THE HINDU EDITORIAL – September 21, 2017

a) A time of strategic partnerships

India pulled out all the stops last week to welcome Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe on the occasion of his fourth annual summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The India-Japan “Special Strategic and Global Partnership” — a designation and status New Delhi accords to no other partner — has reached new heights under the stewardship of the two leaders. The rise of China and questions about America’s commitment in Asia have drawn them into a deepening security-cum-economic relationship. How deep is it? As Mr. Abe wrapped up his visit last Thursday, speculation arose on the possibility of an evolving “alliance” between the two countries given just how much their interests converge. Such analyses, though pointing in the right direction, may not capture the true nature of the India-Japan “strategic partnership.” The India-Japan synergy has two key elements. Japan is investing heavily in strengthening its critical infrastructure to enhance its economic and potential defence capabilities. Simultaneously, the two countries have begun working on a joint infrastructure development and connectivity drive traversing the Indian Ocean, from Myanmar to Sri Lanka to Iran and encompassing the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor. On defence matters, Japan and India have agreed to establish regular consultations in the “2+2” format of their defence and foreign ministries. Their navies exercise regularly together with the U.S. Navy. And negotiations on arms sales — notably, the ShinMaywa US-2i amphibious aircraft — are on. Japanese investment in the strategically placed Andaman and Nicobar Islands is likely to help New Delhi establish a major security sentinel in the eastern Indian Ocean.

Strategic partnerships

But this is not an alliance in the making. Alliances are passé and only a few continue gingerly from the Cold War era. We live in a world today driven by “strategic partnerships”. States find themselves in an interdependent system where the traditional power politics of yesteryear doesn’t quite t. After all, every major relationship characterised by strategic tension such as U.S.-China, Japan-China, India China is simultaneously one of economic gain. The U.S. and China are each other’s chief trading partners, while China ranks at the top for Japan and India. Besides, India might confront China at Doklam but it also wants Chinese investment. Strategic partnerships carry certain characteristic features falling short of alliances. First, unlike alliances, they do not demand commitments to a partner’s disputes with other countries. New Delhi does not take a strong position on Japan’s territorial disputes with China and Russia. Likewise, Tokyo does not openly side with India in its quarrels with China and Pakistan. For instance, Japan’s reaction to the Doklam stand-off, though critical of China implicitly, did not go beyond saying that “all parties involved should not resort to unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force.” India’s reaction to the verdict of the arbitral tribunal on the South China Sea last year, urging “all parties to show utmost respect for the UNCLOS”, reflected a similar dispensation despite Japan’s push for a stronger statement. There was also no explicit mention of the South China Sea in the latest joint statement. Strategic partnership means, first, that both retain the flexibility to continue political engagement and economic cooperation with their common adversary. Second, they avoid “entrapment”, or being dragged into a partner’s disputes and potentially into conflict, which happened in the First World War. Third, regular high-level political and military interactions facilitate a collaborative approach to strategic policies over a range of economic and military activities. India and Japan, for instance, are not only moving forward on economic and defence cooperation but are also cooperating on other important issues such as civil nuclear energy and Security Council reform. Given that resort to war is undesirable owing to economic interdependence as well as the presence of nuclear weapons, the aim of major strategic partnerships is to strengthen defences against marginal conflict, convey a determination to stand up to a strategic adversary and, overall, generate a persuasive environment that discourages potential intimidation. Occasionally, as between India and China, a “strategic partnership” is a way of opening a channel of communication and minimal cooperation intended to stabilise and develop the potential for a detente and conceivably something warmer. In this particular case, not much has been accomplished thus far, but it remains a low-cost option for expanding cooperation in the event the political fundamentals of the relationship show an upward swing.

Looking ahead

India’s two main strategic partnerships, with the U.S. and Japan, are dovetailing nicely. For New Delhi, the U.S. will remain its chief backer both to enhance India’s conventional defence capabilities and to draw political support in global political institutions, for example in components of the nuclear non proliferation regime. Japan, in the meantime, is becoming its primary collaborator in developing its economic sinews and for building a geostrategic network that offers Indian Ocean states an alternative to dependence on China. Together, the emerging structure of triangular cooperation should give Beijing pause to think.

b) A big broom

The decision by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs to crack down on so-called ‘shell companies’, disqualify select directors in these entities and debar them from taking board positions for a specified period of time cannot be faulted. This would begin the cleanup of the Augean stables of firms set up in many cases with less than bona fide intent and having virtually no business operations. However, the Union government’s move to publicise the identities of some of these individuals with a view to ‘naming and shaming’ them is fraught with risk; the devil, as always, is in the detail. While the underlying motive for this action, as cited by the ministry, of “breaking the network of shell companies” in the government’s fight against black money is laudable, there is a real danger of inadvertently tainting genuine firms and individuals. This was in evidence when the Securities Appellate Tribunal recently gave relief to some entities over trading curbs hastily imposed on them by SEBI. Also, given the sheer scale of the task at hand, with the ministry identifying more than 1.06 lakh directors for disqualification, it is imperative that there be great care and diligence to ensure that the authorities do not penalise anyone who for non-mala fide reasons failed to comply with the relevant provisions of the Companies Act. After all, when the intention is to create “an atmosphere of confidence and faith in the system” as part of improving the climate for ease of doing business, the onus must be on taking to task only those who intend to subvert the law. At a broader level, the Centre and the regulatory arms need to address the underlying systemic shortcomings that have allowed so many companies, both listed and unlisted, to become vehicles of malfeasance. For one, as so many entrepreneurs establishing medium, small or micro enterprises have found to their chagrin, it is far easier to register a firm than it is to dissolve or wind it up. Similarly, in the case of public limited companies, a major portion of the extralegal activities including price rigging of shares, insider trading and other questionable practices have been found to occur in the large mass of smaller companies. The problems of acute illiquidity, weak governance and regulatory oversight have combined with the difficulty in delisting to make these firms prime targets for financial fraudsters and money launderers. The solutions, therefore, need to be targeted at addressing the deep-rooted maladies rather than just the symptoms, making it easier for entrepreneurs to deregister and/or delist a company. The government has already shown it is prepared to act in terms of enacting the necessary legislation to address banking sector stress by adopting the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code. A simplified process, possibly online, to dissolve or delist would usher in significant benefits, including improved governance, and ensure that all stakeholders from small retail investors to corporate promoters have an enabling atmosphere to operate freely by remaining compliant with the law or risk facing stringent penal action.

WORDS/ VOCABULARY

1) Pulled out

Meaning: Withdraw from an undertaking.

Example: He was forced to pull out of the championship because of an injury.

Synonyms: Withdraw, Quit

2) Stewardship

Meaning: The job of supervising or taking care of something, such as an organization or property.

Example: The funding and stewardship of the NHS.

3) Wrapped up

Meaning: If you are wrapped up in someone or something, you are very interested in him, her, or it and ignore other people or things.

Example: She’s always been completely wrapped up in her children.

4) Speculation

Meaning: The forming of a theory or conjecture without firm evidence.

Example: There has been widespread speculation that he plans to quit.

Synonyms: Conjecture, Supposition

5) Alliance

Meaning: A union or association formed for mutual benefit, especially between countries or organizations.

Example: A defensive alliance between Australia and New Zealand.

Synonyms: Association, Entente

6) Synergy

Meaning: The interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations, substances, or other agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects.

Example: The synergy between artist and record company.

7) Encompassing

Meaning: Surround and have or hold within.

Example: This area of London encompasses Piccadilly to the north and St James’s Park to the south

Synonyms: Surround, Enclose

8) Sentinel

Meaning: A soldier or guard whose job is to stand and keep watch.

Example: Soldiers stood sentinel with their muskets.

9) Gingerly

Meaning: In a careful or cautious manner.

Example: Jackson sat down very gingerly.

Synonyms: Carefully, Watchfully

Antonyms: Carelessly, Recklessly

10) Confront

Meaning: Come face to face with (someone) with hostile or argumentative intent.

Example: 300 policemen confronted an equal number of union supporters.

Synonyms: Challenge, Oppose

Antonyms: Avoid

11) Stand-off

Meaning: Move or keep away.

Example: The women stood off at a slight distance.

12) Status quo

Meaning: The existing state of affairs, especially regarding social or political issues.

Example: They have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.

13) Arbitral tribunal

Meaning: An arbitral tribunal (or arbitration tribunal) is a panel of one or more adjudicators which is convened and sits to resolve a dispute by way of arbitration.

14) Explicit

Meaning: Stated clearly and in detail, leaving no room for confusion or doubt.

Example: The arrangement had not been made explicit.

Synonyms: Clear, Direct

15) Entrapment

Meaning: The state of being caught in or as in a trap.

Example: The feeling of entrapment grows as the roads close and the power goes out.

16) Reform

Meaning: Make changes in (something, especially an institution or practice) in order to improve it.

Example:  The Bill will reform the tax system.

Synonyms: Improve, Correct

Antonyms: Preserve, Maintain

17) Stand up

Meaning: (Of an argument, claim, evidence, etc.) remain valid after close scrutiny or analysis.

Example: You need to have hard evidence that will stand up in court.

Synonyms: Remain/be valid, Be sound

Antonyms: Fall down

18) Persuasive

Meaning: Good at persuading someone to do or believe something through reasoning or the use of temptation

Example: An informative and persuasive speech.

Synonyms: Effective, Forceful

Antonyms: Weak, Unconvincing

19) Intimidation

Meaning: The action of intimidating someone, or the state of being intimidated.

Example: The intimidation of witnesses and jurors.

Synonyms: Daunting, Alarming

20) Intended

Meaning: Planned or meant.

Example: The intended victim escaped.

Synonyms: Deliberate, Conscious

Antonyms: Accidental

21) Detente

Meaning: The easing of hostility or strained relations, especially between countries.

Example: His policy of arms control and detente with the Soviet Union.

22) Dovetailing

Meaning: Fit or cause to fit together easily and conveniently.

Example: Plan to enable parents to dovetail their career and family commitments.

Synonyms: Agree, Concur

23) Backer

Meaning: A person, institution, or country that supports someone or something, especially financially.

Example: He was the principal backer of the company.

Synonyms: Sponsor, Promoter

24) Regime

Meaning: A government, especially an authoritarian one.

Example:  Ideological opponents of the regime.

Synonyms: Rule, Reign

25) Cleanup

Meaning: An act of putting an end to immorality or crime.

Example:  A clean-up of the more open violence had begun.

26) Augean

Meaning: (Of a task or problem) requiring so much effort to complete or solve as to seem impossible.

Example: There are Augean amounts of debris to clear.

27) Fraught

Meaning: Causing or affected by anxiety or stress.

Example: There was a fraught silence.

Synonyms: Anxious, Upset

Antonyms: Calm

28) Laudable

Meaning: (Of an action, idea, or aim) deserving praise and commendation.

Example: Laudable though the aim might be, the results have been criticized.

Synonyms: Praiseworthy, Commendable

Antonyms: Blameworthy, Shamefully

29) Tainting

Meaning: Affect with a bad or undesirable quality.

Example: His administration was tainted by scandal.

Synonyms: Sully, Tarnish

Antonyms: Improve

30) Curbs

Meaning: Restrain or keep in check.

Example: She promised she would curb her temper.

Synonyms: Restrain, Control

Antonyms: Release

31) Hastily

Meaning: With excessive speed or urgency; hurriedly.

Example: Maybe I acted too hastily.

Synonyms: Quickly, Hurriedly

Antonyms: Slowly, Carefully

32) Sheer

Meaning: Nothing other than; unmitigated (used for emphasis).

Example: She giggled with sheer delight.

Synonyms: Utter, Complete

33) Penalise

Meaning: Subject to a penalty or punishment.

Example: High-spending councils will be penalized.

Synonyms: Punish, Discipline

Antonyms: Reward

34) Mala fide

Meaning: In bad faith; with intent to deceive.

Example: A mala fide abuse of position.

35) Subvert

Meaning: Undermine the power and authority of (an established system or institution).

Example: An attempt to subvert democratic government.

Synonyms: Destabilize, Overthrow

36) Malfeasance

Meaning: An example of dishonest and illegal behaviour, especially by a person in authority.

Example: Several cases of malpractice and malfeasance in the financial world are currently being investigated.

37) Chagrin

Meaning: Annoyance or distress at having failed or been humiliated.

Example: To my chagrin, he was nowhere to be seen.

Synonyms: Anger, Rage

38) Rigging

Meaning: Manage or conduct (something) fraudulently so as to gain an advantage.

Example: The results of the elections had been rigged.

Synonyms: Manipulate, Juggle

39) Enacting

Meaning: Make (a bill or other proposal) law.

Example: Legislation was enacted to attract international companies.

Synonyms: Pass, Approve

Antonyms: Repeal

40) Usher

Meaning: Show or guide (someone) somewhere.

Example: A waiter ushered me to a table.

Synonyms: Accompany, Escort


 

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