26 Dec 2023 : Daily Current Affairs

Daily Current Affairs


1. GRAP stage 3 back in force as Delhi’s air quality nosedives to ‘severe’

Topic: GS3 – Environment- Environmental Pollution & Degradation

This topic is not much relevant in the context of Prelims but more for Mains in the context of air quality management.
  • There has been a significant decline in Delhi’s air quality, to the point where ‘severe’ measures have been put in place to counteract the situation.
  • There are limitations on building and demolition operations, with the exception of certain projects, and a prohibition on BS III petrol and BS IV diesel vehicles.

Vehicle Restrictions and Online Classes:

  • Invoking Stage III of the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP), the Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM) urged state governments to impose stringent regulations on BS III petrol and BS IV diesel cars in Delhi and the adjacent areas.
  • Furthermore, it has been proposed that children up to class V could stop attending in-person classes and switch to online ones at this point.

Deterioration Factors:

  • Fog, cloudy weather, low wind speed, and other unfavourable meteorological and climatic factors caused Delhi’s air quality index (AQI) to worsen to 418 in the “severe” category.

Different Stages of GRAP to Tackle Air Pollution in Delhi-NCR

  • Revision of GRAP: Graded Response Action Plan was revised as the CAQM “anticipated deterioration of air quality in NCR during winter months.

Graded Response Action Plan consists of four stages, each with targeted actions to be taken by the necessary authorities and agencies.

  • Stage I – “Poor” air quality (Delhi AQI: 201-300): Strict enforcement of regulations on overaged diesel/petrol vehicles.
  • Stage II – “Very Poor” air quality (Delhi AQI: 301-400): Focused action in identified pollution hotspots. Limited operation hours for certain diesel generators.
  • Stage III – “Severe” air quality (Delhi AQI: 401-450): Restrictions on specific vehicles in certain districts. Possible shift to online classes for younger students.
  • Stage IV – “Severe+” air quality (Delhi AQI > 450): Stringent entry restrictions for vehicles from outside Delhi. Potential closure of educational institutions and non-essential businesses.

GRAP Stage III: 8-Point Action Plan to Curb Air Pollution in Delhi-NCR

  1. Mechanised/Vacuum-Based Sweeping of Roads: Intensify the frequency of mechanised/vacuum-based sweeping of roads.
  2. Dust Suppression and Water Sprinkling: Make sure that roads and right-of-ways, particularly hotspots and heavily trafficked corridors, are regularly sprayed with water and dust suppressants before peak traffic hours. Additionally, make sure that the gathered dust is properly disposed of in approved landfills or sites.
  3. Enhanced Public Transport Services: Further intensify public transport services and introduce differential rates to encourage off-peak travel.
  4. Construction & Demolition Activities: Strict bans imposed on several construction and demolition activities, except for specific exemptions concerning vital services and projects.
  5. Closure of Stone Crushers: Close down operations of stone crushers.
  6. Mining Activities: Close down all mining and associated activities in the NCR.
  7. Restrictions on BS III and BS IV Vehicles: Strict prohibitions on the operation of BS III petrol and BS IV diesel LMVs (four-wheelers) in Delhi and the districts of Gurugram, Faridabad, Ghaziabad, and Gautam Budh Nagar will be enforced by the NCR State Governments and GNCTD.
  8. Online Education for Young Children: The State Governments in the NCR and GNCTD have the authority to decide whether to switch to online instruction for students up to Class V in place of traditional classroom instruction.


  • An important step in the fight against air pollution has been taken with the introduction of GRAP Stage III in Delhi-NCR, which emphasises the need of preventive actions for environmental sustainability and public health.
  • Its flexibility and strict measures highlight how important it is to preserving the region’s wellbeing.
Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP): Combating Air Pollution in Delhi-NCR
  • It is a framework designed to combat air pollution in the Delhi-NCR region.
  • It was introduced as an emergency response mechanism, and its implementation is triggered when the AQI reaches “poor” levels.
  • Implementation of GRAP: The Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM) in NCR and adjoining areas oversees the implementation of Graded Response Action Plan.
  • It collaborates with the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC).
PYQ: In the context of WHO Air Quality Guidelines, consider the following statements (UPSC 2022)
1. The 24-hour mean of PM2.5 should not exceed 15 ug/m3 and the annual mean of PM2.5 should not exceed 5 ug/m3.
2. In a year, the highest levels of ozone pollution occur during periods of inclement weather.
3. PM10 can penetrate the lung barrier and enter the bloodstream.
4. Excessive ozone in the air can trigger asthma.
Which of the statements given above is correct?
(a) 1, 3 and 4
(b) 1 and 4 only
(c) 2, 3 and 4
(d) 1 and 2 only
Answer – B
Practice Question: Analyze the multi-faceted factors contributing to the declining air quality and discuss the effectiveness of the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) in addressing such environmental challenges. (250 words/15 m)

2. Day after torture probe, Army Chief visits Poonch

Topic: GS2 – Polity- Fundamental Rights
This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains
Prelims: Fundamental Rights,
Mains: Reasons for Custodial torture and Custodial Deaths, Measures to avoid custodial deaths
  • Five local residents were injured and three found dead after being questioned during cordon-and-search operations to find militants.
  • Regarding the killing of the three people, the J&K Police have filed a First Information Report.
  • In addition, a Court of Inquiry has been tasked by the Indian Army to investigate the circumstances surrounding the militant attack on Army vehicles and the civilian deaths.

Army Chief Reviews Security Situation:

  • Army Chief General Manoj Pande assessed the security situation in the area four days after four Army men were killed in a terrorist ambush on Army vehicles in Poonch.
  • He gave orders to the ground commanders to carry out operations in the most efficient and expert way possible.

Militant Attacks in Poonch Sector:

  • This year, there have been several high-profile militant attacks in the Poonch area along the Line of Control that have claimed lives among Army soldiers.
  • A request for greater professionalism in operations has been made in response to the recent event, which fits a pattern of rising security issues in the area.

What is Custodial Torture?

  • Torture committed while a person is being held by the police or other authorities involves causing them bodily or psychological distress.
  • It frequently results in custodial deaths, or deaths that happen while a person is in custody, and is a serious violation of both human rights and dignity.

Types of Custodial Death:
Death in Police Custody:

  • Abuse in the form of excessive force, torture, denial of medical attention, or other means can result in death while a person is in police custody.

Death in Judicial Custody:

  • Deaths in judicial custody can be caused by suicide, inmate violence, inadequate medical facilities, bad hygiene, and overcrowding.

 Death in the Custody of Army or Paramilitary Forces:

  • can occur as a result of crossfire occurrences, extrajudicial killings, torture, or encounters.

Challenges in Preventing Custodial Torture in India:

  • India signed the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT) in 1997, but it has not ratified the treaty as of yet.
  • As a result, India is exempt from being obliged by international laws and guidelines that prohibit and oppose torture in detention.
  • What Measures can be Taken to Combat Custodial Torture?

Strengthening Legal Systems:

  • passing comprehensive law that makes torture in custody a crime.
  • Ensuring quick and unbiased inquiries into claims of torture suffered while in custody.
  • ensuring that offenders are held responsible through prompt, impartial trials.

Police Reforms and Sensitization:

  • putting more emphasis on respect for human rights and dignity in police training programmes.
  • encouraging police enforcement organisations to have an accountable, professional, and empathetic culture.
  • creating supervision systems to effectively track and handle instances of torture committed while a person is in custody.

Empowering Civil Society and Human Rights Organizations:

  • enticing civic society organisations to take up the cause of torture victims in detention.
  • giving victims and their families support and legal aid.
  • working together to pursue justice and redress with international human rights bodies and organisations.
What are the Constitutional and Legal Framework Related to Custodial Torture?
Constitutional Provisions:

  • The right to life and personal liberty, including the prohibition against torture and other cruel, inhuman, or humiliating treatment or punishment, is guaranteed under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
  • No one shall be found guilty of any offence other than those that are in violation of the laws in force at the time the Act is committed, according to Article 20(1). Therefore, this legislation forbids any punishment that is not specified in the statute pertaining to the offence.
  • It is against the law to force someone to testify against themselves, according to Article 20(3). This rule serves a very important purpose since it prevents the accused from making confessions under duress or torture.

 Legal Protections:

  • According to Section 24 of the Indian Evidence Act of 1872, any confessions made by the accused in response to coercion, inducement, or threat by investigative agencies would not be allowed in court. The main goal of this section is to stop the accused from making confessions against his will.
  • Under the Indian Penal Code (IPC), Sections 330 and 331 make it illegal to intentionally cause someone pain or suffering in order to coerce them into making a confession or providing information.
  • The Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) was amended in 2009 to include safeguards under sections 41A, 41B, 41C, and 41D. These provisions ensure that there are reasonable grounds and documented procedures for arrests and detentions for interrogation, that arrests are transparent to the public, family, and friends, and that legal representation is available for protection.
PYQ: National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in India can be most effective when its tasks are adequately supported by other mechanisms that ensure the accountability of a government. In light of above observation assess the role of NHRC as an effective complement to the judiciary and other institutions in promoting and protecting human rights standards. (UPSC CSE (M) GS-2 2014) (250 words/15 m)
Practice Question: Custodial torture remains a persistent challenge, reflecting systemic issues within the criminal justice system. Analyze the root causes and consequences of custodial torture in India. (250 words/15 m)

3. Women participation in NREGS continues to rise, 59% this fiscal

Topic: GS2 – Social Justice- Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections

This topic is not much relevant in the context of Prelims but more for Mains in the context of Women’s Labour Force Participation.
  • According to official figures, during the current fiscal year 2023–24, women’s involvement in the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) reached its highest level in ten financial years.
  • Women person-days made up 59.25% of the total as of December 24, 2023, above the rates of previous years.

Steady Rise in Women Participation:

  • Women’s MGNREGS participation rates have been steadily rising, rising from 54.78% in 2019–20 to 59.25% in 2023–2024.
  • This upward trend is indicative of a steady increase in women’s participation in the rural job guarantee programme.

Regional Disparities in Women Participation:

  • While female participation rates in southern states like Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, and Goa exceeded 70%, rates in northern states like Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh were generally around 40% or below.
  • The states and union territories (UTs) with the lowest rates of female involvement in the current fiscal year are Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Lakshadweep, Uttar Pradesh, and Jammu & Kashmir. 

State-wise Changes and Upticks:

  • Notably, during the current fiscal year, there have been reports of rises in the participation rates of women in Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and Lakshadweep.
  • For example, the rate in Uttar Pradesh increased from 37.87% in 2022–2023 to 42.39% in 2023–2024, indicating a positive trend in women’s participation.

Overall NREGS Statistics and Trends:

  • 5.38 crore families used the NREGS benefits till December 24, 2023, according to data for the financial year 2023–24.
  • This is less than the 6.18 crore and 7.25 crore families that did the same in 2022–23 and 2021–22.
  • The overall trend indicates that the rural job guarantee system has a significant influence and reach, notwithstanding variations in the numbers.

National Trends in Female Labor Force Participation:

  • The female Labour Force Participation Rate (LFPR) in rural areas increased significantly, from 18.2% in 2017–18 to 30.5% in 2022–23, according to the Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS).
  • Additionally, the percentage of unemployed women decreased, falling from 3.8% in 2017–18 to 1.8% in 2022–2023;
  • This suggests that the dynamics of women’s employment in the nation have improved.
  • On August 25, 2005, Indian lawmakers passed the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), which is often referred to as the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS).
  • A legal guarantee of one hundred days of employment per financial year is given by the MGNREGA to adult members of rural households who are prepared to perform unskilled manual labour related to public works at the standard minimum pay.
  • In collaboration with state governments, the Ministry of Rural Development (MRD) of the Government of India is overseeing the full implementation of this programme.
  • The purpose of this act was to increase the purchasing power of rural residents in India, especially those who were living below the poverty line and engaged in semi-skilled or unskilled labour.
  • Women must make up about one-third of the required workforce.
  • Adult residents of rural households provide the Gramme Panchayat with their name, age, and residence along with a photo.
  • After conducting inquiries, the Gramme Panchayat registers homes and provides a job card.
  • The adult member’s enrollment details and photo are on the job card.
  • A registered person may apply in writing to the Panchayat or the Programme Officer for employment (for a minimum of fourteen days of continuous work).
  • A letter offering work will be delivered to the applicant and displayed in the Panchayat office. The Panchayat/Programme official will accept legitimate applications and issue a dated receipt of the application.
  • The employment will be offered within a 5 km radius; further compensation will be given if it is beyond that.
PYQ: Among the following who are eligible to benefit from the “Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act”? (2011) 
(a) Adult members of only the scheduled caste and scheduled tribe households
(b) Adult members of below poverty line (BPL) households
(c) Adult members of households of all backward communities
(d) Adult members of any household
Ans: D
Practice Question: Examine the significance of the rising trend in women’s participation in the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) during the financial year 2023-24. (150 words/10 m)

4. Jagannath Temple to get special security battalion

Topic: GS1 – Art and Culture- Architecture

This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains

For Prelims: Jaganath temple

For Mains: Preservation of Heritage sites, Temple Architecture of India.

  • The formation of a specialised Special Security Battalion with the aim of guaranteeing the safety and crowd control of the holy Puri Jagannath Temple has received clearance from the Odisha government.
  • The battalion, which has about 1,200 members, will report to the Superintendent of Police (SP), Puri, for direction and supervision.

Primary Responsibilities and Training:

  • The battalion that was recently constituted has its main duty as a guardian of the Puri Jagannath Temple, which receives large numbers of visitors.
  • To ensure that devotees have a seamless and orderly darshan, the staff will receive specialised training in crowd control and devotee facilitation.

Anticipating Increased Footfall:

  • Officials from the temple administration point out that, in the post-Covid era, devotee foot traffic is estimated to be about 50,000 each day, with notable spikes on weekends and major holy holidays.
  • It is anticipated that the number of devotees would increase significantly, especially with the launch of the Srimandira Parikrama project soon. Therefore, more security measures are required.

Srimandira Parikrama Project:

  • The Puri Jagannath Temple’s outer walls (Meghanada Pacheri) will be surrounded by a 75-meter free corridor built as part of the Srimandira Parikrama project.
  • With this approach, temple security will be strengthened and devotees would have access to basic municipal services.
  • The initiative is expected to improve devotee experiences and safety at the temple overall, and it is planned to be launched on January 17.
What are the Features of Jagannath Temple?
  • It is believed that King Anatavarman Chodaganga Deva of the Eastern Ganga Dynasty built the temple in the twelfth century.
  • The temple dedicated to Jagannath at Puri is known as “Yamanika Tirtha.” at Hindu mythology, the presence of Lord Jagannath in Puri is said to have neutralised the power of “Yama,” the god of death.
  • A stop on the Char Dham pilgrimage, this temple was dubbed the “White Pagoda” (Badrinath, Dwaraka, Puri, Rameswaram).
  • The temple has four gates: the main eastern gate, “Singhdwara,” with two crouching lions; the southern gate, “Ashwadwara,” the western gate, “Vyaghra Dwara,” and the northern gate, “Hastidwara.” Every form has a carving at each gate.
  • The Aruna stambha, also known as the sun pillar, formerly stood in front of the Konark Sun Temple.
Practice Question: Assess the anticipated challenges and benefits associated with the implementation of the Srimandira Parikrama project and its potential impact on the overall security and experience for devotees. To what extent does this initiative reflect a comprehensive approach towards managing religious sites with high footfall, and what lessons can be drawn for similar heritage sites across the country? (250 words/15 m)

5. Jaishankar arrives in Russia on 5-day visit; trade ties on agenda.

Topic: GS2 – International Relations– Bilateral Relations
UPSC relevance lies in the diplomatic implications of Jaishankar’s Moscow visit, addressing bilateral issues amid the absence of the annual summit.
  • Indian External Minister S. Jaishankar’s Moscow visit addresses bilateral issues, including payment mechanisms, defense delays, amid the notable absence of the annual summit.

Additional information on this news:

  • External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar embarks on a five-day visit to Moscow and St. Petersburg.
  • Talks planned with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Trade Minister Denis Manturov.
  • Expected discussions on bilateral issues, including rupee-rouble payment mechanism, oil imports, trade, and defense equipment delays.
  • The visit gains significance due to the absence of the annual summit between PM Modi and President Putin for the second consecutive year, linked ostensibly to the Ukraine conflict.
India – Russia Relations – Prospects and Challenges

  • Strong historical ties and mutual trust: Decades of close cooperation built on shared experiences and strategic alignment offer a solid foundation for the relationship.
  • Convergence of interests on regional and global issues: Both countries share concerns about terrorism, extremism, and unilateralism, fostering collaboration on issues like Afghanistan, Iran, and Myanmar.
  • Defense and energy cooperation: Russia remains a key supplier of military equipment and technology to India, while India offers a growing market for Russian oil and gas, creating economic interdependence.
  • Space and nuclear cooperation: Collaboration in space exploration and civilian nuclear energy programs opens doors for technological advancements and joint ventures.


  • Shifting global dynamics: The changing world order, including the rise of China and the Ukraine war, may necessitate strategic recalibration for both countries.
  • Western pressure on India: India’s close ties with Russia could attract sanctions or criticism from the West, forcing it to navigate a delicate balance.
  • Diversification of India’s foreign policy: India’s growing engagement with the US and other Quad countries could potentially dilute its focus on the Russia relationship.
  • Economic limitations: Despite close ties, trade and investment between India and Russia remain below potential, presenting opportunities for improvement.
  • Security concerns: Russia’s involvement in conflicts like Syria and Ukraine could raise concerns for India regarding regional stability and potential reputational damage.
Practice Question: Critically analyse the prospects and challenges of the India-Russia relationship in the current global context. Suggest concrete measures to navigate these challenges and maximize the potential of this partnership. (150 words/10 m)

6. Special force for security, crowd management at Jagannath Temple in Puri.

Topic: GS3 – Disaster Management, GS1 – Art and Culture- Architecture
Frequent crowd disasters in India make understanding crowd management crucial for UPSC candidates, both as policymakers and disaster responders.
  • Odisha government responds to rising devotee numbers at Shree Jagannath Temple in Puri post-COVID-19 lockdown.
  • Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik approves a special security battalion for temple security and crowd management.
  • The dedicated force will consist of 1,190 personnel, aiming for foolproof security and better facilities for devotees.
  • The temple, dating back to the 12th Century, attracts thousands daily, with a post-COVID-19 footfall of around 50,000 daily.

Crowd Management in Disasters: A Holistic Approach
Pre-Disaster Preparedness:

  • Mapping and Analysis:Identify areas with high population density and potential evacuation routes. Analyze crowd behavior patterns in various situations (panic, injury, etc.).
  • Community Engagement: Train and empower community leaders and volunteers in crowd control techniques and emergency communication. Conduct regular drills and simulations to test preparedness.
  • Infrastructure Development:Design buildings and public spaces with adequate exits and evacuation paths. Invest in robust communication infrastructure for real-time information dissemination.
  • Resource Stockpiling:Ensure sufficient supplies of food, water, medical aid, and sanitation equipment readily available for emergency response.

During Disaster Response:

  • Clear and Consistent Communication:Utilize multiple channels (broadcast, social media, megaphone) to provide timely and accurate information about the disaster, evacuation instructions, and emergency services.
  • Effective Leadership:Establish clear command structures and designate trained personnel to manage crowd flow, direct evacuation, and provide assistance.
  • Prioritization and Triage:Implement crowd control measures to ensure vulnerable individuals (children, elderly, injured) receive immediate attention and safe passage.
  • De-escalation and Calming Techniques:Train responders in de-escalation tactics to manage panic, emotional outbursts, and potential conflicts within the crowd.
  • Resource Management and Distribution:Prioritize essential resources based on immediate needs and coordinate distribution points to avoid overcrowding and conflict.

Post-Disaster Recovery:

  • Psychological Support:Provide mental health services to individuals and communities affected by the trauma of the disaster. Address potential anxieties and panic in the aftermath.
  • Debris Management and Reconstruction: Implement efficient debris removal plans and prioritize rebuilding critical infrastructure like communication networks and shelters.
  • Lessons Learned and Improvement:Analyze the effectiveness of crowd management strategies during the response and identify areas for improvement in future disaster preparedness.
  • Community Resilience Building: Foster community engagement and ownership in disaster preparedness and response, promoting long-term resilience against future events.

Technology and Innovation:

  • Crowd Monitoring and Analytics:Utilize real-time data from drones, sensors, and social media to monitor crowd movement, predict behavior patterns, and optimize response efforts.
  • Mobile Apps and Information Platforms:Develop interactive platforms for emergency communication, resource location, and evacuation guidance, accessible to all.
  • Virtual Training and Simulations:Utilize virtual reality technology for immersive training of responders and community members in crowd management techniques and emergency procedures.
Practice Question: Critically analyze the role of technology in enhancing crowd management effectiveness during disasters. Highlight two concrete technological interventions and their potential impact. (250 words/15 m)

7. A dive into sanitation solutions: processing, managing and treating used water.

Topic: GS1 – Urbanization, their problems and their remedies

 GS3 – Environment- Environmental Pollution & Degradation

Critical for public health, sanitation systems address water pollution and disease prevention, aligning with UPSC topics on governance and environment.
  • The article covers types of sanitation systems, including on-site (OSS) and sewer systems, along with faecal sludge treatment plants (FSTPs) and sewage treatment plants (STPs).
  • It emphasizes impurity accumulation, public health, historical evolution, challenges, and the need for universal access.

Types of Sanitation Systems:
On-site Sanitation Systems (OSS):

  • Twin pits, septic tanks, bio-digester toilets, bio-tanks, and urine diversion dry toilets are common OSS types.
  • Serve as collection and storage structures for passive treatment of used water.
  • Faecal sludge or septage, primarily composed of solids from human excreta, collects in pits and tanks.
  • Twin pits operate alternately, allowing one pit to dry and become pathogen-free while the other is in use.

Sewer Systems:

  • In densely populated urban areas, an underground network of pipes (sewers) collects and conveys used water.
  • Used water, termed sewage, is transported to sewage treatment plants (STPs) for treatment.

Treatment Facilities:
 Faecal Sludge Treatment Plants (FSTPs):

  • Mechanical or gravity-based systems treat faecal sludge collected from OSS.
  • Mechanised systems use equipment like screw presses or centrifuges for dewatering.
  • Treated solids can be reused in agriculture, while treated water is reused within FSTP facilities.

Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs):

  • Employ physical, biological, and chemical processes to remove pollutants and contaminants from sewage.
  • Advanced systems may use membrane filtration for additional treatment.
  • Reclaimed water from STPs can be discharged or reused for various purposes.

Why Complex Sanitation Systems:

  • Impurity Accumulation: Used water accumulates impurities such as organic matter, nutrients, pathogens, heavy metals, solids, and salts.
  • Public Health and Environmental Protection: Sanitation systems are crucial for preventing pollution and protecting public health by containing, removing, and treating impurities.
  • Historical Evolution: Rudimentary sanitation dates back to ancient civilizations, with modern sanitation systems evolving in the 1800s.

Challenges and Universal Access:

  • Access Challenges: Despite improvements in public health, universal access to safely managed sanitation services remains a challenge.
  • Operational Issues: Poorly designed, built systems, and unsafe operation and maintenance practices hinder effective used water management.


  • Sanitation systems are vital for safeguarding public health, environmental well-being, and water resources.
  • Overcoming challenges and ensuring universal access are essential for effective sanitation management.
Practice Question: How do sanitation systems contribute to public health and environmental protection, and what challenges hinder universal access to safe sanitation? (150 words/10 m)

8. India-ASEAN to rejig 15-year trade pact in early 2024.

Topic: GS2 – International Relations- Regional groupings- Agreements involving India

ASEAN-India trade agreement renegotiation is crucial for balancing trade, addressing deficits, and modernizing economic ties; relevant for UPSC.
  • India and ASEAN plan to renegotiate their trade agreement (AITGA) to modernize it and address the trade deficit.
  • The focus is on balancing the FTA, addressing barriers, and updating Rules of Origin.
  • The negotiations aim to conclude by 2025, focusing on efficiency without introducing new issues.

Additional information on this news:

  • India and ASEAN are set to negotiate the modernization of their free trade agreement (FTA) in February.
  • The ASEAN India Trade in Goods Agreement (AITGA), signed in 2009, will be reviewed to address the trade deficit, with negotiations scheduled quarterly until 2025.
  • India aims to bring more balance to the FTA, which has seen its trade deficit with ASEAN increase from $7.5 billion to $43.57 billion in FY23.
  • The review will focus on addressing tariff and non-tariff barriers faced by various sectors, including chemicals, plastics, textiles, and gems and jewelry.
  • Changes in the Rules of Origin (ROO) will be incorporated to benefit India and prevent re-routing of goods through ASEAN countries.
  • The modernized AITGA will include a chapter on trade remedies to safeguard domestic industries against unfair trade practices.
  • However, new areas like environment, labor, MSMEs, and gender will not be added to avoid complicating the existing free trade pact.
  • The first round of negotiations is scheduled for February 18-19 in New Delhi.


  • Renegotiating the ASEAN-India trade agreement is imperative to rectify trade imbalances, modernize the pact, and enhance economic cooperation, aligning with contemporary needs and challenges.

9. As Modi skips annual summit again, Jaishankar goes to Russia for talks

Topic: GS2 – International Relations- Bilateral Relations
This topic is not much relevant in the context of Prelims but more for Mains in the context of strategic importance of Indo-Russia relations.
  • For the second year in a row, Prime Minister Narendra Modi opted not to attend the yearly summit with Russian leaders, instead S Jaishankar, the Indian Minister of External Affairs, set off for a five-day visit.
  • Russia and India alternately host the annual conference; the most recent one took place in New Delhi on December 6, 2021, coinciding with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit.

Reasons for Modi’s Absence:

  • The reasons behind Prime Minister Modi’s two-year absence from the annual summit remain unclear, however sources point to schedule conflicts as a major contributing factor.
  • Modi missed the summit in Russia last year due to scheduling conflicts that continued after the war in Ukraine, which resulted in the current state of affairs.

India-Russia Time-Tested Partnership:

  • The Ministry of External Affairs emphasised how the spirit of the Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership embodies the long-standing India-Russian partnership.
  • The purpose of Jaishankar’s visit is to deepen bilateral relations by holding talks on a range of topics.

Economic Engagement and Diplomatic Talks:

  • Jaishankar has scheduled talks on economic engagement with Denis Manturov, the deputy prime minister of Russia.
  • The topics of discussion in planned meetings with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will include bilateral, multilateral, and global concerns.
  • It is anticipated that trade, energy, defence, and connectivity would be discussed.

India-Russia Defense Cooperation:

  • Russia and India have a long history of defence cooperation, with India depending on Russia for between 60 and 70 percent of its defence supply.
  • From a buyer-seller framework, military technical cooperation has developed into collaborative research, development, and manufacturing of cutting-edge defence technologies.

Strategic Importance amid Global Events:

  • India’s strategic relations with Russia are important in the context of the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
  • India has been able to lessen the country’s oil price inflationary pressures by acquiring Russian oil at a reduced cost. India has voiced worries about some developments and placed an emphasis on diplomatic solutions, even though it hasn’t openly criticised Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Nuclear Energy and Space Cooperation:

  • With active projects like the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant, Russia is an important partner for India in the peaceful use of nuclear energy.
  • Additionally, the two countries work together to use space for peaceful purposes through India’s “Gaganyaan” manned spaceflight programme.

Agenda for Jaishankar’s Meetings:

  • It is anticipated that Jaishankar would discuss a wide range of topics, including energy, trade, economic engagement, defence, and the peaceful use of nuclear energy and space exploration.
  • The visit highlights the complexity of India-Russian relations and the value of diplomatic communication in the midst of geopolitical upheavals throughout the world.
What is the Significance of Russia for India?
  • Balancing China: China’s assault in the border areas of eastern Ladakh not only marked a turning point in India-China relations but also showed that Russia can play a role in reducing tensions with China.

The foreign ministers of China, India, and Russia met trilaterally after violent skirmishes in the Galwan Valley, which is part of the Ladakh region that is under dispute.

  • Emerging New Sectors of Economic Engagement: Other sectors of economic interaction, such as mining, agro-industrial, and high technology, such as robotics, nanotech, and biotech, are projected to emerge in addition to traditional areas of collaboration including weaponry, hydrocarbons, nuclear energy, and diamonds.

India’s presence in the Arctic and the Russian Far East is expected to grow. Projects involving connectivity might also benefit.

  • Combating Terrorism: Russia and India are pushing for the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism to be finalised as soon as possible and are attempting to reduce the gap on Afghanistan.
  • Support At Multilateral Forums: Furthermore, Russia backs India’s application for both permanent membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group and a reorganised United Nations Security Council.
  • Russia’s Military Exports: One of the biggest arms exporters to India has been Russia. Even so, in comparison to the preceding five years (2011–2015), Russia’s proportion in India’s armaments imports decreased by more than 50% during the most recent five years.
  • Russia has supplied India with arms and ammunition valued at USD 35 billion over the past 20 years, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, which monitors the world’s arms trade.
PYQ: Recently, India signed a deal known as ‘Action Plan for Prioritization and Implementation of Cooperation Areas in the Nuclear Field’ with which of the following countries? (2019)
(a) Japan
(b) Russia
(c) The United Kingdom
(d) The United States of America
Ans: (b)
Practice Question: Examine the challenges and opportunities in diversifying India’s sources for defense supplies and the role of Russia in addressing India’s energy requirements. (150 words/10 m)

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