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India’s European dilemma as a ‘Vishwa Shishya’: Strategic delusions & idea-centrism issues

Abhivardhan

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The year 2020 marks the shedding of ideological obscuration amidst democracies. Geopolitics and the face of ‘realpolitik’ is undoubtedly at the centre of many problems and avenues that the world accordingly faces. India’s dilemma therefore – is different. In many aspects, India has a fortunate position, unlike EU and the US, which we must never ignore. In terms of constitutionalism, India can learn the social coherency and the urge of credibility towards its institutions from Europe, while in terms of the of the dynamic nature of a democracy and its three sections, it can certainly learn from the US. In terms of strategy and information warfare, India needs to learn from Israel and Russia. In addition, in terms of harnessing the global supply chain and enabling the middle class in India to grow, it can learn, if not inspire from China, Bangladesh and Japan. However, to learn is different from the art, handiness and clarity to adopt or implement. For years, India has been a different ‘Vishwa Shishya’ (term coined by Harsh Gupta, one of the authors of ‘A New Idea of India’), where even the understanding of the term is not as literal as the term even depicts. Vishwa Shishya means someone who can be a ‘disciple’ of the world, in a rigorous, focused and devoted manner. For a constitutional cum civilizational state like India, the internal and exterior annals of learning and relationship towards the world itself have been crispy, confusing and improving. No disciple is perfect, and it is certain that there are strategic, constitutional and economic backlashes that are faced in general. Therefore, even if Europeans or Americans see India differently in a technocratic or Newtonian manner, the depiction itself is not complete, neither absolute.

Even if you see the 6 stages of Indian Foreign Policy as beautifully explained by India’s External Affairs Minister, Dr S Jaishankar in the 4th Ramnath Goenka Lecture, 2019 – then you will find that the 2nd and 3rd phases of vulnerability, recovery and regional assertion flipped India’s earlier ideological connectivity with Nehruvian Socialism (political and economic). The social faction of Nehruvian Socialism met its gradual end in the 4th and 5th phases, when economic growth and balancing ties with the US, China and Russia was important. Despite the fact that in the matters of politics, society and economics, there are still some percolations or strands of degeneracy of India’s civilizational ethos, there is no doubt that a sense of revival is imminent, which will be more or less a struggle, for not a long time. The current stage of energy diplomacy, which India stepped in since 2014, has been adventurous – and is reaching the logical conclusion of its beginning in 2020, which was fast because of the expose of the global conditions due to one pandemic. However, the impact is still not much significant, because rebounding and strategic protectionism will drive countries to become competitive. India and ASEAN countries are at the verge of the same. In fact, towards the likelihood or non-likelihood of Joe Biden winning the US Presidency, India is seeking an outreach towards the Democratic Party with the hope that the US is still bipartisan. Under Joe Biden, this would seem calculatedly true (if he wins), and this therefore must not be ignored. Considering the mess that the US Presidential Elections 2020 have become, and the Democratic Party’s deep divisions within, it is clear that the benefit of doubt over the transformation of the realpolitik conditions of the international community will be now central to two important regions – the Indo-Pacific up to the Far East & continental Europe. The article attempts to declutter India’s dilemma towards Europe over two important issues – strategic delusions and idea-centrism.

India and Europe – Moderate & Natural Partners

There is no doubt in asserting that India and Europe are moderate natural partners, in areas such as trade and environment. A report from the European Parliament also suggests that the potential impact of an EU-India trade agreement at between €8 billion and €8.5 billion gains from increased trade for both sides, with a more noteworthy upsurge of trade gains likely towards the Indian side. The study also refers to additional potential gains from enhanced coordination on the provision of global public goods, such as environmental standards. Even in culture, Europe and India are not far, but closer in a reasonable manner. The EU in India organizes cultural fests with the Indian Government and participates in the dialogues and consultations openly. Even Ambassadors from European countries are open to participate with India reasonably. However, the real issue begins when India and Europe, at social levels, clash. This clash is not civilizational, but has both ideological and cultural aspects, which exists, and is not affably even noticed properly by the European community, if is done by the Indian community. The problems, which affect the coherence of cultural-personal relationships between India and Europe are ethnocentrism and Eurocentrism.

There is no doubt to expect that Europe and India do share some common worldviews, which in general is not so close, if can be near to coherency. Whenever we estimate the US’s views on India, we often jump on Hinduphobia and the Kashmir question/affinity towards Pakistan or kindness towards the Muslim Brotherhood, which is merely a limited angle to see the trajectory of Indo-US relations. Similarly, the argument kept that ethnocentrism and Eurocentrism exists as a problem is not merely a monolith of differences over religion and human rights, because the issue of Hinduphobia, like in the US, is more related to the lack of awareness and consciousness in culture policy and diplomacy, which very few Non-Resident Indians reflect in the Americas and Europe, unfortunately. The problems that India as a civilizational state faces, are definitely real, but cannot be overestimated, nor exaggerated. Same applies to those people, who exaggerate Eurocentric world views and act ethnocentric over India and its internal political and social problems – like they intend to do in the case of Africa as well. This exaggeration, has been at peak in the US for long, if not is so much in Europe, where a set of people taint the Indian worldview unreasonably. India’s communication and counter-information strategy has been weak and unfit, which is not completely owed to the Indian Government’s mistakes in dealing with information warfare from the West. In fact, the burden must be shared by the Eurocentric and ethnocentric Western media, which has not been non-partisan for a long time, despite the fact that colonialism and cold war mentality are over. Ideological obscuration, therefore is not the basis of European worldview, in completion, but it also does not mean that Europe cannot suffer from the lasting effects of lack of cultural sensitivity and mobility. The mobile and supportive behaviour of the Central and Eastern European bloc towards India has been a positive act, and will help foster better Indo-EU relations. Inviting center-right and few far-right MEPs to visit the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir in 2019 is not an ideological move, because Eurocentrism is not just the disease of those leaders, who are socialists (even libertarians and conservatives have a lack of awareness of India’s cultural sensitivity and mobility) & so, even Christian conservatives, and libertarians could have made mistakes in understanding the Indian state. Fortunately, the feedback was positive enough, which is a significant win for India. Even the uproar over the Citizenship Amendment Act of 2019 was unfounded – because the classification of a particular set of people given for the purpose of citizenship into India, does not bar people from earning citizenship into India through legal means, which is naturalization (for outsiders). Unless the Citizenship Amendment Rules of 2020 or 2021 come, no absoluteness over the same matter can be reckoned by the European side over the constitutionality of the Act, and thus, even this claim is unfounded.

Strategic Delusions and its Percolation

Now, why ethnocentrism and Eurocentrism is not myopic to the Indian Government, but to Europeans? Is awareness the only reason? Perhaps not. Europe is very much open in terms of engagement and diversification, and blaming a set of Far-Left/Far-Right political leaders is just an unreasonable method to deal with the problems India and Europe have had for some time. In this century, the European Union needs a defence arrangement (to end the over-reliance on NATO for good), to reckon a non-defeatist and science-security-centric technology leadership (which is being fought among China, the US, India and ASEAN, to name some) and finally, a relevant global competition policy (which is urgent considering the expansionist designs of China in Eastern Europe and the Scandinavian region). In all 3, the situation is quite not much grown, and the migration crisis has already caused some Central and European States to ignore the EU over migration. Although migration is an issue of zero concern to India, there is no doubt that India is eager enough to be patient to seek a revitalized and transformed Europe, which can balance populism and political correctness, like Emmanuel Macron over Islamist extremism, which Angela Merkel could never be able to do so. India’s arduous support of Macron and his diplomatic and personal dignity is not a populist anti-Muslim move, but a clear indication of what reformed multilateralism looks like.

Also, the US is more damaged as an institutional democracy, which is owed to the 12 years of over-personalization of the sanguine nature of the Presidency it relies on. Frankly, it is a bipartisan failure, of both the Democrats and the Republicans, but considering that the Republican party intends to move forward and not endorse Donald J Trump’s rants, they will never ignore the achievements of the 45th President – but rather capitalize on the same reasonably. The Democrats however, have some really bad years ahead due to their stance over the Critical Race Theory, and the Black Lives Matter campaigning, which in no way helps the minorities. In fact, as per the AP VoteCast survey on the US Presidential Elections 2020, around 35% Muslims voted for Donald J Trump, including a more diverse coalition of women, Latino and black voters. The white vote has plummeted, which is insanely interesting. Also, the House Republicans have gained amassed benefits in their numbers, even if they cannot grab the majority this year, which shows that the end of a Trump Presidency, will undeniably lead to a degeneracy and decay of the democratic socialists and cultural Marxists, who dominated the image of the Democratic Party for long, and destroyed their credibility around the world. The relationship between democratic socialists and cultural Marxists in the US & Europe is also not unfounded. However, considering France and Germany’s unison over resisting political Islam and China, which will be significant in Europe in the coming years, the political disease of eurocentrism is set to be cured better, thus making the European political faction cautious about their worldviews. A reasonable definition of anti-Semitism also has been adopted by the Global Imams Council, which is a reasonable move, not only in the eyes of UAE and Saudi Arabia, but also the European right, which has to stand up reasonably. European secularism will also take a dramatic turn. France’ Macron is a perfect balance between the Far-Left and the Far-Right in Europe, and before Chancellor Merkel leaves world politics, she will never be intending to taint the Christian Democratic Union in Germany, and therefore empowering the Far-Right Alternative for Germany. Thus, the four years of Trump Presidency, even if have been turbulent for Europe and its institutional cum ideological values, have given a sense of learning to Europe to expose itself to a stronger and resilient worldview, which is coherent.

Additionally, Europeans are now realizing that they need to bridge and change their policies over three significant countries – India, Russia and China. With India, Europe is set for a trade deal any year soon, in clear opposition to the treachery of the values of European liberalism (or libertarianism) committed by the Chinese Communist Party led by Xi Jinping. Taiwan cannot be ignored anymore, as not only the US, but some EU member-states are leaning to endorse the leadership there in a moderate and transforming resistance against the Chinese wolf-warrior diplomacy. With Russia, the range of complexity depends on the state of Central Asia, where if Europe and NATO do not control Turkey (supported by Pakistan), then the US might step in assertively. However, it is in the best interest of Europe to sanction and take action against Reccip Tayyip Erdogan. Eastern Europe and Central Asia are the umbilical cords to the geopolitical transformation of defence partnerships between India and EU member-states. India already is in course for defence partnerships with Kazakhstan under the nose of China, as Eurasian Times reported. Thus, a better vision of multiculturalism – which started from Europe (not the US) in the 1990s can be presented to the international community, which will be welcomed heartily by the Indian Government.

IDEA-CENTRISM AND ITS DIMENSIONS

India shares the values of multiculturalism that Europe concedes to. Secularism and multiculturalism, despite being amazingly different, are essential to India and Europe in general. Indian secularism is not based on Semitic faiths such as Christianity, Islam and Judaism (although several attempts were made in India to impose the same, unfortunately by the Indian National Congress and the Nehruvian socialists for years). Instead, India’s vision of secularism, in full agreement with Rajeev Mantri and Harsh Gupta’s A New Idea of India – is composed of respect and devotion towards the civilizational heritage and diversity of India’s geography and cultures, which cannot be limited to the term called ‘Hindu Nationalism’ & the idea of coherence instead of artificial tolerance towards different Semitic and non-Semitic faiths, frankly. India has always welcomed people of different faiths, and will do, whenever it feels reasonable enough. Also, the dimension of sovereignty in India, is not ideological, but pragmatic, based on (1) a feudal governance model, which is often misinterpreted as ‘quasi-federalism’ under Indian Constitutional Law (since the Government of India Act of 1935 and other colonial adoptions from the British is still present in India) and (2) central to the concept of competence, and not power (which the Western and Indian media represents worse on unfounded claims). Kautilya, the architect of the Mauryan empire always embraced the idea of competence over a micro-managed servility towards power as a corrupt concept. It was Ashoka who destroyed this empire, because of his micro-management of governance and the eulogization of his identity as a King equivalent to that of a God, which never happens commonly in the history of Indic kings. Celebrating the cult and its diversity is not unfounded, neither unreasonable for the Indian people, because of years of mistreatment of the Indian state and the judiciary of the religious, social and cultural institutions of the Indic community. For example, the word Dharma is not equivalent to the word ‘religion’ and ‘Jati’ is not the English word ‘caste’, which unfortunately, has been a colonial misrepresentation of the Indic culture. Thus, the feudal system of constitutionalism from the British had its own reasonability in India, which now can be effectively transformed to a federal but responsible and accountable system of governance. India knows it very well that dominance in the information age is based on decentralization, not over-centralization of the state machinery. This inspiration is not directly American, but European – because if we see the laws (passed and in process to be proposed or passed in the Indian Parliament), many of them on information technology, AI and fintech are directly inspired from Europe. The Personal Data Protection Bill of 2019 is definitely inspired from the General Protection Data Regulation with some Indian modification of course, for example. Therefore, there is no doubt that India is eager to learn from Europe, its old friend. What Europe should do to express gratitude is to transform and revitalize its approach to strategize some limited identitarian European values, which are universal yet pragmatic, which starts with the European Parliament and the European Commission’s leaderships. Center-right, libertarian and Center-left politicians are better than Far-Right and Far-Left parties, and even when we see the current state of the COVID19 pandemic, we will find surveys proving that the Far-Right, for example, is suffering pretty well, especially in Germany and Austria. Center-right parties will have a better stronghold, but if their public health policies are not reasonable, then mere populism or assurance will not help the people. On the other hand, in India, the Culture-conservative and governance-libertarian governments in India (state-level) are doing significantly well in their efforts to curb the COVID-19 virus and its spread. Some socialist governments in India are not doing well, like West Bengal and Kerala, while the Central Government in India is well-prepared in contact tracing, decreasing the number of deaths and even handling the quarantine zones, which no one would have ever expected from a country like India, whose health infrastructure is a serious mess. India has been cooperative and helpful towards ASEAN countries, like what European Union tries to do with the Middle East and even some non-EU member-states as well as the Commission did since March 2020.

Thus, it is clear that the pair of India and Europe can certainly do better in terms of cooperation and transformation of the global economy, global health and environment system & the world of multilateralism, instead of the pair of India and the US. No one should ignore the potential of an Indo-US cooperation – but over relying on a skewed democracy like the US is often risky for the resilience of the Indian democracy. India can adopt and maintain the transformation of QUAD to its logical beginning as of now, as it presides the UN Security Council, the Shanghai Cooperation, G20 and other significant forums along with the Executive Bodies of the World Health Organization and the International Labour Organization. It is however also in the best interest of Europe, like India to have a meaningful and not over-reliant relationship with the US. Instead, Europe can look towards the global south and transform a resilient and meaningful network of partnerships swiftly, in the interest of peace and security, and so, a reasonable model of economic development. The US will be significant in the coming years to combat ideological obscuration and culture wars, which India and Europe would never to intrude much. Thus, one US election cannot decide in absolutism, as to how the state of the world will be – as the impact of the changes made by President Trump will help more, and damage less, the global order. This is therefore the best moment of a charted territory in the relationship between India and Europe to revitalize and protect the liberalism that the rules-based international order is fond of, which is not misused by anyone, whether it is the US, or China or Russia.

About the author: Abhivardhan is the Chief Executive Officer of Internationalism and the Chairperson & Managing Trustee of the Indian Society of Artificial Intelligence and Law.

In terms of strategy and information warfare, India needs to learn from Israel and Russia. In addition, in terms of harnessing the global supply chain and enabling the middle class in India to grow, it can learn from China, Bangladesh and Japan. However, to learn is different from the art, handiness and clarity to adopt or implement. For years, India has been a different ‘Vishwa Shishya’ (term coined by Harsh Gupta, one of the authors of ‘A New Idea of India’), where even the understanding of the term is not as literal as the term even depicts.

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Opinion

Poverty not a curse, sterling efforts needed to be wealthy

Mukesh Ambani has added a feather to India’s cap by figuring among the richest in the world.

Vijay Darda

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Let me tell you a story of Mukesh Ambani’s vision. Reliance Group has a huge petroleum refinery in Jamnagar, Gujarat. A large area was lying barren around it. Mukesh Ambani felt that if trees and plants are planted on this land, the pollution of the refinery can be absorbed. When Mukesh Ambani decided to plant mango orchard on 600 acres of barren land, people harboured serious reservations about the success of his project.

The soil of Jamnagar and the moisture there has salinity and the winds blow at a high velocity too. In such a situation, would it be right to plant a mango orchard? This was the question in everyone’s mind, but Mukesh Ambani had decided and insisted that only mango orchard would be planted there. That was in 1997. Today, after 23 years, the salinity of the soil has been controlled, the winds have been taken care of and there are more than 1.5 lakh mango trees of about 200 species. Mangoes from this orchard are being exported all over the world because of its unmatched quality. The name of this mango orchard in Jamnagar is ‘Dhirubhai Ambani Lakhibag Amrayee’. For your information, let me tell you that the word ‘Lakhibag’ was the name of a mango grove developed by Mughal Emperor Akbar near Darbhanga in Bihar.

I told you this story so that you can understand how important it is to have vision, devotion and dedication to your work to become rich. After all, Dhirubhai Ambani started his journey from zero and built a big empire on his own. After that, one of his two sons raised his empire and the other collapsed on the ground. It is clear from this that even if you get a huge wealth by luck, you do not necessarily climb the stairs of success. It takes strength, concentration and balance to climb. Just one mistake is enough to fall! Let’s just think of Tata-Birla, Ambani-Adani, Hinduja, L N Mittal or Sajjan Jindal, Singhania, Anand Mahindra, you will find that their family started from zero. Infosys is an excellent example of our times. Narayan Murthy had laid the foundation of Infosys with a capital of only Rs 10,000. Adani started from the very bottom. Today, their success stories are for all to see. It is obvious that all this does not happen by sheer luck. For this, action and vision are required.

Many people continue to criticise industrial and business groups indiscriminately. Be it Ambani group or Adani group or someone else. People do not miss any chance to say that the government has always been ‘favourable’ to them. To me, these are all stupid and meaningless outpouring. No one can become ‘Kuber’ only with ‘favours’. For that, capacity needs to be increased manifold. Do not discuss what kind of house Ambani lives in, by which aircraft he travels, how many vehicles he has and how the wedding took place in his house. If at all, discuss that Ambani has given work to millions of hands. India has advanced in the world of technology. Do you know that while some people swindled Rs 15 lakh crore of the banks, Mukesh Ambani does not owe a single rupee to any bank! Consider why Mukesh Ambani flourishes in every sector he enters? Be thankful to all these industrialists that they have played and are playing an important role in the country’s progress. When I see the tricolour waving at The Pierre, a Taj Hotel in New York, my chest swells with pride. Isn’t it a matter of pride that Tata bought a global brand like Land Rover?

I have close proximity to almost all the industrialists I am referring to here and I know their lifestyle very closely. Humility, spontaneity and focus are their greatest assets. They have not become rich in a day. They have achieved this position through hard work. Therefore, do not curse poverty. Poverty is not a curse at all. Poverty can be transformed into prosperity by sterling actions and efforts. I know hundreds of such administrative officers who were born in a poor family but are occupying high posts today. Babasaheb Ambedkar was also poor but due to his talent, he is remembered with reverence all over the world today. Our former President APJ Abdul Kalam is the biggest example of this. His father was a fisherman and Kalam used to sell ‘beedis’ as a child. He became the best scientist in the world and also adorned the country’s highest position. Lal Bahadur Shastri rose from poverty to become the Prime Minister of the country. M S Kannamwar who once sold newspapers, became the chief minister of Maharashtra. People like Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg have also risen from the state of extreme poverty to reach the summit. Former presidents of America, Bill Clinton or Barack Obama, hailed from very humble origins. Elsewhere across the world, there have been many prime ministers, presidents, industrialists, great writers and scientists who were born poor, but they overcame their poverty through their ability and reached the top. So don’t accept poverty as a curse, take your steps, develop your potential. Success is waiting for you! The need of the hour is dedication, out-of-the-box thinking and perseverance… So what are you waiting for!

The author is the chairman, Editorial Board of Lokmat Media and former member of Rajya Sabha. vijaydarda@lokmat.com

I congratulate Mukesh Bhai that he has not only joined the select list of wealthiest persons in the world with his devotion, dedication and vision but also made the country proud. True, if the capabilities are utilised to the full, one can scale the summit. Mukesh Bhai has proved his mettle and ability in every field.

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Opinion

Making it happen: Mission Kayakalp

Crackdowns and raids on illicit liquor makers and sellers in UP’s Barabanki district revealed some bitter truths. Many of those being arrested would go right back to their ‘trade’ after release. And, most of those involved were stuck in this trade due to lack of alternative sources of income.

Anil Swarup

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Illicit liquor is a massive social, economic and law enforcement nightmare across India. It has been known to destroy innumerable lives by death, criminal conviction, disability and addiction apart from ruining livelihoods, families and health. The brunt of this evil is most intensely felt by the poor and illiterate classes.

In January this year Dr Aravind Chaturvedi was posted as the Superintendent of Police of Barabanki, a district of UP adjoining its capital city Lucknow. Barabanki is a prosperous district but it has some great challenges. It is notorious for narcotics and illicit liquor. Hence, the first priority for Aravind on being posted there was to curb these criminal activities. 

Crackdowns and raids on illicit liquor makers and sellers across the district, revealed some bitter truths. Many of those being arrested would go right back to their ‘trade’ after release. And, most of those involved were stuck in this trade due to lack of alternative sources of income. Ironically, a few villages had almost all residents involved in illicit liquor making. The issues were discussed were discussed at length with colleagues. On ascertaining the details, they were able to spot a few villages which were worst affected. One of the places with highest concentration of such cases was a small village of Chaynpurwa in Ramnagar tehsil of the district. This became the centre of the initiative.

Chaynpurwa is a remote village, cut-off from the nearby suburbs on account of being surrounded by the expansive Bhagahar Lake on three sides. The people here had lost a lot to the illicit liquor trade. Out of the 94 families of this village, 32 women were widows. Only 6 men in the entire village were in a condition to work. The others were in jail, handicapped or heavily addicted. Most children didn’t go to school and those who did, faced economic hurdles and social stigmas. It was a painful sight.

Uplifting a village out of poverty is a difficult task, but lifting one out of the grip of crime and poverty is a much bigger challenge. Rehabilitation that was not considered a part of Police’s regular duty was initiated. It was initially frowned upon. However, soon the thought behind it and the prospect of improving the lives of people of an entire village came to be appreciated. The initiative soon got wholehearted support.

The first step was to organise a “Police Chaupal”, a gathering of all residents of Chaynpurwa and nearby villages, hosted by the local Police and attended by Aravind himself and Circle Officer, Ramnagar along with Inspector, Ramnagar. Villagers were given opportunity to speak about their problems, compulsion towards illicit liquor trade and socio-economic challenges. The stories that came out of the meeting were painful and heart-wrenching. “Mission Kayakalp” started taking shape consequent to this meeting

A survey of the village was conducted in Chaynpurwa village to obtain basic data about the village and its residents. This survey provided critical insights into the state of the village and its people. With the exception of 4 families which had at least one employed member, 90 of the village’s 94 families needed immediate assistance if they were to be emancipated from illicit liquor trade.

Priority now was to come up with a suitable, sustainable and circumstantially practical occupation alternative. A series of discussions with District Magistrate of Barabanki Dr Adarsh Singh, a passionate leader and Chief development Officer Medha Roopam, a bright officer brought forth a few options. Out of these, beekeeping seemed an appropriate and practicable choice. The villagers were briefed about this. A training session was arranged for them. Support also came from bank authorities who promised to provide loans. 

Dr Adarsh Singh’s support for Mission Kayakalp and his personal interest and backing to the initiative gave Chaynpurwa Village the attention and resources of 26 Government departments under the district administration. Medha Roopam herself went to the village with officials from various departments to make the residents of Chaynpurwa aware about Government schemes and programmes and provided eligible persons all the benefits.

The above events took place during the period between mid-August and mid-October this year. Bee farming in North India starts only after mid-November. Hence, an idea was mooted to help them generate some interim income through making and selling candles for the upcoming Diwali festival. This initiative was started and sponsored by Barabanki Police but Nimit Singh, an empathetic entrepreneur who owned bee farms, honey processing units and honey export played an important role

Nimit provided the women of Chaynpurwa training and raw-materials to make various types of diyas from bee-wax. The sale of these Diyas soared beyond expectations and close to 5 lakh diyas were sold in the weeks leading to Diwali. With a total amount over Rs 6 lakh earned by the village from these diyas in one month, an average income of Rs 7,000 was received by almost every household in the village. A grand “Deepotsav” was organised in collaboration with Umeed Foundation of Lucknow to honour and recognise the self-awareness and inspirational hard work done by the people of Chaynpurwa. For them it was an ecstatic moment to be the centre of focus of a program at such a scale and in the presence of top authorities.

The plan, alongside setting up bee-farming infrastructure, is to get a Community Hall built in the village so that a common space may be available for conducting training programs and provide an organised working area. Another plan on the anvil is to try and direct the energy of young children of this village in a positive, productive direction by arranging holistic orientations, building an open gym or recreation centre and motivate them to be diligent towards education. On the economic front with a long-term horizon, efforts are being made to attract the schemes of UP Government’s Khadi and Village Industries Board to provide a stable source of income to the village. These will include training them on electric pottery machines known as “Electric Chaak”, developing a stitching unit or a Agarbatti and candle making unit.

Setting up of a ‘trust’ by the name of “Chaynpurwa Kayakalp Foundation”, consisting of motivated private individuals for the welfare of villages like Chaynpurwa is also being planned. The objective is to provide sustainability to the project. Chaynpurwa village is on a path to turn its life around, look to a bright future and produce good law-respecting citizens. 

The initiatives taken by Aravind clearly demonstrate that despite enormous hurdles, if an officer so desires, she/he can make-it-happen.

Anil Swarup has served as the head of the Project Monitoring Group, which is currently under the Prime Minister’s Office. He has also served as Secretary, Ministry of Coal and Secretary, Ministry of School Education.

Uplifting a village out of poverty is a difficult task, but lifting one out of the grip of crime and poverty is a much bigger challenge. Rehabilitation that was not considered a part of police’s regular duty was initiated. It was initially frowned upon. However, soon the thought behind it and the prospect of improving the lives of people of an entire village came to be appreciated. The initiative soon got wholehearted support.

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Opinion

States must stop talking about lockdowns

Joyeeta Basu

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lockdown

Voices are coming from certain states that it’s time for another lockdown, possibly partial, to tackle the rising number of Covid cases. It is hoped that such thoughts will stay at the level of contemplation and will not translate into reality, especially when economic activities are finally starting to pick up after a prolonged lockdown-induced slump. In fact, this whole argument about cases multiplying needs to be assessed carefully, especially since except for a handful of states—particularly Delhi, Kerala and Maharashtra—the numbers are anything but “humongous”. The active Covid cases in a country with a billion-plus population is fewer than 4.5 lakh—443,486, to be precise, on Tuesday. If the number of people affected has crossed the 90 lakh-mark, it must also be recognised that over 85 lakh of those infected have recovered, with the recovery rate being 93.68%. And while even one death is a huge loss, and here more than a lakh lives have been lost, the fatality rate is as low as 1.46%, which is among the lowest in the world. The problem is indeed “humongous” in Delhi (40,212 active cases), Kerala (65,982) and Maharashtra (82,521). Delhi’s (population 1.9 crore) figures are particularly worrying, considering the number of its active cases is nearly double that of a state as populous as Uttar Pradesh (23,806 active cases and 20.4 crore population). Hence, Delhi needs special efforts to control the pandemic—but barring shutdowns. However, why will a state like Gujarat, with 13,600 active cases, impose night curfews in four of its cities, including Ahmedabad, which has 2,906 active cases? It defies logic.

This piece is not advocating taking the risk of Covid-19 lightly. If infected patients require hospitalisation and intensive care, it can have a debilitating impact on household finances. Also, there is a great degree of uncertainty about the way the infection is affecting people of all age groups, particularly those with co-morbidities. However, there is also enough anecdotal evidence to suggest that in a majority of cases, home quarantine and a combination of medicines are proving to be effective, resulting in recovery. Responsible social behaviour—including wearing masks, washing hands and social distancing—is a must to avoid the infection, but it must come naturally, and not be enforced. Also, fear mongering about the infection hitting India in waves and causing untold devastation is best avoided. India has successfully defied all predictions of “apocalypse” by analysts based on foreign shores and there is no reason to believe that it will not do so in the future as well. Even the World Health Organization is saying that community transmission of the virus has not taken place in India—what we are witnessing are clusters of infection. While it is not pleasant learning to live with the virus, but that’s exactly what seems to be happening—which also explains the “teeming millions” at public places.

While the wait for the vaccine is supposed to be getting over, it is not yet known how effective the vaccine will be, given the rapidity with which the virus is mutating; more importantly, how soon the vaccine can be reached to the 1.3 billion people of this country. It cannot happen inside a few weeks, or even months, or perhaps even years. What happens in the intervening period? The fact is, the therapy route is proving to be effective in India and even before the vaccine reaches all Indians, we could well be on our way to gain herd immunity. In the meanwhile, lives and livelihoods cannot be shut down. Things will have to come back to normal, soon, else there will be disaster—in real terms. So, all talk of curfew and lockdown must be avoided.

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Opinion

Why India needs to rethink its Tibet policy, if there’s one

A look at the US’s recognition of the Tibetan government-in-exile makes one question why India does not build a more formal and meaningful relationship with the Land of Snows, especially given how the two share a significant cultural, religious and sentimental bond.

Claude Arpi

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On 20 November, the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) proudly announced that its Sikyong (president), Lobsang Sangay, had entered the White House. Dharamsala called it “a historic feat”, the first time that the CTA head was invited into the White House. In November, Sangay had already been invited to the State Department to meet Robert Destro, the Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues. The fact that the building was not the White House, but the Eisenhower Executive Building next door is just a detail.

The Tibetan government-in-exile, which has so far not been recognised by any country, was often in the past denied entry to the US Administration buildings. “The logic for both denials was that the US government does not recognise the Tibetan government-in-exile. Today’s visit amounts to an acknowledgement of both the democratic system of the CTA and its political head,” said a CTA press release.

Whether it amounts to a virtual recognition of the Tibetan government or not can be argued. It is, however, certain that the outgoing US President, who will soon leave his job (and his house), is keen to put his successor in front of as many fait-accomplis as possible.

Whether the visit ‘next-door’ is a positive development for Tibet or not, only the future will tell. However, one wishes that the South Block would start meeting regularly with the Dalai Lama and the CTA officials. It would certainly be far more meaningful for the future of Tibet (even if Dharamsala does not realise this). Why was the visit of Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla to Dharamsala in July kept hush-hush and local journalists asked to not publish any photos? Why so much unnecessary discretion? 

Interestingly, a few days before Sangay’s visit to the White House, the US House of Representatives passed a resolution (H. Res. 697): “Affirming the significance of the advocacy for genuine autonomy for Tibetans in the People’s Republic of China and the work His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama has done to promote global peace, harmony, and understanding.” Among other things, the Resolution said that “it would be beneficial to convene a bipartisan, bicameral forum… between Members of Congress and His Holiness the Dalai Lama to discuss peaceful solutions to international conflicts”. On 18 November, during the debate, Representative Ted Yoho also strongly criticised Beijing for violating the Tibetans’ religious freedom: “the CCP sees Tibet culture and religious heritage as a threat to its control”.

Some parts of the US legislation should trigger a re-thinking of India’s Tibet policy (not sure if Delhi has one!). Take the example of the US Statement of Policy on Reincarnation of Dalai Lama: “The wishes of the 14th Dalai Lama, including any written instructions, should play a determinative role in the selection, education, and veneration of a future 15th Dalai Lama.” Why can’t South Block simply state that it will support all the decisions taken by the Dalai Lama in the matter of his reincarnation and will welcome the 15th Dalai Lama as an honoured guest of India, like the present pontiff has been since 1959. It is not necessary to go into details like the US Resolution does.

Then, regarding the preservation of the Tibetan plateau’s environment and water resources, the US bill “recognises the key role of Tibetan plateau as it contains glaciers, rivers, grasslands, and other geographical and ecological features that are crucial for supporting vegetation growth and biodiversity, regulating water flow and supply for an estimated 1.8 billion people.” America is far away, but it is India which will suffer the brunt of the climate change on the Third Pole and the intensive damming on the Roof of the World. It is a great pity that Delhi keeps mum on the subject.

The US appointment of a Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues is worth thinking about for India, though the post should be more holistic in its definition and the officer should be able to deal with not only the Ministry of External Affairs, but also the Ministries of Home Affairs, Culture, Education or Defence in order to coordinate a new Tibetan policy.

Section 618 of the US legislation speaks of ‘Diplomatic representation relating to Tibet’: “The Secretary [of State] should seek to establish a United States consulate in Lhasa, Tibet”. The rationale is given: “(1) to provide consular services to United States citizens traveling in Tibet; and (2) to monitor political, economic, and cultural developments in Tibet.” It is crucial for India to have a similar policy.

In 1947, India inherited from the British a full-fledged mission in Lhasa. An ICS officer, Hugh Richardson, served as the first head of the Indian mission, but was replaced in August 1950 by a bright young Chinese-speaking IFS officer, Sumul Sinha. Unfortunately (and unwisely), the Prime Minister discreetly downgraded the Mission into a Consulate General in 1952. Thereafter, it remained so till December 1962, when, for unknown reasons, South Block decided to close it down. I have spent several years trying to find out why it was closed, but I have no answer till date. Maybe foolishness and panic were the causes for it.

The fact that the Ministry of External Affairs keeps the history of the crucial two years before the Sino-Indian conflict inaccessible to the Indian public does not help understand what really happened in the months preceding October 1962. For example, who in India knows that the Indian Consul General in Lhasa was practically kept under house-arrest for thirteen months before and during the border war and that there was no retaliation or even complaint from the Government of India? Another example is how the last Indian Consul could not even visit the Potala during his tenure in Lhasa. The reasons mentioned by Dr P.K. Banerjee—that the Chinese Consulates in Mumbai and Kolkata were causing problems—can’t be taken seriously. 

The presence of an Indian Consul General in Lhasa could have helped to accelerate the process of the repatriation of the nearly 4,000 Indian PoWs, or, at least, put some pressure on the Chinese Government to release them. But was Delhi even interested?

Decades later, India tried to reopen the Lhasa Consulate, but in vain. In the 2000s, Shivshankar Menon, who served as Ambassador in Beijing and Foreign Secretary, is said to have played a pivotal role in this effort, but it is obvious that it was easier to hurriedly close the mission in December 1962, than to reopen it. Incidentally, Nepal still has a representative in Lhasa today.

Without copying the US, this is something that Delhi should insist on. It is India’s legitimate right due its old cultural, religious, sentimental affinity with the Land of Snows.

The writer is a French-born author, journalist, historian, Tibetologist and China expert. The views expressed are personal.

The Tibetan government-in-exile, which has so far not been recognised by any country, was often in the past denied entry to the US Administration buildings. ‘The logic for both denials was that the US government does not recognise the Tibetan government-in-exile. Today’s visit amounts to an acknowledgement of both the democratic system of the CTA and its political head,’ said a CTA press release.

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Legally Speaking

Long-term battle of arbitral awards with reference to the Vodafone case

The American Constitution constitutes a similar provision prohibiting ex-post-facto laws both by Central and state legislatures. It’s been more than 70 years since India became a democracy, still there is debate regarding the retrospective legislation in taxation laws.

Bahvuk Narula & Rachi Gupta

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The art of taxation consists of so plucking the goose to obtain the largest amount of feathers with the smallest amount of hissing.

—Jean Baptiste Colbert

PREFACE

In India, arbitration is always criticised due to Court interferences. However, recent judicial decisions show that Indian Courts are adopting a minimal interference model. This would help India globally to make a mark in the field of arbitration. In this never-ending process of court trials, challenging the awards in tribunals is a trend now here we can take the example of the same from the landmark case of Vodafone International Holdings B.V. v. Union of India & Anr. The enforcement of foreign awards is always being hard in India due to the regressive approach of the judiciary, which can be seen in judgments like NAFED v. Alimenta S.A. and Venture Global Eng. L.L.C. v. Tech Mahindra. These judgments are undoubtedly acting as a huge stumbling block in the enforcement of foreign awards.

VODAFONE JUDGMENT AT GLANCE

In the landmark judgment of Vodafone, where the Indian income tax authorities passed an order for payment of $2.2 billion by claiming that this is a case of transferring the Indian assets and therefore, such transfer was taxable in India. But later the Supreme Court held that this is not covered within the meaning of Section 2(14) of the Income Tax Act, 1961 and quashed the demand of INR 120 billion by way of capital gains tax and also directed a refund of INR 25 billion just after that Income Tax Act (2012 Amendment) was brought in introducing two explanations in Section 9(1)(i) of the Income Tax Act, 1961 in this way virtually amending the law to ensure that cross-border transactions such as the $11.08 billion Vodafone-Hutchison deal are taxable. This amendment was challenged in the Permanent Court of Arbitration at Hague under India – Netherlands Bilateral Investment Treaty.

This retrospective amendment was widely criticized across the globe and made India an unpopular destination for investments. The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) quashed the income tax department’s demand on the ground of violation of the fair and equitable treatment standard. It is also observed that India violated the bilateral investment treaty with the Netherlands by retrospectively amending the law and directed India to reimburse legal costs of approximately INR 850 million to Vodafone. The Vodafone award stimulates critical issues for foreign investors investing in India. This award negates India’s position on investment treaties that tax disputes do not come under the ambit of investment treaties. The discrepancy arises from the Vodafone case in which the Solicitor General of India has recommended the government of India to challenge the arbitral award and declared parliamentary legislation of a competent Parliament of a sovereign nation to be non-est and unenforceable. On the contrary, the Attorney General clearly expressed his inability to be involved in the case and he is in favour of accepting all well-reasoned awards instead of challenging every award.

The Indian Government has not decided their move yet but as each coin has two sides so each direction towards challenging the award will lead to the question of law regarding the power of the arbitration tribunal to declare parliamentary legislation to be non-est and unenforceable. India has sovereign powers to amend its laws with a prospective effect and in the present case; the transaction was between two non-resident entities through a contract executed outside India which has no nexus with the underlying assets in India.

JUDICIAL & LEGAL DICTUM IN THIS REGARD

The Indian legislature has the power to make prospective laws, but Article 20 of The Indian Constitution, 1950 provides certain parameters for the same. Article 20(1) imposes a limitation on the law-making power of the legislature regarding retrospective criminal liability. There is anarchy in the imposition of retrospective civil liability too.

As article 20(1) of the Indian Constitution provides that;

“no person shall be convicted of any offense except for violation of a law in force at the time of the commission of the act charged as an offense, nor be subjected to a penalty greater than that which might have been inflicted under the law in force at the time of the commission of the offense.”

The American Constitution also constitutes a similar provision prohibiting ex-post-facto laws both by Central and State Legislatures. It’s been more than 70 years since India became a democracy still there is debate regarding the retrospective legislation in taxation laws.

India has a long term judicial approach regarding retrospective legislation and the landmark case is CIT v. Vatika Township Private Limited, in this case, the Constitutional Bench of Apex Court provided clarity on prospective versus retrospective operation of tax amendments. Moreover, a piece of legislation is presumed not to be intended to have a retrospective operation here the ratio is that the current laws should govern current activities (Principle of lex prospicit non respicit: The Law looks forward and not backward). This case also considered the principle of fairness and leads to the principle of lex non-cogit ad impossibilia – the law does not compel a man to perform what he cannot possibly perform. The ruling concluded that in determining whether a provision is applicable prospectively or retrospectively, attention would be required to be paid to the language of the amending statute, the legislature’s intent, the memorandum to the relevant Finance Act, and the hardship the amendment would cause to the taxpayer. Similarly in the case of CIT v. NGC Networks (India) Pvt. Ltd. held that in the case of retrospective amendment the payer could not have contemplated TDS. Along with that regarding enforcement of arbitral awards, in the case of Govt. of India v. Vedanta Ltd, the court held that-

“enforcement might be rejected just on the off chance that it disregards the State’s most essential thoughts of profound quality and equity, which has been deciphered to imply that, there ought to be incredibly faltering in the declining requirement, except if it is gotten through dishonour or fraud, or unjustifiable methods”

By way of this judgment, the Court reduces the decline of enforcement of foreign arbitral awards and minimizes judicial intervention. The court also observes that the government must change its approach regarding challenging every arbitral award and should adopt an approach that encourages foreign companies to invest in India. It will help India in achieving status as a global arbitration hub.

WAY FORWARD TOWARD ARBITRATION

Today tax uncertainty is a growing cause of concern for foreign investors. Now India is facing criticism owing to the Vodafone award, the question arises whether India would lead to ensuring tax certainty and a stable environment to boost investment hand in hand or not. The scope of investment treaty arbitrations is very bleak and now we have two directions firstly that the Supreme Court of India overturns the decision of the Indian courts regarding non-applicability of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 to investment treaty arbitrations, Secondly the legislature can either amend the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 to include enforcement of Bilateral Treaty Awards within its scope or to establish an entire regime for investment protection. In today’s time, the correlation between Bilateral Investment Treaties and foreign investment is required and we can adopt any approach given upwards to achieve this goal. Bilateral Investment Treaties have a positive role in promoting foreign investment and Investor-State dispute settlement provisions are important factors too in contributing to foreign investment inflows. India is planning a new law to safeguard foreign investment. It also helps us to speed up dispute resolution and to boost stuttering domestic growth.

The scope of investment treaty arbitrations is very bleak and now we have two directions: First, that the Supreme Court of India overturns the decision of the Indian courts regarding non-applicability of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 to investment treaty arbitrations; Second, the legislature can either amend the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 to include enforcement of Bilateral Treaty Awards within its scope or to establish an entire regime for investment protection. In today’s time, the correlation between Bilateral Investment Treaties and foreign investment is required and we can adopt any approach given upwards to achieve this goal.

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Opinion

The centre must address Punjab farmers’ concerns

Pankaj Vohra

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The agitating Punjab farmers have lifted the rail blockade following the intervention of Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, who was able to convince them that their action had resulted in immense financial loss to the state as well as contributed to the hardships faced by common citizens. The imbroglio was broken when the Chief Minister spoke to the kisan leaders who wanted the Centre to have a re-look at the farm laws that were enacted in a tearing hurry during the last Parliament session. In fact, if the Union government steps in and gives the required assurances to the farmers, the increasing unrest can be contained on time.

Amarinder Singh has, in the meantime, urged the Centre to restore all Punjab-bound trains to placate the people and create an atmosphere where some kind of rational dialogue can be initiated. The passage of the Bills by both Houses of Parliament and the subsequent ascent granted by the President, have not gone down well with the farming community, which feels that there should have been wide consultations, prior to such a step being taken. The Centre’s reluctance to review the decision led to the resignation of Harsimrat Kaur Badal from the Cabinet, and also the withdrawal of support by one of the BJP’s oldest allies, the Shiromani Akali Dal.

It is evident that those who advised the government on the laws were themselves not acquainted with the ground level situation in Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, where the process of procurement is in variance with many other states. It is well known that each state has its own peculiarities, and thus care should have been taken while drafting the Bills. This kind of uncalled confrontation could have been avoided, had the farmers been brought on board, instead of ill-informed bureaucrats calling the shots.

Punjab is a very important state in multiple ways. It shares its borders with Pakistan and has borne the brunt of all India-Pakistan conflicts that have taken place there. Thus, it is paramount that an explosive situation should not be allowed to develop there, which would enable our enemy nation to exploit the discord. It is common knowledge that attempts by mischievous elements from across the border are constantly being made to send in narcotics, arms and other contraband through drones. The rise in the consumption of drugs has impacted an entire generation, and one of the reasons for the Akalis losing power in 2017 was because in the perception of the electorate, they did not do enough to contain this malaise.

The insistence of the Central government to stick to its position would therefore be a folly, which would not be in the national interest. There is a strong feeling in the state that politics was being played unnecessarily, and the BJP was wanting to divide the rural and urban areas of the state. This impression should be erased at the earliest. In a policy where the nation comes first, the Centre must find a way to address the problem. The issue has benefitted Captain Amarinder Singh immensely who, with his deft handling of the matter, has grown in political stature. He could easily facilitate a meaningful conversation between the Centre’s emissaries and the farmers. This face-off is uncalled for and must end at the earliest. The Centre would earn tremendous goodwill if it accommodates the issues raised by the farmers.

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