Today's Headlines

Today's Headlines - 11 July 2023

India signs the Artemis Accords

GS Paper - 2 (International Relations)

India signed the three-year-old Artemis Accords, a US-led international partnership on planetary exploration and research. The Accords have been signed by 26 countries till now, including Japan, Australia, the UK, France, and Canada. A set of 13 principles, the Artemis Accords is closely linked to the Artemis Program, which aims to return astronauts to the lunar surface, build a space camp there, and carry out deep space exploration.

Why were the Artemis Accords created?

  • The Artemis Accords document which contains a set of principles and guidelines for the civil exploration and use of the Moon, Mars, comets and asteroids was introduced in 2020 by NASA as the basis for seeking international support and partners for advancing the 2018 US Artemis Program.
  • The Artemis Program concerns off-Earth exploration and commercial mining of planetary resources and for long term human presence on the Moon and Mars.
  • Essentially, the Artemis Program is the national program of the USA for advancing its next phase of space activities beyond Earth Orbit.
  • The off-Earth commercial exploitation of planetary resources is something which we first heard in 2015 when the US passed a domestic law to provide rights to private citizens to extract, own and bring back such asteroid or lunar resources they might commercially exploit.

Why has India signed the Artemis Accords now?

  • The Artemis Accords are a non-binding bilateral arrangement based on the political understanding of the participating countries.
  • This means the Accords do not have the status of a multilateral treaty, or a contract nor does it set out legal principles or rules by any stretch of imagination.
  • The Accords tell you that there is a desire to implement provisions of the Outer Space Treaty and set out 13 practical guidelines to advance the governance of civil exploration and use of outer space, including among other objectives the extraction of space resources and the Artemis Program.
  • It is important to note that the Accords document does not specifically refer to commercial exploitation or mining of lunar and asteroid resources.
  • So far 27 countries, including India, have signed them. The first eight countries each signed the NASA Artemis Accords document in October 2020.

How can signing the Artemis Accords benefit India?

  • The Accords could fast-track India’s human spaceflight capabilities and ambitions, and do so cost-effectively, via collaborations with not just the US but other members of the Accords as well.
  • The Accords could finally help catalyse a strong NASA-ISRO collaboration with India’s Chandrayaan 2 lunar orbiter providing advanced orbital data to help plan upcoming robotic and crewed Artemis missions.
  • It’s been an untapped opportunity, especially as US scientists have formally urged NASA to replace the ageing, 2009-launched Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), and therein have recognised the abilities of the Chandrayaan 2 orbiter.
  • For India, such collaboration would mean the country’s budding planetary science community gets infused with a wealth of LRO-derived operational and scientific knowledge.
  • More importantly, it would lend India via the Accords a seat on the table for prospecting resources on the Moon, ultimately helping shape the governance of their extraction as and when it becomes a reality.

Data sharing between anti-money laundering authorities, GSTN

GS Paper - 3 (Economy)

The finance ministry has mandated information sharing between the authorities handling anti-money laundering efforts and GSTN, the company that processes Goods and Services Tax (GST) related tax returns, for more effective measures against tax evasion.


  • The ministry has modified an order of June 2006 to facilitate this information sharing, under section 66 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
  • This law allows designated authorities under PMLA to share information with other authorities under other laws, in public interest, to perform their functions.
  • The Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) and the Directorate of Enforcement (ED) enjoy concurrent powers under PMLA.
  • The latest order from the finance ministry published names GSTN as the 26th entry in a list of entities with which PMLA authorities share information in public interest.
  • The move comes at a time when central and state GST authorities are on a drive against fake GST registrations aimed at preventing wrongful use of tax credits and tax evasion.
  • The government has been expanding the scope of information sharing among various regulatory and investigating agencies in order to prevent financial irregularities including tax evasion and money laundering.
  • These agencies now extensively use technology and data from various sources to identify risky entities that warrant a closer look. These efforts have aided in stepping up GST collections to a historic ₹1.87 trillion in April.


Semiconductors became the flashpoint in the US-China rivalry

GS Paper - 2 (International Relations)

Escalating the ongoing ‘chip war’China put curbs on the exports of germanium and gallium, two niche metals used in the manufacturing of semiconductors and electronics. Days earlier, the Netherlands had imposed, in consultation with the United States, new restrictions on the export of the Dutch manufacturer ASML’s advanced chips machinery to Beijing.

What are semiconductors?

  • Also known as microchips or integrated circuits, semiconductors are made from silicon, and consist of millions or billions of transistors that act like miniature electrical switches that flip on and off to process data such as images, radio waves, and sounds.
  • They are practically inside every essential product of the modern world — from household appliances to sophisticated defence systems, mobile phones to cars, toys to high-end luxury products.
  • Semiconductors lie at the heart of the tech war between the West, led by the US, and China.
  • These tiny chips are today’s ‘new oil’, used in almost all electronic devices, with countries racing each other for a share of the manufacturing and supply network.
  • Beijing has poured billions of dollars into building the technology to manufacture semiconductors, and the US, having been jolted by the supply chain disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, escalating tensions with China over Taiwan, and the war in Ukraine, has taken a host of steps to thwart Chinese ambitions.
  • The ‘chip war’ between the world’s two biggest economies has set off tectonic shifts in the geopolitics of the world.

How did semiconductors become a flashpoint between the West and China?

  • Until relatively recently, the critical importance of semiconductors was not commonly known or realised outside the tech ecosystem and its enthusiasts. The coronavirus pandemic that broke out in early 2020, changed this.
  • Lockdowns around the world brought the microchip industry to a standstill. Both the supply and demand of these chips were disrupted as factories shut, and the demand for laptops and computers shot up dramatically with people switching to work from home.
  • The following year, the situation worsened after a series of mishaps, such as a fire at a Japanese microchip-manufacturing facility, and led to a further scarcity of semiconductors.
  • The sum of these events didn’t just shed light on the importance of microchips, it also exacerbated tensions between the US and China, which were already embroiled in a trade and technological conflict — Washington had imposed sanctions on Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei in 2019, citing a national security risk.
  • The shortage of semiconductors made both countries realise their dependency on Taiwan, the world leader in manufacturing microchips.
  • Taiwan produces more than 60 per cent of semiconductors globally, and more than 90 per cent of the most advanced ones.
  • The US’s share of the market is only around 12 per cent and European nations together account for just 9 per cent.