Review: Global Times and Federal Concerns

Global Times and Federal Concerns: Insights from Indian and American Case
By Dr. Amna Mirza(VL Media Solutions, New Delhi: 2013) pp 200.
Reviewed by Divya James


global-reviewGlobalization has affected the power and ability of the national government to act and control. Federalism and multilateral governance have important linkages. The Global Times and Federal Concerns: Insights from Indian and American Case, highlights the changes in the federal model in terms of moving away from single actor in decision making along with balancing unity and diversity. Liberalization, competition, reducing tariffs is need of the hour if free trade international trade regime has to work. Flexibility in the policy approach is the prerequisite for a pragmatic view of the current situation.

The book tries to study the federal system in India, which has shown resilience to adapt to accommodate the imperatives of national unity with a liberalized market and regionalized polity. States are allowed to introduce innovations in State economy. The idea of dual federalism to watch against political conflict and ensure functional separation among independent States, in US, has also moved from vertical State-federal dimension towards horizontal competitive federalism, which compels States to reach out to their citizens. This led to states’ foray in arena like foreign affairs.

The author, Dr. Amna Mirza, tries to compare the two federal models by contrast by pointing out that what was common in both models that states’ rise in foreign affairs that it was not enshrined in the Constitution. The specific international activities of various states were a response to domestic and international factors, which was not guided by any institutional structure also. It was extraneous yet linked to the overall federal bargaining between the center and States. As States needs shall grow with time, there shall be more examples of States new role in foreign affairs. These State interests are justified due to various economic, developmental, cultural needs.

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The book highlights that today governance is becoming extensive with a thick range of percolation with the inputs in decision-making becoming aggravated under the impact of wider contextual forces. It gave new directions for the ethos of the federal order like broadening base of democracy, adapting to neoliberal order simultaneously safeguarding state’s rights.

This discussion in the book towards the conclusion takes us to the “ideal discourse,” or what kind of federalism is appropriate for problems of global times. The institutional designs have shown glimpses of co-ordinate federalism like each tier having exclusive competences, administration, taxes etc. The current reality demands to work it along with co-operative federalism, where issues and competences, are over-lapping should be worked by joint mechanism of consultation and negotiation. It is essential to factor-in globalization within the federal set up where there is space for plurality of values and interests.

Divya James is a social activist from the National Capital Territory of Delhi, India.