Two speeches: On Modi and Imran speeches at UNGA

The speeches at the UN General Assembly, by Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan, and a day later by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, were a study in contrasts. Mr. Modi focused on India’s own role on the world stage and the need to reform the UN and expand the Security Council to give India more representation. Mr. Khan focused less time on Pakistan, launching a broadside against India. Mr. Modi made no reference to Pakistan, and spoke about terrorism only in broader terms. A reply to Mr. Khan’s speech was left to an Indian diplomat, who described it as an “incessant rant” and “lies, misinformation and warmongering”. Mr. Khan’s references to India, which formed more than a third of his text, repeated the vilification in his previous speeches: accusing the Modi government of “state sponsorship of Islamophobia”, of following an “extremist ideology” of the RSS, which he claims is “inspired” by Nazi concepts of “racial purity and supremacy”, and of planning to “cleanse” the country of

Making amends: On India's appeal to Sri Lanka to address Tamil aspirations

India’s appeal to Sri Lanka to address the aspirations of its Tamil minority will certainly find resonance among the Tamil-speaking populace on both sides of the Palk Strait, but it is doubtful if it will have any effect. A joint statement by both countries after a virtual summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his counterpart, Mahinda Rajapaksa, on September 26, not only reiterated India’s stated policy of seeking to ensure “equality, justice, peace and respect within a united Sri Lanka” for Tamils, but explicitly mentioned the need to carry forward the reconciliation process through the implementation of the 13th Amendment to Sri Lanka’s Constitution. It said Mr. Rajapaksa expressed confidence that Sri Lanka would work towards “realising the expectations” of all ethnic groups, including Tamils. However, he appeared to qualify the commitment by linking it to “reconciliation nurtured as per the mandate of the people of Sri Lanka”. Significantly, a separate statement by Mr.

Battle for Bihar: On Assembly polls

The Assembly election in Bihar will be taking place in unprecedented circumstances over three phases, in the last week of October and the first week of November. This will be the first Assembly election since COVID-19 disrupted normal life, and the performance of the governments on the health and economic fronts will become an issue in the election campaign. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s record of 15 years is mixed. After initial improvements in governance after he took over in 2005, there was an evident downslide, culminating in the bungled handling of the pandemic. He deserted the BJP in 2013 and won the 2015 Assembly election in alliance with the RJD, only to return to the BJP’s embrace soon. His popularity is waning, while the BJP is on the defensive on questions of border security, economic stagnation, and farmer backlash. The State and the Centre, jointly and separately, mismanaged the return of migrant workers from other States to Bihar during the lockdown. They have held


Salutary lesson: On the Vodafone case

Vodafone Group Plc has won yet another round in its 13-year-long battle with India’s tax authorities. On Friday, an international arbitration tribunal ruled that the Indian government’s efforts to claim more than ₹20,000 crore in tax (including related interest and penalties) from Vodafone using retrospective legislation was in clear breach of the ‘fair and equitable treatment’ protections afforded under Article 4(1) of the Bilateral Investment Treaty between India and the Netherlands. The ruling upholding the British multinational’s stand ought to end India’s protracted and often perverse pursuit of what at the very outset was a highly contentious claim. The dispute began in September 2007 when tax authorities served a demand on Vodafone International Holdings BV for tax that it said Vodafone’s Dutch unit ought to have withheld while acquiring the controlling stake in the erstwhile Hutchison Essar Ltd. from Hutchison Telecommunications International Ltd. Since the stake purchase


Code debate: On new labour Bills

Some laws are far too important and have far too much impact on the people to be passed in haste or without sufficient deliberation. The three codes aimed at consolidating diverse labour laws and ushering in reforms fall in this category. The codes were passed in both Houses after a limited debate and in the absence of the Opposition. The Industrial Relations Code, the Social Security Code and the Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2020, are an updated version of the respective Codes of 2019, which were scrutinised by a Standing Committee. Therefore, there is considerable merit in the argument that the fresh drafts, introduced a few days before their passage, ought to have been sent back to the panel for an assessment. It is significant that the most contentious feature — the increase in the threshold for an establishment to seek government permission before closure, lay-off or retrenchment from units that employ 100 workers to 300 — was not found in the 2019

Cess pool: On CAG report on GST

Terms of disengagement: On India-China standoff

The foreign hand: On FCRA amendments

A new world order: On UN reforms

Precarious houses: On building collapses

A point of order: On farm bills

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