14 October, 2020
- Self-Assessment test
- UAE Israel Agreement (International Relations)
- Weakening RTI - (Polity & Governance)
- Financial Action Task Force- (International relations)
- IMF Reports - (Economy)
- QUAD Security Dialogue Reference (International Relations)
- Question for the day (Economy)
UPSC Current Affairs: The Arab World and the elusive two-state Solution | Page - 06
UPSC Syllabus: Mains: GS Paper II – International Relations
Sub Theme: UAE-Israel Peace Deal Two State Solution | UPSC
In News: UAE and Israel have agreed to establish full diplomatic ties as part of a deal to halt the annexation of occupied land sought by the Palestinians for their future state.
It makes UAE the first Gulf Arab state to do so and only the third Arab nation after Egypt and Jordan to have active diplomatic ties to Israel
What's the UAE-Israel deal?
The detail of the deal
- Israel and the UAE will sit to finalise bilateral ties and cover areas of investment, tourism, the establishment of direct flights, security, telecommunications, technology, energy, healthcare, cultural exchange, environmental issues, and the establishment of embassies, in addition to other areas of cooperation. The joint statement mentioned that Israel and the UAE would also be “forging closer people-to-people relations”. On priority, Israel and UAE will work together to find a treatment and a vaccine for Covid-19.
- It commits Israel to give up a stated plan to annex parts of the occupied the West Bank, which the Palestinians view as the heartland of their future state.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had earlier vowed to annex the Jewish settlements in the West Bank. The Trump administration, as part of the President’s peace plan announced in January, had backed the annexation plan despite international criticism. But now, as part of the agreement, Israel “will suspend declaring sovereignty over areas” of the West Bank and “focus its efforts on expanding ties with other countries in the Arab and Muslim world”.
Creation of Israe
Map of Israel, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and the Golan Heights
Past efforts for Arab Israel truce
Arab-Israeli ties have historically been conflict-ridden. Arab countries, including Egypt, Transjordan, Syria and Iraq, fought their first war with Israel in 1948 after the formation of the state of Israel was announced. The war ended with Israel capturing more territories, including West Jerusalem, than what the UN Partition Plan originally proposed for a Jewish state. After that, Israel and Arab states fought three more major wars — the 1956 Suez conflict, the 1967 Six-Day War and the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
Main initiatives undertaken by the parties themselves and international mediators since the 1967 Middle East War, when Israel captured the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the Sinai peninsula and the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights:
1967 – UN Security Council Resolution 242
After the Six-Day War, U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 called for the “withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict” in return for all states in the area to respect each other’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence.
1978 – Camp David agreement
Israel and Egypt agree on a framework for regional peace that called for an Israeli withdrawal in stages from Egypt’s Sinai and a transitional Palestinian government in the West Bank and Gaza.
1979 – Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty
The first peace treaty between Israel and an Arab country set out plans for a complete Israeli withdrawal from Sinai within three years. in 1981.
1994 – Israel-Jordan agreement
Jordan became the second Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel.
1993-1995 – Oslo Accords
Israel and the PLO hold secret talks in Norway that resulted in interim peace accords calling for the establishment of a Palestinian interim self-government and an elected council in the West Bank and Gaza for a five-year transitional period, Israeli troop withdrawals and negotiations on a permanent settlement.
2002-2003 – Bush Declaration/Arab peace initiative/Road Map
George W. Bush became the first U.S. president to call for the creation of a Palestinian state, living side-by-side with Israel “in peace and security”.
2002 – Saudi Arabia presents Arab League-endorsed peace plan for full Israeli withdrawal from occupied territory and Israel’s acceptance of a Palestinian state in return for normal relations with Arab countries. The United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia present their own roadmap to a permanent two-state solution to the conflict.
Israeli PM says he intends to annex West Bank settlements, and much of the Jordan Valley if elected.
Later, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo effectively backs Israel’s claimed right to build Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank by abandoning a four-decade-old U.S. position that they were inconsistent with international law.
Probable reasons for this deal
The Iran factor
- The old enmity between Arab countries and Israel has dissipated. The Sunni Arab kingdoms in the Gulf region such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE had developed backroom contacts with Israel over the past several years. One of the major factors that brought them closer has been their shared antipathy towards Iran because -
- Iran is a Shia nation.
- Iran is also a military power
- Iran is in the process of developing military technology
The UAE’s large reserves of oil have made it the second largest economy in the Middle East, and that has allowed it to grow its military and economic might enough to play an influential role in the region. Over the past two decades, the UAE has also focused on curbing Iran and Islamic militancy.
The security concern
- Rise of Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. Iran has already targeted Saudi civilians with missiles launched by its proxy forces in Iraq and Yemen
Making the cancellation of Iran nuclear deal irreversible
Both these blocs were wary of U.S. President Barack Obama’s Iran outreach.
- However, this is an election year in the U.S. If a Democratic President comes to power and restores the Iran deal, both the Israeli and the Arab blocs in West Asia would come under pressure to live with an empowered Iran in what President Obama called “cold peace”.
- A formal agreement and enhanced security and economic ties make the Arab and Israeli sides better prepared to face such a situation. So, there is a convergence of interests for the UAE, Israel and the U.S. to come together in the region. They want to ensure that coming out of Iran nuclear deal is irreversible.
Growing slow and sustainable ties
- Israelis and Emiratis have shared intelligence initiatives to counter Iranian influence. When Mr. Trump became the President, his administration brought these two blocs of West Asia, both American allies, together.
- In February 2019, the U.S. brokered a security conference in Warsaw to build a global strategy against Iran.
- Following this conference, in August 2019, the U.S. arranged secret talks between the UAE and Israel. These meetings laid the foundations for the agreement
Israeli PM in a fix
- Netanyahu, who has been facing mass protests for weeks against his mishandling of the coronavirus outbreak, a drop in popularity in his country, and is on trial for corruption, may be banking on this agreement to revive his image. As Prime Minister Netanyahu said, Israel made peace with an Arab country without “our returning to the 1967 borders”.
Failure of President Trump's foreign policy
- With the US presidential elections around the corner, Trump may consider this agreement to be a foreign policy success.
- The deal has salvaged something resembling an achievement for Trump from the ruins of his foreign policy.
- His attempts to create a lasting legacy in the Koreas bombed, while the Afghanistan peace process is still struggling to get on its feet. US-China relations are on the rocks.
- Traditional NATO allies in Europe have been sidelined. Even if the UAE-Israel agreement does not bring Israel-Palestine peace, the new equations that it will give rise to, including the isolation of Iran, are already being heralded in the US as an achievement.
How does the region’s geopolitics change?
- If the Arab states do fall in line, it would dramatically bring all Sunni nations in the region in an anti-Iran alliance with Israel that they have secretly wished for all these years.
- Iran and its proxies and allies – in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq, the Hezbollah in Lebanon, and the Houthis in Yemen – have been weakened and broken by war, the ISIS and al-Qaeda. Hezbollah, which Israel has treated as enemy number 1 after Iran, faces a domestic backlash in Lebanon after the explosion that has destroyed Beirut.
- Turkey and Iran emerge as the strongest supporters of the Palestinians in the Muslim world. This tripolar contest is already at work in West Asia. The UAE-Israel thaw could sharpen it further.
- China has good ties with Both Saudi Arabia and Iran. Role of China will become crucial in deciding the tilt of balance.
- India has maintained historic ties with both Shia and Sunni world. India will have to walk on the tighter rope in the geopolitical terrain.
- The Arab Peace Initiative, a Saudi Arabia initiative endorsed by the Arab League, offered recognition to Israel in exchange for its full withdrawal from the occupied territories.
- Ironically, the UAE’s peace agreement comes close on the heels of the Trump administration’s back-to-back decisions to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and its sovereignty over the Syrian Golan Heights.
- Clearly, the UAE has moved away from the Arab initiative.
- The question now is whether the Emiratis would be able to press the Jewish state to relax its inhuman and illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories and start talks between the occupier and the occupied.
- If it cannot, the UAE-Israel deal would be of little significance for the Palestinians.
- The Palestinian leadership, on its part, should understand the emerging reality in West Asia — the Arab-Israel conflict is coming to a close, but the Palestine-Israel conflict is to continue without any respite.
- India has consistently supported peace, stability and development in West Asia, which is our extended neighborhood. In that context, India welcomes the full normalization of ties between UAE and Israel.
- New Delhi will also need to watch ties with Iran, which has slammed the agreement and will see Arab-Israeli tie-ups as a direct threat to its security.
- The deal opens up new opportunities for India to play a much larger role in the regional security and stability in the Gulf, where New Delhi enjoys special relations with both Abu Dhabi and Jerusalem.
- This is a region where India has deep stakes in terms of energy supplies and expatriate populations. India should use this unexpected opportunity to give itself a bigger role in a region which is its strategic backyard.
- In recent years, China has indicated its willingness to play a larger role in this region, and is close to both UAE and Israel and, increasingly, Saudi Arabia. India should make its moves before this market and this extended neighbourhood come under the Chinese sphere of influence.
UPSC Current Affairs: A concerted attack on RTI | Page 07
UPSC Syllabus: Mains: GS Paper-II - Polity & Governance
Sub Theme: Benefits of RTI | Problems with RTI| UPSC
Context: Right to Information Act has completed 15 years and over the period of years, the legislation has empowered citizens to ask questions to the government and also make them accountable for their non-performance. 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. Access to relevant information helps citizens to formulate opinions and express themselves meaningfully. However, in recent years, steps have been taken to weaken the institution deliberately so that correct information does not reach to the common public. In this Article, let us find out the benefits and problems of Right to Information ecosystem in India.
Benefits of RTI
- Empowers Citizens to hold government accountable for non-performance of their duties - By giving every citizen of India the right to access government files and records, the law has not only created an atmosphere of transparency within government’s functioning but has also potentially empowered Indian citizens to question those who govern and hold them accountable in case of non-performance of duties.
- Allows citizens to participate in decision making process - Since its enactment, the RTI law has been used by people to seek information to actively participate in decision-making processes and hold governments accountable.
- RTI Application helps Marginalised and Vulnerable Sections of the Society in demanding their basic rights and access to important government services - National assessments have shown that a large proportion of these are filed by the poorest and the most marginalised who have understood the tremendous potential of the law to empower them to access their basic rights and entitlements, especially in the absence of effective grievance redress mechanisms to address service delivery failures.
- RTI helps in times of crisis – RTI applications helps the citizens to find out the steps taken by government in addressing any crisis situation including providing entitlements to the needy in times of natural disasters like flood, pandemic, earthquake etc.
- RTI helped to find out steps taken by the government in addressing COVID-19 pandemic - During the COVID-19 crisis too, the law has been widely used to seek information about availability of medical facilities, like ventilators and ICU beds, and to hold government departments accountable for delivery of foodgrains and social security benefits meant for those in distress, including migrant workers.
- RTI helps in exposing corruption and scandals within government - The RTI Act has also been put to effective use by public-spirited citizens to expose corruption and arbitrary abuse of power by the state. Eg: Adarsh Housing Society Case, 2G case, Commonwealth Games Case etc.
- RTI helps civil societies and public spirited persons to file writ petitions in Courts against government inaction – RTI application and its response is used by NGOs and Civil Society as an important tool and also as genuine evidence to file cases against misgovernance, non-implementation of various rules or laws or even schemes, lack of access to government services etc.
- RTI Applications has been used to find out extent of criminalisation of Politics – In a recent judgment, Supreme Court has ordered political parties to publish the entire criminal history of their candidates for Assembly and Lok Sabha elections along with the reasons that made them to field suspected criminals over decent people. This judgment is based on contempt of 2018 Supreme Court judgment in Public Interest Foundation v. Union of India which asked candidates to publish the criminal details of their candidates in their respective websites and print as well as electronic media for public awareness. Based on the 2018 Judgment by Public Interest Foundation v. Union of India, similar directions were issued by Election Commission during the 2019 Lok Sabha Election.
- RTI Applications has been used to find out how much money were transferred through Electoral Bonds - Information has been accessed about the anonymous electoral bonds though which thousands of crores have been channeled into political parties.
- Most extensively used Transparency Legislation in the World - Every year nearly six million applications are filed under the RTI Act, making it the most extensively used transparency legislation in the world. Such numbers of applications filed under RTI also suggests its importance in day to day governance at levels of administration and its resounding success in holding government responsible at various levels of administration process.
- RTI Act has ensured application of Article 19 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights – Article 19 of UDHR - Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
PROBLEMS WITH RTI
In recent years, efforts have been made to weaken the RTI Ecosystem in India. The RTI Amendment passed by Parliament in 2019 changed the tenure and service conditions for Central Information Commissioners and State Information Commissioners.
- THE RIGHT TO INFORMATION (AMENDMENT) ACT, 2019
Section 13 – Central Information Commissioners
- Section 13 of the original Act had set the term of the central Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners at five years (or until the age of 65, whichever is earlier).
- The amendment has removed the tenure of 5 years and replaced with the term “for such term as may be prescribed by the Central Government”. So, it means that the tenure of Information Commissioners is now at the discretion of the Central Government.
- Again, Section 13 stated that salaries, allowances and other terms of service of “the Chief Information Commissioner shall be the same as that of the Chief Election Commissioner”, and those of an Information Commissioner “shall be the same as that of an Election Commissioner”.
- The 2019 Amendment states that the salaries, allowances and other terms of service of the Chief Information Commissioner and the Information Commissioners “shall be such as may be prescribed by the Central Government”
State Information Commissioners
- Section 16 of the original Act dealt with state-level Chief Information Commissioners and Information Commissioners. It had set the term for state-level Chief Information Commissioners and Information Commissioners at five years (or 65 years of age, whichever is earlier).
- The original RTI Act 2005 prescribed salaries, allowances and other terms of service of the state Chief Information Commissioner as “the same as that of an Election Commissioner”, and the salaries and other terms of service of the State Information Commissioners as “the same as that of the Chief Secretary to the State Government”,
- The 2019 Amendment states that salaries, allowances and other terms of service of the state Chief Information Commissioner “shall be such as may be prescribed by the Central Government”.
- By amending Section 27, the Central Government will also control through rules, the terms and conditions of appointment of Commissioners in the States.
Is guarantee of tenure so important?
- All the provisions related to appointment were carefully examined by a parliamentary standing committee and it was unanimously acknowledged that one of the most important structural constituents of any independent oversight institution, i.e. the CVC, the Chief Election Commission (CEC), the Lokpal, and the CIC is a basic guarantee of tenure.
- In the case of the Information Commissioners they were appointed for five years subject to the age limit of 65 years. It was on the recommendation of the parliamentary standing committee that the Information Commissioner and CIC were made on a par with the Election Commissioner and the CEC, respectively.
- Thus, security of tenure insures not only independence in working of the Commissioners but also independence of the institution overall from any interference.
- Lack of such security of officers of Information Commission at Centre and State level tantamount to unwilling submission of the institution at the will of the government in power as Information Commissioners can be removed at will in case they give any decision against the liking of any government.
Why was RTI Act Amended?
- Mirrored Realities - RTI has become a tool or sort of a mirror which constantly reflects the misuse of power by the authorities to the society. For eg. RTI helped with the cross-verification of the affidavits of powerful electoral candidates with official documents and certain Information Commissioners ruled in favour of disclosure.
- RTI has made rule of law possible - by making the officials accountable for their work or even for their misuse of power and position. Thus, RTI has resulted in a fundamental shift in the framework of governance as it has made the power holders accountable to the power addressees thereby empowering citizen’s access to power and decision-making.
- Reduction in Corruption & Arbitrariness - Transparency in workings of the government at all levels has reduced arbitrariness, privilege, and corrupt governance. The power of RTI can be gauged from the fact that more than 80 RTI activists have died because they not only challenged the powerful but also ensured accountability on their behalf.
- Enhance Public Vigilance - Allows RTI allows access to decision making process at the highest level. However, the proposed amendment may close such doors of openness one and for all till further amendment. The RTI law ensures democratic citizenship through participation of the public and this also improves public vigilance over the working mechanism of the government.
- INFORMATION COMMISSION HAS BECOME HEADLESS INSTITUTIONS
- The functioning of commissions has been severely impeded by governments not appointing Information Commissioners in a timely manner and this has increased pendency of RTI cases.
- The problem with most of the State Commissions is that they are functioning at a reduced capacity with less number of Information Commissioners. Even the Central Information Commission (CIC) has been without a Chief since August. So, at the current rate of disposal of RTI cases, it will take years for the Information Commission to solve all the pending cases.
- Since May 2014, not a single commissioner of the Central Information Commission (CIC) has been appointed without citizens having to approach courts. Despite Supreme Court orders to fill all vacancies, 6 out of 11 posts of commissioners are currently vacant in the Central Information Commission, including that of the Chief Information Commissioner.
- The CIC is headless for the fifth time in the last six years! State governments appear to have adopted a similar strategy. Eight State Information Commissions are functioning without a chief. Two State Information Commissions of Tripura and Jharkhand are totally defunct with no commissioners at all.
- OTHER CHALLENGES FACED BY DIFFERENT STAKEHOLDERS
- Low Awareness Levels particularly among marginalised sections about rules and process of RTI Applications and also where to file them.
- Non-uniform RTI Rules & procedures across States, inconvenient mode and non-uniform fee across the States.
- Unsupportive attitudes of Public Information Officers (PIOs) are leading to unsatisfactory and poor quality replies.
- Ritualistic approach' by First Appellate authority (FAA), huge pendency and leniency towards PIOs at Information Commission level.
- Intimidation and threat by the person in power.
- Ineffective record management system particularly in state field offices/ departments.
- Inadequate training to PIO & FAAs particularly on key order/judgments of Information commissions and courts.
- Increased workloads on PIOs due to understaffed positions of PIOs.
Let us understand about filing of RTI and till when the PUBLIC AUTHORITIES is supposed to give information as per Right to Information Act, 2005.
A person who desires to obtain any specific or particular information under this act, shall make a request in writing or through electronic means in English, Hindi or in official language of the area where the application is made with an accompanying fee to:
ü Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) or State Public Information Officer (SPIO); or
ü Central Assistant Public Information Officer or State Assistant Public Information Officer
An applicant shall not have to give the reason for which information is sought. CPIO on receipt of the application for information within 30 days can either provide information or reject the request for such information.
However, if information sought for concerns the life or liberty of a person, the same shall be provided within 48 hours of the receipt of the request.
ü who does not receive a decision within 30 days of his/her RTI application, or
ü is aggrieved by a decision of the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer
may after expiring of 30 days, prefer an appeal to an officer who is senior to CPIO or SPIO.
· A second appeal lies within 90 days of from the date on which the decision should have been made or was actually received.
· The Central Information Commission or the State Information Commission, as the case may be, may admit the appeal after the expiry of the period of ninety days if it is satisfied that the appellant was prevented by sufficient cause from filing the appeal in time.
Decisions of Central Information Commission or State Information Commission
· The decision of the Central Information Commission or State Information Commission shall be binding. In its decision, the Central Information Commission or State Information Commission, has the power to
(a) require the public authority to take any such steps as may be necessary to secure compliance with the provisions of this Act, including— (i) by providing access to information, if so requested, in a particular form; (ii) by appointing a Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be; (iii) by publishing certain information or categories of information; (iv) by making necessary changes to its practices in relation to the maintenance, management and destruction of records; (v) by enhancing the provision of training on the right to information for its officials; (vi) by providing it with an annual report
(b) require the public authority to compensate the complainant for any loss or other detriment suffered.
(c) impose any of the penalties provided under this Act;
(d) reject the application.
No such records asked for by the Commission can be withheld by any public authority.
Need for Independent Institutions in Democracy
- Independent structures set up to regulate and monitor the government are vital to a democratic state committed to deliver justice and constitutional guarantees.
- However, centralisation of power not only impacts democratic norms of functioning but also threatens freedom of expression through the changes made under RTI Act itself.
- Thus, 2019 RTI Amendment needs to be seen as a deliberate effort to change the architecture of RTI in a regressive manner to silence freedom of speech and expression in our democratic republic.
- The Information Commission which was vested by law with status, independence and authority, will now function like a department of the Central government, and be subject to the same hierarchy and demand for obeisance.
- The decision of the government to usurp the powers to set the terms and conditions of service and salaries of an independent body must be understood as an obvious attempt to weaken the independence and authority granted by the law.
- Not appointing Information Commissioners at the Central and State level further confirms this notion that RTI is purposely being suffocated slowly towards a slow death in time.
- 2019 Amendment made to RTTI undermines the independence of Information Commissions and has significantly diluted the framework for transparency in India.
- The right to question is the hallmark of a democracy. Any attack on the RTI law, which has empowered citizens to question those in power, is an attack on the foundation of our democratic republic.
- It is a clear reflection of the lack of political will of governments to be answerable to the people of the country.
- Thus, it is time for citizens to assert themselves and protect the Right to Information Act which was legislated to empower citizens of India.
- UPSC Current Affairs: Pak. likely to remain on FATF grey list | Page 09
UPSC Syllabus: Mains: GS Paper-II – International Relations
Sub Theme: Financial Action Task Force (FATF) | FATF 40+9 |UPSC
In News: Pakistan was earlier placed on the grey list by the FATF in June last year for failing to curb anti-terror financing.
It has been scrambling in recent months to avoid being added to a list of countries deemed non-compliant with anti-money laundering and terrorist financing regulations
- The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is the global money laundering and terrorist financing watchdog.
- The inter-governmental body sets international standards that aim to prevent these illegal activities and the harm they cause to society.
- As a policy-making body, the FATF works to generate the necessary political will to bring about national legislative and regulatory reforms in these areas.
- With more than 200 countries and jurisdictions committed to implementing them. The FATF has developed the FATF Recommendations, or FATF Standards, which ensure a co-ordinated global response to prevent organised crime, corruption and terrorism.
- They help authorities go after the money of criminals dealing in illegal drugs, human trafficking and other crimes.
- The FATF also works to stop funding for weapons of mass destruction.
- The FATF reviews money laundering and terrorist financing techniques and continuously strengthens its standards to address new risks, such as the regulation of virtual assets, which have spread as cryptocurrencies gain popularity.
- The FATF monitors countries to ensure they implement the FATF Standards fully and effectively, and holds countries to account that do not comply.
- FATF does not address at all issues related to low tax jurisdiction or tax competition.
- The FATF mandate focuses only on the fight against laundering of proceeds of crimes and the financing of terrorism.
- FATF issues a report containing a set of Forty Recommendations, which are intended to provide a comprehensive plan of action needed to fight against money laundering.
- In 2001, the development of standards in the fight against terrorist financing was added to the mission of the FATF thereby further adding 9 Special Recommendations.
- FATF has formed 40 recommendations against money laundering and 9 special recommendations against terrorist financing, which forms the commonly known ‘40+9’ FATF Standards.
- The FATF conducts peer reviews of each member to assess levels of implementation of the FATF Recommendations.
- It provides an in-depth description and analysis of each country’s system for preventing criminal abuse of the financial system.
- FATF issues a list of ‘Non-Cooperative Countries or Territories’ (NCCTs), commonly called the FATF Blacklist.
- These countries or territories are considered to be uncooperative in international efforts against money laundering and terrorism financing.
- The grey list is a list of countries or territories with strategic anti-money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism deficiencies for which they have developed an action plan with the FATF.
UPSC Current Affairs: India’s economy to contract by 10.3% this fiscal, says IMF | Page 13
UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Indian Economy
Sub Theme: Important International Reports |UPSC