Since economic liberalization, Indian economy has grown stupendously, however both liberalization and growth elude the legal sector till date.
In 1991, economic reforms of liberalization and globalisation were implemented in India. These very reforms are credited for the stupendous economic growth we witnessed in the recent years. However, liberalization in legal sector is still awaited and there is little being done about it. This paper argues why liberalization of legal sector is a requisite and how it could be implemented. Bar Council of India must use its powers under Section 49 (1) (ag) of the Advocates Act, 1961 to change the rules to bring liberalization in the legal profession in India and let foreign firms and lawyers practice in India.
India along with China is seen as one of the most desired destinations for law firms to operate in the coming years. In pursuance of this, the UK government and other leading countries have tried to convince the Government of India to liberalize the legal sector. However, they could not change the stiff stance of Bar Council of India which is unequivocally opposed to the idea, without providing any rationale for the same. China on the other hand, has been seeing progress on this front. International firms have expanded their presence in China in both a competitive and collaborative way enabling local firms to expand overseas and create leading global law firms. In the A.K. Balaji case, even the Supreme Court missed the opportunity by not ordering Bar Council of India to bring in the amendments in the Advocates Act, 1961 that would open the legal profession to foreigners. The court in this case read Section 29, which says only ‘advocates’ can practice in India, combined with Section 24, which mentioned criteria to be adjudged as an ‘advocate’, and held that foreign firms cannot practice in India and are allowed only on a ‘fly in and fly out’ basis which permits ‘casual visits’ by foreign firms to advise clients on foreign laws. The ‘fly in and fly out’ basis as permitted by Supreme Court will not bring the benefits, whether in the legal or economic sphere, that could be brought by liberalization.
ARGUMENTS AGAINST LIBERALIZATION
Many people oppose liberalization on the grounds that legal profession is not a business and therefore should not be put on sale; this is ironical because they themselves want to protect their business by not letting foreign firms enter. Some oppose the idea on the ground that it will place incumbent lawyers on an uneven playing field in comparison to well established foreign firms. Some also fear that the best talent would be recruited by these firms and they would be left with the less talented. Many others sayit would be against India’s national interest to liberalize legal sector.
Recently, Society of Indian Law Firms (SILF) recognized the need to liberalize the sector and asked the government to carry out reforms for the same. This shows the changing mindset of the legal fraternity and its willingness to welcome foreign peers in the market. The onus of globalizing the legal arena now rests with the government.
BENEFITS OF LIBERALIZATION
The liberalization of the legal sector will lead to a competitive arena where even the established players will strive to match the legal prowess of foreign firms. This will lead to more choices and better quality of services available to consumers at competitive rates, since consumers always seek better quality. International trade of legal services will surely help India to penetrate into the global legal sector. It will also aid in development of India in fields such as arbitration and conciliation as they will become more familiar to practices of foreign lawyers and firms. Indians might also get to practice in countries where they are currently restricted if we let the foreign firms enter our legal market. The quality of service could improve if we work along foreign firms who have more experience and expertise in international laws. Thus, Indian legal service sector has to gain and not lose with the entry of foreign peers.
Liberalization will increase the career opportunities for law graduates as foreign firms will be willing to employ local lawyers at lucrative salaries. It might help resolve the problem of unemployment in the legal sector and prevent brain drain as they could work for world class foreign firms while remaining in India. It will also bring FDI and help in building good relations with other countries which might help in enhancing trade. In the report, ‘Managing Request-Offer Negotiations under the GATS: The Case of Legal Services’, which was a part of OECD study on trade in services, MG Grossostated international trade in legal services as a catalyst to foreign investment, which also acts as security in an indigenous business environment. Investment in the service sector of India is much needed and legal services could be one of those as it is associated with high demand. A2004 World Bank study, ‘Sustaining India’s Services Revolution: Access to Foreign Markets, Domestic Reform and International Negotiations’ showed a direct relationship between liberalization and growth of various sub-sectors of India. The services liberalized in 1990s showed faster growth than services that were still kept confined to local service providers. Therefore liberalization promotes national interest as opposed to the views of some overprotective people who mistake protectionism as national interest.
Regarding the fear that all bright minds will be taken over by foreign firms, we need to understand that they can employ the most talented students without coming to India in the countries where they already operate. Therefore, it is better that a bright lawyer be employed in India rather than in Singapore or elsewhere. There is also a fear that pseudo colonialism will follow liberalization and Indian firms will be unable to face the tough competition from foreign firms. However, such competition is necessary for potential overall growth of the profession. It will help India make a name in international legal profession.
With the onset of liberalization, our Legal Process Outsourcing (LPO) will also develop to a great extent. In some countries such as US there is lack of trust in Indian firms with regards to confidentiality and quality. When foreign firms start practicing in India, more services will be outsourced to India because these firms will already have a trust base in their countries. Work will be outsourced to them and they will employ Indians to research and work for them. It will also establish credibility of Indians in global legal sector.
Given all these benefits, the liberalization should be done in a planned manner unlike in 2005 when the UK JETCO (Joint Economic and Trade Committee) report suggested liberalization of the sector but no fruitful conclusion could be arrived at due to lack of coherent planning. The government along with Bar Council of India and State Bar Councils must be brought on the same page so that proper implementation is carried out and maximum benefits are harnessed. Liberalization should take place in a phased manner. Lalit Bhasin, president of SILF, recently suggested liberalization to be implemented in four phases, so that foreign players can enter the arena without disturbing the market drastically.The first phase, according to him, should only permit online services before letting firms advise clients on international law in the second phase. They should be permitted collaborative advice mechanism in the third stage and only in the last stage be allowed to practice in domestic laws. However, four phases seem too many and several firms also might not want to enter such a market where there are a large number of restrictions. However, there seems no harm in merging first two phases. Firms can be allowed directly to advise clients on foreign law and at the same time collaborate with Indian firms on Indian law. When they gain expertise on the subject, they shall be allowed to practice and directly recruit Indian employees without any compulsion for joint venture.
However, some regulations are necessary for the liberalization process. It should not create a monopoly in legal market and regulations must ensure fair treatment to all. Some rules need to be there to maintain the dignity and nobility of legal profession. As far as the question of level playing field is concerned, entry of major foreign firms can be restricted for a certain time after liberalization. SILF is opposed to the idea of entry of Big Four namely Deloitte, PwC, EY and KPMG. This concern is justified keeping in mind the fact that Indian firms might not be able to compete with them and they might take huge chunk of market share. However, in the long term, when Indian firms becomemore competent, the whole market should be liberalized.
The future of Indian legal services looks not very promising if we continue to maintain status quo. Liberalization will stimulate a number of new developments. By opening our legal sector to other countries, we can build good international relations in other areas as well which will ultimately lead to increased FDI.Foreign investors are now averse of investing due to legal complexities but once they get the opportunity, they will readily invest in India considering the huge demand of legal services in the country. By engaging with foreign firms on regular basis in India, the potential of Indian lawyers will be harnessed to a greater extent as they will get to compete with better lawyers. It will also help mitigate migrations in the legal field by encouraging legal professionals and aspirants to work with top quality law firms in India itself. Liberalization is necessary for the development of legal profession in India to make it competitive, at par with global standards. John Carre said, ‘There is one thing worse than change and that’s the status quo’, therefore we need to break the status quo and amend the Advocates Act, 1961 to liberalize the legal sector.
Opposing Hindutava: US conference raises troubling questions
Controversy over a recent ‘Dismantling Global Hindutava’ conference that targeted a politically charged expression of Hindu nationalism raises questions that go far beyond the anti-Muslim discriminatory policies of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government and ruling party.
The conference and responses to it highlight a debilitating deterioration in the past two decades, especially since 9/11, of the standards of civility and etiquette that jeopardize civil, intelligent, and constructive debate and allow expressions of racist, Islamophobic and anti-Semitic attitudes to become mainstream.
Organizers of the conference that was co-sponsored by 53 American universities, including Harvard, Stanford, Princeton, Columbia, Berkeley, University of Chicago, University of Pennsylvania and Rutgers, insisted that they distinguish between Hinduism and Hindutava, Mr. Modi’s notion of Hindu nationalism that enables discrimination against and attacks on India’s 200 million Muslims.
The distinction failed to impress critics who accused the organizers of Hinduphobia. Some critics charged that the framing of the conference demonstrated a pervasiveness of groupthink in academia and an unwillingness to tackle similar phenomena in other major religions, particularly Islam.
The campaign against the conference appeared to have been organized predominantly by organizations in the United States with links to militant right-wing Hindu nationalist groups in India, including some with a history of violence. The conference’s most militant critics threatened violence against conference speakers and their families, prompting some participants to withdraw from the event.
Opponents of political Islam noted that Western academia has not organized a similar conference about the politicization of the faith even though powerful states like the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt have lobbied Western capitals against the Muslim Brotherhood and its Turkish and Qatari supporters with notable successes in France, Austria, Belgium and Britain.
Academia was likely to have been hesitant to tackle political Islam because Islamophobia is far more prevalent than Hinduphobia.
Moreover, perceptions of political Islam, are far more complex and convoluted. Islam is frequently conflated with political expressions and interpretations of the faith run a gamut from supremacist and conservative to more liberal and tolerant. They also lump together groups that adhere and respect the election process and ones that advocate violent jihad.
Scholars and analysts declared an end to political Islam’s heyday with the military coup in Egypt in 2013 that toppled Mohammed Morsi, a Muslim Brother, who was elected president in Egypt’s first and only free and fair poll. Political Islam’s alleged swansong loomed even larger with this year’s setbacks for two of the most moderate Islamist political parties in Tunisia and Morocco as well as hints that Turkey may restrict activities of Islamists operating in exile from Istanbul.
A more fundamental criticism of the framing of the Hindutava conference is its failure to put Hindutava in a broader context.
That context involves the undermining of the social cohesion of societies made up of collections of diverse ethnic and religious communities since Osama bin Laden’s 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington.
The attacks fueled the rise of ultra-nationalism and politicized expressions of religious ultra-conservatism not only in the Hindu world but also in the worlds of other major religions.
These include politicized ultra-conservative Islam, politicized Evangelism and Buddhist nationalism. Right-wing religious nationalism in Israel, unlike Islamism and politicized Evangelism, is shaped by ultra-nationalism rather than religious ultra-conservatism.
The worlds of religious ultra-nationalism and politicized expressions of religious ultra-conservatism are often mutually reinforcing.
Scholar Cynthia Miller-Idriss’s assessment of the impact of Al-Qaeda’s 9/11 attacks on the United States is equally true for India or Europe.
“In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the rise of violent jihadism reshaped American politics in ways that created fertile ground for right-wing extremism. The attacks were a gift to peddlers of xenophobia, white supremacism, and Christian nationalism: as dark-skinned Muslim foreigners bent on murdering Americans, Al-Qaeda terrorists and their ilk seemed to have stepped out of a far-right fever dream,” Ms. Miller-Idriss said.
“Almost overnight, the United States and European countries abounded with precisely the fears that the far-right had been trying to stoke for decades,” she added.
The comparison of politically charged militant nationalist and ultra-conservative expressions of diverse religions takes on added significance in a world that has seen the emergence of civilizationalist leaders.
Scholar Sumantra Bose attributes the rise of religious nationalism in non-Western states like Turkey and India to the fact that they never adopted the Western principle of separation of state and church.
Instead, they based their secularism on the principle of state intervention and regulation of the religious sphere. As a result, the rejection of secularism in Turkey and India fits a global trend that conflates a dominant religious identity with national identity.
Sarah Kamali, the author of a recently published book that compares militant white nationalists to militant Islamists in the United States, notes similar patterns while drawing parallels between far-right xenophobes and militant Islamists.
Militant Islamists’ “sense of victimhood […] is similar to that of their White nationalist counterparts in that [it] is constructed and exploited to justify their violence… Both mutually – and exclusively – target America for the purpose of claiming the nation as theirs and theirs alone, either as a White ethno-state or as part of a global caliphate,” Ms. Kamali writes.
Similarly, the Taliban defeat of a superpower energized militant Islamists, as well as proponents of Hindutava, with Islamophobic narratives spun by Mr. Modi’s followers gaining new fodder with the assertion that India was being encircled by Muslim states hosting religious extremists.
“Modi is essentially helping the recruitment of…jihadist groups by taking such a hard, repressive line against the Islamic community in India, who are now being forced to see themselves being repressed,” said Douglas London, the CIA’s counter-terrorism chief for South and South-West Asia until 2019.
Panjshir – the last stronghold of democracy in Afghanistan
The Taliban’s rapid advance in Afghanistan has briefly stalled only in the face of strong resistance mounted by the people of the country’s recalcitrant mountainous province of Panjshir. Whoever controls the region’s passes controls the routes leading to China and Tajikistan, but to seize this mountain valley and, most importantly, to keep it permanently under control has always been a problem for all invaders. Eager to let the international community see for the first time in 40 years a united Afghanistan as a sign of their final victory, the radical Islamists were prepared to make any sacrifices, including filling the approaches to the Panjshir Valley up with dead bodies. Moreover, the Taliban’s longtime ally Pakistan, which, regardless of its status of an ally of the United States, has provided them with direct military support. In fact, Islamabad admitted its less than successful role when it proposed signing a truce to find and take out the bodies of its special Ops forces who had died during the attack on the valley. However, drones flown by Pakistani operators, professional commandos (possibly once trained by the Americans), air support and other pleasant gifts from the allies eventually bore fruit letting the Taliban be photographed in front of the mausoleum of Ahmad Shah Massoud Sr., the famous “Lion of Panjshir,” who controlled the valley from 1996 to 2001. The Islamists also took control of the province’s central city of Bazarak.
Having deprived the province much of its Internet access, the radicals, who control most of the Afghan territory, found it easier to wage an information war. Their claims of victories were now more difficult to contest, even though information about their retreat did reach the outside world. Reflective of the heavy losses suffered for the first time by the Taliban and their allies – the Haqqani Network and other remnants of al-Qaeda, as well as by the regular Pakistani army is the brief truce arranged by Islamabad. Looks like the mountain passes leading to Panjshir were literally filled up with corpses…
As for Massoud Jr., the young lion of Panjshir, and his supporters, they retreated to the mountains. In fact, they had nowhere to fall back to. The problem of Afghanistan is its ethnic diversity. Thus, the country is home to 23 percent of ethnic Tajiks, most of whom live in the Panjshir Valley. However, the Taliban rely mainly on the Pashtuns, who account for over 50 percent of the country’s population. As for the new masters of Afghanistan, they are ready to carry out ethnic cleansings and even commit outright genocide in order to bring the valley into submission. To make this happen they are going to resettle there their fellow Pashtun tribesmen. Local men aged between 12 and 50 are already being taken away and, according to the National Resistance Front, no one has seen them again. However, due to the information blockade, the Taliban will not hesitate to refute such facts. One thing is clear: Massoud’s Tajik fighters and the government troops that joined them are fighting for their lives, and there will be no honorable surrender!
The main question now is whether the young lion of Panjshir will receive the same support as his father once did, or will find himself without ammunition and food. After all, the Taliban leaders have reached certain agreements with the United States. Suffice it to mention the numerous remarks made, among others, by President Biden himself about the Taliban now being different from what they were 20 years ago.
But no, the Taliban`s remain the same – they have only hired new PR people. Meanwhile, hating to admit their defeat, Brussels and Washington will have to engage in a dialogue with those who are responsible for the tragedy of September 11, 2001, and for the numerous terrorist attacks in Europe. The Taliban are pretending to make minor cosmetic concessions. Minor indeed, since they are still depriving women of the opportunity to work and study, destroying higher and secondary education and brutally clamping down on people who simply do not want to live according to religious norms.
The United States is actually helping the “new-look” Taliban. Their potential opponents, including the famous Marshal Dostum, an ethnic Uzbek, left the country under various guarantees, and Washington is trying to keep them from any further participation in the conflict. Democratic politicians naively believe that by creating an Islamic state and ending the protracted civil war in Afghanistan the Taliban will ensure stability in the region and will not move any further. Uzbekistan and Tajikistan do not think so and are strengthening their borders and preparing to protect their Afghan compatriots, because they know full well that the Taliban`s are not a national political party; they are a radical Islamist ideology.
It knows no borders and spreads like a cancerous tumor, destroying all pockets of Western culture. It can only be stopped by force. However, the two decades of US military presence in Afghanistan showed that Washington, which quickly took control of the country in 2001, simply had no strategy to keep it. The Afghans were given nothing that would appear to them more attractive than the ideas of radical Islam. As a result, the few Afghans who embrace European values are fleeing the country, and those who, like Massoud Jr., decided to fight for their freedom, now risk being left to face their enemy all by themselves.
Misjudgements in India’s Afghan policy
India’s Afghan policy has always been obsessed with the desire to deny Pakistan the “strategic depth” that Pakistan, according to India’s perception, yearns. If India had a pragmatic policy, it would not have found itself whimpering and whining like a rueful baby over spilt milk.
India supported the invasion of Afghanistan by both the former Soviet Union and the USA, both losers. President Trump mocked Modi for having built a library for the Afghan people. Trump expected India to contribute foot soldiers, and by corollary, body packs to the Afghan crisis. India played all the tricks up its sleeves to convince the USA to make India a party to the US-Taliban talks. But the USA ditched not only Modi but also Ashraf Ghani to sign the Doha peace deal with the Taliban.
India’s external affairs minister still calls the Taliban government “a dispensation”. Interestingly, the USA has reluctantly accepted that the Taliban government is a de facto government.
The United Nations’ Development Programme has portrayed a bleak situation in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is faced with multifarious challenges. These include prolonged drought and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, upheaval caused by the current political transition: frozen foreign reserves, and rising poverty.
About 47 per cent of its people live below the dollar-a-day poverty line. If the poverty line is pushed to $2 a day, 90 per cent of Afghans would be poor. About 55 per cent of Afghans are illiterate.
Ninety seven percent of the population is at risk of sinking below the poverty line, As such, Afghanistan teeters on the brink of universal poverty. Half of the population is already in need of humanitarian support. The UNDP has proposed to access the most vulnerable nine million people by focusing on essential services, local livelihoods, basic income and small infrastructure.
Currently, the gross national product of Afghanistan is around $190 billion, just a little more than the $160 billion economy of Dhaka city. The country’s legal exports of goods and services every year account for $1 billion. It imports$6 billion worth of goods and services every year.
About 80 per cent of world production of opium comes from Afghanistan. Every year, Afghanistan produces nearly 10,000 tons of opium and the revenue generated from it amounts to $7 billion approximately. About 87 per cent of the income of opium producing farmers comes exclusively from this single product. The illicit opium export by Afghanistan is worth $2 billion every year. The role of opium is significant.
About 80 per cent of public expenditure in this country is funded by grants. Since 2002, the World Bank has provided Afghanistan with a total of $5.3 billion as development and emergency relief assistance. The IMF earmarked for Afghanistan $400 million in Special Drawing Rights (SDR) for combating the Covid-19 pandemic in the country.
The United States has frozen about $10 billion worth of Afghan assets held at various banks in Afghanistan. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has withdrawn the $400 million worth of SDRs allocated earlier to Afghanistan for addressing the Covid-19 crisis. The World Bank has not said anything as of yet, but it may also put restrictions on its funding to Afghanistan.
India’s lip service to Afghanistan
India provided around $3 billion in aid to fallen U.S.-backed Afghan government. It trained the Afghan army and police. But now it is not willing to pay or pledge a penny to the Taliban government. Look at the following Times of India report:
“India did not pledge any money to the Taliban ruled Afghanistan probably for the first time in 20 years. That it has not done so as Jaishanker declared … (At UN, India offers support to Afghanistan but does not pledge money. The Times of India September 14, 2021).–The Hindu, September 11, 2021
India’s tirade against Afghanistan
Indian policymakers and experts say they see no guarantees that Afghanistan won’t become a haven for militants. “Afghanistan may be poised to become a bottomless hole for all shades of radical, extremist and jihadi outfits somewhat similar to Iraq and Syria, only closer to India,” said Gautam Mukhopadhaya, who was India’s ambassador in Kabul between 2010 to 2013. He added that the Taliban victory could have an “inspirational effect” not only for Kashmir’s rebels but wherever religiously-driven groups operate in the broader region… Lt. Gen Deependra Singh Hooda, former military commander for northern India between 2014-2016, said militant groups based across the border in Pakistan would “certainly try and push men” into Kashmir, following the Taliban victory in Afghanistan (With Taliban’s rise, India sees renewed threat in Kashmir, Star Tribune September 14, 2021). “Meanwhile, Rajnath Singh conveyed to Australian Defence Minister Peter Dutton that the rise of the Taliban raises serious security concerns for India and the region. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has appealed for an injection of cash into Afghanistan to avoid an economic meltdown that would spark a “catastrophic” situation for the Afghan people and be a “gift for terrorist groups.”). Afghan economic meltdown would be ‘gift for terrorists,’ says U.N. chief” (The Hindu, September 11, 2021)
India’s former envoy to Kabul, Ambassador Gautam Mukhopadhyay is skeptical of the conciliatory statements by the taliban government. He advises: “We should welcome recent statements by Stanekzai and Anas Haqqani that suggest some independence from the ISI. But we should also ask some hard questions and judge them by their actions and words, and not let down our guard, both with regard to our multiple security concerns such as whether they can protect us from the Ias and ISI, sever ties with other terror groups, especially those supported by the ISI against India, deny Pakistan strategic depth, and preserve and build on our historic P2P and trade ties; and a genuinely inclusive govt in Afghanistan that accommodates the majority of Afghans who want the rights and freedoms enshrined in the 2004 Afghan Constitution or at least acceptable to the Afghan people.” (Taliban move to form govt, Naya Afghanistan brings new challenge for India, September 2, 2021).
India wants a “central role’ to be given to the UN in Afghanistan. India’s mumbo jumbo implies that Afghanistan should be made a UN protectorate. Indian media is never tired of calling the Afghan government a bunch of terrorists. They have even launched video games about it.
India needs to rethink how it can mend fences with Afghanistan that it regards a hothouse of terrorists.
Japanese firms’ slow and steady exit is sounding alarm bells in Beijing
Last year in March, former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had indicated Japan would initiate measures to reduce the country heavily...
Bringing People Together with Easy to make Russian Comfort Food
Russia has a long history of droughts and famines. Although there have been no famines since 1947, the former Soviet...
UNGA76: Giant eco-friendly artwork set to inspire world leaders
A new 11,000 square metre ‘ephemeral fresco’ created by Swiss artist Saype, has set the stage at UN Headquarters in New...
The Anandamahidol Foundation and the Legacy of Rama the Ninth of Thailand
Founded in 1955 by the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Rama the Ninth of Thailand, the Ananda Mahidol Foundation has supported...
Presidential Irrationality and Wrongdoing in US Nuclear Command Authority
Abstract: In post-World War II memory, no greater political danger has confronted the United States than the presidency of Donald...
American Weaponry in the Hands of the Taliban
The hasty withdrawal of the U.S. forces from Afghanistan attests to both the indifference of the U.S. administration as regards...
Deloitte reports FY2021 revenue
Deloitte today reported aggregate global revenue of US$50.2 billion for the fiscal year ending 31 May 2021 (FY2021), a 5.5%...
Economy3 days ago
Russia, China and EU are pushing towards de-dollarization: Will India follow?
Finance4 days ago
Instagram: Why It Is the Best Social Media Platform for Marketing
Middle East1 day ago
Turkey’s Destruction of Cultural Heritage in Cyprus, Turkey, Artsakh
South Asia4 days ago
Panjshir – the last stronghold of democracy in Afghanistan
Americas4 days ago
Biden’s worrisome construct of security and self-defense in the first year of his term
Defense3 days ago
Developments on Korean Peninsula risk accelerating regional arms race
Economy3 days ago
Today’s World Demands Sustainability
South Asia3 days ago
Opposing Hindutava: US conference raises troubling questions