News: President Volodymyr Zelensky said he was no longer pressing for NATO membership for Ukraine, a delicate issue that was one of Russia’s stated reasons for invading its pro-Western neighbour.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), also called the North Atlantic Alliance, is an intergovernmental military alliance among 28 European countries and 2 North American countries.
Established in the aftermath of World War II, the organization implements the North Atlantic Treaty, signed 4 April 1949.
NATO constitutes a system of collective security, whereby its independent member states agree to mutual defense in response to an attack by any external party.
The NATO headquarters is located in Brussels, Belgium, while the headquarters of Allied Command Operations is near Mons, Belgium.
Since its founding, the admission of new member states has increased the alliance from the original 12 countries to 30. The most recent member state to be added to NATO was North Macedonia on 27 March 2020. NATO currently recognizes Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, and Ukraine as aspiring members.
Enlargement has led to tensions with non-member Russia, with Russian President Vladimir Putin demanding that NATO provide legal guarantees that it would stop expanding east (to countries such as Ukraine, Georgia or Moldova).
After NATO rejected this condition, Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022 in an attempt to prevent it from aligning with NATO.
An additional 20 countries participate in NATO’s Partnership for Peace programme, with 15 other countries involved in institutionalized dialogue programmes. The combined military spending of all NATO members in 2020 constituted over 57 per cent of the global nominal total.
Members agreed that their aim is to reach or maintain the target defence spending of at least 2 per cent of their GDP by 2024.
2. SABARIMALA TEMPLE
News: The Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala here was opened on Tuesday for the Uthram festival and the five-day monthly puja for the Malayalam month of Meenam.
About Sabarimala Temple:
The Sabarimala Temple is a temple complex located at Sabarimala hill inside the Periyar Tiger Reserve in the Perinad Village, Pathanamthitta district, Kerala, India.
It is one of the largest annual pilgrimage sites in the world with an estimate of over 40 to 50 million devotees visiting every year.
The temple is dedicated to a Hindu Brahmachari (Celibate) deity Ayyappan also known as Dharma Shasta, who according to belief is the son of Shiva and Mohini, the feminine incarnation of Vishnu.
The traditions of Sabarimala are a confluence of Shaivism, Vaishnavism, and other Śramaṇa traditions.
The temple is situated on a hilltop amidst eighteen hills at an altitude of 1260 m (4,134 ft) above sea level, and is surrounded by mountains and dense forests.
The dense forest, part of the Periyar Tiger Reserve, around the temple is known as Poongavanam.
Temples exist in each of the hills surrounding Sabarimala.
While functional and intact temples exist at many places in the surrounding areas like Nilakkal, Kalaketty, and Karimala, remnants of old temples survive to this day on remaining hills.
News: With Bhutan continuing to sit out the Motor Vehicles Agreement (MVA) of the sub-regional Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal (BBIN) grouping, a meeting of the other three countries was held to discuss the next steps in operationalising the agreement for the free flow of goods and people between them.
The Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal (BBIN) Initiative is a subregional architecture of countries in Eastern South Asia, a subregion of South Asia.
It meets through official representation of member states to formulate, implement and review quadrilateral agreements across areas such as water resources management, connectivity of power, transport, and infrastructure.
In light of economic interdependence demonstrated by “growth triangles” across Asia and hitherto unheeded concerns of eastern subcontinent nations, its Council of Ministers in May 1996 approved a sub regional body of Nepal, Bhutan, north east India and Bangladesh as the South Asian Growth Quadrangle (SAGQ).