QUESTION : Critically discuss the reasons for India to be a part of the reconciliation process with the Taliban and how much is Afghanistan important to India with respect to bilateral ties ?
The Hindu Editorial Topic : EVALUATING INDIA’S OPTIONS IN AFGHANISTAN
India-Afghanistan Bilateral Ties
WHY IN NEWS ?
- India has historically enjoyed good ties with Afghanistan, which go back to the 1950 Treaty of Friendship.
- However, Indian interests and influence suffered when the Taliban captured Kabul in 1996.
- After Taliban were ousted from power after the U.S. invasion in 2001, India made huge investments of over $3 billion and made economic and defence ties with the Afghan government.
- However, as US is pulling their troops out of Afghanistan, the balance of power in Afghanistan has changed.
WHAT IS INDIA’S OPTION IN AFGHANISTAN ?
- Although US is exiting from Afghanistan, India cannot.
- The reason is that India has to:
o Protect its investments,
o Prevent Afghanistan from becoming another safe haven for anti-India terrorist groups, and
o Check Pakistan deepening its influence in Kabul.
(1).Hold talks with the Taliban
- Talking to Taliban would allow India to seek security guarantees from the insurgents in return for continued development assistance.
- India should also not overlook the deep ties between Pakistan’s security establishment and the Haqqani Network.
o Haqqani Network is a major faction within the Taliban that fight against US-led NATO forces and the government of Afghanistan.
- As there is no guarantee that talks with Taliban will be successful, India should broad-base its options.
o While talking to the Taliban to protect its interests, India should also enhance aid to Afghanistan’s legitimate government and security forces and work with other regional powers for long-term stability in the country.
(2).Support Afghan forces
- India should urgently step-up training Afghan forces and provide military hardware, intelligence and logistical and financial support so that Kabul can continue to defend the cities.
(3).Supportate with other regional powers
- India should also coordinate with other regional powers to support the Afghan government.
o Reason: If the Afghan government losses before the Taliban, the prospects for a political settlement for India will be negligible.
SHORT TERM AND LONG-TERM GOAL :
- There is a convergence of interests between India and China, Russia and Iran in seeing a political settlement in Afghanistan. These 3 countries have already opened public, direct talks with the Taliban.
- These 3 countries will make sure that Taliban does not take over Kabul militarily.
o However, this means that there would be an isolated Sunni Islamist regime in a country with fractured ethnic groups.
- These would not result in legitimacy for a Taliban regime nor peace in Afghanistan.
- India’s immediate goal should be the safety and security of its personnel and investments.
- The long-term goal should be finding a political solution to the crisis.
o If a political solution is not achieved, it should seek non-conventional methods to offer support to its allies within Afghanistan and retain some influence.
SUPPORT FROM REGIONAL POWERS :
In order to achieve its’ short term and long-term goals, India has to work with the regional powers.
- Russia: As Russia has cultivated links with the Taliban, India would need Russia’s support in any form of direct engagement with the Taliban.
- Iran: It shares a long border with Afghanistan and has built contacts, especially with the ethnic minorities which is essential for India.
o The original objective of India’s Chabahar project in Iran was to create a direct access to Afghanistan, bypassing Pakistan. However, under pressure from the U.S., Iran ignored India.
o Thus, rebuilding strategic ties with Iran, irrespective of the U.S.’s policy towards Iran, is essential for India.
- China: India should talk with China with the objective of finding a political settlement and lasting stability in Afghanistan.
- USA: India has to strike the right balance between its continental realities and the U.S.’s goal of maritime Asia.
o The US withdrawal and the vacuum it leaves in Afghanistan and Asia in general is reinforcing India’s identity as a continental Asian power.
The reason is China and Russia are focusing on gaining power in Afghanistan (Middle East) and not in Asia).
o However, as US is exiting Afghanistan, its foreign policy is shifting to East Asia, specifically against China.
o In context of quad grouping, US wants India to play a key role in maritime domain in countering China’s rise. On the other side, India is becoming powerful on continental Asia instead of maritime domain as India is the only continental Asian power in the Quad.
o Thus, India needs to strike right balance between the ambition of USA and it’s own ambition in Afghanistan.
REASONS FOR INDIA TO BE PART OF THE RECONCILIATION PROCESS WITH THE TALIBAN :
Regional Stability: Security and Stability are foundations over which development can be built on. A peaceful neighbourhood and trouble-free regional climate will provide space for the regimes to focus more on development as threats of violence by the Taliban’s in the region will be minimized.
Counter China and Pakistan’s vested interests: India should play a considerable role through a Quadrilateral group plus 2 talks to thwart the efforts of china to place puppet regimes that can play according to their own vested interests. This can be counterproductive for India’s aspirations and concerns.
Connectivity with Central Asia: India’s trade with Central Asia and reaping benefits from the enhanced connectivity will be largely dependent on Afghanistan’s domestic environment. A peaceful and cooperative Afghanistan will be a key pin in India’s central Asia policy. The latest trilateral transit agreement between India. Iran and Afghanistan is a significant step in this direction.
TAPI for Energy security: Violence free Afghanistan is a desideratum for finishing the project of TAPI and sustaining the benefits from it through energy supplies from Turkmenistan.
Gateway to “Link West” policy: Afghanistan will act as a gateway to India’s increasing rigour on its West Asia policy.
Minerals of Afghanistan: The cost of access to minerals will be minimum and helpful in expanding the production of Indian Industries.
WHY AFGHANISTAN IS IMPORTANT TO INDIA ?
Regional Balance of Power: Afghanistan is tied to India’s vision of being a regional leader and a great power, coupled with its competition with China over resources and its need to counter Pakistani influence.
India’s ability to mentor a nascent democracy will go a long way to demonstrate to the world that India is indeed a major power, especially a responsible one.
India’s interest in Afghanistan relates to its need to reduce Pakistani influence in the region.
Energy Security: The pipeline project TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India), which seeks to connect an energy-rich Central to South Asia, will only see the light of the day if stability is established in Afghanistan.
Strategic Location: For access to the landlocked Central Asian countries that border Afghanistan.
Natural Resources: The country is home to resource deposits worth one trillion dollars, according to the US Geological Survey.
Regional Security: A stable Afghanistan is important for regional security in South Asia
India, as one of the countries that would be impacted by the consequences of American withdrawal, has to work with Eurasian powers to protect its interests and stabilise Afghanistan.
QUESTION : India is among a handful of countries that has explicit legislation for promoting emigration. Why does India need an Emigration Bill and what are the major problem being faced by Indian emigrants ?
The Hindu Editorial Topic : AN EMIGRATION BILL THAT DOES NOT GO FAR ENOUGH
- Emigration Bill 2021 and Its Concerns
WHY IN NEWS ?
- In early June 2021, the Ministry of External Affairs invited public inputs to the Emigration Bill 2021.
- The Bill could be introduced in Parliament soon and presents a long overdue opportunity to reform the recruitment process for nationals seeking employment abroad.
- For years, independent investigations into migrant worker conditions have underlined serious exploitative practices which include large recruitment charges, contract substitution, deception, retention of passports, non-payment or underpayment of wages, poor living conditions, discrimination and other forms of ill-treatment.
- In recent months, media reports have highlighted how the majority of migrant worker deaths in the Arab Gulf States/West Asia are attributed to heart attacks and respiratory failures, whose causes are unexplained and poorly understood.
MORE ABOUT THIS NEWS :
- Labour migration is governed by the Emigration Act, 1983 which sets up a mechanism for hiring through government-certified recruiting agents — individuals or public or private agencies.
o It outlines obligations for agents to conduct due diligence of prospective employers, sets up a cap on service fees, and establishes a government review of worker travel and employment documents (known as emigration clearances) to 18 countries mainly in West Asian states and South-East Asian countries.
EMIGRATION BILL 2021 :
- It is an improvement over the 1983 Act.
- It launches a new emigration policy division, establishes help desks and welfare committees, requires manpower agencies to conduct pre-departure briefings for migrants, and increases accountability of brokers and other intermediaries who are also involved in labour hiring.
- It seeks to provide a regulatory mechanism to govern overseas employment of Indian nationals, and protect and promote the welfare of Indian emigrants.
- It defines emigrants as Indian citizens who seek to or have departed out of India for employment.
- Authorities: The draft Bill seeks to create two authorities: (i) the Bureau of Emigration Policy and Planning (BEPP), and (ii) the Bureau of Emigration Administration (BEA).
o The functions of BEPP will consist of preparing policies on matters related to welfare of emigrants; negotiating labour and social security agreements with destination countries.
o The functions of BEA will consist of maintaining a database of Indian emigrants, and implementing measures and programmes for welfare of emigrants.
- Nodal committees in states and union territories (UTs): Their functions include initiating action to prosecute entities involved in trafficking of persons, and undertaking pre-departure orientation programmes and skill upgradation programmes for prospective emigrants.
- Human resources agencies: These are agencies engaged in recruitment for an employer. These agencies must be registered by a competent authority. The certificate of registration will be valid for five years and may be cancelled on various grounds. Appeal against decisions of the competent authority with regard to registration of these agencies will lie with the central government
- Accreditation of employers: Any employer who intends to recruit an emigrant must apply for accreditation with the competent authority. Such accreditation will be valid for a period of five years.
NEED FOR THE BILL :
- India is among a handful of countries that has explicit legislation for promoting emigration.
- The intention of replacing the old Act is consistent with the government’s effort to weed out anachronistic laws and update them in line with modern conventions.
- The 1983 Act, enacted in the specific context of large-scale emigration to the Gulf, falls short in addressing the wide geo-economic, geo-political and geo-strategic impact that emigration has today.
- The United Nations’ “2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, for the first time recognized migration as a core element of the global development agenda, and has set several targets that relate to it.
- These cover student mobility, human trafficking and exploitation, labour migration and employment, migration governance, remittances and migration data.
- One objective of the new legislation (While not explicitly stated in the draft bill) is to draw up appropriate regulations that would conform to the contemporary global agenda on these matters
- The 2021 Bill’s purpose “to consolidate and amend the law relating to emigration of citizens of India”, lacks a human rights framework aimed at securing the rights of migrants and their families. Progressive labour regimes do so.
o For example, in a country such as the Philippines, it explicitly recognises the contributions of Filipino workers and “the dignity and fundamental human rights and freedoms of the Filipino citizens”.
- Another significant drawback is that the Bill permits manpower agencies to charge workers’ service fees, and even allows agents to set their own limits.
o International labour standards such as International Labour Organization (ILO) Private Employment Agencies Convention No. 181 and the ILO general principles and operational guidelines for fair recruitment recognises that it is employers, not workers who should bear recruitment payments including the costs of their visas, air travel, medical exams, and service charges to recruiters.
o Large-scale surveys by the ILO and the World Bank show that Indian workers pay exorbitant charges for their jobs and that poorer workers pay progressively larger fees — Indians in Saudi Arabia paid on average $1,507 in recruitment charges; their counterparts in Qatar paid $1,156
- To some, recruitment charges might appear like a justified service fee, but the tens of thousands of rupees that workers pay far exceed the real cost of recruitment. When low wage migrants pick up the tab it makes them vulnerable to indebtedness and exploitation.
- The Bill’s most glaring inclusion is that it permits government authorities to punish workers by cancelling or suspending their passports and imposing fines up to ₹50,000 for violating any of the Bill’s provisions.
o When enforced, it can be used as a tool to crackdown on workers who migrate through unregistered brokers or via irregular arrangements such as on tourist visas.
- Criminalising the choices migrant workers make either because they are unaware of the law, under the influence of their recruiters, or simply desperate to find a decent job is deplorable, runs contradictory to the purpose of protecting migrants and their families, and violates international human rights standards.
- This Bill does not also adequately reflect the gender dimensions of labour migration where women have limited agency in recruitment compared to their counterparts and are more likely to be employed in marginalised and informal sectors and/or isolated occupations in which labour, physical, psychological, and sexual abuse are common.
- The Bill also provides limited space for worker representation or civil society engagement in the policy and welfare bodies that it sets up.
INTERNATIONAL LABOUR ORGANISATION :
- Established in 1919 by the Treaty of Versailles as an affiliated agency of the League of Nations.
- Became the first affiliated specialized agency of the United Nations in 1946.
- Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland
- Founding Mission: social justice is essential to universal and lasting peace.
- Promotes internationally recognized human and labour rights.
- Received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1969.
o For improving peace among classes
o Pursuing decent work and justice for workers
o Providing technical assistance to other developing nations
- The organization has played a key role in
o Ensuring labour rights during the Great Depression
o Decolonization process
o The creation of Solidarność ( trade union) in Poland
o The victory over apartheid in South Africa
- Today it is providing substantial support in the building of an ethical and productive framework for fair globalization.
- International Labour Standards
o The ILO sets international labour standards with conventions, which are ratified by member states. These are non-binding.
o Conventions are drawn up with input from governments, workers’ and employers’ groups at the ILO and are adopted by the International Labour Conference.
o In ratifying an ILO convention, a member state accepts it as a legally binding instrument. Many countries use conventions as a tool to bring national laws in line with international standards
ISSUES FACED BY MIGRANTS :
- Migrants are often exploited by the agents from the time of getting the passport till leaving the country at every level.
- Many migrants are cheated by the cunning agents by being given a menial job and sometimes no Jobs.
- Migrant workers receive a much lower salary than what is promised by the agent.
- Migrants also face sexual abuse in the host country as a result they are never in a position to return as they fear social boycott by the family and the community.
- Migrants are given severe punishments with shocking cruelty in many cases, as they don’t understand the Law.
WAY FORWARD :
- The Ministry of External Affairs must start at the top, and draft a clearer purpose which explicitly recognises the contributions of Indian workers, the unique challenges they face, and uphold the dignity and human rights of migrants and their families.
o Then it must address the specific provisions that diverge from this purpose.
- Government should provide full employment, job security and decent wages to all its citizens.
- The State should give priority to protecting the interests of migrant workers because of obligation and also because they bring in much needed foreign exchange through remittances.
- A Law specifically relevant to migrant workers is urgently required.
- India must sign the 1990 UN Convention on Migrant Workers and their families.
- A Central Manpower Export Promotion Council is needed.
This body would undertake the task of promoting the employment of Indians abroad.
We need to graduate from merely enacting emigration management legislation to practicing more broad-based diaspora engagement policies that could provide a cushion in these turbulent times.