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Editorials/Opinions Analysis For UPSC 19 July 2023


Editorials/Opinions Analysis For UPSC 19 July 2023


Contents

  1. India and Sri Lanka Relations
  2. India’s Voter Choice and Electoral Alliances

India and Sri Lanka Relations


Context

In a recent incident, the Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s proposal to execute the 13th Amendment without giving police powers was bluntly rejected by the Tamil National Alliance (TNA). Despite being in place for more than 30 years, the 13th Amendment, which focuses on power devolution, has never been fully implemented.

Relevance

GS Paper 2 – International Relations

Mains Question

Talk about the importance of Sri Lanka’s 13th Constitutional Amendment, its contentiousness, and its ability to allay Tamil concerns and advance inclusive governance. (150 Words)


About the 13th Amendment to the Constitution

  • The Indo-Lanka Accord, which was signed in July 1987 by President J.R. Jayawardene of Sri Lanka and then-Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, led to the 13th Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a militant group calling for Tamil self-determination and a separate state, and the armed forces were engaged in a civil war in Sri Lanka that this document sought to address.
  • The 13th Amendment, which was enacted in 1987, established provincial governments around the nation, including nine provincial councils. English was classified as a link language, while Tamil was acknowledged as an official language. Dealing with the Tamils’ quest for self-determination, which had gained major political traction by the 1980s, was one of its main goals.
  • The amendment described a power-sharing framework that permitted the exercise of self-governance powers in all nine of Sri Lanka’s provinces, including those with a majority of Sinhala people. It aimed to offer a framework for the devolution of authority and increased provincial autonomy.

What the 13th Constitutional Amendment Means

  • In light of Sri Lanka’s history of increasing Sinhala-Buddhist majoritarianism since achieving independence in 1948, the 13th Amendment to the country’s constitution is seen as a significant accomplishment. When fully implemented, the amendment will give provincial councils extensive devolutionary authority over matters including law enforcement, housing, land use, and the regulation of education, health, and agriculture.
  • The goal of the amendment is to build harmony among Sri Lanka’s many communities, establishing a sense of coexistence and enabling them to coexist as a one nation. The 13th Amendment aims to address the complaints and aspirations of marginalised people, particularly the Tamils, and build a more inclusive and equitable governance system by strengthening provincial councils and recognising the rights of various areas.

Why is it disputed?

  • Due to its connection to the nation’s civil war years, the 13th Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution has been received with hostility and scepticism from a number of sources. The LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) viewed the devolution of power as insufficient, while Sinhala nationalist groups were adamantly opposed.
  • A sizeable segment of the Sinhala political scene, particularly the leftist-nationalist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), which organised an armed uprising against the amendment, saw it as an example of unwelcome Indian meddling. The Accord and the ensuing legislation, despite being signed by President Jayawardene, were largely regarded as being imposed by India because it was perceived as a neighbouring country with hegemonic power.
  • The 13th Amendment is viewed as lacking in scope and substance within the Tamil polity, notably among prominent nationalist factions, and as failing to address their objectives. However, some see it as a major starting point that can serve as a basis for continued progress and development in addressing Tamil concerns, notably the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), which represented the Tamils of the north and east in Parliament until recent elections.

An Overview of India-Lankan Relations

Foreign Relations:

  • There is no doubt that India and Sri Lanka have had a close association for more than 2,500 years. The relationships between the two nations have been shaped by a long history of linguistic, cultural, and intellectual contacts. India and Sri Lanka are neighbours, and this proximity has made it easier for them to communicate and grow their relationship.
  • In recent years, frequent and substantive encounters at the highest political level have distinguished the bilateral relationship between India and Sri Lanka. Both nations understand how crucial it is to get in touch frequently and to have frank discussions in order to deepen their bonds and tackle common issues.
  • The development of understanding and collaboration between India and Sri Lanka has been greatly aided by bilateral exchanges at all levels. Leaders, ministers, officials, and representatives from both countries make trips as part of these exchanges. These high-level exchanges provide a forum for discussing a variety of topics, including political, economic, cultural, and strategic challenges.

Political connections

  • Sri Lanka’s underprivileged populations and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) have benefited from development assistance programmes from India, which have contributed significantly to the two nations’ relationship. These initiatives sought to assist and strengthen weak communities impacted by the three-decade-long armed conflict and its fallout.
  • India backed the right of the Government of Sri Lanka to take action against terrorist groups during the course of the fight between Sri Lankan forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which concluded in 2009. India stressed that the rights and welfare of the primarily Tamil civilian population should not be jeopardised in the struggle against the LTTE, but it also voiced genuine compassion for their predicament.

Regarding LTTE

  • The main goal of the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam), founded in 1976 by its commander Prabhakaran, was to create a separate homeland for Tamils in Sri Lanka’s northern and eastern provinces.
  • 13 soldiers were killed in the group’s first significant attack in July 1983, which was directed at an army patrol in Tirunelveli, Jaffna. Violent retaliation against Tamil people by the dominant community was brought on by this tragedy. The LTTE initially concentrated on suppressing rival Tamil groups and establishing its dominance as the lone voice of Sri Lankan Tamils. It successfully took over Jaffna by 1986.
  • Numerous skirmishes between the government and the LTTE resulted in the displacement and suffering of people, especially Tamils. Many Tamil people were compelled to flee their homes and find safety in the country’s east.
  • India has often emphasised the necessity of achieving national harmony in Sri Lanka through a political resolution of the ethnic conflict. In the context of a united Sri Lanka, the nation has pushed for a diplomatic political resolution that is acceptable to all groups while preserving democratic, pluralist, and human rights ideals. At the highest levels, India has reaffirmed this position, emphasising the significance of addressing the conflict’s root causes and fostering long-term peace and harmony.
  • Prime Minister Wickremesinghe has recognised India as the “only nation” to help his country in recent years when it has faced crises like food, fuel, and medicinal shortages. This emphasises the importance of the friendship between India and Sri Lanka as well as India’s willingness to stand behind its neighbour under trying circumstances.
  • India’s support and assistance to Sri Lanka during and after the armed war not only helped with humanitarian operations but also deepened the two nations’ relationship and collaboration. India’s dedication to the welfare and development of Sri Lanka and its people is shown in the development projects and continuous aid.

relations between businesses

  • The duty-free access and tariff preferences for goods between India and Sri Lanka are made possible by the India-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement (ISFTA), which was established in 1998 and implemented in 2000.
  • In order to advance economic integration beyond trade and bring about a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) between the two nations, a Joint Study Group (JSG) was established in 2003.
  • Discussions to improve institution-to-institution collaboration in technical disciplines, scientific expertise, and research have been restarted under a new framework known as the “Economic and Technological Cooperation Agreement” (ETCA). The objective is to raise the bar for goods and services so that they can compete on the global market while also expanding chances for workforce development.

Trade

  • With a 16 percent stake, India dominates Sri Lanka’s overall international commerce.
  • Between 2000-01 and 2018-19, bilateral trade between India and Sri Lanka increased by about nine times.
  • India and Sri Lanka have historically had steady trade surpluses.
  • The main goods that India exported to Sri Lanka in 2018–19 were mineral fuels, ships and boats, and vehicles, which made up a combined 43 percent of all exports.
  • Ships and boats, leftovers and waste from the food industry, as well as coffee, tea, mate, and spices, made up India’s main imports, accounting for 56 percent of all imports.
  • India’s exports to Sri Lanka are becoming less competitive due to rising competition from China’s exports to Sri Lanka.

cooperation for development

  • The Government of India (GOI) has made a total promise of more than USD 3.5 billion, although India has only given Sri Lanka grants of about USD 570 million.
  • The Sri Lankan government and EXIM Bank agreed to a line of credit (LoC) of $100 million on June 16, 2021, to be used for Sri Lankan solar project implementation.
  • The Government of India (GoI) launched the Indian Housing Project, a flagship grant project intended to build 50,000 homes in war-affected areas and for estate workers in plantation districts.
  • The nationwide Emergency Ambulance Service of 1990 is another noteworthy flagship project.
  • Several significant grant projects, such as the construction of the 150-bed Dickoya Hospital, the provision of livelihood assistance to nearly 70,000 people from the farming and fishing communities in Hambantota, the provision of medical equipment to the Vavuniya Hospital, and the provision of 150 boats and fishing equipment for Mullaithivu fishermen, have been successfully completed.
  • Ruhuna University in Matara is home to the largest auditorium in any Sri Lankan university, which is named after Rabindranath Tagore. It has 1500 seats.
  • Under a USD 318 million Line of Credit (LoC), various projects relating to the purchase of rolling stock for Sri Lankan Railways, the upgrade of railway tracks, and the development of a railway workshop are in various stages of implementation.

Interracial Relations

  • The basis for ongoing cultural exchange programmes between India and Sri Lanka is the Cultural Cooperation Agreement, which was signed by the governments of both countries in 1977.
  • Since Emperor Ashoka sent his offspring Arhat Mahinda and Theri Sangamitta to preach the teachings of Lord Buddha at the request of Sri Lankan King Devanampiya Tissa, Buddhism has served as a crucial link between India and Sri Lanka.
  • The venerated Kapilawasthu relics of the Lord Buddha, which were found in India in 1970, have twice been displayed in Sri Lanka.
  • On September 26, 2020, Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi announced a grant assistance of USD 15 million for the maintenance and enhancement of Buddhist connections between the two nations at the Virtual Bilateral Summit between India and Sri Lanka.
  • The Kushinagar Airport in India, the location of Lord Buddha’s Mahaparinibbana, was designated an international airport by the Indian government in July 2020. Buddhist pilgrims can now easily travel to the treasured site from all around the world, including Sri Lanka, thanks to this decision. After that, the first flight from Sri Lanka took off.
  • The Swami Vivekananda Cultural Centre (SVCC), the cultural branch of the Indian High Commission in Colombo, has been instrumental in bolstering links and encouraging people-to-people exchanges between India and Sri Lanka ever since it was founded in 1998.
  • To facilitate Sri Lankan tourists’ travel to India and to promote tourism between the two nations, India created the e-Tourist Visa (eTV) programme in 2015.

Security

  • Slinex is the name of the naval exercise, while Mitra Shakthi is the name of the joint military exercise between India and Sri Lanka.
  • To advance their defence cooperation and ties, the defence teams from both nations recently gathered at the Colombo Security Conclave (CSC) summit in Kochi, India.

Problems and worries

  • In the past, India and Sri Lanka have prioritised their bilateral relations around important topics like security cooperation, racial tensions, the fishers’ dispute, and the business environment.
  • When it came to investments, the Rajapaksa administration received criticism for the pricey investment deals made with India, particularly in the electricity industry, which ran afoul of political opponents.
  • As a result of China’s large investments made under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in Sri Lanka, the country has attempted to maintain a balance in its relations with both India and China. Sri Lanka’s relationship with India has been damaged by this delicate balancing act as a result of India’s different position on China.
  • On the issue of fisheries, Indian fishermen are routinely detained, and their boats and gear are seized, on the grounds that they are poaching in Sri Lankan waters and breaking the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL).
  • The 12 nautical miles of international waters in the Palk Strait are covered by a number of maritime boundary agreements between the two nations. The conditions of these agreements aren’t always followed, though.
  • The Sri Lankan Navy claims that Indian fishermen violated the established boundaries and committed poaching within Sri Lanka’s exclusive economic zone. Sri Lanka’s criticism of India’s long-standing employment of bottom trawlers in the Palk Strait is another area of conflict.
  • Although there is no evidence that Chinese economic investments have led to any military or security partnership that should worry New Delhi, India continues to be concerned about China’s influence in Sri Lanka.
  • The Colombo Port City project, which was financed by China, faces unclear future.
  • Ethnic concerns, such as Tamil community requests and responses from the majority Sinhala-Buddhist population, also have a big impact on the bilateral relationship.
  • The Indo-Sri Lanka Accord, which was signed on July 29, 1987, resulted in the 13th Amendment to Sri Lanka’s Constitution, which has yet to be fully implemented.

Conclusion

  • India has long placed a high priority on fostering connections with its neighbours, particularly Sri Lanka, as dictated by its “Neighbourhood First policy”. India is willing to go above and above to help Sri Lanka in light of the current crisis and support its efforts to reach its full potential while nurturing a peaceful and stable neighbourhood.
  • India acknowledges the strategic significance of its relationship with Sri Lanka as a co-member of SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) and BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation). Sri Lanka has great significance for India in terms of regional cooperation and connectivity due to its advantageous geographic location.
  • Given the potential benefits of a solid and cooperative alliance for both nations, the future of India-Sri Lanka relations appears bright. Sri Lanka must learn from its interactions with other countries and acknowledge the dependability and reliability of a friend like India. Sri Lanka may take advantage of the many benefits that come with a safe and friendly neighbourhood by making the most of the possibilities of a close alliance with India.
  • In conclusion, the foundation for a bright future is laid by the solid and mutually beneficial relationship between India and Sri Lanka, cultivated through groups like SAARC and BIMSTEC, as well as by India’s strategic interests and Sri Lanka’s potential. Sri Lanka can take advantage of the chances offered by a trustworthy friend like India by applying the lessons discovered from interactions with other countries, such as China.

India’s Voter Choice and Electoral Alliances


Context

A substantial number of parties hold seats in Parliament, and India is a diversified and multi-party democracy with a huge number of parties running in general elections.Due of India’s distinctive political variety, the country’s present electoral system, known as the First Past the Post (FPTP) approach, has certain flaws. The FPTP system frequently rewards vote splitting among several parties and promotes opportunistic coalitions between parties.

Relevance: 

GS Paper 2 : Polity – Election

Mains Question

Examine the concept of approval voting as a potential remedy to overcome the shortcomings of the First Past the Post (FPTP) system in the context of India’s diverse and multi-party democracy. Examine how approval voting enhances voter choice, lessens fragmentation, and fosters ideological politics. Talk about the difficulties and potential solutions for the effective introduction of approval voting in India. (250 Words)


Different electoral systems

  • The FPTP system is characterised by voters selecting just one candidate, and regardless of whether they have a majority, the candidate who receives the most votes wins.
  • Alternative electoral systems, like Proportional Representation (PR) systems, distribute seats in accordance with the proportion of the popular vote that each party earned.
  • While Score Voting Systems assign candidates a numerical score, Ranked Voting Systems allow voters to rank candidates in order of preference.
  • On the other hand, approval voting enables voters to pick as many candidates or parties as they desire from a menu of choices. The candidate or party with the most voter approval is declared the winner. It varies from FPTP in that it does not need candidates to have a majority and permits voters to support several options. It has been utilised in a many of elections, including those for the Pope sometimes, the United Nations, and US party primaries.

FPTP

Questions have been raised recently because the NDA received just 31% of the votes cast overall in the 2014 election, meaning that 69% of eligible voters abstained. Because of this arrangement, political party coalitions that received less than 50% of the total votes cast were able to win more than 75% of the available parliamentary seats. The claim is that because of FPTP, some groups of individuals will never participate in the political system.

Advantages of the FPTP method

  • Ease of use and voting that is candidate-focused.
  • Constancy and the possibility of majority regimes.
  • Promotes connections between constituents and legislators and broad party engagement.
  • Negative aspects of the FPTP system:
  • The exclusion of local or small parties.
  • The discrepancy between vote and seat distribution.
  • Insufficient representation for political parties with sizable vote percentages.
  • India’s Proportional Representation (PR) System
  • The proportional representation system is not new to India; in our nation, the following elections are held using this system:
  • President, Vice President, and Rajya Sabha members
    • State legislative council members
  • Proportional representation (PR) benefits include:
    • Ensures that minor parties are represented fairly.
    • Promotes increased participation and diversity of groups.
    • Promotes diversity and gives voters more options.
  • The following are some drawbacks of PR: • Coalition governments may be formed, which could result in instability.
    • Could make it harder for voters to relate to certain politicians directly.
    • The voting process’s complexity in comparison to other systems.

Election coalitions:

  • A Response to First-Past-the-Post System Political parties frequently form coalitions in India under the first-past-the-post (FPTP) electoral system to avoid vote splitting.
  • The FPTP system has created a fragmented political scene, with more than 600 parties taking part in general elections. Parties intentionally work together to increase their prospects of obtaining seats by consolidating voter support. Even though these coalitions are formed to ensure political victory, they may not always represent the parties’ common ideologies or moral principles.
  • The Need for a More Effective Electoral Method in India The proliferation of electoral alliances suggests that the current system does not adequately represent the diverse range of political views in the nation. The complexity of India’s political diversity and the limitations of the FPTP system.Alternative voting procedures can be investigated to increase voter choice and promote a more inclusive and representative democratic process in order to address this.

Introducing Many Of The Above (MOTA) Approval Voting

  • Another kind of voting is approval voting, often known as Many Of The Above (MOTA).
  • In contrast to the FPTP system, which only allows voters to choose one candidate, approval voting enables voters to select as many candidates as they like.
  • A voter can support various parties under this system, indicating their choice for a greater variety of candidates. By giving voters more options, approval voting lessens the need for intricate and fragile electoral coalitions.

Approval voting has benefits in a multi-party democracy.

  • In multi-party democracies, approval voting has shown to be effective. By allowing voters to express support for various candidates, voter fragmentation is reduced, and public mood is more accurately reflected.
  • With approval voting, voters can select numerous candidates or political parties without worrying about abstaining or supporting their least favourite choice. By reducing the necessity for pre-election coalitions and seat-sharing arrangements, it can also deter post-election defections and political vote-trading.
  • A new option named MOTA (Many of the Above), which would be similar to the current NOTA (None of the Above) option, might be introduced to the ballot in order to implement approval voting in India. By allowing voters to select numerous candidates or parties, MOTA would maintain the current electoral system while fostering a more inclusive electoral process.
  • There are several advantages to approval voting for India, including the ability to increase voter engagement and turnout by giving voters more options and flexibility to voice their opinions. By promoting the discussion of reasonable and inclusive options, it may also lessen polarisation. Additionally, by requiring candidates and parties to target a wider electorate, it might improve representation and accountability.
  • Studies and observations from other nations that have used approval voting have demonstrated that it results in outcomes that are more likely to be supported by the majority of voters.
  • Given that voters can express their preferences without being confined by the FPTP system, this strategy encourages a more diverse and representative political environment.

Challenges of Approval Voting

  • The implementation of approval voting, however, may provide difficulties. Since the idea is still fairly new in Indian politics, education and awareness initiatives are needed to acquaint voters with the process.
  • Established parties may oppose the move because they believe it would alter the dynamics of the election or their power.
  • It can also be necessary to resolve results that are fragmented and legal issues.

Transforming Indian Politics:

  • The introduction of approval voting in India has the potential to profoundly alter the dynamics of political coalitions, moving them from opportunistic to ideological politics. It promotes a move towards intellectual politics and lessens the reliance on opportunistic partnerships created only to avoid vote splitting.
  • Voters can express their choices for different candidates or parties that match with their beliefs and ideals, as opposed to parties being coerced into forced alliances.
  • Voting for approval offers a more complex and accurate depiction of voter preferences, promoting a political environment that prioritises ideological alignment above tactical alliances.

Way forward

Steps that Can Be Taken India can adopt and successfully use approval voting. The successful implementation of approval voting can be facilitated by raising awareness and educating the public, running pilot projects and case studies, working with political parties, seeking international collaboration and expert consultation, and encouraging public conversation and debates.

Conclusion

It is possible that the problems caused by the FPTP system and the frequency of electoral alliances will be resolved in India if approval voting is implemented. Approval voting can result in a more representative and inclusive democratic process by increasing voter choice and decreasing voter fragmentation. This change may inspire parties to place more emphasis on ideology and values than on opportunistic partnerships, which could ultimately make Indian politics more representative of the varied viewpoints and aspirations of its people.


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