QUESTION : Does India support the establishment of a sovereign independent state of Palestine and India’s interest in West Asia ? Discuss.
ARAB WORLD AND THE ELUSIVE TWO – STATE SOLUTION
Arab World’s two-state solution and India
WHY IN NEWS ?
The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain signed agreements to establish formal ties with Israel
ABRAHAM ACCORD ?
- Recently, Israel, UAE and Bahrain have signed the Abraham Accord. The Abraham accord is the first Arab- Israeli peace deal in 26 years.
- The accord seeks to normalize ties between the three countries. As per the accord, UAE and Bahrain will establish embassies, exchange ambassadors with Israel.
- Additionally, the two countries will also cooperate and work together with Israel across a range of sectors including tourism, trade, healthcare and security.
- The agreement is expected to lay a foundation for peace in the region. It would pave way for many countries like Oman, Sudan etc. to recognize Israel.
INDIAN INTEREST IN WEST ASIA :
o Geopolitical: West Asia occupies an important position in international relations due to its geographical location and proximity to continents and countries South Asia, China, Central Asia, Europe, and Africa.
o Energy: The region is strategically significant due to its enormous energy resources, trade route links to different parts of the world.
- It is the world’s largest oil-producing region accounting for 34% of world production, 45% of crude oil exports and 48% of oil proven reserves.
o Diaspora: Indian expatriates have constituted a substantial share of the regional labour market.
- Remittances from the region constitute a major chunk of total remittances to India.
BENEFITS FOR INDIA :
- Geopolitically, India has welcomed the establishment of diplomatic relations between the UAE and Israel, calling both its strategic partners.
- Abraham Accord is a step forward in ensuring the Gulf region remains a vital link to maintain India`s energy security.
- The deal will help India improve defence and security relations with the UAE.
- India is one of the few countries in the world to have good relations with almost all the countries in the Gulf Region.
- Since India also has good relations with Iran, India can play a role in the evolution of a regional security framework to ensure long-lasting peace in the region.
- By choosing the right steps, the deal will help India gain greater influence in the region.
CRITICISM OF ARAB WORLD :
- In 1945 and reportedly on British prompting, the League of Arab States was formed to ‘draw closer the relations between member states and co-ordinate their political activities with the aim of realizing a close collaboration between them.
- To safeguard their independence and sovereignty, and to consider in a general way the affairs and interests of the Arab countries.
- It has achieved none of its objectives and its hopes have been worn down to disillusion and cynicism emanating.
- The critique of mystifications of Arab nationalism was a promise; but the promise of getting light at the end of the tunnel did not bear the expected results.
- This was attributed by a UNDP Human Development Report many years ago to deficits of knowledge, freedom and empowerment of women.
- Thus, absence of participatory governance and its institutions, disregard for individual freedoms, and the prevalence of one-person rule resulted as ‘living in Infra-historical rhythm’.
- Admittedly, sectional though uneven progress was made, but as the experience of the Arab Uprising of 2011 showed, deep disagreements prevented the emergence of an Arab order and its impact on Arab unity. It was most evident in their responses to regional and global problems.
THE PALESTINE ISSUE :
- The one problem on which Arab states professed unity of opinion, but not necessarily of approach, related to Palestine and to the demand for a Palestinian state.
- After multiple resorts to war and popular uprisings, the tenacity of Israel and its American backers forced the Arab states and their international supporters to accept the Camp David and Oslo Accords and finally the Saudi-sponsored 2002Arab Peace Initiative.
- It involved a de facto recognition of Israel and the latter accepted it with 14 reservations.
- The truth behind this Saudi initiative has now been made public. It is candid and revealing and sheds much light on the Saudi suspicion of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) leadership.
- The ostensible reason for this is perceived threat from Iran, the spread of regional terrorism and the rise of Islamism.
- The take-off occasion was the conference in Warsaw in February 2019 that was hailed by Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu as ‘a breakthrough in Arab-Israeli relations’.
- It could be seen as a stage in the success of Israel’s grand strategy, aimed to outflank the hostile core that surrounds it and gain the major political-security goal of countering Arab hostility through relations with alternate regional powers and potential allies.
- It has been furthered by post-2011 developments in individual Arab countries and the aura bestowed on political Islam or Islamism presented by its protagonists who argued that Arab nationalism is a stage towards greater Islamic unity.
PUBLIC OPINION VS POLICY :
- These failures to jolt the system at the individual-country and regional levels have an impact on perceptions of the Palestinian problem.
- The Arab Center Washington DC and its Arab Opinion Index for 2019-2020 published last week concluded that 79% of the respondents felt the Palestinian cause concerns all Arabs and not the Palestinian people alone. This figure in 2012-2013 was 84%.
- It is thus difficult not to conclude that opinion at the public/respondent level is not in step with official policy orientation.
- It may in any manner further the Palestinian cause more so because the direction of Israeli policy would inevitably result in de facto annexation of most parts of the West Bank even if a formal annexation is deferred.
WAY FORWARD :
- The deal between the UAE and Israel represented a significant breakthrough in diplomatic relations between the two nations as the USA works to facilitate cooperation between Arab nations and Israel.
- The PLO leadership has been left high and dry even if not yet disowned by its own people. The promised Two-state solution is nowhere in sight except for some variants of Bantustans.
- It would be better to explore a One-state solution even if involves a South Africa-like apartheid that would sooner or later prick the conscience of world opinion and their governments and allow a Palestinian-Mandela to use Gandhian principles to seek justice.
- So the Arab World in a geopolitical sense no longer exists. It will retain its focus on linguistic homogeneity and attendant cultural glory.
- As for the Palestinians and in the event of hard tactical options being forsaken, they might even explore the creation of a Palestinian point of lamentation, hoping that justice would eventually be forthcoming as has been with their Abrahamic cousins.
Direct ties between two of the Middle East’s most dynamic societies and advanced economics will transform the region by spurring economic growth.
QUESTION : Critically analyse the performance of the RTI Act. Mention its significance and related concerns with suggestive measures .
A CONCERTED ATTACK ON RTI
Right To Information Act, 2005
WHY IN NEWS ?
A report card has been brought out by the Satark Nagrik Sangathan and the Centre for Equity Studies to mark the 15th anniversary of the Right to Information Act, 2005.
RTI ACT 2005:
- Right to Information Act 2005 mandates timely response to citizen requests for government information, barring a few exempted categories such as information which might affect the sovereignty of the country or private information which might have a bearing on a person’s right to privacy
AUTHORITIES UNDER RTI ACT :
- The Central Information Commission (CIC) is set up under the Right to Information Act.
- The Chief Information Commissioner heads the Central Information Commission.
o This body hears appeals from persons who have not been satisfied by the public authority, and also addresses major issues related to the RTI Act.
- Information Commissions at the Centre and in the States are the final adjudicators empowered to act against violations of the legislation.
- Appointment: The Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners are appointed by the President on the recommendation of a committee consisting of—
o The Prime Minister, who shall be the Chairperson of the committee;
o The Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha; and
o A Union Cabinet Minister to be nominated by the Prime Minister.
- Tenure: In the case of the Information Commissioners they are appointed for five years subject to the age limit of 65 years.
PROCESS OF RTI COMPLAINT:
- When the initial request for information made to a public information officer, designated by each public authority, fail, the petitioner is entitled to lodge an appeal to an authority within the department concerned.
- When that fails too, a further appeal can be made to the office of the CIC or the State Information Commission.
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE RTI ACT :
- The right to information has been upheld by the Supreme Court as a fundamental right flowing from Article 19 of the Constitution, which guarantees every citizen the right to free speech and expression.
- Without access to relevant information, people’s ability to formulate opinions and express themselves meaningfully is curtailed.
- The RTI law has been used by people to seek information to actively participate in decision-making processes and hold governments accountable.
- It empowers citizens to access their basic rights and entitlements, especially in the absence of effective grievance redress mechanisms to address service delivery failures.
PERFORMANCE OF RTI :
- Transparency and accountability: Every year nearly six million applications are filed under the RTI Act, making it the most extensively used transparency legislation in the world.
- During the COVID-19 crisis too, the law has been widely used to seek important information. It includes information about availability of medical facilities to hold government departments accountable for delivery of foodgrains and social security benefits meant for those in distress, including migrant workers.
- Light on corruption and arbitrary abuse of power:
o Information has been accessed about the anonymous electoral bonds through which thousands of crores have been channelled into political parties.
o The Prime Minister’s Office has been queried about the expenditure of the PM CARES Fund set up to provide relief during disasters like the current pandemic.
- RTI amendments: Earlier the Information Commissioner and CIC were made on a par with the Election Commissioner and the CEC, respectively. But the government removed this statutory protection.
- The non-appointment of commissioners in the Information Commissions in a timely manner leads to a large build-up of pending appeals and complaints.
- Non-imposition of penalties in deserving cases by commissions promotes a culture of impunity among public authorities.
- The Commissioners are appointed by the State government, there is a conflict of interest when queries are posed to them. They tend to be pro-government.
- RTI and Coronavirus crisis: If the poor and marginalised affected by the public health emergency are to have any hope of obtaining the benefits of government schemes, they must have access to relevant information.
WAY FORWARD :
Open Data Policy:
Government institutions should put all disclosable information on their respective websites.
- Compiling of Similar RTI Applications:
Many RTI Applicants file multiple RTI applications on the same subject/seek the same information, which increases the burden of the information department of various public institutions.
- Preventing Misuse of RTI:
RTI misuse can be prevented by introducing the reason knowing provision for filing the petition.
- Balancing with Privacy Right:
Another right of a citizen protected under the Constitution is the right to privacy. This right is enshrined within the spirit of Article 21 of the Constitution.
- Increasing Public Awareness:
This can be done by the launch of awareness campaigns through Radio, Television and Print Media various regional languages in rural areas.
Therefore, RTI Act is regarded as one of the most successful laws of independent India. It has given ordinary citizens the confidence and the right to ask questions of government authorities. It is used by citizens as well as the media.