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Current Issues

1. Uniform Civil Code

Right from the time the Indian Constitution was in the making, the debate of existence of Uniform Civil Code (UCC) has been raised continuously. The Constitution makers decided that the time then was not right to go ahead to try and formulate a common code and left it for posterity with a Directive Principle that India should strive to have one.

Why UCC in news?

  • It is 66 years since enactment of Constitution and it is still debated about the pros and cons of adopting a common code. However, there is a difference now.
  • The NDA government has formally asked the Law Commission to look into the issue and present a report. This is the first time a government has asked the commission, which has a crucial advisory role on legal reform, to look into the politically controversial issue of a uniform civil code.
  • Even if the commission starts preparing the consultations, the issue has not surprisingly assumed, political colours. Though, the motive behind the move is being questioned by opposition parties and also a section of minority leaders are expressing their concerns.
  • All these concerns and objections have to be addressed though wider debates and discussions and find common ground for concensus.

Background

  • During colonial era, the British applied the common criminal code for all
  • But they allowed religious laws to be applied in court in case of dealing with personal disputes between people of the same religion.
  • Shariat law, 1937 was passed to govern the personal matters of all Indian Muslims by Islamic laws
  • The Constituent Assembly argued for a common personal law for marriage, divorce, inheritance and adoption, while others believed that this was a goal to be achieved in stages.
  • The Directive Principle (Art 44)—“shall endeavour to secure for citizens a uniform civil code”—was a compromise since the time was not right.

What is Uniform Civil Code?

Uniform civil code is the proposal to replace the personal laws based on the scriptures and customs of each major religious community in India with a common set of laws governing every citizen. These laws are distinguished from public law and cover marriage, divorce, inheritance, adoption and maintenance.

Is UCC brought earlier?

The government of India has referred the issue to Law Commission. It is a routine matter as Law Commission exists for that. The difference is that the Law Commission has not been asked to draft a civil code nor it is its job. The wordings are ‘examine the issue and give a report’.

Until now, there has been no report on UCC by Law Commission. It has not examined the issue at all. Justice Lakshmanan had submitted two reports and they do not examine the UCC. One is of civil marriages and other is how to make compulsory registration of marriages.

From 1951 till now, the Law Commission has submitted 262 reports. Out of it, the Law Commission has 24 reports on whose basis it can initiate the examining of UCC formation. The reports are on personal laws, family laws etc.

Concept of UCC

Whenever this topic is taken up, there is a certain amount of discomfort observed within Muslims. There is a feeling that it is aimed at them. The reason for such discomfort is that there is no clear picture of what UCC will be like. For 66 years it is in constitution but no government has tried to give a draft of UCC and merely held talks in air. There even exists different views on Article 44.

There is nothing called as ‘common civil code’. The article 44 speaks of ‘uniform’ and not ‘common’ civil code. It does not ask Parliament or State to enact it straight away. The article states that ‘the state shall endeavour to secure…’ which doesn’t mean having one single law and replacing all personal laws.

Some contradictions:

  • In 1954, a General Law of Marriages was already enacted, yet there was a separate Hindu Marriage Act in
  • Similarly, there was a Guardian and Wards Act already enacted in 1890 which was applicable to everybody, yet Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act was enacted in 1956.
  • There existed Indian Succession Act, 1925 and yet a Hindu Succession Act was enacted in 1956.

This shows that uniformity is needed to avoid contradictions. The idea is that there should be uniformity in the family laws enacted now onwards. However, such practice has been observed since 1954, where a many laws have been enacted that apply to every community.

  • The Dowry Prohibition Act,
  • The Special Marriage Act
  • Domestic Violence Act
  • Maintenance of Parents and Senior Citizens Act,
  • Child Marriage Prohibition Act.

They apply to every community and every individual irrespective of the religion or personal law.

Difference between UCC and reform of personal laws

There is some confusion about concept of UCC. Personal law reform and UCC are two different things. One is about reforming the existing laws and other is subsuming all personal laws.

Hindu law has been reformed, amended drastically in 1955-56. But not Muslim law which is waiting for amendment of Muslim personal law.

It has been silently observed that successive governments had been giving option to the Muslims either to bear with misinterpreted and misused caricatured personal law or accept UCC. That is why, UCC is observed with an eye of suspicion.

A general perception in communities is that UCC is a euphemism for Hindu laws enacted in 1955-56. To dispel that fear, there is a need of draft.

For instance, Triple talaq is un-Islamic and court can apply art 14 (right to live with equality) and art 21 (right to live with dignity). It is un-Islamic because Muslim scholars have interpreted Quran in surah 65 verse 1 which requires two waiting period of three months each before the divorce is valid under Muslim law.

Why UCC needed? – One view

The Constitution makers had a vision to enact UCC in future to have a same set of civil laws governing all irrespective of religion. The present government has brought forward the issue as a part of its fulfilment of manifesto of having a Uniform Civil Code. The need is for a larger debate, where even issues which had been previously eluded from public debates, are carried out. For instance, human right issues, gender equality issues etc.

The UCC is not with regard to religious practices. It has no discussion about harming any religious, community or minority practices as such. It is talking about segregation between aspects like marriage, divorce, inheritance which are in domain of civil laws. Ultimately when India has to adhere to secular credential of constitution and nation, there should be a uniform civil code just like a uniform criminal code where human rights, women rights are protected and there is uniformity in implementing day-to-day affairs.

There are certain issues which require attention when a certain group called Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan says that there is need of reform in marriage and divorce of personal law which is supported by more than 90% Muslim women.

It can also mean that when talked about UCC, it is talking about problems in minority communities.

  1. Triple Talaq: the infamous provision which allows a Muslim man to divorce her wife by pronouncing talaq three times.
  2. Polygamy: According to the 1961 census (the last census to record such data), polygamy was actually less prevalent among Indian Muslims (5.7%) than among several other religious groups (Adivasis-15.25%, Buddhists-7.9%, and Hindus-5.8%).
  3. Christian divorce: Christian couples must wait for a two-year separation before filing for divorce when it is just one year for others.

Is UCC required? – Another view

UCC may not be even required because the constitution of India doesn’t permit discrimination between man and woman and if there is any discrimination on any basis, it will be rectified by the courts. 93% of Muslim nations have held triple talaq as illegal. India is signatory to Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women. This makes India accountable to its implementation. The SC has taken up the triple talaq case and several Muslim organisations have also gone to court which at some point of time will translate into a befitting decision.

When Hindu code bill came, many customs were disregarded. There were protests and agitations, but ultimately it was implemented.

If there exists a law which is not in conformity with constitution, the constitution will prevail. Art 14 and 19 can’t be ignored. Whether there is UCC or not, the constitution is sufficient and competent to protect minorities, especially Muslim women in India. Another law is not needed.

Basis of UCC enactment

It is a very interesting intervention as one view expresses that whole debate is essentially meant to focus on triple talaq and thereby politically target the Muslim community. The same stand was taken during NDA 1.

Degree of implementation of various DPSP provisions is visible. A DPSP bans cow slaughter and another calls for implementation of UCC. But contradictions in their implementation is visible. Thus, there is a need to address the personal law reforms of various sections of society like Christians, Muslims, Dalits etc.

Such discussions at platform like of Law Commission assure holistic dimension embracement and consider topics like equality of religion, gender and other issues to be mandated.

Challenges to UCC implementation

UCC is replacement of all personal laws, including minority communities. This may violate, if not taken care of, certain fundamental rights like Art 25, 26 and 29. The triple talaq is not the only issue. In shahabano case, the Muslim law was challenged for first time. Other examples include

  1. The Muslim community believes that the succession, the inheritance is recorded in Quran. If you change that, it means you are changing Quranic injunction. Whether a Quranic injunction can be changed by replaced law is the issue.
  2. Hindus were against granting equal property rights to women, fearing the concept of a joint family might crumble because of it. Thus, women have less share in property inheritance or share as per Hindu laws. A common inheritance law may pose challenges in acceptance in heavily loaded patriarchal society.
  3. Muslims do not have any adoption laws as there is no provision in Islamic law for adoption. If a future law makes adoption permissible and valid, how would it conflict with personal laws of religion?
  4. Practices such as divorce were prohibited by Hinduism and that for a Hindu the institution of marriage is

The issue is whether there should be any law which should be applied to all uniformly in place of their personal law which may arise from religion, custom or practices. Thus, it is important that the reform is not only for the personal law but a debate is required for more prominence of secular thread of country.

Is the time ripe for UCC?

For almost 70 years, the country has managed without a common civil code. Is it needed now? There are arguments on both sides which shows our secular and republican nature and that a common law for all citizens is needed. It can promote some kind of national integration. The other side is to maintain unity in diversity. The country is inhabited by people of all colour, race, religion and cultures and languages. Thus, there is a view point that a particular religious law, for example Shariat law which springs from Quran and Muslims believe in Quran above everything. Shariat law cannot be changed by any constitution. So, that view point has to be accommodated by some kind of consensus. And unless the consensus is reached, it may not lead to national integration. Thus, it is a time for caution and imposing it will not serve the purpose.

All personal laws-Christian, Muslim, Hindu need reforms. They are all legal concepts. But there is a political side to it wherein political influence is imposed which makes a rational debate difficult. Reform in religion is the crying need and has been for centuries. The reforms sine quo non- modernising religion, making it tenable in future.

Two aspect

  1. Reform of religion needed and demand should come from people.
  2. As a government feels, there should be a larger debate on UCC to decide if it should be there or not. It has to perform the advisory role.

However, it needs to be seen if such debates can be done without polarising the country.

No particular time may be ripe for India to absorb a Uniform Civil Code in its entirety. It will have to be the result of gradual change that Indian society absorbs while interpreting in different ways its multicultural diversity. All communities in this country will be willing to contemplate a change gradually rather than being forced to do so abruptly.

Personal laws: personal laws is what one confronts in personal lives from birth to death, viz. laws of marriage, maintenance, adoption, custody, guardianship of children and succession.

Shahabano case: stirred up debate in 1985 about Muslim personal law and need for UCC. Shahbano was divorced and was given maintenance by ex-husband during the period of iddat only (three-month period after divorce in which she cannot remarry). The case went upto SC which granted her maintenance under sec 125 of CrPC which is applicable to all equally, irrespective of religion. This, was a landmark judgment where a personal law was overridden by constitutional arrangement.

Hindu code bill: a set of common laws governing personal matters for all Hindus. It was received with much furore and opposition. Later it was split into the Hindu Marriage Act, the Hindu Succession Act, the Hindu Minority, and Guardianship Act, and the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act.


2. What is a surgical strike?

A surgical strike is essentially a swift and targeted attack on specific target that aims to neutralise them while ensuring minimum collateral damage to the surrounding areas and civilians. Neutralisation of targets with surgical strikes also prevents escalation to a full blown war.

Surgical strikes are part of India’s Cold Start doctrine and have proved effective in foiling a new infiltration bid by terrorists groups across the LoC who were ready to attack several locations in Jammu and Kashmir and other Metro cities in India.

Significance of surgical strikes:

Surgical strikes gain importance in India’s case as Pakistan has repeatedly shown its intention to use tactical nuclear weapons on Indian Forces, even risking the collateral damage to its own troops, to stop Indian military operations. Therefore, the covert surgical strikes are a powerful weapon for the Indian armed forces to carry out the necessary dirty work while ensuring the status-quo between the opposing armies on the LoC.

What does this mean?
(a) Opening of military retaliation option: The successful operation by the Indian Armed Forces has verified its capability to carry out attacks in the regions deep inside Pakistan which would act as an deterrent to Pakistan to support terrorism to target India.
(b) Increased surveillance and intelligence capability: The precise knowledge of terrorist launchpads and terrain that made this operation a huge success reflect the intelligence strength of Indian Army. This would compel Pakistan to push their terror infrastructure further inside and into remote and tough terrain regions.
(c) World Support: The support that India received from the world, either explicitly or implicitly, has revealed its soft power in the world. It would further deter Pakistan to carry out terrorist activities lest the world isolation would ensue.

What this doesn’t mean?
(a) The belief that even in future India can readily undertake these attacks would be a big mistake. As now Pakistan has become aware that India can use this option, they would remain careful every time after terrorist attacks happen on Indian soil.
(b) For terrorists, the operation is unlikely to act as a significant deterrent as now they would be more infuriated and desperate to carry out attacks on Indian armed forces.
(c) The hope that India can reveal Pakistan at international platform for supporting terrorism and garner support to ban its terrorist organisations is highly unlikely to turn true until China is on Pakistan’s side.


3. DeMonetization:

The union government has announced that five hundred and thousand rupee notes will cease to be legal tender from today. This move is aimed at rooting out the menace of black money and corruption.

What is this scheme?

The legal tender character of the existing bank notes in denominations of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 issued by the Reserve bank of India till November 8, 2016 stands withdrawn. In consequence thereof, these bank notes cannot be used for transacting business and/or storage of value for future usage. These bank notes can be exchanged for value at any of the 19 offices of the Reserve Bank of India or at any of the bank branches or at any head post office or sub-post office.

How many Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes are floating around?

According to the RBI press conference today, there are 16.5 billion ‘500-rupee’ notes and 6.7 billion ‘1000-rupee’ notes in circulation right now.

  • In addition to this, RBI data shows that the share of Rs 1,000 notes in the stock of currency in circulation at the end of financial year 2014-15 was 39%. Rs 500 notes accounted for a further 45% of currency stock.
  • Putting it simply, a little over 80% of the cash in India (by value) will be worthless pieces of paper.

What was the need for such move?

The incidence of fake Indian currency notes in higher denomination has increased. For ordinary people, the fake notes look similar to genuine notes, even though no security feature has been copied.

  • The fake notes are used for anti-national and illegal activities. High denomination notes have also been misused by terrorists and for hoarding black money.
  • Therefore, in order to contain the rising incidence of fake notes and black money, the scheme to withdraw the Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes has been introduced.

What’s good about this move?

  • First, people who have a lot of cash, legally earned, will deposit it in the bank. This will increase bank’s deposits by a huge margin. This will also increase the lending activity because banks have a CRR (cash reserve ratio) to maintain and with more deposits they can do more lending.
  • Credit (loans) will become easier and interest rates may come down. More loans given out increases broad money supply and creates inflation.
  • On a long-term basis the government’s decision to curb black money would reduce corruption and bring transparency into the sector.
  • The move will benefit the poor, middle class and aspirational middle class by increasing opportunity and bringing real estate and higher education within their reach again.
  • The government’s move will benefit companies in the cashless economy.
  • Rupee will strengthen as the time passes. Inflation will go down which will benefit poor and middle class people.
  • Investments in gold and jewelries will increase as trust on currency will go down. More people will try to convert paper into gold. It will eventually increase investment in the government’s gold monetization scheme.
  • More and more businesses will be organized those who accept paper money only such as small jewelers, hotels etc.
  • Funding for arms, smuggling, terrorism will take a blow. This is most important advantage to the country.
  • Circulation of counterfeit currency will see the end soon.

Who will be affected by this move?

  • The lower/middle class will not find it tough to account for or exchange the currency. The real fear will be for those who have unaccounted money.
  • Land and property prices, particularly those of luxury homes, are likely to come down in the short to medium term as a result of this move.
  • The impact of this will be huge in many markets where payment of cash is mandatory and the major form of profit-taking. These markets will see a major crash making an already difficult situation even more challenging.
  • The demand for gold and other investment options such as diamonds and silver may shoot through the roof until the deadline, and beyond it.

Challenges ahead:

This ban on high denomination currency has the potential to dramatically push up the volumes of electronic transactions. Consequently there are new cyber security implications.

  • In the emerging cashless transaction environment the government and the businesses will have to be on their feet to guard against cyberattacks as they are carried out not merely by criminals, but also by nation states.
  • Cyber warfare perpetrated by enemy states has the potential to hit a country’s economy. Terrorist networks will find ways to penetrate the most protected vaults in the world in the absence of unregulated cash transactions.

What needs to be done?

There is an immediate need for banks to get proactive about information security and beef up their IT infrastructure against potential cyberattacks. What holds good for banks, also holds good for other businesses as cyber criminals are quite capable of targeting Point of Sale terminals, mobiles and a variety of other devices.

With more electronic transactions and monitored cash disbursals the government will have better control on who has access to money. But we will need a robust and a proactive cyber security strategy to ensure these objectives will work.

Way ahead:

While political parties welcomed the announcement, they cautioned the government must be open to changes so that common people are not penalized in the process of fighting corruption and black money.

In the medium to long-term the policy that emerges will determine how much corruption will return in due course. The RBI and government will need a massive outreach and communication program to calm the frayed nerves of the common citizen and transition to the new currency notes.

Conclusion:

The government’s move is bold in its intent and massive in its measure. While the intent is clear, the implementation and impact is yet to be seen. One thing is sure though – the Indian economy just had a massive disruption overnight.


4. NDTV ISSUE:

Background:

NDTV India was asked to go off the air after the government said the channel revealed sensitive details during its coverage of a militant attack on the Pathankot airbase in January. This crucial information could have been readily picked up by the militants’ handlers and jeopardised national security.

This was the first time a channel was asked to stop broadcasting over concerns about national security.

Under what legal provisions did the government impose the one-day ban on NDTV India?

It was banned under the provisions of The Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act of 1995.

Section 20(3) of the Cable TV Act says: “Where the Central Government considers that any programme of any channel is not in conformity with the prescribed programme code referred to in section 5 or the prescribed advertisement code referred to in section 6, it may regulate or prohibit the transmission or re-transmission of such programme.

The Information and Broadcasting Ministry found that NDTV India had violated 6(1)(p) programme code.

What does Rule 6(1)(p) of the Programme Code say?

Rule 6(1)(p) prohibits live coverage of anti-terrorism activities: “No programme should be carried (which) contains live coverage of any anti-terrorist operation by security forces wherein media coverage shall be restricted to periodic briefing by an officer designated by the appropriate Government, till such operation concludes.

When was this Rule introduced?

The point 6(1)(p) was introduced by an amendment to The Cable Television Network Rules last year, which came into force in March 2015. Following the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai, between November 2008 and March 2015, the government issued five advisories to television channels on the coverage of such incidents.

To whom does the Programme Code apply? Is it binding?

The Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Ordinance was promulgated in 1994, which gave the government powers to issue Rules for Cable TV. The Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act of 1995 made the Rules introduced in 1994 binding on all cable networks which are either downlinked to, or uplinked from, India.

What is the main allegation now?

According to the I&B Ministry, the channel broadcast a report which stated that two terrorists were alive and were very close to the ammunition depot. The government said this gave away sensitive information and could have helped the terrorists.

What NDTV says?

NDTV claims that all such information was already in the public domain, already reported by newspapers and by other news channels. The channel also said it reported after briefings by various officers at different times, and based on already available reports.

So how does all of this fit in with the constitutional freedoms guaranteed under Article 19?

India does not have specific laws protecting the freedom of the media. But journalists and journalism thrive on the broader freedom of expression guaranteed by the Constitution. Article 19 gives all citizens the right to freedom of speech and expression. However, the first amendment in 1951 put “reasonable restrictions” on the use of Article 19 with regard to topics such as the sovereignty and integrity of India, security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence.

Opposition to this move:

Top media bodies have expressed solidarity with NDTV and condemned the Centre’s move, saying it sends a “dangerous signal” to the entire press, the freedom of which is already under “increasing threat” in the country.

It is also being seen as a direct violation of the freedom of the media and therefore the citizens of India.

How the govt defends its move?

But the government has defended the action, saying many other channels were banned in the past and that free speech couldn’t be absolute or override national security.

Also, disclosure of sensitive information has several ramifications such as causing alarm and de-moralisation of citizens and security forces, collateral damage to critical assets, apprehension among families of those serving in combat.

But, why the ban seems to be illegal?

According to the Rule 6 (1)(p) of the Programme Code of the Cable TV Network Rules 1994, under which it has been imposed, “No programme should be carried in the cable service which contains live coverage of any anti-terrorist operation by security forces, wherein media coverage shall be restricted to periodic briefing by an officer designated by the appropriate Government, till such operation concludes.”

The above rule states that a ban is applicable on broadcasting ‘live coverage’ of anti-terrorist operations by security forces.

“Live coverage means showing scenes of security forces searching or pursuing terrorists, or fighting with them. Mere reporting about anti terrorist operations is not live coverage. NDTV had only reported about anti terrorist operations, but had not shown any scenes of security forces chasing or fighting with terrorists. So there was no live coverage. The ban was therefore clearly illegal,” say few experts.

Way ahead:

The decision by the government to make Hindi news channel NDTV India go off air for a day does set an unhealthy precedent.

  • The media does need regulation, especially in an era of “breaking news” and click-bait journalism, where responsible and fair coverage is usually the first victim of the pursuit of ratings and traffic.
  • In democracies, this should take the form of self-regulation. If that doesn’t work, as it sometimes hasn’t in India, regulation should be the domain of a quasi-judicial independent body.
  • One of journalism’s original objectives and ideals is to speak truth to power. By giving itself the powers to force news channels to go off air, the government is laying itself wide open to accusations of trying to, at worst, muzzle or, at best, influence, the news.

Conclusion:

India is one of the few democracies in the world where defamation can be a criminal offence (in addition to being a civil one). Both traditionally offered adequate legal recourse to penalise the media. In recent times, there has been a demand from several quarters for more regulation. An independent regulator would serve that purpose. This is not the government’s job — nor is it, in any right-minded society, the government’s remit. Indian media should also strive to improve the quality of its self-regulatory institutions and frame better guidelines to deal with conflict coverage.


5. Trump implications on India:

Positive implications:

Foreign Policy and Terrorism:

Trump has used strong words on the need to curtail ISIS and curb immigration from countries that export terror. This would comfort India, which has seen a surge in support for ISIS among its young population. If Trump fulfils his promise of restricting immigration, that would further hurt Pakistan. Trump has also planned to expose networks in American society that promote radical Islam and rewarding people to report those exhibiting signs of radicalisation to authorities. This would come as a big boost to Indian government’s own domestic security policies which focus on the need to curb growing Islamic radicalization in India.

After coming to power, the Modi government has been proactive in using the National Investigative Agency (NIA) to apprehend people influenced by or supportive of ISIS. Trump’s ideological offensive against radical Islam could be a force multiplier for the Modi government.

The Energy Plan:

Trump has promised to unleash America’s shale oil, natural gas and coal reserves to make U.S energy self-sufficient. If elected president, he has also promised to open onshore and offshore leasing on federal lands and lift the moratorium on coal leasing.

India, like many other nations in the world, is at the mercy of Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) when it comes paying a price for oil. A rise in the price of fuel bleeds India’s domestic oil companies, throws the government’s fiscal deficit targets in disarray and leads to a spike in the prices of essential goods.

If Trump were to come true on his promises, India could benefit massively. Opening up of the US oil sector could lead to price stability globally. It could also throw open massive business opportunities for Indian oil companies including the state owned Oil and Natural Gas Corporation of India (ONGC) whose foreign arm ONGC Videsh Limited (OVL) has been expanding its operations globally.

Negative implications:

The Tax Plan:

One of the highlights of Trump’s economic campaign is his plan to reduce corporate tax rates in the U.S to 15%. At present the rate stands at 35%. This would make the U.S one of the most attractive destinations in the world for businesses, especially for American businesses that have set shop in other countries to improve their profitability by paying less taxes. If Trump were to implement this plan, U.S businesses in India could be lured back to American soil.

Plan to curtail Chinese Trade:

Trump has threatened to label China as a currency manipulator. He has called for imposing higher tariffs on Chinese goods, initiate litigation against China for stealing American trade secrets and bring trade cases against China at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to force it to cut down its trade subsidies. Trump has harped on the need to reduce the trade deficit with China which touched a record high of $365 billion in 2015. If Trump fulfils his promises and decides to curb Chinese imports, it would hardly benefit India. That’s because Chinese manufacturing and existing trade with the U.S is eons ahead of India.

Cutting Down Immigration:

Trump has called for making Americans being prioritised for open jobs and restricting skilled visas to make more jobs available to Americans. That would be bad news for top Indian IT companies that make their billions by using the H1B visa programme that allows low cost skilled Indians to work in the U.S. Trump had earlier termed the H1B visa regime unfair. And later in a bid to earn the support of the Indian-American community, he softened his stand. But Indians companies know that every American presidential opposes the H1B visa programme while pitching himself to be elected and never follows through with the promise of curtailing them once in office.

Reviving the American Economy:

Trump plans to boost GDP growth to 4% by adding 25 million jobs over the next decade. He plans to do this through his lower corporate tax rate plan and easing regulatory frameworks for businesses. He has also promised to cut federal spending to balance the budget through his penny plan that envisages cutting one cent for every dollar in the federal budget over the next few years. That would mean an enhanced role for private businesses in creating jobs to achieve Trump’s targets. That would mean enhanced opportunities for not just big businesses in India but also smaller ones to invest in the U.S.

  • EB-5 visa programme:

The EB-5 visa programme is likely to further gain traction in India if Trump were to follow through with his agenda of cutting federal spending while at the same time easing regulation for businesses. Under the programme, Indian businesses would require to invest a minimum of $1 million and create at least 10 jobs for American workers. If any entrepreneur can do this in the U.S, they are eligible for a green card. India has 2.5 lakh millionaires and the number is expected to double by 2025. That would mean more opportunities for Indians to invest in the U.S and get that much coveted and aspirational green card.

Scrapping Obamacare:

Trump has used colorful adjectives to describe Obamacare during his campaign and has vowed to scrap the scheme aimed at providing affordable healthcare to Americans. That could be bad news for the Indian pharma sector. As pointed above, pharmaceuticals constitute the second biggest exports of India to the U.S. India’s strength in manufacturing affordable generic drugs complemented the objectives of Obamacare. Indian generic drug companies had gained massively with a sub-legislation under Obamacare that allowed the use of ‘biosimilars’. If Trump implements his promise to junk Obamacare, Indian drug companies could be severely hit. Indian IT companies which provide support to the program could also end up losing their business that could lead to job cuts in India.

How would China and Pakistan be affected?

China and Pakistan have been using the US as a cash cow for decades: China by running a huge trade surplus ($366 billion in 2015); Pakistan by soaking up US aid (more than $30 billion since 2002), while pretending to fight radical Islam. All signs indicate that Trump would cut down on the flow of cash to both these countries.

The US has lost five million manufacturing jobs over the past 15 years, while China has seen rapid growth in its manufacturing sector over the same period. Trump is electorally committed to bringing a material number of lost manufacturing jobs back to the US; the only way he can do so will be to offset Asia’s (especially China’s) labour cost advantage in manufacturing with a combination of tariff and non-tariff barriers.

Such a move would come at the worst possible time for China, when a decades-long credit-fuelled investment boom may finally be turning to bust. For China, the potential outcomes of a trade war with the US range from sharply slower growth (best case scenario) to outright recession, which in turn could spark political unrest and, in a worst case scenario, revolution.

What should India do now?

Finally, like much of the world, India is unclear about the policy directions of a Trump administration. therefore, India should not waste time in reaching out to Mr Trump and his team in order to establish a durable understanding that will take the relationship forwards in all sectors of relevance. However, Indian government should make an attempt to sensitize the new president about the strategic interests that bind India and the U.S., and the multifaceted nature of the relationship between the two nations including its regional and global relevance. The ‘golden hour’ to do this may be even before the inauguration of the new President in January 2017.


6. NSG:

What is NSG?

Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) is a multinational body concerned with reducing nuclear proliferation by controlling the export and re-transfer of materials that may be applicable to nuclear weapon development and by improving safeguards and protection on existing materials. Interestingly, the NSG was set up in 1974 as a reaction to India’s nuclear tests to stop what it called the misuse of nuclear material meant for peaceful purposes. Currently, it has 48 members.

Background:

India sought membership of the NSG in 2008, but its application hasn’t been decided on, primarily because signing the NPT or other nuclear moratoriums on testing is a pre-requisite. However, India has received a special waiver to conduct nuclear trade with all nuclear exporters.

India, Pakistan, Israel and South Sudan are among the four UN member states which have not signed the NPT, the international pact aimed at preventing the spread of nuclear weapons.

Recent controversy:

China had opposed India’s bid to get NSG membership on the ground that it was yet to sign the NPT. It had said all the multilateral non-proliferation export control regime including the NSG have regarded NPT as an important standard for the expansion of the NSG. And hence, members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group should be party to NPT.

How India defends its move?

It says, the NSG is an ad hoc export control regime and France, which was not an NPT member for some time, was a member of the NSG since it respected NSG’s objectives. Also, the NPT allows civil nuclear cooperation with non-NPT countries.

Why India should be granted NSG membership:

In this game of developing nuclear weapons India has not indulged in any dubious/clandestine activity and its programme has been developed solely by years of hard work indigenously. By this single act India has shown that developing a credible nuclear weapons programme through honest and civilian means is possible for any country having high-level scientific manpower and materials.

Besides, by declaring a voluntary moratorium on further underground nuclear tests India has effectively acted in sense and spirit of NPT/CTBT provisions. By steering its programme only as a minimum deterrence and pledging NFU unless faced with an attack of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), India has established itself as a responsible nuclear state.

Benefits associated with NSG membership- Once admitted, an NSG member state gets:

  • Timely information on nuclear matters
  • Contributes by way of information
  • Has confirmed credentials
  • Can act as an instrument of harmonization and coordination
  • Is part of a very transparent process.

Way ahead:

NSG membership cannot be linked with NPT. But, it can be linked with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). And India has closely cooperated with IAEA. Therefore, India’s case should be judged independently without prejudice or on requests to block it following lobbying from other countries. In 2008, China was among the last few countries to lift its objection to clean waiver by NSG to India. During American President Barack Obama’s visit to India in January 2015, the US had announced that India was ready to join the NSG. This position was reiterated by the US recently.

  • However, to build support in the NSG, which operates by consensus, India will need to take additional steps to demonstrate its commitment to nonproliferation. India’s case is being pressed by the US and other influential countries based on the India’s record in non-proliferation and the India-US civil nuclear accord.
  • Also, India is actively eyeing membership of the MTCR, the Wassenaar Arrangement and the Australia group along with the NSG.

Conclusion:

India’s nuclear doctrine is non-proliferation-oriented and is both sensible and responsible. Having accepted IAEA safeguards and Additional Protocol and having effectively subscribed to and practised the principles of non-proliferation, it is immaterial if India has formally signed the NPT, CTBT or any other such treaty. India has already acquired high-level expertise in the peaceful use of nuclear energy in industry, power, agriculture and health care. India’s membership of the NSG shall not only benefit it but also encourage civil nuclear trade globally without compromising on world peace and harmony.


Other international treaties:

Missile Technology Controls Regime (MTCR):

MTCR was established in 1987 by the G7 countries and aims to limit the proliferation of missile and other unmanned delivery systems that could be used for chemical or nuclear attacks. It is an involuntary partnership between 34 countries which urge each other to restrict their missle export and technologies capable of carrying a 500-kilogram payload a minimum of 300 kilometres.

India formally applied for a MTCR membership in June 2015 which was eventually blocked by Italy in protest of India’a arrest of two Italian marines suspected of shooting an Indian fisherman. The membership would have immensely helped India in getting access to to world-class technology, according to a report by The Economic Times. It would have also allowed India to export its own technology to countries that comply with MTCR.

Nuclear Suppliers Group:

The NSG is a group of nuclear suppliers countries which promote non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. It attempts to control the exports and re-transfer of materials applicable to nuclear weapon development. It was founded in 1974 as to response to India’s ‘Smiling Buddha’. Countries already part of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) saw the need to further limit the export of nuclear equipment.

India’s attempt to joining the NSG was blocked by several nations who considered signing of the NPT as an important standard for the NSG’s expansion. President Barack Obama, however, reaffirmed that US believes India meets the missile technology control regime and is ready for NSG.

Wassenaar Arrangement:

Wassenaar Arrangement was established to contribute to regional and international security and stability. It aims to promote transparency and greater responsibility in transfer of conventional arms and dual-use goods and technologies. It has 41 member states and was established in 1996 as an extension of Coordination committee for Multilateral export Controls (COCOM). The participating states ensure that transfer of materials do not contribute to the development or enhancement of military capabilities.

India is not a member of the Wassenaar Arrangement, but hopes to be one soon. The United States is likely to support India’s bid.

The Australia Group:

The Australia Group is an informal forum of countries that seeks to ensure that exports do not contribute to the development of chemical or biological weapons. It was established in 1985 and presently has 42 members.


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