Narendra Modi shakes hands with Xi Jinping, China's president | Photo: Graham Crouch | Bloomberg
Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Xi Jinping, China's president | Photo: Graham Crouch | Bloomberg
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India must take note of the China-Pakistan nexus

Jayadeva Ranade | Former Additional Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat and President of the Centre for China Analysis and Strategy

Hindustan Times

At the start of the year, China has made it clear that its attitude towards India will not change, notes Ranade. The China-Pakistan compact will stay intact and get consolidated further while “China will retain, as cosmetic window dressing, the semblance of cordiality in bilateral relations with India through summits and official-level meetings, which have yielded negligible results”, he argues.

Furthermore, he writes, “Beijing will simultaneously strive to advance its commercial interests by blending economic incentives with threats, as it has in the case of Huawei and the bid for 5G.” Ranade then goes on to list the three recent steps taken by China to back his argument. First, its bid to convene a session of the UNSC for the third time on the Kashmir issue. Second, the highly publicised first large-scale military exercises in Tibet by Chinese troops. Finally, the nine-day joint exercises (which reflect land and sea-based threats to India) with Pakistan in the Arabian Sea.

Ranade notes, “At this juncture, for India to host a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), which is a China-sponsored and controlled organisation, will afford Beijing another opportunity to exert pressure on India.” China can muster up support to persuade India to soften its stance on Kashmiri.

A Hymn in Retreat

Valson Thampu | Former principal of St Stephens College

The Indian Express

“We shall beat the retreat differently this year”, are the opening lines of Thampu’s column. This is in light of the hymn ‘Abide With Me’ not being a part of the beating the retreat ceremony this year. He notes that it is a Christian hymn and “its incorporation into the solemn ceremony has a colonial background — like the railways, postal service and many an aspect of our legal system and governance.” Thampu notes that the deletion of the hymn is an issue, but hardly a Christian issue.

“It would be hypocritical for Christians to sound aggrieved for the reason that most Christians hardly value it. Of course, the hymn is still sung on occasions, but the less said about how hymns are sung, the better. No one pays heed to what hymns mean. No one feels their lyrical, spiritual, emotional value,” writes Thampu.

However, he says, that it is a problem that pertains to “India of our dreams”. He talks about the process of exclusion and states that discrimination follows right behind it. “This explains… the sense of power and consolidation in re-naming cities, roads and, in due course, monuments,” writes Thampu. He further clarifies that the problem is not that the hymn was excluded but “the problem is that the principle of arbitrary exclusion is legitimised”.

Glitter versus gold in policy-making

Pranjul Bhandari | Chief India economist, HSBC Securities and Capital Markets (India)

Business Standard

With Union Budget 2020 nearing, Bhandari argues that a “growth revival policy based on a large fiscal push could backfire by hurting a recovery, more than helping it”. The temptation to spur growth via higher public investment and higher foreign exchange reserves has not fared well in the past, she writes.

Bhandari looks at India’s three-year slowdown for “clues”. She notes that in 2017 and 2018, the central government went on a “spending spree” which led to three problems. First, domestic savings couldn’t keep up with external borrowings, rapidly widening the account deficit, she explains. Then, all interest rates began to rise and while investments rose, net exports fell, impacting GDP.

In 2019, the mismatch between domestic savings and external borrowings evened out but interest rates were still high and after the shadow bank crisis, banks became “risk averse” thus inhibiting investment, she explains. This also meant more domestic savings were “placed abroad”, she adds. The budget should therefore aim to “reduce risk aversion in the banking system and resuscitate credit growth”. Bhandari recommends “untangling stalled investments”, “reducing government mandates imposed on public sector banks” and a “regulatory overhaul of shadow banks”.

Out through the In-Door  

Neeraj Kaushal | Professor, social policy, Columbia University, US

Economic Times 

Kaushal argues that the BJP could have used “existing policies” to grant citizenship to persecuted minorities beyond India’s borders instead of amending the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and creating “fear and isolation among Muslims” in India. Also, a strengthened “administrative and judicial capacity to review and adjudicate pending cases for asylum and citizenship” would streamline the process, she writes.

Most countries, be it US, Canada or Turkey, “deal with asylum cases on the merit of each application, unless there is an ongoing humanitarian crisis needing fast action”, explains Kaushal. CAA will deal with illegal immigrants in India who although may have been persecuted in the past, are not currently facing a humanitarian crisis or fleeing civil war like Syrian refugees, writes Kaushal. Therefore, if India follows international law, such people should be granted citizenship on the basis of merit not religion, she explains.

Given the one lakh Tibetans in India and numerous Bangladeshis who have settled within its borders illegally, India has a long history of providing shelter to people fleeing civil war “irrespective of their religion”, argues Kaushal. This, despite the fact that it “does not have a refugee policy”. Not extending the CAA to those following Islam is therefore a clear attempt at “communal polarisation”, writes Kaushal.

An effective tool or a paper tiger?

Mallika Mahajan | Chief commissioner, CBIC, India

Pawan Kumar Sinha | Director, International Anti-corruption Academy, Austria

Financial Express

Mahajan and Sinha criticise the integrity pact (IP), an anti-corruption “flagbearer” for Indian public procurement. They cite the findings of Claudio Weber Abramo, in his paper What If? A Look at Integrity Pacts and explain how an IP is useless in a “highly-corrupt environment where it is an impossibility to win a contract without bribery” and worse, there is “a low probability of detection of bribery and/or low penalties for bribery”.

Take the AgustaWestland chopper deal that was cancelled in 2014 on the grounds of bribery. Not only did the IP fail to throw up warning signs of bribery beforehand but was also unable to help the Indian government get back all the money it had paid AgustaWestland. It was only through appealing to Italian courts that India was able to recover 45 per cent of the total contract value, they explain.

The authors additionally point out that IPs “do not address the problem of cartelisation that affects public markets”. “It is imperative to avert the danger of complacency after use of the IP”, they add.

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