India and neighbors
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping had a one on one meeting during the BRICS 2017 summit in Xiamen, China. This happened in the backdrop of the recently resolved Doklam standoff in the Sikkim sector.
NEED TO AVOID SITUATIONS LIKE THE RECENT STANDOFF
- The two leaders agreed that efforts should be made to ensure defence and security personnel must maintain strong contact and cooperation at the borders to avoid Doklam like situations in future.
- Looking beyond the Doklam crisis, both the nations decided to open a new “forward looking” round of engagement, anchored by fresh mechanisms to prevent recurrence of Doklam like incidents.
- It is to be noted that the two nations already have a mechanism of Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) in place. This 1996 agreement provides for border security and confidence measures between the parties to the agreement.
- It calls for military disclosure when the parties are undertaking border exercises and for the reduction of troop levels in the border areas.
PEACE AND TRANQUILITY
- It was noted that peace and tranquillity at the border are the prerequisites for the further development of the bilateral relations.
ROLE OF OTHER ORGANIZATIONS
- The Foreign Secretary of India pointed out that organizations such as BRICS and Asian Infrastructure Development Bank (AIIB) could supplement the interaction between the two countries at the inter-governmental level.
- Growing Perception in the Chinese intelligentsia
- In China, there is a growing perception among a section of the intelligentsia that the closure of the Doklam crisis had opened a fresh round of calibrated bonding between the two countries.
- It is important that the positive spirit and the will to cooperate, shown by both the sides at the BRICS summit, does not lose steam in the midst of regional issues and political rhetoric, and both sides should engage swiftly to formulate an effective forward-looking mechanism to shape the future bilateral ties between the two nations for mutual benefit.
In Constitution, a range of ‘special provisions’ for states other than Jammu & Kashmir, too: (Indian Express, Explained)
In Constitution, a range of ‘special provisions’ for states other than J&K too.
Article 370 that grants special autonomous status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) has always been debated. However, Jammu & Kashmir is not the only state for which special provisions have been laid down in the Indian Constitution.
What is Article 370?
- Article 370 provides temporary provisions to the state of Jammu and Kashmir, granting it special autonomy.
- The most prominent among the “special privileges” available to J&K is the ban on non-residents from acquiring property in the state and voting in the legislative Assembly elections.
Why Article 370 is so much in debate?
- The special status accorded to Jammu & Kashmir in the Constitution has prevented its “full integration” into the Indian Union.
- Ban or non-resident to acquire property and voting in the legislature, both the privileges are under challenge in the Supreme Court in a case against the constitutional validity of Article 35A.
What is Article 35A?
- Art 35A, which empowered the J&K Constitution to define “permanent residents” of the state, is an offshoot of Art 370 of the Indian Constitution.It was added to the Constitution through The Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order, 1954, issued by the President under Art 370.
Why was Article 370 incorporated in the Constitution?
- In 1947, Jammu & Kashmir negotiated the terms and conditions of its entry into the Indian Union.
- It acceded to the Union on Defence, Foreign Affairs and Communication, but wanted its own Constitution, to be drafted by its own Constituent Assembly.
- Art 370, which determines the contours of J&K’s relations with the Centre and exists as the constitutional cord between J&K and New Delhi.
- It was introduced in the Indian Constitution after Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and J&K Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah negotiated it for five months between May and October 1949.
Is J&K, the only state to be granted with such special provisions?
- J&K is not the only state that has been granted with special provisions.
- India Constitution has laid down a large number of safeguards to as many as 11 other states.
- Part XXI of the Indian Constitution, “Temporary Transitional and Special Provision’, includes, apart from Article 370 – Temporary Provisions with respect to the State of Jammu and Kashmir – special provisions for 11 other states, listed under Articles 371, 371A to 371H and 371J.
Is Article 370 different from Article 371, 371 A-H and 371 J? If yes, how?
- The special provisions laid down in Art 371, 371A-H, and 371J are not as far reaching as Art 370.
- One important difference between Articles 370 and 371, and Articles 371A-H and 371J, is that while the latter set of provisions were incorporated into the Constitution by Parliament through amendments under Art 368 (which lays down the “power of Parliament to amend the Constitution and procedure therefor”), Articles 370 and 371 have been part of the Constitution from the time of its commencement on January 26, 1950.
What does the grants of such special provisions imply?
- The existence of these provisions shows that along with J&K, other princely states, too, negotiated the terms and conditions of their entry into the Union, or sought special constitutional protections in view of their unique needs and conditions.
- Each of these constitutional provisions is rooted in historical reasons.
International groupings and agreements
Modi’s 10 ‘noble commitments’ for BRICS: (The Hindu)
PM Modi suggested 10 commitments to be made by BRICS member countries:-
What are those 10 commitments?
- Creating a safer world by organised and coordinated action on at least three issues: counter-terrorism, cyber security and disaster management.
- Creating a greener world by taking concerted action on countering climate change.
- Creating an enabled world by sharing and deploying suitable technologies to enhance efficiency, economy and effectiveness.
- Creating an inclusive world “by economic mainstreaming of our people including in the banking and financial system”.
- Creating a digital world by bridging the digital divide within and outside our economies.
- Creating a skilled world by giving future-ready skills to millions of our youth.”
- Creating a healthier world by cooperating in research and development to eradicate diseases, and enabling affordable health care for all.
- BRICS nations should provide equality of opportunity to all, particularly by gender equality.
- Enabling of free flow of goods, persons and services.
- Creating a harmonious world “by promoting ideologies, practices, and heritage that are centred on peaceful coexistence and living in harmony with nature”.
Back on track: (The Hindu, Editorial)
India and China have put up a united front in the BRICS summit. Both have proposed a revival of the Panchsheel principles of peaceful cooperation.
What is the significance of the BRICS meet for India and China?
- India and China have signaled that they are trying to put the bitterness of the past few months behind them.
- The tenor of the meetings between the two leaders was particularly remarkable given that the long Doklam military stand-off was resolved just a week ago.
Consensus arrived at the meet
- Both countries expressed similar views about resisting economic protectionism of the kind that the Trump administration in the U.S. has been espousing.
- BRICS countries have together committed to an “open and inclusive” multilateral trading system.
- Another area of consonance was the North Korean nuclear tests.
- China’s nod to the inclusion of the Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Jaish-e-Mohammed among the terrorist groups threatening regional stability, and its choosing not to speak of the contentious Belt and Road Initiative at the summit suggested it was heeding India’s concerns.
- With the BRICS meet concluded, it is important that Indian and Chinese officials re-engage in a sustained manner to address all areas of discord which led to the charged situation at Doklam.
- Both must review where the border defense standard operating procedures failed.
- The two countries must convene the delayed meeting of the Special Representatives, and add the latest claims and counterclaims over the Sikkim boundary and the India-China-Bhutan tri-junction to the agenda for discussions.
It is important that the gains of the BRICS summit in terms of the India-China bilateral atmospherics are optimized.
There is a Rohingya in all of us: (The Hindu, Editorial)
- The Centre refused to revise its stance on deporting Rohingya immigrants from India.
- What is the present-day situation?
- Rohingya are being forced to flee the violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state.
- The Minister of State for Home Affairs informed Parliament that 40,000 Rohingya are yet to be deported.
- The Government of India has returned to an idea of hard state, dropping its dreams of compassion, care and civility.
- Most persecuted minority
- Rohingya are the world’s most persecuted minority
- They are Muslims belonging to the Sunni sect, scattered mainly over the Rakhine state of Myanmar.
- Harassed by the Myanmar Army and forced to serve as slave labor, they have been systematically persecuted by the Buddhist majority.
- They were denied an autonomous cultural status.
- They lost all claims to the entitlements of citizenship.
- They were denied access to health, education and also any claim to the idea of citizenship.
An unhurried exodus
- Persecuted by the army and the Buddhist majority, they began a slow exodus over India, Bangladesh, spreading to States such as Rajasthan, Jammu and Kashmir, moving as far as Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
- The Rohingya then attempted to cross into Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia
- It is still unclear whether Rohingya are refugees or illegal migrants.
- Refugees become a target for an informal economy of bonded labour.
Being inhuman or just practical?
- On August 18, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) issued a notice to the government over its plan to deport Rohingya staying illegally in India
- However, despite all the efforts by the NHRC the decision stands
- The government has the obligation to protect and harbor anybody during difficult times, no matter they are a group of refuge, however it also holds a bigger responsibility to safeguard the interests of its citizens first.
Indian Economy. Planning, Growth and Employment
‘Undersea line from Iran to port cheap gas’: (The Hindu)
Indian must push for a trans-national deep water gas pipeline from Iran bypassing Pakistani EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone).
What is the plan?
- South Asia Gas Enterprise Pvt. Ltd. (SAGE) is looking to lay the underline sea pipeline, travelling first to Oman and them to the coast of Gujarat.
- The study says that the cost of landed gas through this pipeline would be $2 cheaper in comparison to importing LNG.
- SAGE is looking for the support of Indian government for pipelines.
- The pipeline is planned to carry 31.5 million standard cubic meters gas per day.
- The pipeline can be built in 2 years of the necessary approval required for it’s operationalization.
What would be the benefits for India?
- It will be used as an alternative to the IPI pipeline as India has not been participating for the talks of this pipeline since 2007.
- This 1,300-km undersea pipeline from Iran will avoid Pakistani EEZ.
- LNG through pipelines could be procured at rates less than the price of LNG available in the spot market and even cheaper compared to the rates of domestic fields supply gas.
Is a progressive GST possible?: (Live Mint, Editorial)
A higher rate of consumption based tax like GST hurts the poor.
India is the second-most generous country, among 20 major countries
What is the current scenario of India’s direct tax regime?
India has one of the lowest direct tax to GDP (Gross Domestic Product) ratios in the world (Economic Survey -2016).
Higher rate of income tax applies only when one’s income exceeds 2.4 times the national per capita income.
– A lot of income earners legitimately escape the income-tax net.
– The cases of tax evasion are time consuming and involve long legal procedures.
– The tax exemption – bracket can be easily avoided.
– The total exemption granted to the capital gains is ambiguous and helps in tax evasion.
– The share of direct taxes in total tax revenue (both state and Centre) is only 35%.
What is the situation after implementation of the GST?
– All major indirect taxes included under the umbrella of the GST.
– Being a consumption based indirect tax, GST impacts the poor more than the rich.
– The rich have a big share of their income go into savings, which is not taxed (or even subsidized).
– India’s average rate for consumption taxes is higher than the global average.
What are the mechanism to deal with the regressivity of GST?
– Most items consumed by the poor are taxed at a low 5% or 12%
– It is claimed that most of the CPI (consumer price index) basket is taxed at lower rates.
– Some items like food grains are completely exempted.
What can be the impact of classification of taxable items?
The classification will bring distortions, disputes, lobbying and corruption.
Why consumption based taxes are popular?
– They are less trade distortionary.
– They are easier to administer and monitor.
– They have better responsiveness of revenue mobilization in response to growth
– The initial collection figures for GST in India already show higher than expected revenue.
How is it possible to have a progressive GST?
– Greater redistribution of tax
– Greater spending on public goods
– Aadhaar enabled Direct Benefit Transfer