Special Issue Current Affairs UPSC CSE -Nov Week 4
Context: South Korea, recently, decided to suspend its plans to quit an intelligence sharing pact with Japan amid pressure from the US. Previously, South Korea had decided to discontinue the intelligence pact called the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), unless Japan decided to review its export control measures.
The GSOMIA pact
- The idea to exchange intelligence between Japan and South Korea was first suggested by the latter in the 1980s. In 2012, the two countries were expected to sign GSOMIA, but it was not due to public outrage in South Korea against the agreement.
- The need for GSOMIA was felt amidst a growing threat from North Korea, especially when it started conducting nuclear tests and developing ballistic missiles. The agreement was eventually signed in November 2016.
- The US’ interest in this agreement stems from its need to forge alliances in the northeast to be able to analyse and respond to any threats from North Korea.
- Significantly, it may be China’s perception that GSOMIA is an attempt by the US-Japan-South Korea trilateral alliance to contain Beijing, thereby maintaining a degree of opposition between this trilateral alliance and that of China-North Korea-Russia.
Japan and South Korea Relations
- Korea is a former colony of Japan, a colonial rule that lasted for over 35 years, between 1910-1945. The Japanese rule is even today behind “anti-Japan” sentiment in Korea.
- After the division of North and South Korea in 1948, formal diplomatic relations between Japan and South Korea were established in 1965, with the signing of the Treaty on Basic Relations between Japan and the Republic of South Korea.
- Significantly, both South Korea and Japan are US allies, but in recent years, the relationship between both countries has deteriorated, given the territorial dispute over the Dokdo islands — known as Takeshima in Japan.
- While South Korea controls them, the islands are claimed by Japan. Furthermore, the two countries have differing views on Imperial Japan’s treatment of Koreans, especially the forced labourers and “comfort women” or “sex slaves”.
- Japan maintains that South Korea’s claims for reparations and damages were settled with the 1965 treaty.
- In July, Japan imposed export controls on three chemicals that South Korea uses in its important semiconductor industry and in August, Japan decided to remove South Korea from its “white list”, a fast track trade list of trusted partners.
- This is considered to be retaliation for South Korea’s decision to leave the intelligence pact, a decision that was made in August.
- Commenting on the export controls, which is a sticking point between the two countries, an editorial published in the South Korean newspaper The Hankyoreh said, “It was Japan that imposed export controls on South Korea on the grounds that Korea is not a country that can be trusted for security reasons. It doesn’t make sense to receive critical security information from such a country. The South Korean government’s decision to end GSOMIA is an appropriate response to Japan’s unjustified economic retribution.”
- While an editorial in the Japanese newspaper The Asahi Shimbun expressed relief that South Korea has decided to stay in the pact, “With North Korea continuing to act up, it was truly unnecessary and foolish of Tokyo and Seoul to let their relationship deteriorate to the present low point. Now that the GSOMIA has been spared expiration, both countries must stop their downward spiral that has done nothing but harm to their citizens.”
Context: To revoke President’s Rule in Maharashtra, the government has used a special Section in the Union government’s Transaction of Business Rules, which allows for revocation of President’s Rule without Cabinet approval if the Prime Minister “deems it necessary”.
What is ‘Rule 12’?
- Rule 12 of the Government of India (Transaction of Business) Rules, 1961, allows the Prime Minister to depart from laid down norms at his discretion.
- Titled “Departure from Rules”, Rule 12 says, “The Prime Minister may, in case or classes of cases permit or condone a departure from these rules, to the extent he deems necessary.”
- The Cabinet can subsequently give post-facto approval for any decision taken under Rule 12.
Under what circumstances is Rule 12 used?
- Rule 12 is usually not used to arrive at major decisions by the government. However, it has been used in matters such as withdrawal of an office memorandum or signing of MoUs in the past.
- The last big decision taken through the invocation of Rule 12 was re-organisation of the state of Jammu and Kashmir into the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh on October 31.
- The proclamations issued by the President that day, dividing various districts between the two Union Territories, were issued under Rule 12.
- The Cabinet gave post-facto approval to the same on November 20.
Context: The Rohtang Tunnel, when complete, will cut through the mighty Pir Panjal range and become the world’s longest highway tunnel above 10,000 feet. For now, the tunnel provides a temporary winter link to the outside world not only to residents of Lahaul and Spiti but also to those living in Zanskar Valley of Ladakh. Without this link, opened on humanitarian grounds for Himachal Roadways bus service and some emergency vehicles, these villagers would have remained cut off for the next six months.
More about the Tunnel
- The tunnel will officially be ready for inauguration by September 2020.
- One of the most prestigious tunnel projects in the country, the work is monitored by the Prime Minister’s Office.
- The tunnel is expected to be named after former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who took a keen interest in the project during his tenure, and was also a regular visitor to Manali.
- A 3,000-member team of contractual workers and 650 regular employees of the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) have been working in shifts through 24 hours on the project.
- It would have been completed at least four years earlier, but for a massive torrent of water encountered inside the tunnel.
- The Seri Nullah, which flows on top of the tunnel, almost threatened to derail the project and it took several years to devise ways to tackle the massive flow of water that often went up to 140 litres per second.
Importance of the Project
- The project also has significant strategic implications for the military as it will allow access beyond Rohtang Pass even in peak winters. All-winter connectivity to Ladakh, however, is still some time away as more tunnels will have to be built to tackle the high passes which fall beyond Rohtang.
- While Rohtang Pass is at a height of 13,050 feet, the pass on the road to Leh is Baralacha La at 16,040 feet. A 13.2-km long tunnel would be required to bypass this pass and a Detailed Project Report for the same is ready to be presented to the government.
- Further down the highway comes Lachung La Pass at 16,800 feet requiring a 14.78 km long tunnel to provide all-weather connectivity. Thereafter falls the Tanglang La pass at 17,480 feet, which will need a 7.32-km long tunnel.
- An alternate road link to Ladakh has also been developed by BRO on the Darcha-Padam-Nimu axis, but here again a 4.15-km long tunnel at Sinka La Pass (16,703 feet) would be required for all-weather access.
- The National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL) is making a DPR for this tunnel which will give a new road link to Leh.
Services inside Rohtang Tunnel:
- Telephone at every 150 metres
- Fire hydrant at every 60 metres
- Emergency exit at every 500 metres
- Turning cavern at every 2.2. km
- Air Quality monitoring every 1 km
- Broadcasting system
- Automatic incident detection system with CCTV every 250 metres
- Width of carriageway: 10.50 metres including one metres footpath on both sides
- Maximum speed limit: 80 km per hour
- Max Traffic expected: 3,000 petrol cars a day and 1,500 trucks a day
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