India and its neighborhood – relations, Act East Policy
Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.
Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.
Reviving Act East Policy
We have earlier covered many articles in regard to India’s engagement with Iran and how it is working to spread its influence and presence in Central Asia.
We also know that India recently concluded the long-awaited contract with Iran, i.e.
to develop the Chabahar port, and
a related deal involving the establishment of a trilateral trade and economic corridor
This engagement is possibly one of the most crucial steps which would not only enable India’s access to Afghanistan, but also large parts of Central Asia which are rich in natural resources.
It is significant also because India gets to contest China’s influence in the region.
While there’s been some headway in Central Asia, in the immediate neighbourhood things have not been quite so impressive in terms of India’s investments.
Note: The below article briefs us about the present lethargic relations between India and its immediate neighbouring countries (esp. South-East Asian countries) and makes a point why India should increase its presence/relations in/with these countries.
In 2014, the Government announced the Act East Policy to bring more focus to this region, in particular, to the CLMV nations.
However, no significant business engagements have resulted, and if this situation continues, the Act East Policy may just appear as old wine in a new bottle.
To grab the economic opportunities these countries offer for India
Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam (CLMV) have all been exhibiting more than 5 per cent GDP growth over the last few years, as the world economy struggled to breach the 2.5 per cent growth. Myanmar and Vietnam have led the pack, with 8.5 per cent and 6 per cent growth respectively.
The CLMV region has received a significant amount of FDI (increased from $13.3 billion in 2011 to $38.7 billion in 2015), with Vietnam and Myanmar taking the large chunk of this share.
Interestingly, both these countries, Vietnam and Myanmar, also offer tremendous opportunities for India to access huge markets.
For duty-free and quota-free access
Myanmar, along with Cambodia and Laos, by virtue of being a Least Developed Country, benefits from the most favourable regime available under the EU’s ‘Everything But Arms’ scheme, providing duty-free and quota-free access to the EU for the export of products, except arms and ammunition.
On the other hand, the recently concluded Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement to which Vietnam is a signatory along with 11 other Pacific economies representing 26 per cent of world trade, would provide almost duty-free access to goods produced in and exported from Vietnam.
Indian companies can get direct access to the developing and developed markets of TPP and ASEAN members
While Myanmar could act as the gateway to the entire Asean region apart from tapping the significant local market, Indian companies in Vietnam would get direct access to the developing and developed markets of TPP members. Besides these, it goes without saying that CLMV would provide access to the entire Asean landmass.
India’s negligible presence
Unfortunately, bilateral economic engagement between India and the CLMV countries is less than satisfactory.
The irony is that in spite of these apparent benefits, India’s cumulative investment in two of the large markets in the region, Myanmar and Vietnam, stands at an abysmal low of $1.1 billion and $2.2 billion, during 2011 and 2015.
India’s share in total investments in the CLMV region during the same period stands at just 2.4 per cent.
On the other hand, while imports by CLMV doubled during 2010 and 2014, India’s share in its imports remained the same, hovering around 2 per cent, since 2010.
Increasing presence of China and far of countries
The ground reality is that while China already has made significant inroads into CLMV, countries far from Europe and the Asia-Pacific are not far behind.
It may not be out of place to conclude that India is increasingly being observed to be missing the bus in the CLMV region.
Ideally, India should have been playing to its strengths in the region, executing projects in the area of healthcare, ICT and education, and possibly even replicating some of its African models.
A big dose of lethargy
While the Government in 2014 had expressed the desire to set up a 500-crore Project Development Fund (PDF) for catalysing Indian investments in CLMV countries, the same has not seen any significant traction on the ground either.
If these initiatives see the light of day, it will usher in a good amount of Indian investments into the region, possibly in textiles, leather and low-end manufacturing, amongst others.
The Kaladan multi-modal transit-transport system conceived in 2008 envisioning connecting India’s north-eastern States through Myanmar to its Sitwe port has been in limbo due to delay and escalated costs. The project was intended to be a landmark initiative that would facilitate India’s links to the Asean region.
It is extremely important, given the geopolitical conditions, that inertia at the government level be shaken off so as to see the completion of the planned projects.
“Good economics is good politics”. India must increasingly push for engaging more with these four countries in the region so as to benefit not only on the economic front, but also be a constructive and strategic partner in their growth stories.
There has been apprehension in some quarters about completion of the Chabahar port in time, in light of India’s recent record in delays in completion of strategic projects. Such notions should be corrected.
As India goes to Laos in a few months to participate in the Asean summit, the NDA government should work to shift its focus back to the region.
Connecting the dots:
“Good economics is good politics”. Elucidate the statement in regard to the importance of why India should focus East?
General Studies 1
Role of women and women’s organization – women empowerment
General studies 2:
Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections
Talaq-e-Bidat — To be tested on ‘touchstone of Constitution’
Shayara Bano—1st woman to challenge a personal law practice
She has challenged the triad of instantaneous triple talaq (talaq-e-bidat), polygamy and halala (a practice where divorced women, in case they want to go back to their husbands, have to consummate a second marriage).
In her petition, there is no mention of the contentious Uniform Civil Code, or codification of the Muslim personal law— She has sought equality before law and protection against discrimination on the basis of her gender and religion.
The Supreme Court has decided to examine the legality of triple talaq by entertaining a Muslim woman’s petition stating that this mode of divorce be declared unconstitutional as it allowed Muslim men to treat women like “chattel”.
The triple talaq system
Enables Muslim men to unilaterally exercise the power of divorce
According to the Hanafis when triple divorce is pronounced, the wife will become totally alienated from the husband and he cannot remarry her. She becomes haram (totally prohibited) for him. Neither can he take her back nor can he go for fresh nikah with her.
He can go for nikah with her only after she marries another person and that person divorces her on account of marital conflict or she becomes a widow.
The Prophet of Islam was tremendously displeased and reprimanded a man for divorcing his wife in an instant. Therefore, world-over as well as in the Shia community in India, triple talaq is not accepted by Muslims.
In Islam, marriage is a social contract with clear conditions to be noted down in a nikahnama (marriage contract) as well as provides for affirmative provisions for a bride such as mehr (dower).
The Quran gives equal right to both husband and wife to seek divorce. But it nowhere allows instant divorce, for it treats marriage as a serious social relationship, entered into by two individuals.
There are a number of verses in the Quran that call for attempts to reconcile in the case of marital discord to be carried out over a period of 90 days.
According to a survey conducted by the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA), a women’s rights advocacy group, which is campaigning against triple talaq, 59 percent of divorced Indian Muslim women were divorced through triple talaq.
In a national study, Seeking Justice within Family, out of a sample of 4,710 women, 525 have been divorced. Of these, 346 women were divorced orally, 40 women were sent a letter of divorce by their husbands, 18 women were divorced on phone, one via SMS, three through email and 117 through other methods. In the same study, 92% respondents called for a legal ban on the practice of oral, unilateral or triple divorce.
The Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937, allows Indian Muslims to be governed by the Shariat. The absence of codification has legally allowed community leaders to hold the practices as sacrosanct.
The Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act, 1939, however, codifies a woman’s right to seek divorce by approaching the court.
Courts could adjudicate under Article 13 of the Constitution if the Shariat law was found to be “inconsistent with or in derogation of the fundamental rights” of Muslim women.
Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind, a Maharashtra-based organisation committed to protecting the Islamic way of life, has argued that the minority religious community’s personal laws draw its authority from the Holy Koran and not the Indian Constitution. The law is not within the purview of the expression “laws in force” as mentioned in Article 13 of the constitution and hence its validity could not be tested on a challenge based on Part III (fundamental rights) of the constitution. In view of such clear provisions, if the court frames fresh provisions, it will amount to judicial legislation and will be violative of the doctrine of separation of powers
In the Past:
SC had urged the government in the Shah Bano case to frame a uniform civil code, a two-judge bench in October 2015 suo motu ordered registration of a PIL.
Justices Anil R Dave and Adarsh K Goel had sought responses from the Attorney General and the National Legal Services Authority of India on whether “gender discrimination” suffered by Muslim women should not be considered a violation of fundamental rights.
The bench was hearing a matter related to succession when it said it is time to focus on rights of Muslim women. The judges asked for the case to be placed before the CJI to constitute a bench. It is now being heard with Shayara Bano case.
During UPA government a report had been submitted to the Ministry of women and child development on the subject ‘Women and the law: An assessment of family laws with focus on laws relating to marriage, divorce, custody, inheritance and succession’. The committee recommended a ban on various practices that are purportedly Islamic but require reform, including talaq-e-bidat (unilateral triple talaq) and polygamy
The Shamim Ara Judgement— makes it clear that talaq sent over email or text message or through a notice or through the Qazi, etc is not valid and also clarified the procedure for a Muslim husband to divorce his wife:
Supreme Court: Has called for an open-court debate on the highest judiciary’s authority to look into Islamic personal law and possibly subject it to the regime of fundamental rights under the Constitution.
Connecting the Dots:
Does the language of Article 44 needs correction? Is the agitation for a Uniform Civil Code biased? Discuss.
Will the ban on ‘triple-talaq’ bring ‘acche din’ for the Muslim women? Discuss.