Armenia Azerbaijan Peace Deal

Why in News

Recently, Russia has brokered a new peace deal between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Both counties have been in a military conflict over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh in the South Caucasus.

Key Points

  • Nagorno-Karabakh Region:
    • The region extends across western Asia and Eastern Europe.
    • It has been part of Azerbaijan territory since the Soviet era and is being internationally recognised so but most of the region is controlled by Armenian separatists who have declared it a republic called the “Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast”.
      • While the Armenian government does not recognise Nagorno-Karabakh as independent, it supports the region politically and militarily.
  • Conflict and Ceasefire:
    • When the Soviet Union began to collapse (with the end of the Cold War) in the late 1980s, Armenia’s regional parliament voted for the region’s transfer to Armenia but the Soviet authorities turned down the demand.
    • Clashes and the violence lasted till 1994, when Russia brokered a ceasefire, by which time ethnic Armenians had taken control of the region.
    • In 2016, the region saw a Four-Day War before Russia mediated peace.
    • The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group, chaired by France, Russia and the USA, has also tried to get the two countries to reach a peace agreement for several years.
      • OSCE is the world's largest security-oriented intergovernmental organisation. Its mandate includes issues such as arms control, promotion of human rights, freedom of the press, and fair elections.
      • OSCE Minsk Group was created in 1992 by the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) to encourage a peaceful, negotiated resolution to the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh.
    • In October 2020, both countries agreed to a Russia brokered ceasefire agreement, however, it also proved to be unsuccessful.
  • Reason for the Conflict:
    • Decades-old Ethnic tensions have a crucial role in the dispute. While the Azeris claim that the disputed region was under their control in known history, Armenians maintain that Karabakh was a part of the Armenian kingdom.
    • Currently, the disputed region consists of a majority Armenian Christian population, even though it is internationally recognised as a part of Muslim-majority Azerbaijan.
  • New Peace Deal:
    • Both sides will now maintain positions in the areas that they currently hold, which will mean a significant gain for Azerbaijan as it has reclaimed over 15-20% of its lost territory during the recent conflict.
    • All military operations are suspended and Russian peacekeepers will be deployed for a period of five years, along the line of contact in Nagorno-Karabakh and along the Lachin corridor which links the Karabakh capital, Stepanakert, to Armenia.
    • Refugees and internally displaced persons will return to the region and the adjacent territories and the two sides will also exchange prisoners of wars and bodies.
    • A new corridor will be opened from Nakhchivan to Azerbaijan, which will be under Russian control.
    • Reactions: Armenian people are against the deal and have protested while Azerbaijan is pleased with the deal and considered it of “historic importance”.
  • Russia’s Role:
    • Russia has always taken a balanced position on the matter and has traditionally good relations with both countries. It supplies arms to both countries.
    • Russia has a military base in Armenia and both are members of the Moscow-led Collective Security Treaty Organisation.
      • The treaty envisages Russia's military support if Armenia is attacked. However, it does not include Nagorno-Karabakh or the other Azerbaijani regions around it seized by Armenian forces.
    • At the same time, Russia also has strong ties to Azerbaijan, which is being openly backed by Turkey, a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) member.

Source: IE

SCO Summit

Why in news

The 20th Summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Council of Heads of State was held recently via Video Conferencing.

  • The Meeting was chaired by Russian President Mr. Vladimir Putin.

Key points

  • Significance of SCO Meet: 20th Summit of SCO Heads of State is important as it brought President Xi Jinping of China and Mr. Modi together in the virtual format even as both sides are caught in the high tension confrontation in Eastern Ladakh along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
    • This was the first SCO Summit held in Virtual Format and the third meeting that India participated after becoming a full member in 2017.
  • The Republic of Tajikistan assumed chairmanship of SCO for 2021-22.
  • India has proposed to set up a Special Working Group on Innovation and Startups and a Sub Group on Traditional Medicine within SCO.
  • The Prime Minister of India indirectly referred chinese infrastructure projects in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and India China standoff at line of actual control and urged members of the SCO to respect “territorial integrity” and “sovereignty” of each other.
  • Connectivity: PM highlighted India's role in supporting infrastructure and connectivity development projects in the SCO region. Examples:
    • Chabahar port,
    • The International North–South Transport Corridor (INSTC) is a multi-modal connectivity project to establish transport networks (ship, rail, and road route) for moving freight between India, Russia, Iran, Europe and Central Asia.
  • Responsible Global Governance: Bringing changes in global governance will be the focus of India as a non-permanent member of the United Nation (UN) Security Council. From 2021 India will take part in the UN Security Council as a non-permanent member.
  • Reformed Multilateralism: In the context of the fallout of the pandemic and the economic downturn, India sought support of the SCO members in attaining a reformed multilateralism.
  • Organised Crime: India highlighted the challenges posed by the smuggling of illegal weapons, drugs and money laundering.
  • Strengthening Cultural Heritage: The National Museum of India will hold an exhibition on the Buddhist heritage of the SCO countries and India will host a food festival reflecting the culinary traditions of the SCO region.

Shanghai Cooperation Organisation

  • SCO is a permanent intergovernmental international organisation.
  • It’s a Eurasian political, economic and military organisation aiming to maintain peace, security and stability in the region.
  • It was created in 2001.
  • The SCO Charter was signed in 2002, and entered into force in 2003.
  • The SCO's official languages are Russian and Chinese.
  • SCO has two Permanent Bodies
    • SCO Secretariat in Beijing, and
    • Executive Committee of the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) in Tashkent.
  • The Chairmanship of SCO is by rotation for a year by Member States.


  • Prior to the creation of SCO in 2001, Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan were members of the Shanghai Five.
  • Shanghai Five (1996) emerged from a series of border demarcation and demilitarization talks which the four former Soviet republics held with China to ensure stability along the borders.
  • Following the accession of Uzbekistan to the organisation in 2001, the Shanghai Five was renamed the SCO.
  • India and Pakistan became members in 2017.

Way Forward

  • The SCO must be used as a platform to deepen solidarity and mutual trust and resolve disputes and differences through dialogue and consultations. It will help in de-escalating tensions between India and its neighbouring countries China and Pakistan.


Panna Biosphere Reserve

Why in News

Recently, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has included the Panna Biosphere Reserve (PBR) in its World Network of Biosphere Reserves (WNBR).

  • The PBR is the third in Madhya Pradesh to be included in the list after Pachmarhi and Amarkantak.
  • Along with PBR, the Fuvahmulahand Addu Atoll in the Maldives has also been included in the WNBR.

Key Points

  • About:
    • Established in 1981, PBR is located in the Panna and Chhatarpur districts of Madhya Pradesh with an area of around 540 km. sq.
    • It is situated in the Vindhya mountain range in the northern part of Madhya Pradesh.
    • Ken River (one of the least polluted tributaries of the Yamuna River) flows through the reserve and the Ken-Betwa river interlinking project will also be located in it.
    • The region is also famous for Panna diamond mining.
  • Conservation and Recognition:
    • 1994: The Panna National Park got the status of Project Tiger Reserve as India’s 22nd tiger reserve.
    • 2011: It was notified as a Biosphere Reserve by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC).
    • 2018: By 2018, it witnessed a remarkable turnaround in tiger population by increasing their numbers remarkably from zero estimated a decade ago.
      • Madhya Pradesh has the highest number of tigers in the country followed by Karnataka and Uttarakhand.
    • 2020: UNESCO included it in the Man and Biosphere Programme (MAB).

Biosphere Reserves

  • Biosphere Reserves (BRs) are representative parts of natural and cultural landscapes extending over large areas of terrestrial or coastal/marine ecosystems or a combination thereof and representative examples of biogeographic zones/provinces.
  • The idea of the biosphere reserve was initiated by UNESCO in 1974 under the MAB with the objective of obtaining international cooperation for the conservation of the biospheres.
  • The first biosphere reserve of the world was established in 1979 and since then the network has increased to more than 600 in 119 countries across the world.
  • A scheme called Biosphere Reserve has been implemented by the Government of India since 1986.
    • Under it, financial assistance is given in a 90:10 ratio to the North Eastern Region States and three Himalayan states and in the ratio of 60:40 to other states for maintenance, improvement and development.
  • The State Governments prepare the Management Action Plan which is approved and monitored by the Central MAB Committee.
  • India has a total of 18 Biosphere Reserves and with the inclusion of PBR, the number of internationally designated WNBR has become 12.

Man and Biosphere Programme

  • Launched by the UNESCO in 1971, it is an intergovernmental scientific programme that aims to establish a scientific basis for the improvement of relationships between people and their environments.
  • Every year UNESCO designates new Biosphere reserves and removes others to promote the conservation of biodiversity and resolve man-animal conflict at that site and enable sustainable use of natural resources.
  • MAB combines the natural and social sciences, economics and education to improve human livelihoods and the equitable sharing of benefits, and to safeguard natural and managed ecosystems, thus promoting innovative approaches to economic development that are socially and culturally appropriate, and environmentally sustainable.

Source: HT

Annual Meeting of IBA

Why in News

Recently, the Indian Banks’ Association (IBA) has held its 73rd annual general meeting virtually. In the meeting, the Finance Minister of India suggested the banks to bring new reforms and implement the existing ones in a timely manner.

Key Points

  • On Linking Aadhar:
    • Aadhaar-seeded bank accounts are needed to reach people by Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT).
    • Banks should link every account with the customer’s Aadhaar number by 31st March 2021 in order to stop the duplication of accounts as well as verify the unverified accounts.
  • On Widening Financial Inclusion:
    • Even though there are 42 crore Jan Dhan bank accounts in India, there is a need to widen financial inclusion by adding more people.
    • Banks should promote RuPay cards over others now that the card network has become global and also make sure that all Indian customers have it.
      • RuPay is the first-of-its-kind domestic Debit and Credit Card payment network of India.
      • It was launched by the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), an umbrella organisation for operating retail payment and settlement systems in the country.
  • On Digitisation:
    • Unified Payments Interface (UPI) should be a common parlance word in all the banks.
      • UPI is a single platform that merges various banking services and features under one umbrella, established by the NPCI together with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and IBA.
    • Non-digital payments should be discouraged in order to give impetus to the Digital India Initiative.
  • On Amalgamation of Banks:
    • There is a need for more large banks that can finance large projects and for that more amalgamation as big as State bank of India (SBI) are needed.
      • Amalgamation should not just remain as an exercise to bring two or three banks together, it should now become an organic mechanism to grow, and to grow to such scales that the new demands from the industry, economy, and businesses can all be met up in a changing world.
    • Large banks are also needed as much as the smaller finance companies, smaller banks, and Non-Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs).
      • While India has only about 500-600 banks, including the regional rural ones, the USA has around 26,000 banks with a fourth of India’s population.
      • There is only one Indian bank (SBI) in the top 100 globally, against 18 in China.
  • On Lending:
    • Banks must not shy away from lending, especially when the economy is facing major challenges and as lending is their principal business and they must lend after undertaking prudent risk management rather than avoid lending altogether.

Source: TH

National Education Day

Why in News

The Union Minister of Education virtually inaugurated the National Education Day programme organised by IIT Bombay.

Key Notes

  • National Education Day
  • About the Event
    • In the event India's commitment to establish India as a global hub of education and to ensure high quality of education was reiterated through Study in India, Stay in India and Internationalization of Education.
      • Study in India, Stay in India is an extension of the Study in India programme, a flagship project of the Government of India, launched in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Ministry of External Affairs, Ministry of Home Affairs, and Ministry of Commerce and Industry in April 2018.
        • Study in india programme objectives:
          • To improve the soft power of India with focus on the neighbouring countries and use it as a tool in diplomacy.
          • To boost the number of inbound International students in India.
          • To double India’s market share of global education exports from less than 1 percent to 2 percent.
          • Increase in contribution of international students in the form of direct spends, indirect spends, spillover effects.
          • Improvement in overall quality of higher education.
          • Increase in global ranking of India as an educational destination.
          • To reduce the export – Import imbalance in the number of International students.
          • Growth of India’s global market share of International students.
      • India is cooperating and coordinating with the leading universities of the world. This has been incorporated in National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 by inviting top 100 World Universities to set up campuses in India.

Education In India

  • Constitutional Provisions:
    • Part IV of Indian Constitution, Article 45 and Article 39 (f) of Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP), has a provision for state-funded as well as equitable and accessible education.
    • The 42nd Amendment to the Constitution in 1976 moved education from the State to the Concurrent List.
      • The education policies by the Central government provides a broad direction and state governments are expected to follow it. However, it is not mandatory, for instance Tamil Nadu does not follow the three-language formula prescribed by the first education policy in 1968.
    • The 86th Amendment in 2002 made education an enforceable right under Article 21-A.
  • Related Laws:
    • Right To Education (RTE) Act, 2009 aims to provide primary education to all children aged 6 to 14 years and enforces education as a Fundamental Right.
      • It also mandates 25% reservation for disadvantaged sections of the society where disadvantaged groups
  • Government Initiatives:

Way Forward

  • Programmes like Study in India and the New Education Policy aim to facilitate an inclusive, global and high quality education, which takes into consideration field experiences, empirical research, stakeholder feedback, as well as lessons learned from best practices.
  • If implemented in its true vision, they will bring India at par with the leading countries of the world and establish India as a global hub of education.

Source: PIB

National Water Awards

Why in News

The Department of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation of the Ministry of Jal Shakti, is organising the 2nd National Water Awards (NWAs) for the year 2019.

Key Points

  • National Water Awards:
    • The awards are organised by the Department of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, Ministry of Jal Shakti.
    • The NWAs were launched in 2007 for the first time along with the Ground Water Augmentation Awards and the winners in different categories are given a citation, trophy and cash prize.
    • These focus on the good work and efforts made by individuals and organisations across the country, and the government’s vision for the path to ‘Jal Samridh Bharat’.
    • Objectives:
      • To motivate individuals/organisations who are doing commendable work in the field of water resources conservation and management.
      • To create awareness among the people about the importance of water and encourage them to adopt the best water usage practices.
    • Opportunities Provided: Start-ups, leading organisations and people can engage, deliberate and strengthen existing partnerships on issues concerning water conservation and management activities.
  • Need for Water Conservation and Management:
    • Depletion of water resources due to overuse and decline in water supplies due to climate change is pushing India closer to the tipping point of water scarcity.
    • Apart from these, several government policies especially pertaining to agriculture resulted in over-exploitation of water. These factors make India a water-stressed economy. In this context there is a need for water resource conservation and management.

Initiatives by the Government

  • Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act:
    • The huge workforce employed under the MGNREGA has enabled the government to introduce water conservation as a project under the Act.
    • The government aims to improve groundwater harvesting, build water conservation and storage mechanisms through MGNREGA.
  • Jal Kranti Abhiyan:
    • Under it, the government is making active efforts to revolutionise villages and cities through block-level water conservation schemes.
    • For example, the Jal Gram Scheme under the Jal Kranti Abhiyan is aimed at developing two model villages in water-starved areas to lead the other villages towards water conservation and preservation.
  • National Water Mission:
    • It was launched with the objective of conservation of water, minimising wastage and ensuring more equitable distribution both across and within states through integrated water resources development and management.
  • NITI Aayog's Composite Water Management Index:
    • With the objective of achieving effective utilization of water, NITI Aayog has developed the Composite Water Management Index.
  • Jal Shakti Ministry and Jal Jeevan Mission:
    • The efforts like the formation of Jal Shakti Ministry (to tackle water issues holistically) and the goal to provide piped water to all rural households by 2024, under the Jal Jeevan mission, are steps in the right direction.
  • Atal Bhujal Yojana:
    • It is a central sector scheme worth Rs.6,000 crore for sustainable management of groundwater with community participation.
    • It envisages people's participation through the formation of ‘Water User Associations’, water budgeting, preparation and implementation of Gram-panchayat-wise water security plans, etc.
  • Jal Shakti Abhiyan:
    • It was launched in July 2019 as a campaign for water conservation and water security in the country.

Way Forward

  • People tend to neglect the importance of water conservation because in most places it is free of cost or charged nominally, so it is important for them to realise its importance and be aware of its degrading status.
  • Initiatives like National Water Awards, along with the other government initiatives will help to create that awareness and motivate them to adopt the best water usage practices which will help India in becoming ‘Jal Samridh Bharat’.

Source: PIB

Thirty Meter Telescope Project

Why in News

The design of back-end instruments and other aspects of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) project being installed at Maunakea in Hawaii has been developed by close collaboration between the 2020 Physics Nobel Laureate Prof. Andrea Ghez and Indian astronomers.

Key Point

  • The Thirty-meter telescope (TMT) project is an international partnership between the USA, Canada, Japan, China, and India.
  • It will allow deeper exploration into space and observe cosmic objects with unprecedented sensitivity.
  • Other Global Projects with Indian Collaboration:
    • The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) Project
      • The Indian scientists contributed in several aspects such as designing algorithms for analysis of signals from gravitational waves, estimating energy and power radiated from black holes etc.
      • Now LIGO-India is a planned advanced gravitational-wave observatory to be located in India as part of the worldwide network.
    • CERN Project
      • India became a full Associate Member of world’s largest particle Physics laboratory CERN in 2017, thereby getting full access to data generated there.
      • The contribution of Indian scientists there is mainly in building the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and construction of two significant CERN experiments, CMS and ALICE.
    • Facility for Antiproton and Ion Research (FAIR)
      • FAIR is coming up at Darmstadt, Germany for studying the building blocks of matter and the evolution of the Universe.
      • FAIR is a sophisticated accelerator complex that will use the high energy and ion beams to mimic the condition inside the core of the stars and early phase of the universe.
      • The role of Indian scientists would be to build NUSTAR (Nuclear Structure, Astrophysics and Reactions), CBM (Compressed Baryonic Matter) and PANDA (Antiproton Annihilation at Darmstadt).
    • Square Kilometre Array (SKA)
      • India has joined nine other countries to build the world's largest and most sophisticated radio telescope called Square Kilometre Array (SKA).
      • The core of the telescope will be based in Karoo desert in South Africa. Since the total detection area of the receiver dishes would exceed 1 square kilometer, it is called Square Kilometre Array.
    • International-Thermonuclear-Experimental-Reactor (ITER)
      • The International-Thermonuclear-Experimental-Reactor (ITER) is focused around creating an environment mimicking the Sun in laboratory conditions using nuclear fusion.
      • India’s scientists and institutions such as Institute for Plasma Research, Ahmedabad are playing an important role in this.

Source: PIB