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Why Muizzu Must Give Up his Leadership in the Maldives?

The true extent of Muizzu’s alleged corruption and the potential implications for the Maldives’ future are perhaps best illustrated by the rift that has emerged between him and his former ally, Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom …. Writes Dr Sakariya Kareem

As the Maldives inches closer to the high-stakes parliamentary elections on April 21st, the nation finds itself at a critical juncture, forced to confront the harsh realities of the ruling Progressive National Congress (PNC) party’s tainted legacy. Under the leadership of the notorious Dr. Muizzu, the PNC has become synonymous with cronyism, corruption, and a flagrant disregard for democratic principles, casting a dark shadow over the nation’s future. The accusations leveled against the PNC paint a disturbing picture of a party that has systematically undermined the principles of meritocracy and good governance. Reports have exposed a troubling trend of PNC officials favoring their own party loyalists for government positions, sidelining qualified candidates from other political affiliations. This blatant nepotism not only stifles the professional growth of capable individuals but also deprives the nation of their invaluable talents and expertise.

Moreover, the PNC’s thirst for power extends far beyond mere political appointments. The party leadership has openly declared its intention to seize control over the nation’s State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs), a move that threatens the independence of these crucial economic entities and sets a dangerous precedent for unchecked abuse of power. Compounding this brazen overreach, the PNC has reportedly imposed undue pressure on government staff, demanding that they vote exclusively for party candidates – a gross violation of democratic norms and individual freedoms. Perhaps most alarming are the reports of the PNC’s willingness to deny basic services, such as electricity, to households that do not support their agenda. Such discriminatory practices are not only unethical but also serve to erode the unity and social fabric of the nation, dividing the Maldivian people along political lines and undermining the very foundations of a cohesive society.

At the heart of these transgressions lies a deep-rooted culture of corruption that has permeated the highest echelons of the PNC’s leadership. The party has been embroiled in numerous scandals, from the misappropriation of millions of dollars in dubious drone purchases to significant bribery allegations surrounding the Fushidhiggarufalhu reclamation project. These scandals point to a systemic problem of corruption within the party’s ranks, casting doubt on its commitment to financial integrity and responsible governance. At the center of this maelstrom stands Dr. Muizzu himself, infamously known as “Kazzaab” (the liar) due to his notorious reputation for dishonesty. The gravity of the accusations against him is underscored by the fact that he is currently under investigation by various authorities, including the Maldives Police, the Maldives Monetary Authority’s Financial Intelligence Unit, and the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC). The allegations range from embezzlement and money laundering to the misappropriation of funds and the misuse of corporate vehicles to conceal the origins of ill-gotten gains.

However, the true extent of Muizzu’s alleged corruption and the potential implications for the Maldives’ future are perhaps best illustrated by the rift that has emerged between him and his former ally, Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom. Yameen, who initially endorsed Muizzu’s candidacy for the presidency, has since formed the People’s National Front (PNF) party and has leveled serious allegations against the current government, accusing it of never intending to release him from his politically motivated imprisonment.

The Muizzu government’s desperate and authoritarian attempt to crush Yameen’s newly formed People’s National Front has spectacularly backfired, laying bare the administration’s utter disregard for democratic norms and civil liberties. At a recent PNF rally, Yameen rightfully condemned the regime’s deployment of excessive force, including the appalling use of pepper spray, against his peaceful supporters during the party’s inauguration. This brutal crackdown, motivated solely by Muizzu’s fear of any opposition, inflicted significant self-inflicted political damage by handing the PNF an immense publicity coup before it could even officially take shape. As Yameen pointed out, over 60,000 Maldivians tuned in to witness the government’s repressive tactics, while a mere 25 people showed up for Muizzu’s own rally – a damning indictment of his waning popularity and tenuous grip on power. The disgraced President’s flimsy denial of involvement in this shameful episode only compounds his crisis of credibility and reinforces perceptions of him as an authoritarian despot intolerant of dissent. Muizzu’s utter hypocrisy is further exposed by his refusal to advocate for Yameen’s long-stalled appeal against his politically-motivated jailing, despite previously vowing to prioritize the case – clear proof that his regime never intended to uphold democratic principles or adhere to due process. This sordid affair has irreparably tarnished Muizzu’s reputation and emboldened growing calls for his removal to restore freedom and justice in the Maldives.

Yameen’s unwavering willingness to confront the PNC’s misdeeds head-on have struck a chord with a nation weary of empty promises and self-serving agendas. His call for a boycott of the presidential election, though initially rejected by his former allies, underscores his principled opposition to a system that has been compromised by the very forces he seeks to root out.[3] As the nation prepares to cast its votes, the choice before the Maldivian people is clear: they can either embrace the PNC’s culture of cronyism, corruption, and disregard for democratic norms, or they can rally behind Yameen’s vision of a transparent, accountable government that serves the interests of all its citizens, not just a privileged few.

The stakes in this election could not be higher. A victory for the PNC would not only legitimize the party’s tainted legacy but also embolden those who seek to exploit the nation’s resources for personal gain. It would be a triumph of deceit over integrity, of self-interest over the greater good – a dark path that could irreparably damage the foundations of democracy and good governance in the Maldives. On the other hand, a resounding rejection of the PNC at the polls would send a powerful message that the Maldivian people will no longer tolerate the erosion of their democratic institutions and the pillaging of their nation’s wealth. It would represent a mandate for a government that is truly accountable to its citizens, one that upholds the principles of transparency, meritocracy, and the rule of law – a beacon of hope for a brighter, more just future for all Maldivians.

In this pivotal moment, the nation must ask itself a fundamental question: Do they wish to entrust their future to a party that has repeatedly demonstrated a contempt for democratic values and ethical governance? Or do they wish to chart a new course, one that is guided by the principles of integrity, justice, and an unwavering commitment to the greater good? The answer to this question will echo through the annals of history, shaping the destiny of the Maldives for generations to come. It is a moment that demands courage, resolve, and an unshakable commitment to the ideals upon which any true democracy must be built. As the polling stations open on April 21st, the world watches with bated breath as the Maldivian people make a choice that will define the very soul of their nation. Will they choose the path of deceit and cronyism, or will they embrace a future of transparency and accountability? The fate of the Maldives rests in the hands of its citizens, and their decision will reverberate through the ages – a testament to their resilience, their principles, and their unwavering pursuit of a just and prosperous society for all.

Asia News Bangladesh World News

DISINFORMATION FROM DHAKA: Towards an Inclusive Solution

The trend gathered steam when the main opposition party, the Bangladesh National Party lost the elections and blamed India for interfering in the elections. The trend was motivated by the anti-India campaign in Maldives that followed PM Modi’s efforts to boost tourism in Lakshadweep … writes  Dr. Shujaat Ali Quadri

In a complex society like South Asia, which is characterized by cultural commonalities and political flashpoints at the same time, disinformation campaigns are increasingly influencing the region. Over the last decade, new regional initiatives and transit corridors are easing travel between India, Bangladesh and Southeast Asia but these efforts could be threatened if India’s neighbourhood remains gullible to online social propaganda targeting a specific nation or community. A recent online trend was in the news in Bangladesh that called for boycotting India and Indian products. Fortunately, the campaign remained limited to social media only and did not spill over to the real world as it could have undermined the bilateral relationship that is leveraging physical connectivity to develop interdependencies.

The trend gathered steam when the main opposition party, the Bangladesh National Party lost the elections and blamed India for interfering in the elections. The trend was motivated by the anti-India campaign in Maldives that followed PM Modi’s efforts to boost tourism in Lakshadweep.

In Bangladesh, both BNP and the Jamaat have a more tech-savvy cadre which also adept at trending political content with the intent to mobilize social media users on anti-India campaigns. A lesser-known fact to both Indian and Bangladeshi people is that the Jamaat has a well-knit international cadre composed of wealthy businessmen and service sector professionals in the West that fuels its manipulation machinery. Several activists mobilizing social media users against India happen to be based in the West. Their access to global newspapers, sophisticated media tools and information networks allows them to legitimize and amplify their opinions irrespective of their credibility. Such acts of intervention, wherein external forces influence domestic public opinion in Bangladesh must be scrutinized by the civil society as they interfere with the the day to day state of affairs.   

The opposition parties of Bangladesh have successfully infiltrated global human rights organisations and advocacy institutions over the past decade, which gives them much-needed international legitimacy. 

The Awami League, despite its successive victories, remains a party of the masses with its core support base in the rural areas of Bangladesh. One of its biggest flaws is its inability to get internationally acknowledged for its role in giving a strong foundation to the economy, its poverty eradication schemes and its commitment to integrate Bangladesh with regional supply chains and infrastructure projects.

The Jamaat/BNP circles on the other hand have tapped the urban sections that predominantly shape the national opinion due to their visibility. The city-dwelling nuclear families, youth and professionals, once disconnected from their social moorings are an easy target for ideological parties like Jamaat to build their legitimacy by convincing its followers about the flaws of democracy. Ties between BNP and Jamaat have indeed frayed over the years and the former considers the Jamaat as an institution with political baggage, their criticism of India and its regional initiatives also puts the region’s collective developmental efforts at stake. Every year, South Asia adds millions of new social media users to its population who are also the primary targets of anti-India campaigns. The content as well as the spread of this trend must be monitored and appropriate response mechanisms must be built that are youth-centric and most importantly inclusive, that is, they should be designed to engage the youth more attractively through informative and impartial content.

(The Author is the Chairman of Muslim Students Organisation of India)

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UN panel unable to agree on Palestinian bid for full membership

Currently, the Palestinians hold observer status at the U.N. General Assembly, a designation granted in 2012…reports Asian Lite News

The United Nations Security Council committee tasked with evaluating the Palestinian Authority’s application for full U.N. membership has encountered a deadlock, as reported by Reuters on Tuesday. Despite deliberations, the committee failed to reach a unanimous recommendation regarding whether the Palestinian Authority met the necessary criteria.

Nonetheless, the Palestinian Authority intends to proceed with its efforts to secure a vote within the 15-member Security Council, potentially as soon as this week, diplomats indicated. If successful, this resolution would signify formal recognition of Palestine as a sovereign state within the international community.

Currently, the Palestinians hold observer status at the U.N. General Assembly, a designation granted in 2012. However, achieving full U.N. membership requires approval from the Security Council, where the United States, a staunch ally of Israel, retains the power to veto such a decision. Additionally, approval from at least two-thirds of the General Assembly is necessary.

The United States reiterated its stance earlier this month, asserting that the establishment of an independent Palestinian state should be the outcome of direct negotiations between the concerned parties, rather than through unilateral action at the United Nations.

The longstanding vision endorsed by the U.N. Security Council involves the coexistence of two states—Israel and Palestine—within secure and recognized borders. Palestinians aspire to establish their state in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, territories occupied by Israel since 1967.

However, progress towards Palestinian statehood has been minimal since the signing of the Oslo Accords in the early 1990s. The Palestinian Authority’s pursuit of full U.N. membership occurs against the backdrop of heightened tensions, including the recent conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, as well as Israel’s ongoing expansion of settlements in the occupied West Bank.

The Security Council committee, comprising all 15 council members, convened twice last week to discuss the Palestinian application. Despite these discussions, the committee’s report acknowledged the existence of differing viewpoints among its members, resulting in an inability to reach a unanimous recommendation regarding the Palestinian Authority’s eligibility for full U.N. membership.

According to the U.N. Charter, membership is extended to “peace-loving states” willing to uphold the obligations outlined in the Charter.

ALSO READ: World Bank raises UAE’s real GDP growth forecast

Asia News PAKISTAN World News

The Baloch people are alienated: Today so are the Pashtuns in Pakistan

Returning to the alienation of Pashtuns it may be mentioned that today they need to carry special travel documents to move across the border which once a free movement zone. Many Pashtuns shared their property; and families lived on both sides of the Durand Line without any problem. Trade across the border was normal. Now all that has changed permanently because the Pakistan Army and its state believe that Pashtuns can no longer be trusted and so a fence has been built all along the Durand Line in the name of security … writes Dr Sakariya Kareem

If there was a moment in Pakistan’s history, when another Bangladesh could occur, it is now. The reasons for this lie in the complete and total alienation of the Pashtuns living in Pakistan. Once seen as the closest ally of Punjabis in Pakistan, the Pashtuns today face deportation and humiliation to a point of no return. The Pakistan Army which they used to serve with great pride, has become the enemy. Like the Baloch people, victims of the Army’s jackboot policy, Pashtuns are out on the streets today to protest and express their anger. No place provides greater evidence of this angst than in the border town of Chaman, where for the past six months, local Pashtuns have been sitting, in protest against Pakistan’s new policy of dividing the Pashtun community spread across the Durand Line. Is this the last straw for the creation of a Pakhtunistan or Pashtoonistan?

Recall also that the Baloch people have been the target of the Pakistani state for several decades now for seeking a more autonomous way of life. For those interested in the current situation, reference is made to the monthly report of Paank, a human rights group of the Baloch National Movement. The report outlines the various human rights abuses committed in Balochistan, including incidents of enforced disappearances, protests by families of missing Baloch individuals for their safe return, and the staged killing of two Baloch individuals previously detained in Karachi. Protests have also occurred in Pasni for Abdul Raziq; in Daki Bazar, Kech, for Shoaib Ahmed and Balach; in Jhao, Awaran, for Tahir Baloch and Zafar Akbar; and in Mastung against the enforced disappearance of Ameer Hamza, where protestors blocked the Quetta-Karachi highway.

Returning to the alienation of Pashtuns it may be mentioned that today they need to carry special travel documents to move across the border which once a free movement zone. Many Pashtuns shared their property; and families lived on both sides of the Durand Line without any problem. Trade across the border was normal. Now all that has changed permanently because the Pakistan Army and its state believe that Pashtuns can no longer be trusted and so a fence has been built all along the Durand Line in the name of security.  The distrust became sharper during the recent elections in which the Army carried out a systematic campaign to oust popular leaders like Mohsin Dawar through targeted attacks and the manipulation of the poll process. Officially, the winner in the North Waziristan NA-50 constituency was Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUIF) candidate Mufti Misbahuddin. However, he was declared winner four days after the elections, a telling sign of the Army’s duplicitous games.

The PTI-backed independent candidate Aurangzeb Khan was the runner-up with 33,852 votes while Mohsin Dawar, National Democratic Movement’s candidate secured the third place with a close 32,768 votes. A firing inci­dent occurred during a protest by NDM workers against the de­lay in election results in North Wa­ziristan, resulting in the deaths of two individuals and injuries to six others, including NDM Chairman Mohsin Dawar. To ensure that the Pakistan Army’s candidate was declared winner in any case, pliable government staff were posted as presiding officers to stage-manage the results. Primary schools which were declared as polling centres, had two rooms combined as polling stations for both male and female voters. This ensured that women did not come to vote. Even where these measures failed, the polling staff were taken to the nearest Army and Frontier Corps barracks and forced to sign blank Form 45, which is the document used to officially declare the election result. There could be no better word for this than ‘rigging’.

Thousands rally in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa demanding durable peace.(Photo

Back in Balochistan, the March 2024 Paank report raises serious concerns about the rise in enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings. March 2024 saw 24 cases of enforced disappearances, with 21 individuals returning home from detention. However, two men picked up by security forces in Karachi were killed in a staged encounter, and their bodies were discarded. Pakistani security forces abducted two men from Karachi’s Lyari area on 15-17 August 2023. Identified as Zaman Baloch and Shoaib Ali, they were later killed in a staged encounter near Manghopir’s Northern Bypass, falsely claimed as an armed confrontation. Paank said its workers reached out to the families of the deceased, who were assured by the Sindh Police of their return before Eid. Tragically, the families only received their bodies riddled with bullets. The report concludes that the figures on social media about Baloch missing persons and enforced disappearances only show a fraction of the reality.

It is well known that the Pakistani state has used enforced disappearances as a tool to suppress Baloch resistance. This practice has intensified over the past two decades, targeting educated Baloch youth, the Paank report said. The report also details various protests and demonstrations by families of missing persons. It recalls the case of Abdul Raziq Baloch from Surab, who was returned 16 hours after his disappearance. This happened after his family and the public blocked a highway in protest. However, Khudadad Siraj, a medical student remains missing, despite his family and peers’ protesting for his safe release. The list of those who have disappeared is never-ending and, it is likely, there will be more to come.  Enforced disappearances and staged encounters exacerbated the climate of fear and terror in Balochistan.

Families have been protesting in Kech, Gwadar, Jhaoo, Surab, and Mastung for the safe release of their relatives. Despite these protests and international condemnation from human rights groups, the Pakistani state’s stance remains unchanged, Paank observed. The unrepresented psychological and mental anguish of thousands of families affected by these disappearances remains untold. Paank highlights the plight of Baloch missing persons, and states they are subjected to long-term confinement and torture. A few are eventually released, but they often suffer from mental trauma. Pertinently, the State continues to exert control over their thought processes even after their release. Consequently, these individuals are compelled to choose between self-exile or apathy towards the suffering. It is precisely this apathy that is today the bane of the Pashtuns too.

Since the announcement of the election results in North Waziristan, protests have erupted, and in clashes with the police, two persons were killed and, six others narrowly escaped being assassinated. Blatant manipulation in the February elections was really the last straw, leaving Pashtuns angry and disheartened. Pakistan has just added a few more million disgruntled citizens on the streets in protest. Adding fuel to the fire is the plight of the Baloch people, who seem to get no respite. In a real sense, societal alienation in Pakistan has intensified with the Pashtun seeking ways to get redressal of their grievances, knowing fully well that the Pakistani state has no longer any trust in the community.

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Biden Mobilises G7 Allies in Support of Israel After Iran’s Attack

Biden reaffirmed America’s ironclad commitment to the security of Israel…reports Asian Lite News

Extending support to Israel, US President Joe Biden has said that he will convene leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) countries on Sunday to coordinate a “united diplomatic response” to Iran’s attack against Israel.

“I will convene my fellow G7 leaders to coordinate a united diplomatic response to Iran’s brazen attack,” Biden said in a statement following his call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday.

During the phone call, Biden also reaffirmed America’s ironclad commitment to the security of Israel, Xinhua news agency reported.

Biden said he told Netanyahu that Israel has demonstrated a remarkable capacity to defend against and defeat even unprecedented attacks – sending a clear message to its foes that they cannot effectively threaten its security.

Condemning the attacks “in the strongest terms possible,” Biden said that they were carried out through air by Iran and “its proxies operating out of Yemen, Syria and Iraq.”

Biden said that the US forces in the region “helped Israel take down nearly all of the incoming drones and missiles.

Iran launched missile and drone attacks on Israel earlier, in retaliation to an Israeli missile attack on the Iranian consulate in Damascus on April 1.

ALSO READ: Biden Expects Iran To Attack Israel ‘Sooner Than Later’

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TTP, Sunni groups target Shias in Gilgit Baltistan

Terrorist group Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and other Sunni groups are planning to carry out suicide attacks against the Shias in Gilgit Baltistan. Many believe that such attacks are carried out with the complicity of the state security agencies. There are reports of four suicide bombers given the task to re-enact the 1988 Gilgit massacre … writes Dr Sakariya Kareem

Several thousand Shias in Gilgit Baltistan are living under constant dread, fearing unprovoked attacks from Sunni groups and the state’s complicity with such groups to suppress the Shias in the mountainous region.

The region was once dominated by the Shias, the only region other than Iran. But in the past few decades, Pakistan state, especially its army, has been engaged in a demographic war, harassing, killing and frightening Shias to such an extent that Shias are today in the minority. The bloodletting has not stopped even now. Every festival, Shias have to look over their shoulder to save themselves from terrorist attacks or targeted killings, at the behest of the army.

This time around, during Ramzan and Eid, Shias fear another round of killing and harassment.

There is a great fear that terrorist groups like Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) are planning to carry out suicide attacks against the Shias. Many believe that such attacks are carried out with the complicity of the state security agencies. There are reports of four suicide bombers given the task to re-enact the 1988 Gilgit massacre.

The hand of the security agencies in the killings is seen in the involvement of extremist Sunni groups like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Anjuman Sipah-e-Sahaba and many of their offshoots which have been targeting the Shias since the Zia-ul-Haq days. The worst Shia massacre happened in 1988.

In May 1988, during the Eid festival, local Shias decided to hold the festivities before the Sunnis which caused a dispute which soon turned into arson and killing. The Pakistan army sent an armed group of Sunni tribals accompanied by militants from Afghanistan led by Osama bin Laden causing mayhem in the region, killing over 900 Shias in the massacre.

Although the federal government has also issued a grave warning, local Shia population has no faith in the government. They are today living under constant fear. The Shias have been asked to be extra vigilant during the Friday and Eid prayers.

The distrust between the government and Shias has been brewing since last year when a Shia cleric was arrested under trumped-up blasphemy charges. The protests raged for days with the people shouting “Chalo, chalo Kargil chalo” (let us go to Kargil). The cleric, Agha Baqir al-Hussaini, is a popular leader of the Shias and his arrest angered the community which blocked the Karakoram Highway to demand his release.

In August 2012, about 25 Shias were pulled out a bus and shot in a sectarian attack. The same year, on February 28, gunmen in military fatigues threw 18 Shias from buses travelling from Rawalpindi to Gilgit, shooting them dead in cold blood. On April 3, a Sunni Muslim mob dragged nine Shia Muslims from buses and also shot them dead in the town of Chilas, about 60 miles south of Gilgit.

Even after several killings, the state has failed to provide adequate security for the safety of the Shias in Gilgit Baltistan. There is only one reason for this callous indifference: Sunni Pakistan wants to convert the region into a Sunni-dominated region.

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Biden to host landmark trilateral meet

President will host Japanese PM and Philippines President in a White House summit set to bolster trilateral maritime cooperation in the South China Sea…reports Asian Lite News

President Joe Biden will host Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in a White House summit set to bolster trilateral maritime cooperation in the South China Sea, a major move to counter Beijing.

The first-of-its-kind gathering by the United States and its two Asian allies is set for Thursday. It’s part of Biden’s strategy to stitch together existing bilateral alliances into broader “mini-laterals” to amplify U.S. influence in Asia.

The U.S.-Japan-Philippines trilateral focuses on freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. Last year, Biden hosted a similar meeting with Japan and South Korea to deal with the threat from North Korea.

Manila is keen to firm up trilateral maritime cooperation, namely plans for joint naval patrols by the three countries, a move that would likely trigger a strong reaction from Beijing.

“Joint patrols are something that we’ve already discussed extensively with Japan and the United States,” Philippines Ambassador to the U.S. Jose Manuel Romualdez told reporters in a briefing last week. “And I think that we’re hoping that this will come into fruition very soon.”

The White House declined to confirm such plans, reiterating only that the leaders would have much to discuss in their meeting.

“Certainly, the tensions in the South China Sea are not going away,” said national security spokesperson John Kirby in response to a question during a White House briefing Thursday. “That was an issue that was raised in the president’s call with President Xi just a couple of days ago.”

Pentagon press secretary Pat Ryder also declined to confirm, telling VOA only that the goal of trilateral efforts in the South China Sea is to “ensure that the Indo-Pacific region remains free, it remains open and that there is security and stability throughout the region.”

However, an announcement on joint naval patrols is “widely expected” at the summit, said Gregory Polling, director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Southeast Asia Program and Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative. Following increased Philippine naval activities with regional partners including the United States, Japan and Australia, the trilateral naval patrol “is an obvious next step,” he said.

The meeting and expected announcement will come amid ramped-up tension in the South China Sea, where for weeks Chinese coast guard ships have deployed water cannons against Philippine vessels to block a resupply mission to the Second Thomas Shoal.

Since 1999, Philippine soldiers have guarded a wrecked ship left on the shoal to maintain the country’s sovereignty claims over the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.

The Philippines is a U.S. ally under the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty, which means skirmishes between Manila and Beijing in the Spratlys are a problem for Washington.

“While we’re focused on Taiwan for obvious reasons, conflict between the U.S. and China remains more likely in the South China Sea,” Polling told VOA. “The ceiling on that might be lower; we’re not going to escalate into a general war in the South China Sea. But a lower-level military conflict is uncomfortably possible.”

The South China Sea is a vital passageway for Japan’s global supply chains, a reaffirming factor for Tokyo as Washington draws it into a more robust military role in the region.

“There is tremendous expectation for Japan,” said Shihoko Goto, director of the Indo-Pacific Program at the Wilson Center.

Tokyo is “at the heart of regional security,” she said, considering its involvement in the two trilateral formations and in the quadrilateral strategic security dialogue among Australia, India, Japan and the United States, also known as the Quad.

Ferdinand Marcos Jr. sworn in as Philippines’ 17th President.(photo: )

For Japan’s Kishida, the summit will be another chance to flex his country’s diplomatic muscles as it stands beside Washington, its strongest ally.

Kishida wants to showcase the transformation of Japan’s bilateral alliance with Washington that serves peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific to a “global partnership that stands as the cornerstone of international liberal order,” said Yuki Tatsumi, co-director of the East Asia Program and director of the Japan Program at the Stimson Center.

The key deliverables, she said, include plans for a modernized alliance command and control and plans for a consultative body for defense industrial cooperation.

Japan has been an anchor of various U.S. regional alliances and partnership in the region. Ahead of the summit, Tokyo and Manila are already in talks on a Reciprocal Access Agreement that would enhance shared military operations and training.

While many analysts applaud Biden on his strong and coordinated security approach for the region, they say Washington is lagging Beijing when it comes to building regional prosperity.

“We’re not seeing as much leadership on the economic front,” Goto said. “That will be something that there will be greater demand for.”

In previous meetings with Biden, Kishida reiterated Japan’s calls for Washington to join the 2018 Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.

ALSO READ: Biden raises $90 mn, widens fundraising lead

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At 75, it’s time for NATO to grow up

The message at the 75th anniversary bash was that NATO can do no wrong, including in Ukraine, writes Prof. Madhav Das Nalapat

Fighting the last war while enmeshed in a new conflict has been accepted as a disaster, and yet that is what NATO geared itself to doing once the USSR was replaced by the Russian Federation and a collection of newly independent states by the close of 1991. The US did play a role in the downfall of the USSR, first by increasing its own defence spending to a level impossible for the much weaker Soviet economy to match.

Next, by dangling the carrots of insubstantial concessions before the Soviet leadership in the 1980s so as to get concessions, such as to dismantle the security grid maintaining the hold of the CPSU over a country whose people had tired of the Party. Public disillusionment was kept aflame by sustained infowar from the US, in particular about the benefits of the free i.e., capitalist way of life and economy. Cramped accommodation, lack of essentials (leave alone luxuries) in shops and queues everywhere convinced those under 40 in particular that their only hope was the downfall of the CPSU.

Public disillusion had begun in 1956, once CPSU General Secretary Nikita Khrushchev gave a secret speech against Stalin that soon became known to the public through the then-effective infowar system of the US. The speech was printed and disseminated in multiple languages across the world, including in India, where the memoir written by Khrushchev, titled “Khrushchev Remembers” by publishing houses, was sold at a throwaway price in several languages. The book was an indictment of Joseph Stalin, but what Khrushchev did not realise was that it was also an indictment of the Soviet leadership led by him. His account showed that they were cowards and opportunists who fawned on Stalin and joined in his misdeeds despite fearing and privately disliking him.

Fed until then on a diet that extolled the CPSU leadership, the Soviet people began to distrust and despise their leaders from that time, a mood that remained unchanged during the long tenure of Leonid Brezhnev, who presided over a bureaucratic, inflexible governance mechanism that systematically drove the Soviet economy to the ground. At the same time, Brezhnev was terrified of the Atlantic Alliance, believing the numerous fanciful (often planted) reports that the “warmongers and anti-communists” in key NATO member states were itching to attack the USSR. In fact, fear of such a conflict was even greater on the other side than was the case with the Soviets.

As a consequence, apart from battering Serbia on behalf of Bosnia, and detaching Kosovo from that state without any interference from a compliant Boris Yeltsin (who outdid Gorbachev in selling out the interests of the country he was in charge of), NATO did not enter into a single conflict in Europe until the alliance decided to knacker the Russian Federation through using Ukraine as a proxy. By 2014, this policy came into public view with the Maidan coup that installed a Russophobic government in Kiev. This move led President Putin into taking steps to prevent the newly hostile state from endangering Russian security in the manner that Ukraine and Belarus could do, where the land borders of the Russian Federation were concerned.

The Russian Federation had zero appetite for entering into a war with NATO. However, the alliance took for itself the credit for “keeping a hostile Russia at bay” in order to justify the vast sums that were being expended on an alliance that ought to have been replaced by a construct in tune with 21st century reality. Wars in Asia and in North Africa showed NATO to be an alliance that could not overcome the numerous asymmetric threats that had sprung up. In every Conflict of Choice that NATO in whole or in part entered into since 1999, the alliance in effect often won the battle but inevitably went on to lose the war.

In the process, NATO action has devastated countries such as Iraq, Libya and Syria, while in Afghanistan the Taliban emerged the victor in 2021 in a conflict that dated back to 2001. In the methods used by the alliance partners, no regard was paid to civilian life or to infrastructure in the target countries, which is why it is odd to witness countries within NATO scolding Israel for employing precisely the tactics that have become standard for NATO in countries belonging to the Global South. In Syria, more than a half-million were killed by the civil war that was ignited in 2011 by efforts at regime change in Damascus.

In Iraq, the post-2003 toll of civilian dead in “collateral damage” was at least double the tally in Syria, almost all of it as a consequence of the mishandling of the post-Saddam situation by the Bush administration. Not to mention the tally of civilians dead in Afghanistan and Libya as a consequence of NATO intervention. Of course, sometimes it is the losers who write the history, and in the case of Cambodia for example, almost the entirety of the terrible toll on human lives in that country with its ancient civilization was attributed by western writers to the Khmer Rouge.

In the history of the 1970s Cambodian war as written by the US side, the blanketing of forests and villages with Agent Orange and bombs dropped by B-52 combat aircraft in Cambodia through Nixon’s decision to bomb that country and Laos to smithereens caused very little, if any, casualties. In their accounts, it was implied that practically all the deaths were because of Pol Pot.

Given the record of civilian fatalities caused by wars conducted by member states of NATO in the Global South, it sounds somewhat hypocritical for some players in NATO to be accusing Israel of doing in Gaza what NATO has repeatedly done in its wars in Asia and in North Africa. The message at the 75th anniversary bash was that NATO can do no wrong, including in Ukraine. President Zelenskyy plunged his country into hell because he believed NATO’s promise that it was going to ensure that Kiev was assisted sufficiently to push Russian forces back even from lands populated by citizens who loathed the Kiev regime and who considered themselves Russian.

Watching visuals of the 75th anniversary celebrations of an alliance that has never won an actual war except against Serbia, it is difficult to believe that such a level of self-delusion exists within the alliance. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg claimed that with the help of the alliance, Ukraine “had won back half of the land it had lost since 2014”. In reality, the country has witnessed half of its entire territory getting converted into something approaching a wasteland.

Whether serving or retired, those in uniform serving in NATO appear to be locked into a time warp, where they are still fighting a Cold War that died together with the USSR in the closing days of 1991. Given the number of “experts” who believe—and act—as though it were Russia that was Enemy Number One rather than China, the fear amongst those in the Global South opposed to CCP expansionism is whether NATO with its Eurocentric, Russophobic outlook will help or be indifferent to their efforts at ensuring that such expansionism gets countered through a global concert of nations.

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UAE delivered 4,630 tonnes of relief supplies to Gaza

The third aid ship had departed from the Port of Fujairah on 23rd March, carrying 4,218.3 tonnes of food supplies, 370.2 tonnes of shelter materials, and 41.6 tonnes of medical aid, in addition to six water tanks, two septic tanks, and one diesel storage tan….reports Asian Lite News

The UAE’s humanitarian support continues in the Gaza Strip for the affected Palestinian people. As part of Operation “Chivalrous Knight 3,” the third UAE aid ship arrived at the Port of Al Arish, carrying 4,630 tonnes of relief supplies. The shipment includes food and medical supplies, children’s formula, shelter materials, winter clothing, and other necessary items.

The ship was dispatched under the directives of H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Ruler’s Representative in Al Dhafra Region and Chairman of the Emirates Red Crescent (ERC), to support the people of Gaza and meet their needs.

Present during the ship’s arrival at the Port of Al Arish, Rashid Mubarak Al Mansouri, Secretary-General of ERC, affirmed that this humanitarian aid batch aims to boost the UAE’s humanitarian and relief efforts aimed at supporting the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip, launched as part of Operation “Chivalrous Knight 3”.

Al Mansouri explained a thorough plan has been developed, in coordination with ERC teams in the Strip, to distribute the aid shipment to beneficiaries in the most affected areas, noting that the ERC is exerting tireless efforts to keep pace with the humanitarian challenges in Palestine, especially in terms of food and other necessary supplies.

The third aid ship had departed from the Port of Fujairah on 23rd March, carrying 4,218.3 tonnes of food supplies, 370.2 tonnes of shelter materials, and 41.6 tonnes of medical aid, in addition to six water tanks, two septic tanks, and one diesel storage tank.

The ship’s cargo was supplied by the Emirates Red Crescent, the Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Charitable and Humanitarian Foundation, and the Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation.

The arrival of the third ship is a continuation of the UAE’s ongoing efforts to provide relief and humanitarian support to civilians in the Gaza Strip, as part of Operation “Chivalrous Knight 3”, to alleviate their suffering.

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WHO lauds SE Asia in advancing right to health

WHO South-East Asia Director highlights region’s strides in promoting ‘My Health, My Right’ theme for World Health Day….reports Asian Lite News

Echoing with the sentiments of this year’s World Health Day’s theme – “My Health, My Right” – Regional Director of WHO South-East Asia Region, Saima Wazed, on Saturday, said that South-East Asia Region has made “notable progress” in advancing right to health.

“Our South-East Asia Region has made notable progress in advancing this right to health.

From enhancements in healthcare coverage to declines in maternal and child mortality rates, there are achievements to be celebrated,” Wazed said on the eve of World Health Organisation’s founding anniversary.

She also highlighted pressing issues in the region’s healthcare landscape, saying that there is not enough health service coverage and that the government’s expenditure to improve the services is also too low.

Addressing the dire situation where nearly 40 per cent of the population lacks essential health services coverage, the director underscored the urgency for increased government expenditure and improved access to quality healthcare.

Despite strides in healthcare coverage and reductions in maternal and child mortality rates, financial barriers persist, exacerbating the plight of vulnerable groups. The director emphasised the rise in “out-of-pocket expenses” due to inadequate government funding, hindering access to basic healthcare services.

“Challenges remain. Nearly 40 per cent of our regions population still lacks essential health services coverage. Current government expenditure remains unacceptably low, leading to high expenses for many,” said Wazed on the eve of World Health Organisation’s founding anniversary.

According to Wazed, under the theme ‘My Health, My Right,’ this year’s World Health Day serves as a poignant reminder of the fundamental human right to quality health services, education, and information.

“This year’s theme was chosen to champion the right of everyone everywhere to have access to quality health services, education and information. It tells us of the right to safe drinking water, clean air and good nutrition. It reminds us that quality housing, decent working and environmental conditions, and freedom from discrimination should be enjoyed by everyone,” she also said.

In light of these challenges, the director articulated a vision for Southeast Asia, characterised by “holistic approach to health and well being and are physically and mentally empowered to achieve their full potential”.

Emphasising health as a basic human right, the WHO Regional Director said, “We want a region where this right is enjoyed by everyone starting from before birth, including the most vulnerable, and covering every community.”

However, amidst commendable progress, disparities persist, with gender disparities in non-communicable disease diagnosis and treatment, and the prevalence of poor-quality care impacting health outcomes.

“From enhancements in health coverage to declines in maternal and child mortality rates, there are achievements to be celebrated. Financial hardships in accessing basic health care are unfortunately on the rise. Vulnerable groups encounter disproportionate obstacles in accessing health care. Gender disparities persist in the diagnosis and treatment of non communicable diseases,” she also said in a video message.

“Poor quality care takes a heavier toll on health outcomes than mere lack of access to care. However, amidst these challenges, we remain steadfast in our commitment to a rights based approach to health, we must ensure equality, participation, and accountability in healthcare decision making processes,” she added.

The director also urged governments to prioritise health investments and strengthen healthcare systems, while emphasising the obligation of duty bearers, including governments and the WHO, to uphold the right to health for all individuals.

“Let us renew our resolve to make the right to health a reality for all. Let us set course towards a future where health is not a privilege, but a promise–a promise to safeguard the dignity and well being of everyone everywhere,” she concluded.

WHO’s Constitution came into force on April 7, 1948, a date now celebrated every year as World Health Day. (ANI)

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