Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Indian Inroads Into Africa

By Vinny Davis*

With the Euro zone, U.S, and China undergoing a phase of relative slowdown, economic forecasts have placed Africa in an enviable position- as a new and emerging market. This explains why a rejuvenated India was upbeat to seal its position in the Rising Africa. The third Indo-African summit captured attention, being the highest African participation in the recent times.

The African continent is rightly getting subsumed into Alex De Waal’s term of ‘political marketplace’.  Economic diplomacy will be the tool to woo major trans-national engagements with Africa. The substantial presence of Indian business activities in the region will become the new level playing field to mobilize a revamped foreign policy concern. Though the capacity constraints of India pose a stumbling block towards the fuller realization of this goal, any key development is pitted to have a larger resonance in re-affirming the Indo-African ties. India would be embarking on a position of engagement with mutual benefits, than getting carried away in the empty rhetoric of South-South cause.

Shared historical experiences of colonization and geographical proximity can be the catalysts for Indian inroads into the African continent. According to a recent study by the IMF (2014), Africa’s share of the global working age population is estimated to increase from 12.6 percent in 2010 to over 41 percent by 2100.  This means that the continent will have a share of 3.2 billion in the projected 4 billion population increase by 2100. Notwithstanding, Africa is touted to reap from its abundant reserves. The 2 billion years old Bushveld Complex (South Africa) is a veritable storehouse of strategic metals (platinum, chromium, and vanadium) that are major pre-requisites in high tech industrial processes. A substantial share of the world’s chromium and cobalt reserves and a quarter of aluminum ore is in Africa, besides the reserves of precious gems. If Southern Africa is rich in coal, West and North Africa is replete with petroleum reserves and iron ore reserves. East Africa has recently catapulted itself to importance for international oil companies with its fresh hydrocarbon reserves. It is estimated that over 120 bn barrels of oil reserves are in Africa, making it the second largest exporter of oil in the world. The joint study by KPMG and CII (2015) noted that, with Africa accounting for only 4% of global oil consumption, the export potential is huge. The luxury market in the region is also expected to touch $405 million by 2019, and its luxury market is touted to grow at 5.6% per year. Consequently, harnessing this demographic dividend together with the rich mineral and hydrocarbon reserves can aptly satiate the investors and businesses serving mutual benefit.

Indian foothold in the region has a real time influence since the days of colonization and liberation wars.  The support by countries like Egypt and Ghana for the Non-Aligned Movement spearheaded by India reinforced this relation during the times of Cold war. Over the previous decades, there have been many ups and downs in the Indo-African relations. The support by the continent to Japan in the United Nations Security Council Non-Permanent Seat in 1996 would have prompted the Indian government to pay more emphasis on Africa in its foreign policy hierarchy. Needless to say, the Indo-African Summit of 2008, was a breakthrough in leveraging the benefits of South-South cooperation. Post 2008 Summit, India pledged $7.4 billion to the African countries of which more than $3 billion has been disbursed.

The list of Indian business interests in Africa is jaw-dropping, with both the public and private sector attempting to cash in maximum benefits. ONGC Videsh Ltd, BHEL, TCIL, Bharti Airtel, Tata Africa Holdings, Tata Chemicals, Mahindra & Mahindra, Reliance Industries, Bajaj Motors, Ranbaxy, Dabur India, Ashok Leyland, Essar Energy, Larsen & Toubro, Birla Group, Jindal Steel & Power Limited, Wipro, Punj Llyod, TVS, Bank of Baroda, State Bank of India, to name a few who have already established their presence in the continent. Sudan, Egypt, Ghana, Nigeria, Morocco, South Sudan, South Africa, Tanzania, Botswana and Mauritius are the major stakeholders in this regard.

The Modi government has been steadily bringing to the fore, the need for economic diplomacy to steer foreign relations. Indo-Africa trade touched $70 billion in 2014-15, alongside the Indian investments in Africa in the past decade soaring to $30-$35 billion. Though this may seem minuscule in comparison to Chinese trade that has exponentially increased to over $200 billion, India is seeking to boost its economic diplomacy with Africa. India will require more teeth to its bilateral trade with the region, for the joint vision of 2014 World Economic Forum to fructify. Realization of $500 billion in trade between India and Africa by 2020 will necessitate easing tariff and non-tariff barriers, import control duties besides being a key stakeholder in African desire to have a Free Trade Zone by 2017. The Continental Free Trade Area will expand the economic market for the region, with equal emphasis on trade in goods and services. Indian encouragement to develop a conducive environment for economic development with mutual benefits will be embraced. The African uneasiness with Chinese presence is slowly revealing its face in the form of skirmishes between the locals and Chinese companies over its hard labour practices. Chinese Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the African continent is over $3 billion. It is harder yet to predict if the slowing Chinese economy would prompt its leaders to concentrate less on Africa.  Private sector participation was minimalist in the recently concluded Indo-African Summit.  Conversely, it was the other way round in the 2013 Japan-Africa summit. As the 5th largest investor in the region, Information Communication Technology and Hydrocarbon businesses are pitted to flourish in the decades to come. Engagement with the Diasporas will be imperative, as over 13% of global Indian Diaspora are in Africa.

Bloody conflicts, piracy, corruption, ethnic divides, spurt in the terror outfits (Boko Haram, Al-Shabab, & Al Qaeda), and the recent failures of state-building exercises can pose as major irritants. The Indian democratic charisma can be deployed to deepen its engagements with benefits for the African counterparts as well. Indian contribution towards the peacekeeping operations in Africa is always lauded, with the recent being its painstaking efforts in South Sudan. Through its participation in such multi-lateral mechanisms, India is vying for reforms in the UNSC to advance the need for inclusivity in international institutions of governance. A revamped Blue Water Navy is also in the pipeline for allaying the concerns of maritime security and for the protection of Sea Lanes of Communication. This will undoubtedly require a strong East African support.

The African leaders might have attempted to use the summit as a platform to adhere to the goals of the Africa Development Charter 2063, which envisages the region to be an influential global player in the future. Though a bumpy ride awaits them, the erstwhile “Dark Continent” has resurfaced becoming the fastest growing continent in last decade, with the economy projected to expand to $ 2.6 trillion by 2020. It is unlikely to predict which African country will join the race for G-4 (a group seeking permanent UNSC membership), alongside India, Japan, and Brazil as the recent progress by African countries like Nigeria, Ethiopia or other Sub-Saharan African nations are commendable.

The summit identified the need for a joint monitoring mechanism with the African Union to oversee the follow-up of the concessional credit of $10 billion (for 5 years), and a grant assistance of $600 million pledged by India. The Indo-African Development Fund ($ 100 million) and Indo-African Health Fund ($ 10 million) are also part of the grant assistance to the region. With representatives from over 54 African nations, the Summit could provide the groundwork to augment collective efforts to boost trade and investment, technological assistance, anti- piracy & counter-terrorism, UNSC reforms, and capacity building initiatives (human resources development, skill up gradation).

On expected lines, India will be seeking to project an image of a responsible power striving to strengthen peace and development in Africa with its enhanced soft power linkages. It will not be easy for India to step up its ante, as the major power scramble for resources from Africa continues. The dexterity of the African Union will be tested, as international trade and development should not end up compromising economic and political control of the region.

* The Author is Managing Associate at CPPR - Centre for Strategic Studies. Views are personal and does not present that of CPPR.

*This article is published in collaboration with the IMANI Centre for Policy and Education, Ghana. It forms part of a series of papers to be produced by Centre for Public Policy Research and IMANI as part of the 2015 India Africa Summit.


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Why Government Awards??

By, Rahul V Kumar*

Awards and alternatives

The entire episode in which artists returned awards to the State to protest against state negligence of atrocities committed against individuals needs to be further debated. At the onset, the question should be whether the State should give out awards. For services rendered directly to the State, individuals do receive awards. But what about giving awards for initiatives pursued in their own capacities as free individuals?
As a corollary, what do such awards really indicate? It could be two things. One, that the state is considering awarding the individual for his work to foster feelings of national pride. On the other hand, it could be that the state is recognizing talents and promoting them with awards and accolades. The first is a contentious issue, the question of national pride. The state has its own ways of attracting citizens and rewarding them for specific services; well and good. It depends on the individual whether they should receive these rewards or not. However, the second question on recognizing talents could have alternative ways. The market is a specific mechanism, which recognizes and rewards art producers, writers or the entire set of individuals engaged in all forms of production. This recognition is more valuable than state awards in terms of the acceptance across the world or in terms of actual rewards. The point is that the state could abstain from spending the taxpayer’s money at organizing and establishing committees to reward producers of artwork. Leave that to the market.

Does not the Market Fail?

Having said this, the state would always defend giving awards using the same old ploy of promoting writers/artists who would find it difficult to bring their produce to the market. The question here is what prevents these writers from exploring market opportunities. If we remove restrictions to the access of technology, and laws and regulations preventing specific forms of literature that the state considers taboo, the market would finds the producers on its own. Nevertheless, this does not end the criticism on the market. Questions still exists. Are there not any social compulsions for these writers or producers of art? They produced works not solely for the market. No issues here; individuals have their rights considering that they respect the equal rights of others. However, the question that needs further exploration is ‘was it not market failure that generated many of these social compulsions?’ We can put these questions in perspective. People concerned with market failures need to go beyond and think about why such failures become a norm. At most instance the story ends with pointing towards an imposing state or any similar authority.

Then what about ‘awards’?

Should there be no awards then? No one is against awards. The question is who should be giving it and at what cost. There are voluntary organizations, social groups, charities, individuals or private associations that award and honour other individuals. There are several prestigious awards falling under these categories. These groups could be spontaneous and evolutionary, sustained through voluntary contributions. Awards in such a context will not be limited but rather competitive and spread across several genres of all forms of art production. When such possibilities exist, do we really want the State to spend its valuable time in giving awards?

 * The Author is Research Consultant at CPPR. Views are personal and does not present that of CPPR


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Will the Climate change at The city of lights ?!


By Sanjay Menon*

How many of you will agree with me if I state that the changes in climatic patterns had made the Syrian drought(2002) two or three times more likely, leading to the migration crisis ? The statement can be more convincing if you could recollect the Russian heat wave in 2010, that destroyed the country's wheat crop. It lead to the ban on grain exports, shooting up world food prices, pushing 44 million people below the poverty line across 28 countries. Scientists have proved that Climate change has indeed displaced people from their land, relinquishing stability.

The loss of mesic trees in the Sudan-Sahel zone, switching off of Northern seas from polar to more temperate species, the       "water war" in Bolivia have all been similarly authenticated. The most recent being the finding of 2014 as the 'hottest year' since modern records began, around 1850. However, future climatic changes can be described only within a range of uncertainty.

To be precise, as the definition goes, Climate change is the statistical distribution of weather patterns when that change lasts for an extended period of time. Rising global temperature,extreme heat waves,frequent droughts,heavy rainfalls are the end results. Enough and more evidences of catastrophes have added thrust to the definition over the years across the globe. It is an undeniable theory that the effects of climate change are more inclined towards anthropogenic activities- Greenhouse gas(GHG) emissions.

The greenhouse effect is not a new phenomenon. But it has turned into a growing problem over the years. Carbon dioxide (CO2), the main greenhouse gas has boosted economies of richer countries, since the advent of industrialisation.With the rising emissions since then, our annual CO2 emissions are now at an all-time record level of nearly 40 billion tonnes per year.

The alarm bells started ringing by the beginning of the 1960s. It was duly heard by the United Nations, which promptly formed the Inter- Governmental Panel on Climate Change(IPCC). The subsequent Earth Summit held at Rio reflected the reports and views of around 400 scientists about global warming. Since then, countries have resorted to tackling climate change to avoid dangerous consequences in the future. An agreement, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change(UNFCC,1992) was signed incorporating all major economies and polluters.

If Montreal Protocol (1987) urged nations to act against the depletion of ozone layer, Kyoto Protocol(KP), the brainchild of UNFCC, in 1997, formulated an international legal binding on emission reduction targets on member countries. KP was weighed on the premise that global warming exists and that man-made CO2 emissions have caused it. The protocol worked on the principal of  "Common but differentiated responsibilities", entrusting more obligations upon developed nations( Annex I Parties).KP's first commitment period started in 2008 and ended in 2012. However, it did not acquire enough wings as the US relentlessly seemed to kill the Kyoto, which it never ratified.

Also, the Conference of Parties(COP) which met every year to discuss Climate Tackling soon turned into "Climate Tourists”  (as put by Richard Black, BBC Reporter,2006). While countries are leisurely talking about climate action, GHG emissions have been rising steadily with industries emitting about 600 billion tonnes of CO2,thanks to fossil fuels(1992-2013). As a result, the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have risen dramatically, by more than two- fifths. That is, our planet is now absorbing more energy from the sun than is escaping back into space.

The global pondering on Climate change has eventually  transformed into a North-South face-off. If the current consequences of climate changes can be attributed to the imperialistic 'North’ countries, then the future implications will be surely on the shoulders of the emerging 'South’ economies. As it is evident from the fact, carbon emissions per capita in the developed world were about five times those in developing countries.On the contrary, figures are now pointing right in the face of the developing nations where the emissions have doubled, especially in China where it tripled!!.The target that has been set since the KP, is to limit the rise of global temperature by 2C. It was an achievable target until few years back when due time was on our side. Much of the time has been wasted deliberating the agendas of the two blocs. While the North advocates for an Environmental Justice - ‘minimise overall cost and maximising total welfare’, South pitches for an Compensatory Justice systems with an emphasis on historic distributive inequities.However, the advanced nations have agreed to bear more of the burden with a sense of charity, brushing aside historic culpability. Emission pledges of South will be at the cost of providing decent standards of living that contemporary technology can offer to its citizens. Rich countries have to shift their focus from Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to internal redistribution and changing lifestyles, which could in fact improve the quality of its citizens. In tandem, Developing world has to reorient its growth in cleaner, efficient and greener directions. Fortunately, the stand-off is been facilitated, reaching a point where centrist disposition is  giving way to potential new articulations ahead of the Paris meet in November this year.

Per Capita emissions of 2.1 tonnes is a meagre figure for India, comparatively.As the nation is striving to achieve prosperity;alleviating poverty and furnish its people with the basic necessities,climatic aberrations have been the evolving problem.The country has often felt the hapless effects of global warming, not to mention the series of droughts and floods.Therefore, it cannot rely on the actions of developed nations and it is high time the government and the leaders ‘walk the talk’ on emission cuts. The fact about rising CO2 emission is out in the broad daylight.It is nothing but poorer,age-old technology and inefficient mechanisms in place.Mr.Modi, an aspiring to-be global leader,urged nations to eradicate poverty to attain sustainable development at the recently held United Nations Sustainable Development Goal(UNSDG) conference at its headquarters.The speech was culturally and organically oriented as he related earth to mother. But the PM’s dilemma begins with growth and ends with environment. If he chooses the latter, a generation of people will miss the bus to prosperity.He can definitely make a breakthrough by broadening the renewable energy scheme that he implemented in his territory when he was the CM.

As Paris is gearing up for a ‘globally warming’ mediation, nations (both north and south) have acted swiftly, rather proactively, by pledging future emission targets and climate aids. Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) acted as the pathbreaking principle to keep every nations on board in the run up to the Paris conference. It calls for an amicable voluntary contributions(Bottom-Top approach) in contrast to legal binding and strict emission targets(Top-Bottom approach). Switzerland was the first country to formally communicate its pledging ( 50% GHG by 2030) followed by the European Union (EU) with 40% reduction.The capitalistic and the communistic power came to the fray when Mr.Obama and Mr.Keqiang declared unconditional ‘War on Coal and War on Pollution ‘ respectively. The US, refuter of KP, pledged a reduction cut of 26-28% by 2025 while China, World’s largest greenhouse gas emitter promised a reduction rate of 60-62%/GDP.India, too has pledged a reduction averaging 35-40%, which is a prospective approach.
May the city of lights showers its hope on all of us and sustain our Mother Earth !.


* Author is Research Intern at CPPR. Views are personal.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Nepal Political Tussle : Another Humanitarian crisis in the Offing?

By Ms Vinny Davis*
The tiny Himalayan kingdom of Nepal has not seen peace after it became a federal democratic Republic. At a time when, adopting a constitution is cheered as a gateway to the peaceful transition of the democratic process all over, the Nepali experience was little too bitter.
Sharing a 1751 Km border with Nepal, India has all reasons to be apprehensive over the political crisis that is spreading its tentacles across Nepal to Indian territories. On September 20, 2015, Nepal  promulgated its secular and democratic constitution, dividing the Himalayan landmass into seven federal provinces for administrative purposes. The 65-year quest for a democratic development from the monarchical rule was finally fructified. Needless to say, it did not go well with the Madhesi tribe who inhabited the Southern Nepal (or the Terai region). Incidentally the same region houses half of the country's population, in spite of it constituting only 1/5 of the total landmass. Drawing support from Tharus( another tribe from the same region), the Madhesis are in arms against the long-sought political development of the country.
Undoubtedly, the aforementioned are internal affairs of a nation, to which no external power possess a right to intervene. However, given the volatile situation in the Terai region, a direct implication on its closest neighbour- state of Bihar, in India cannot be cast into oblivion. Bihar is the new eye-candy for the power-brokers for India. Both the ruling and the opposing sides (Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal (United), BJP and Congress) are in no mood to cede a defeat on any grounds. Slated for polls this month, the prolonged political impasse in Nepal is a natural cause to worry.
This leaves us to ponder about the role of Madhesis, in the present political stalemate. They have been demanding for equal representation/participation within the revised political structure of Nepal. Ironically the modernity embraced by the new constitution is immaterial to them. Interestingly, Nepali constitution is the first in Asia to protect the rights of the Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgender communities. Intriguingly, the religious /cultural freedom enshrined in the constitution which also safeguards the ancient religious/cultural practices or one which considers proselytizing illegal will find fewer takers in a kingdom which was officially labelled under the garb of religion for centuries. The latter is reflective of the fears of widespread conversions to Christianity amongst the low caste groups. The discrepancies related to citizenship rights of women are another bone of contention.
India will seek for a peaceful resolution of the political disputes. At the same time, an institutionalized acceptance of the new constitution is imminent for the political future of Nepal. Adding oil to the fire, the fuel crisis that has presently evolved in Nepal is pointing its fingers towards a covert Indian scheme to impose a trade blockade. Over 6000 trucks are stranded in the Indo-Nepalese borders carrying essentials like petroleum products, cooking gas, and several other food and non-food items. Though the topography poses a hurdle for Nepal to re- route its supplies via China, the opportunity cannot be wholly disregarded. The Chinese maneuvers to ride along with an enemy's enemy (Nepal holds India responsible for the trade blockade, and anti- India slogans are also rampant in Nepal) will prove detrimental to Indo-Nepalese relations. Another alternative route is the Sunauli border in Uttar Pradesh (India) for trade in essentials to offset the blockade. Rationing of commodities has already begun, however it will be difficult to meet the desired demands of the people.
Imposing a trade blockade is not new amongst nations, especially if a political crisis is engulfing the nation a under question. The Indian case is ironic here. Speculations are rife over the protracted Indian role in this regard, even when the political elite are calling for a peaceful resolution of the crisis. If this blockade is a scheme implemented keeping in mind the Bihar elections, then it is a serious aberration of our foreign policy that violates undue interference in the internal affairs of another country. The official statements are also questioning the inclusivity of the new constitution. In the name of border security, and by capitalizing the fears of the Indian owned/run freight operators, it looks like some vested parties in India are also adding fire to the political imbroglio in Nepal.
The spillover effects of the crisis has already resonated itself in the aviation sector, with major international flights bound from Nepal being cancelled. Nepal is yet to stabilize the conditions post the devastating earthquake of April 2015. The people are in dire need of a political transformation to start anew. Surely, the opposing sides getting itself embroiled in a dirty game. A feudal re-structuring as demanded by the Madhesis and the Tharus will not be easy. It remains to be seen how the 14- day old constitution will attempt to ensure a proportionally based representation and a population-based delineation of electoral constituencies as demanded by the opposing factions. A minority is putting the majority to ransom here. The Communist party of Nepal - Unified Marxist Leninist (UML), and its votes will decide the fate of the constitutional amendments. Being a nascent democracy, the political factions across Nepal should abstain from manipulating the fragile atmosphere to stall the long sought democratic development in the country.
Any build-up of an anti-India fervour in Nepal will affect the cordial ties between the two nations. History and geography have reinforced this indomitable connection between the countries. The effigies of the Prime Minister, Shri. Narendra Modi is now being burnt publicly. Nepal being reliant on India for 60% of its imports is on the verge of another humanitarian crisis. Being a major trading partner with Nepal, the Indian political elite need to do the needful to recover the lost image of a faithful ally. 

* The Author is Managing Associate of CPPR Centre for Strategic Studies (CSS). Views are personal