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Current Affairs – 24-02-2018

  1. 1.Artificial Intelligence – Pwc India Report
  • The impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on employment is expected to be severe, but the benefits outweigh its concerns, says the Pwc India report.
  • Some of its findings
  1. 1.68% of Indian business decision-makers believe AI will help their business in boosting productivity, generating growth and addressing societal issues.
  2. 2.AI will open up opportunities for people to do more value-added work.
  3. 3.Will allow for greater flexibility and work-life balance.
  • In the budget speech finance minister said that Niti Aayog would set up a national program to direct efforts in research and development of different AI applications.
  • Artificial intelligence is the simulation of human intelligence processes by machines, especially computer systems.

  1. 2. World Congress on Information and Technology (WCIT)
  • The World Congress on Information Technology (WCIT) 2018 was concluded recently in Hyderabad, India.
  • The First edition held in 1978 and is conducted by WITSA (World Information Technology & Services Alliance).
  • India hosted the congress for the first time.
  • The theme of the conference was ‘Future Enterprises.’

  • The congress is held every two years, during which senior global business, government and academic leaders discuss emerging markets, legal and policy issues, political and economic trends.

  1. 3. Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI)
  • ICAI, the chartered accountants regulator will look into the PNB scam to ascertain if there was professional misconduct or wrongdoing by auditors.
  • The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) is a statutory body established by an Act of Parliament, viz. The Chartered Accountants Act, 1949.
  • The Institute, functions under the administrative control of the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Government of India.
  • The ICAI is the second largest professional body of Chartered Accountants in the world, with a strong tradition of service to the Indian economy in public interest.
  • Some of the functions of ICAI are,
  1. Regulating the profession of accountancy
  2. Formulating the accountancy standards in the country
  3. Laying down ethical standards
  4. Input on Policy matters to the government

 

Chardham Mahamarg Pariyojana

  • The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has given its approval to the construction of 4,531 km long 2-Lane Bi-Directional Silkyara Bend – Barkot Tunnel with escape in Uttarakhand.
  • The project will be built under Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) Model which will provide all weather connectivity to Yamunotri, one of the dham on Chardham Yatra.
  • It will encourage regional socio-economic development, trade and tourism within the country.
  • The project will be implemented by the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways (MoRTH), through National Highways & Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd. (NHIDCL).

 

 

  1. 4. International Mother Tongue Day 2018
  • The United Nations’ (UN) International Mother Language Day annually celebrates language diversity and variety worldwide on February 21.
  • This year theme is ‘Linguistic diversity and multilingualism count for sustainable development’.
  • At least 43% of the estimated 6000 languages spoken in the world are endangered.
  • It encourages people to maintain their knowledge of their mother language while learning and using more than one language
  • International Mother Language Day also supports target 6 of Goal 4 (Literacy) of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
  1. 5.Operation Greens
  • Our Finance minister in his budget speech announced the ‘Operation Greens’ on the lines of Operation Flood.
  • The main objective of the project, according to the finance ministry, is to reduce price volatility in agri commodities such as vegetables.
  • Operation Greens aims to promote farmer producers organizations, agri-logistics, processing facilities and professional management.
  • Operation Flood was launched in 1990 by National Dairy Development Board (NDDB), India to boost the milk production and income of cattle owners.

6. A subdued Indo – Iran Bilateral

What is the issue?

  • Iranian president Hassan Rouhani’s recent visit to India was a low-key affair due to the multiple aspects constraining Iran currently.
  • Nonetheless, these engagements are crucial in the long-term perspective.

How has the Indo-Iranian partnership evolved over the years?

  • While civilisation ties span over 2000 years, in the early years after independence, Iran’s pro-US tilt was a hindrance for engagements with India
  • After the Islamic Revolution of 1979, Iran became a theocracy and a stong pro-Pakistan tilt took shape, which furthered Indo-Iran disconnect.
  • It was only during the late 1990s and the early years of the last decade that both countries achieved a degree of strategic convergence.
  • Notably, India and Iran (also Russia) cooperated in supporting the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan against the Pakistan-backed Taliban’s expansion.
  • In 2003, President Mohammad Khatami was the chief guest at the Republic Day when the New Delhi Declaration involving multiple projects was signed.
  • This euphoria was but halted when the U.S. reprimanded Iran for pursuing a nuclear enrichment programme, and followed it up with sanctions.

How did things fare in the sanction years?

  • As Iran simply refused to halt its nuclear program, U.S. and other international players started increasing sanctions progressively.
  • Due to international pressure India even voted against Iran in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which further hit ties.
  • Significantly, this was also a time when India was pursuing a nuclear deal with the US to kickstart its stalled Nuclear Power Projects (123 pact).
  • As the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal eased sanctions, India increased its oil imports from Iran and also reactivated the stalled Chabahar Port project.

What is the Iranian Nuclear Deal?

  • The “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” (JCPOA or Iranian nuclear deal) was spearheaded by the Obama administration and was signed in 2015.
  • This was a compromise that came with a promise to ease economic sanctions on Iran if it were to give up its nuclear enrichment program.
  • The deal was multilateral with other parties like China, France, Germany, Russia, the U.K., and the EU, and upholds a joint commitment.
  • .Further, the JCPOA was unanimously supported by the UN Security Council (Resolution 2231) enabling Security Council sanctions to be lifted.
  • While other countries which are party to the deal remain committed to it, the Trump administration has discredited it and called for its scrapping.
  • Mr. Trump perceives the nuclear deal as inadequate as it doesn’t cover Iran’s missile program and militant activities (Iran’s role in Syria and Yemen).
  • While other parties too feel that these need to be addressed, they perceive JCPOA as a start to create political space for furthering negotiations.
  • The US attitude has caused much uncertainty in Iranian domestic polity and foreign policy and also affected its post sanction economic recovery.
  • Notably, Mr. Rouhani declared recently that Iran continues to comply with the 2015 nuclear deal, and warned US for its irresponsible attitude.

How are these reflecting in Iran’s internal polity?

  • In what is being perceived as a reaction to rising prices and growing corruption, a street unrest has been spread to many cities in Iran.
  • This is partly due to economic grievances that had been accentuated due the slower than promised pace of lifiting sanctions (after the nuclear 2015 deal).
  • Considering Mr. Trump’s rhethoric, it is imminent that the US will backout of the deal, which could aggreavate the economic costs for Iran.
  • If Mr. Rouhani failed in his endeavour to deliver economically, it would weaken his position with Iran, which will open up space for radicalists.
  • An increasing legitimacy for radicals within Iran is in nobody’s interest.

What are the specifics of the current India visit?

  • Positives – Despite multiple pressures, India has vouched support for JCPOA, enhancing bilateral consultations connectivity for Afghanistan.
  • Nine MoUs were signed that included – avoidance of double taxation, visa simplification, cooperation in agriculture, medicine, and trade.
  • An interim lease contract for Phase 1 of Chabahar was also issued.
  • Rupee based transaction arrangements have been agreed upon, which could provide an alternative if US sanctions kicks in and hider dollar deals.
  • However, the sanctity of this will need to be tested before private parties on both sides begin to use it.
  • Negatives – There has been little forward movement on the big projects that were highlighted when Mr. Modi visited Tehran last year.
  • The negotiations on the long standing Farzad-B gas field remain stuck, with both sides blaming the other for shifting the goalposts.
  • Talk about an aluminium smelter plant and a urea plant to build up Indian investments in the Chabahar free trade zone hasn’t progressed.
  • While a railway link to connect Chaubahar and Afghanistan has been mentioned, the economic rationale for the $2 billion investment is missing.

What is the way forward?

  • Concerns regarding the domestic unrest and the near-term developments in Syria and Yemen have been limiting Iran’s foreign engagements.
  • India too has been tries to find a balance ties with Iran on side and the U.S. and Israel on the other, which could prove difficult.
  • So far, trade between the two countries has hovered around $10 billion, with two-thirds of it accounted for in terms of oil imports from Iran.
  • While there is much potential to enhance this, for the present, it looks like both countries are proceeding ahead with modest expectations.
  • Additionally, the uncertainties surrounding the JCPOA provide further justification for adopting a ‘wait and watch’ approach.

Facts for Prelims:

  1. 5thinternational data science summit:

5th international data science summit was recently held in New Delhi. The conference was attended by around 130 delegates from Corporate Officers and executives involved in strategy, Government Policy Planners, Academic institutions, Electrical utilities, Researchers and Developers along with Standards Development Organizations.

Organizer: Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), the National Standards Body of India, in association with Data Science Foundation organized the summit.

  1. ‘Dhanush’ ballistic missile:

Nuclear-capable ‘Dhanush’ ballistic missile was recently test fired.

Key facts:

  • It is a surface-to-surface missile. It has a strike range of 350 km.
  • It is a naval variant of the indigenously-developed ‘Prithvi’ missile.
  • It is capable of carrying a payload of 500 kg and hitting both land and sea-based targets.
  • The single-stage, liquid-propelled ‘Dhanush’, has already been inducted into the defence services.
  • It is one of the five missiles developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) under the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP).

Current affairs quiz

  1. India will co-host the first International Solar Alliance (ISA) summit with which country?

[A] France
[B] Germany
[C] Japan
[D] Canada

  1. India has contributed how much amount of aid for rehabilitation work in cyclone-hit Tonga?

[A] $2 million
[B] $1.5 million
[C] $1.0 million
[D] $2.5 million

  1. Which country to host the 23rd edition of the World Congress on Information Technology (WCIT-2019)?

[A] Mexico
[B] Brazil
[C] Canada
[D] Armenia

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