Editorial Notes

Editorial Notes 22nd December 2016

India’s Foreign Policy in Syria; India’s reaction to Somalia’s Civil War; World Bank’s “Doing business”; What is ICEGATE?
By IT's Editorial Notes Team
December 22, 2016


GS (M) Paper-2: “Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability
GS (M) Paper-3: “Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.”
GS (M) Paper-3: “Effects of liberalization on the economy, changes in industrial policy and their effects on industrial growth.”


Smallness at the border



  • In 2017, World Bank’s “Doing business” project ranks India 130th out of 190 countries.
  • Rankings are a function of how other countries perform and not only based on the 10 parameters.
  • Trading across borders, receives relatively less attention in reform discussions.

What the World Bank does?

  • The entire World Bank exercise is based on two cities, Delhi and Mumbai.
  • Specifically, on trading across borders, there is an export side and an import side.
  • For exports, a shipment has to go from a warehouse in India (Mumbai/Delhi) to the US.
  • The representative item is electrical machinery and equipment.
  • For imports, it is the reverse and the representative item is parts and accessories of motor vehicles, imported from the Republic of Korea.
  • The respective ports are NhavaSheva and Mundra.

Required documents:

  • There are a bunch of documents associated with exports/imports — bill of lading, invoice, packing list, customs declaration, terminal handling receipts, import general manifest, bill of entry, cargo release order, certificate of origin.
  • These are different from the price-based measures like tariffs or duties.
  • Straightforward exports/imports require fewer documents and only for export incentives or preferential trade agreements more documentation is required.

How the Banks try to differentiate between the costs?

  • Documentary compliance (non-custom type documentation)
  • Border compliance (custom type documentation)
  • Domestic transport, cost defined both as time taken and money spent.

What is ICEGATE?

  • ICEGATE stands for ‘Indian Customs Electronic Commerce/Electronic Data interchange(EC/EDI) Gateway’.
  • It is a portal that provides e-filing services to the trade and cargo carriers and other clients of Customs Department (collectively called Trading Partner).
  • At present, about 24,000 users are registered with ICEGATE who are serving about 6.72 lakhs importers/exporters.
  • A study was done by the IIFT (Indian Institute of Foreign Trade) for the National Shipping Board in June 2016.
  • This was done to access the logistics and costs involved for shipping through ports.

Major problems:

  • Many unorganized and unregistered players
  • registration, regulation and accreditation by various agencies under numerous statutes/orders
  • Several heads for levying charges
  • Non-standardized formats for documents

Earlier actions taken by India:

  • India formally ratified the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA)in April 2016.
  • The CBEC has brought in SWIFT (Single Window Interface for Facilitating Trade) which will be integrated with ICEGATE.
  • Documents, declarations, forms of various government agencies will be standardized and integrated under it

Why is the study not that bright either?

  • Not too many countries have such a single-window interface and clearance system.
  • Stated differently, whether it is the World Bank or IIFT, there is a time-lag issue.
  • Because of what has already been put in place, somewhere down the line, India’s rankings will inevitably improve, subject to the caution that ranks are a function of what other countries also do.
  • There is also yet another caveat, flagged by the IIFT that there are too many unorganized and unregistered players.
  • This is true not only of ports but elsewhere too.
  • Efficiency improvements occur only when there is a greater degree of formalization and fragmentation declines, leading to larger players.
[Ref: Indian Express]


GS (M) Paper-2: “Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests”


Doing the right thing

India’s Policy in Syria:


  • India has prided itself on its humane approach to issues.
  • At the same time, it has been India’s axiom to not interfere in the affairs of other countries, and not to be involved in events in countries with which it is not directly concerned or which do not directly affect its interests.

India’s foreign policy:

  • As the principal architect of the policy of non-alignment, Jawaharlal Nehru was determined to keep India aloof from conflicts elsewhere, so that the country could devote its efforts and energy to the task of developing its economy.
  • In this he was largely successful by not lining up with either of the two politico-military blocs.
  • At the same time, he had declared, where peace was threatened or justice denied, India would not keep silent.
  • Here, his record was mixed. He spoke up strongly at the time of the Suez crisis of 1956, but took a less-than-neutral stand on the Hungarian revolt the same year. The contrast was stark.
  • While his Hungarian policy was flawed on moral grounds, it could be justified on the ground of national interest.
  • National interest does and must trump every other consideration. Often this approach seems, and is, of dubious morality, but if national interest dictates it, the government of the day must pursue national interest.

Syria’s scenario:


  • In the case of Syria, the situation is extremely complicated. External elements, regional and extra-regional, have jumped into the fray for their own agendas, without caring about the Syrian people.
  • Every single regional country is involved, and nearly all Western nations as well as Russia have joined in.
  • There is a difference of motives among those who want Bashar al-Assad out.
  • Ironically, there is now an unstated consensus that dethroning Mr. Assad is not a priority; in fact, forget about him and concentrate on defeating the Islamic State.
  • In such a situation, it makes sense for India not to get involved. We have remained more or less neutral though our stand was somewhat pro-regime in the past.

Should India remain to be silent?

  • There is, however, no reason for India to show indifference to the merciless slaughter of innocent lives in Syria.
  • It is true that there is nothing we can do to influence the course of events there.
  • It is also true that the region is of importance to us; prolonged instability, which might become even worse in the months ahead, with the change in administration in Washington, is not in our interest.
  • Thus, we have a legitimate reason not to do or say anything that might upset any of our friends, such as we have.
  • On the whole, we ought to break our silence on the humanitarian situation.

India’s reaction to Somalia’s Civil War:

  • When Somalia was being racked by civil war in the early 1990’s, India was a member of the United Nations Security Council.
  • There was a strong sentiment among the international community that something had to be done to stop the massacres.
  • We joined in authorising the Council to take action that eventually did not produce the desired result; nevertheless, India did support all the resolutions even though it amounted to intervening in the internal affairs of a UN member state.
  • And we did that guided by moral or ethical grounds.

Way ahead:

  • Similarly, in Syria, we ought not to fight shy of condemning the terrible loss of lives.
  • Expression of our outrage at the sufferings of the Syrian people would be perfectly in order.
  • India could and should have taken the initiative of tabling a resolution in the UN Security Council, denouncing and deploring the goings-on in Syria, at the same time scrupulously abstaining from any language smacking of supporting or criticizing any of the parties involved in the conflict.
  • We are not a member of the Security Council at present, but there is nothing to prevent a non-member from introducing a draft resolution.
  • Perhaps it is a bit late for us to take this initiative now.
  • But we must issue a statement, welcoming the unanimity shown by the Security Council in adopting the Franco-Russian draft resolution mandating the deployment of observers to monitor the evacuation from Aleppo.
  • And it is certainly not late to deplore the atrocities being perpetrated in Aleppo and elsewhere in Syria.
  • There is no reason for us to maintain our silence on this tragedy.
[Ref: The Hindu]


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