What are the major challenges in West Asia? Do you think that dictatorships in West Asia/ Middle East were necessary evils to maintain relative peace in the region?

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“The Middle East has been the chrysalis of three of the world’s great religions. From its stern landscape have issued conquerors and prophets holding aloft banners of universal aspirations. Across its seemingly limitless horizons, empires have been established and fallen; absolute rulers have proclaimed themselves the embodiment of all power, only to disappear as if they had been mirages. Here every form of domestic and international order has existed, and been rejected, at one time or another”

 

– Henry Kissinger, “Chapter 3: Islamism and the Middle East: A World in Disorder;” World Order: Reflections on the Character of Nations and the Course of History, 2014

WEST ASIA /MIDDLE EAST THE BACKDROP:

West Asia in popular parlance also referred to as to the Middle East is a transcontinental region centered on Western Asia, Turkey, Asia and Egypt. ArabsTurksPersiansKurds, and Azeris  constitute the largest ethnic groups in the region by population. Minorities of the Middle Eastinclude JewsBaloch,  Greeks,  Assyrians, and other ArameansBerbersCircassians ,Kabardians, Copts, etc.

The Middle East lies at the juncture of Eurasia and Africa and of the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean. It is the birthplace and spiritual center of religions such as ChristianityIslamJudaismManichaeismYezidiDruzeYarsan and Mandeanism, and in Iran, MithraismZoroastrianismManicheanism, and the Bahá’í Faith. Throughout its history the Middle East has been a major center of world affairs; a strategically, economically, politically, culturally, and religiously sensitive area.

The modern Middle East began after World War I, when the Ottoman Empire, which was allied with the Central Powers, was defeated by the British Empire and their allies and partitioned into a number of separate nations, initially under British and French Mandates. Other defining events in this transformation included the establishment of Israel in 1948 and the eventual departure of European powers, notably Britain and France by the end of the 1960s. They were supplanted in some part by the rising influence of the United States from the 1970s onwards.

In the 20th century, the region’s significant stocks of crude oil gave it new strategic and economic importance. Mass production of oil began around 1945, with Saudi Arabia, Iran, Kuwait, Iraq, and the United Arab Emirates having large quantities of oil. Estimated oil reserves, especially in Saudi Arabia and Iran, are some of the highest in the world, and the international oil cartel OPEC is dominated by Middle Eastern countries.

During the Cold War, the Middle East was a theater of ideological struggle between the two superpowers and their allies: NATO and the United States on one side, and the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact on the other, as they competed to influence regional allies. Throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, the region has experienced both periods of relative peace and tolerance and periods of conflicts.

CURRENT STATE OF PLAY IN THE MIDDLE EAST:

Troubling instability in the security, political, economic and social realms marks the current reality of the Middle East. The impact of this instability is not limited to the Middle East alone but has also spilled over into the international system, forcing Western countries to contend with waves of jihadist terrorism and immigration on an unprecedented scale.

The Middle East is also becoming a region of renewed rivalry between the US and Russia.

The emerging regional reality is characterised by the following attributes:

Disintegration of the Political Order

Arab nation-states, such as Syria, Yemen, Libya and Iraq, were ruled for decades by authoritarian leaders. During this time, these rulers succeeded in maintaining state stability through: a) State institutions, armies, and security and intelligence apparatuses, ensuring survival of the regime through oppression of the civilian population; b) the exclusion of groups, tribes and sects (such as the Houthis in Yemen, the Sunnis and the Kurds in Syria, the Sunnis in Iraq and certain Bedouin tribes in Libya); and c) the management of the country’s domestic and foreign affairs. This involved the suppression of subversive forces, including jihadist terror organisations that posed a threat to the regime. State leaders took care to nurture the legitimacy of their rule and the illegitimacy of subversive forces using national identity, which they also attempted to cultivate despite shaky historical, ethnic, religious or cultural foundations.

Peripheral Regions as Frontiers

The central government in many of these countries lost control of peripheral regions and focused their efforts and resources on ensuring survival in the areas surrounding the capitals and large cities. Peripheral regions have thus become frontier regions, attracting jihadi terrorist groups that have based their organisations and activities in these uncontrolled areas.

The Spread of ISIS and Radical Jihad

The civil war that developed in Syria and the fragility of Iraq has resulted in the spread of ISIS in northwest Iraq and northeast Syria, its establishment throughout a broad territory, its control over the population in this territory, and the mass murder—in some cases, on par with genocide of all non-Sunnis and all Sunnis ISIS leadership classifies as infidels.

Network Jihad in the Making

ISIS’s successes have attracted other jihadi groups in the region to join its ranks in an effort to bring about an Islamic revolution they expect will be followed by the establishment of the Islamic State. This process is reflective of a new phenomenon of “network jihad”: Jihadist terrorist groups in the Middle East are accepting the authority of ISIS as a parent organization.

Iran, its Hegemonic Aspirations and Proxies

In order to ensure its vital interests in the region, Iran has mobilized itself completely, openly and in a declared manner to come to the assistance of the Syrian regime. To this end, Iran has also mobilized Hezbollah, its protégé and proxy and Syria’s ally.

The Sunni-Shiite Split in the Arab World

The involvement of Iran and Hezbollah in regional conflicts has not stopped in Syria. Both have also maintained an active presence in Iraq, and active Iranian involvement has also reached Yemen, Libya, Lebanon, the Gaza Strip and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. In actuality, the Arab upheaval has become a tool and a justification used by the Iranians to expand Shiite spheres of influence. Iranian involvement has served to escalate and broaden the Sunni-Shiite split in the Arab world.

An expanding Turkish role

ISIS’s area of operation borders on Turkey and has had a direct impact on Turkey’s strategic interests in the region. Turkey regards itself as a regional power in competition with Iran and fears a split within the country as a result of stronger Kurdish national sentiment. Iraq’s Kurdish autonomy, and the apparent joining of forces of the Iraqi Kurds and their Kurdish brethren in Syria, has raised levels of Turkish anxiety and restlessness.

The upheaval that is currently gripping the Arab world is resulting in some of the most serious humanitarian crises that the region has known in recent decades. This is particularly so because of the large populations that have been uprooted and the migratory processes that have become prevalent both within the region and from the region outward. This migration is economically, socially and politically significant. It has become a destabilizing influence in countries such as Jordan and Lebanon, a serious humanitarian problem in Syria, and an intensifying source of trouble for Muslim communities in the Western countries seeing an influx of refugees.

CONSEQUENCE AND DESIRABILITY OF DICTATORSHIP IN THE MIDDLE EAST:

The Middle East /West Asia region, post-Arab Spring, is in a state of flux and uncertainty. But is dictatorship an answer to this conundrum.

The Arab revolution that started in Tunisia in January 2011 spread like wildfire to other parts of the region. The causes of the Arab Spring were common across the Arab landscape. The actors of these revolutions were mainly young people from civil society, who were mobilized by the new technologies of communication, such as social media forms like Twitter and Facebook. They demanded the establishment of democracy, respect for human rights, social equality, economic and socio-cultural reforms and development, anti-corruption measures, as well as good governance. The populace also revolted against the monopoly of wealth and the grip of ruling monarchies and their families on social, economic, military and judicial institutions. Through these revolts, they expressed their suffering brought on by a repressive economic regime (DICTATORSHIP!!!!) marked by high unemployment, high inflation, poor social housing, widespread poverty and lack of access to basic social and health services.

The political consequences of the Arab Spring were spectacular. The fall of dictators in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen was followed by significant political reforms in some countries, including in those that did not experience large-scale protests, such as Morocco, Mauritania, Jordan and Algeria. More free and transparent elections were held in several Arab countries. There was also an expansion of individual and collective freedoms with regard to expression, association and the press. Elected assemblies were put in place, and governments were formed.

Some of the Arab countries plunged deeper into a state of instability, as in the case of Libya, where successive governments could not hold on to Tripoli against the rising power of Islamist militias. Syria’s bloody civil war has persevered for three years now. Iraq is in a dire situation after the departure of US troops, with the rivalry among Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds having further crystallised. In Jordan and Oman, some political reforms have allowed for the preservation of the regimes. In Tunisia, a new constitution was adopted.

One surprise of the Arab Spring has been the rise of Islamist parties. These parties, who were persecuted under previous authoritarian regimes, had previously made concerted efforts towards providing services for the marginalized communities that continued to be deprived by their respective rulers. Therefore, when free and transparent elections were organized, these parties won most of them. But once in power, they lacked, on the one hand, discernment and advocated a revival of Islam in the entire society, and skill, on the other hand, to improve the economic situation. Their inability to organize themselves as economic providers eventually led to their eviction in Egypt and, to some extent, in Tunisia. What complicated the situation was the emergence of radical Islamists, who claim that they will restore the Islamic Khalifa.

The Arab countries have shown, like all other peoples of the world, the desire for democracy, equality, respect for human rights, and economic and social development. The Arab world saw the fall of some dictators; other authoritarian regimes have been able to maintain their power by using financial prowess to placate populations and keep peace.

Thus instead of hankering for dictatorship, the political outlook for the Arab must promote democracy, which alone can create grounds for stable and long-term development. Economically, Arab countries must ensure stability, that is to say, eliminate budget deficits, avoid high debt, ensure low inflation and maintain as much as possible, substantial foreign exchange reserves.

In the absence of a functional infrastructure and tradition, and a commitment to society and state as opposed to merely ‘leader’ and ‘regime,’ these states crumbled, and the alternative regimes set up in their stead were unable to establish sufficiently broad legitimacy for their existence. Hence, strong democratic institutions are required in the Middle East for peace and prosperity.

 

 

 

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LESSON OF A LIFETIME

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Today, I am going to narrate a story which I presume will touch every heart. The helplessness of an old woman, the pain of a starving family, the final decision of a judge and the understanding and compassionate nature of the people. All of this makes this story one of a kind. The story that I am going to narrate will be in the form of a dialogue.

 

This story is known as “The night trial in New York” in 1935. On a cold January evening in 1935, a trial was held in New York City. An old, weak and tattered looking woman named “Lilly” was on trial for stealing a loaf of bread. She looked sad and hidden in the sadness was shame of committing a crime.

 

The mayor of New York City “Fiorello LaGuardia” happened to be the judge that night. He asked her, “Did you steal the loaf of bread?’’ The woman lowered her head and said, “That’s right, your honor, I did steal the loaf of bread.” The Judge then asked her, “What was your motive behind stealing the loaf of bread? Were you hungry? “. Looking at the Judge, the woman said, “Yes, I was hungry, but I didn’t steal the loaf of bread for myself.” My son-in-law abandoned his family, my daughter fell sick, and their two children were starving. They hadn’t eaten in days. I couldn’t stand seeing them hungry; they are still so young.”

 

By the time she finished speaking, the whole courtroom had fallen silent. The Judge told the woman, “Everyone is equal under the law”. For stealing the loaf of bread, you can choose to either pay a $10 fine or go to prison for 10 days.” She said: “Your honor I am willing to be punished for what I have done… but respectfully, if I had a $10 I wouldn’t have stolen the bread. I am willing to go to jail.  My only concern is who will take care of my daughter and grandchildren while I’m in jail?”  The judge paused for a moment and leaned back in his chair. He then reached into his pocket, pulled out a $10 note and held it up for the court to see. He said loudly and assertively, “With this $10 note I will pay for your punishment, you are free to leave.” He turned to the people in the courtroom and proclaimed: “In addition, I charge each person in the court 50 cents as a penalty for the indifference and ignorance in this community. An old woman should not have to steal bread to feed her family. Mr. Baillif, go collect the money and give it to the accused.”

 

50 cents each came from the owner of the grocery store where the woman stole the  loaf of bread, as well as from a dozen other defendants awaiting trial, and several police officers. They all felt honored to contribute 50 cents and stood up to warmly and happily applaud the verdict. The next day the story was featured in a New York City newspaper, which reported that the amount of $47.50 had been given to the poor, accused old woman. The judge’s decision or discretion made a point of how complicit people had become in the suffering of others and how all are accountable in the crime. The message spread throughout the city. And, the beautiful story ends here.

 

The essence of the story is that, we are all connected in this world, if one suffers, so do we all. If one does well in life, then it takes the support of a lot of people. We as a global community, as one family cannot do without another. We should rather support each other in living a safe and a happy life. And, it is up to us to ensure that no person, family or community goes unnoticed. It’s easy for us to look after our own material benefits and not pay attention to the needs of others. What takes huge effort, is to think about of others too and not harm them. The point which is also to be remembered here is that “Goodness without utility leads to exploitation and goodness with utility leads to respect”. So be good but do not let anyone trample over you or walk over you or take advantage of you. Also, what should be remembered is that  “Goodness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”- Mark Twain

 

Do remember sharing is caring! See you all with my next post!

What is “climate change”? Should a country like India be concerned about “climate change”? What can countries do about this problem? Illustrate your answer with examples of government policy in the Asian context.

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“Climate Change” has become such a pervasive phenomena that it has now entered the dictionary as a noun and is defined as follows:

“a change in global or regional climate patterns, in particular a change apparent from the mid to late 20th century onwards and attributed largely to the increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide produced by the use of fossil fuels”.

Greenhouse gases act like a blanket around the Earth. They trap warmth from the sun and make life on Earth possible. Without them, too much heat would escape and the surface of the planet would freeze. However, increasing the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere causes the Earth to heat more and the climate to change. Multiple evidence show climate change is happening such as:

  • direct temperature measurements on land
  • extended growing seasons of plants
  • changes in rainfall patterns resulting in more floods, droughts and intense rain

It is extremely likely that humans are the cause of recent warming. It is true that climate change has been driven by natural causes in the past. However, over the past 150 years there has been a marked and growing increase in greenhouse gas producing activities such as industry, agriculture and transportation. These human-induced activities are increasing the level of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere and causing the earth not only to heat up, but to heat up at an unprecedented rate. This recent warming can only be explained by the influence of humans.

In the Asia or Pacific region there is evidence of prominent increases in the intensity and/or frequency of many extreme events such as heat waves, tropical cyclones, prolonged dry spells, intense rainfall, tornadoes, snow avalanches, thunderstorms, and severe dust storms in the region. Furthermore, the region is highly subject to natural hazards, such as the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, the 2005 Pakistan Earthquake, and the 2006 landslides in the Philippines. Such impacts pose additional risks for already vulnerable communities striving to combat poverty and achieve sustainable development. The Asia/Pacific region accounted for 91% of the world’s total death and 49% of the world’s total damage due to natural disasters in the last century. Therefore, climate change poses a serious and additional threat to poor farmers and rural communities in the region who live in remote, marginal areas such as mountains, drylands and deserts; areas with limited natural resources, communication and transportation networks and weak institutions. In particular, climate models indicate temperature increases in the Asia/Pacific region on the order of 0.5-2°C by 2030 and 1-7°C by 2070. Temperatures are expected to increase more rapidly in the arid areas of northern Pakistan and India and western China. Additionally, models indicate rising rainfall concentration throughout much of the region, including greater rainfall during the summer monsoon. Furthermore, winter rainfall is likely to decline in South and Southeast Asia, suggesting increased aridity from the winter monsoon. Freshwater availability in Central, South, East and South-East Asia, particularly in large river basin, is projected to decrease due to climate change which, along with population growth and increasing demand arising from higher standards of living, could adversely affect more that a billion of people by the 2050s. Expansion of areas under severe water stress will be one of the most pressing and urgent environmental problems in the region, especially in South and South East Asia, as the number of poor rural people living under serious water stress is expected to increase substantially in absolute terms.

The strategies adopted by the Asian countries primarily focuses on:

  • enhancing the region’s adaptive capacity
  • utilising market mechanisms more effectively
  • building a low carbon society and exploiting developmental co-benefits

In the case of India a National action plan on climate change (NAPCC) has been adopted  which  is guided by the following principles: (i) protecting the poor and vulnerable sections of society through an inclusive and sustainable development strategy, sensitive to climate change; (ii) achieving national growth through ecological sustainability; (iii) devising efficient and cost-effective strategies for end use Demand Side Management; (iv) deploying appropriate technologies for both adaptation and mitigation of greenhouse gases emissions; (v) engineering new and innovative forms of market, regulatory and voluntary mechanisms to promote sustainable development; (vi) effecting implementation of programmes by including civil society and local government institutions and through public- private partnership; and (vii) welcoming international cooperation for research, development, sharing and transfer of technologies Eight National Missions form the core of the NAPCC, which represents a multi-pronged, long-term and integrated approach for achieving key goals in the context of climate change. These include: National Solar Mission, National Mission for Enhanced Energy Efficiency, National Mission on Sustainable Habitat, National Water Mission, National Mission for Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem, National Mission for a Green India, National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture, National Mission on Strategic Knowledge for Climate Change.

 

Why it is important for the government to invest in basic infrastructure namely, water supply and sanitation ?

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Financing water and sanitation Key issues in increasing resources to the sector Water and sanitation struggle to receive funding in the developing world, where governments are pressed with struggling economies, huge debts and a host of other socio-political problems. Most often, they have to prioritise other basic social services, such as education and health, over water and sanitation. In general developing countries spend anywhere between 1% and 3% of government budgets on low cost water and sanitation.

Water-related efforts in the developing world are often balkanized and not sufficiently integrated to ensure sustainable water services. There can be different strategies to ensure access to safe water depending on the country and its social needs. The different strategies may have impacts on reaching the Millennium Development Goal of reducing by half the proportion of the population that lacks access to improved water and sanitation by 2015. Water and sanitation concerns are of great magnitude.

United Nations reports suggest that 1.1 billion individuals, approximately 17 percent of the world’s population, are without improved water and more do not have access to safe drinking water, and 2.6 billion, approximately 41 percent, are without improved sanitation. Even worse, many of the world’s school children attend a school without water or toilets. Not surprisingly, 40 percent of the world’s school-age children have worm infections, predisposing them to cognitive and developmental problems. It is further estimated that 5,000 children die every day from diseases because of lack of safe drinking water, inadequate sanitation, and poor hygiene.

In many regions of the world, collecting water is primarily the responsibility of women. Women’s lives are further impacted by lack of water and sanitation because they are responsible for the care of children, who are affected by diarrheal disease. Women do not always have the financial resources to pay for water purchases, treatment, or new investments. However, it is not just access to water that is a problem. The lack of sanitation means that, in some places, women and girls must wait until nightfall to defecate, while in some nations more than 50 percent of girls drop out of school due to the lack of toilets. These disparities have additional implications for health, education, and human rights.

Thus, women and children place a higher value on water and sanitation. A study showed that microcredit loans provided to women in Bangladesh increased the presence of latrines in their household from 9 to 26 percent over three years; the control group showed a slight decrease in latrine presence during the same time period. Much work must be done in order to reach a global goal of increasing access to improved sanitation in many parts of the world.

With regard to standards for improved water and sanitation, it is important to recognize that improved water is not necessarily safe drinking water. Improved water access includes household connections, public standpipes, rainwater collection, boreholes, and protected wells, but not water vendors, unprotected wells, unprotected springs, rivers or ponds, or tanker truck water. Improved sanitation includes connections to public sewers, septic systems, pour-flush and improved pit latrines, but not shared, traditional, or open pit latrines.

Recognising the importance of water and sanitation a Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Government of India has been created. The Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation is the nodal department for the overall policy, planning, funding and coordination of programmes of drinking water and sanitation in the country. It is primarily working towards the objective of providing Safe drinking water and improved sanitation for all, at all times, in rural India with a mission  to ensure all rural households have access to and use of safe and sustainable drinking water and improved sanitation facilities by providing support to state in their endeavor to provide these basic facilities and services.

However, meeting the goals of universal safe water and sanitation is at some distance due to primarily financial, societal and governance related issues.

GST and it’s benefits for the Indian Economy

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The introduction of Goods and Services Tax (GST) would be a very significant step in the field of indirect tax reforms in India. By amalgamating a large number of Central and State taxes into a single tax, it would mitigate cascading or double taxation in a major way and pave the way for a common national market. From the consumer point of view, the biggest advantage would be in terms of a reduction in the overall tax burden on goods, which is currently estimated to be around 25%-30%. Introduction of GST would also make Indian products competitive in the domestic and international markets.

 

The idea of moving towards the GST was first mooted by the then Union Finance Minister (P. Chidambaram) in his Budget for 2007-08. Currently, fiscal powers between the Centre and the States are clearly demarcated in the Constitution with almost no overlap between the respective domains. The Centre has the powers to levy tax on the manufacture of goods (except alcoholic liquor for human consumption, opium, narcotics etc.) while the States have the powers to levy tax on sale of goods. In case of inter-State sales, the Centre has the power to levy a tax (the Central Sales Tax) but, the tax is collected and retained entirely by the originating States. As for services, it is the Centre alone that is empowered to levy service tax. Since the States are not empowered to levy any tax on the sale or purchase of goods in the course of their importation into or exportation from India, the Centre levies and collects this tax as additional duties of customs, which is in addition to the Basic Customs Duty. This additional duty of customs (commonly known as CVD and SAD) counter balances excise duties, sales tax, State VAT and other taxes levied on the like domestic product. Introduction of GST would require amendments in the Constitution so as to concurrently empower the Centre and the States to levy and collect the GST. The assignment of concurrent jurisdiction to the Centre and the States for the levy of GST would require a unique institutional mechanism that would ensure that decisions about the structure, design and operation of GST are taken jointly by the two. For it to be effective, such a mechanism also needs to have Constitutional force.

 

To address all these and other issues, the Constitution (122ndAmendment) Bill was introduced in the 16thLok Sabha on 19.12.2014. The Bill provides for a levy of GST on supply of all goods or services except for Alcohol for human consumption. The tax shall be levied as Dual GST separately but concurrently by the Union, and the States. The Parliament would have exclusive power to levy GST (integrated tax – IGST) on inter-State trade or commerce (including imports) in goods or services. The Central Government will have the power to levy excise duty in addition to the GST on tobacco and tobacco products. The tax on supply of five specified petroleum products namely crude, high speed diesel, petrol, ATF and natural gas would be levied from a later date on the recommendation of GST Council.  A Goods and Services Tax Council (GSTC) shall be constituted comprising the Union Finance Minister, the Minister of State (Revenue) and the State Finance Ministers to recommend on the GST rate, exemption and thresholds, taxes to be subsumed and other features. This mechanism would ensure some degree of harmonisation on different aspects of GST between the Centre and the States as well as across States. One half of the total number of members of GSTC would form quorum in meetings of GSTC. Decision in GSTC would be taken by a majority of not less than three-fourth of weighted votes cast. Centre and minimum of 20 States would be required for majority because Centre would have one-third weightage of the total votes cast and all the States taken together would have two-third of weightage of the total votes cast.

 

GST will help to create a unified common national market for India, giving a boost to Foreign investment and “Make in India” campaign; (ii) Will prevent cascading of taxes as Input Tax Credit will be available across goods and services at every stage of supply; (iii) Harmonisation of laws, procedures and rates of tax; (iv) It will boost export and manufacturing activity, generate more employment and thus increase GDP with gainful employment leading to substantive economic growth; (v) Ultimately it will help in poverty eradication by generating more employment and more financial resources; (vi) More efficient neutralization of taxes especially for exports thereby making our products more competitive in the international market and give boost to Indian Exports; (vii) Improve the overall investment climate in the country which will naturally benefit the development in the states. Essentially, GST is going to be a game changer for the Indian Economy helping us eradicate poverty in the long run.

Will Russia-China Axis bring about a new phase of Cold War?

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Cold war conceptually refers to an ongoing state of political and military tension between opposing geopolitical power-blocs. My analysis would seek to address the dynamics of the Russia-China Axis, the emergence of a new phase of cold war, and its inevitable effect on India. Even as I am attempting this analysis, the state of tension unfolding between western bloc lead by United States and Russia & China over the Iran nuclear agreement exemplifies this new phase of cold war. On one hand while there is an attempt by the western bloc to renegotiate the deal and thus salvage it by factoring in the belligerent American demand of scrapping it altogether and on the other hand we have the Russian and Chinese insistence that no change in the agreement framework is warranted.

Before Coming to the inevitable conclusion of emerging Russia-China Axis, the historical context of this relationship also needs to be understood.

Background of Sino-Russian ties:

Soviet Union provided vital assistance to Mao Zedong’s Communist rebels. Without Moscow’s backing, especially turning over weapons and territory to the insurgents after Japan’s August 1945 surrender, Communist China would not have emerged.

De-Stalinization by Nikita Khrushchev led to ideological disputes over which government offered an uncorrupted vision of Marxist-Leninism. The two countries created rival revolutionary and state networks and battled for influence within nominally Communist nations. The USSR backed India against China; the latter criticised Moscow’s willingness to compromise in the Cuban Missile Crisis and join in treaty limits on nuclear weapons.

In 1966 Beijing raised the issue of “unfair” treaties imposed by the czarist Russian Empire. Border conflict broke out three years later. Casualties were modest and fighting ceased later in the year, though a formal border agreement was not reached until 1991.

Chinese-Soviet tension continued around the world, as the two backed rival revolutionary factions in several African conflicts. They disagreed over Vietnam; Beijing supported Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge regime, which was ousted by Hanoi in 1978, and fought a brief war with the latter the following year. The two Communist giants also differed in Afghanistan.

End of Cold War and emergence of a new paradigm in Sino-Russian ties:

Chinese-Russian relations improved as the Cold War ended and ideological conflicts waned. But tensions remain real. In recent times, the United States has courted conflict with both powers. To constrain China, it has sought to strengthen alliance ties and form new alliance with India, added troop deployments and increased military maneuvers. Beijing perceives that Washington hopes to contain China, whether or not the former is willing to admit the obvious, currently exemplified by the ongoing trade wars.

Against Russia, the United States has followed an aggressive policy: dismissing the former’s Balkan interests, especially breaking apart historic Slavic ally Serbia (which imperial Russia backed in World War I); bringing old Warsaw Pact members and even ex- Soviet republics into NATO ; pushing regime change, including by Islamist insurgents, against Moscow’s Syrian ally; imposing economic sanctions against Russia; and building up U.S. military forces in Europe.

Emergence of Sino-Russian ties:

China and Russia are not formal military allies, but have found their dislike and distrust of Washington to be greater than their bilateral disagreements.  China has pledged to invest more in the Russian Far East and buy more Russian nuclear energy technology. The two countries also have declared their identity of views regarding Asia-Pacific security, Iran’s nuclear program, Syria, and other global hotspots.

Since the Soviet Union’s disintegration in the early 1990s, the two countries have for the most part acted on the basis of shared interests—particularly in maintaining stability in Central Asia, whose energy supplies are vital for both countries’ economic development. China consumes the resources directly, whereas Russian companies earn valuable revenue by reselling Central Asian hydrocarbons in third-party markets, especially in Europe. Both countries know that certain regional events such as further political revolutions or civil wars could adversely affect core security interests. Both governments especially fear ethnic separatism in their border territories supported by Islamic fundamentalist movements in Central Asia.

The shared regional security interests between Beijing and Moscow have meant that the newly independent states of Central Asia—Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan—have become a generally unifying element in Chinese-Russian relations. Their overlapping security interests in Central Asia are visible in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

The two governments coordinate their foreign policies in the United Nations, where they regularly block Western-backed efforts to impose sanctions on anti-Western regimes. Most recently, China and Russia have established a common front in the UN Security Council against Western involvement in Syria. Their leaders share a commitment to a philosophy of state sovereignty (non-interference) and territorial integrity (against separatism).

Beijing and Moscow oppose American democracy promotion efforts, US missile defense programs, and Washington’s alleged plans to militarize outer space. Chinese and Russian leaders both resent what they perceive as Washington’s proclivity to interfere in their internal affairs as well as their spheres of influence by siding with neighboring countries in their disputes with Beijing and Moscow. Chinese and Russian officials openly call on their US counterparts to stay out of issues that are vital interests for Beijing and Moscow but should, in their view, be of only peripheral concern for the United States, dismissing Washington’s claims to stewardship in upholding universal values, principles of international behaviour, freedom of the seas, and a free Internet.

Challenges of Sino-Russian ties:

Although the current Sino-Russian ties are upbeat, such alignments are vulnerable to shifts in the underlying conditions that support them. In the case of Russia and China, these shifting variables include China’s increasing military power, its growing economic penetration of Central Asia, and its impending leadership changes, along with Russia’s political disorders, dependence on a mono-economy of energy, and gloomy demographic prospects. These and other plausible changes could at some point undermine the foundations of their current entente.

The two governments also remain suspicious about each other’s activities in Central Asia, where their state-controlled firms compete for energy resources. Chinese officials have steadfastly refused to endorse Moscow’s decision to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which Russia pried from Georgia during the August 2008 war, as independent states. In East Asia, Russia has not supported China’s extensive maritime claims, and has backed Vietnam, a major Russian arms client, in its bilateral dispute with Beijing, which is impeding the offshore operations of Russian energy companies there.

At the societal level, culturally embedded negative stereotypes about the other nationality persist in both countries. The Chinese media criticises Russian authorities’ failure to ensure the safety and rights of Chinese nationals working in Russia. Russians in turn complain about Chinese pollution spilling into Russian territory and worry that large-scale Chinese immigration into the Russian Far East will result in large swaths of eastern Russia becoming de facto parts of China.

Neither country is the main economic partner of the other. China is increasing its economic ties with Europe and India, with the United States still having primacy in Beijing’s commercial calculations. Chinese and Russian business enterprises will need to work extra hard to realize their governments’ ambitious targets for Sino-Russia trade, which is targeted to reach $100 billion by 2015 and $200 billion by 2020. They also will find it hard to address the imbalances in their existing two-way exchanges. China mostly buys Russian raw materials while selling.

Despite their mutual concern about American strategic ambitions, the governments of China and Russia have not undertaken any widespread collaboration to blunt them. For example, they have not pooled their military resources or expertise to overcome US ballistic missile defense (BMD) systems by, for instance, undertaking joint research and development programs to create shared anti-BMD technologies. Nor have they coordinated pressure against other countries in Europe or Asia to try to force them to abstain from deploying US BMD assets, even in Central Asia or Northeast Asia, regions that border Chinese and Russian territories.

The next few years will most likely see a continuation of this mixed pattern of relations between China and Russia. A major Chinese military build up could also alarm Russians as much as other neighboring countries, who already fear it. Alternately, Russian plans to create an EU-like arrangement among the former Soviet republics could irritate Beijing because such a development could impede China’s economic access to Central Asia. The harmony between Beijing and Moscow in Central Asia arises primarily because the Chinese leadership considers the region of lower strategic priority than Moscow, which still regards it as an area of special Russian influence. This too could change.

CONCLUSION:

The modern Chinese-Russian relationship has most often been characterized by bloody wars, imperial conquests, and mutual denunciations. It has only been during the last twenty years, when Russian power had been decapitated by its lost Soviet empire and China has found itself a rising economic—but still militarily growing—power that the two countries have managed to achieve a harmonious balance in their relationship. While China now has the world’s second-largest economy, Russia has the world’s second most powerful military, thanks largely to its vast reserves of nuclear weapons. But China could soon surpass Russia in terms of conventional military. Under these conditions, Moscow could well join other countries bordering China in pursuing a containment strategy designed to balance, though not prevent, China’s rising power.

Heightened China-Russia tensions over border regions are also a possibility. The demographic disparity that exists between the Russian Far East and northern China invariably raises the question of whether Chinese nationals will move northward to exploit the natural riches of under-populated eastern Russia. Border tensions could increase if poorly managed development, combined with pollution, land seizures, and climate change, drive poor Chinese peasants into Russian territory.

With the end of the NATO combat role in Afghanistan, an immediate source of tension could be Russian pressure on China to cease its buck-passing and join Russia in assuming the burden of stabilizing that country. Should US power in the Pacific falter, China and Russia might also become natural rivals for the allegiance of the weak states of East Asia looking for a new great-power patron. But for now such prospects linger in the background as Beijing and Moscow savor a far smoother relationship than the one they shared back in the day, when they competed to see which would achieve the one true communism.

Thus, in the short-term, that means Sino –Russian co-operation is to limit American influence. Ultimately, the objective could become to deter U.S. military action against both nations.  Should Russia and China forge closer military bonds, the United States eventually might find itself facing a much less hospitable international environment. That likely would constrain Washington’s responses, and increase the costs and risks if conflict resulted.

POST –SCRIPT:

With India moving increasingly closer to the US, there is already a slow distancing with Russia and a possibility of increased hostility with China, exemplified by the Doklam stand-off.  Russia continues to fulfill diplomatic essentials with India, including the hosting of bilateral agreements and summits, but its decision to enhance its ties with Pakistan against Indian requests, indicates a change. Similar problems would flow by the increased warmth between China and Russia. India has a tough challenge at hand to protect its interest in the emerging scenario of the new cold war.

 

The Concept of Universal Basic Income (UBI)

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The Universal basic income concept has the five following characteristics:
  1. Periodic: It is paid at regular intervals (for example every month), not as a one-off grant.
  2. Cash payment: It is paid in an appropriate medium of exchange, allowing those who receive it to decide what they spend it on. It is not, therefore, paid either in kind (such as food or services) or in vouchers dedicated to a specific use.
  3. Individual: It is paid on an individual basis—and not, for instance, to households.
  4. Universal: It is paid to all, without means test.
  5. Unconditional: It is paid without a requirement to work or to demonstrate willingness-to-work.

Although it has gained popularity in recent years, the idea itself is several centuries old. One of the earliest proponents of some form of basic income was Spanish philosopher Johannes Ludovicus Vives, who proposed that the government should ensure the minimum level of subsistence for all, but only to those who showed willingness to work. Thomas Paine, one of the US’s founding fathers, argued that every person was entitled to an equal basic endowment because “the earth, in its natural, uncultivated state was… the common property of the human race”.

In the Indian context, this makes sense because of the less-than-satisfactory experience with targeting welfare services. Apart from the standard arguments against targeting—that it often excludes a lot of the deserving households from receiving subsidies, people often fall in and out of poverty and therefore it becomes difficult to ascertain who are rightfully entitled to receive such benefits. While those estimates have been questioned, the fact remains that there is little dispute over the fact that too many Indians remain trapped in poverty. The persistence of poverty and significant leakages in welfare schemes that aim to alleviate it has prompted many academics and policymakers to explore more efficient alternatives to India’s creaky and leaky welfare architecture. One of the suggestions has been to move towards a “universal basic income”. The idea is already gaining currency in the developed world, as fears of automation and consequent job losses have spurred thinkers in the West to devise ways wherein all individuals would be guaranteed some income. There are standard arguments in favour of cash transfers over in-kind transfers (food stamps or grains provided through the Public Distribution System) as they are supposed to be much less market-distorting than in-kind transfers. Cash transfers are not tied to exhibiting certain behaviour, and the people are free to spend the cash as they want. An example of conditional in-kind transfer in India would be the mid-day meal scheme, where the meal—an in-kind transfer—is conditional upon attending school. Thus, the universal basic income seeks to provide unconditional cash to every individual, or household, and the individuals would be free to use the cash as per their discretion and spend according to their own preferences.

 

Two of the most popular arguments against UBI are: it would reduce the motivation for work and might encourage people to live off assured cash transfers; and it is simply unaffordable. With respect to the fear that it might induce poor to work less and live off income transfers from the state, the evidence so far seems mixed.  UNICEF report on a pilot in Madhya Pradesh points out that the grants enabled small farmers to spend more time and also invest on their own farms as opposed to working as wage labourers. The concern that unconditional cash transfers might raise wages due to the decline in the supply of casual labourers does not seem to be a valid argument against a universal basic income. More importantly, the pilots showed that those who received grants undertook small-scale investments, such as for more and better seeds, equipment repairs, establishment of little shops, etc., which potentially raised long-run productivity. Thus, even though the number of hours worked may have declined, productivity may not have declined much. In fact, this is one of the basic arguments for a universal income—that minimum income security would enable individuals to plan their lives better and undertake more meaningful activities rather than be trapped in distress-driven activities in search of subsistence. The second main argument against a universal income is the cost.

 

The third main contention over a possible a move towards a universal basic income—the question of whether a shift towards it should be a substitute for all existing subsidies or whether it should complement the existing ones.

 

Transition to a universal basic income may lead to the government resorting to raising additional tax revenue through indirect taxes and cess there on, which are regressive in nature and more distortionary than direct taxes. UBI does have some practical and philosophical justifications.

The debate over universal basic incomes (or universal basic shares) is likely to evolve further as the developing world wonders how it can pull people out of poverty while facing a resource crunch.

Challenges of Regional Integration in South Asia through institutions such as SAARC

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Regional Integration is processes by which two or more nation states agree to co- operate and work closely together to achieve peace, stability and wealth. In addition to the global economic regime based on the GATT, and IMF systems which has sustained the world economies since World War II, regionalism, through which neighbouring countries seek to strengthen their economies by entering into some form of “regional integration” has become a major trend. This trend was triggered by EU market integration. In both developed and developing countries, customs, unions and free trade areas (FTAs) continue to increase and expand. There are so many institutions like World Bank, USA Canada Water Commission, SAARC, BIMSTECH, and SASEC working for regional integrity on international level. Here, we are going to discuss the problem in regional integrity which is hampering the working of SAARC.

SAARC was a historic effort to build relationship amongst equals. President Zia ur Rehman of Bangladesh visited all the South Asian countries in the late 1970s to advocate the setting up of a regional economic organisation. In November 1980 he sent a “Working Paper on Regional Co- operation in South Asia to various South Asian Countries. Further clarifications, of the working paper were made in a letter from the Bangladesh foreign ministry to the Indian and South Asian governments. The Bangladesh proposal was clear about the objectives of the forum to be evolved in South Asia. The institutional framework was based on the fact that the participating states should be committed to non- alignment. The proposal exhibited an awareness of the pressing bilateral problems in the region. It therefore sought to take the incrementalist course of action. The areas identified for cooperation were non – political and non – security in nature; they were to include issues like telecommunications, tourism, agriculture, transport, meteorology etc. The core issue was the political implications of the proposal. The existing asymmetry of power had to be addressed. There was a need to avoid hegemony of one power, or other small powers ganging against one power. The proposal also did not aim at regionalizing bilateral issues. The proposal sought to identify areas of cooperation that were truly regional in character. The key word governing the process was to be mutual benefit. The decision on the proposal was to be based on a consensus. Bangladesh believed that once the climate for trust and cooperation was created, it would be easier to resolve bilateral problems bilaterally, as demonstrated by ASEAN. A series of meetings followed the proposal in countries like India and so on. The objectives kept the boundaries of co- operation to non- political and non- security field. Finally, in 1985 at the first summit at Dhaka, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was created. The SAARC secretariat is located in Kathmandu, Nepal. The secretariat is headed by a secretary general. Apart from its eight members i.e. India, Pakistan, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Maldives, and Nepal; Australia, the People’s Republic of China the European Union, Iran, Japan, The Republic of Korea, Mauritius, Myanmar and the United States have joined SAARC as observers.

The South Asian region consisting of the eight SAARC countries, i.e. India, Pakistan, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Maldives, and Nepal are a homogenous group in the sense that Contori and Spiegel define a subordinate system or a region. Contori and Spiegel describe the interaction of the region in three spheres: core sector, periphery sector and an intrusive system. The core sector consists of a shared social, political, economic or organisational background or activity among the group of states which produces a central focus of international politics in that region. The peripheral sector includes all those states which are alienated from the core sector in some degree by economic, organizational, social or political factors. The intrusive sector consists of the extra regional intervention in the international relations of the region. The compactness of South Asia makes the Contori and Speigel model applicable in a limited sense. The basic characteristics of the South Asian regional state system are that; Firstly, India by virtue of its geographic size and location, economic and industrial base and military strength occupies a pivotal position in the region. The Indian aspirations for leadership, dominance or hegemony are a product of these geopolitical conditions of the region. Secondly, South Asia, minus India, has two kinds of powers. Pakistan is one major power that can limit Indian hegemonic aspirations. Pakistan’s own limitation comes from its geographic location and economic and military potentials.  Unlike the pre 1971 Pakistan, the present Pakistan without its eastern linkages lies, on the border of South Asia. It shares close ideological affinity with the Islamic West Asian system. Pakistan may be described as a major power of the region and classified as a “bargainer” or a “partner” in the South Asian state system. Pakistan does not have the ability to substitute India as a leader of the region, yet it can bargain with India for partnership in the decision-making of the region. Thirdly, the other type of countries would include the smaller countries like Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh; Sri Lanka bid Maldives who can pose problems to the core power through extra regional intervention, or their own internal stability. They can also legitimise the dominance of the core power by acceptance of the balance of power in the region. The major and most active power relationships in South Asia are affected by the intrusive powers. Fourthly, these extra regional powers, like the United States, Russia (formerly USSR), China and others have influenced policies of the region. All the South Asian countries, including India, have sought to use the extra regional powers’ ability to influence their advantage.

The intrinsic problems through institutions like SAARC in South Asia includes, firstly, there is a fear psychosis among the members of SAARC vis-à-vis India due to her extra ordinary achievements in all the spheres like – economic growth rate, military strength, technological advancement, nuclear strength, secular nature of society, democratic traditions and so on and so forth. The countries especially Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh are not very much comfortable with the rise of India as fast growing powers to be reckoned with. Secondly, it’s unfortunate but true that the success of SAARC has remained a prisoner of the Indo-Pak rivalry. Pakistan is insecure and fears of Indian dominance not only in this region but also in the whole world. Pakistan feels suffocated of anything and everything dominated by India. Kashmir is a “Manifestation of Conflict” between India and Pakistan. This fundamental diversity in the views of India and Pakistan manifests on the issue of Kashmir, an issue that has come to be identified by Pakistan as the core of the bilateral divide. Thirdly, there is a crisis of identity among the member countries. All the members prefer to be get aligned to one or more other regional organisations than identifying themselves with SAARC for example Pakistan is more inclined to OIC (Organization of Islamic Countries) and feel more secured and comfortable to be a part of “muslim solidarity regime” likewise, Sri Lanka, Maldives and India are more concerned to identify themselves as the members of ASEAN.

Fourth problem is there are inherent shortcomings in the working of SAARC as it is written down in its charter that no bilateral and conflictual issues would discuss at its platform. Besides this, the method of taking decision is also faulted as it is based on consensus of all the members. Hence, many issues remain unsolved. Fifth problem is the security and political deviations among the members always overshadowed the prospects of economic and socio- cultural conversions. The various conflictual issues among the members are operating as a stumbling block in the way of their cooperation and normalisation. Each member of SAARC is having diverse security threats perception as Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka consider India as the biggest threat to their security. On the other hand, India considered the growing influence and interference of outside powers like USA and China in to this region as the biggest threat to her security. But, all the member states fail to articulate their common threat perceptions like poverty, unemployment, terrorism, environmental degradation etc. Sixthly, there is a failure on the part of the civil society of the South Asian region. Although, there are over One lakh NGOs in this region but these have remained non- effective in nature. The civil society and society central model needs the will of the states to operate effectively but unfortunately it is still operating in the state- centric model which has limited its utility and credibility. Lastly, there is a big failure on the part of the leadership because it has failed to articulate and operationalise the process of regional cooperation. They only meet at SAARC summits, issue formal speeches but fail to articulate and channelize the peace process into the right track. So, it has remained largely as a dysfunctional regional organization. But, still there is a ray of hope for SAARC for becoming a successful regional organization.

Firstly, SAARC would get the maximum dividend from the Indo- Pak peace process and CBMs. The need of the time is to address the complicated issues between both the countries in order to make SAARC a success in the real sense of the term. Secondly, India should address the genuine concerns of the SAARC members. India being the leading country of the region should try to address the power differential of the region in order to gain the trust of SAARC members. Infact, India has taken some steps to lessen the power differential by solving the contentious issues of “Kachathivu” with Sri Lanka and of Teen Bhiga with Bangladesh and by adopting the Gujral doctrine in 1997 for increasing the trust-surplus and for accommodating the concerns of the SAARC members. Thirdly, the SAARC Charter needs to be amended. The bilateral conflictual issues should be discussed at the SAARC platform because only an effective dispute-redress mechanism could help in shrinking the areas of conflict and expanding the areas of trust and cooperation. Further, the operational principle of consensus voting should be replaced by extra ordinary majority. Fourthly, the SAARC members should change their security perceptions and move on from the conventional threats to non-conventional threats which are more threatening to the existence of these SAARC members. There are crisis of governability, threats of terrorism (an instance of which is the 26/11 Mumbai Attacks in India), poverty, unemployment, economic slowdown, environmental threats, decreasing sex ratio, corruption etc. The SAARC members should try to counter these non- conventional threats collectively from the platform of SAARC. To conclude, it can be said that if European Union, ASEAN, could become successful organizations then why not SAARC? If SAARC members initiate some sincere efforts to make SAARC a strong dispute redress mechanism, it can become a very successful regional organization. The need of the time is that SAARC should come out of the state-centric model and to change the negative mindset of the SAARC countries.

The Green Taxation Framework

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“There is enough for everyone’s need but not enough for everyone’s greed” according to the father of the Indian nation – Mahatma Gandhi. It quite seems that people did not relate well to this quotation. The planet Earth of almost 4.5 billion years has been damaged beyond repair as a result of selfish human activities. This gave rise to the concept of “Climate- Change” which refers to the increase in the concentration of carbon dioxide which is a poisonous greenhouse gas which as a result leads to an increase in the average global temperature of the earth’s surface. Climate change as a concept has further being bifurcated into – “Anthropogenic Climate Change” (caused by humans) and “Natural Climate Change” (caused by any natural phenomenon).  Its sister concept “Global Warming” has a different meaning altogether, and that refers to the long-term trend of the rising temperature of the earth and its oceans. Hence, global warming is a continuous process.

The causes for climate change are plenty and wide-ranging.  Some of the natural causes include: variation in the earth’s orbital characteristics, atmospheric C02 variations, volcanic eruptions and variation in solar output.  On the other side of the coin, some of the man-made or humanly-inflicted causes include: burning of fossil fuels, landfills and use of synthetic gases (e.g.: production of aerosols), deforestation leads to 15% of the carbon – dioxide emissions and difficulty in the process of photosynthesis, lack of recycling, the decomposition of organic matter gives rise to methane which is also a major greenhouse gas.

The causes eventually led to consequences which were catastrophic and disastrous.  Effects of climate change included ecological disturbance, more warmer days and few colder days, rise in the sea level as a result of melting of ice and glaciers, i.e. 25% of glacier already melted in Antarctica, disturbance in bio-diversity, i.e. – food chain is disturbed. Moreover, the society is hit by the different dimensions of pollution, i.e. water pollution, air pollution, and noise pollution.  The first dimension has created the hazard of unclean, dirty and undrinkable water. The next dimension has transformed climate change into a public health risk wherein people suffer from serious health and respiratory problems such as bronchitis, emphysema, asthma, shortened breath and its likes. The last dimension is noise pollution which again causes hyper-tension, hearing impairment and extreme public disorder in the society. When these were not enough, we have more effects of climate change, and they are inclusive of acidic seawater which is the reason for the increment in the fatality rates of the marine life which is an essential part of planet earth, hurricanes have changed in frequency and strength, heavier rainfall causes flooding, droughts are frequent.

Post- the destruction caused, the administrative officials had to come in the picture to control, or combat the situation.  Various divisions of the administration worked towards the good of the climate, but this project will mainly highlight the works of service tax and other tax related bodies which falls under the ambit of the finance ministry.  So, thereby, the crux of this project is the different kinds of taxes levied in order to control any further damage to the planet earth which essentially we inhabit.  The green tax is one of them.  Green tax refers to a type of tax in which tax is imposed on environmental pollutants or on goods whose repeated use contributes to pollution. In India, the state government imposes it on old vehicles to curb air pollution. The concept of green taxation can also be referred to as “active control” because instead of discouraging certain kinds of peculiar behaviours, we seek to encourage positive attitudes.  Green taxation can also be referred to as an incentive, an economic benefit granted in the form of taxes to give a push to the economic, social and cultural activities. The practice of giving incentives is not new in the automotive and construction industries. The Brazilian community is using incentives to uphold and grow the cause of sustainable development which refers to “a type of development wherein resources are to be saved for the future generations by wise usage of the same”.  These incentives can be exemplified through the mentioning of the PES which is the Payments for Environmental Services which are a type of incentive offered to farmers or land-owners in exchange for managing their lands well and providing some ecological- services. As we bifurcate further, the examples of PES techniques in Brazil are environmental compensation which means companies cover –up financially for damage that is unavoidable, reforestation, i.e.: the planting of trees (along with compliance with forest management rules)  which is mainly focused on timber companies, tax exemptions for private reserves of natural heritage. Other countries also use the instrument of PES to protect the environment such as Mexico in the area of preserving rural properties and Costa Rica imposing tax on gasoline and water.

Adding to these, the polluters pay principle (party responsible for pollution is also responsible for paying for the damage done as a result) is a concept which envisages compensation for the use of naturally created resources.  The sister concept is “the users pay” which distinguishes between the offender and the polluter.

Another variety of environmental tax is a “carbon tax” which is imposed on the varied amounts of carbon emissions.  The main idea behind the implementation of the “carbon tax” is to raise or increase the cost of fossil fuels – the prime source of carbon emissions, which in turn would help to protect the environment while at the same time raising significant revenues (due to raise of revenue factor carbon tax can also be referred to as a fiscal environmental tax). By imposition, of the carbon tax the burden would massively fall on energy-intensive industries, transportation industries and lower – income households. The impact of the carbon tax would be different on different economic classes, i.e.: the lower class, the middle class, the high class and this impact will be based on two parameters:  energy price changes and regional energy production and consumption pattern. The distributional impacts of carbon tax would depend on elasticity of demand which means if demand for goods do not get affected by the change in prices then the consumers will bear the greater burden in comparison to workers or investors because the consumers will use the goods and the more they use it the greater will be the carbon – emission. Furthermore, the regressive impacts of carbon tax can be controlled by reducing social security contributions by low- income households, compensating workers in carbon intensive industries and so on and so forth.  The carbon dioxide emissions cause the same climate damage regardless of where they originate. So, on a utopian level of thinking, all countries would charge the same tax- rate but such is not the case.  Countries face difficulties in the enactment of the carbon tax because most of the tax burden would be taken in by individuals and businesses but the benefit of the reduced emissions would go to other countries. International cooperation for this very conflicting nature is necessary to prevent climate change, and this cooperation project is being handled by the UNFCC (United Nations Framework Conventions on Climate Change). Cooperation among the major carbon- producing nations would cover more than 70% percent of greenhouse gases emissions. The next kind of tax is the cost – covering charges which are created to cover the costs of environmental services such as water treatment and which perhaps will be used for associated environmental expenditures.

Other than the usual taxes being implemented, we need to wider the tax bases for better use of the concept of environmental taxation.   One of the many ways could be, synergising  environmental taxation with education wherein the government can provide scholarships to kids, on the condition that they have to plant 10 trees at a minimum figure and 25 at the maximum.  To make the maximum use of this nascent concept of “environmental taxation” for environmental protection we can also levy taxes on commercial constructions and over – consumption of electricity, or over the limit consumption of electricity because the small cities and rural areas do not get the privilege of electricity and the city people just misuse this privilege, i.e. using air conditioners in homes and offices which should on logical grounds be taxable. While assuming a hypothetical situation, in which the clear focus is on “carbon- foot print”. Say, if a person has a carbon-foot print ranging from 950 to 1600, which is a lot then the person will have to pay taxes in proportion to the damage done and that could be 30% of their finances or even 40 %  or maybe even higher for the same. So, in this manner the society members would keep a strong check on their carbon emission rates and will be stimulated at a much greater level from the sensitivity that comes with climate change and the damages which have been done upon our very own – Planet Earth.  On a very interesting note, we can have “taxation on knowledge” which indicates that a certain basic information about our planet, the climate, the very well- known concept of climate change and the hazards that are associated with it, the 17 sustainable development goals and that earlier these were called millennium development goals and much more. Such basics are to be known to all, or else the individual shall be taxed on regulated parameters. The knowledge tax will benefit in the manner that the society will be more aware of what they are doing and that they will eventually become more and more sensitive to the climate, to the environment and on broader lines – Planet Earth. And, its needs, which further will create an inner – urge to act carefully, wisely and selflessly.

Beyond these, the Municipal Corporation and the local bodies should also be taxed upon their illegitimate or unnoticed activities related to cutting of trees in colonies, and other crowd – infested areas as we look forward to a balanced society inclusive of both infrastructure and the pleasant greenery and cannot let a body of few authorities trying to change that illegitimately or in undue or unacceptably corrupt ways.  Next, we can tax people on non-plantation of peepal tree, specie of an Indian tree, as they are carbon sinks and are good for the environment. The last thought on taxation is in regards to the “psychological taxation” wherein there has to be direct interaction between the authority and the citizens and one and one campaign on pouring sensitivities regarding climate change and how to further not damage the planet. The desire to save the planet has to come from within. Here, mind matters over money as committing damage and giving money is not the solution as that would cause endless damage. Thereby, talks and dialogues and awareness campaigns become extremely necessary.

We need to imbibe from the west, as far as creation of institutions is concerned. They have done a lot in the area of climate change and we need to gain from it. They have the United Nations, European Union, United Nations Framework Convention for Climate, Paris Peace Conferences, COPs (e.g.: Cop 21) and so on. We need to start walking on these footsteps for greater mass awareness and involvement, for greater general participation and enormous awareness. It is time we start working on the lines of “climate peace” and save it from being destroyed.  We are still behind as far as creation of institutions is concerned.  We need to string a note here as well and give a fraction of our focus to this.

The last concept that this project makes an attempt to address is the dream of a probable and a very much possible smart city. A smart city is also an ideal city. A city one dreams of living in. The smart city being talked about here is the city everyone wishes to live in.  Everyone wants to live here because the very nature of a smart of city is “balanced”. It has the right of amount of greenery and tax impositions and government laws and rules are pretty much redundant here. People here are sensitive, happy, selfless and environment friendly and also hold a highly balance approach towards everything. There are environment – friendly festivals here such as Plantation Day Festival.  The Swach Bharat Abhiyan is quite a success story in the smart city as nobody litters here and there and have a very strong civic sense and take all kinds of environment friendly initiatives like car-pooling and getting their cars checked for pollution free movement. They also help the government in their various tasks as in when the government orders from attending campaigns to mobilising crowd. The people are well – aware of the importance of the environment here. We have some great buildings and ample amount of residential and other related kinds of infrastructures like hospitals, police stations and eating joints and so on.  This one is truly a smart city with great citizens.

In a nut shell, well–designed fiscal policies should very much be central to the efforts to promote cleaner and, greener economies. Environmental tax is a boon to curb the problem of environmental degradation and to stop any kind of further damage. Nevertheless, the people should also be a self-conscious lot because the government cannot do a lot without its people’s participation and support.