IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs (Prelims + Mains Focus)- 14th April 2018
Economic Freedom Index
Part of: Mains GS Paper II- Governance
- India has jumped 13 places in the last one year to be at 130th spot in the latest annual Index of Economic Freedom released by a top American think-tank- The Heritage Foundation, an American conservative public policy think-tank based in Washington.
- In 2017, India with a score of 52.6 points was ranked at 143 among 180 countries, two spots below neighbour Pakistan, according to the Index of Economic Freedom.
- India’s economic freedom score is 54.5, making its economy the 130th freest in the 2018 Index.
- The overall score has increased, led by improvements in judicial effectiveness, business freedom, government integrity, and fiscal health.
- India is ranked 30th among 43 countries in the Asia-Pacific region, and its overall score is below the regional and world averages.
- Economic liberalisation measures, including industrial deregulation, privatisation of state-owned enterprises and reduced controls on foreign trade and investment, that began in the early 1990s, accelerated growth.
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TOPIC: General Studies 2:
- 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
Substantiating India-US relationship: Need of the hour
For India, the larger security environment is assuming complex dimensions with a US-China trade-war looming, US-Russia relations taking a nose-dive and China’s Belt and Road masterplan unfolding in the Indo-Pacific.
Another cause of concern is the emerging Moscow-Beijing axis and Russia’s courtship of Pakistan.
Given that nations have neither permanent friends nor permanent enemies, only permanent interests, it is time for India to consider an policy reappraisal.
Evolving bonhomie between India and US:
- A bipartisan consensus in Washington about enlisting India as a strategic partner led to then-President George Bush in 2005 making an offer which New Delhi could not refuse.
- The unprecedented US-India Civil Nuclear Agreement, which followed in 2008, accorded India the “de facto” status of a nuclear weapon state without signing the Non Proliferation Treaty.
- Parallel developments followed in the defence arena.
The 2004 Agreement on Next Steps in Strategic Partnership was followed by a Defence Framework Agreement in 2005 and the 2012 Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI), envisaging the transfer of advanced technologies to India.
- In 2016, India was accorded the status of Major Defence Partner by the US Congress.
Poor progress under the DTTI:
The DTTI has, however, made little actual progress because of divergent objectives.
While India seeks technology, the US remains focused on trade.
India’s defence capability has benefited only from $15 billion worth of hardware — comprising patrol-aircraft for the navy, transports and helicopters for the IAF, and howitzer guns for the army — purchased under the US Foreign Military Sales (FMS) scheme.
A major impediment in the Indo-US defence relationship has been India’s reluctance to sign the “foundational agreements” required by the US to enhance defence ties.
After discussions assuaging India’s justifiable apprehensions about a compromise of strategic autonomy as well as the security of military information, the Logistical Exchange Memorandum of Agreement was signed in 2016.
Two others — the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement, and the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement — haven’t been signed yet due to bureaucratic reservations.
A delay in signing these will deprive India of high-tech equipment that should accompany US hardware and prevent the sharing of useful geospatial information between the two militaries.
A word of caution: Our time has not yet come
Indians must beware of hyperbole obscuring reality in the bilateral discourse.
American offers of “help to make India a great power” and declarations that India is “not just a regional power, but a global power”, should arouse scepticism.
Undoubtedly, India is destined to assume its rightful place in the world order but a reality check will tell us that our time has not yet come.
- The vision of a “Super India”, offered by the promise of its growing economy, illusory “demographic dividend” and a nuclear arsenal, is gradually receding in the face of harsh domestic realities.
- On the other hand, China, with five times India’s GDP, is surging ahead to attain economic, military and technological parity with the US.
- Aiming to be Asia’s sole hegemon, China has armed Pakistan and enlisted it as a surrogate, thereby containing India within a South Asian “box”.
For India to attain its full economic and strategic potential, it will need an insurance against hegemony.
The choices before India are few and a partnership with the US appears a pragmatic and realist option at this juncture.
- The DTTI must serve to bolster design and production capabilities in defence.
Instead of pursuing symbolism, the DTTI should facilitate a transfer of technologies that have eluded our engineers and scientists.
- In order to elevate the Indo-US relationship to a strategic level and resolve many outstanding bilateral issues, Trump and Modi had agreed to establish a “2+2” dialogue between the respective defence and foreign ministers.
As and when the “2+2” dialogue does take place, the Indian side should remind their US interlocutors that in the past three decades the USSR and Russia have, amongst other items, leased two nuclear submarines, sold an aircraft-carrier, and transferred technology for a supersonic cruise missile to India.
So, if the US is to deliver on tall promises, some serious re-thinking may be required.
Connecting the dots:
- For India to attain its full economic and strategic potential, it will need an insurance against hegemony from China. The choices before India are few and a partnership with the US appears a pragmatic and realist option at this juncture. Comment.
TOPIC:General studies 2:
- Structure, organization and functioning of the Judiciary
Judicial reforms must come from within the judiciary
The letter by Justice Kurian Joseph to the Chief Justice of India, also sent to 22 companion justices, requests for a bench of seven justices to be formed to “suo motu take up the matter of the government sitting on the two names” for proposed elevation.
The prolonged silence, writes Justice Kurian Joseph, imperils the “life and existence” of the court. And he adds, “history would not pardon” it were the court to do nothing to question this kind of governmental conduct.
- The first constitutional amendment under the present regime enacted the National Judicial Commission with a facilitating Act.
Both the constitutional amendment and the Act were struck down by a five-judge bench with a 4:1 decision on the ground that while the amendment affected judicial review as an aspect of the “basic structure” of the Constitution, the Act, in effect, diminished the “primacy” of the CJI and the collegium.
- The court went an extra mile to ask the executive to propose a Memorandum of Procedure (MoP).
- More than a year has gone by, but the executive has not yet finalised it, despite reminders by the court. Instead, the executive seems to claim a power of veto over the names proposed; in doing so, it seeks to do indirectly what it could not directly — thus violating a foundational axiom of the rule of law.
Since the 1998 Advisory Opinion, the judicial collegium was not questioned, only the composition and the procedure of functioning were sought to be clarified.
Contrary to the heavy propaganda now of judges appointing judges, the Union government had itself accepted the new collegium system of five senior-most justices.
It was also accepted that the executive will convey its concerns to the CJI if a security issue was involved; if the collegium reiterated them, the names will become final.
Despite occasional grapevine criticism of the collegium, the system continued in place.
The governance tendency comprising non-response to troublesome situations seems to be on a high growth curve. The four senior-most justices had earlier pointed out, in a press conference, that the recommendations of the collegium concerning the MoP were not responded to for a long time, even though finalised by the court.
The lack of response to the CJI is angainst the dignity of a high constitutional office, and may also entail the offence of contempt, scandalising the court.
Reform must come from within:
Any reform of the system will have to come from within the court itself.
It has made a welcome beginning by posting some details on the website; but it must do more, for there is no more demanding virtue than transparency.
- There are prescribed or ordained ways of handling constitutional disagreements. Sheer assertion of the power of not responding is not one of them.
- The executive clearly holds a different view than the justices on the powers of elevation and transfer; the way ahead is to have a new and creative National Judicial Commission Act, which is acceptable to both the high organs of governance.
- The CJI should be, and must remain, in a position of robust dialogue with dissenting brethren and blend his power as master of roster with respect for the suggestions and opinions of others.
Constitutional democracy is not imperilled by dissent and disagreement but by an overweening sense of power in one person or institution.
The Fundamental Duties of all citizens (under Part IV-A of the Constitution) require us to interrupt power from dreams of limitless sovereignty. We need to rekindle a constitutional flame in all our institutions.
Connecting the dots:
- The issue of judicial appointments and elevation is a long pending one. The judiciary and the executive needs to come to a common ground. Also, reforms to ensure transparency must come from within the judiciary. Comment.
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