IASbaba's Daily Current Affairs- 25th August, 2015
The sprouting of the “ look west” policy (Part III)
- India has successfully pursued a ‘Look East’ policy with the countries of South-East Asia. The free trade agreements concluded between India and ASEAN in goods, services and investments talk about the success of our look east policy.
- Like South East Asia , India considers the Gulf region as part of its ‘extended neighbourhood.
- Formally India adopted look west policy in 2005, however much developments did not take place.
- With the recent visit of our prime minster to UAE, the policy has got a new start.
India’s priorities in the Gulf :
- Securing long term energy supply is of primary importance for India in the region.
- India is currently the fourth largest energy consuming country in the world and it may go up to third position in next couple of decades.
- India’s annual GDP growth at the rate of eight per cent would require further industrial growth which would demand more energy supply for the country.
- The growing energy necessity has undoubtedly dictated India’s initiative of building up a ‘strategic energy partnership’ with the region to secure long term energy supply for the country.
Trade and investment:
- The Gulf remains a favourite trading partner for India and the trade figures have been consistently going up especially with countries like the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Iran.
- The UAE is India’s foremost non-oil trading partner in the world with a total trade of 43,469.50 million dollars. Saudi Arabia is the fourth largest non-oil trading partner with a total trade of 21,004.57 million dollars.
- The Gulf countries look at India as a fast growing economy which holds the potential to compete with the major world economies.
- Realising the trade potential of the Gulf countries, India has entered into a negotiation with the GCC to finalise a Free Trade Agreement.
- The Gulf countries have huge potential for investing in different sectors in India as fdi for mutual benefit.
Forging strategic ties:
- While the oil and energy trade dynamics define India’s relationship with the Gulf countries, there is a growing realisation that it is time to move beyond the traditional buyer-seller relationship.
- India is looking forward to enhance strategic ties with the region.
- India has already discussed its intention of joining the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) as a permanent member with the Gulf countries.
- The growing threats of Islamic extremism, terrorism and maritime piracy have become concerns for both India and the Gulf countries.
- There is a growing concern over the rise of criminal activities, money laundering and illegal arms trade between the two regions.
Strengthening soft power:
- There is a conscious effort on the part of India to bring back Indian cultural influence in the region which India enjoyed in the past.
- In recent years India has attempted to strengthen cultural ties with the Gulf countries by signing and renewing the existing cultural exchange programmes.
- Cooperation in the field of education is an emerging area of cooperation between India and the Gulf region.
Protecting interests of diaspora:
- Protecting the interest of the five million strong Indian diaspora has been an important element of India’s policy priorities in the Gulf.
- The Indian maids working in the households are in the most vulnerable situations as they are not covered under the local labour laws.
- India has signed labour agreements with the Gulf countries which call for protecting the workers from exploitation by the employers (like sexual harassment, physical abuse, holding the payment, overtime work without extra incentives etc.), checking the illegal and unauthorised recruiting agencies and unhealthy working and living conditions.
Gulf cooperation council(GCC) looks east :
- It is not only India which is looking west , the gulf countries are also reciprocating with their look east policy.
- Several factors have contributed to this fundamental shift in West Asian strategic thinking.
- The structural change in the global energy market with West Asian oil and gas increasingly heading to South and East Asian markets rather than to the Trans-Atlantic markets.
- Partly as a consequence of this structural change in flows and partly owing to the fiscal stress faced by the trans-Atlantic economies, West Asia is looking to India and other Asian powers to step in and offer security guarantees to the region. Many GCC states have welcomed defence cooperation agreements with India.
- In the wake of the Arab Spring and the mess in Egypt and Iraq, the Gulf states find India and China to be more reliable interlocutors than many western states.
- Under pressure from radical and extremist political forces within West Asia, most states in the region have come to value the Indian principle of seeking and securing regional stability as an over-riding principle of regional security.
Way ahead (Iasbaba’s view):
- The Look West policy has certainly accelerated India’s engagement with the Gulf region.
- As India has huge stakes in the region, the policy should not be limited only to trade and investment, but should be supplemented with more proactive Indian involvement in the various sectors like education , soft power etc.
- Gulf Cooperation Council : Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is a regional intergovernmental political and economic union consisting of all Arab states of the Persian Gulf.
- Association of South East Asian Nations(ASEAN): It is a political and economic organisation of ten Southeast Asian countries which includes Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar (Burma), and Vietnam.
Connecting the dots:
- Comment on the look west policy of India .
- For India to be a regional power in Asia , its relation with Gulf Cooperation Council matters a lot . Critically analyse the statement.
- Look west policy of India is a win-win relation to both India and the Gulf countries. Critically analyse.
Rising healthcare costs : a burden on poor
- The cost of treatment rose at a double-digit pace of growth, outpacing average inflation in both rural and urban India over the past decade, according to the recently published results of a cross-national survey on health conducted by the National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO).
- As more and more patients step into private clinics and hospitals for treatment, they have been faced with rising medical bills.
- Average hospitalization costs in India have rose from Rs.5,695 in 2004 to Rs.14,935 in 2014 at the rate of 10.1% in rural areas and in urban areas it rose from Rs.8,851 in 2004 to Rs.24,436 in 2014 at the rate of 10.7%.
Reasons for increase in hospitalization costs:
- The absence of adequate investments in preventive public health facilities such as sanitation and waste management in a densely populated country such as India which lead to rampant spread of infectious diseases and raise health costs for the average Indian.
- India spends about 1 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on public health, compared to 3 percent in China and 8.3 percent in the United States.
- The sorry state of public hospitals and poor quality health centres have forced an increasing number of patients to turn to private medical centres.
- The proportion of people visiting private hospitals in urban India has increased by nearly 6 percentage points to 68% over the past decade due to poor quality urban health centres.
- Lack of insurance coverage and should shell out money from their own pockets.
- 86% of rural Indian patients and 82% of urban Indian patients do not have access to any form of employer-provided or state-funded insurance.
- Lack of adequate health infrastructure: In India the number of doctors per lakh of population is only 45, whereas, the desirable number is 85per lakh population. similarly the number of nurses and auxillary nurse and midwives (ANM’s) available is only 75 per lakh population whereas the desirable number is 255.
Government initiatives wrt rising healthcare costs :
- Increase spending on public health : Government is trying to increase public expenditure on health from current level of 1.2%of GDP to 2.5% by 2017 and to 3% by 2022.
- Rashtriya swasthya bhima yojana , a smartcard based cashless health insurance scheme has been modified and transferred to Ministry of Health and Family Welfare from Ministry of Labour.
- Greater access has been created to medicines, vaccines and technology through adequate price controls and price regulation, especially on essential drugs.
- Centre is trying to set up National Health Regulatory and Development Authority as a nodal agency to supervise over public health sector in India.
Comparing health models of India and USA:
- Main difference between health models of India and USA is the extent of insurance coverage. More than 80% of the people in USA are covered under one or the other insurance cover whereas in India the number is only 17%.In USA insurance companies pay for the patients, whereas in India, the patients end up paying for themselves.
- Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act(PPACA) of USA may be considered wrt above regard. The act tries to increase the quality and affordability of health insurance, lower the uninsured rate by expanding public and private insurance coverage, and reduce the costs of healthcare for individuals and the government.
Connecting the dots:
- Critically analyse the shortcomings in public health policy of India. Give suggestions to overcome the same.
- Can India successfully adopt the healthcare model of western countries especially that of USA. Critically analyse.