[op-ed snap] The Indian Constitutions unitary tilt
The Centre-State conflict over CAA, and the Constitutional obligation on the States to implement the laws made by the Parliament, has once again brought to the fore the unitary tilt of the Indian Constitution.
States opposing the Central law
Several state governments have declared that they would not implement the CAA.
Legislative Assembly of Kerala passed the resolution stating that the law contradicts the basic values.
The resolution is only symbolic though.
Passage of such a resolution is not constitutionally barred.
But it may not be in tune with the federal scheme under the Constitution.
Constitution obligations on the States
Article 256 obligates the State governments to ensure the implementation of the laws made by Parliament.
The Centre may give such direction as may appear to be necessary to ensure compliance with the laws made by Parliament.
The refusal to enforce the law even after the Centre issues direction would empower the President to impose the President’s Rule in the State.
Neither the refusal to implement not the official protests registered by the States carry much legal force.
The Calcutta High Court directed the state government to remove anti-CAA advertisements from the website.
The High Court barred the state from campaigning against a parliamentary law.
The diminishing role of the Opposition
The parliament has been reduced to a site for procedural formalities.
There is a poor understanding of the role of the parliamentary Opposition in Indian politics.
Once the elections are over the Opposition is expected not to meddle in the governance.
The absence of Leader of Opposition in the Parliament for last 6 years manifest this attitude.
Further in the absence of the Opposition showing any resilience, national politics seems to be operating without credible political check.
The unitary tilt of the Constitution
Single-party dominance at the Centre has always revealed the tendency of our Constitution to concentrate the power.
The concentration of power is embedded in the very structure of the Constitution.
A ‘centrist bias’ of the Constitution further augments the power of single-party dominance.
Against the backdrop of the fissiparous tendencies in the backdrop of partition, it was justified for the founders to be hesitant in favour of stronger federalism.
The rise of Electoral federalism
Over the last couple of years, there is huge vote swings between national and State elections in the same constituencies and separated by only a few months.
In other words, federalism is not a mere legal division of power, the democracy and voters too are becoming federal.
This embrace of electoral federalism may be one of the most significant achievements of Indian democracy.
Hence, parties that lose in national elections can still win State elections and form governments.
The State governments are thus filling the opposition deficit at the Centre.
This shift of opposition from Delhi to State capitals is likely to become the politics over federalism.
The conflict that CAA triggered might become a template for future contestations over the federal question, while the politics seem to be ripe for the advancement of federalism.
Mains Paper 2: IR| India and its neighborhood- relations.
From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:
Prelims level: Belt and Road Initiative
Mains level: Concerns raised by Belt and Road Initiative
Italy set to become first G7 country to join ‘Belt and Road’ initiative.
The G7 or the Group of Seven is a group of the seven most advanced economies as per the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The seven countries are Canada, USA, UK, France, Germany, Japan and Italy. The EU is also represented in the G7.
These countries, with the seven largest IMF-described advanced economies in the world represent 58% of the global net wealth ($317 trillion).
The G7 countries also represent more than 46% of the global gross domestic product (GDP) based on nominal values, and more than 32% of the global GDP based on purchasing power parity.
The requirements to be a member of the G7 are a high net national wealth and a high HDI (Human Development Index).
Eyebrows raised in West
Italy’s decision to get closer to Beijing has caused concern amongst its Western allies notably in Washington.
The White House National Security Council has earlier urged Rome not to give ”legitimacy to China’s infrastructure vanity project”.
Critics of the BRI say it is designed to bolster China’s political and military influence, bringing little reward to other nations, and warn that it could be used to spread technologies capable of spying on Western interests.
Mains Paper 2: IR | India and its neighborhood- relations.
From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:
Prelims level: OBOR, Paris Club
Mains level: Concerns raised by Belt and Road Initiative of China
Uncertainty over China’s grace
China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) which seeks to invest about $8 trillion in infrastructure projects across Asia, Europe and Africa has come under intense scrutiny.
A study by the Centre for Global Development, a Washington-based think tank, analyses one important consequence of BRI: debt.
The study finds that it is unlikely that the BRI is likely to raise the risk of a sovereign debt default among relatively small and poor countries.
What is Sovereign Debt?
Sovereign debt is a central government’s debt.
It is debt issued by the national government in a foreign currency in order to finance the issuing country’s growth and development.
The stability of the issuing government can be provided by the country’s sovereign credit ratings which help investors weigh risks when assessing sovereign debt investments.
Sovereign debt is also called government debt, public debt, and national debt.
How will BRI trigger this risk?
To understand this effect, the study first uses sovereign credit risk ratings and World Bank debt sustainability analysis to identify 23 of the 68 countries currently at risk of debt distress.
They find that eight countries could potentially face difficulties in servicing their debt includes Pakistan, Djibouti, the Maldives, Laos, Mongolia, Montenegro, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.
Pakistan, which through the CPEC, serves as the centrepiece of the BRI and is by far the largest country exposed, with China reportedly financing about 80% of its estimated $62 billion debt.
Adhering to global discipline
China’s acquisition of Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port after the Sri Lankan government failed to service its debt is an open fact.
Unlike most of the world’s other major creditors, China is not bound to a set of rules on how it addresses debtor repayment problems.
Currently, China is only an ad hoc participant of the Paris Club, a collection of creditor nations which follow a set of rules in dealing with debtor nations.
The think-tank advocates applying globally-accepted creditor disciplines and standards to the Belt and Road Initiative.
Way Forward: Mitigating Lending Risks
The World Bank and other multilateral banks should increase their participation in the BRI and work with the Chinese government to set the lending standards.
Another recommendation is to establish a new creditor’s group which would maintain the core principles of the Paris Club but with China playing a more meaningful role.
China is also recommended to provide technical and legal support to developing countries.
China should offer debt swap arrangements in support of environmental goals where borrowing country debt is forgiven in exchange for a commitment to an environmental objective, for instance, forest preservation.