The World since 1991
Key Concepts and Issues since 1991: Globalisation
Key Concepts and Issues since 1991: Humanitarian Issues
Contemporary India: Challenges to Peace, Stability and National Integration
Contemporary India: Good Governance
India and the World
Issues since 1991 - Political Issues:
Political issues in the context of globalisation mainly focus on the following:
- Importance of Democracy: The East European revolution of 1989 and the disintegration of the Soviet Union is looked at as the fall of communism. It has been argued that the world is moving towards democratic political systems. Terms like ‘Participatory State’, ‘Citizen-Centric Governance’ and ‘Good Governance’ have become important. Participatory state goes beyond traditional democratic practices wherein the decision is made by the majority. In a participatory state, all segments of the society are involved in the making of policy. Citizen centric governance and good governance focus on the role of civil society in the functioning of the government.
The Revolutions of 1989 formed part of a revolutionary wave in the late 1980s and early 1990s that resulted in the end of communist rule in Central and Eastern Europe and beyond. The period is often also called the Fall of Communism and sometimes called the Fall of Nations or the Autumn of Nations, a play on the term Spring Of nations that is sometimes used to describe the Revolution of 1848. The events of the full-blown revolution began in Poland in 1989 and continued in Hungary, East Germany, Bulgaria, Czechoslavakia, and Romania. One feature common to most of these developments was the extensive use of campaigns of civil resistance, demonstrating popular opposition to the continuation of one-party rule and contributing to the pressure for change.
- Position of the State: It is being argued that the State is becoming less and less important. One of the key features of the State is its sovereignty. The concept of sovereignty is linked with the concept of the jurisdiction of the state. This is the right of the State to make laws within its territory. It has been argued that the concept of sovereignty is being challenged from both, within and without. External challenges come from the growth of international law, regional economic organisations, globalisation of markets, growing environmental and humanitarian concerns, etc. Internal challenges come from a decline of national consensus, growth of ethnic nationalism, the activism of non-state actors, etc. Issues like environment, gender, and humanitarian problems have taken the center stage.
- Non-State actors: It is the importance of the civil society that has given importance to non-state actors. Thus, Voluntary Organisations and Non- Governmental Organisations (NGO) have started to become more important. Today international relations is not relations between states, it also includes non-state actors. They play an important role in promoting humanitarian issues. Besides organisations like Amnesty International, Green Peace Movement, terrorist organisations are also non-state actors.
- Human Rights: In the age of globalisation protection of human rights has become an important agenda. But there is a need to make a distinction between the approaches to human rights of the developed world and the developing world. The Third World holds that economic development has to precede the full flowering of civil and political rights and that a greater value needs to be placed on community and family than on individual rights. The Indian constitution, for example, lays stress on the aspect of social justice and looks at food, shelter, clothing, education, and health as the primary needs of its citizens. It is further argued that in the desire to achieve distributive justice there is an undue emphasis on liberty rights and not welfare rights of the people. Therefore, countries should have the right to interpret human rights in accordance to their history, culture, polity, and economy. Thus, the broad application of the western approach to human rights, which focuses on civil and political rights and freedoms as a priority, would have to be tempered with the ground situation mentioned above.
Let us see some examples to understand these issues better.
- India is a signatory to various international treaties, organisations, and conventions. As a member of the WTO India is required to follow some rules regarding international trade practices. Treaties like the Indus Waters Treaty with Pakistan or the Farakka Agreement with Bangladesh requires India to follow the agreement in matters of sharing of waters of the Indus and the Ganga.
- Organisations like Amnesty International or Green Peace raise humanitarian issues and put pressure on local governments. Amnesty has been critical of the Indian government’s position on human rights in regions like Kashmir.
- When the Chernobyl disaster took place the effects of radiation spread across Europe. Such environmental disasters cannot be restricted to a nation’s boundaries. European countries were forced to cooperate and take action to ensure that the ill effects do not harm their population.
- The Narmada Bachao Andolan had approached the World Bank to support its cause of opposition to big dams and had internationalised the issue. Narmada Bachao Andolan(NBA) is an Indian social movement spearheaded by native tribals (adivasis), environmentalists, and human rights activists against a number of large dam projects across river Narmada, which flows through the states of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, and Maharashtra. Sardar Sarovar Dam in Gujarat is one of the biggest dams on the river and was one of the first focal points of the movement. It is part of the Narmada Dam Project, whose main aim is to provide irrigation and electricity to people of the above states.
- There has been opposition to the building of nuclear power plants in Jaitapur and Kudankulam. Political parties and NGOs have opposed the building of these projects despite getting proper clearance.
In all the above cases the State’s sovereignty was challenged by these groups. These are some of the challenges that the State faces from within and from without. Therefore, it is argued that the role of the State is slowly reducing. In the economic sphere, it is reducing because of the increasing importance of the private sector and in the political sphere, the domestic and international pressures have reduced the authority of the State.
The main elements are territory, sovereign government, and people. Today, the territory of the State still remains intact. States still talk of nationalism and national integration. The concept of sovereign government also continues to exist. It is true that some of its powers have reduced due to international treaty obligations, but the authority of the State remains. The rise of ethnic nationalism and the demand for self-determination has led to the creation of new States.
States that have a strong framework of political institutions (like Legislature, Executive, Judiciary, and Bureaucracy) are able to face the challenges of globalisation. It is these institutions that are able to protect the core values of a country, provide social safety nets, and promote development in the country. Despite the many concerns about the loss of sovereignty, the State remains the key actor in the domestic and the international sphere. The popular assumption that the emergence of global civil society and increasing levels of cross-border trade, finance, and investment flows have made the State irrelevant, is wrong.