Ukraine recently asked the US to designate Russia as a “state sponsor of terrorism.”
The designation would trigger the most severe sanctions available to the US against Russia.
About: The US Secretary of State (the minister primarily in charge of foreign relations) has the authority to designate countries as “State Sponsors of Terrorism” if they “have repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism.”
The US can impose four types of sanctions on countries on this list:
Restriction on US foreign aid a ban on military exports and sales
Certain restrictions apply to the export of dual-use items.
Various financial and other constraints
Sanctions can also be imposed on countries and individuals who engage in specific trade with designated countries.
Countries on the List: Currently, four countries are on the list of state sponsors of terrorism.
Syria (Syria) (Designated on 29th December 1979)
Iran (designated on January 19, 1984), and North Korea (Designated on 20th November 2017).
On January 12, 2021, Cuba was re-designated as a state sponsor of terrorism.
What are the Statutes that allow for Designation?
There are currently three statutes that allow the Secretary of State to designate a foreign government for providing repeated support for international terrorism:
The Arms Export Control Act (AECA): It prohibits the transfer of most aid. It forbids exports, credits, guarantees, and other forms of financial assistance, as well as export licencing overseen by the State Department, and the Export Controls Act of 2018.
Only the AECA includes objectionable activities in its definition, and none of the three Acts define the overarching term “international terrorism.”
Initially, India abstained on a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution sponsored by the United States that strongly condemns Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.
India once again abstained from voting at the UN Security Council on a Russia-drafted resolution on the humanitarian situation in Ukraine, which called for a negotiated ceasefire to allow for safe, rapid, voluntary, and unhindered evacuation of civilians.
Unlike previous abstentions regarding Ukraine, this was India’s first time siding with the West in this conflict (even if by an abstention).
India abstained from voting at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. The Council proposed establishing an international commission of inquiry into Russia’s actions in Ukraine.
India, China, and 33 other countries recently voted against a United Nations General Assembly resolution condemning Russia for its military actions in Ukraine.
India also voted against an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) resolution concerning the safety of four nuclear power plants and a number of nuclear waste sites, including Chernobyl, after the Russians took control of them.
Russia’s attack on Ukraine, while a flagrant violation of international law, does not qualify as terrorism for the purposes of this designation, but Russia has provided plenty of other justifications over the last decade.
To designate a country as a state sponsor of terrorism, the secretary of state must find that the government of the country has repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism, such as assassinations or financing terrorist groups.
India maintains cordial relations with both countries. If tensions between the US and Russia rise, it is critical for India to rationally balance the relationships.
India’s relations with Russia are not as diverse as those with the United States, Europe, or even Japan. They are primarily concerned with energy and defense.
Although bilateral trade between India and Russia is only worth USD 11 billion, Indian purchases of Russian military equipment are the most significant component.
The Data Security Council of India (DSCI), led by Lt General Rajesh Pant, conceptualised the National Cyber Security Strategy in 2020. The report focused on 21 areas to ensure India’s cyberspace is safe, secure, trusted, resilient, and vibrant.
However, despite a surge in cyberattacks on India’s networks, the Centre has yet to put the National Cyber Security Strategy into action.
Increasing Number of Cyber Attacks: According to Palo Alto Networks’ 2021 report, Maharashtra was the most targeted state in India, accounting for 42 percent of all ransomware attacks.
According to the report, India is one of the more economically profitable regions for hacker groups, so these hackers demand that Indian firms pay a ransom, usually in the form of cryptocurrencies, in order to regain access to the data.
In 2021, one in every four Indian organisations will be victims of a ransomware attack, exceeding the global average of 21%.
The United States is just one of many countries that have invested heavily in developing not only defences against attack, but also the ability to launch damaging cyber warfare offensives.
The United States, China, Russia, Israel, and the United Kingdom are thought to have the most advanced cyber warfare capabilities.
Increased use of digital media Post-Covid: Critical infrastructure is rapidly being digitised, including financial services, banks, power, manufacturing, nuclear power plants, and so on.
This is especially important given the increasing interconnectedness of sectors and the proliferation of internet entry points, which could increase with the adoption of 5G.
According to data reported to and tracked by the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team, there were 6.97 lakh cyber security incidents reported in the first eight months of 2020, nearly equal to the previous four years combined (CERT-In).
A Chinese group called Red Echo has increased its use of resources such as malware to target “a large swath” of India’s power sector.
Red Echo employed ShadowPad malware, which involves the use of a backdoor to gain access to servers.
Stone Panda, a Chinese hacker group, had “discovered gaps and vulnerabilities in the IT infrastructure and supply chain software of Bharat Biotech and the Serum Institute of India.”
A local, state, or federal government keeps a massive amount of confidential data about the country (geographic, military-strategic assets, and so on) and its citizens.
Photos, videos, and other personal information shared by an individual on social networking sites may be misused by others, resulting in serious and even life-threatening incidents.
Businesses have a large amount of data and information stored on their systems.
A cyber attack may result in the loss of competitive information (such as patents or original work) as well as the loss of employees’/customers’ private data, resulting in a complete loss of public trust in the organization’s integrity.
Large-Scale Digitization of Public Services: In all digitisation initiatives, security should be prioritised from the start.
Developing institutional capability for core device assessment, evaluation, certification, and rating
Vulnerabilities and incidents must be reported on time.
Supply Chain Security refers to the monitoring and mapping of the supply chain for Integrated Circuits (ICT) and electronics products.
At the strategic, tactical, and technical levels, the country’s semiconductor design capabilities are being leveraged globally.
Integrating Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition (SCADA) Security for Critical Information Infrastructure Protection
Keeping a vulnerability repository up to date.
Preparing and tracking the sector’s aggregate level security baseline.
Developing cyber-insurance products and developing audit parameters for threat preparedness.
Mapping and modelling of deployed devices and platforms, supply chain, transacting entities, payment flows, interfaces, and data exchange are all part of digital payments.
State-Level Cybersecurity: Creating state-level cybersecurity policies, allocating dedicated funds, scrutinising digitization plans, and developing security architecture, operations, and governance guidelines.
Policy intervention in cybersecurity that provides incentives for increased cybersecurity preparedness.
Creating security standards, frameworks, and architectures for the Internet of Things (IoT) and industrialisation.
Provisions for the Budget: A minimum of 0.25 percent of the annual budget, which can be increased to 1 percent, has been recommended for cyber security.
In terms of individual ministries and agencies, 15-20% of IT/technology expenditure should be set aside for cybersecurity.
It also proposes establishing a cybersecurity Fund of Funds and providing central funding to states to build capabilities in the same field.
Research, Innovation, Skill-Building, And Technology Development: The report recommends investing in ICT modernization and digitisation, developing a short and long-term cyber security agenda through outcome-based programmes, and investing in deep-tech cyber security innovation.
The DSCI also suggests establishing a “cyber security services” with cadres drawn from the Indian Engineering Services.
To adequately prepare for a crisis, DSCI recommends conducting cybersecurity drills that include real-life scenarios and their consequences.
Cyber Insurance: Because cyber insurance is a new field, it requires actuarial science to address cybersecurity risks in business and technology scenarios, as well as calculate threat exposures.
Cyber diplomacy is extremely important in shaping India’s global relations. As a result, key regional blocs such as the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) must ensure cyber security preparedness through programmes, exchanges, and industrial support.
To improve diplomacy, the government should promote India’s brand as a responsible player in cyber security, as well as create ‘Cyber envoys’ for key countries/regions.
Cybercrime Investigation: With the rise of cybercrime around the world, the report suggests relieving the judicial system by enacting laws to combat spamming and fake news.
It also suggests developing a five-year roadmap that takes into account potential technological transformations, establishing exclusive courts to deal with cybercrime, and clearing the backlog of cybercrime.
Furthermore, DSCI recommends advanced forensic training for agencies to keep up with AI/ML, Blockchain, IoT, Cloud, and Automation.
The UDAN (UdeDeshkaAamNagrik) Scheme was recently chosen for the Prime Minister’s Award for Excellence in Public Administration 2020 in the category “Innovation (General) – Central.”
The award will be presented to the Ministry of Civil Aviation on April 21st, which is Civil Service Day. Every year, the government of India observes Civil Services Day as an opportunity for civil servants to rededicate themselves to the cause of serving citizens and renew their commitments to public service and work excellence.
The Ministry of Civil Aviation plans and commits to building 100 new airports in India by 2024, as well as 1,000 new routes under the UDAN Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS) scheme by 2026.
The Government of India established it in 2006 to acknowledge, recognise, and reward the extraordinary and innovative work done by districts and organisations of the Central and State Governments.
The award consists of a trophy, scroll, and a Rs. 10 lakh incentive to the winning district or organisation to be used for project/programme implementation or bridging resource gaps in any area of public welfare.
In 2014, the Scheme was restructured to recognise District Collectors’ performance in Priority Programs, Innovations, and Aspirational Districts.
The Scheme was restructured again in 2020 to recognise District Collectors’ contributions to the District’s economic development.
In 2021, the Scheme was revamped with a new approach to encourage Constructive Competition, Innovation, Replication, and Institutionalization of Best Practices.
The emphasis in this approach would be on good governance, qualitative achievement, and last-mile connectivity, rather than just meeting quantitative targets.
In 2016, it was launched as an RCS under the Ministry of Civil Aviation.
to expand the regional aviation market
To make affordable, economically viable, and profitable air travel available to the general public on regional routes, even in small towns.
The scheme envisions connecting the country’s unserved and underserved airports through the revival of existing airstrips and airports. The scheme will be in effect for ten years.
Under-served airports have no more than one flight per day, while unserved airports have no operations.
Financial incentives are provided to selected airlines by the Centre, state governments, and airport operators in order to encourage operations from unserved and underserved airports and keep airfares affordable.
Connecting the Northeast: To date, 387 routes and 60 airports have been operationalized, with 100 routes awarded solely in the North East.
Under the KRISHI UDAN Scheme, 16 airports have been identified to improve the North East region’s export opportunities by establishing dual benefits of increased cargo movements and exports.
UDAN has a positive impact on the country’s economy and has received a positive response from industry stakeholders, particularly airline operators and state governments.
More than 350 new city pairs are now scheduled to be connected under the scheme, with 200 already connected, and are geographically spread out, providing connectivity across the length and breadth of the country as well as ensuring balanced regional growth, which results in economic growth and employment for the local population.
The scheme resulted in the establishment of new GreenField Airports in Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, and Andhra Pradesh, including Pakyong near Gangtok in Sikkim, Tezu in Arunachal Pradesh, and Kurnool in Andhra Pradesh.
Increased Passenger Share: The scheme resulted in a 5% increase in non-metro airports’ domestic passenger share.
During this phase, 5 airlines were given 128 flight routes to 70 airports (including 36 newly made operational airports).
The Ministry of Civil Aviation announced 73 underserved and unserved airports in 2018.
Helipads were also connected for the first time as part of phase 2 of the UDAN scheme.
Tourism Routes are being included in UDAN 3 in collaboration with the Ministry of Tourism.
Seaplanes will be included to connect water aerodromes.
Adding a number of routes in the North-East Region to the UDAN network.
In 2020, 78 new routes were approved as part of the fourth round of RCS-UDAN to improve connectivity to remote and regional areas of the country.
The new UDAN 4.0 routes will connect the Lakshadweep islands of Kavaratti, Agatti, and Minicoy.
The UDAN 4.1 connects smaller airports, as well as special helicopter and seaplane routes.
Under the Sagarmala Seaplane services, some new routes have been proposed.
Sagarmala Seaplane Services is a large-scale project run by the Ministry of Ports, Shipping, and Waterways in collaboration with potential airline operators.
Airlines has strategically used the scheme to gain additional slots at congested tier-1 airports, monopoly status on routes, and lower operational costs. As a result, stakeholders should work to make the UDAN scheme self-sustaining and efficient.
Airlines should launch marketing campaigns to encourage more people to participate in the UDAN scheme.
More infrastructure is required for the scheme’s successful implementation across the country.
The massive Bernardinelli-Bernstein comet (C/2014 UN271), with an estimated diameter of nearly 129 km, has been confirmed by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope to be the largest icy comet nucleus ever seen by astronomers.
In 2010, the Bernardinelli-Berstein comet was discovered by chance.
This comet was discovered in archival images from the Dark Energy Survey at an astronomical observatory in Chile by astronomers Pedro Bernardinelli and Gary Bernstein.
It has been circling the sun for over a million years and is thought to have originated in the Oort Cloud.
It travels in an elliptical orbit that lasts 3 million years.
It is estimated to have a temperature of -348 degrees Fahrenheit.
Despite the cold, it is warm enough to produce the dusty coma around its centre by emitting carbon monoxide from its surface.
[A coma is a cloud of dust and gas that surrounds a comet’s nucleus.]
The nucleus of the comet is approximately 50 times larger than that of most known comets, and its mass is estimated to be approximately 500 trillion tonnes.
Measuring the size – The telescope is too far away to accurately measure the comet’s size.
As a result, a computer model of the surrounding coma was created and adjusted to fit the Hubble Space Telescope images.
The coma’s glow was then subtracted to reveal the nucleus.
The Oort Cloud is a distant region of the solar system that is thought to be the origin of the majority of comets.
The Oort Cloud is still a theoretical concept because the comets that make it up are too faint and distant to be observed directly.
Jan Oort, a Dutch astronomer, proposed the theory for the first time in 1950.
Twitter has stymied Elon Musk’s hostile takeover bid by instituting a “poison pill” of “limited-duration shareholder rights plan.”
A poison pill is formally known as a shareholder rights plan, and it can be found in a company’s charter or bylaws, or it can exist as a contract between shareholders.
It is a strategy that makes a company less appealing to a potential acquirer by making it more expensive and difficult for the acquirer to purchase shares of the target company above a certain threshold.
The whole point is to make the board’s offer more appealing than the acquirer’s.
The strategy also provides a company with more time to evaluate an offer and can provide the board with leverage in attempting to force a direct negotiation with a potential acquirer.
Trigger – There are various types of poison pills, but they typically allow certain shareholders to purchase additional stock at a reduced price.
Only the shareholder who activates the poison pill is barred from making these discounted purchases.
It is triggered when a person, usually the acquirer, reaches a certain number of shares.
If they reach that point, the value of their shares is suddenly diluted as other shareholders buy at a discount.
Though there are exceptions, investors rarely attempt to break through a poison pill threshold.
Limits – A company’s ability to issue shares may be limited by the number of shares specified in its charter.
Even if it has reached that limit, a company has other options to make the purchase unappealing.
Poison pills may also be avoided if the acquirer or shareholders sue the company for breach of fiduciary duty.