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Current Affairs July 16, 2023: India’s Deep Ocean Mission, CPTPP, Non-Fungible Token

{GS1 – Geo – EG – 2023/07/16} India’s Deep Ocean Mission (DOM)

  • Context (TH | TH): India has identified 11 potential sites for the exploration of hydrogen sulfide as part of the Deep Ocean Mission (DOM).

Deep Ocean Mission

  • DOM is a multi-institutional mission launched by GoI to explore the deep ocean for resources and develop deep-sea technologies for sustainable use of ocean resources.
  • Aim of DOM is to help India achieve over Rs. 100 billion “Blue Economy” through its ocean resources.
  • Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) will be the nodal Ministry implementing the mission.
  • MoES has collaborated with ISRO, National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT), Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) and the International Seabed Authority (ISA) for this mission.
  • Under this mission, deep ocean explorations will be carried out in the Central Indian Ocean Basin.

Objectives of Deep Ocean Mission

Central Indian Ocean Basin (CIOB)

  • CIOB is in the central part of the Indian Ocean. It is situated between 25°S and 5°N and 70°E and 90°E.
  • The Indian Peninsula borders it to the northwest, the Sunda Shelf to the southeast, and the Mid-Indian Ridge to the southwest.
  • CIOB is primarily a result of tectonic activity associated with the Indian Plate. It is part of a larger region known as the Indian Ocean Triple Junction, where three major tectonic plates, the Indian Plate, Australian Plate, and Somali Plate, converge.
  • The region is rich in polymetallic nodules of nickel, copper, cobalt and manganese.
  • India was the first country to receive the status of a ‘Pioneer Investor‘ in 1987 and was given an area of about 1.5 lakh sq km in the CIOB for nodule exploration.
  • In 2002, India signed a contract with the ISA, and after a complete resource analysis of the seabed, 50% was surrendered, and the country retained an area of 75,000 sq km.

India՚s Exclusive Rights to Explore Polymetallic Nodules from Central Indian Ocean Seabed Basin- Examrace


  • Samudrayan is India’s first manned ocean mission.
  • It is launched in 2021 as a part of the Deep Ocean Mission. With this, India joined the club of the USA, Russia, Japan, France and China, which have underwater vehicles for subsea activities.
  • Samudrayan will carry out deep ocean exploration of the non-living resources, such as polymetallic manganese nodules, gas hydrates, hydro-thermal sulphides and cobalt crusts, located at a depth between 1000-5500 m.
  • Under this mission, the manned submersible MATSYA 6000 is indigenously built with the help of ISRO, the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) and the DRDO.

Samudrayan:- India's First Manned Ocean Mission

Difference between Submarine and Submersible

  • A submarine refers to an underwater vehicle that is largely independent. It has power reserves to help it depart from a port or return to the port after an expedition.
  • While a submersible is generally smaller in size and has less power. It needs to work with a ship to be launched and recovered.

Deep Sea Mining

  • Deep sea mining is the process of retrieving mineral deposits from the deep seabed below 200m depth (covers about 2/3rd of the total seafloor).
  • There is growing interest in the mineral deposits of the deep seabed because of:
    • Depleting terrestrial metals deposits like copper, nickel, aluminium, manganese, lithium, cobalt etc.
    • Increasing production of technologies like smartphones, wind turbines, solar panels, and batteries.

Types of Deep-Minerals

  • Polymetallic Nodules: They are rounded potato-sized lumps of minerals found usually on the seabed across the abyssal plains. They are composed of manganese, iron, nickel, copper, and cobalt.
  • Seafloor Massive Sulfides (SMS): They are found around hydrothermal vents (where hot, mineral-rich fluids are released from the seafloor). They are composed of copper, gold, silver, zinc, etc.
  • Cobalt-rich Crusts: They are found on seafloor seamounts and other volcanic features. They comprise cobalt, nickel, iron, manganese, and other metals.

Mineral Exploration in different Geographical Areas.

Adverse Effects of Deep-Sea Mining

Noise Pollution

  • Sounds produced from deep-sea mining can overlap with frequencies at which marine mammals communicate, causing auditory masking and behaviour change.
  • It is dangerous for cetaceans (marine mammals) like whales, dolphins, beluga, porpoises, etc.

Cetacea - Wikipedia

Sediment Plumes

  • Settlement of sediment plumes generated by mining vehicles can smother the species at the bottom (benthic zone) of the ocean.
  • Sediment discharged from processing vessels can increase water turbidity.

Disrupt Carbon Storage

  • Oceans are a major source of carbon sequestration. But deep-sea mining can disturb this process and release large amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere.

The Hindu 4 August 2019 - Scraby

Release of Methane from Methane Hydrates

Methane Hydrates

  • Methane hydrates (clathrates/gas hydrates/methane ice) are formed when hydrogen-bonded water and methane gas come into contact at high pressures (due to depth) and low temperatures in oceans.
  • They are in the form of crystalline ice that consists of a methane molecule surrounded by a cage of interlocking water molecules.
  • Methane hydrates are also trapped in permafrost (permanently frozen soil).
  • Methane hydrates cannot be brought to the surface as the reduced pressure and increase in temperature will cause the ice to melt and the methane to escape.
  • Ocean acidification, climate change, or any other anthropogenic disturbance like deep sea mining can destabilise the clathrates (a lot in the ocean) and lead to the release of an immense amount of methane — can lead to mass extinction.

The United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)

  • UNCLOS establishes general obligations for safeguarding the marine environment and protecting the freedom of scientific research on the high seas.
  • It can hold states liable for damage caused by violation of their international obligations through its three institutions:
    1. International Tribunal for Law of Sea,
    2. International Seabed Authority (ISA), and
    3. Commission on the limits of the continental shelf.
  • The convention gives a clear definition on Internal Waters, Territorial Waters, Contiguous Zone, Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf.
  • It provides rights to landlocked states for access to and from the sea without taxation of traffic through transit states.

UNCLOS Maritime Zones Description automatically generated

International Seabed Authority (ISA)

  • ISA is a Jamaica-based autonomous intergovernmental body established under the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and its 1994 Agreement on Implementation.
    • UNCLOS creates a legal regime for controlling resource exploitation in deep-seabed areas beyond national jurisdiction through the International Seabed Authority.
  • Members: It has 167 member states and the European Union. India is a member.

Clarion-Clipperton Zone (CCZ)

  • CCZ, also known as Clipperton Fracture Zone, is a geological submarine fracture zone in the northern Pacific Ocean.
  • It is being researched for deep-sea mining due to the abundant presence of manganese nodules.
  • It is a habitat for cetaceans, including blue whales (EN), baleen, and toothed whales.

{GS2 – IR – Groupings – 2023/07/16} CPTPP

  • Context (TH/IE): the U.K. formally signs up to the trans-Pacific trading bloc CPTPP.
  • Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) is a free trade agreement (FTA) signed by 11 countries in 2018.
  • It incorporates the provisions of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement (signed but not yet in force), except for a limited set of suspended provisions.
  • CPTPP requires countries to eliminate or significantly reduce tariffs and firmly commit to opening services and investment markets.

Members of CPTPP

  • Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

Mapwise Location of Members of CPTPP according to their Status. Signatories and Parties of CPTPP

  • The U.K. has become the first European nation to sign CPTPP. It will become a member after it ratifies.
  • China, Taiwan, Ukraine, Costa Rica, Uruguay and Ecuador have applied to join the group.

    Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP)

Importance for UK

  • It is seen as a bulwark against China’s dominance in the region.
  • Since Brexit, the UK has sought other trade deals with countries and trading blocs around the world. CPTTP will cut tariffs for UK exports to Asia Pacific countries.


  • CPTTP will struggle to compensate for the economic damage sustained by leaving the EU.
  • The UK already has trade deals with ten of the eleven CPTPP members, and the eventual economic boost will be minuscule.

Free Trade Agreement (FTA)

  • An FTA is a pact between two or more nations to reduce barriers to imports and exports among them.
  • Under a free trade policy, goods and services can be bought and sold across international borders with minimal government tariffs, quotas, subsidies, or prohibitions to inhibit their exchange.
  • In an FTA, the countries agree on certain obligations such as investor protections, intellectual property rights, anti-dumping, etc.
  • For the developed nations, the main goal of FTAs is to reduce barriers to exports, protect interests competing abroad, and enhance the rule of law in the FTA partner country or countries.
  • For developing nations, the main goal is to protect against dumping and anti-competitive trade practices while promoting exports.

Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

  • The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was a proposed FTA between twelve Pacific Rim economies: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, NZ, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam, and the US.
  • TPP was initially touted to be path-breaking for free trade but fizzled out with the withdrawal of the US.
  • The remaining countries negotiated the CPTPP, which incorporates most of the provisions of the TPP.

Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)

  • RCEP is an FTA among the Asia-Pacific nations of Australia, Brunei, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, NZ, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.
  • While the US spearheaded TPP negotiations, China pushed for RCEP.

India’s concerns that led to the withdrawal from RCEP

  • India (a protectionist nation with high tariffs) withdrew from RCEP negotiations in 2019.
Cheaper imports and Widening Trade Deficit
  • India feared domestic sectors like steel, textiles, farm, dairy, etc., would be hit by cheaper alternatives from other RCEP countries that employ cheaper and more efficient industry processes.
Farm sector is not excluded
  • India has excluded agriculture from import liberalisation, both in the WTO and bilateral FTAs.
  • But RCEP was hell-bent on bringing even the farm sector under import liberalisation.
Why the Dairy sector vehemently opposes FTAs like RCEP?
  • Global dairy trade occurs not in milk but in its solid derivatives like milk powder, butter and cheese.
  • The MNC firms operating in India are forced to buy milk from Indian farmers as India’s dairy imports are low due to high tariffs, especially on milk powder (60%) and fats (40%).
  • FTAs like RCEP will make milk imports cheaper, and MNC firms will prefer importing milk products from New Zealand or Australia rather than buying from India.
  • 5% of New Zealand’s exports in the dairy sector is enough to flood India’s domestic market.
  • While 70 million households depend on the dairy sector in India, the number is just 10,000 in New Zealand (a temperate country with ideal conditions for dairy farming).

FTAs are essential for Global Value Chain (GVC)

  • A global value chain (GVC) is the series of stages in producing a product or service.
  • The GVCs exploit hyper specialisation for greater efficiencies.
  • They do so by breaking down the production process across countries.


  • The common notion of international trade is that one country exports product X to the second country and imports product Y from the second country.
  • However, due to an increased level of fragmentation and optimisation of the production process, this is not how most of the trade happens.
  • Product X is never entirely made in the first country. Instead, the production cycle involves half-made goods crisscrossing a country’s borders — sometimes as exports and at other times as imports.
  • The final product may be given the last touch in the first country, but the “value chain” involves trading across several national boundaries.
Example of Global Value Chain
  • The mechanical parts of German-made vehicles are manufactured in Germany as German engineers are masters at the craft of efficient manufacturing.
  • However, the electronics for the vehicle are imported from Chinese, Taiwanese or South Korean firms as these countries are pioneers of electronics manufacturing.
  • And the software for the vehicles is designed in Indian software hubs like Bengaluru.
  • The final product is assembled in Germany or any other country and exported worldwide.

Why integrating into the Global Value Chans is essential?

  • Productivity and incomes rose in countries that became integral to GVCsBangladesh, China, and Vietnam, among others. The steepest declines in poverty occurred in precisely those countries.
  • GVCs allow resources to flow to their most productive use, not only across countries and sectors but also within sectors across stages of production. As a result, GVCs magnify growth and employment.

What is India’s participation in GVCs?

  • India’s integration with GVCs is among the lowest in G20 countries.
  • India cannot miss out on being a part of GVCs, which can happen only if tariffs are reduced.
  • It should work on reducing its dependence on agriculture for employment generation by squeezing itself into the GVCs through FTAs like RCEP to boost manufacturing.

{GS3 – S&T – Blockchain – 2023/07/16} Non-Fungible Token (NFT)

  • Context (FE): Google has updated its policies, allowing apps incorporating NFT into its Play Store.
  • A non-fungible token (NFT) is a unique digital asset stored on a blockchain.
  • NFTs can represent ownership of digital or physical assets.

Features of NFTs

  • Uniqueness: NFTs are unique and cannot be replaced by another NFT. This makes them ideal for representing ownership of digital assets, such as artwork, music, or videos.
  • Immutability: NFTs are stored on a blockchain, which makes them immutable. This means that the data stored on the blockchain cannot be changed or tampered with.
  • Transparency: NFTs are transparent, meaning anyone can view the data stored on the blockchain. This makes it easy to verify the ownership of an NFT.
  • Scarcity: NFTs can be scarce, which means only a limited number of them are available. This can drive up the value of an NFT.
Parameters Fungible Tokens (FTs) Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs)
Exchangeability FTs can be exchanged with other tokens of the same type NFTS cannot be exchanged with other tokens of the same type
Uniformity All FTs are identical to each other NFTs are unique and not similar to each other
Fractionalisation FTs can be divided into smaller units NFTs are individual units and cannot be divided
Examples Currency, Bitcoin Cryyptokitties, Art, And House/Property

Use cases of NFTs

  • Representing ownership of digital assets: NFTs can represent ownership of digital assets, such as artwork, music, or videos. This allows creators to sell their work more securely and transparently.
  • Creating royalty payments for creators: The creators can track and earn a percentage of the sale price of their work every time it is sold.
  • Fractionalizing ownership of assets: multiple people can own a single asset, such as a piece of real estate or a collectable.
  • Creating games and applications: It allows developers to create new types of games and applications based on ownership of digital assets.


Centralised Network vs Decentralised Network vs Distributed Network

  • A blockchain is a digital distributed ledger that records every data (transaction) in blocks linked together using cryptography (a technique of securing communication using encryption).
  • A distributed ledger stands in contrast to a centralised ledger, where the database is owned and controlled by a single or a closed group of entity/entities.
  • A centralised ledger is more prone to cyber-attacks and fraud, as it has a single point of failure.

The Meaning of ‘Distributed Ledger’ in Blockchain Technology

  • Ledger in accounting means a record of transactions, accounts, statements, etc. A ledger in blockchain means a database.
  • A distributed ledger is a decentralised and shared database synchronised across multiple devices, locations and geographies and accessible to every participant (node) within the network.
  • The participant (node) of the network can access the recordings of the ledger and can keep a copy of it.
  • Any changes made to the ledger are reflected and copied to all participants in seconds.
  • A distributed public ledger (e.g., bitcoin) is accessible to everyone connected to the internet.

Block in a Blockchain

  • Blockchain technology was first used within Bitcoin.
  • Bitcoin is a form of a digital distributed public ledger where records take the form of transactions.
  • A block is a collection of these transactions/records.
  • The block eventually is filled as more records (transactions) are added.
  • Once complete, the blocks are added to the blockchain in a linear, chronological order.
  • So, blockchain is a digitally distributed (public or private) ledger that records every transaction in a linear, chronological order in a cryptographically linked chain of blocks.

Components of a Block in a Blockchain

The Blockchain is Immutable

  • Immutable: impossible to change/delete any data once recorded and accepted.
  • Immutability, in the context of the blockchain, means that once something has been entered into the blockchain, it cannot be tampered with.
  • A block in a blockchain stores both the block’s and the previous block’s hash (a unique identifier).
  • The hash is a one-way cryptographic value derived from the transaction data, the previous block’s hash value, and other parameters.

Pictorial Representation of the Immutability of a BlockChain.

  • Even if a single transaction is tampered with, or if any of the block’s parameters are changed even by a single digit, the block’s hash will change completely.
  • This breaks the link with the next block since the block’s hash is the chain’s vital link.
  • Hence it is impossible to tamper with a block without altering the subsequent blocks.
  • Since the blockchain is hosted by millions of computers (nodes) simultaneously, it is next to impossible to alter all the copies unless 51% of the nodes approve it, which is, again, simply impractical.
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