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It’s time to give the Commonwealth a decisive strategic edge
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the UK for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting opens up a new strategic opportunity for India. There are two main reasons for this. First, the 53-nation Commonwealth is being looked at in a new light following Brexit. True, the Commonwealth doesn’t make for an automatic replacement for the European Union. Nonetheless, the grouping could be reoriented to serve as a vital economic and innovation platform representing 2.3 billion people across all continents. This would require shedding the grouping’s colonial associations and reimagining the Commonwealth as a body that actively tackles contemporary issues from trade to climate change.
It is within this new frame that India can play a big role in the Commonwealth. New Delhi must discard its traditional defensive mindset towards the grouping and actively contribute towards transforming the Commonwealth into a vital pillar of a new multipolar global order. Secondly, one advantage of the grouping is that it doesn’t include China. At a time when the Chinese have decided to remake the international architecture through new China-dominated forums and big-ticket transnational infrastructure projects, several countries are looking for ways to balance Beijing’s assertive rise. The Commonwealth could present a viable alternative to the Chinese model of economic cooperation riddled with debt traps for other countries, by championing an equitable development model that works.
This is where India and countries like UK, Australia and Canada must put their heads together to boost trade and investment linkages between Commonwealth member nations. This is also why the Commonwealth must now shun its prescriptive approach on human rights and democracy – this has little traction today and can even push some Commonwealth members closer to China. The Commonwealth has to stop being a pretentious moral club and start seeing itself as a serious strategic force.
In that sense, the Commonwealth heritage is just a platform to bring member countries together. Commonalities in language and certain administrative structures ought to serve as a starting point to evolve greater consensus on trade, security and global governance. And India, poised to overtake Britain in terms of GDP, should be at the heart of these conversations. With the UK looking for other outlets following Brexit, British and Indian economic and strategic interests can come together here. India should help elevate the Commonwealth to this higher status.
Syncing the polls?
Simultaneous elections will be difficult to implement and are a non-starter
BJP’s idea of simultaneous elections – synchronising Lok Sabha and state assembly elections to run together – got a boost with the Law Commission putting out a working paper on the subject. It is argued that simultaneous elections will curb state expenditure, the stalling of governance that happens after the model code of conduct, and less time spent campaigning is more conducive for governance. But practical difficulties in the context of India’s federal and diverse political structure make the problems of implementation almost insurmountable.
The proposal would involve amending the Constitution, the Representation of the People Act, rules of procedure of the Lok Sabha and state assemblies. This feat of timing and concordance between Centre and state governments is hardly likely to be achieved. The Law Commission proposes that if a state government loses the confidence of the House the governor, using his discretion, would invite someone else to prove their majority on the floor of the House. If that fails, the state would be run by the Union government through President’s rule. But what if it is the Centre that cannot hold, as has happened eight times in the past 15 Lok Sabhas? Moreover the spectre of a string of states running on President’s rule is not a very palatable one for democracy. Additionally how does one align Jammu and Kashmir, which has a six year electoral cycle, to simultaneous elections every five years?
The Rs 3,426 crore spent by the government on the 2014 Lok Sabha election worked out to Rs 41 per voter, which hardly amounts to profligacy. Marginal savings in expenses that might materialise out of holding simultaneous elections do not justify the multiple problems – including logistical ones of holding elections on such an enormous scale – that will be encountered along the way, nor the democratic deficits incurred.
India has key to Commonwealth
Delhi and London can leverage this forum to unleash an agenda of trade and prosperity
Jitesh Gadhia and Tom Tugendhat, (Jitesh Gadhia is a member of UK-India CEO Forum. Tom Tugendhat is Chair of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee)
History has a curious habit of repeating itself. In 1949, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru arrived in Britain for the fourth Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, hosted by his British counterpart Clement Attlee. Nehru was a known sceptic of the Commonwealth, keen to shed the last vestiges of imperial rule. Severing all colonial ties would also allow him to pursue a distinctive foreign policy of non-alignment and build relations with countries like Russia and China.
Jitesh Gadhia and Tom Tugendhat
History has a curious habit of repeating itself. In 1949, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru arrived in Britain for the fourth Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, hosted by his British counterpart Clement Attlee. Nehru was a known sceptic of the Commonwealth, keen to shed the last vestiges of imperial rule. Severing all colonial ties would also allow him to pursue a distinctive foreign policy of non-alignment and build relations with countries like Russia and China. As India made plans to become a republic, events came to a head. Following an intense campaign led by Louis Mountbatten, Nehru opened the door to some form of ongoing association. He had also started to re-evaluate the political and economic advantages for India of being conciliatory in its formative years of freedom. Mahatma’s Gandhi’s philosophy of ‘forget and forgive’ is likely to have played on Nehru’s mind.
So statesmanship and draftsmanship came together in the text of the London Declaration, which “affirmed India’s desire to continue her full membership of the Commonwealth of Nations and her acceptance of the King as the symbol of the free association of its independent member nations and as such the Head of the Commonwealth.” George VI is reported to have quipped: “Mr Nehru you have reduced me to an ‘as such’”. And so the modern Commonwealth was born.
Each successive country to gain independence from Britain, or become a republic, could comfortably follow India’s lead and remain in the club. Now, almost seven decades later, as leaders of the much enlarged Commonwealth family of 53 nations gather in London for their twenty-fifth meeting, all eyes are once again on the Indian prime minister.
Neither Narendra Modi, nor his predecessor Manmohan Singh, have attended the last three summits in Malta, Colombo or Perth. And like Nehru, Modi has struggled with the relevance of the Commonwealth looking instead to US, Japan, Asean, and increasingly Israel, as his innermost circle of allies.
This matters to the group. Without India’s active engagement, the Commonwealth would be a shadow of its potential. It is by far the biggest member, representing more than half of its 2.4 billion combined population and, alongside Britain, the biggest economy. India personifies the youth, growth, scale and diversity which defines the modern Commonwealth – and brings the added legitimacy of being the world’s largest democracy.
So with the Commonwealth at another inflection point, Indians are asking the fundamental question: what is the Commonwealth for? This is a point which the British House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee has also made in its latest report calling for: “clear aims for what the UK wants to achieve… with a credible strategy, specific objectives and metrics for success” as it prepares for a two year term as Chair-in-Office.
It is clear that the Commonwealth cannot be a fully fledged political block given the widely diverging interests between 53 nations and longstanding bilateral issues amongst members – the Kashmir dispute being one obvious example. But the UK could, for example, build a caucus in the UN bridging its role as the sole Commonwealth member of the Security Council with the General Assembly.
Economic collaboration is the only significant alternative. A greater focus on prosperity – one of the four key themes of the London summit – would certainly suit the British agenda as it prepares to leave EU. The Commonwealth’s combined GDP is over $10 trillion and includes some of the fastest growing countries and regions in the world. Intra-Commonwealth trade and investment is projected to surpass $1.5 trillion by 2020. It is also a conduit for the fast growing corridor of south-south activity which now represents over a quarter of world trade.
An effort has been made to quantify the Commonwealth advantage which comes from sharing a common language and having similar legal and regulatory systems, institutions, and standards. The findings show that Commonwealth members tend to trade 20% more, save around 19% in costs and generate 10% more foreign direct investment. So the Commonwealth enjoys a higher return from expanding trade and investment flows but, equally, has the most to lose from rising protectionism.
So the prosperity agenda is plausible but it cannot stand alone. Britain must show the other 52 members that its renewed focus on the Commonwealth is not just an opportunistic antidote to Brexit but a real change of heart from the British government.
A greater focus on trade and investment should certainly be welcomed by Modi as he enters a critical pre-election year. Delivering tangible results from his economic reforms will be a top priority, particularly if it can secure jobs for young Indians. Aspirational India is increasingly becoming impatient India.
There is also a wider geopolitical prize. There are few international fora where India doesn’t face head on competition from other emerging superpowers. This might be relevant, especially in Africa, with 19 members of the Commonwealth, and where India could bring some counterbalance to the region. More broadly, the global rules-based order is in desperate need of new champions, particularly those like India.
India could take a lead on trade and investment and shift the centre of gravity of the Commonwealth away from London. As for future leadership, Indians understand families and the need for a “family arrangement” and ‘as such’ might graciously repeat Nehru’s words of almost 70 years ago and accept Prince Charles as the next Head of the Commonwealth.
सूचना कानून का दायरा
पूरी पीढ़ी को गिरफ्त में ले रही है डिजिटल लत
संचिता शर्मा( हेल्थ एडीटर, हिन्दुस्तान टाइम्स)
स्मार्टफोन के इस्तेमाल में अति ऐसा नशा जैसा है, जो मस्तिष्क में न्यूरोलॉजिकल परिवर्तन का कारण बनता है। यह ठीक उसी तरह है, जैसे अफीमयुक्त दर्दनिवारक आपकी आदत बदल डालते हैं। शोध पत्रिका न्यूरो रेगूलेशन में प्रकाशित नया शोध यह भी बताता है कि सोशल मीडिया तकनीक से चिपके रहना नशे की तरह ही व्यवहार में तमाम बदलावों का जरिया बनता है। यह इंसान को सामाजिक रूप से अलग-थलग करने के साथ ही उदास और चिंतित बना देता है।
लत के मामले में डिजिटल टेक्नीक दरअसल कुछ-कुछ सिगरेट की लत जैसी ही है। पिंग, सूचनाएं भेजना, वाइब्रेशन और अलर्ट के अन्य माध्यम हमारी जैविक प्रतिक्रियाओं को खतरनाक हद तक प्रभावित करते हैं। अकेलापन आंशिक रूप से ही सही, उन हालात का नतीजा है, जहां आमने-सामने के सीधे संवाद को संचार की नई भाषा से बदल दिया गया है और जिसने शरीर की भाषा के साथ अन्य भौतिक संकेतों को संप्रेषणीयता को समाप्त कर दिया। शोध की यह बात खासतौर से गौरतलब है कि संचार की नई भाषा या तकनीक में उलझा इंसान हमेशा मल्टीटास्किंग पर रहता है, यानी एक साथ कई मोर्चों पर सक्रिय होता है, जिसके कारण उसके दिमाग को आराम करने या फिर रिफ्रेश होने का वक्त ही नहीं मिलता।
विश्व स्वास्थ्य संगठन ने इंटरनेशनल क्लासिफिकेशन ऑफ डिजीजेज के मसौदे के 11वें संशोधन (आईसीडी-11) में ‘गेमिंग डिसआर्डर’ को भी शामिल किया है, जिसे चिकित्सक, शोधार्थी और महामारी विज्ञानियों के लिए वैश्विक स्वास्थ्य रुझानों के परीक्षण और निदान का एक मानक औजार माना जाता है। यह शोध इस साल के अंत तक प्रकाशित होगा। यह गेमिंग एडिक्शन को गेमिंग व्यवहार (डिजिटल गेमिंग या वीडियो गेमिंग) के तौर पर परिभाषित करता है, जिसका सीधा मतलब है गेमिंग को ऐसी प्राथमिकता देना, जो तमाम नकारात्मक नतीजों के बावजूद दैनिक कार्य-व्यवहार पर हावी है। आईसीडी-11 के अनुसार, गेमिंग डिसऑर्डर की पहचान और इलाज संभव है और इसका मकसद ही सरकारों और चिकित्सा तंत्र का ध्यान इस खतरे की ओर ले जाना है, ताकि रोकथाम और उपचार के रास्ते तलाशने में आसानी हो। भारत में गेमिंग की लत का पहला आधिकारिक मामला 2016 में दिल्ली के राम मनोहर लोहिया अस्पताल के डॉक्टरों की नजर में आया, जब दो भाइयों को ऐसी शिकायतों के बाद मनोचिकित्सा वार्ड में भर्ती कराया गया। 22 और 19 साल के ये युवा जब तक अभिभावकों की नजर में आते, काफी देर हो चुकी थी। हालत यह थी कि बिना नहाए-खाए ये दिन-दिन भर इसी में डूबे रहते और किसी ने इस पर ध्यान नहीं दिया। ये पढ़ाई-लिखाई और घर-बाहर, सबसे कटे हुए थे।
दरअसल ये खेल बनाए ही ऐसे गए हैं कि लोग खेलना छोड़ ही न पाएं। नशे की लत जैसे ये गेम चुनौती पूर्ण और सम्मोहक तो होते ही हैं, बीच-बीच में थोड़ी-थोड़ी जीत दिलाकर प्रेरित करते रहते हैं। रेवार्ड नाम का यह रसायन दिमाग में लगातार आनंद का भाव जिंदा रखते हुए और खेलने के लिए प्रेरित करता रहता है। खिलाड़ियों को लगातार और ज्यादा अच्छे स्कोर या लक्ष्य को लिए इस तरह प्रेरित करता है कि उन्हें और कुछ पता ही नहीं चलता। उन्हें उस आभासी दुनिया में पहुंचा देता है, जहां वे खोजने-नष्ट करने, सेनाओं को हराने-राक्षसों को मारने के सुख में डूबे खुद को सृष्टि का नियंता समझने लगते हैं। वे कब सच्चाई से कोसों दूर निकल गए, जान ही नहीं पाते। वे आभासी दुनिया में ऐसे फंसते हैं, जहां से निकलना मुश्किल होता है।
इस लत से बचा जा सकता हैं। आप सिर्फ अलर्ट, पुश नोटिफिकेशंस या ऐसे तमाम विकल्पों को बंद करके रखें, ताकि आप ऑफलाइन गतिविधियों, संबंधों और वार्तालापों पर ध्यान दे सकें। थोड़ा अतिवादी भले लगे, एक और तरीका सोशल मीडिया अकाउंट्स से बाहर निकल आने के साथ ही टे्स्टिटंग, कॉलिंग, चैटिंग को सीमित करना भी है, क्योंकि अब हम यह जांच चुके हैं कि सोशल मीडिया पर हमारी पोस्ट का कैसा-कैसा दोहन किया जा रहा है।
Missing in Supreme Court A spirit of collegiality
The way in which the apex court has been run in the past few months is not just a matter of debate, but of acute public disquiet.
Fali S. Nariman, (The writer is a constitutional jurist and senior advocate in the Supreme Court)
From January 2017 onwards, landmark judgments have been handed down by different benches of the Supreme Court of India (benches of five, seven and nine judges). The same period also witnessed hitherto unprecedented events — a sentence of imprisonment imposed by a bench of seven judges of the Supreme Court on a sitting judge of a high court for committing contempt of the Supreme Court; and the public expression of protest by four of the seniormost judges of the Supreme Court against the administrative actions of India’s Chief Justice. Together, these events and occurrences recall the opening lines of a literary masterpiece (A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens): “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness… It was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”
Jeremy Bentham was the 18th century reformer of law and politics. He was a staunch proponent of “enacted law”, and an avowed enemy of “judge-made-law”. He, disparagingly, characterised his country’s highest court as “Judge & Co”. In his book on judges (1992), David Pannick QC writes that: “The way in which ‘Judge & Co’ is run is a matter of interest and will increasingly become a matter of public debate.”
In India, the way in which the Supreme Court has been run these past few months has become not just a matter of interest or debate — it has become a matter of acute public controversy, causing much disquiet and concern.
Justice Michael Kirby, who has visited India on innumerable occasions, had said, when sitting as judge of the High Court of Australia, that country’s highest court, that dissension amongst judges in the highest court of any country is by no means an unusual phenomenon. And that “whenever we think that the tensions and stresses in the High Court of Australia reach unendurable proportions we would do well to read the histories of the United States Supreme Court where animosities have so frequently poisoned personal relationships and have not always been cloaked with the genteel observance of form which has usually marked at least the external face of our country’s highest court”.
In a 1995 publication, conflicts inside the Supreme Court of the United States have been described in stark, graphic terms: “Filled with wonderful vignettes and telling anecdotes, battles illuminate the court’s legendary and little-known clashes from John Marshall to Ruth Ginsberg and help us understand why they fight, how they fight, and why their fights matter. In the process, it reveals a long tradition of strategic flattery, cajolery, name-calling, threats, subterfuge, and sermonising — all in an effort to win over or run over fellow justices!!”
In conflicts within the Supreme Court of the United States, “combat supersedes collegiality” (thus described in Philip Cooper’s book, 1995, “as an inescapable fact of life in the Marble Temple”).
We in India have overlooked the importance of a spirit of collegiality amongst judges — a fact stressed in a 2004 reported decision of India’s Supreme Court. Writing the judgment of the court, Justice R C Lahoti (later Chief Justice of India from June 1, 2004, to October 31, 2005) quotes Harry Edwards, then chief justice of one of the United States Courts of Appeal “that an aspect of judicial practice that has seemed increasingly important over the years has been the practice of collegiality: and I mean an attitude among judges that says, we may disagree on some substantive issues, but we all have a common interest and goal in getting things right…”
“We are, in a word, one another’s colleagues. An attitude of collegiality means, in practice, that we respect one another’s views, listen to one another, and, where possible, aim to identity areas of agreement… Collegiality does mean, however, that, even when I disagree with another judge, I recognise that we are part of a common endeavour, and that each of us is, almost always, acting in good faith according to his or her own view”.
In the United States when its Supreme Court is in session, the 10 a.m. entrance of the justices into the courtroom is announced by the marshal with the following traditional chant: “The Honourable, the Chief Justice and Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States. Oyez! Oyez! Oyez! All persons having business before the Honourable, the Supreme Court of the United States, are admonished to draw near and give their attention, for the Court is now sitting. God save the United States and this Honourable Court!”
I suggest that, in desperate times like these, when the spirit of collegiality has been thrown to the winds, it would not be inappropriate for us to adapt that last sentence in the above quoted traditional chant as the fervent prayer of India’s citizens: God save the republic of India and the honourable Supreme Court.
What non-alignment means to India depends on the prism through which it is viewed
Martand jha, (Junior Research Fellow at the School of International Studies, JNU)
As the 18th mid-term ministerial meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) concluded in early April in Azerbaijan, the question of India’s non-alignment status resurfaced, even if the country’s official position on the matter has arguably remained unchanged over the years. Indeed, as a founding member of NAM, India has remained committed to the purposes and principles of the movement.
The NAM question initially arose in response to the erstwhile bipolarity of political power during the Cold War years, with most nations aligning themselves to either the U.S. or the Soviet Union. The end of the Cold War and the disintegration of the Soviet Union spurred the question of what the essence of NAM was, and with respect to whom the NAM countries remained non-aligned. The ‘Ten principles of Bandung’, which were proclaimed in the Asian-African Conference in 1955, outlined the principles of NAM. Being the largest member-state of NAM, India has been one of the leaders of the movement since the time of Jawaharlal Nehru, one of the founding fathers of this movement.
Against the backdrop of this history, it would be a mistake to see NAM merely as a rejection of Cold War bloc politics. Non-alignment stood — and presumably still stands — for policy autonomy for the erstwhile newly independent countries. These countries bandied together because of their shared traditions and history, which included anti-colonialism, anti-imperialism and anti-racism. The idea behind non-alignment thus conceived was to promote peace and security in a global arena where superpowers were constantly posturing to achieve their hegemonic ambitions. In that context, NAM helped preserve the sovereignty of many young nations, including democracies such as India which wished to follow the path of strategic independence.
Today, questions are being raised about India’s non-aligned credentials, particularly after India joined the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, a coalition seen by many as a counterforce to China’s rise in the Indo-Pacific. Coinciding with this is Russia’s drift from India and the emergence of a Russia-China-Pakistan trilateral. The key question is: given the perception in some quarters that India is well-inclined towards the U.S. and its allies, while it has simultaneously allowed a drift away from its old allies such as Russia, is it not far less credible for India to claim to be non-aligned?
If non-alignment is seen purely through the prism of alliances, a question mark hangs over India’s non-aligned credentials. However, India can still claim to be non-aligned if non-alignment is assessed through the principles of NAM. Regardless, there is little doubt that India needs to do more to explain what non-alignment means to it now as the global order has changed dramatically in recent years.