Shanghai Cooperation Organization


Iran and Belarus could soon become the newest members of the China and Russia-backed Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).


GS II- International relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is the SCO? 
  2. Organizational structure of SCO
  3. How is this relevant to India? 
  4. Is it about countering the West? 

What is the SCO? 

  • Founded in June 2001, it was built on the ‘Shanghai Five’, the grouping which consisted of Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
  • They came together in the post-Soviet era in 1996, in order to work on regional security, reduction of border troops and terrorism.
  • They endowed particular focus on ‘conflict resolution’, given its early success between China and Russia, and then within the Central Asian Republics.
  • Some of their prominent outcomes in this arena entail an ‘Agreement on Confidence-Building in the Military Field Along the Border Areas’ (in 1996) between China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, which led to an agreement on the mutual reduction of military forces on their common borders in 1997.
  • It would also pitch in to help the Central Asian countries resolve some of their boundary disputes. 
  • In 2001, the ‘Shanghai Five’ inducted Uzbekistan into its fold and named it the SCO, outlining its principles in a charter that promoted what was called the “Shanghai spirit” of cooperation.
  • The precise assertion, combined with some of the member states’ profiles, of building a “new international political and economic order” has often led to it being placed as a counter to treaties and groupings of the West, particularly North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).
Member states
  • India, Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
  • The SCO also has four observer states — Afghanistan, Iran, Belarus and Mongolia — of which Iran and Belarus are now moving towards full membership. 
Main goals
  • Strengthening mutual trust and neighbourliness among the member states;
  • Promoting their effective cooperation in politics, trade, economy, research and technology, and culture.
Focus areas:
  • Education, energy, transport, tourism and environmental protection.
  • It also calls for joint efforts to maintain and ensure peace, security and stability in the region; and the establishment of a democratic, fair and rational new international political and economic order.

Organizational structure of SCO

The SCO secretariat has two permanent bodies —

  • SCO Secretariat based in Beijing 
  • Executive Committee of the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) based in Tashkent.
Other than this, the grouping consists of

Heads of State Council (HSC):

  • It is the supreme decision-making body of the organisation.
  • It meets annually to adopt decisions and guidelines on all important matters relevant to the organisation.

Heads of Government Council (HGC):

  • The HGC (mainly including Prime Ministers) also meets annually to zero in on the organisation’s priority areas and multilateral cooperation strategy.
  • It also endeavours to resolve present economic and cooperation issues alongside approving the organisation’s annual budget. 

Foreign Ministers Council:

  • The Foreign Ministers Council considers issues pertaining to the day-to-day activities of the organisation, charting HSC meetings and consultations on international problems within the organisation and if required, makes statements on behalf of the SCO. 

How is this relevant to India? 

  • India acquired the observer status in the grouping in 2005 and was admitted as a full member in 2017.
  • Through the years, the SCO hosts have encouraged members to use the platform to discuss differences with other members on the sidelines.
  • India is also a part of the ‘Quadrilateral’ grouping with the U.S., Japan and Australia.
  • Its association with the grouping of a rather different nature is part of its foreign policy that emphasises on principles of “strategic autonomy and multi-alignment”. 

Is it about countering the West? 

  • The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) noted in 2015 that decades of rapid economic growth had propelled China onto the world’s stage, whereas Russia found itself beset with economic turmoil following the Crimean annexation in 2014 and ejection from the G8 grouping.
  • Most recently, Russia’s action in Ukraine caused it to be subjected to sanctions on multiple fronts by the West.
  • China, in what could be referred to as ‘distance diplomacy’, had held that security of one country should not be at the expense of another country — blaming the West (specifically referring to NATO) for the entire episode.
  • Thus, the organisation spearheaded by both Russia and China does not find its supporters in the West. 
  • The Iranian leadership has often stressed that the country must “look to the East”.
  • This is essential not only to resist its economic isolation (by addressing the banking and trade problems on account of U.S. sanctions) from the West, but also find strategic allies that would help it to reach a new agreement on the nuclear program.
  • In other words, using its ties with China and Russia as a leverage against the West. Additionally, it would help it strengthen its involvement in Asia. 
  • The same premise applies for Belarus, which lent its support to Russia for its actions in Ukraine. An association with the SCO bodes well for its diplomacy and regional stature.

The Pakistan and IMF Talks


Recently, the staff-level talks between Pakistan and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) concluded for the seventh and eighth review under Extended Fund Facility (EFF).


GS III- Indian Economy

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About International Monetary Fund (IMF)
  2. What was the Extended Fund Facility (EFF)?
  3. How important is the IMF support to Pakistan?
  4. Why have the Pakistan-IMF relations remained complicated?
  5. What lies ahead for Pakistan and the IMF?

About International Monetary Fund (IMF)

  • The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is an international organization headquartered in Washington, D.C.
  • It consists of 189 countries working to foster global monetary cooperation, secure financial stability, facilitate international trade, promote high employment and sustainable economic growth, and reduce poverty around the world.
  • It periodically depends on the World Bank for its resources.
  • Through the fund and other activities such as the gathering of statistics and analysis, surveillance of its members’ economies, and the demand for particular policies, the IMF works to improve the economies of its member countries.
Functions of the IMF
  • To provide financial assistance to member countries with balance of payments problems, the IMF lends money to replenish international reserves, stabilize currencies and strengthen conditions for economic growth. Countries must embark on structural adjustment policies monitored by the IMF.
  • It oversees the international monetary system and monitors the economic and financial policies of its 189 member countries. As part of this process, which takes place both at the global level and in individual countries, the IMF highlights possible risks to stability and advises on needed policy adjustments.
  • It provides technical assistance and training to central banks, finance ministries, tax authorities, and other economic institutions. This helps countries raise public revenues, modernize banking systems, develop strong legal frameworks, improve governance, and enhance the reporting of macroeconomic and financial data. It also helps countries to make progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

What was the Extended Fund Facility (EFF)?

  • The 39-month EFF between the two was signed in July 2019 to provide funds amounting to Self-Drawing Rights (SDR) — $4,268 million.
  • The EFF was signed by Pakistan to address the medium-term balance of payment problem, and work on structural impediments and increase per capita income.
  • The IMF placed demands including fiscal consolidation to reduce debt and build resilience, the market-determined exchange rate to restore competitiveness, eliminate ‘quasi-fiscal’ losses in the energy sector and strengthened institutions with transparency.
  • The decision to freeze the fuel prices by the then Pakistani President Imran Khan in February 2022 was considered a major deviation under the EFF benchmarks.
  • Mr. Khan’s government, that gave tax amnesties to the industrial sector, impacted the tax regime and a structural benchmark for fiscal consolidation.
  • Loans under Kamyab Pakistan Program were another point of contention. The IMF insisted on its demands before approving any release of the tranche.

How important is the IMF support to Pakistan?

  • Pakistan’s economic situation is dire. According to the Economic Survey of Pakistan 2022, the fiscal deficit in FY 22 was $18.6 billion, and the net public debt at $252 billion, which is 66.3% of the GDP.
  • The power sector’s circular debt is $14 billion.
  • According to the State Bank of Pakistan’s latest report, the current account deficit has peaked to $48.3 billion.
  • The budgeted expenditure outlay for FY 23 states that 41% ($19 billion) of total expenditure will be used in debt servicing.
  • The IMF’s support in addressing the above numbers is crucial. According to the latest quarterly report of the Economic Affairs Division, during the financial year 2021-22, the IMF’s contribution to the total external debt (of $9.4 billion), is only $834 million.
  • However, the IMF’s support is not limited to fixing the balance sheet, but validates and provides economic confidence to other multilateral institutions.

Why have the Pakistan-IMF relations remained complicated?

  • Structural reforms require long-term commitment, which have been sacrificed due to Pakistan’s short-sighted political goals; hence the urge to go to the IMF for fiscal stability has been repeated over time.
  • Pakistan has signed various lending instruments with the IMF, and sought support from IMF around 22 times. However, only once has a programme been completed.
  • Since the 1990s, the IMF has placed specific demands but were addressed by Pakistan in bits and pieces.
    • For example, during the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) rule in 2008, Pakistan was to implement economic reforms, including improvements in tax administration, removal of tax exemptions as well structural reforms. However, successive governments kept domestic political calculations a priority, than the economic reforms.
  • The latest EFF was on the verge of collapse, but the ruling coalition government continued its efforts to revive the discussions.
  • To address the structural benchmarks of the IMF, the authorities have worked on specific legislations, for example, the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) amendment act, and the Finance Bill 2022.

What lies ahead for Pakistan and the IMF?

  • Despite the latest agreement, the road ahead for the IMF and Pakistan is not an easy one.
  • Political calculations and the elections ahead will play a role in Pakistan’s economic decision-making.
  • In 2019, the Director-General Debt Office of the Ministry of Finance revealed that Pakistan has to pay $31 billion by 2026. Total public debt as a percentage of gross domestic product is expected to increase further.
  • There is also a narrative that Pakistan has the fifth largest population with nuclear weapons that cannot be allowed to fail.
  • A section within Pakistan also places the geo-strategic location of the country would provide an edge for cooperation, rather than coercion. Hence, this section believes, the IMF would continue to support.
  • Given the IMF’s increased assertion, Pakistan’s political calculations and the elections ahead, the relationship between the two is likely to remain complicated.

One Sun One World One Grid


India and UK, jointly announced a declaration on “one sun, one world, one grid” — or OSOWOG at the Conference of Parties (COP26), held in Glasgow, UK


GS-III: Environment and Ecology (Conservation of the Environment, International Treaties and Agreements), GS-II: International Relations (India’s neighbors, Foreign Policies affecting India’s Interests), GS-III: Industry and Infrastructure (Solar Energy, Renewable Energy), GS-III: Science and Technology (Indigenization of Technology)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. One Sun One World One Grid (OSOWOG)
  2. How would the OSOWOG work?
  3. What are the challenges to the OSOWOG project?

One Sun One World One Grid (OSOWOG)

  • The One Sun One World One Grid (OSOWOG) aims to connect energy grids across borders to facilitate a faster transition to the use of renewable energy.
  • India had first proposed connecting solar energy supply across borders at the International Solar Alliance in 2018 to allow parts of the world with excess renewable power to send power to other countries.
  • The proposal is aimed at addressing the issue of reliability of supply from solar power plants, which do not generate electricity after the sun has set.
  • OSOWOG is also aimed at addressing the issue of high cost of energy storage.
  • The new Global Green Grids Initiative One Sun One World One Grid (GGI-OSOWOG) is an evolution of the International Solar Alliance’s OSOWOG multilateral drive to foster interconnected solar energy infrastructure at a global scale.
  • India, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Nepal already share transmission capacity for energy transfer across borders which can be expanded further and utilised for the transfer of solar power between these countries.

How would the OSOWOG work?

  • This initiative aims to tap solar energy and have it travel seamlessly across borders. The initiative will work towards accelerating the making of large solar power stations and wind farms in the best locations, linked together by continental-scale grids crossing national borders.
  • The sun offers a huge source of energy for mankind. All the energy humanity uses in a year is equal to the energy that reaches the earth from the sun in a single hour.
  • Given that the sun never sets and that half the planet is always receiving sunlight, there is the potential to harness solar energy continuously across the globe and trade this energy across borders to ensure adequate energy supply to meet the needs of everyone on earth.
  • A transnational grid would allow countries to source solar power from regions where it is daytime to meet their green energy needs even when their own installed solar capacity is not generating energy.
  • This initiative will bring together an international coalition of national governments, financial organisations, and power system operators.
OSOWOG can help to:
  • Prevent dangerous climate change
  • Meet the targets of the Paris Agreement
  • Accelerate the clean energy transition
  • Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals
  • Stimulate green investments
  • Create millions of good jobs

What are the challenges to the OSOWOG project?

  • The project is seen as an Indian endeavour for world leadership but under Covid-19 uncertainties, the geopolitical implications of projects like OSOWOG are hard to decipher.
  • The mechanism of cost-sharing will be challenging, given the varied priorities of participating countries depending on their socio-economic orders.
  • In India, the major issue of renewable energy developers is to deal with different state governments and hence, different laws and regulations.
  • The transmission of power across vast distances would require large capital investment to set up long transmission lines.
  • Experts have pointed out that transmission across great distances can potentially be very expensive.
  • There is a difference in voltage, frequency and specifications of the grid in most regions. Maintaining grid stability with just renewable generation would be technically difficult.

Minority Status in India is State-Dependent: Supreme Court


The minority status of religious and linguistic communities is “State-dependent”, said the Supreme Court.


GS II- Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Who is a minority and who decides that?
  2. What does the PIL argue?
  3. Constitutional Provisions

Who is a minority and who decides that?

  • The PIL specifically questions the validity of Section 2(f) of the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions or NCMEI Act 2004, terming it arbitrary and contrary to Articles 14, 15, 21, 29 and 30 of the Constitution.
    • Section 2(f) says “minority ,”for the purpose of this Act, means a community notified as such by the Central Government.”
    • Section 2(c) of the of National Commission for Minorities (NCM) Act, 1992 also gives the Centre similar powers.
  • In 2005, the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) at the Centre notified five communities — Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis — as minorities at the national level.
  • In 2014, the government notified followers of Jainism as a minority community, making them the sixth on the national list.

What was the petition about?

  • The court was hearing a petition complaining that followers of Judaism, Bahaism and Hinduism are the real minorities in Ladakh, Mizoram, Lakshadweep, Kashmir, Punjab and the North-East States.
  • However, they cannot establish and administer educational institutions of their choice because of the non-identification of ‘minority’ at the State level.
  • Religious communities such as Hindus here are socially, economically, politically non-dominant and numerically inferior in several States.
Why such move?
  • Hindus are merely 1% in Ladakh, 2.75% in Mizoram, 2.77% in Lakshadweep, 4% in Jammu & Kashmir, 8.74% in Nagaland, 11.52% in Meghalaya, 29% in Arunachal Pradesh, 38.49% in Punjab, and 41.29% in Manipur.

Constitutional Provisions

  • Article 15 and 16: Prohibition of discrimination against citizens on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth. Citizens’ right to ‘equality of opportunity’ in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the State, and prohibition in this regard of any discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.
  • Article 25 (1), 26 and 28: People’s freedom of conscience and right to freely profess, practise and propagate religion. Right of every religious denomination or any section to establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes, manage its own religious affairs, and own and acquire property and administer it. People’s freedom as to attendance at religious instruction or religious worship in educational institutions wholly maintained, recognized, or aided by the State.
  • Article 29: It provides that any section of the citizens residing in any part of India having a distinct language, script or culture of its own, shall have the right to conserve the same. It grants protection to both religious minorities as well as linguistic minorities. However, the Supreme Court held that the scope of this article is not necessarily restricted to minorities only, as use of the word ‘section of citizens’ in the Article includes minorities as well as the majority.
  • Article 30: All minorities shall have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice. The protection under Article 30 is confined only to minorities (religious or linguistic) and does not extend to any section of citizens (as under Article 29).
  • Article 350-B: The 7th Constitutional (Amendment) Act 1956 inserted this article which provides for a Special Officer for Linguistic Minorities appointed by the President of India. It would be the duty of the Special Officer to investigate all matters relating to the safeguards provided for linguistic minorities under the Constitution.

Marburg Virus


The first two cases of the Marburg virus, a highly infectious Ebola-like disease, have been confirmed officially by Ghana after test results were verified by a Senegal laboratory.

  • This outbreak is only the second time that the disease has been detected in West Africa.


GS II- Health

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is the Marburg virus disease?
  2. What are the symptoms of Marburg virus disease?
  3. How can Marburg virus disease be diagnosed and treated?

What is the Marburg virus disease?

  • Marburg virus disease (MVD), earlier known as Marburg haemorrhagic fever, is a severe, often fatal hemorrhagic fever, according to the WHO.
  • Marburg, like Ebola, is a filovirus; and both diseases are clinically similar.
  • Rousettus fruit-bats are considered the natural hosts for Marburg virus.
  • However, African green monkeys imported from Uganda were the source of the first human infection.
  • It was first detected in 1967 after simultaneous outbreaks in Marburg and Frankfurt in Germany; and in Belgrade, Serbia.
  • The disease has an average fatality rate of around 50%.
  • However, it can be as low as 24% or as high as 88% depending on virus strain and case management, says the WHO.

What are the symptoms of Marburg virus disease?

  • After the onset of symptoms, which can begin anytime between 2 to 21 days, MVD can manifest itself in the form of high fever, muscle aches and severe headache.
  • Around the third day, patients report abdominal pain, vomiting, severe watery diarrhoea and cramping.
    • In this phase, the WHO says, the appearance of patients has been often described as “ghost-like” with deep-set eyes, expressionless faces, and extreme lethargy.
  • Between days 5 and 7, patients report bleeding from nose, gums and blood appearing in vomits and faeces.
  • Severe blood loss leads to death, often between 8 to 9 days after symptoms begin.

How can Marburg virus disease be diagnosed and treated?

  • It is difficult to clinically distinguish MVD from diseases such as malaria, typhoid fever and other viral haemorrhagic fevers.
  • However, it is confirmed by lab testing of samples, which like Coronavirus and Ebola are extreme biohazard risk.
  • There is no approved antiviral treatment or vaccine for MVD as of now.
  • It can be managed with supportive care.
  • According to the WHO, rehydration with oral or intravenous fluids, and treatment of specific symptoms can help prevent death.

Anayoottu Ritual


Anayoottu, an annual ritual at the Sree Vadakkunnathan Temple, Thrissur was recently held.


GS I- History

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Anayoottu
  2. Reason for the Anayootu

About Anayoottu

  • The Aanayoottu (gaja pooja/ feeding of elephants) is a festival held in the precincts of the Vadakkunnathan temple in City of Thrissur, in Kerala.
  • The festival falls on the first day of the month of Karkkidakam (timed against the Malayalam calendar), which coincides with the month of July.
  • It entails placing several plain elephants in the middle of a throng of people so they can be adored and fed.
  • People swarm the temple in order to feed the elephants.

Reason for the Anayoottu

  • The god of riches and desire fulfilment, Lord Ganesha, is said to be appeased by presenting poojas and delectable food to the elephants.
  • The Aanayottoo ceremony has been held annually at the Vadakkunnathan temple, which is one of the oldest Shiva temples in southern India.


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