Towards a unique digital South Asian identity – OPINION – The Hindu
- Executed properly, Aadhaar could become a central pillar of India’s ‘neighbourhood first’ policy
- The enthusiasm with which government agencies and businesses have embraced Aadhaar should prompt India’s foreign policy planners to deploy it abroad.
- Executed properly, Aadhaar could become a central pillar of India’s “neighbourhood first” policy, culminating in the creation of a unique digital South Asian identity.
- A single, region-wide platform to authenticate residents of South Asia could integrate its markets, bring communities closer and allow governments to offer a wider range of governance services.
- the demand for identity-driven governance in South Asia is indisputable, and Aadhaar could be Indian foreign policy’s biggest asset to promote economic and political convergence in the region.
- Already, South Asian economies are in varying stages of conceiving or implementing their own “national identity” schemes. Pakistan has the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA), that for two decades has collected biometric information.
- NADRA, however, has seen limited success: at last count, it had issued only 3.8 lakh ID cards to Pakistanis, in comparison to Aadhaar’s one billion-plus enrolments
- In 2013, NADRA even won an international contract to create Sri Lanka’s digital national identity scheme, but that project appears to have stalled.
- Nepal, meanwhile, intends to roll out biometrics-driven “national ID cards” to its citizens soon. The Election Commission in Bangladesh began issuing such cards last year.
- South Asian governments, long content to gather data through traditional means such as censuses, are struggling to capture dynamic trends in their population.
- Current databases shine no light on urban mobility, data consumption patterns, or quality of life, because these are metrics that need integrated data sets and powerful analytical tools. To capture “multi-dimensional” data, India’s neighbours have moved towards digital identity schemes.
- The need for unique IDs is also acute because post-conflict societies in South Asia have not fully rehabilitated excluded minorities or former combatants. In comparison to politically fraught changes — for instance, the 13th Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution for the devolution of powers, or federalist reforms in Nepal — digital identity schemes are easier to implement, can strengthen local governments and support the financial inclusion of marginalised sections.
- Beyond collecting biometric data, however, South Asian governments have not been able to create digital ID-enabled applications. This is what Aadhaar has mastered, making it a very valuable foreign policy export. Its open application programming interface (API) layers — known as “India Stack” — set Aadhaar apart from other biometric ID programmes.
- India Stack APIs, which include the Unified Payment Interface (UPI) and Aadhaar e-KYC, allow applications to be built atop them (for example, the Bharat Interface for Money or BHIM app) and enable identity-driven transactions. Such platforms will be invaluable to an economy working to integrate its communities
- India too stands to benefit by exporting the Aadhaar architecture. The digital networks for much of South Asia are likely to be supplied by Chinese companies over the next decade.
- Telecom pipes and towers built by China will carry the Internet to the user, but innovation in Asia’s digital economies will happen at the top — the “app layer”
- Aadhaar-like platforms catalyse innovation by tailoring Big Data for governments and businesses alike. The political and economic leverage India will accrue as a result of enabling such entrepreneurship will surpass fixed investments by China.
- Once a critical mass of Aadhaar-enabled applications has been created, interoperability standards for the digital ecosystem will be determined by the Unique ID programme. App developers, handheld manufacturers, and even Internet Service Providers will have to work around Aadhaar’s encryption standards and data protection guidelines. Such a scenario will be India’s best response to concerns that China will pump its infrastructure, and — in the words of Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar — “hard wire” the norms of governance in the region.
- The same concerns of surveillance and privacy that animate the Aadhaar debate in India would no doubt be reflected in South Asian societies. Perhaps more sharply, given the propensity of some governments in the neighbourhood to target minority communities. They can learn from India’s mistakes. South Asian countries that have not digitised their public databases fully can create secure ones to link to unique ID programmes. A national ID programme would also be a trigger for them to enact strong data protection laws.
- Aadhaar is a constitutional technology that can build whole new information and communication technology ecosystems. New Delhi should appreciate its foreign policy value and integrate the project into its neighbourhood agenda.
Being humane – OPINION – The Hindu
- A law against torture should enable ratification of the Convention barring custodial excesses
- Two decades after signing the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, India is yet to ratify it.
- There can be little justification for such a prolonged delay in passing legislation to give effect to the convention
- In recent times there is a fresh note of urgency attached to the need for early ratification, as the country has pending requests for the extradition of its nationals from other countries.
- the absence of a stand-alone law prohibiting torture may prevent many countries from agreeing to India’s extradition requests.
- Chief Justice of India observed during the course of a hearing on a public interest petition seeking the enactment of an anti-torture law in accordance with the country’s commitment
- The court also noted that India was subjected to close questioning during the Universal Periodic Review of its human rights obligations at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
- In an era of increasing international cooperation on criminal matters, India will be better served if it is seen as adhering to international treaties, especially its obligations under the Convention Against Torture, which it signed in 1997
- Provisions relating to causing hurt or grievous hurt, especially with a view to extracting a confession, criminal intimidation and wrongful confinement already exist in the Indian Penal Code. However, the idea of a stand-alone law ought to be ultimately seen as a more tangible way of expressing commitment to eliminating torture.
- A concrete step towards enacting a law was made when the Prevention of Torture Bill, 2010, was passed by the Lok Sabha in 2010, but it was referred to a Select Committee in the Rajya Sabha. In its report submitted in the same year, the committee recommended exhaustive amendments to the Bill to make it consistent with the language and intent of the Convention. Thereafter the Bill lapsed.
- Given the pervasive nature of custodial violence and its complex policing requirements, the present legislative and administrative framework is obviously inadequate to prevent torture in a country of India’s size.
- It is imperative that a strong law that criminalises torture, imposes stringent punishment for it and contains liberal provisions for those suffering torture to complain against their perpetrators, prosecute them and be compensated and rehabilitated, is passed at the earliest.
The single-service syndrome – OPINION – The Hindu
- The Joint Doctrine is a diversionary attempt by the services to resist any changes in the status qu
- The Joint Doctrine is a diversionary
- Last month the three service chiefs released the latest iteration of the Joint Doctrine for the Indian Armed Forces. In the foreword the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, Admiral Sunil Lanba, wrote that that the Joint Doctrine “provides foundations for greater integration and interdependence, to achieve higher inter-operability and compatibility within the Armed Forces”.
- Resistance to a joint command
- As we now know Lord Mountbatten, the architect of India’s Higher Defence Organisation, was keen to appoint a Chief of Defence and lobbied repeatedly for creation of a Joint Staff.
- It was only after the post-Kargil defence reforms in 2001 that an Integrated Defence Staff (minus the post of the Chief of Defence Staff, or CDS) was established.
- In addition, a Joint Command was established on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands with the expectation that this “experiment” would lead to other geographically delineated joint commands.
- the Army, Navy and Air Force are unwilling to embrace managerial jointness, through a CDS, or operational jointness, by agreeing to joint commands.
- In fact, on the latter issue, they have successfully rolled back the idea for joint commands as there are reports that the Andaman and Nicobar Command will be permanently headed by a naval officer — which runs contrary to the vision of those who created the joint command.
- Jointness implies or denotes possessing an optimised capability to engage in Joint War-Fighting and is not limited to just Joint-War Fighting (Joint Operations).
- Noticeably, the doctrine fails to mention anything about the joint Andaman and Nicobar Command.
- A shoddy endeavour at best
- the doctrine fails on other levels. First, it creates an unnecessary controversy about India’s nuclear doctrine by describing it as “credible deterrence” instead of “credible minimum deterrence”.
- This distinction is crucial as India’s draft nuclear doctrine specifically mentions the latter.
- If there is a change in the nuclear doctrine, then messaging it through the joint doctrine is peculiar
- the doctrine’s referencing, editing and footnoting technique requires serious attention.
- What could possibly explain such a badly written doctrine and does this suggest that the Indian military is incapable of such an intellectual endeavour? Happily we do have instances of well-written doctrines — the Indian Navy’s doctrine titled “Ensuring Secure Seas” released in 2015 represents one such effort.
- However, that was perhaps because the Navy has invested in its doctrine writing branch and had consulted widely. But the Indian Army and perhaps even the Air Force do not incentivise and develop such expertise.