Daily Current Events – 14 June 2016


On wings of fire: Solar plane completes U.S. trip:-

The solar-powered airplane on a globe-circling voyage that began more than a year ago in the United Arab Emirates reached a milestone recently when it landed at John F. Kennedy International Airport ,New York.

The Solar Impulse 2’s wings, which stretch wider than those of a Boeing 747, are equipped with 17,000 solar cells that power propellers and charge batteries. The plane runs on stored energy at night. Ideal flight speed is about 28 mph, although that can double during the day when the sun’s rays are strongest.


4 new elements in periodic table :-

Names for four new elements, formerly known by their respective atomic numbers 113, 115, 117 and 118, have been proposed by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC).The proposed names are- nihonium (Nh), moscovium (Mc), tennessine (Ts) and oganesson (Og).

  • All four elements are not found in nature, and were synthetically created in laboratories. They are super-heavy elements.
  • Tennessee is the second US state to be recognized with an element; California was the first.
  • oganesson, symbol Og, for element 118. The name honors Russian physicist Yuri Oganessian.
  • nihonium, symbol Nh, for element 113. The element was discovered in Japan, and Nihon is one way to say the country’s name in Japanese. It’s the first element to be discovered in an Asian country.
  • Moscovium has been named after Russia’s capital Mosow.

India’s strategic gambit in Vietnam

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Photo: Sunil Saxena/Hindustan/Times

India under the Narendra Modi government has made no secret of its desire to play a more assertive role in the larger Indo-Pacific. As Modi himself underlined in his address to the joint session of the US Congress last week: “A strong India-US partnership can anchor peace, prosperity and stability from Asia to Africa and from Indian Ocean to the Pacific. It can also help ensure security of the sea lanes of commerce and freedom of navigation on seas.” Therefore, it should not be surprising that India seems now ready to sell the supersonic BrahMos missile, made by an India-Russian joint venture, to Vietnam after dilly-dallying on Hanoi’s request for this sale since 2011. Though India’s ties with Vietnam have been growing in the past few years, this sale was seen as a step too far that would antagonize China.

But now, the Modi government has directed BrahMos Aerospace, which produces the missiles, to expedite this sale to Vietnam along with four other countries—Indonesia, South Africa, Chile and Brazil. India is already providing a concessional line of credit of $100 million for the procurement of defence equipment and in a first of its kind has sold four offshore patrol vessels to Vietnam, which are likely to be used to strengthen the nation’s defences in the energy-rich South China Sea. India’s latest move comes at a time when the US has also lifted its longstanding ban on sales of lethal military equipment to Vietnam. New Delhi’s abiding interest in Vietnam too remains in the defence realm. It wants to build relations with states like Vietnam that can act as pressure points against China. With this in mind, it has been helping Hanoi beef up its naval and air capabilities.

The two nations also have stakes in ensuring sea-lane security, as well as shared concerns about Chinese access to the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea. Hence, India is helping Vietnam build capacity for repair and maintenance of its defence platforms. At the same time, the armed forces of the two states have started cooperation in areas like IT and English-language training of Vietnamese army personnel. The two countries potentially share a common friend—the US. New Delhi has steadily built relations with Washington in the past decade, while Vietnam has been courting America as the South China Sea becomes a flashpoint. As these three countries ponder how to manage China’s rise, they have been drawn closer together.

It is instructive that India entered the fraught region of the South China Sea via Vietnam. India signed an agreement with Vietnam in October 2011 to expand and promote oil exploration in the South China Sea and then reconfirmed its decision to carry on despite the Chinese challenge to the legality of the Indian presence. Beijing told New Delhi that its permission was needed for India’s state-owned oil and gas firm to explore for energy in the two Vietnamese blocks in those waters. But Vietnam quickly cited the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to claim its sovereign rights over the two blocks in question. Hanoi has been publicly sparring with Beijing over the South China Sea for the past few years, so such a response was expected.

What was new, however, was New Delhi’s new-found aggression in taking on China. It immediately decided to support Hanoi’s claims. By accepting the Vietnamese invitation to explore oil and gas in blocks 127 and 128, India’s state-owned oil company ONGC Videsh Ltd not only expressed New Delhi’s desire to deepen its friendship with Vietnam, but ignored China’s warning to stay away. This display of backbone helped India strengthen its relationship with Vietnam. If China wants to expand its presence in South Asia and the Indian Ocean region, New Delhi’s thinking goes, India can do the same thing in East Asia. And if China can have a strategic partnership with Pakistan ignoring Indian concerns, India can develop robust ties with states like Vietnam on China’s periphery without giving China a veto on such relationships.

Hanoi is gradually becoming the linchpin of this eastward move by New Delhi. Hanoi fought a brief war with Beijing in 1979 and has grown wary of the Middle Kingdom’s increasing economic and military weight. That’s why in some quarters of New Delhi, Vietnam is already seen as a counterweight in the same way Pakistan has been for China.

The Modi government’s decision to sell BrahMos missiles to Vietnam underscores the evolution in India’s policy towards the Indo-Pacific. New Delhi seems to be ready to challenge Beijing on its own turf. And for the moment at least, this stance is being welcomed by states like Vietnam, which fear the growing aggression of China. A more engaged India will also lead to a more stable balance of power in the region.


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