- Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday left for the Philippines, where he will participate in various bilateral and multilateral programmes, including the much-awaited Indian – ASEAN summit.
What does the summit mean to India?
- The India-ASEAN Summit symbolizes India’s commitment to deepen its ties with the ASEAN member states and the Indo-Pacific region as part of the ‘Act East Policy’.
- The 10-member grouping ASEAN and India comprise a total population of 1.85 billion people which is one-fourth of the global population. The combined GDP has been estimated at over 3.8 trillion dollars.
What else is on the list?
- Apart from participating in the ASEAN-India and East Asia Summits, in the three-day visit, Mr. Modi would also take part in special celebrations of the 50th anniversary of ASEAN, Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Leaders’ Meeting and ASEAN Business and Investment Summit.
- The bilateral meeting with Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte with PM Modi and interactions with other ASEAN and East Asia Summit Leaders is also on the cards.
- The Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) comprises of Indonesia, Singapore, Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Thailand, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Vietnam.
- India’s relationship with ASEAN is an outcome of the significant changes in the world’s political and economic scenario since the early 1990s.
- ‘Look East Policy’ is India’s research for economic space.
- The Look East Policy has today turned into a dynamic and action oriented ‘Act East Policy.
- PM at the 12th ASEAN India Summit and the 9th East Asia Summit held in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar, in November, 2014, formally enunciated the Act East Policy.
- India’s relationship with ASEAN is a key pillar of our foreign policy and the foundation of our Act East Policy.
- The up-gradation of the relationship into a Strategic Partnership in 2012 was a natural progression to the ground covered since India became a Sectoral Partner of the ASEAN in 1992, Dialogue Partner in 1996 and Summit Level Partner in 2002.
- The main forum for ASEAN security dialogue is the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF).
- India has been attending annual meetings of this forum since 1996 and has actively participated in its various activities.
- The ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM) is the highest defence consultative and cooperative mechanism in ASEAN.
- The ADMM+ brings together Defence Ministers from the 10 ASEAN nations plus Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Russia, and the United States on a biannual basis.
Trade and Investment
- India-ASEAN trade and investment relations have been growing steadily, with ASEAN being India’s fourth largest trading partner.
- The annual trade between India and ASEAN stood at approximately US$ 76.53 billion in 2014-15.
- It declined to US$ 65.04 billion in 2015-16 essentially due to declining commodity prices amidst a general slowing down of the global economy.
- Investment flows are also substantial both ways, with ASEAN accounting for approximately 12.5% of investment flows into India since 2000.
- The ASEAN-India Free Trade Area has been completed with the entering into force of the ASEAN-India Agreements on Trade in Service and Investments on 1 July 2015.
- ASEAN and India have been also working on enhancing private sector engagement.
- ASEAN India-Business Council (AIBC) was set up in March 2003 in Kuala Lumpur as a forum to bring key private sector players from India and the ASEAN countries on a single platform for business networking and sharing of ideas.
- Economic ties between India and Southeast Asia are, for reasons of history, orientation and policy, today still rather thin.
- There seems to be a trend of convergence between the economic orientations and policies of India and Southeast Asia, as it within ASEAN itself.
- Free global trade and globalization are the common grounds between ASEAN and India.
- There is also a trend toward a common appreciation that states and corporations have to ensure that their people are adequately educated and trained and physically fit for the inflexibilities of global competition in the information age, having an inherent right, in any case, to education and health care.
- There seems to be enough common ground between ASEAN and India for them to forge ahead in cultivating the environment for expanding and deepening the trade, investments and capital flows between them.
- The year 2017 also completes 15 years of India-ASEAN dialogue at the summit.
- 2017 also commemorates the completion of five years of strategic partnership between Asia’s third-largest economy and one of the most successful economic groupings in the world.
- India’s bid to accentuate its links with ASEAN comes at a time of flux in the region with China seen as growing more assertive vis-a-vis its territorial claims in the oil and gas-rich South China Sea, which is also a major international maritime trade route.
What needs to be done?
- India is yet to give a signal that its remains committed to a long-term strategic presence in the region.
- Economically, India needs to develop connectivity with the region so that economic complementarities can be fully realized.
- Militarily, India needs to evolve into a robust security provider in the region.
- Diplomatically, it needs a sustained outreach.
- Culturally, it needs to build on the shared cultural linkages.
- The Indian Railways will launch the country’s largest time-bound “upskilling” exercise for government employees to upgrade the skillsets under the project Saksham
What is the significance of the project?
- The Indian Railways will launch the country’s largest time-bound “upskilling” exercise for government employees to upgrade the skillsets of its 13 lakh-strong work forces with a single drive spanning nine months.
- Under Project Saksham, over the next one year, all employees of the Indian Railways in each zone will be put through a week’s training in skills and knowledge relevant to their area of work
- Employees from the rank of a peon to the Railway Board Members and everyone in between will undergo the training.
When will the exercise commence?
- The exercise will start in January 2018 and go on till September, putting through training courses and specially designed skill-upgrade modules.
- The launch date of the project has been tentatively scheduled to coincide with the 155th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda
- The nature of the short-duration training will range from refresher courses to skills in the existing lining of functioning
What will be the duration of the training?
- Each will be a five-day on-the-job training, or classroom sessions in Railway Training Centres, depending on the nature of the course.
- The reporting managers of all employees need to be actively involved in the pre-training and post-training process to ensure that the newly learned skills can be easily integrated into the regular jobs.
- Groups of railway officers are going to Japan to train in various processes of the Shinkansen bullet train and heavy haul technologies.
- As the Constitution Bench declared that the Chief Justice of India is the master who alone could decide what case goes to which judge in the Supreme Court, the registry published a circular notifying lawyers and litigants not to orally mention fresh cases before any other Supreme Court judge except before the Bench presided by the Chief Justice of India.
What is this new circular?
- The circular is issued by the Registry of the Supreme Court.
- The circular asks lawyers and litigants not to orally mention fresh cases before any other Supreme Court judge except before the Bench presided over by the Chief Justice of India.
- The circular has in effect, put a stop to the practice of lawyers or litigants mentioning their cases before Justice J. Chelameswar’s court, the number two judge in the supreme court.
- The circular does not provide for a contingency where the CJI is either on leave or is unable to come to court for any other reason.
Why is this circular significant?
- The circular is significant as it was an oral mention before Justice Chelameswar’s Bench on November 9 that led to a series of events culminating in an almost spur-of-the-moment hearing by a five-judge Constitution Bench led by the Chief Justice of India on November 10.
What was the issue?
- On November 9, advocate Kamini Jaiswal had made an urgent oral mention of a petition before a two-judge Bench. The petition wanted the investigation into the medical college corruption case to be transferred from the CBI to a SIT supervised by a retired CJI.
- The petition said the FIR suspected that a conspiracy was highlighted to bribe Supreme Court judges.
- The two-judge Bench immediately listed the case for hearing on the same afternoon and ordered a Constitution Bench of the “first five judges in the order of seniority” to be set up on November 13 to hear Ms. Jaiswal’s petition.
What was the CJI’s reaction to it?
- The Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice Misra effectively prevented the scheduled hearing on November 13 by laying down the law that no two-judge Bench can command the Chief Justice of India to constitute Benches to hear cases in the Supreme Court.
- The Chief Justice of India is the sole master and carries the complete administrative prerogative over which judge should hear which case in the apex court. The Constitution Bench, in effect, nullified the two-judge Bench’s order.
Chief Justice of India
- Chief Justice is the senior most judge in the country, i.e, he is at the apex in the court of law. He sits in the supreme court, the court of Apex.
- The most powerful authority someone as a chief justice can have is, to become an acting President or vice President when the post is vacant until the next President is selected.
- CJI is constitutional post. He/she is who gives oath to president/vice President of india.
- He/she assigns judicial and administrative work to judges and registers.
- Represent India in International Judicial/ legal forum.
The appointment of CJI
- The Chief Justice is appointed by the President in consultation with such other judges of the Supreme Court and High Court as he may deem necessary.
- Convention dictates the appointment of the senior most judges of the Supreme Court as Chief Justice.
- The other judges are appointed by the President after consultation with the Chief justice and such other judges of the Supreme Court and the high courts as deemed necessary.
- The Consultation with the Chief justice is considered necessary for the appointment of any judge other than the Chief justice.
How powerful is CJI?
- MORAL POWER: Chief Justice is the senior most judge in the country, i.e, he is at the apex in the court of law. He sits in the supreme court, the court of Apex.
- POLITICAL POWER: The most powerful authority someone as a chief justice can have is, to become an acting President or vice President when the post is vacant until the next President is selected.
- LEGAL POWER: As head of the supreme court, the chief justice is responsible for the allocation of cases and appointment of constitutional benches which deal with important matters of law. Chief Justice allocates all work to the other judges who are bound to refer the matter back to him or her
- POLITICAL POWER: On the administrative side, the Chief Justice carries out the following functions: maintenance of the roster; appointment of court officials and general and miscellaneous matters relating to the supervision and functioning of the Supreme Court.
The Constitution itself clearly lays out heightened powers for the CJI. Broadly, these are:
- The CJI swears in the President and Governors;
- The President must consult with the Chief Justice before appointing Supreme Court or High Court judges;
- Article 127 gives the CJI power to appoint ad hoc Supreme Court judges
- Article 128 the power to sit retired Supreme Court judges
- Article 130 the power to sit the Court outside of Delhi (with the President’s approval)
- Article 146 the power to appoint officers and servants of the Court
- Article 222 the power to move high court judges to another high court
- Articles 257, 258, and 290 which gives the CJI the ability to appoint an arbitrator to resolve certain financial disputes between the centre and the states
- He or she is also paid a bit more than the rest of the justices, (presumably) for taking on these additional responsibilities.
- The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) continues to remain the net purchaser of the U.S. currency after it bought $1.259 billion in September from the spot market.
The exchange business
- In September, RBI bought $3.788 billion, while it sold $2.529 billion in the spot market.
- In August too, the central bank was net purchaser of 3.226 billion of the greenback, buying $4.556 billion and selling $1.330 billion in the spot market.
Why does RBI intervene in the foreign market?
- The RBI intervenes in the foreign market to contain volatility in the rupee and not set a price band.
- In FY17, RBI had a net purchase of 12.351 billion of the U.S. currency as it bought $71.764 billion and sold $59.413 billion in the spot market.
- The RBI has been intervening in the currency markets because a weaker currency pushes up the country’s import bill – you pay more rupees for the same amount of dollars – and contributes to the current account deficit.
- It is also indicative of a country’s economic health and a weaker currency is a signal to investors that the economy is not being well-managed.
- India has a huge import bill largely because it buys almost 80 per cent of its oil from abroad, and a weak rupee can wreak havoc with the government’s finances.
- Market decides the value of the rupee and the central bank only intervene to halt volatile currency movements caused by speculative trades.
What are dollar sales?
- The RBI has been intervening in the forex market since December 2011, when the rupee hit a record low, to stabilize the currency.
- Over the past couple of weeks, it has stepped up its dollar sales to stem the rupee’s slide.
What is the impact of the intervention?
- The reason that the rupee has continued to fall is because the RBI is caught in a cycle where it has to battle inflation, liquidity crunch and a falling rupee at the same time.
- Unfortunately, any action it takes to tackle one could be negated by the others. To tackle inflation, the RBI must keep rates high and liquidity tight, but that can stifle economic growth and push the currency down.
- If it sells dollars to support the currency, that too sucks liquidity out, choking growth. Slower growth makes India an unattractive destination for foreign investors, which in turn leads to drying up of dollar flow.
- But if it releases too much liquidity into the system, inflation could go into double digits and push the value of the rupee down, completing the vicious cycle.
Nature of Foreign Exchange Market:
- The foreign exchange market is the place where money denominated in one currency is bought and sold with money denominated in another currency.
- It provides the physical and institutional structure through which the currency of one country is exchanged for that of another country, the rate of exchange between currencies is determined, and foreign exchange transactions are physically completed.
- The primary purpose of this market is to permit transfer of purchasing power denominated in one currency to another.
RBI as a custodian of India’s foreign exchange reserves
- The RBI acts as the custodian of the country’s foreign exchange reserves, manages exchange control and acts as the agent of the government in respect of India’s membership of the IMF.
- Exchange control was first imposed in India in September 1939 at the outbreak of World War II and has been continued since. Under it, control was imposed on both the receipts and payments of foreign exchange.
- The foreign exchange regulations under the law required that all foreign exchange receipts whether on account of export earnings, investment earnings, or capital receipts, whether oh private account or on government account, must be sold to the RBI either directly or through authorized dealers (mostly major commercial banks).
- This resulted in centralization of country’s foreign exchange reserves with the RBI and facilitated planned utilization of these reserves, because all payments in foreign exchange were also controlled by the authorities.
- The exchange control was so operated as to restrict the demand for foreign exchange within the limits of the available supplies of it.
- Foreign exchange was rationed among competing demands for it according to the government policy.
- All this became essential in the context of actual or potential shortage of foreign exchange, which had been an important constraint on India’s efforts at planned economic development, most of the time.
The Reserve Bank of India:
- The RBI is entrusted with monetary stability, the management of currency and the supervision of the banking as well as the payments system.
RBI manages the foreign exchange operations through two departments, namely:
- Department of External Investments and Operations, and
- Foreign Exchange Department.
Department of External Investments and Operations:
- The main activities of the department are management of exchange rate of the Indian rupee, and management and investment of foreign exchange reserves of RBI.
Foreign exchange department:
- With the introduction of the Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999 (FEMA) with effect from June 1,2000, the objective of the Foreign Exchange Department has shifted from conservation of foreign exchange to “facilitating external trade and payment and promoting the orderly development and maintenance of foreign exchange market in India.”