Wednesday, July 19, 2017

YESTERYEAR FRIEND AND FOE

China and India share a very old history and relationship. Throughout the first millennium, they were the centres of spiritual and religious activities. The two countries suffered from western colonialism during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. However, political contacts between them were few. Culturally, it was mostly from India to China.
"Maha-Cheena" and "Cheen-Amshuk" In Kautilya's "Arthashastra" indicated trade links between Mauryan-India and China. Emperor Harshavardhan sent representatives to China reciprocated with two missions sent by Tang emperor Tai-Tsung. Unfortunately, Harshavardhan's successors attacked a Chinese mission leading to battle won by Chinese, the only battle in India-China relationship until 1962.
Religious and cultural interactions existed between them during the first few centuries. The Islamic invasion in India made two countries living as strangers until nineteenth century, when Europeans colonised both. Before European colonisation, China and India accounted for about 33 percent and 25 percent respectively of the world's manufactured goods. China under the Song (960- 1279) and Qing (1644- 1912) dynasties was the superpower. Under the Guptas (c. 320- c.550 ce) and Mughals (1526- 1857), India's economic, military, and cultural prowess was an object of envy. Then European powers overshadowed the Asian civilisations which declined, decayed, disintegrated and were eventually conquered by.
Post Colonisation
During The British colonisation, China had limited trade relations with India. In early twentieth century, a great resurgence in Asia deeply influenced India and China who looked at each other with sympathy, admiration and sought mutual inspiration. In 1941 when the Japanese invade China, Indian national Congress dispatched a medical mission to China headed by Dr Kotnis. He died in action and remembered in both countries as a symbol of solidarity.
In 1947 India became independent. India established diplomatic relations with nationalist Kuomintang Chinese Govt in 1948. The communist People's Republic of China when established on 1st Oct 1949 after the military defeat of the Kuomintang Govt, India was one of the first non-communist countries to immediately recognize it.
Relations between 1949 - 1962
During this period the Chinese ignored India's independent status and demonstrated unhappiness about India's non-alignment policy. Mao Ze Dong openly stated that one can either be towards imperialism or with socialism and a third road didn't exist; he called Nehru a hireling of anglo-american imperialism. However, Prime Minister Nehru viewed Indian independence and Chinese revolution as parallel expressions of resurgent Asian nationalism and wanted them to be friendly. Nehru visualised China as the future third great power but hastened to add India as the fourth. The visits by prime ministers of China and India from June 1954 to Jan 1957 strengthened the friendly feeling.
The Tibet issue disturbed the cordial neighbourly relation. India acknowledged China's suzerainty over Tibet subject to Tibet's autonomy. The Chinese army invaded Tibet on 7th Oct 1950. India stressed on peaceful negotiation of Tibet problem; china dismissed Indian interference claiming Tibet as its internal affairs. In 1954 they signed "India-China agreement on trade and intercourse" following China and Tibet May 1951 treaty.
In 1954 the signing of an eight year agreement on Tibet initiated India-China relationship based on Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence (or Panch Shila); with the slogan - 'Hindi-Chini bhai-bhai'. In 1954, new Indian maps included the Aksai Chin region within its boundaries. The detection of a completed Chinese road in Aksai Chin of Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir region instigated serious and frequent Indian protests and border clashes. In January 1959, PRC premier Zhou Enlai informed Nehru that China never accepted the Mcmahon Line defining the eastern border between India and China; rejecting Nehru's contention that the border was based on treaty and custom.
The Dalai Lama, spiritual and temporal head of the Tibetan people, required asylum in India. In March 1959, thousands of Tibetan refugees with the Dalai Lama settled in Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh. China immediately proclaimed 104,000 sq km of Indian Territory as their demanding "rectification" of the entire border.
China wanted Aksai Chin back in exchange of its claim on India's north-east. The Indian government rejected the idea as being humiliating and unequal. Relations further deteriorated during 1960s. Border disputes resulted in a short border war between the People's Republic of China and India in 20 October 1962. The PRC pushed the unprepared and inadequately led Indian forces to within forty-eight kilometres of the Assam plains in the northeast and occupied strategic points in Ladakh, until the PRC declared a unilateral cease-fire on 21 November and withdrew twenty kilometers behind its contended line of control.
Relations between the PRC and India deteriorated during the rest of the 1960s and the early 1970s while the Sino-Pakistani relations improved; Sino-Soviet relations worsened; affecting Indo_China relation adversely. In late 1967 Indian and Chinese forces in Sikkim fought two battles, first - the "Nathu La incident" and second - the "Chola incident". They clashed again in 1984 in the Sumdorong Chu Valley in Arunachal Pradesh.
Rajiv Gandhi's visit to China in 1988 initiated a new era. A joint statement emphasizing the necessity to revive warm relationship, increasing bilateral ties in diversified areas and moreover, resolving the border issues, was issued. Confidence-building measures continued in 1993. Different meetings were held to solve the "line of actual control" issue, deployment of armed forces along it and mutual knowledge about military exercises etc.
India's nuclear test in May 1998 again deteriorated the relationship when the Indian Defense Minister stated China as 'India's greatest threat'. In 2000 the Indian President's visit to China; in 2002 the Chinese Premier's visit to India; in 2003 the Indian Prime Minister's visit to China improved the relationship greatly. China's accepting Sikkim as an integral Indian state is a positive step towards solving the border problems.

At present both countries have a cordial relation barring a few incidents of scoring diplomatic points over each other and both countries are concentrating on their respective growth stories. Certain issues however remain sore point between them and must be solved through mutual dialogue.
By Vaishali Sinha

Friday, April 28, 2017

Some personal questions

Of the three issues relating to Muslim personal law in India — triple talaq, nikah halala and polygamy — coming up soon for hearing before a Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court, the first is an easy-to-pluck low-hanging fruit. Muslims who are hoping for a verdict that declares these practices not only unconstitutional but also “un-Quranic” confidently cite unambiguous verses from the holy scripture on the issue of triple talaq and even nikah halala.

But on the issue of polygamy, they dither in taking a head-on stand against the ulema’s centuries-old, male-centred interpretation of the Quranic injunction.

The Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan’s affidavit in support of Shayara Bano’s petition, for example, seeks the declaration of triple talaq and nikah halala as un-Quranic, but is silent on the polygamy issue. Numerous articles penned in recent months by Muslims for the print media have also remained focused on triple talaq (instant divorce). The odd comment piece on polygamy by a Muslim has, if anything, sought to justify the practice among Muslims through a dubious reference to the plight of Hindu “mistresses” who are “denied the right that a second wife enjoys among Muslims”.

Even the late Bohra reformist, Islamic scholar and a tireless champion for gender justice, Asghar Ali Engineer, remained opposed to a total ban on polygamy since the Quran permits it under certain conditions. Over 20 Muslim majority countries have outlawed triple talaq in recent years. Many have also imposed strict court-supervised conditions before a husband takes a second wife. But most have yet to take the final step: Monogamy.

The ulema’s theological defence of polygamy hangs on a single verse of the Quran which reads: “And if you fear that you may not be just to the orphans, then you may marry whom you please of the women: Two, and three, and four. But if you fear you will not be fair, then only one, or what your right hand possesses (slaves)” (4:3).

The patriarchs of Islam forget to remind their flock of two other relevant verses of the Quran which read: “You will not be able to treat all women equally even if you wish to do so” (4:129), or, “Allah has not made for any man two hearts” (33.4). It has been left to women (some men too) scholars of Islam such as Amina Wadud, Asma Barlas and others to point out that the continued justification of polygamy is not a Quranic licence but a convenient male construct.

In her book Quran and Women: Reading the Sacred Text from a Woman’s Perspective, Wadud points to the verse preceding 4.3 to argue that both verses are specifically about the treatment of orphans, justice to orphans. Wadud challenges the ulema’s blinkered notion of “treating all women equally”.

“In fact, as far as they are concerned, the only measurement of justice between wives is material: Can a man equally support more than one wife? This is an extension of the archaic idea of marriages of subjugation, because (this criteria of) fairness is not based on quality of time, equality in terms of affection, or on spiritual, moral and intellectual support.”

As relevant is the context of the revelation of these verses. The male members in the then-miniscule Muslim population which was counted in hundreds was seriously decimated in the battle of Uhud. This created a major gender imbalance and the very survival of Islam’s followers was at stake. Wadud, among others, systematically demolishes the common justifications in support of polygamy of which there is neither mention, nor sanction in the Quran.

First, there is the financial argument. Since women are financially dependent on men, those who can afford it may marry more than one wife. This is not an argument based on the Quran. Besides, it is no longer true in today’s world that only men engage in paid work.

Two, the argument regarding women’s inability to bear children. This too finds no mention in the Quran. Moreover, with the advance of medical science, it is easy to establish whether infertility has to do with the husband or wife. Also, in today’s world, there are multiple options — adoption being only one of them — for a couple to raise children even if the wife is not able to conceive.

Three, the argument that men have a stronger sexual drive than women. This not only lacks Quranic sanction but, as Wadud argues, it is un-Quranic. “It is clear that the Quran does not stress a high, civilised level for women while leaving men to interact with others at the basest level”.

Four, it is pointed out that the Prophet himself had multiple wives. In a paper titled, ‘There are Worse Things Than Being Alone: Polygamy in Islam, Past, Present and Future’, Heather Johnson makes two points. One, all but one of Mohammad’s wives was a widow. “From all accounts his marriages were inspired not by lust or greed but rather by compassion and diplomatic design. Each of his wives came from a different clan or tribe, his marriages to each was a political alliance.”

Two, Johnson quotes verse 33.50 of the Quran to point out that certain permissions were specifically, “Only for thee (Prophet) and not for the believers (at large)”. In the mid-1990s, two judges from a division bench of the Dhaka High Court had ruled that in the modern context, the only possible interpretation of the Quranic injunction on marriage was monogamy.

It is another matter that in the changed political dispensation in Bangladesh a few days later, the Supreme Court had quashed the high court order. Whether our Constitution Bench should limit itself to the constitutional validity of triple talaq, nikah halala and polygamy, or whether it should also examine them in the light of Quranic teachings, as some petitioners have pleaded, may be a debatable question.

The point, however, remains that there are today Islamic scholars, women and men, who consider the current-day practice of polygamy as un-Quranic, in letter and in spirit.

The writer is Convener, Indian Muslims for Secular Democracy and Co-editor, Sabrang India

Source- The Indian Express

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Lost in implementation

Overhaul rulemaking process to prevent government bypassing the will of Parliament

The budget session of Parliament has been a productive one. Parliament passed 18 bills. Four of these are for implementing the Goods and Services Tax regime, and five relate to the Union budget. Parliament also enacted laws for increasing the maternity benefits, promoting access to mental health care, preventing discrimination against persons with HIV, increasing penalties for drunken driving and regulating road safety.

Law making by Parliament is the first step in addressing gaps in our legal system. Laws are ideas and the details of their implementation come through rules. It is the implementation of the law that tests its effectiveness in addressing problems on the ground. Poor implementation will make even the greatest law ineffective. Rules framed by the government are used to operationalise laws. These rules provide the nuts and bolts of the law and prescribe how people engage with it on a daily basis. The rules made by the government are therefore as important as the law enacted by Parliament. However, rulemaking to implement laws suffers from three major problems.

First, a law made by Parliament cannot be administered if the government does not frame the rules. The poster child of this issue is the Benami Transactions Act. Enacted in 1988, this law gave the government power to confiscate benami properties. For more than 25 years, such properties were immune from seizure in the absence of framing of relevant rules under the law by the government. Even today, there is no information about the complete, partial, or zero implementation of a law in the absence of rules being framed.

The second problem is the lack of citizen and expert voices in the rulemaking process. Public consultation and feedback can identify potential pitfalls in the implementation of law. However, only a handful of laws made have required inviting of public feedback on rules. The government also does not have a consistent mechanism for soliciting feedback while making rules.

The third problem is the severely limited resources of Parliament to scrutinise rulemaking by the government. Last year, approximately 1,200 rules under different laws were made. Parliament has only two committees to examine these rules. Besides the sheer volume of work, their task is further complicated because they have to review technical rules made under various laws.

More than a thousand laws are operational in our country. Our rulemaking process needs overhauling to ensure consistency between the intent of Parliament while making laws, and implementation of these laws through rules by the government. Several recommendations have been made to address issues related to the rulemaking process.

Parliament has recommended that government should make rules within six months of a law being passed. For the government to adhere to this timeline, it suggested that the process of rulemaking should start in parallel with the drafting of the law. Implementation of these recommendations will ensure that the government cannot bypass the will of Parliament and is forced to implement all laws. To ensure scrutiny of rulemaking by Parliament, the government should be required to make regular statements before Parliament regarding the status of framing and operationalising rules under various laws. In 2014, the Committee of Secretaries under the chairmanship of the Cabinet Secretary recommended that all new principal laws should contain a provision for publishing draft rules. Compliance with this recommendation will increase public participation and highlight issues with the draft rules before they are rolled out.

Parliament has 24 subject-specific committees which scrutinise laws. These committees also oversee the work of different ministries. The rules of Parliament should be updated so that instead of two committees, these 24 committees are empowered to review rules made by the ministries. Given their focus on overseeing specific technical and sectoral matters related to various ministries, such a change will bring much-needed rigour to the scrutiny of rules by Parliament.

The government must recognise that getting a law approved by Parliament is only half the battle won. The law merely provides the framework for a solution. To effectively implement it, the government will have to draft detailed rules.

The writer is head of Legislative and Civic Engagement, PRS Legislative Research

Source- The Indian Express

Chief Mentor (K. Siddhartha )

K. Siddhartha is a thinker, visionary and a mentor. He has the ability to see things beyond ordinary, he has the ability to visualize future scenario beyond ordinary, he can analyze issues, see them from a perspective, a 360° perspective. The varied experiences that have come his way have not only hardened him, but also added depth to his perception of others problems. His experience in life has been full of diversity and challenges. His professional experiences range from being a physicist to a fashion designer to an environmentalist, a corporate trainer, counselor, image consultant and now a research associate in paleontology and Perception management. An educationist, Earth Scientist, Author, Trainer, Consultant and Counselor. Has over 20 years, experience in teaching Earth Sciences, Life Sciences and Behavioral traits and 15 years, experience in training students for Civil Services, and people for being good citizens (Personality Development).