10 MAY 2018
Answer questions in NOT MORE than 200 words each. Content of the answer is more important than its length.
Links are provided for reference. You can also use the Internet fruitfully to further enhance and strengthen your answers.
Q1. What according to you are the reasons for the growing ties between Iran and China? What should be the steps taken by India to protect its ties and trade with Iran given the current world order?
- After U.S. President Donald Trump decided to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has indicated that his government remains committed to that pact and that he would be negotiating with the deal’s remaining signatories — the European countries, Russia and China — to salvage the deal if possible. India too has a lot at stake in this regard. Iran’s attempt to woo Chinese investment in Chabahar, often projected as India’s pet project, has raised eyebrows in New Delhi. Inviting Chinese investment is perceived as an attempt to dilute Indian influence.
- The development of the Chabahar port, needs to be viewed as Iran’s call for “engagement”. The participation of Pakistan’s Minister of Shipping at the inauguration ceremony made it clear that for Iran Chabahar means business. Post-sanctions, the development of the Chabahar port reflects Iranian quest for multilateralism, and China by default is an important player in the Iranian scheme of things. Given the overt hostility of the Trump administration towards Iran, it is imperative for Tehran to maintain cordial relationship with a rising power like China. China was one of the countries that maintained steady trade relations with Iran even during the sanctions era. China is the largest importer of Iranian oil. Iran, with its massive infrastructural needs, sees China as its most valued partner and Beijing has been investing in Iran in crucial sectors like railways. China International Trust and Investment Corporation (CITIC), a state owned investment wing has extended $10 billion credit line to Tehran. Besides, China Development Bank has also signed a memorandum of understanding with the Iranian government worth around $15 billion.
- Chinese investments in Iran are part and parcel of its ambitious $1 trillion Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Apart from their economic rationale, these investments are also a means to generate political confidence/acceptability for a China-centric world order. Iran perceives the BRI as a project that would make it an indispensable transit hub for countries like China, India and Russia and an effective antidote to the U.S. sanctions. Iran’s premium geographical location (as a bridge between Persian Gulf and Central Asia) along with a relatively stable political architecture makes it a central player for China’s BRI. This will give China de-facto control over two of the three major routes to world markets.
- In addition to their economic partnership, China and Iran share substantial defence cooperation with each other. After the 1979 revolution, Tehran has been dependent on Beijing for meeting its defence requirements. China has supplied Iran with surface-to-air missiles and has also trained Iranian nuclear scientists. The November 2016 agreement signed between defence ministers of both countries entails regular military-to-military exercises. In 2014, both countries held joint naval drill in the Gulf. There have been intermittent talks between China and Iran for the sale of J-10 multirole combat aircraft to Tehran.
- China, being permanent member of the Security Council with veto power, could be of great strategic help for Iran when it comes to vetoing any proposal against Iran in the United Nations. A parallel, China-dominated global order suits Iran more than the U.S.-centric world order.
- This strong relationship between Tehran and Beijing makes it pertinent for New Delhi to navigate its interests in the region accordingly. To assume that Iran would help India counter Chinese influence in the region might be wishful thinking. India needs to resist the temptation of falling prey to “excessive securitisation” in the case of Chabahar agreement in particular and India-Iran relations in general. For India, to be an influential player in the region, economics and politics should complement and not substitute each other. India will have to capitalise upon the existing synergies. It is imperative to compliment geopolitical premises with robust commercial exchanges. In collaboration with countries like Japan, India should offer favourable terms of trade in the region vis-à-vis China. To consolidate its strategic depth in the region, India should focus on initiatives like frequent joint naval exercises in the Persian Gulf.
- New Delhi will have to adopt a nuanced approach towards Chinese investment in Iran, especially now that Tehran’s reliance upon Beijing is only likely to grow after Mr. Trump’s exit from the nuclear pact. Some form of Chinese participation in the Chabahar project would be helpful for the future of the project, especially if the terms and conditions are clearly specified. India and China are exploring joint economic projects in Afghanistan; they can surely also extend this engagement to the Chabahar.
Q2. What are the benefits of social audits to ensure implementation of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA)? What are the challenges faced by the process?
- The participatory social audits are designed to expose problems and deter corruption. Social audits are playing a significant role in redressing individual worker grievances, though social audits are not viewed by development practitioners as appropriate grievance redressal platforms or effective deterrents to corruption. While state-supported social audits are different from the social movement-led jan sunwais that inspired them, the process is charting new grounds aligned with activists’ demands for transparency, participation and accountability.
- The institutionalisation of “social audits” to ensure implementation of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) has been challenging. Since being included in the 2005 Act at the behest of social movements, social audits have been ineffective in most parts of the country due to government indifference. So far, 26 States have created social audit units (SAUs), but the Comptroller and Auditor General’s (CAG’s) detailed guidelines are yet to be implemented. In the absence of any real commitment to make mandatory social audits a reality, the Central and State governments have exacerbated the implementation problems facing important social security legislations such as NREGA and the National Food Security Act.
- Weak state responsiveness to social audit findings and lack of support from senior officials as the two major obstacles to social audits.
- There is no independent agency to investigate and act on social audit findings, proactively focussed on individual workers’ grievances, the weakest link of NREGA.
- On March 19, 2018, the Supreme Court once again reminded of the importance of social audits in improving government practices. The Court directed the Ministry of Labour and Employment, State governments and the UTs to “conduct a social audit on the implementation of the BOCW Act so that in future there is better and more effective and meaningful implementation of the Act”.