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Israel continues to boost Indian startups

This project further strengthened the business and economic ties between both countries….reports Asian Lite News

The Israeli mission in India has collaborated with TiE Chandigarh to provide mentorship to Indian startups in the field of sustainability and help them build skills to upscale their business capabilities.

“Yesterday, @israelinindia with @TiEChandigarh, in presence of Amb @NaorGilon concluded the all-India competition to provide mentorship to Indian startups in the field of sustainability,” Israeli mission in India tweeted.
TiE is a non-profit, global community that works with entrepreneurs from around the world.

This project further strengthened the business and economic ties between both countries. It was also special because both nations are celebrating 30 years of full diplomatic relations.

The project concluded with an event organized on December 8 in Chandigarh, during which five Indian startups presented their business ideas in the presence of the Israeli ambassador to India, Naor Gilon.

These startups were chosen after a 3-month long process. This involved an all-India competition for which applications were received from over 100 startups.

The aim of this project was to find aspiring startups in the field of sustainability and mentor them through workshops and seminars held by Israeli and Indian entrepreneurs and subject matter experts. The end goal was to create awareness about the importance of sustainability in the field of technology and business amongst the local ecosystem.

On this occasion, Ambassador Naor Gilon said, “Israel and India are natural partners. Our governments continue to cooperate and support the vibrant startup scene in both countries, and our industries and private sectors are sharing their experiences and working on the ground together. I encourage people from both countries to come together, grow together and merge their innovative ideas and technological capabilities to reach new heights.”

During the program, the Indian entrepreneurs were mentored by renowned VC and Mentor, Nava Swersky from Israel.

Swersky is a technology entrepreneur with over 30 years of international experience as an entrepreneur and manager. She is an investor in venture capital and is an expert in the fields of innovation and technology commercialization. (ANI)

ALSO READ: ‘India-Israel bilateral trade nears $8 billion’

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Pakistan most influenced by China

Behind Pakistan, Southeast Asia features prominently in the rankings, with Cambodia and Singapore listed in second and third, followed by Thailand….reports Asian Lite News

Pakistan is the country in the world that is the most influenced by China, according to a new study that measures Beijing’s expanding global sway.

The China Index — a database relaunched by DoubleThink Labs, a Taiwan-based research organization — ranks Pakistan atop a list of 82 other countries around the world, saying that its links to and dependency on Beijing in terms of foreign and domestic policy, technology, and the economy make it particularly susceptible to Chinese influence, RFE/RL reported.

Behind Pakistan, Southeast Asia features prominently in the rankings, with Cambodia and Singapore listed in second and third, followed by Thailand. The Philippines is seventh and Malaysia is 10th.

South Africa is the first African country at No. 5, where it is tied with Peru, the highest-ranked South American country, RFE/RL reported.

Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, which border China’s western Xinjiang province, are the Central Asian countries most influenced by Beijing, coming in at eighth and ninth place on the index.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz delivers his first government statement at the Reichstag building in Berlin. (Xinhua/Shan Yuqi/IANS)

Meanwhile, Germany is the highest-ranked European country at 19th and the US leads North America in the 21st position.

“A major goal of (this database) is to raise awareness around the world about the different aspects of Chinese influence and what that can actually look like,” Min Hsuan-Wu, the co-founder and CEO of Doublethink Labs, told RFE/RL.

“We’ve taken a much broader and nuanced look at what influence can be, which can tell us more about what Beijing is actually doing and the different ways it can apply pressure.”

In compiling the China Index, the research team focused on nine categories to track influence around the world that include higher education, domestic politics, economic ties, foreign policy, law enforcement, media, military cooperation, cultural links, and technology.

Wu says that this type of system leads to a more subtle understanding that challenges some assumptions about the levers of Chinese influence, most crucially around economics and trade.

“There’s no one clear pattern for how China influences a country, but from the data we compiled, the economy isn’t the determinative one,” he said.

“You can be economically independent but be tied in other ways, like with the military or a large Chinese diaspora that can be more influential,” RFE/RL quoted Wu as saying.

Given the diverse factors shaping the ranking system, Pakistan’s leading position is no surprise to long-time observers of the country’s relationship with Beijing, which was forged in the early days of the Cold War.

Islamabad is home to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a centrepiece of Beijing’s globe-spanning Belt and Road Initiative in which Chinese entities have funded and built hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of infrastructure projects in the last decade.

Pakistan’s ties with China, however, have ballooned across nearly every category used to compile its ranking in the index, especially when it comes to areas like military ties, technology, and foreign policy.

Shahzeb Jillani, a veteran journalist who helped compile research on Pakistan used for the database, says that many Pakistanis may be surprised to see their country ranking so high, but he hopes the findings will lead to greater debate and reflection about Islamabad’s deepening ties with Beijing, RFE/RL reported.

“One can only hope that this will encourage Pakistanis to debate the pros and cons of the relationship and what it could mean for the future,” he said.

ALSO READ: Pakistan passport one of worst in world

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INTERVIEW: Nirupama Rao

Nirupama Rao is a career diplomat who served as India’s Foreign Secretary from 2009 to 2011, as well as being India’s Ambassador to the United States, China and Sri Lanka. She is one of the foremost China experts among the diplomatic corps of the country. On 2021 end she has authored a detailed book on the India – China dispute with reference to India, Tibet and China.  Her book, ‘The Fractured Himalaya’ India Tibet China – 1949 to 1962 traces the entire history of India’s relationship with its neighbouring China in the said period and the role of Tibet which is vital in understanding the India – China relationship. The author draws upon numerous documents regarding the stand which was adopted by India, China, USA, UK, Soviet Union among other countries with reference to Tibet and its issues with China. Excerpts from a detailed interview with Nirupama Rao on the basis of her book.   INTERVIEW: Nirupama Rao, Interview by ABHISH K. BOSE

ABHISH K BOSE: As an Ambassador to China and involved in several rounds of discussions with the Chinese leadership. What is your take on the future of India-China relationship?

NIRUPAMA RAO: My book ‘The Fractured Himalaya’ is aiming to enlighten the public about the complex nature of the dispute between India and China.  I have studied the issue in close proximity and I also present an understanding of all the issues and the policy factors involved in this very complex narrative. As far as the present and the future of the relationship are concerned, I think we first have to understand the past. If you are not understanding the past you are condemned to repeat it, as they say. The nature of the issue is extremely complex and there is no solution to it other than patient negotiations.  A solution cannot arrive through conflict from either side or confrontation. Unfortunately, at the present moment we have a lot of tensions at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) between the two countries, both in Ladakh, and now in pockets along the Arunachal Pradesh border with China. China is engaged in various activities leading to more tensions in the area. Now both countries are in touch with each other through their military commanders and diplomatic establishments to sort out the tensions, to achieve some disengagement and some de-escalation. So there are two aspects related to this, one is to reduce the tensions along the border that is the (LAC) and that effort has to continue and we have to see the reduction of tension first of all. India has been very firm that China must return to the status quo, and that the new transgressions as they are called are removed especially in Ladakh.  So we have to achieve a return to the status quo since first of all the relations were affected by what happened in Galwan last year. We lost 20 soldiers. There was a lot of tension for the first time in the last 45 years along the border which is very unfortunate. This affected the whole structure of the relationship. First, we have to deal with that. As far as resolving the border is concerned it requires a concentrated effort by the leadership of both countries. It is not an easy matter as each country has its positions and claims and we have to see a reduction of differences on the issues to reach some agreement. Thus there are two aspects to this problem. At the moment the focus and concentration are on how to reduce the tension along the Line of Actual Control.

ABHISH K BOSE: In your book, you are quoting the diary of the Soviet ambassador in Beijing, PF Yudin, who records a conversation with Deng Xiaopeng – the then general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, in 1959, June. While referring to the Dalai Lama, Deng told Yudin ‘ Nehru calculated that the Dalai Lama would play a huge role in the Indian plan and that chaos would begin in Tibet without Lama. According to the conversation this prompted Nehru to give asylum to Lama. Quite the opposite, in Tibet, things are going without Lama. The Lama had turned out to be a burden.  Is there any other historical document to prove this thought prevailed in Nehru’s mind and whether the Dalai Lama was given asylum on the basis of this assumption? What is your view on this?

NIRUPAMA RAO: The Dalai Lama was given asylum since he had to leave Tibet in 1959. There was a Tibetan revolt at that time, The Dalai Lama’s life was in danger and he had no option but to leave Tibet and to seek refuge in India. India’s position was quite clear at that time. We did not want to interfere in the Tibetan issue. We had recognized Tibet as a part of China. Nehru told the Dalai Lama that he should adjust and come to terms with realities and work with the Chinese. But that did not succeed as the Chinese introduced new reforms in Tibet, which the Tibetan people were unhappy with and there were a lot of disturbances and revolt that ensued and the Dalai Lama had no option at that time but to leave Lhasa. At that time I do not think that his intention was to seek refuge in India, but as the situation worsened he had no option but to cross the border and come to Arunachal Pradesh, and that way he entered India. It all happened because there was a cause and an effect; I don’t think there was any interference from the part of India at all in the Tibetan situation. But the affection the Indian people always had for Tibetans and especially for the Dalai Lama I think was foremost in Nehru’s mind – he saw the difficulties that the Dalai Lama was facing and India offered refuge to him.

ABHISH K BOSE:  It was after the Dalai Lama was given asylum in India that the relations with China deteriorated. It was after this that the Chinese supreme leader Mao Zedong had written an essay in the People’s Daily on May 6, 1959, in which he would emphasize how Nehru and his government had sought to block political reforms in Tibet and harboured territorial ambitions towards Tibet. Do you think that the decision of Nehru in giving refuge to the Dalai Lama was a well-thought-out decision giving adequate bearing to its long-term political ramifications?

NIRUPAMA RAO: It was not political asylum but refuge on humanitarian grounds. I think at that time India had no option but to act on humanitarian grounds.  Because public opinion in our country and a majority of the people apart from the Communists did support Nehru’s decision to give refuge to Dalai Lama and the Tibetan refugees. So it was a popular decision and I don’t think Nehru could have acted otherwise. I don’t think Nehru could have denied the Dalai Lama’s entry into the country because it was a humanitarian question. Dalai Lama’s life was in danger, his life was at risk let us say and it was the correct decision to allow him to come to India. Of course, the Chinese had their own interpretation of it, but that is the Chinese outlook.  But as far as India is concerned India acted correctly and in the best humanitarian interests to offer refuge to the Dalai Lama. It was very clear from the beginning that the Dalai Lama should not engage in any political activity while he was in India. That he was here as a guest of our people, of our government and we see him as a religious figure, not as a political figure.  

ABHISH K BOSE:  Which means you are refuting the conversation PF Yudin had with Deng Xiao Peng. While referring to the Dalai Lama, Deng told Yudin ‘ Nehru calculated that the Dalai Lama would play a huge role in the Indian plan and that chaos would begin in Tibet without Lama.

NIRUPAMA RAO: That’s not absolutely the case. I don’t think Nehru had any plan or any plot or there was any Indian conspiracy.  The Dalai Lama has to leave Lhasa, his life was in danger and I said it was a popular decision supported by all the political parties to offer him refuge. . It was not something that the opposition questioned Nehru about. This was one issue on which there was a national consensus in India that we offer asylum to the Dalai Lama and whatever the Soviets or the Chinese were saying that was the Communist point of view.   From the beginning, the Chinese wanted to establish a Communist order in Tibet.  I don’t think the Chinese were interested in promoting religion or the culture of the Tibetan people and that I think was the root cause of the problem. The Tibetans were uneasy with all the reforms the Chinese were introducing there and if you read the Soviet papers very carefully what the Soviet leaders were saying at that time, they were faulting the Chinese leadership for all the wrongs they made in Tibet.  The Soviets were not blaming Nehru or India but were blaming the Chinese for having created a situation which had led to all these complications.

ABHISH K BOSE: Did Prime Minister Nehru take the Chinese transgressions into Indian territory with the required seriousness? There are options on his behalf to raise these Chinese transgressions before the UN. However, he didn’t make use of any of these forums. When he raised the issue of the continuing depiction of Indian territory as Chinese in its official maps with Chinese PM Zhou Enlai during his October 1959 visit to China, Zhou Enlai said that the maps in question were based on the old Guomindang maps which had not yet been revised by the people’s government. This is perceived to be a tricky stand. In fact, this is also pointing to the expansionist agenda inherent in the Chinese establishment. How do you explain the Chinese tactics? 

NIRUPAMA RAO: The Chinese were waiting to consolidate their claims.  As you know in the early part of our history, up to 1957 or so the Chinese were studying the issue, they were making the plans, they were improving their infrastructure, and by 1957, 58 and 59, that is when the whole border problem became evident, especially to India, India had assumed that the Chinese were not going to make these claims.  That I think is the time we should have understood Chinese intentions more correctly. I don’t think there was ever a question of taking it to the United Nations. Even to this day, regardless of the changes in the government and the political parties assuming power in New Delhi, the approach has always been that both countries should work this problem out and solve it bilaterally, not by referring it to the United Nations. So there was no question of referring it to the UN. That never arose. As far as the border is concerned throughout all these decades the approach from both sides is that we have to sit and resolve these issues through patient negotiations and in a fair and reasonable way. That continues to be our stand to this day.

Jawaharlal Nehru signing the constitution

ABHISH K BOSE: The double standard adopted by the Chinese establishment to Nehru regarding the continuous depiction of Indian territories was that the maps were prepared on the basis of old Guomindong maps not revised by the Chinese establishment. Wasn’t it a tricky stand?

NIRUPAMA RAO: Yes it’s true that the Chinese wait to strike at the opportune moment, there is no question about it.  The Chinese adopted an expansionist approach to the territory all across their borders. You had the incidents in the India – China border, you have this happening in the East and South China Seas, and they had a war with Vietnam.  So the Chinese have border problems with all their neighbouring countries. In the case of India, it is a very long border, an unsettled border and that continues to generate tensions between the two countries.  The Chinese had made these claims in the territory from the 1950s onwards and at that point in time we should have been more alert to what they were doing along our borders, and secondly, there was an opportunity at that point of time since positions on both sides had not crystallized fully to sort out these problems, to come to some conclusion where both sides would sit down and work out a border settlement that would safeguard the national interests and the security of both sides. That opportunity definitely existed in the 1960s as for example when Zhou Enlai came to Delhi in April 1960. So those opportunities I think could have been used to settle the issue.

Xi Jinping, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, waves to journalists at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Oct. 23, 2022. (Xinhua/Pang Xinglei/IANS)

ABHISH K BOSE: Was Nehru’s non-alignment policy a burden for India while India faced a number of crises in its immediate neighbourhood as a result of the presence of China and Pakistan? Nehru’s non-alignment policy was a bit idealistic taking into account the territorial disputes with China and Pakistan. The book says that Nehru was against the view of his colleagues in the cabinet that if China is allying with the Soviet Union, India should move closer to the US. However, Nehru was apprehensive that if India moved close to the US it would have disastrous consequences in its relations with China. Nehru was the proponent of a balanced relationship with China and the US thereby not hurting or moving close to both of them. Could India block the aggressive moves of China at the border by allying with the US? What are your views on this?

NIRUPAMA RAO: I don’t think the US could come to our rescue regarding our issues with China. I think history teaches us that we have to have a policy of multi-alignment when it comes to dealing with such situations. We have to create balancing factors whereby we can deal with these threats better.  This includes strengthening our defence forces, it also includes reaching out to other countries with whom we can form partnerships which can balance the threats from others. These countries may not fight our battle for us, but they can augment our resources whether they are security, or economic. In the fifties and sixties of the last century, India was a very young, new nation, and as individuals when you are young, and when you are inexperienced in life you do make mistakes that you regret in later years.  But I think Nehru’s intentions were honourable. Nehru did not want to be part of either block, east or west. He thought China as a country could not just be categorised as a Communist country, that China is a civilizational state that China and India could build a partnership that could promote the interests of the developing world which would be of positive contribution to the cause of peace in Asia. So these were the intentions Nehru had in his mind. But I think in retrospect maybe we should have been more flexible in our approach with the US at that time.  History teaches us that. But you cannot reach an assumption based simply in isolation. Every decision is in a specific context. We should see it in that light and there are no absolute truths in history.

ABHISH K BOSE: In his autobiography, former Foreign Secretary of India MK Rasgotra reveals that China’s war on India could have been stopped if Nehru accepted the proposal from then-US President John F Kennedy for transferring nuclear bomb technology to India. It was in the 1950s when Kennedy was the president. However, Nehru declined this offer after consulting with his advisors. If Nehru had accepted this proposal do you think it could rein in the territorial ambitions of China? Are there any documents or other evidence in your research to prove that Kennedy put forward a similar proposal and Nehru declined it. What is your view?

NIRUPAMA RAO: I have not come across any other sources to prove this. Ambassador Rasgothra, of course, has pointed out this in his book. I have not addressed this in my book. I have dealt with the India – China relationship in my book and what resulted in the conflict of 1962.  The point is that in the 1960s, the Chinese and the Soviet Union fell out and what the record suggests is that the Soviet Union had begun to help China in building its nuclear weapon capability with some exchange of blueprints. We don’t know the full truth of this, but the inference is that the Chinese received a lot of help from the Soviet Union in building nuclear weapons. At that time, you are right that the options were available for India also. But Kennedy died in 1963, and Nehru died in 1964. Nehru was very clear in his mind that he did not want India to become a nuclear weapon state.  He was a proponent of universal nuclear disarmament, he was of the view that nuclear weapons can cause unwanted destruction that could even eliminate the human race. He did not want a third world war, and that was Nehru’s philosophy and his ideology as we can call it.

ABHISH K BOSE: Do you think that Nehru was more often idealistic in his foreign relations?

NIRUPAMA RAO: I don’t know if he was entirely idealistic. He was knowledgeable of the ground situation. We have to study the issues in more depth and see what lessons history has taught us. But we cannot indulge in this quarrel with the past. If we continue yo do so, it will affect our present and it will affect our future also. We have to learn from these lessons and understand this is what history has taught us and how we must safeguard our interests and utilize our resources better. Indulging in a constant quarrel with the past will drag us down.  Understanding the past should liberate us.

ABHISH K BOSE: Do you have any suggestions to reach a permanent solution to the disputes with the Chinese? Is dialogue a way ahead?

NIRUPAMA RAO: Dialogue is the only solution. It is the solution. The Indian government is very clear that we are not for conflict, we do not want tension. But if the other side creates these tensions we will defend ourselves. We are very clear that our territory will be defended. We will take whatever means to prevent any taking of what we consider as our territory by the other side. This has been the approach of every government in power in Delhi. So while we are supporters of a peaceful solution at the same time on the ground we are clear that our territory will be defended and we will not barter away the nation’s interest.

ABHISH K BOSE: As the relations with China deteriorate countries such as India and the US should need to focus on how the identity of the Tibetan people as a distinct cultural community, can be safeguarded and fostered as the current Dalai Lama is advancing in age and China increasingly asserts her right to name a suppliant successor while clamping down further on the human rights of Tibetans and their communication links with the outside world. How can Tibetan interests be protected?

NIRUPAMA RAO: I think from both the US side and from our side also, our approach has always been to support the religious and cultural identity of the Tibetans. India has given refuge to hundreds of thousands of Tibetans since 1959 onwards and new generations of Tibetans have grown up in India. Today if you visit the Tibetan settlements, if you go to Dharamsala you see that Tibetan culture is alive in India. I think it is the greatest contribution that India has made to the Tibetan cause. We have not interfered politically in Tibet, whatever the Chinese say. It is absolutely untrue to suggest that India has in any way caused the problems that they face in Tibet. That is totally an assumption from that side that needs to be rejected unequivocally. India is not indulging in any such activities. I think the world supports India and appreciates what India has done to foster and to preserve Tibetan culture, to preserve the religious and cultural identity of Tibet. The Dalai Lama is a respected spiritual leader who is respected not only by the Tibetans but also by the Indians. Now the question of his succession, obviously India cannot interfere nor the US. We have not interfered in these issues. If you talk to the Tibetans anywhere they hold the Dalai Lama in the highest respect. They worship him. I hope that he lives as long as possible, and his welfare is our uppermost concern. What happens hereafter, we hope that a solution is found that will be in the interests of the Tibetan people.

ABHISH K BOSE: On Tibet, India’s primary concern were that her frontiers with the region should be regarded as fixed and determined, and not open to alteration. But the implicit acknowledgement by India of Chinese sovereignty over Tibet after 1950s without ensuring as a quid pro quo, that China would affirm and endorse the traditional Indo – Tibetan frontier had fateful repercussions. Is it a diplomatic lapse from the part of India to ensure that China adheres to the Indian interests?

NIRUPAMA RAO: I have laid out the facts in my book. If we had raised the issue of the India-China frontier at the time of negotiating the Agreement on Tibet in 1954, history would have been different. Let us put it in those terms

ABHISH K BOSE: Despite India – China tensions the trade between the two countries has grown over the years to an unprecedented level. Due to the mutual financial ties between the two countries the India – China relationship needs to be revamped for the benefit of the two countries.  How do you evaluate this contradiction in its relations with China?

NIRUPAMA RAO: In the last few decades, the relationship between India and China had grown in several areas including trade and economic ties, people-to-people contacts, communication links between the two countries, leadership-level dialogue, a whole architecture of the relationship was built up over the last 30 years.  It is true that there is an unbalanced trade between the two sides with Chinese exports to India being much more than Indian exports to China.  This has always been a cause of concern. Now after what happened in Galwan, there is a lot of talk on how to reduce our dependence on China. But we can’t do it that easily. Because it is not something that happens overnight. A lot of steps have to be taken to safeguard the supply chain, to diversify our sources of imports, to build more ‘aatmanirbhar’ as the government says within the country. It is a process that is ongoing and will take some time. The relationship with China has developed in many areas in the last 30 years.  It is much more developed than it was in the 1960s when we did not have much trade with China.  The economic relationship between the two countries as it had evolved over the last few years cannot be broken overnight.

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Anti-China protests blur Beijing’s influence in South Asia

Sri Lanka is now facing the brunt of repaying the debt which is worsened because of China’s Belt and Road Initiative…reports Asian Lite News

China’s ambitious policy of exerting its influence in the South China Sea appears blurred as neighbouring countries like Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, and the Maldives have launched the anti china protest.

Notably, the anger amongst these countries is because of the debt trap of massive loans from china and their interference and presence in their country. The ongoing economic crisis in Sri Lanka, which led to the Chinese occupation of Hambantota port over non-repayment of loans, has added to the problem, according to The Singapore Post.

Sri Lanka granted the Hambantota port to the Chinese on a 99-year lease but is now facing the brunt of repaying the debt which is worsened because of China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

Currently, Sri Lanka blames China for their economic crises. Earlier, several politicians had led anti-China protests as it had declined the restructuring of their loans, according to Nectar Gan, an author in The Singapore Post.

Sri Lankan central bank.(photo:Facebook)

“If the Chinese government and Embassy do not look after the interests of our Lankan people… there will be a China go home campaign soon,” Gan quoted a 32-year-old legislator Shanakiyan Rasamanickam. However, China’s loans were opposed in Sri Lanka way back in 2017. Buddhist monks had warned the government of Sri Lanka that it would become a Chinese colony if it fell for the BRI but the government ignored their warning.

Financial experts based in Bangladesh have criticized the Chinese loans for being expensive and with no option of grants unlike the loans given by the World Bank (WB), Asian Development Bank (ADB) or Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), reported The Singapore Post.

In Bangladesh, the second-highest receiver of Chinese loans Ahsan H Mansur, executive director of Dhaka-based think tank Policy Research Institute (PRI) highlighted the deception used by the Chinese contractors. He said they show lower cost while taking up contracts but increase it significantly later. This adds to the debt principal and interest, thus increasing the loan burden, according to The Singapore Post.

Loans defaulted by Bangladesh have now reached USD 12.38 billion approximately. The Singapore Post reported by quoting Bangladesh’s Finance Minister Mustafa Kamal who had warned Bangladesh to think twice before taking Chinese loans. He said, “Everybody is blaming China. China cannot disagree. It’s their responsibility”.

Bangladesh sees similar protests against China for its treatment of ethnic minority Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, China.

Maldives, where the political landscape is divided into pro-India and pro-China groups also protested for Uyghur Muslims. Now as the Pro Indian government is in power in Maldives china’s interference in the country has been restricted and an India First policy has been adopted, Gan reported.

Both of these investments of USD 12.38 billion approximately in Bangladesh and USD 1.5 billion in Maldives are raising concerns for China as both of these countries are strategically important. The Maldives especially finds itself in problems as it is not able to raise revenue to repay its huge loan to China with its USD 4.9 billion dollar Gross Domestic Product (GDP). All this is the opportunity for India to regain influence with Maldives as it is helping the country with its debt resulting in the recapture of the support that it had lost to China, according to The Singapore Post.

Nepal which signed itself for the BRI in 2017 has now revoked itself from the BRI due to its concerns about a possible debt trap. This comes when China is already facing allegations of encroaching on its territory. Resulting which the block on export and the closure of the border for months.

The South Asian countries have now been carefully observing China’s questionable economic activity in the area and trying to save itself from the debt trap. (ANI)

ALSO READ: Setback for China as ‘super-embassy’ blocked in London

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Shanghai eases indoor Covid curbs

The new measures have been announced in Shanghai after China optimized its COVID response by releasing 10 new measures….reports Asian Lite News

Shanghai on Thursday announced measures as part of the implementation of China’s 10 new steps for optimizing the COVID-19 response. From Friday, negative COVID test certificates are not needed for indoor entertainment venues and restaurants in Shanghai, Global Times reported.

Special requirements continue to remain in places like elderly care, children’s welfare institutions, medical institutions and schools. Shanghai announced that no mass COVID testing will be conducted at the administrative region level except for employees in high-risk positions and high-risk areas. The new measures have been announced in Shanghai after China optimized its COVID response by releasing 10 new measures. Wu Jinglei, deputy director of the office of municipal epidemic prevention and control leading group, in a press briefing on Thursday said, other people can get themselves tested voluntarily and residents without testing records within seven days will not be subject to a yellow health code, as per the Global Times report.

Wu Jinglei added that Shanghai will continue to have nucleic acid testing sites and will give free testing services. According to the new measures announced by Shanghai on Thursday, symptomatic carriers, and mild COVID-19 cases meeting certain requirements will be permitted to isolate at home from Friday.

The health department will monitor the positive cases during home quarantine and they will be able to come out of isolation if their CT value equals or is above 35 for two consecutive times on the sixth and seventh day of the quarantine, as per the news report.

According to authorities, patients with deteriorating health conditions will be shifted to hospitals for treatment. Testing requirement no longer exists for people arriving in the city, according to Global Times report. The authorities said that close contacts who meet quarantine requirements can stay in home quarantine for five days. People no longer need to register information before buying medicines like cough relief, antiviral and cold.

China’s decision to ease restrictions comes after large-scale protests erupted in the country against the zero-COVID policy. Notably, China has been adhering to a zero-COVID policy ever since the pandemic emerged. China has conducted mass testing, imposing lockdowns and travel restrictions to curb the virus. Protest erupted in Shanghai after a fire broke out at an apartment building in Urumqi on November 24. (ANI)

ALSO READ: China’s Indian Ocean Game Plan

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‘No Money For Terror’ Is Need Of The Hour

For decades, the focus of the Indian security establishment in hotspots around the country has been more on seizing weapons than on cracking down on the funding networks. Fortunately, there has been a policy change in New Delhi over past few years, writes Ashok Bhan

Terrorist attacks are highly responsive to funding availability, and financial counter-terrorism can therefore be effective in reducing terrorism casualties, according to research conducted by Nicola Limodio, Assistant Professor of Finance at Bocconi University Visiting Fellow at the Economics Department and the Julis-Rabinowitz Center for Public Policy and Finance at Princeton University.

Everyone knows that terrorists need money and other assets, for weapons, training, travel and accommodation to plan and execute their attacks and develop an organization. Disrupting and preventing terrorist-related financial flows and transactions is one of the effective ways to fight terrorism. Not only can it prevent future attacks by disrupting their material support, but the footprint of their purchases, withdrawals and other financial transactions can also provide valuable information for ongoing investigations.

Without destroying the war economy in Kashmir, bringing peace to the troubled Indian state will remain a pipedream. Former Commandant of the BSF and researcher N S Jamwal estimates that Pakistan spends around $5 million annually (Rs 24 crore) to sustain militancy in Kashmir while India’s expenditure on counter-insurgency operations (CI-OPS) is around $1.46 billion annually (Rs. 730 crore). These figures are an indication of how every dollar spent on terrorist activities necessitates a financial commitment several orders of magnitude on counter-intelligence and physical expenditures in the target country. He is of the view that financing terrorism in J&K costs no more than $70-80 million annually, i.e., Rs 400-500 crore.

The need and importance for blocking finances to terrorist organizations were outlined and emphasized by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Home Minster recently while addressing a conference ‘No Money for Terror’ (NMFT) Ministerial Conference on Counter-Terrorism Financing in New Delhi recently. The two-day conference which was organised on 18th-19th November was a unique platform for participating nations and organisations to deliberate on the effectiveness of the current international regime on Counter Terrorism Financing and the steps required to address emerging challenges.

It was concluded in the conference that countering terrorism financing is an essential part of the global fight against the terror threat. As terrorists and terror groups continue to raise money with the use of various means, countries must make it a priority to understand the risks they face from terrorist financing and develop a policy response to all aspects of it.

State support is one of the major sources of political, ideological and financial support for terrorism. Certain countries support terrorists as part of their foreign policy. There must be a cost imposed upon countries that support terrorism. Organisations and individuals that try to create sympathy for terrorists must also be isolated. There can be no ifs and buts entertained in such matters. The world needs to unite against all kinds of overt and covert backing of terror.

The infrastructure used for cyber terrorism and online radicalisation is distributed while some entities also train the terrorists with weapons from remote locations as well as online resources. Communications, travel,logistics – there are many links in the chain in different countries. Terrorists should not be allowed to misuse differences in legal principles, procedures and processes in different countries. This can be prevented through deeper coordination and understanding between governments. Joint operations, intelligence coordination and extradition help the fight against terror.

As scholar and author Sushant Sareen have said in the context of Jammu and Kashmir that on one hand thousands of people have died, families and properties destroyed, and an entire society traumatised, the one set of people who have prospered beyond their wildest imagination is the separatist mafia. The huge fortunes built by separatists and terrorists in Kashmir are one of the worst-kept secrets in Kashmir. Over the years, Kashmir has been transformed into a war economy, which needs to be dismantled.

For decades, the focus of the Indian security establishment in hotspots around the country has been more on seizing weapons than on cracking down on the funding networks. While in the West, security agencies followed the money to bust criminal syndicates and terror networks, in India the thinking was that the problem wasn’t the money but the munitions. Unfortunately, elements in the Indian security establishment have also contributed to the separatist entrepreneurship in Kashmir by plying the separatists with huge amounts of money in the fond hope of weaning them away from Pakistan and eventually winning them over – the former Intelligence Bureau chief in Kashmir and later Research & Analysis Wing chief, A S Dulat, has admitted as much in his book on Kashmir. Essentially what this meant was that the separatists raked in the moolah from all sides – India, Pakistan, within Kashmir, foreign donors, and so forth.

Fortunately, there has been a policy change in New Delhi over past few years. The trigger for the policy change appears to have been the remarkable sting operation carried out by intrepid reporters of India Today TV who exposed the shenanigans of the merchants of death in the Valley. The outcry after the expose probably gave the government the justification it needed for strangulating the funding of the separatists and terrorists.

In fact, among the most interesting aspects of the India Today sting operation was that the separatists who were exposed didn’t seem at all surprised or suspicious that they were being offered money by middlemen from outside the state to provide protection for their operations and even create disturbances to further their interests. If anything, the terror financiers saw they are dealing with these reporters who were impersonating middlemen from mainland India as nothing out of the ordinary, almost as if it was business as usual.

Kashmir,people.(photo:unsplash)



Kashmiri militants obtain financial support from dozens of Islamic charities and radical Islamic organisations that channel funds to terrorist groups. The Pakistan-based Markaz-ul-Dawa-Ishad, the parent outfit of LeT and a religious organisation puts out regular advertisements in its in-house monthly magazine, Al Dawa. It urges Muslims to donate money to Kashmir ‘Jehad Fund’ and deposit it in bank accounts. 12 At its annual congregation in November 1998 at Muridke, near Lahore, the Markaz decided to raise Rs 5 crore including 3 crores to supply weapons to the Kashmiri ‘Jehad’, 1 crore for training and 1 crore to rehabilitate Kashmir refugees in POK. 13

Several First Information Reports (FIRs) filed by the Jammu & Kashmir Police in 1997 indicate that the senior leaders of the APHC receive donations from abroad. The nexus between narcotics and terrorism had led to a new term-Narco-Terrorism. It is recognised as one of the oldest and most dependable sources of terrorist financing, primarily because of the magnitudes of finance involved in both activities.

Extortion has emerged as a major source of terrorist funding. Police and Intelligence agencies believe that most businessmen, shopkeepers, government employees, contractors, especially those dealing in timber and persons with the sound financial background are easy targets. Hawala funding through a network of dealers which extends from the OIC countries to Delhi, Mumbai and other places in India also feeds militancy. Many of these Hawala dealers have begun wholesale/retail businesses as fronts to divert money to the J&K militant groups. Pakistani Finance Minister Shaukat Aziz, a former executive vice president of Citibank in New York said that US $2-5 billion moves through the Hawala system annually in Pakistan. This is higher than the amount of regular foreign transfers through the country’s banking system.

A US Treasury Department study identified Hawala as the preferred means of laundering monies from drug trafficking and other crimes in Pakistan. The report said Pakistan, India and Dubai on the Persian Gulf from the Hawala Triangle to move money secretly worldwide. One Abdul Rehman was arrested on December 6, 2001, with Rs 15.5 lakh in Delhi. This money was coming from Dubai for HM. Further, on the same day, Rs 40 lakh coming Hawala channels were recovered from a Kashmiri militant which was received by him through the Hawala channel. The Delhi Police arrested four Kashmiri militants on January 15, 2002, from the capital and seized Rs. 35 lakh from them. This money was received by militants from Pakistan through a Hawala operator in Chandni Chowk.

It can be safely concluded that terrorism in J&K is financed by a variety of sources, both national and transnational. While it costs the terrorists only a modest sum of money to destabilise the region and spread terror, the Indian government has to set aside huge outlays to tackle the problem. A more effective method of fighting terrorism would be to launch a multidimensional offensive against all the sources-narcotic trade, extortion, counterfeiting, fake charities-as well as methods of financing, namely, hawala and front companies.

(The author is senior advocate in the Supreme Court and a geo-strategic expert. The views expressed are personal)

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Navy participates in int’l fleet review in Bangladesh

The FOC-in-C also interacted with the Chiefs of Army & Air Staff as well as the DG Coast Guard of Bangladesh prior to commencement of the review…reports Asian Lite News

An Indian Navy delegation along with frontline warships INS Kochi, INS Kavaratti, and INS Sumedha participated in the International Fleet Review hosted by the Bangladesh Navy at Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh on Wednesday (December 7).

Taking to Twitter, the Official Spokesperson of the Indian Navy wrote, “#IndianNavy delegation led by VAdm Biswajit Dasgupta, #FOCinC @IN_HQENC along with 3 Indian Naval warships #INSKochi, #INSKavaratti & #INSSumedha participated in the maiden #InternationalFleetReview (IFR) hosted by the #BangladeshNavy on 07 Dec 22. India-Bangladesh???? @ihcdhaka @bdhc_delhi”

The Indian delegation was led by Vice Admiral Biswajit Dasgupta, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief (FOC-in-C) of the Eastern Naval Command, which oversaw operations during the Liberation War.

The FOC-in-C also interacted with the Chiefs of Army & Air Staff as well as the DG Coast Guard of Bangladesh prior to commencement of the review.

The frontline warships of the Indian Navy arrived at Cox’s Bazar on December 6 to ensure large participation in the exercise.

Bangladesh is organizing a four-day International Fleet Review (IFR) for the first time. It commenced on Tuesday near the border area of Cox’s Bazar on the southern Bay of Bengal.

The event began with the inauguration by Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. It included a beach procession, a fleet review, and insights into the activity of the special forces at sea.

International food festivals and cultural activities with participation from foreigners will also be organized to showcase Bangladesh and the participating nations’ diverse cultures and rich traditions.

The IFR has participation from a number of countries, including the USA, UK, Germany, Italy, Saudi Arabia, India, China, Korea, Indonesia, Turkey, and the Netherlands, in addition to the host country, Bangladesh.

Navy’s 1st Anti-Submarine Warfare Shallow Water Craft to be launched

The Indian Navy’s first Anti-Submarine Warfare Shallow Water Craft (ASWSWC) will be launched on December 16, adding yet another feather in the cap of Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers (GRSE) Ltd.

Though only 77.6 meters long and 10.5 meters wide, this vessel will pack a punch and be capable of hunting down and neutralising the enemy submarines lurking close to India’s coast.

After her launch, the ship will get outfitted with deck equipment, sensors and weapons systems before being delivered to the Navy.

The Navy has ordered 16 such vessels. While eight are being built by GRSE, the remaining are under construction at the Cochin Shipyard Ltd.

In the past, GRSE has built and delivered four Anti-Submarine Warfare Corvettes to the Navy under Project-28. These Kamorta Class of ships were the first ASW Corvettes to join the Indian Navy. With a length of 109 meters, they are much larger than the ASWSWCs being built now.

“We have been operating ASW ships for the last several years (the INS Kamorta joined the Navy in 2014). However, the ASWSWC will have a specific purpose to patrol the country’s vast coastline in search of sub-surface threats. The first ship will be launched on December 16 at Kattupalli, Tamil Nadu. Apart from sensors and weapons systems to tackle underwater threats, these ships will have deck guns for their own protection,” Commodore Indrajeet Dasgupta, Warship Production Supervisor (WPS) for the Indian Navy at GRSE said.

According to another senior naval official, these ships will play a very important role, given the movement of Chinese submarines close to Indian waters. While submarines operating further out at sea can be detected and tackled by ASW Corvettes and long-range surveillance aircraft, midget submarines can get very close to the coast and cause severe damage to harbour entry points and anchored warships. Submarines can also lay mines at harbour mouths. It was reported earlier this year that China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has developed and inducted midget submarines that can sneak through defences.

“The ASWSWCs will be very capable of tackling such threats. They can operate on their own or in conjunction with aircraft. These ships will also be able to detect mines and take necessary measures,” the official added.

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Misleading campaign to oust Hasina

In a recent interview, British lawyer Toby Cadman admitted that he was working to get sanctions imposed against RAB from UK, a report by Sumi Khan

The blatant advocacy for imposition of fresh sanctions on Bangladesh’s elite Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) by British lawyer Toby Cadman, who was the legal advisor to radical outfit Jamaat-e-Islami, a key partner of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), has exposed the heavy investment the opposition alliance made for western nations to create a rift with Bangladesh and oust the Sheik Hasina-led government.

In a recent interview to Al Jazeera, Cadman admitted that he was working to get sanctions imposed against RAB from UK, let alone expressing satisfaction at the recently imposed sanctions by the US on five officials of the law enforcing agency.

“I filed the request for sanctions and while I am not in a position to discuss the substance, I can confirm that I discussed the request with the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office [FCDO],” Cadman said, referring to the UK foreign office.

The latest statement by Cadman is another pointer to a chilling plot to mislead the world on Bangladesh, as the opposition combine of BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami has long been investing millions of dollars in hiring lobbies to launch sting operations against the government.

In light of the recent sanctions impose by the US over rights issues, and Cadman taking the same line, raises questions over the underlying arm-twisting under the facade of upholding democratic values.

BNP leaders recently announced a deadline — December 10 — to oust the Hasina-led government following which the country would be run on the directives of fugitive convict Tarique Rahman and Khaleda Zia.

Misleading campaign by UK lawyer to oust Hasina-led B’desh govt

A series of misleading campaigns, sponsored by the opposition combine, on the global stage has already been exposed ever since the war crimes trial began in 2009, and the employment of Cadman and his associates by the Jamaat-e-Islam.

Right after the outright rejection by the public in the 2008 elections, the BNP-Jamaat combine opted to spend staggering amounts, particularly in the US, the UK and the European Union, to spread targeted disinformation campaign against the Hasina-led government. Before the last Parliamentary polls, Khaleda Zia even wrote a column in a western paper advocating for cancellation of GSP facilities.

Following its blunder to boycott the elections in 2014, the BNP-Jamaat alliance launched a spate of street terrors countrywide — setting fire on vehicles, attacking law enforcers and minorities in tandem. It later appointed top lobbying firms in the US and the UK, a clear sign of putting all its might behind foreign governments to level allegations of lack of democracy in Bangladesh.

The report in AL Jazera also quoted Mohammad Ashrafuzzaman, a liaison officer at the Asian Human Rights Commission, who provided evidence of human rights abuses by the RAB, attached to the sanctions requests to the US and the UK.

“The expectation was that the UK and the US, being strong allies, would be collaborating with each other by announcing back-to-back sanctions. The US did that, but the UK didn’t,” Ashrafuzzaman said.

The claim of Ashrafuzzaman also raised questions over the substance behind such justification of rights issues, as AHRC already drew widespread condemnation for being a ‘highly-biased body’ that disregards views of the country’s eminent rights activists and vouches for defending a controversial NGO called ODHIKAR, which earned notoriety for faking cases to sell rights issues.

In the wake of the revelation of the inclusion of two Indian insurgents in a list provided by the UN to Bangladesh on enforced disappearance, the organisation stood up in defence of the error-ridden list accusing Bangladesh of launching a ‘hate campaign’.

AHRC in its vague statement alleged that the media in Bangladesh, which it referred to as “pro-government”, and allies of the government are engaging in a campaign to tarnish the UN working group’s reputation and to question its sincerity on a grave issue like enforced disappearance.

What the Commission has, however, failed to consider is that it was not an attempt to vilify any human rights body, rather the intention was to simply pinpoint the inconsistency and inaccuracy of the data coming from an institution like the UN, which has always been at the forefront of defending human rights across the globe, said noted Bangladeshi professor Mizanur Rahman Khan.

While diplomats are vocal over complaints field by the opposition parties on rights issues, the cries of hundreds of families who were tortured and attacked by BNP’s arson operations did not even trigger any protest.

After Jamaat-e-Islami’s appeal to overturn Mir Quasem Ali’s death penalty for heinous crimes against humanity during the liberation war of 1971 was turned down, the freedom fighters said, “This is our achievement. The judgment on Mir Quasem proves how money can’t save one’s neck, that the rule of law and the court’s verdict are more important.”

It was widely alleged by the victims of war crimes of 1971 that Mir Quasem, a top finance collector of Jamaat, had poured in funds for campaigns aimed at smearing the trials of war criminals when they began in 2010.

In 2013, former law minister Barrister Shafique Ahmed had told this reporter that Mir Quasem had paid a lobbyist firm $25 million to bring the war crimes tribunal judging top Jamaat leaders into question.

The government, he said, had a copy of the contract and receipt for the payment he made.

The International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) sentenced Mir Quasem to death on November 2, 2014 for abduction, torture and murder of innocent Bengali people.

Based in Chittagong, Mir Quasem is notorious as the third man in the vigilante militia Al-Badr command structure during the 1971 liberation war. Quasem, the founder-president of the Jamaat’s student wing Islami Chhatra Shibir after its rechristening from the earlier Islami Chhatra Shangha in 1985, has been an executive member of the party.

The Jamaat-hired Cadman organised a media conference in London two days before the conviction of Mir Quasem by the ICT of Bangladesh.

The state submitted a receipt to the Supreme Court to prove that Mir Quasem had appointed lobbyists to foil the war crimes trials.

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Budget 2023: Sri Lanka sees major tax hikes and reforms

The budget, presented by President Ranil Wickremesinghe, was passed with a majority of 43 votes..writes Susitha Fernando

Sri Lanka on Thursday passed the budget for 2023 with tax hikes and major reforms to please the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to address the current financial crisis.

The budget, presented by President Ranil Wickremesinghe, was passed with a majority of 43 votes. In the 225-member parliament, 123 lawmakers voted for it while 80 opposed it.

“We have to take unpopular decision for the future benefit of the country,” Wickremesinghe, who is also the Finance Minister, said taking part at the final day of the budget debate.

He said that the country has to face adverse repercussions today due to the short-sighted popular decisions taken in the past and unpopular decisions have had to be taken for the future prospects of the country.

The President told that a Parliamentary Select Committee will be established on a resolution by the lawmakers to look into those who led the economy to bankruptcy with their incorrect fiscal policies.

Backed by ex-President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s party, Wickremesinghe’s budget plans to increase tax revenue by 69 per cent to help the ailing economy hit by increasing inflation and dollar crisis. The Wickremesinghe government is planning to restructure a number of both profit and loss making state-run enterprises including the national carrier, power, and telecommunication sector.

The budget aims at increasing tax revenue from this year’s Sri Lankan Rs 1,852 billion to Rs 3,130 billion next year while the budget deficit to be brought down to 7.9 per cent in 2023 from this year’s 9.8 per cent.

Coordinated assistance program

Visiting representatives from the World Bank (WB), Asian Development Bank (ADB), International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) have ruled that a coordinated assistance program supported by multilateral financial institutions is vital for Sri Lanka’s recovery from the current economic crisis.

On Tuesday, the group of representatives, which included WB Vice President Martin Raiser, ADB Vice President Shixin Chen, IMF’s Senior Mission Chief Peter Breuer and AIIB’s Urjit Patel, met President Ranil Wickremesinghe, other ministers and top financial officials in Colombo.

Wickremesinghe, who also holds the Finance portfolio, presented Sri Lanka’s development programme associated with the economic recovery and growth along with the vision for long-term development.

The meeting also saw the participation of Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardene, Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka Nandalal Weerasinghe, former GovernorIndrajith Coomaraswamy and many other senior officials from the government institutions and other institutions.

Going through the worst-ever financial crisis since the country’s independence in 1948 and battling with the skyrocketing inflation and dollar crunch, Sri Lanka decided to default its $51 billion foreign debt in May.

In September the island nation reached a staff-level agreement with the IMF to obtain a conditional $2.9 billion package. But the country has to obtain assurance from its diverse creditors including India, Japan and China.

India, which has provided over $3.8 billion financial assistance since January, the biggest ever by a single country, has urged the IMF to assist its southern neighbour, while Japan in September announced its support for the island nation to secure the IMF bailout.

China, the top lender since the end of civil war in 2009, is yet to announce its stance.

Last week, Shanakiyan Rasamanickam, an Opposition lawmaker representing the Tamil National Alliance, charged that China was stalling Sri Lanka’s IMF deal.

“If China is truly Sri Lanka’s friend, ask the Chinese to help with the debt restructuring and the IMF program,” he challenged.

Questioned by the media on Monday, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said that Beijing would assist the countries and financial institutions to resolve Colombo’s crisis.

“China attaches high importance to Sri Lanka’s difficulties and challenges. We support the financial institutions in working out ways with Sri Lanka to properly solve the issue. We also hope relevant countries and international financial institutions will work with China and continue to play a constructive role in helping Sri Lanka overcome the current difficulties, ease its debt burden and realize sustainable development,” the spokesperson added.

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India, Maldives aim at further deepening ties

The implementation of visa-free entry in Feb 2022 for Indians arriving in the Maldives for business purposes further recognises the growing commercial partnership…reports Asian Lite News

India and Maldives enjoy historical ties which is getting stronger in the modern era.

It is believed the earliest settlers in the Maldives, who had moved there in the 5th century BCE, were probably ethnic Sinhalese and Dravidian Buddhists from modern Sri Lanka and South India. Maldives, too, like India, has been subjected to prolonged colonial rule and exploitation. The Maldives is located very close to the western coast of India, about 70 nautical miles away from Minicoy. Its position at the hub of commercial sea lanes running through the Indian Ocean endows it with strategic importance to India.

It is a member of the Commonwealth, like India. So it was no wonder India recognized the Maldives soon after its independence in 1965 and established diplomatic relations with the country.

India-Maldives relations extend to many areas and are free of politically contentious issues. Decades ago, India had claimed authority over Minicoy Island, which the Maldives conceded in 1976. India is currently seen as a net provider of security, a role which in the Maldives is well-recognized. India’s military assistance during the attempted coup of 1988 was instrumental in building trust. Beneficial was the prompt withdrawal of the Indian forces when their services were no longer required. It went a long way in pre-empting concerns about India’s territorial ambitions in the Maldives.

India was also the first to come to the aid of Maldives during the 2004 Tsunami and the drinking water shortage in Male in Dec 2014.

These three episodes (1988, 2004, and 2014) indisputably established the benefits of India’s proximity and capacity to help Maldives in times of distress.

More recently, in January 2020, India dispatched 30,000 vials of measles vaccine to resist an outbreak in the Maldives. Soon afterwards, India offered comprehensive and rapid assistance to the Maldives during the COVID-19 pandemic. These developments have reinforced India’s credentials as the first responder whenever the Maldives face a significant crisis.

The government and the people of the Maldives widely acknowledge these humanitarian gestures. It is no wonder, therefore, that the incumbent Government of Maldives (GoM) has boldly adopted an India First policy.

Indian Prime Minister Modi, in November 2018, attended the swearing-in ceremony of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih as the only Head of State. They held bilateral discussions immediately after the ceremony, during which the Prime Minister communicated India’s desire to work closely for the speedy and effective realization of Maldives’ developmental priorities, especially in infrastructure, health care, connectivity, and human resource development.

India, obviously enough, was the destination for the first overseas visit of President Solih after assuming office. His State Visit to India in Dec 2018 saw India announce a financial assistance package of US$ 1.4 billion. Several infrastructure projects have since started rolling out, with two (Water & Sanitation on 34 islands and Addu Roads projects) already under execution.

More recently, in March 2022, a third project (the Addu Land Reclamation Project) was awarded, and its implementation is due to commence shortly.

President Solih, in April 2019, visited Bengaluru to see the IPL match between Royal Challengers Bangalore and Chennai Super Kings and to observe the facilities at the National Cricket Academy there.

In addition, he held discussions about the development of cricket in the Maldives and strengthening the Maldivian cricket team.

Likewise, the Maldives was the first destination of PM Modi on his first overseas visit since assuming office for his second term. During that visit in June 2019, the Indian PM also addressed a session of the Legislature of the Maldives.

In addition, several MoUs about cooperation and collaboration in domains such as hydrography, healthcare, cargo service by sea, customs capacity building, governance practice, and shipping was signed.

PM Modi and President Solih spoke over the telephone in April 2020 and July 2021, discussing the pandemic situation and India’s humanitarian assistance to the Maldives. Later, president Solih paid an Official Visit to India in Aug 2022.

A 45-member strong delegation, including key Ministers viz Minister of Economic Development, Minister of Finance, and a business delegation, accompanied him. During the visit, President Solih and PM Modi jointly launched the Greater Male Connectivity Project.

The Greater Male Connectivity Project (GMCP) project is a 6.74 km long bridge and causeway link to connect the capital city Male with the adjoining islands of Villingli, Gulhifalhu, and Thilafushi. The India-funded venture is billed as the largest infrastructure initiative in the island nation. The project was expected to stimulate the Maldivian economy by creating jobs and encouraging diverse economic activities.

Most recently, Indian Foreign Secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra visited the Maldives in October 2022. He called on President Solih, Minister of Economic Development Fayyaz Ismail, Speaker Nasheed, Defence Minister Mariya Didi, Minister of Finance, Ibrahim Ameer, and other political leaders in the Maldives.

In addition, he reviewed the bilateral partnership with his Maldivian counterpart Ahmed Latheef. Kwatra also witnessed the exchange of the USD 100 million Supplementary LoC and the transfer of a vessel procured through grant support to the Maldives Correctional Services.

Since 1988, India and Maldives have been steadily cooperating in defence and security. India follows a flexible and accommodating approach in making provisions for Maldives’ defence equipment and training requirements.

The two countries signed a comprehensive Action Plan for Defence in 2016 to consolidate their defence partnership. India has trained over 1400 Maldivian National Defence Forces trainees over the past ten years and offered 300 training vacancies (including SPG, NSG, and MIO training) in 2021- 22.

India has been the largest development partner of Maldives as well. The Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital in Male was built with Indian Grant Assistance in 1995. Another grant from India helped complete a major renovation in June 2017.

In addition, several educational institutions, including the Maldives Institute of Technical Education (now called the Maldives Polytechnic), India-Maldives Faculty of Hospitality & Tourism Studies, and the National Centre for Police and Law Enforcement (NCPLE) have been built with Indian aid and assistance. More recently, India has resolved to help Maldives put together a State of Art Cancer Hospital, connecting their 150+ health centres on various islands.

In Oct 2020, the government of Maldives requested a change of location of the Hospital from Hulhumale to Laamu. TATA Memorial Centre (TMC) of India will supervise the execution of the project. It has been formally included under the Line of Credit.

During his visit to India in August 2022, President Solih announced the financial closure of the Cancer Hospital project. India also supports the restoration of Hukuru Miskiiy in Male, known as the Friday Mosque, with a grant of 8.95 crores.

Hukuru Miskiiy, built-in 1658 during the reign of Ibrahim Iskandar I (1648-1687), is one of the oldest and most ornate mosques in the Maldives. Prime Minister Modi announced the restoration project during his address to the Majlis in June 2019.

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic caused some delays in commissioning the project. Work finally commenced in March 2021 when a team from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) arrived in Male’.

The EXIM Bank of India supports the redevelopment of airports in Hanimaadhoo and Gan. The government of India has funded the DPRs for both these projects which the Airports Authority of India has prepared.

GoM has awarded the contract for the Redevelopment of Hanimaadhoo in September 2022. India and Maldives signed a trade agreement in 1981, providing for the export of essential commodities.

India-Maldives bilateral trade has since crossed the USD 300 million mark for the first time in 2021, reaching an impressive USD 323.9 million. The bilateral trade increased by over 31 per cent over the previous year.

This is probably a direct result of the launch of the cargo vessel service between the two countries in September 2020 and the commencement of work on three of our Line of Credit (LoC) projects since February 2021.

In addition, the implementation of visa-free entry in Feb 2022 for Indians arriving in the Maldives for business purposes further recognises the growing commercial partnership.

The two countries are now looking forward to exploring new ways and means to both deepen and strengthen their bilateral relationship over the coming years. (ANI)

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