Today's Headlines

Today's Headlines - 20 March 2023

Nuclear-powered submarines under AUKUS

GS Paper - 2 (International Relations)

Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States unveiled plans to provide Australia with conventionally armednuclear-powered attack submarines in the early 2030s to counter China’s ambitions in the Indo-Pacific. The arrangement was made through the Australia-United Kingdom-United States (AUKUS) enhanced security partnership.

More about deal

  1. Under this deal, the United States intends to sell Australia three US Virginia class nuclear-powered submarines built by General Dynamics in the early 2030s, with an option for Australia to buy two more if needed, a joint statement said.
  2. However, the multi-stage project will culminate with British and Australian production and operation of a new submarine class – SSN-AUKUS – a trilaterally developed vessel with the best technologies and capabilities of all three countries.
  3. Beijing has reacted strongly to the naval deal. Its foreign ministry accused the three nations of “walking further and further down the path of error and danger”.

What is AUKUS?

  1. AUKUS is a 2021 defence deal between Australia, the UK and the US, which was struck to help Australia deploy nuclear-powered submarines in the Pacific region. Officially, the deal was made to emphasise upon the countries’ “shared commitment to a free-and-open Indo-Pacific region”. In effect, it seeks to combat China’s ambitions in the region.
  2. China has been an aggressive player in the South Pacific and Indian Oceans, staking territorial claims across the resource-rich region which also hosts some of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.
  3. China’s increasing aggression against Taiwan and in the South China Sea has been of particular note.
  4. While China’s territorial ambitions have elicited strong reactions from across the West, Australia, a traditional centre of influence in the Pacific, has been most directly impacted. Crucially, unlike Australia, China has multiple nuclear-capable submarines.
  5. Thus, the AUKUS partnership was signed to bolster Australia’s naval heft in the region. The then Australian PM Scott Morisson, at the time, described AUKUS as a “partnership where our technology, our scientists, our industry, our defence forces are all working together to deliver a safer and more secure region that ultimately benefits all”.

How will nuclear submarines help Australia?

  1. Conventional diesel-engine submarines have batteries that keep and propel the vessel underwater. The life of these batteries can vary from a few hours to a few days.
  2. While newer Air-Independent Propulsion (AIP) submarines have additional fuel cells that increase the submarine’s endurance, these are used only at strategic times and can only be replenished in port.
  3. Both conventional and AIP subs need to come to the surface to recharge their batteries using the diesel engine.
  4. Nuclear-powered submarines, on the other hand, have an internal nuclear reactor, giving them near infinite endurance to operate and stay submerged – effectively, a nuclear submarine only needs to port/surface when it is out of food and other essential supplies for the crew. Typically, nuclear subs are also faster than conventional submarines.

ICC issued arrest warrant against Putin

GS Paper - 2 (International Relations)

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin, accusing him of responsibility for the war crime of illegal deportation of children from Ukraine. In its first warrant for Ukraine, the ICC called for Putin's arrest on suspicion of unlawful deportation of children and unlawful transfer of people from the territory of Ukraine to the Russian Federation.

Some facts about the ICC

  1. The ICC was established in 2002 to prosecute war crimescrimes against humanitygenocide and the crime of aggression when member states are unwilling or unable to do so themselves.
  2. It can prosecute crimes committed by nationals of member states or on the territory of member states by other actors. It has 123 member states. The budget for 2023 is about 170 million euros.
  3. The ICC is conducting 17 investigations, ranging from Ukraine and African states such as Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Kenya to Venezuela in Latin America and Asian nations, such as Myanmar and the Philippines.
  4. The ICC says there have so far been 31 cases before the court, with some cases having more than one suspect. ICC judges have issued 38 arrest warrants.
  5. The Ukraine investigation opened on 2 March 2022, and its focus is alleged crimes committed in the context of the situation in Ukraine since 21 Nov. 2013.
  6. Protests erupted in 2013 against then President Viktor Yanukovych, who fled to Russia when he was ousted in 2014.

Problems with recycling of plastic

GS Paper -3 (Environment)

With only 9% of annual plastic waste recycled, around 85% of plastic packaging worldwide ends up in landfills. According to Greenpeace, In the United States, which is by far the world’s biggest plastics polluter, only around 5% of over 50 million tons of plastic waste produced by households in 2021 was recycled.

More about the news:

Lacking at various stakeholders:

  • With plastic production set to triple globally by 2060, plastics made primarily from oil or gas is a growing source of the carbon pollution fuelling climate change. Much is also ending up in oceans and severely impacting marine life.
  • Promises by major plastics producers, to promote recycling and include more recycled plastic in their containers have been mostly broken.
  • The plastics lobby, along with supermarkets in countries from Austria to Spain, sometimes avoid this responsibility by lobbying against deposit return schemes that include plastic bottles.

Separating seven types of plastic doesn’t add up:

v  Most plastic packaging is produced from seven grades of plastic that are largely incompatible with each other, and are costly to sort for recycling.

v  According to Greenpeace, apart from PET, or Polyethylene terephthalate, the world’s most common plastic labelled with#1, and high-density Polyethylene (HDPE), which carries the #2 symbol, five other plastic types might be collected but are rarely recycled.

v  It is because PET is the most recyclable plastic and there is a strong market for its by-product used to make drink bottles, food containers or fibers for clothes. But the harder plastics numbered 3-7 have a very small market since the value of the raw material is lower than the cost of recycling.

Virgin plastic is too cheap:

Ø  The post-consumer plastic resin created from recycled material is being undercut by cheaper prime material, limiting the market for recycled plastics.

Ø  Due to rising transport costs for recycling businesses in Asia and a slowdown in the construction sector that creates plastic building materials.

Lightweight ‘flexible’ packaging booming but non-recyclable

v  The lightweight packets that keep food and snacks likes chips or chocolate bars, constitute around 40% of the world’s plastic packaging, known as flexible packaging, the lightweight, multi-layered single-use packets are used to wrap around 215 billion products in the UK alone.

v  Flexible packaging is also often “super-contaminated” with food waste, which also makes it impossible to recycle.

Banning a part of the solution:

v  In a 2022 survey of over 23,000 people across 34 countries, nearly 80% would support banning types of plastic that cannot be easily recycled.

v  It would include a global ban on products and materials made from hard-to-recycle plastics.

v  Authors of the survey, conducted by international conservation organisation WWF and Australian-based campaigners Plastic Free Foundation, said “any meaningful progress in reducing global plastic waste” needs to include bans of “the most harmful and problematic types of single-use plastics, fishing gear, and micro plastics.”

v  The EU has made some steps in this direction, having banned 10 single-use plastics products that not only blight Europe’s beaches but contravene a circular economy model via which all disposable plastics in the EU will be reusable or recyclable by 2030.

v  More than 30 African countries have either completely or partially banned lightweight plastic bags.

v  One goal of a global plastics treaty will be to harmonize these piecemeal bans into a coherent worldwide regulation.

First major FDI project in Jammu- Kashmir 

GS-3 (Infrastructure Development)

Dubai-based Emaar, a real estate developer from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), has become the first overseas company to invest in a mega-mall spread over 10 lakh square feet in Srinagar, a first since the Centre ended Jammu and Kashmir’s special constitutional position in 2019. 

More about the news:

  • The lieutenant Governor said the project is seen as a new dawn of limitless possibilities. It will promote the development of J&K.
  • It will have a transformative impact on the Union Territory (UT) and boost the infrastructure, employment generation and ease of living.

First major FDI:

ü  The mega-mall is the first significant Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) investment in Jammu and Kashmir.

ü  The Emaar group plans to invest 250 crore to set up the mega-mall, tipped to be one of the largest malls in the region with over 500 shops. 

ü  It is a joint venture of Emaar and Delhi-based real estate firm Magna Waves Build-Tech; the mall is likely to become operational by 2026.

ü  The Emaar group will also invest in setting up IT towers in Jammu and Srinagar. The investment will touch ₹500 crore.

Its impact:

v  The L-G said that the mall and the allied projects with the government of Dubai would not only fuel the economic growth of J&K, but also help achieve the shared vision of strengthening bilateral trade and investment ties between India and the UAE.

v  It will bring along strong relationships with leading retail brands of UAE, most of which will be launching their presence in India through this initiative.

Spurring investment:

Ø  After the implementation of the New Industrial Policy, J&K has received investment proposals from more than 5,000 domestic and foreign companies.

Ø  On average, every day, eight companies have expressed their willingness to invest in J&K, the L-G said. “A new industry is becoming operational in the UT every day. Last month, 45 industries started their operations.

Billion dollar deal:

  • In January 2022, during an investor meet at Dubai, the J&K Government had entered into a bilateral agreement with various stakeholders and the government of the UAE to deliver over a billion dollars’ worth of projects in the valley. 
  • According to the J&K government, these projects include the development of industrial parks, a medical college, a specialty hospital, logistics centres, IT towers, and multipurpose towers.