Sunday, June 22, 2014

Indian Foreign Policy in West Asia and other selections

People shout slogans in support for the call to arms by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who is the highest religious authority for Shias in Iraq, in Najaf, south of Baghdad, June 13, 2014. (Photo: Alaa Al-Marjani/Courtesy Reuters)


Updated: June 21, 2014 00:28 IST

A time for Arab, Asian statesmanship

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The dramatic success of ISIS in Iraq shows that statesmanship is called for in the region or else West Asia could be consumed by jihadi and sectarian violence. This is also an opportunity for Asian countries that have high stakes in regional stability to promote dialogue and confidence-building measures in the Gulf

On June 10, the world awoke to the disquieting news that a shadowy jihadigroup, till then known for its violent activity in the Syrian conflict, had captured Iraq’s premier town of Mosul. After this, over the next few days, there were reports of the capture of other towns — Baiji, Tikrit, and then north to Tal Afar on the Syrian border — so that within a week, the jihadis seemed to be grouping just outside Baghdad. The group was identified as ISIS — the “Islamic State of Iraq and [Greater] Syria,” a jihadigrouping affiliated with al-Qaeda.

Needed, more deliberation

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Many of the key recommendations of the high-level Financial Sector Legislative Reforms Commission (FSLRC) continue to attract criticism, more than a year after its report was released. Chaired by retired Supreme Court Judge B.N. Srikrishna, the FSLRC was given a wide mandate to prepare a blueprint for a new financial architecture. The report has evoked strong responses, with some calling it a potential game-changer and others faulting it for being out of touch with the Indian reality. The FSLRC has had to grapple with several dissenting views among its members. It is not surprising therefore that the report of the commission dealing with a radical overhaul of the financial architecture — an enormously time-consuming process — has remained on the back burner for a while. The renewed interest in the subject is probably due to the fact that the new NDA government would look at the subject afresh and implement some of the less controversial recommendations. Among the most contentious proposals of the FSLRC involve the setting up of two entities: one, a new “super-regulator”, the Unified Financial Regulatory Agency (UFRA); and two, a Financial Sector Appellate Tribunal to review regulatory decisions. The former would be solely responsible for the oversight of the securities market, insurance, pensions and commodities. In effect, it will take over the functions of the existing regulators, including SEBI and the IRDA. If this proposal is implemented, the financial sector will have just two regulators, the RBI and the proposed UFRA. In the new set-up, the RBI will have some of its existing functions, such as regulation of organised financial trading, taken away.

Beginning a new conversation on women

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Modi’s ‘10-point agenda’ in its current form would be significantly hampered if the government does not take a strong look at injustices against women

Riding on the aspirations of the electorate, of which women are a significant share, Narendra Modi’s victory is commonly seen as a vote for development. But the last few weeks’ horrific reminder of how India publically consumes violence against women, in conjunction with the Prime Minister’s ‘10-point agenda’ for the new government, demonstrates a disturbing lack of policy vision for women’s issues. More specifically, it is important to point out the glaring absences in Mr. Modi’s vision. While he has urged us to not engage in ‘psychological analysis’ of rapes but instead prioritise ‘respect’ for women, this rhetoric indicates a feeble understanding of the sustained gross neglect faced by women in India. Their dismal state at present is reflected in the Gender Inequality Index which ranks us at 132 out of 146 countries. How can any country develop while denying equal rights to life and liberty to half its population?

Cutting through legal clutter

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Illustration: Deepak Harichandan
The HinduIllustration: Deepak Harichandan

Burdensome and unnecessary laws and regulations not only impose heavy economic costs, but also provide fertile grounds for corruption

In his first meeting with all government secretaries, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for the identification of 10 laws from each ministry that are burdensome and should be repealed. This clearly stemmed from a point that found repeated mention in the BJP’s manifesto — the need for periodic review and removal of outdated laws.
Such an initiative is long overdue. India has been characterised as one of the most over-regulated countries in the world. No central database of all laws and regulations exists in the country. If such a database existed, it would have been of encyclopaedic proportions. There are over 1,200 statutes at the Union level alone, while exact figures for Union regulations and the total number of State laws are not easily discernible. Burdensome and unnecessary laws and regulations not only impose heavy economic costs, but also provide fertile grounds for corruption, contribute to the perpetuation of red-tapism and the classical Indian malaise of the ‘Inspector Raj.’ To any right-thinking person, such laws need to be repealed.

Pratap Bhanu Mehta | 

Twitter@@pbmehta | June 20, 2014 12:57 am  

The most important signal this government needs to send is that it is going to write a new chapter in the history of Indian institutions. The most important signal this government needs to send is that it is going to write a new chapter in the history of Indian institutions.
It seems that the NDA has not learnt the first lesson from the UPA’s mistakes. It appears hell bent on continuing the decimation of institutions that has been the bane of Indian politics. The same contagion of small-mindedness that corroded the UPA is spreading its poison, under the facade of the new. The joke doing the rounds in Delhi, that the party in power has changed but the politicians, lawyers and bureaucrats have not, seems to be coming true, alas. The surprise is not that it’s business as usual. The surprise is how quickly business as usual has asserted itself

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