Current Affairs | National | International | SSC | UPSC - 1st February 2024


1. WHO honors five countries for the first time for eliminating industrially produced trans fat 

  • WHO has awarded five countries its first certification validating progress in eliminating industrially produced trans fatty-acids. 
  • Denmark, Lithuania, Poland, Saudi Arabia and Thailand have demonstrated that they have a best practice policy for industrially produced trans-fatty acids (ITFA) elimination, supported by adequate monitoring and enforcement systems. 
  • WHO also released the results of the first five years of its REPLACE initiative to eliminate iTFA. The ambitious target set by WHO in 2018 – to completely eliminate iTFA from the global food supply by the end of 2023 – was not met. 
  • But significant progress has been made toward this goal in every region of the world. In 2023 alone, new best-practice policies went into effect in 7 countries (Egypt, Mexico, Moldova, Nigeria, North Macedonia, the Philippines, and Ukraine). 
  • A total of 53 countries now have best practice policies to combat ITFA in food, significantly improving the food environment for 3.7 billion people or 46% of the world's population, compared to 6% 5 years ago. These policies are expected to save approximately 183,000 lives per year. 
  • ITFA elimination policies have two best practice policy options: 1) a mandatory national limit of 2 grams per 100 grams of total fat in all foods, 2) mandatory national restrictions on the production or use of partially hydrogenated oil (a major source of trans fat) as an ingredient in all foods. 

Trans-Fatty Acids (TFA) 

  • There are semi-solid to solid fats which are found in two forms: industrially produced and naturally occurring. TFA consumption is associated with an increased risk of heart attack and death from cardiovascular disease. 
  • There are no known health benefits of TFA, and foods high in ITFA (such as fried foods, cakes and ready meals) are often high in sugar, fat and salt. 
  • Based on what has been achieved in the 5 years since the global call, WHO proposes a revised new target for the virtual elimination of ITFA globally by 2025. 


  • The World Health Organization has partnered with Resolve to Save Lives, a non-profit organization, for REPLACE action. Launched in 2018, WHO's REPLACE Action Package provides a strategic approach to eliminating industrially produced trans fats from the national food supply. Since 2017, Bloomberg Philanthropies has supported Resolve to Save Lives' global efforts to save lives from heart health disease. 

2. Elon Musk's company Neuralink has installed a chip in the human brain for the first time. 

  • Elon Musk's company Neuralink has claimed to implant a brain chip in humans. The company said that the brain-chip implant was performed on the first human patient, which was successful and the patient is recovering rapidly. 
  • These neurons appear to hold promise for spike detection. Neuralink's first product will be called Telepathy. The company has said that its aim is to make the lives of people suffering from neurological disorders easier. 
  • Musk started the neurotechnology company Neuralink Startup in 2016, which is working on creating a direct communication channel between the brain and computers. 
  • Neuralink's technology will work primarily through an implant called "Link" – a device the size of five coins that is placed inside the human brain through surgery. 
  • In a way, it will work like the human brain. It can be used for people facing brain and nervous system disorders. In simple words, we can say that just as many other organs of the body are transplanted when they stop functioning, this is to some extent the transplant of the brain. 
  • Neuralink talks about using its microchips to treat conditions such as paralysis and blindness and to help some people with disabilities use computers and mobile technology. 
  • Neuralink received approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last year for in-human clinical trials to test human brain transplantation. 
  • Before humans, these chips were tested in monkeys. These chips are designed to interpret signals generated in the brain and relay the information to devices via Bluetooth. 

3. Anil Lahoti becomes Chairman of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India 

  • Former Railway Board chief Anil Kumar Lahoti takes charge as Chairman of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India - TRAI and his top priority will be ensuring quality of services, curbing call drops and level playing field to facilitate overall growth of the telecom sector. 
  • The top post in TRAI had become vacant after the tenure of former chairman PD Vaghela ended about four months ago. 
  • Promising to give top priority to curbing call drops and ensuring quality of services, the new TRAI chief said he will work towards facilitating all-round growth of the telecom sector by providing a level playing field. 
  • Lahoti is from the 1984 batch of the Indian Railway Engineers Service. After a career of nearly 37 years in the Indian Railways, he retired as Chairman and CEO of the Railway Board on August 31, 2023. 
  • During his career spanning over three decades in the Railways, he served in various positions in the Central, Northern, North Central, Western and West Central Railways and the Railway Board. 

Four key members of the 16th Finance Commission 

  • The 16th Finance Commission was constituted on December 31, 2023, under the chairmanship of Shri Arvind Panagariya, former Vice Chairman of NITI Aayog. On January 30, 2024, the Central Government has appointed 4 key members of the 16th Finance Commission (SFC), these include 
  • 1. Ajay Narayan Jha, Former Member, 15th Finance Commission and Expenditure, Full Time Member 
  • 2. Smt. Annie George Mathew, Former Special Secretary, Expenditure Fulltime Member 
  • 3. Dr. Niranjan Rajadhyaksha, Executive Director, Earth Global Full Time Member 
  • 4. Dr. Soumya Kanti Ghosh, Group Chief Economic Advisor, State Bank of India Part-Time Member 

4. The number of Ramsar sites reaches 80 with the addition of five more wetlands by the Government of India. 

  • Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change Bhupendra Yadav has increased the number of Ramsar sites (wetlands of international importance) to 80 from the existing 75 by designating five more wetlands. 
  • This reflects the Amrit Dharohar initiative envisioned by PM Modi. The Union Minister congratulated the states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka whose wetlands have made it to the list of Ramsar sites. 
  • Dr. Musonda Mumba, Secretary General of the Wetlands Convention, handed over the certificates to the Ramsar sites. 
  • Three of these sites, Ankasamudra Bird Conservation Reserve, Aghanashini Estuary and Magadi Kere Conservation Reserve, are located in Karnataka, while two, Karaivetti Bird Sanctuary and Longwood Shola Reserve Forest, are in Tamil Nadu. 
  • With the inclusion of these five wetlands in the list of Wetlands of International Importance, the total area covered under Ramsar sites is now 1.33 million hectares, which is an increase of 5,523.87 hectares from the existing area (out of 1.327 million hectares). 
  • Tamil Nadu is the top state with the highest number of Ramsar sites, with 16 sites, followed by Uttar Pradesh with 10 sites. 
  • India is one of the contracting parties to the Ramsar Convention, signed in Ramsar, Iran in 1971. India ratified this convention on 1 February 1982. World Wetlands Day (WWD) is celebrated across the world to commemorate the adoption of this international convention on wetlands on 2 February 1971. 
  • Due to a significant policy push from the Government of India, the number of Ramsar sites has increased from 26 to 80 in the last ten years, of which 38 have been added in the last three years alone. 

5. Champai Soren will be the new CM of Jharkhand

  • CM Hemant Soren has been arrested by the ED team after 7 hours long interrogation. Before the arrest of Hemant Soren, two names were considered for the post of new CM. The first name is of Hemant's wife Kalpana and the second is of cabinet minister Champai Soren.
  • According to sources, Champai Soren has been elected the leader of the legislative party. The ruling party MLAs have submitted their letter of support in favor of Champai Soren to Governor CP Radhakrishnan, which means that now Champai Soren can become the new CM of Jharkhand. 
  • Champai is a senior minister in the cabinet of Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren. Champai was involved in the Jharkhand movement along with Hemant Soren's father Shibu Soren. Soon he became famous by the name of 'Jharkhand Tiger'. 
  • After this, Champai Soren started his political career by becoming an independent MLA in the by-election from his Seraikela seat. After this he joined Jharkhand Mukti Morcha. 
  • JMM leader Champai Soren was made a cabinet minister in the 2- year, 129-day government of BJP leader Arjun Munda. At the same time, when Hemant Soren became the Chief Minister again in 2019, Champai Soren has been made the Minister of Transport, Scheduled Tribes, Scheduled Castes and Backward Classes Welfare. Champai is also the vice president of JMM. 
  • After the arrest of Hemant Soren, security has been increased in different areas of Ranchi including CM residence, Raj Bhavan, BJP office. According to sources, ED officer is not satisfied with Hemant Soren's answers in the interrogation so far. 

6. Jay Shah reappointed as chairman of ACC 

  • Indian Cricket Board (BCCI) secretary Jay Shah was appointed as the president of the Asian Cricket Council for a third consecutive term. 
  • His reappointment as the continental body’s chief was unanimously agreed upon during the ACC Annual General Meeting in Bali on Wednesday, January 31. 
  • Jay Shah was appointed as the president of the Asian Cricket Council for the first time in 2021 when he replaced Nazmul Hassan in January that year. 
  • His tenure as the ACC president was extended until 2024 January. At 32 in 2021, Jay Shah had become the youngest administrator to take over the ACC chief role. 
  • The ACC also announced the Women’s T20 Asia Cup which will be held in September 2024. The Emerging Asia Cup for men and women was brought back last year. The ACC had also announced U19 Asia Cup tournaments in 2023 and 2024. 

Recent Appointment 

  • Chief Secretary of Puducherry – Sharat Chauhan (replace Rajeev Verma) 
  • Adviser to the Administrator in Chandigarh – Rajeev Verma 
  • Chairman of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) – Anil Kumar Lahoti (replace PD Vaghela) 
  • Indian Army’s 1st Woman Subedar – Preeti Rajak 
  • CMD for Colliers Project Leaders Middle East – Sankey Prasad 

7. Best Republic Day tableaux: Odisha wins 1st prize 

  • Raksha Rajya Mantri Shri Ajay Bhatt gave away the best marching contingents and tableaux awards for the Republic Day Parade. 
  • He announced separate results – one by a panel of judges and other through an online public vote conducted by MyGov and congratulated all the winners. 
  • \Three panels of judges were appointed for assessing the performance of Marching Contingents from three Services, Marching Contingents from Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF)/other auxiliary forces and tableaux from various States/Union Territories and Ministries/Departments. 
  • The Results are: ○ Best Marching Contingent among the three services – Sikh Regiment Contingent ○ Best Marching Contingent among CAPF/other auxiliary forces – Delhi Police Women Marching Contingent ○ Best three Tableaux (States/UTs) First – Odisha (Woman Empowerment in Viksit Bharat) Second – Gujrat (Dhordo : A Global Icon Of Gujarat’s Border Tourism) Third – Tamil Nadu (Kudavolai System in ancient Tamil Nadu – Mother of Democracy) 
  • Best Tableau (Ministries/Departments) – Ministry of Culture – (Bharat : Mother of Democracy) 
  • Special Prize – Central Public Works Department (Central Vista -Viksit Bharat Ka Pratibimb) 
  • Special memento to ‘Vande Bharatam’ – Dance Group 
  • In addition to the panel of judges, a web page was created on MyGov platform for online registration of citizens for watching the Republic Day Parade and Beating the Retreat Ceremony 2024 online. An online poll was conducted by MyGov for the citizens to vote for their favourite Tableaux from States/UTs and Ministries/Departments as also amongst the Marching contingents to select the best amongst popular choice category. 

The Results are: 

  • Best Marching Contingent among the three services – Rajputana Rifles Regimental Marching Contingent 
  • Best Marching Contingent among CAPF/other auxiliary forces – CRPF Woman Marching Contingent 
  • Best three Tableaux (States/UTs): First – Gujrat (Dhordo : A Global Icon Of Gujarat’s Border Tourism) Second – Uttar Pradesh (Viksit Bharat Samradh Virasat) Third – Andhra Pradesh (Transforming School Education in Andhra Pradesh – Making Students Globally Competitive)
  • Best Tableau (Central Ministries/Departments) – Vibrant Villages (Ministry of Home Affairs) 

8. ‘Ek Samandar, Mere Andar’ book written by Sanjeev Joshi 

  • BrahMos Aerospace Deputy CEO Sanjeev Joshi’s ‘Ek Samandar, Mere Andar’ is a 75 poetic creation. 
  • Sanjeev Joshi explores a diverse range of topics, including emotions, experiences, and reflections on life in and beyond the realm of defense. 
  • The book launch gathered eminent figures including NSA Ajit Doval, General Anil Chauhan, and Minister of State for Defence Ajay Bhatt. 

Recent Books 

  • Pranab My father – Sharmistha Mukherjee 
  • The Cooking Books – Ramchandra Guha 
  • Conversations with Aurangzeb – Charu Nivedita (translated by Nandini Krishnan) 
  • Assam’s Braveheart Lachit Barphukan – Arup Kumar Dutta (launched by Amit Shah) 
  • Fertilising the Future – Dr. Mansukh Mandaviya (launched by VP Jagdeep Dhankhar) 
  • The Babri Masjid Ram Mandir Dilemma: An Acid Test for India’s Constitution – Madhav Godbole 

9. Khelo India Winter Games 2024 mascot, snow leopard ‘Sheen-e She’ (Shan) reveals 

  • The mascot and logo of Khelo India Winter Games were launched. The first part of the Winter Games, a mouth-watering event for winter sports athletes, will be held in Union Territory of Ladakh for the first time from February 2-6. The second portion is scheduled in Gulmarg, Jammu & Kashmir from February 21-25. 
  • In keeping with the tradition and biodiversity of the region, the mascot of the Khelo India Winter Games 2024 is a snow leopard. It has been named ‘Sheen-e She’ or Shan in Ladakh region. 


  • The Khelo India Winter Games 2024 is the fourth edition of the annual event in the Khelo India calendar. 
  • The Union Territory of Ladakh is making its debut as hosts this year alongside the UT of Jammu & Kashmir, which has organised the Games from 2020. 
  • Leh will be the venue for the first part of the Games from February 2-6. The Games are scheduled to move to Gulmarg between February 21-25. While Ladakh will be conducting games — ice Hockey and speed skating — Jammu and Kashmir will conduct ski mountaineering, Alpine skiing, snowboarding, Nordic ski and gandola. 

10. 1 February – Indian Coast Guard Day 

  • Indian Coast Guard Day is observed every year on February 1. 
  • The day aims to honour the contribution of the Coast Guard. The Indian Coast Guard Day is dedicated to the officers and personnel who look after maritime security. 
  • This year, the Indian Coast Guard Day will be commemorating its 48th Raising Day. 
  • The Indian Coast Guard was established on February 1, 1977, to prevent the sea-borne smuggling of goods that hampered the economy. 
  • The responsibilities of the Coast Guard include offshore security, marine safety, and coastal security as well as safeguarding India’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). 
  • On August 18, 1978, the Parliament announced that the Indian Coast Guard (ICG) Day would be celebrated on February 1. 

11.BRICS Welcomes New Members: Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE, Iran, And Ethiopia 

  • In a significant development on January 1, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Iran, and Ethiopia officially joined the BRICS group, expanding its membership to ten nations. 
  • The expansion, initially set to occur during the 15th BRICS summit in August 2023 in Johannesburg, South Africa, aims to enhance the group’s influence on the global stage. Argentina, initially invited, opted out in December. 
  • The newly enlarged BRICS now boasts a combined population of 3.5 billion and an economy exceeding $28.5tn, constituting around 28% of the global economy. While this growth signals a potential geopolitical shift, analysts express uncertainty over its impact on decision-making and overall group dynamics. 

12.Assam Cabinet Approves Bill For Tourism Sector Growth 

  • Assam, under the leadership of Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, advances with key decisions: The Assam Tourism Development and Registration Bill 2024 and the Mising Autonomous Council Amendment Bill 2024. 
  • The Assam Tourism Development and Registration Bill 2024 is set for introduction in the upcoming Legislative Assembly session, aims to regulate and boost tourism. 
  • The Mising Autonomous Council Amendment Bill 2024 expands council representation, underscoring Sarma’s inclusive governance approach. Under this amendment, the number of elected members will be increased from 36 to 40, while the count of nominated members will rise from 4 to 5. 

13.Delhi’s Beating Retreat: A Spectacle Of Tradition And Music 

  • At the Vijay Chowk on January 29, the Beating Retreat ceremony, which signifies the end of Republic Day celebrations, began amid the strains of beautiful music. 
  • The traditional ‘buggy’ that President and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces Droupadi Murmu arrived at the location in added to the event’s vintage charm, which dates back to its inception in the early 1950s. 
  • Major Roberts of the Indian Army created the original ceremonial of the massed bands performing a beatdown in the early 1950s, which is when the Beating Retreat ceremony first emerged. Over the years, it has evolved into a grand spectacle that showcases the unity, discipline, and musical prowess of India’s military and paramilitary forces. 

14.INS Sandhayak: A New Chapter In India’s Naval Mapping And Surveillance 

  • On February 3, Visakhapatnam’s Naval Dockyard will witness a momentous occasion as Defence Minister Rajnath Singh presides over the commissioning ceremony of INS Sandhayak. 
  • Built by the GRSE in Kolkata, the 110-meter-long INS Sandhayak displaces about 3,800 tonnes and boasts an impressive 80 percent indigenous content. 
  • The ship is propelled by two robust diesel engines, ensuring she can reach speeds over 18 Knots. With an endurance of over 25 days, INS Sandhayak is well-equipped for extended missions. 

15.Difference Between Interim Budget Vs Full Budget 

  • As the political landscape gears up for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections in India, discussions surrounding the country’s financial planning take center stage. Central to this discourse are the distinctions between the interim budget and the full union budget, two crucial fiscal documents that guide the nation’s economic trajectory. 
  • The interim budget serves as a temporary financial plan presented by the incumbent government when its term is ending or during a transition of power. It is a stopgap arrangement designed to ensure the smooth functioning of the government until a new administration assumes office. 
  • In contrast, the full union budget represents the comprehensive financial roadmap of the ruling government for the entire fiscal year. It encompasses all aspects of fiscal policy, including revenue generation, expenditure allocation, and policy initiatives. 

16.India’s First Beachside Startup Fest In Mangalore On Feb 16 

  • The first-ever Mangalore Beachside Startup Fest is set to unfold from February 16th to 18th, marking a significant milestone in the region’s entrepreneurial landscape. 
  • With a focus on nurturing and promoting nascent ventures, this event promises to be a catalyst for the burgeoning startup ecosystem in Mangalore. 
  • Under the banner of Tapasya Beach Festival (TBF), the Mangalore Beachside Startup Fest is poised to become a hub of creativity and innovation. 
  • A highlight of the fest is the opportunity for students to showcase their innovative ideas. With approximately 20 startups expected to present their concepts, the event promises a diverse array of groundbreaking innovations across various domains. 

17. Now, police verification mandatory for visitors 

  • In the aftermath of the security breach during the Winter Session of Parliament, the Lok Sabha secretariat has issued a host of new rules for visitors, including mandatory police verification. 
  • A parliamentary bulletin issued on Monday stated that MPs must send their requests for police verification of visitors at least three working days + before the visit. Once the Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha approves a visitor's pass, they will receive a QR code on their mobile phone. This QR code will have to be shown at the Parliament reception to enter the premises, along with their Aadhaar card. The visitor's biometric impression and photograph will also be captured, before they are issued a smart card to асcess the gallery. 
  • Though photographs were captured earlier as well, biometric data has been newly introduced. While leaving the premis- es, visitors must return their smart cards; if they fail to do so, they will automatically be blacklisted and permanently debarred from entering the Parliament House precincts. 
  • All group passes have been discontinued. 

18. NCTE awaits Ministry nod to roll out National Mission for Mentoring 

  • With an aim to provide mentoring to school teachers, the National Council of Teacher Education (NCTE) has proposed to expand its pool of mentor teachers from 60 to 1,000 and is awaiting the nod of Ministry of Education to approve the National Mission for Mentoring (NMM), so that the mission can be rolled out across the country. 
  • In the pilot mode, up to e 700 mentee teachers have registered to seek training on the NMM portal. Areas of mentoring, identified by the mission, include Instructional modules on Hindi and Mathematics in s primary, middle and secondary sections, digital education, and socio-emotional learning, Inclusive Education including mo- dels of disability, learning, and assessment methods for special needs, Profes- sionalism and Ethics, Classroom Management, Building 21st century skills, Interpersonal Skills, Action Research Project, Art Integrated Pedagogy, and Teacher's Mental Health Engagement. 
  • "Of the 60 teachers who are assigned to provide mentorship in these areas, at least 30 are Padma awardees. The mission is rolled out as per the National Education Policy 2020 and it is for the first time that teachers are receiving mentorship support to augment their knowledge," NCTE member secretary Kesang Y. Sherpa told The Hindu. 
  • The NMM, as envisaged in para 15.11 of National Education Policy (NEP 2020), has been established to create a large pool of outstanding professionals willing to provide professional and personal support to school teachers across the country and ensure their continuous professional development. 
  • "This programme is not only enhancing the teaching abilities of the mentee teachers but also facilitating a culture of continuous learning, enabling teachers to stay levant in today's dynamic updated and re educational landscape,"
  • Ms. Sherpa said. In 2021-22, after the mission found a mention in the Union Budget, the Ministry of Education approved, and the NCTE utilized 1.28 crore to build. digital infrastructure to support the mission. In 2022-23, another 2 crore were spent to run the mission on pilot mode. In July last year, the NCTE also drafted a National Mission for Mentoring The Blue-book, a draft document, which it is waiting for MoE to approve. "Once approved, the mission can be rolled out across the country," an official from NCTE said. The pilot was launched in July 2022 in selected 30 Central Schools and five CBSE schools across the country. 

19. Congress launches Jai Jawan scheme to aid youth 

  • The Congress on Wednesday launched a three-phase Jai Jawan campaign to provide "justice" to 1,50,000 youth who were selected for the armed forces but were not inducted after the launch of the Agnipath scheme. 
  • Former party chief Rahul Gandhi launched the campaign and promised affected youth that he would raise this "injustice" at every forum. Around 1.5 lakh candidates selected for the Indian Army, Air Force and Navy between 2019 and 2022 were allegedly denied entry after the Agnipath scheme began. There will be three phases in the Jai Jawan campaign mass contact between February 1 and 28, then satyagraha at martyrs' memorials across the country from March 5 to 10 and the final phase will be padyatra March 17 and 20. 

20. Biden government 'continues to discuss' drone deal: embassy 

  • The Biden administration "continues to discuss" the deal for high-altitude drones that was announced during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Washington in 2023, the U.S. Embassy here said, reacting to a report that U.S. lawmakers had placed a hold on the deal, linking it to the Pannun case. A report in the online news portal The Wire said members of the U.S. Congress has held up the U.S. government's request for approval ahead of its notification of the deal, which was earlier expected to be a formality, owing to their concerns over India's investigation into the alleged assassination plot against U.S.-Canadian Khalistani separatist leader Gurpatwant Singh Pannun in May 2023. 
  • "We continue to discuss with the U.S. Congress the potential sale consistent with standard processes and policies guiding such arm sales decisions," a U.S. Embassy spokesperson said here on Wednesday when asked to comment. 
  • "As part of the standard process, the State Department routinely engages foreign affairs committees prior to formal notification to address questions from committee staff," a U.S. Embassy spokesperson added. 
  • The report appeared days after a visit to Delhi by a senior U.S. State Department officials, including Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia 
  • Donald Lu, and the delegation is understood to have raised the need for New Delhi to show progress in the "high-level" inquiry committee set up by the Ministry of External Affairs on November 18. 
  • In December 2023, a number of U.S. lawmakers spoke out at a Senate committee hearing on "Transnational repression: authoritarians targeting dissenters abroad", criticizing the Modi government over the case, placing India along with Russia, China, and Iran on the issue. Foreign Relations Committee chair Ben. 
  • Cardin reacted to what he called "disturbing allegations against an Indian government official for involvement in planning to assassinate a U.S. citizen in New York who was critical of the Indian government", and invoked plans for a new "International Free- dom Protection Act", to address the growing use of "transnational oppression by autocratic and illiberal states". 
  • Another Senator, Chris Van Hollen, had suggested invoking a provision in the Arms Export Control Act to "prohibit arms transfers to any countries that are engaged in a consistent pattern of acts of intimidation, or harassment directed. against individuals in the United States". Due to secrecy around the process, it isn't thus far known which U.S. lawmaker(s) raised the objections over the deal for 31 MQ-9B high altitude long-endurance Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV). 
  • It is among the top high-technology deals currently in the pipeline between the two countries, in addition to the licensed manufacturer of the General Electric F-414 jet engines in India by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. While the engine deal has been cleared by the U.S. Congress, the MQ-9B deal is still under process. As part of the process, the U.S. government and the Ministry of Defence will have to finalize the Letter of Offer and Acceptance, where details of equipment and terms of the procurement would be negotiated and finalized in accordance with the FMS programme, and the U.S. Congressional approval is required before the deal can be concluded. 
  • The MQ-9B will significantly boost the Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) cарabilities of the Indian Armed Forces, and also work in tandem with the U.S.-origin P-81 long-range maritime patrol aircraft, enhancing the Indian Navy's surveillance over the Indian Ocean Region. 

21. Winners and losers: Elections in Pakistan go according to the script written by the Army the script written by the Army 

  • he back-to-back jail sentences former Pa- T kistani Prime Minister Imran Khan was handed out in two different cases just a week before the February 8 parliamentary elec- tions, show how roles have been reversed in Pa- kistan's convoluted political space dominated by the shadow hands of the establishment. In 2018, when Mr. Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) was elected to power, the Opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan People's Party had accused the military of electo- ral rigging in favour of the former cricket star, who was the preferred choice of the generals. A year earlier, Nawaz Sharif, the PML-N leader, had to resign as Prime Minister over the Panama Pap- ers allegations and later go into exile after his con- viction and disqualification. Today, Mr. Khan has been disqualified and is serving lengthy sentenc- es, while Mr. Sharif is back, leading the PML-N. Given the way how the military and other state institutions went after Mr. Khan and his party, there was little surprise in the court proceedings and the verdicts. On Tuesday, he was sentenced to 10 years by a special court in what is commonly called the 'Cipher case', on charges that he leaked state secrets, while on Wednesday, another court sentenced him and his wife to 14 years in the Toshakhana case, for keeping some of the gifts they had received while he was in power. 
  • Mr. Khan was forced out of power in April 2022 after falling out with the military establishment. He accused the military and the United States of conspiring to oust him and, at a rally, waved a paper, purportedly a diplomatic cable sent by the then Pakistani Ambassador to the U.S. in 2022, as evidence, which came back to hit him as a violation of the Official Secrets Act. His lawyers complain that they were replaced by state attorneys in the middle of the case and that Mr. Khan was not allowed to give a proper defense in the 'Cipher' trial, which took place inside a jail. His arrest in May led to large-scale protests. But since then, the authorities have unleashed a systematic campaign to weaken the PTI - many of its leaders are in jail, while several others have left under pressure or are on the run. Recently, a court barred the party from using its iconic cricket bat symbol in ballots. Many PTI workers are contesting as independents. While Mr. Khan is in jail and his party is in tatters under state repression, Mr. Sharif seems to be enjoying the support of the invisible power center in the electoral arena, which makes the elections look like a fixed match. Mr. Sharif might make a political come-back, but the real winner in the unfolding developments in Pakistan, which is grappling with enormous economic challenges, is the military and the real loser, the country's democracy. 

22. Justice P.S. Dinesh Kumar appointed Chief Justice of Karnataka High Court 

  • Justice P.S. Dinesh Kumar was appointed Chief Justice of the Karnataka High Court, the Law Ministry said in a notification on Wednesday. 
  • Justice Kumar, however, will have a tenure of less than a month as he retires on February 24. He is at present the Acting Chief Justice of the High Court after Justice P.B. Varale was elevated as a judge of the Justice P.S. Dinesh Kumar 
  • Supreme Court a few days ago. The Supreme Court Collegium had recommended his name to the government on January 19. 
  • The Collegium had stated, "He has served the High Court of Karnataka with distinction since his appointment. In view of the fact that Justice P.S. Dinesh Kumar...has a short tenure, in terms of the Memorandum of Procedure, the Collegium resolves to recommend his appointment as the Chief Justice of the High Court of Karnataka." 
  • The Ministry also notified the elevation of a judicial officer, Arun Kumar Rai, as a judge of the Jharkhand High Court. 
  • The Law Ministry also notified that seven additional judges in three High Courts Calcutta, Punjab and Haryana and Jharkhand were confirmed as permanent judges. 
  • An additional judge is usually confirmed as a permanent judge after a period of two years. However, one additional judge of the Calcutta High Court has been given more years' extension in the same rank. 

23. Rising tensions in the Korean peninsula

  • There has been a notable uptick in provocative moves by North Korea and the subsequent rebuttals by South Korea and its allies. North Korea has rescinded its national objective of Korean reunification and has formally categorized South Korea as an adversarial state. The country has also ramped up the frequency and diversity of its missile tests, expanding its strategic capabilities. These actions were responded to by South Korea through joint military drills with the U.S. and Japan. The ongoing developments in the Korean peninsula have raised serious concerns about the deterioration of the international security environment and a deepening of major power rivalry. 
  • What is the historical context? The Korean peninsula was divided into two by the end of World War II, after imperial Japan who occupied the territory was defeated. The North went under the ambit of the Soviet Union and the South under the U.S., resulting in the creation of two ideologically different regimes which mirrored either sides of the Cold War divide. The Korean war (1950-53) broke out as a result of the North's attempt to take over the South, the first "hot war" of the Cold War. Decades after the cessation of active conflict and the end of the Cold War, the two countries are still divided over ideology and political leanings, the North being an authoritarian dynastic regime allied with China and Russia, and the South being a liberal democracy allied with the U.S. However, one of the biggest issues in the contemporary geopolitics of the Korean peninsula has been the question of North Korea's denuclearization. Various efforts were made by the international community to stop and reverse North Korea's nuclear weapons programme. North Korea's nuclear ambitions were held up for a brief period during 1994-2002, when the U.S. signed an "Agreed Framework" with the country for halting its nuclear programme in return for nuclear energy. The deal unraveled and North Korea went ahead with its nuclear test in 2006 after exiting from the nuclear non-proliferation treaty in 2003. However, in 2003 itself, another initiative started for de-nuclearising the Korean Peninsula, called the six party talks involving the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the U.S. In 2005, the talks resulted in North Korea pledging to forego its nuclear ambitions, only to conduct its nuclear test the very next year. By 2009, talks had broken down, and North Korea emerged out of it with a vow to never return. Ever since Kim Jong Un took over power as the leader of North Korea, missile tests have been conducted on a yearly basis, with a notable and consistent increase in such tests. 
  • There was an effort by the Donald Trump administration to discuss peace with North Korea and veer it towards denuclearisation. During 2018-19, the two leaders met on three occasions to pursue peace talks. However, the talks failed to take off, and Kim returned to developing and testing delivery systems. Over the past couple of decades, North Korea has demonstrated its nuclear weapons capability by testing the same six times. It has developed, tested and deployed delivery vehicles, space launchers and satellites, and has conducted provocative actions ranging from military drills to shelling South Korean islands and even threatening nuclear attacks. North Korea 
  • Clean break: The Arch of Reunification, which supposedly has the ability to even target the U.S. mainland with its nuclear arsenal, and it has also become a major source of cyber-attacks across the world. South Korea, in turn has enhanced its military alliance with the U.S. and has become an integral part of the latter's wider alliance system, hosting not just U.S. troops, but also advanced missile defense systems. 
  • What has led to recent aggravation? 
  • Mr. Kim, in his address to the Supreme People's Assembly on January 15, proclaimed that he is scrapping the decades old North Korean goal of reunifying the South, and has rebranded the South as an enemy state. He ordered the rewriting of the North Korean constitution to reflect this new shift in the regime's thinking. The offices related to reunification were closed, and a landmark monument in Pyongyang portraying the reunification ideal was brought down. In addition to these moves, North Korea has also flexed its military muscle by testing multiple types of missile systems during the first month of 2024 itself. One such important test was that of a solid fuelled missile carrying a hypersonic warhead. This is significant because major military powers across the world are in a race for developing, testing and deploying hypersonic weapons. These weapons can theoretically provide countries the capability to evade and even target the missile defense systems of their adversaries. The U.SRussia, China, India and Iran are working on such hypersonic weapons, and North Korea could now join the club. The U.S., South Korea and Japan have conducted joint naval drills in response to the provocations by North Korea, featuring nine warships. The exercises were meant to enhance their joint effectiveness against North Korea's missile and underwater threats, as well as its illegal maritime shipment of arms. North Korea has alleged that these exercises are rehearsals of an offensive intent and not defensive drills. The nation subsequently tested its "Haeil-5-23" nuclear capable underwater drone in retaliation to these joint naval drills. Pyongyang also tested its strategic cruise missile "Pulhwasal-3-31", which could allegedly threaten critical American bases in Japan. 
  • The current government in South Korea is a newly elected one led by the conservative President Yoon Suk Yeol. He has a hawkish view of North Korea unlike his predecessor Moon Jae-in. The Yoon government's strategy is to closely coordinate efforts with the U.S. and Japan to deter and counter North Korea's aggressive moves. In fact, the three countries in August 2023 met together at Camp David in Washington D.C., in a historic meeting to initiate a new era of trilateral cooperation. This is a significant step as South Korea and Japan, even though close allies of the U.S., and strong economic partners, have bitter political relations among them due to the historical legacy of imperial Japan's occupation of the Korean peninsula. In light of these developments, there is a high probability for tit-for-tat measures leading to unintended consequences. Hence, there is a growing concern among the international community that the tensions between North and South Korea may be heading towards conflict. 
  • What does the situation portend for international security? 
  • The tensions in the Korean Peninsula are rising at a time when the world is witnessing the activation of historically rooted conflicts such as Russia-Ukraine and Israel-Palestine, while others like China-Taiwan and India-China are smoldering. This is indeed a significant concern as the key external stakeholders of the Korean peninsula are the very same nuclear powers who are locked in a global strategic competition the U.S., China and Russia. Since there are alliances and nuclear weapons involved, a major conflict may be prevented from breaking out. However, as in the case of North Korea's torpedoing a South Korean warship or its shelling of a South Korean island in 2010, there are chances of violent incidents or skirmishes. Nevertheless, North Korea's deepening ties with China and Russia, and South Korea's increasingly firm entrenchment in the U.S. alliance system imply significant linkages with ongoing conflicts. 
  • orth Korea has drifted further into the camp of the Sino-Russian axis, as a result of the choices made by Mr. Kim. Russia has boosted its engagement with North Korea, especially in the wake of the Russia-Ukraine war. Mr. Kim visited Russia in September 2023 and met with Russian President Vladimir Putin. During the visit, Mr. Kim was invited to the Vostochny spaceport of Russia, where he was promised assistance in enhancing North Korea's space capabilities in return for arms supplies. This was preceded by Russia's Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu's visit to Pyongyang in July 2023, and was followed by the visit of Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov's visit in October 2023. It is abundantly clear that North Korea is helping Russia with arms, including short range ballistic missiles for the latter's conflict with Ukraine. 
  • China has always been consistently supportive of North Korea, being the single largest trading partner of the country. Even with rising tensions in the Korean peninsula, on January 26, China's Vice Foreign Minister Sun Weidong visited Pyongyang and expressed China's unswerving support to North Korea. At a time when the U.S. is preoccupied with conflicts in Europe and West Asia, Mr. Kim could have found the moment opportune to conduct provocative actions for bargaining with North Korea's adversaries as well as partners. Russia and China are on the same side when it comes to the Russia-Ukraine as well as the Israel-Hamas conflict. They have a lot to gain from North Korea creating a distraction for the U.S. by opening a "third front". 
  • Dr. Anand V. is assistant Professor and Coordinator of the China Study Centre at the Department of Geopolitics and International Relations, Manipal Academy of Higher Education. 

24. 1-7 February – World Interfaith Harmony Week 

  • World Interfaith Harmony Week is celebrated annually in the first week of February. 
  • The week transforms into a global platform for fostering peace and understanding. 
  • Established in 2010 by the United Nations General Assembly, it serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of dialogue, respect, and collaboration across different faiths. 
  • The story of World Interfaith Harmony Week begins with King Abdullah II of Jordan, who presented the concept to the UN in 2010. 
  • Recognizing the need for mutual understanding and interreligious dialogue, the UNGA unanimously adopted the resolution, designating February 1-7 as a dedicated time to celebrate harmony among people of all faiths.

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