GS Paper II – Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

Commerce Dept. special arm may drive foreign trade policy

What’s Happening-
According to a government-commissioned report: India’s future trade (policy) model should have the Commerce Department at the helm, supported by ministries including External Affairs and Finance, while a ‘transformed’ Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) should be the apex body for all trade promotion activities for the country.
India’s foreign trade strategy and policy is currently being piloted predominantly by the Prime Minister’s Office and External Affairs Ministry.

Key Points discussed were:

Frost & Sullivan report:

  • The report — prepared by the global consultancy firm Frost & Sullivan and submitted to the commerce & industry ministry.
  • Report makes a strong case for a higher profile for the Indian Trade Service (ITS) in matters of trade policies & systems.
  • At present, the officials belonging to the Indian Administrative Service, Foreign Service and Revenue Service evidently have a relatively superior role over ITS cadre regarding decisions on crucial trade policy matters.
  • The report proposed that “… a dedicated ministerial arm under Department of Commerce will deal exclusively with trade-related policy inputs, their formulation and their rollout with the bulk of implementation work handled by a digital platform.”
  • The Frost & Sullivan report advocated that “the operational implementation of the Foreign Trade Policy (FTP) should reside with the department of commerce providing the trade community one single entity to deal with.”

Small, yet efficient:

  • It observed: “The Prime Minister’s preferred model of a small and yet efficient government acting as a facilitator for businesses is most relevant and applicable to the DGFT. Furthermore, there is a critical need to transform the current DGFT by taking a holistic view of the existent trade environment in the country.”
  • The report mooted that a transformed DGFT should be made accountable for all trade promotion activities for India — providing services such as trade representation in foreign countries, research & development, market intelligence, business matchmaking services as well as public relations, advertising and marketing services.

Frost & Sullivan report:
Recruit professionals:
Noting that the DGFT needs to re-skill its resources to be successful, the report said: “Future recruitment should focus on professionals with experience and qualifications in trade and commerce from reputed institutions.”
For an improvement in India’s performance on the ease of doing business – currently ranked 130 out of 190 countries and particularly on the parameter of ‘trading across borders’ (where India is) currently ranked at a dismal 143 – it is imperative to deploy digital technology to transform the experience of doing trade in the country,” according to the report.

Sources- The Indian Express, The Hindu, MEA.

GS Paper II –International Relations

Switzerland votes on relaxed citizenship laws

What’s Happening-
Switzerland voted on Sunday on whether to make it easier for third generation immigrants to become citizens, after a campaign tainted by anti-Muslim messages and charges of religious prejudice.

Key Points discussed were:

  • Preliminary results pointed to the measure being approved, in what would be a defeat for the far right nationalist Swiss People’s Party (SVP), which put issues of Islam and national identity at the centre of the debate.
  • The government as well as most lawmakers and political parties supported the proposal that would allow the grandchildren of immigrants to skip several steps in the lengthy process of securing a Swiss passport.

Issue of Italian immigrants:

  • According to a migration department study, less than 25,000 people in the country of about eight million currently qualify as third generation immigrants, meaning they have at least one grandparent who was born here or acquired Swiss residency.
  • Nearly 60 per cent of that group are Italians, followed by those with origins in the Balkans and Turkish nationals.
  • It was the SVP, a party repeatedly accused of demonising Islam, that focused on the risks of more Muslims becoming citizens and the possible “loss of Swiss values.
  • The No camp faced heavy criticism over a widely-distributed poster showing a woman staring out from a black niqab with a tagline urging voters to reject “uncontrolled citizenship”.

Political initiatives that either directly or implicitly target Muslims may be on the rise in the West, notably including U.S. President Donald Trump’s travel ban against seven mainly Muslim countries, which was undone in court last week. But in Switzerland such moves are nothing new.
The SVP in 2009 successfully persuaded Swiss voters to approve a ban on new mosque minaret construction, while religiously-charged messages have been a part of multiple referendums on immigration since.
Constitutional Requirement:
A change to citizenship laws requires a constitutional amendment, meaning the Yes side needs to win both a majority of votes and a majority of Switzerland’s 26 cantons.
A win for ‘Yes’ will make it easier
for third-generation immigrants to
become citizens.

Sources- The Indian Express, The Hindu, MEA.