GS Paper I- History and Geography of the World and Society.

Sri Lanka Formally Hands Over Hambantota Port To China.

Background-

  • Sri Lanka on 9th December, 2017 formally handed over the strategic southern port of Hambantota to China on a 99-year lease, in a deal dubbed by the opposition as a sell-out.
  • Two Chinese firms – Hambantota International Port Group (HIPG) and Hambantota International Port Services (HIPS) managed by the China Merchants Port Holdings Company (CMPort) and the Sri Lanka Ports Authority will own the port and the investment zone around it.
  • Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe during a visit to China in April, 2017 had agreed to swap equity in Chinese infrastructure projects launched by former president Mahinda Rajapaksa in his home district.

 

Highlights Of The Development–

  • Sri Lanka owed China USD 8 billion then finance minister Ravi Karunanayake had said last year (2016).
  • With this agreement Sri Lanka have started to pay back the loans. Hambantota will be converted to a major port in the Indian Ocean, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said while addressing the handing over ceremony held in parliament.
  • There will be an economic zone and industrialisation in the area which will lead to economic development and promote tourism, the prime minister said.
  • The government’s grant of large tax concessions to Chinese firms have also been questioned by the opposition.
  • The opposition and trade unions have dubbed the deal as a sell out of the country’s national assets to China.
  • The Sri Lankan government had signed a USD 1.1 billion deal in July(2017) to sell a 70 per cent stake in the Hambantota port to China.
  • Sri Lanka received USD 300 million as the initial payment under the 99-year lease agreement which the opposition had described as a sell out.
  • The port, overlooking the Indian Ocean, is expected to play a key role in China’s Belt and Road initiative, which will link ports and roads between China and Europe.
  • In order to allay India’s security concerns over the Chinese navy’s presence in Sri Lanka, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe had earlier ruled out the possibility of the strategic port being used as a “military base” by any foreign country.

Sources- NDTV.

 

GS Paper II- International Relations.

RIC Meet: Foreign Ministers Of Russia, India, China Meet To Boost Asia-Pacific Relations.

Background

  • Exactly a month after officials from India, Australia, the US and Japan sat down for talks on cooperation in the “Indo-Pacific”—seen as a possible security framework among the four against a rising China—Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj met her counterparts from Russia and China on 11th December, 2017 for discussions on deepening coordination in the Asia-Pacific region.
  • The move, said Lalit Mansingh, former foreign secretary, is an effort by India to demonstrate that it has multiple options in a multipolar world and that it is not aligned with any one group or any one country.
  • Swaraj hosted Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi and Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov for the Russia-India-China (RIC) trilateral meeting.

 

Highlights Of The Development-

  • Originally scheduled for April, the RIC meet was postponed as Wang did not confirm his participation, with speculation rife that he had put off his visit to India to protest New Delhi’s decision to allow the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, to travel to Arunachal Pradesh.
  • The RIC meeting comes as Russia and China are seen developing close bilateral ties against the backdrop of the two developing tensions with the US for separate reasons. In contrast, there seems to be growing convergence between New Delhi and Washington after decades of being seen on opposite sides. On the other hand, ties between India and Russia, once seen as partners, seem stressed given the growing warmth in India’s relations with the US.
  • The RIC foreign ministers’ meet also comes as India, Japan, US and Australia seem to have restarted a dialogue—abandoned about a decade ago due to Chinese displeasure—aimed at meeting the challenges posed by a rising China and its increasing presence and influence in the Indo-Pacific region, i.e. a large geographic swathe stretching between the US west coast to Australia to India and Africa. China has been warily eyeing the resumption of the “quadrilateral exchanges” while stating its hope that the group and its actions were not directed against Beijing.
  • According to officials in New Delhi, Swaraj and her counterparts are likely to have discussed ways to broaden consultations among the three on the Asia-Pacific region.
  • India is also expected to discuss, mainly with Russia, the fast tracking of the 7,200km-long International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) linking India, Iran, Afghanistan and Central Asia with Europe.
  • Among other issues seen as priority for India that Swaraj would likely to have brought up China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

Sources- Livemint.

 

GS Paper III- Technology.

ISRO Developing A Compact Launcher For Small Satellites.

Background

  • A low-cost small satellite launcher could be the next item on the menu of the Indian Space Research Organisation.
  • Preliminary work to design and develop an ambitious small launch vehicle began about three months ago, said K. Sivan, Director of ISRO’s rocket development node, Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre. Its design will enable a handful of engineers to assemble it within a week. And the launcher should be able to put satellites of up to 500-600 kg in orbits close to the Earth.
  • VSSC has designed the vehicle using the rocket technology that it already has and is awaiting ISRO’s approval.

 

Highlights Of The Development-

  • The development cost would be kept low at a few crore as the new launcher’s requirement of advanced electronics is considerably lower.
  • It could also tremendously cut the launch fee that customers would have to pay. Which is what all space agencies aim at: low-cost access to space, as they call it.
  • Since 1999, ISRO’s PSLV rockets have launched 209 small satellites from 28 countries for a fee; they have been for experimental, university or remote-sensing uses. In February this year, a PSLV carried a record 104 satellites to space. The next one planned in January 2018 will carry some 30 small customer satellites to space — their weights ranging from 1 kg to 100 kg.
  • Today, it takes 300-plus engineers and about 40 days to assemble a PSLV. A small launcher that can be got up perhaps in three days by a small team would make a big difference in the market as well as to the launch provider. For one, satellite operators need not wait one or two years to launch their spacecraft. In shared space rides, satellites going on the same rocket must have compatible sizes and shapes.
  • Secondly, a ride on small launchers could even be a ninth or tenth of the present cost.
  • Globally, the small satellites market is booming as they are used for various applications. Some of ISRO’s satellites are also going to reduce in mass. As such, worldwide, operators and private players are developing small launchers to capture the market at a much lower cost.

Sources- The Hindu.