
  • But this was nowhere close to the nearly 16 lakh patents filed in China, and about six lakh in the United States that year.

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