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SPECIAL: Water scarcity derails normal life in Karachi

The effect of the water crisis in Pakistan is already being felt among people. Almost 30 million Pakistanis have no access to clean water, 80% of people living in 24 major cities do not have access to clean water and 16 million slum dwellers of Karachi do not have access to running water … writes Dr Sakariya Kareem

Pakistan has experienced several problematic issues since its independence. But the most critical and one of the major difficulties lurking in the country is that of water shortage. According to one estimate by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Pakistan will be fully dried and barren by 2025 if the necessary steps are not taken to preserve the water.

For Pakistan, several factors have aggravated the water security issue. The first and foremost is the upsurge in demand for water due to escalating population growth in the country. With the population crossing 220 million people, the country’s water demand could reach 274 million acre-feet while the supply of water could remain at 191 million acre-feet. In addition, old and deteriorating water infrastructure has affected the storage and retention capacity of water due to big cracks in canals and sand-filled dams. With a huge waste of water on the way, it has failed to cater to the growing needs and supplies of water in the country. Also, the country’s commonly grown crops like wheat, rice, cotton and sugarcane are water-intensive crops, in need of large quantities of water, consuming around 95% of the available water while contributing less than 5% to the national gross domestic product (GDP).

Along with water channels, Pakistan is also dependent on rain for its water supply, climate change has exacerbated the water crisis affecting the rainfall pattern and causing a huge water shortage in the country leading to prolonged droughts. This is making it even more challenging to manage the already limited water resources.

The effect of the water crisis in Pakistan is already being felt among people. Almost 30 million Pakistanis have no access to clean water, 80% of people living in 24 major cities do not have access to clean water and 16 million slum dwellers of Karachi do not have access to running water.

The city of Karachi is located on the coast of the Arabian Sea in the extreme south of Pakistan and lies between 24° 56′ 46.4” north latitude and 67° 0′ 20.2” east latitude. The total area of Karachi is approximately 3530 km.4 The metropolis of Karachi, inhabits approximately 14.9 million people. Housing is almost 60% of the industries in the country, it is recognized as the industrial and financial centre of Pakistan. The water supply of Karachi is reliant on surface water and groundwater sources. Surface water sources comprise Hub Dam and two lakes of Haleji and Keenjhar while groundwater source includes Dumlottee well fields. However, the water supply from these wells is negligible, after the rainy season while remaining dry for the rest of the year. Furthermore, the quality of groundwater in most of the parts is saline due to over-extraction and sea-water intrusion.

Reports also suggest that the water frequently materialises of faecal matter, E. coli, and other health hazards impacting the city’s water supply. Substandard water quality has contributed to up to 40% of deaths and incidents of disease in Pakistan, where over 65% of the population is exposed to contaminated water and millions find arsenic in their drinking water. Shamefully, Karachi’s water shortage is so bleak that even the airport, the largest in Pakistan, is facing a water shortfall of 500,000 gallons per day, compared to the 800,000 gallons per day it requires to operate.

Pakistan ranks in the top ten countries worst affected by climate change, and water shortages are likely to deepen in both intensity and frequency in the coming decade.

Also, the area of Pakistan has an acute shortage of water is the province of Sindh, particularly the city of Karachi. The city’s average temperature has risen by 1.5 degree Celsius in the last few years. For instance, in the year 2015, Karachi experienced an immense heat wave. The city struggled to provide its people with water.

Over 1,000 people died over the course of 2-3 days. Unfortunately, in the years since the city has not done anything to resolve these problems. The pattern of rainfall has also decreased even more and it will continue to decrease according to various studies conducted so far. Mohammed Khalid Idrees Rana, director of operations at the Indus River System Authority stated, “Climate change has been severely impacting our water inflows from glaciers…If the current temperature prolongs for another seven to eight days, we may have to cut the water share of provinces.”

Besides, the city has already exhausted much of its groundwater aquifer, and the natural recharge has been outpaced by the ever-spiralling demand from Karachi’s population.

Some Karachiites resort to a black market of water tanker trucks, known locally as a “tanker mafia”—which sells water at extortionate prices. Originally intended as a short-term solution while the city developed its water infrastructure, the tankers now control much of Karachi’s water distribution. More than 10,000 tankers operate within the city, making an estimated 50,000 delivery trips each day. The tankers are supposed to fill up at 10 hydrants operated by the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board.

The University of Karachi.

In its place, the trucks draw water from more than 100 illegal hydrants, which tap into main water lines. The water tanker mafia then sells water at exorbitant rates to Karachi’s consumers, the people and businesses who were supposed to be receiving the water in the first place.

Many of the homes disconnected from the municipal water lines have no choice but to depend on an intricate network of water tankers to alleviate the water shortage.

For homes that are perched on hilltops, the expenses add up: beyond a $10-$20 tanker, residents on an incline are forced to rent a suction pump at an additional cost. Until recently, Karachi’s water crisis gave organized crime an excuse to steal water, and then sell it via tankers. Water theft is rampant. According to the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KWSB), 42% of the water is lost or stolen before it reaches consumers in Karachi.

Illegally tapping water lines made the city’s existing shortage worse. The government says they have cracked down on the tanker mafias, but many residents of Karachi continue to blame the tanker mafia for city’s lack of water.

One of the main causes of the water crisis is the mismanagement of water resources. Pakistan’s water infrastructure is both obsolete and insufficient, with little investment in new dams, canals, and reservoirs over the past few decades. In some areas of  Karachi: North Karachi, New Karachi, Gulshan Iqbal, Orangi Town, Liaquatabad, Manzoor Colony, Mehmood Abadan, an artificial water crisis has also been created with the collusion of the Water Board officers, due to which the citizens of these areas are forced to get water through tankers. Yet, the top officials of the water board are not showing seriousness in resolving this perennial problem.

Moreover, despite the increase in Karachi’s headcount, there has been no focus on completing projects that will safeguard a steady supply of water to the city’s populace, for more than a decade now. Accordingly, the demand of roughly 1,200 MGD of water for Karachi’s population of more than 16 million, is not being met as only 420 MGD of water is being supplied at the moment. An official of the Water Board said that negligence on part of the Board and incapacity have resulted in the city’s current water crisis.

“650 MGD through Keenjhar Lake is the quota that has been approved by the Board for Karachi but due to a lack of capacity in the canal system only 520 MGD can be provided,” the official informed.

Moreover, water supply pipelines and sewerage pipelines are corroded and often lie parallel to each other causing cross-contamination. Resultantly, majority of Karachi does not receive safe and clean water.

The long transmission route also causes problems, such as leakages and water thefts account for the loss of almost 30% of the city’s water supply. This is exacerbated by the poor performance of outdated and inefficient pumping stations. When the water does reach citizens, distribution inequalities arise; there is no metering system to monitor real use or water waste.

Pakistan must make investments in new dams, reservoirs, and canals to expand storage capacity and enhance distribution systems in order to handle the country’s water crisis. Effective irrigation techniques should be used to increase agricultural yields and decrease waste. To lower demand and boost water use effectiveness, it is important to encourage rainwater harvesting and other water conservation measures.

The water crisis in Karachi is definitely part of a broader trend of water insecurity distressing the entire country. A robust regulatory framework should be established to regulate water use and allocation equitably and sustainably. Pakistan’s water crisis is a complex and multi-dimensional challenge that requires urgent attention and action from all stakeholders. By adopting a comprehensive and integrated approach, Pakistan can ensure the sustainable and equitable use of water resources for present and future generations. To control water use and distribution in an equitable and sustainable manner, an effective regulatory structure should be created. All stakeholders must give the complex and multifaceted problem of Pakistan’s water crisis their immediate focus and take immediate action. Pakistan can ensure the equitable and sustainable use of water resources for both the present and future generations by taking an expansive and cohesive strategy. To tackle the water crisis, Pakistan needs to adopt a comprehensive approach, which includes water conservation, efficient irrigation practices, and improved water governance.

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AMLO: Mexican economy healthy despite US banking crisis

Mexico’s economy, the second largest in Latin America after Brazil, grew by 3.1 per cent in 2022….reports Asian Lite News

Mexico’s economy is “solid” and able to withstand external shocks such as the crisis roiling several banks in the US, said President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

With Mexican banks registering record profits, “the majority of Mexicans are doing well”, Lopez Obrador said at a press conference.

“There is macroeconomic stability in the country and no crisis is on the horizon,” Xinhua news agency quoted the President as saying.

There may be unforeseen events and external factors, such as the financial turmoil caused by the collapse of two banking institutions abroad this month, said Lopez Obrador, describing Mexico’s economy as “solid”.

Mexico’s economy, the second largest in Latin America after Brazil, grew by 3.1 per cent in 2022.

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Guterres seeks G20 for pact to hold down global warming

Guterres urges India-led G20 for a Climate Solidarity Pact in which wealthier countries mobilize financial and technical resources to support emerging economies, writes Arul Louis…reports Asian Lite News

As a panel of UN experts warned that India’s food production could see a massive fall if global warming went unchecked, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said that he was asking the G20 for a pact to keep warming to 1.5 degrees centigrade.

“In India, rice production can decrease from 10 per cent to 30 per cent, whereas maize production can decrease from 25 per cent to 70 per cent assuming a range of temperature increase from 1 degree centigrade to 4 degrees centigrade,” a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said on Monday.

Guterres said that he has proposed to the India-led G20, the group of major emerging and developed economies, “a Climate Solidarity Pact – in which all big emitters make extra efforts to cut emissions, and wealthier countries mobilize financial and technical resources to support emerging economies in a common effort to keep 1.5 degrees alive”.

Although he cautioned that “the climate time-bomb is ticking”, he also sounded a note of hope: “Today’s IPCC report is a how-to guide to defuse the climate time-bomb. It is a survival guide for humanity”.

The report shows that global warming can be kept down to 1.5 degrees centigrade, “but it will take a quantum leap in climate action”, Guterres said.

He said that he is presenting a plan to “a super-charge” the Climate Solidarity Pact.

It would require “leaders of developed countries committing to reaching net zero as close as possible to 2040, and developing countries as close as possible to 2050”, he said.

Guterres’s plan calls for an end to use of coal and net-zero electricity generation by 2035 for all developed countries and 2040 for the rest of the world.

It also requires an immediate stop to all licensing or funding of new oil and gas ventures, and expansion of existing ones.

The report known as the Sixth Synthesis Report of the IPCC said that temperatures have already risen to 1.1 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels because of fossil fuel burning and unequal and unsustainable energy use.

This has led to more frequent and intense extreme weather dangerously impacting people around the world, it said.

Without action to hold global warming, “in South Asia, extreme climatic conditions are threatening food security; thus, agro-based economies, such as those of India and Pakistan, are the most vulnerable to climate change in this regard”, the report said

India is “emerging as the most vulnerable nation in terms of crop production” in South Asia, it said.

It said that in South Asia, “water demand in sectors such as irrigation, industry and households will increase by 30 per cent to 40 per cent around 2050 in comparison with 2010”.

“Within a country as well, the water scarcity could be exacerbated, such as in India and China, due to various drivers like population increase and climate change,” it added.

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Meet 2 Indian entrepreneurs making their mark in 2023

Founded by Global Indian investor, Biswanath Patnaik and UK-based Indian entrepreneur, Arun Kar, FINNEST is an early-stage Private Equity investment firm that invests in visionaries with disruptive ideas…reports Asian Lite News

Two UK-based Indian Investors Biswanath Patnaik and Arun Kar got featured in magazine in one of their latest print editions. These two Indians made it to the cover page of the Forbes International Magazine brand.

Founded by Global Indian investor, Biswanath Patnaik and UK-based Indian entrepreneur, Arun Kar, FINNEST is an early-stage Private Equity investment firm that invests in visionaries with disruptive ideas. FINNEST brings more than just capital and is focused on Renewables, EVs and Hydrogen Locomotives, Innovative Technology, Consumer Market Places, Fintech, Smart Cities and Public Sector. FINNEST is governed by eminent industry experts from banking, technology, healthcare, renewables, and is led by partners, who have been founders and CEOs of successful companies, and who have domain expertise ranging from banking to telecom to consumer marketplaces.

Keeping new technology at the forefront, their team are helping founders and their companies towards a better world for the mankind. They are at the forefront of the change which they believe will benefit the society at large. Visionary Founders with strong Investor Networks, they believe in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion; and with the target talent pools they aim to connect entrepreneurs, executives, engineers, academics and industry experts in the technology ecosystem.

FINNEST is associated with Fortune 100/Global 500 top companies for the resources in relation to technology decision makers, influencers, and key opinion leaders. FINNEST uses this elite network as a part of company’s preamble to help and grow portfolio companies with access to insights across the entire diversified spectrum.

FINNEST has an extensive track record of investing in some of the fastest growing companies across Europe, the UK, USA, Middle East and Asia-Pacific.

‘From Our Founders To Our Own Team, We Partner With The Best And Brightest – No Matter Their Background, Our Door Is Open to New Talent and Disruptive ideas’ says the Chairman Biswanath Patnaik.

Recently secured investment for FINNEST

FINNEST has secured £500m investment for upcoming & innovative technology-driven ventures across industries like Renewable Energy, Hydrogen based logistic locomotives, Environmental & Sustainability, and Economic Social Governance with non-financial factors as part of the material risk and growth opportunities. FINNEST focuses on companies that can harness techniques like green hydrogen and/or solutions that reduce the dependency on rare earth metals in battery technology. Offering the potential combined with Smart Connected vehicle technology to redefine how goods are moved primarily. They are also entering into satellites and space technology for the future.

Building upon the idea of delivering technology for good, the FinNest team are also in detailed discussions with a number of forward-thinking UK local authorities. Working in partnership to identify investment opportunities which deliver real change for local citizens by leveraging the power of Smart City technology. It remains a core philosophy of the Finnest group that by bringing the right partners together, whether public, private or 3rd sector, is the way to find the optimum path to achieve social good whilst also delivering a reasonable rate of return and thus unlocking an approach which delivers benefit for all.

FinNest also has a number of ongoing investment negotiations looking at green energy solutions with a particular emphasis on new commercial models which include local communities establishing energy service capabilities. Whilst looking to support technologies including, solar, heat, wind and tidal, FINNEST are also aware that many of the barriers to decarbonisation lay outside the pure technical challenges of energy generation.

Consistent with the FinNest aim of supporting all, they are also looking at a number of exciting emerging companies which have technology solutions which have the potential to deliver significant societal benefit.

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‘Ireland aims for highest possible ambition deal at COP28’

Ireland stands ready to support the UAE in its endeavours to make COP28 very successful, said the minister who was on an official visit to the UAE…reports Asian Lite News

Ireland is looking forward to working with the UAE and prepare the highest possible ambition agreement at COP28, the UN Climate Conference to be held in Dubai in November, according to a top Irish official.

“We have been encouraged by public commitment made by Dr. Sultan bin Ahmed Al Jaber, COP28 President-Designate, to prioritise keeping alive the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C. This will require a significant step-change by the international community,” Josepha Madigan, Irish Minister of State for Special Education and Inclusion, told the Emirates News Agency (WAM).

Ireland stands ready to support the UAE in its endeavours to make COP28 very successful, said the minister who was on an official visit to the UAE.

COP28, UNSC cooperation

“Ireland is committed to the UNFCCC [United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change] process as the multilateral mechanism to drive global climate action and address climate change. We look forward to continuing this important work in COP28,” she stressed.

A high-level delegation including the Irish Prime Minister attended COP27 in Egypt last November, where loss and damage was a key priority for Ireland, among others, including mitigation and emission reduction, Madigan noted. A similar Irish delegation is expected to attend COP28, she added.

“We believe that developed countries have a vital leadership role to play in delivering the outcomes of COP27 and in setting global ambition ahead of COP28,” the minister said.

“Ireland’s international climate action focuses on assisting vulnerable countries and communities. We are in the process of more than doubling our climate finance by 2025 and recently published a Roadmap on our focus areas,” she explained.

Talking about Ireland-UAE cooperation in the UN, Madigan said, “It was a privilege for Ireland to serve on the UN Security Council in 2021 and 2022, and to cooperate with the UAE last year on the many areas of mutual importance. While we have left the Security Council, the UN remains at the heart of Ireland’s foreign policy.”

Irish community fosters ties with UAE

Ireland is committed to deepening its relationship with the UAE, the minister asserted.

“Our people-to-people links have grown in recent years, with over 10,000 Irish citizens living in the UAE and with an increasing number of Emirati citizens studying in Ireland. I believe there are significant opportunities to increase our two-way interactions and skills exchange, including in the education sector.”

As Minister of State for Special Education and Inclusion, Madigan is particularly proud of the contributions being made by an estimated 3,000 Irish teachers to the UAE’s education sector.

“The Irish diaspora here play a pivotal role in maintaining a strong relationship between the UAE and Ireland, and I have really enjoyed engaging with them directly and learning about their experience of living here,” said the minister who participated in the Irish National Day celebrations with her community in the UAE.

St Patrick’s Day celebrations in UAE

“St Patrick’s Day 2023 marks a century of Ireland’s independence. I am delighted to be able to celebrate this year’s St. Patrick’s Day in the UAE, a country which holds strong bilateral ties with Ireland since the two nations first established diplomatic relations in 1974,” Madigan said.

She expressed her delight in meeting the key political leaders, business leaders, decision-makers, and stakeholders in the UAE to discuss opportunities for future collaborations across commerce, education, trade, science, culture and more.

“A key message I want to convey to our Emirati friends is that Ireland is a fantastic country to live, work, invest, study and visit.”

The bilateral trade and investment cooperation has flourished in the past two decades, aided by the now well-established air routes between Ireland and both Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the minister pointed out.

Tourism drives people-to-people ties

Tourism has been one of the key factors in facilitating the strong bilateral relationship and continues to be a significant driver for people-to-people exchanges, allowing residents of both countries to experience each other’s cultures and traditions, she explained.

“Ireland has a lot to offer the Middle Eastern traveller in search of a unique experience. Visa-free travel available to Emirati citizens has made their visit to Ireland easier. Travellers from the GCC accounts for approximately 80 percent of tourist arrivals from the Middle East.”

For Irish citizens in Ireland, the UAE also has much to offer in terms of a holiday destination and place to live and work, the minister pointed out.

“This is reflected in the growing number of Irish citizens choosing the UAE as a place to live and to travel to as a holiday destination. With daily flights from Dublin to both Abu Dhabi and Dubai, travel from Ireland to the UAE is easy and provides an opportunity for Irish citizens to soak up the sun in an exciting destination,” Madigan said. (By Binsal Abdulkader)

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Gold shines more than some western banks

Gold prices hitting a fresh high is a sign of slower economic growth and lower interest rates with ample liquidity to help the system steer of the current situation..reports Asian Lite News

Gold has turned into a more bankable asset and its prices going up as several American banks are going down, say experts.

On Monday, the yellow metal shone brighter at the markets with gold at the MCX crossing the Rs 60,000 mark.

“Gold prices have risen almost 7-8 per cent in the past month. The rally in the yellow metal is primarily due to the banking crisis in the west. The liquidity infused by the central banks and the expectations of lower to no rate hikes is pushing gold prices up. Gold is a safe haven, historically it has gained in periods of uncertainty,” Colin Shah, MD, Kama Jewelry, said.

Gold prices hitting a fresh high is a sign of slower economic growth and lower interest rates with ample liquidity to help the system steer of the current situation.

According to Shah, the current situation globally may take some time to clear out. Globally, central banks have been adding gold reserves.

“We expect gold to gain further and touch new highs in the next few months. Domestically, it is expected to trade in the range of Rs 61,000-62,000/10gm. Internationally, it may scale levels of $2,050-2100/oz,” he added.

Navneet Damani, Senior VP, Commodity Research at Motilal Oswal Financial Services, said: “Bullions continue surge, with gold on domestic front hitting a new life time high of over Rs 60,000, as a wave of banking crises shook global markets and put bullion on track for its biggest weekly rise in three years, while bets solidified for a less aggressive Fed in its fight against inflation.

“The collapse of Silicon Valley Bank in the US has highlighted banks’ vulnerabilities to sharply higher rates, while a rout in Credit Suisse shares has added to the market turmoil. On other hand, after ECB announced a 50bps rate hike last week, all eyes are now on Fed’s policy meeting scheduled later this week.

“Fed is expected to raise rates by 25bps, however probability for a pause is increasing sharply supporting the move in safe haven assets. Over the weekend, there were quite a updates regarding the US banking concerns which slightly weighed on the safe haven assets. UBS agreed to buy 167-year-old Credit Suisse for $3.23 billion and assume up to $5.4 billion in losses in a deal backed by a massive Swiss guarantee and expected to close by the end of 2023. Meanwhile, major central banks including Fed, ECB, BOJ, BOE announced a co-ordinated central bank action to enhance liquidity via USD-Swap line. These updates are likely to keep the volatility high.”

“Broader trend on COMEX could be in the range of $1985- 2015 and on domestic front prices could hover in the range of Rs 59,800�60,600 could be expected,” Damani added.

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AUKUS partnership intensifies global power play

The Australian, British and American national leaders said the AUKUS deal demonstrated a shared commitment to a “free and open Indo-Pacific region”, one where the PLA Navy (PLAN) is increasingly throwing its weight around as it modernizes at a staggering rate….reports Asian Lite News

China reacted furiously to a March 13 announcement by the three AUKUS partners of Australia, the UK and US about Canberra’s pursuit of nuclear-powered attack submarines. Yet its arguments are largely hypocritical and lame.

Beijing is lambasting AUKUS for proliferating nuclear technology – in this case nuclear propulsion, which has nothing whatsoever to do with weapons – whereas Chairman Xi Jinping kept silent when President Vladimir Putin threatened nuclear escalation in Ukraine after his failed offensive to subdue Kyiv, or benevolently winks at Kim Jong-un’s nuclear antics in North Korea. Australia will initially buy three Virginia-class nuclear-powered attack submarines (known by the common naval acronym SSN) from the USA. These are likely to be second-hand boats from the US Navy (USN), plus there is an option for obtaining two more Virginia-class submarines should plans to build a new class of SSN-AUKUS boats be delayed.

The SSN-AUKUS submarine will be largely based on a British SSN design, but with the incorporation of some American technology. Both the UK and Australia will obtain SSN-AUKUS boats, with British production kicking off slightly earlier than in Australia, which is a total novice at such sophisticated shipbuilding. The whole intent is for Canberra to be able to build and maintain a fleet of SSNs as a sovereign capability, but with support from the UK and USA.

Australia will become the seventh country in the world to operate nuclear-powered submarines. Of course, it should be pointed out once again that these Australian SSNs are not capable of carrying ballistic missiles armed with nuclear warheads. They are not ballistic missile submarines (SSBN), which only a very exclusive club of nations operate.

Part of the optimal pathway for Australia to gain SSN experience is for the USN to increase its SSN port visits to Australia beginning this year, and the Royal Navy from 2026. Then, in 2027, Submarine Rotational Force – West will be created, comprising one British Astute-class and up to four American Virginia-class SSNs that will operate from HMAS Stirling, a naval base in Western Australia.

Eventually, Australia will also establish a nuclear submarine base on its eastern seaboard. This part of the agreement is hugely important, as it gives the USA in particular a new submarine base in the Indo-Pacific besides the existing ones of Guam and Hawaii. This greatly complicates China’s calculus in trying to detect and track American submarines, for they can arrive from a completely different direction than the Western Pacific.

The Australian, British and American national leaders said the AUKUS deal demonstrated a shared commitment to a “free and open Indo-Pacific region”, one where the PLA Navy (PLAN) is increasingly throwing its weight around as it modernizes at a staggering rate.

The Office of Naval Intelligence in the USA expects China’s submarine fleet to grow from around 66 boats today to 76 by 2030. The PLAN could have up to eight SSBNs by 2030, plus it is snowballing its total inventory of nuclear warheads. The Pentagon estimates the PLA will have up to 700 deliverable nuclear warheads by 2027, and 1,000 just three years after that.

For some inexplicable reason, China believes it should be allowed as many SSNs, SSBNs and land-based nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles as it wants, but that Australia should not adopt nuclear propulsion. This is sheer hypocrisy, especially given the secrecy and obfuscation that China engages in regarding its nuclear forces. It has not offered any explanation, and has

issued only denials, about several enormous fields of missile silos for intercontinental ballistic missiles that it has been building over the past few years.

Indeed, China’s disingenuous propaganda is attempting to muddy the waters as it roundly criticizes Canberra, London and Washington DC. Chief among the arguments is Beijing’s deliberate blurring between nuclear propulsion and nuclear weapons. They are completely different things, but China will not stop shaking this bone.

China also makes much of weapons-grade highly enriched uranium being transferred to Australia, but this is misleading. The nuclear reactors for the SSN-AUKUS submarines will be transferred to Australia as complete, sealed units. No nuclear materials can be diverted into nuclear weapons, plus all three AUKUS partners have categorically denied any interest in nuclear weapons for this deal.

Another important prong to China’s criticisms of AUKUS is “grave concerns over nuclear proliferation”. Beijing claims blatant violations of the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the 1986 Rarotonga Treaty. As an example, China’s mission to the United Nations tweeted that the deal “constitutes serious nuclear proliferation risks, undermines the international non-proliferation system, fuels an arms race, and hurts peace and stability”.

Chinese academics misleadingly allege that AUKUS “is essentially equivalent to directly arming a non-nuclear country with nuclear weapons”. This is sheer guile and misdirection. Australia has signed up to both the NPT and Rarotonga Treaty. However, an examination of both treaties quickly silences Chinese complaints.

Crucially, the NPT only applies to nuclear materials associated with nuclear weapons. Indeed, Article 4 has a carve-out covering nuclear materials for “peaceful purposes”, which ironically

enough covers nuclear propulsion since it encompasses anything except nuclear weapons. The NPT also discusses processes whereby the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) monitors nuclear programs and materials even if used for peaceful purposes.

Australia has existing subsidiary arrangements with the IAEA discussing how such safeguard arrangements would work. For example, Article 14 says “non-proscribed military purposes” are permitted. Australia thus fully complies with the NPT, and has fully undertaken to comply with safeguard obligations with the IAEA.

Nuclear fission materials are exempted from IAEA monitoring if they are used for non-explosive military use. China calls this transfer of material from a nuclear weapon state to a non-weapons state as a “loophole” and “setting a bad precedent”, but Australia is completely following the rules to which China itself adheres.

Nonetheless, China continues to bang on about nuclear proliferation, even while Beijing winks at dangerous regimes like Iran and North Korea developing nuclear weapons. This is where the true double standards and hypocrisy lie. The aforementioned Rarotonga Treaty, also known as the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty, supports the NPT. Signatories agree to maintain a nuclear weapon-free zone in the South Pacific, but it certainly does not prevent members from using nuclear propulsion. Again, China’s reference to these two treaties is pointless, for

AUKUS does not violate them in any way.

As Lauren Sanders, Senior Research Fellow on Law and the Future of War at the University of Queensland, stated: “On the face of the announcements made so far, the deal complies with international law, despite accusations to the contrary from China and other critics.”

Another argument that China raises is that AUKUS perpetuates a “Cold War mentality”. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said, “This is a typical Cold War mentality, which will only stimulate an arms race, undermine the international nuclear non-proliferation system, and damage regional peace and stability.”

Yet China is the one rapidly multiplying its nuclear forces, while Australia has clearly stated it will not obtain nuclear weapons. Nobody has damaged regional peace and stability as much as China with the PLA deliberately bludgeoning and coercing neighbors with military strength, and actively threatening war on Taiwan.

An opinion piece published on a website affiliated with the PLA said “AUKUS” countries should drop their double standard and respond to the international community’s concerns. They should fulfil their non-proliferation obligations and maintain candid and transparent communication with other countries on the basis of equality and mutual respect under the framework of the International Atomic Energy Agency.”

Such finger pointing should be reflected straight back at China. Beijing should respond to regional and international concerns, should transparently communicate why it is expanding its nuclear weapons arsenal, and treat others with mutual respect. Blame should also be assigned to China for proliferating nuclear weapons. A 1983 National Intelligence Estimate in the USA said China, during the 1980s and 1990s, transferred nuclear and missile technology to other countries’ weapons programs.

“China provided assistance to Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program and engaged in nuclear cooperation with Iran. Beijing exported missiles to Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Iran.” Even as recently as 2019, a US State Department report commented, “Chinese entities” continued in 2018 “to supply Missile Technology Control Regime-controlled items to missile programs of proliferation concern, including those in Iran, North Korea, Syria and Pakistan.”

As part of its smear campaign, China is also dragging out the old tropes that Australia thinks it is the USA’s “deputy sheriff” in the Asia-Pacific region. Another opinion piece concluded “Australia’s inexplicable sense of insecurity when facing China is basically the result of being spiritually controlled for many years by the US.” When all else fails, China simply throws mud at opponents in the hope that some might stick.

Wang, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, said “they completely disregard the international community’s concerns and are walking further on the dangerous and wrong path for the sake of their selfish geopolitical interests”. This is perhaps the closest Beijing comes to raising a relevant point.

Australia is pursuing a policy of being able to militarily strike at opponents well beyond its own

shores. However, Canberra has said little about how this might impinge upon neighbors, plus the secrecy surrounding AUKUS has put regional countries like Indonesia on the back foot.

Apart from vitriol, how else will China react? One serious concern is that Beijing will use this AUKUS plan as a pretext to accelerate expansion of its own SSN and SSBN fleets.

Let it be noted that this would be a pretext. China has already been progressively improving its submarine platforms, even though qualitatively it still trails the USA. China has also expanded its nuclear submarine-building facilities at Huludao in Liaoning Province, so the time is already ripe for it to expand production. AUKUS would therefore make a convenient scapegoat for what China has already predetermined will happen.

If Xi does take China on such a trajectory, this will gravely alarm the USA. Indeed, China’s actions may spark a greater arms race, as the USA sees the need to keep pace with the PLAN. Wang said, without a trace of irony: “China is always committed to maintaining the international order which has the United Nations at its core and is based on international laws, upholding genuine multilateralism, promoting a multipolar world and the democratization of international relations, and pushing global governance in a more just and reasonable direction.”

Such sentiments are laughable, as are Xi’s similar comments prior to a visit to see his friend Vladimir Putin in Moscow. China and Russia have no interest in international law, democratization and just global governance. These authoritarian regimes are all about sustaining their power and bending others to their wills. There must be considered a possibility, then, that AUKUS might push China closer into a bilateral partnership with Russia. It is not impossible that the two partners might create their own “anti-AUKUS” axis involving undersea technology and platforms.

Russia still possesses better submarine technology than China, so it might be prepared to horse trade it for other forms of Chinese military or industrial aid that it needs to sustain war in Ukraine. Might Iran even be invited into the fold to create a true trilateral axis? Iran has been willingly supplying loitering munitions and drones to Russia for use against Ukraine. Such a Sino-Russian deal would complicate the situation for the USA and the West.

Chaos stemming from submarine technological knowhow sharing could spread from Russia to the Indo-Pacific to the Middle East. The proliferation of far more effective Chinese nuclear-powered submarines would vastly complicate matters for the USN. But what does China have to lose? Its relations with the USA are already at a low ebb, and it is furious about AUKUS. On the other hand, Xi continues to profess undying love for Putin and Russia, and it would be no surprise if AUKUS is a topic of discussion between the two dictators. (ANI)

ALSO READ: Putin, Xi discuss China’s plan to settle ongoing Ukraine crisis

Africa News Business World News

Chinese Debt Trap Hurdles Zambia’s Progress

Zambia like other indebted and capital deficient countries of Africa needs desperately funds to develop its infrastructure to connect its mineral rich areas to the big cities and ports … writes Kaliph Anaz. Zambia owes over $6 billion to China now. The Communist country , under its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is helping many countries like Zambia to build infrastructure in Africa, the final result nevertheless, is eventually creating a debt burden on these countries and compelling them to sell their natural resources at cheaper prices to mobilize funds for debt repayment.

Zambia is facing an unsustainable debt burden and debt servicing is leaving little for capital formation, especially funds required for infrastructure development. While the country is struggling to carry out World bank suggested reforms measures, including restoring fiscal and long-term debt sustainability, increasing farmer productivity and access to agricultural markets, ensuring access to energy and access to finance and private sector development, it is facing a paucity of resources and it makes the country dependent on and vulnerable to external debt.

In view of this, the Zambian government is actively seeking further infrastructure development through Public-private Partnership (PPP) projects. Zambia like other indebted and capital-deficient countries of Africa needs desperately funds to develop its infrastructure to connect its mineral-rich areas to the big cities and ports.

Zambia is under a heavy debt burden and the post-Covid economic recovery is sluggish. In such a situation it could not upgrade the dilapidated road from its mining sites to the export destinations due to a lack of funds to build infrastructure. China, which has a keen interest in African countries’ natural resources, takes such desperation among the African countries as an opportunity to create dependence on these countries on China and have control of their natural resources. Although China, under its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is helping many countries to build infrastructure in Africa, the final result nevertheless, is eventually creating a debt burden on these countries and compelling them to sell their natural resources at cheaper prices to mobilize funds for debt repayment.

Zambia Marks Women’s Day

Recently, a consortium of Chinese companies has won a bid to finance the upgrading of a 327 km road linking the Zambian capital Lusaka to Ndola, in the country’s Copperbelt province. The Consortium Macro Ocean Investment won the bid which consists of three Chinese companies, viz., AVIC International Project Engineering, Zhenjiang Communications Construction Group and China Railway Seventh Group. The consortium won the USD 650 million deal to build the dual carriageway road under the public–private partnership (PPP) model. The agreement signed by the Chinese companies last month gave them a 25-year concession period, split into three years for construction and 22 years of operation and maintenance rights.

The road awarded to the Macro Ocean Investment consortium links the Zambian capital to the mineral-rich Copperbelt province and the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and carries almost all the road-bound mineral exports from the region along the southern corridor towards Tanzania.

However, there is a murmur among the critics of the Zambian government for its dependence on China for building infrastructure. The concern expressed by them pertains to the fact that China is the single biggest lender to Zambia and now as a country is facing an unsustainable debt burden, additional Chinese loans at almost commercial rates would further aggravate the problem. Its loan accounted for more than USD 6 billion of the country’s total USD 16.8 billion as of December 2021.

The debt burden and macro-economic situation of Zambia deteriorated rapidly in the post Covid-19 period. It was compelled to seek support from the World Bank. On December 20, 2022, the multilateral financial institution announced the release of the second tranche of its support for the Zambia Macroeconomic Stability, Growth and Competitiveness Programme- a USD 100 million concessional credit as part of USD 275 million concessional development policy financing for Zambia in October 2022 in support of Zambia’s reforms to restore fiscal and debt sustainability and promote private sector-led growth.

Although the Zambian economy rebounded in 2021, with GDP growing at 4.6%, from a contraction of 2.8% during the pandemic in 2020 the projection for next two years declined. In 2022-24 Zambia’s GDP is projected by the World Bank to grow by an average rate of 3.8%, but the projection is anchored in the government’s implementation of macroeconomic reforms.

The economic reforms could make things difficult at least in the short- term due to belt-tightening and austerity policy to contain fiscal deficit as well as rising inflation. Zambia’s economic performance has stalled in recent years due to declining copper prices, significant fiscal deficits, and energy shortage. Rising inflation is pushing people into poverty and making life difficult. Inflation rose to 17.4% in 2020 and is hovering in the range of 6-8% since then, according to the African Development Bank Group (ADBG). The group in its assessment has also pointed towards increasing fiscal deficit which has fluctuated in the range of 8-11% of GDP due to expansionary fiscal policy, mainly financed by external and local borrowings. This pushed up the publicly guaranteed debt of Zambia to 91.6% of GDP in 2019 and 105% in 2020. It also forecasts that the debt-GDP ratio would remain elevated in the medium term.

ADBG is not upbeat like the World Bank about the growth prospects of Zambia. The ADBG in its African Economic Outlook 2022 projected a very modest growth rate for Zambia – 1.0% in 2021 and 2% in 2022. It also forecasted job losses in the services sector (on average 30.6%), manufacturing (39%), personal services (39%) and tourism (70%). The projected picture of growth is not so heartening. However, people voted for a new government in the hope that economic reforms and debt management would be carried out better by the new leadership.

The new President of Zambia Hakaind Hichilkma came to power in 2021 by promising a higher growth rate of around 10% and bringing the country out of its USD 12.8 billion debt mess (estimated then) within five years. Youth who were a major component of his landslide victory against the incumbent Edgar Lungu was driven by unemployment, political disenchantment and economic hardship. But it was neither an easy task in the past nor is it today.

Dealing with larger economic issues would require austerity measures that will further put an additional economic burden on already suffering people due to unemployment and inflation. The IMF conditionality, which Zambia is committed to implementing for the support it is getting from the multilateral institution, would be politically unpopular. These measures would include rolling back subsidies in electricity and petrol prices as well as reconfiguring the civil services wage bill.

In the present situation seeking additional funds for infrastructure development from foreign countries and especially China is being seen by many observers as a sure recipe for peril as the latter provides funding at higher and commercial rates. Many of them are afraid of a repeat of what happened in Sri Lanka last year and now happening in Pakistan this yer due to reliance on foreign debt. Zambia may be pushed into a default-like situation and saturating economic crisis if does not maintain balance and caution in infrastructure development.

Zambia has understood that infrastructure development is very important for development. It’s implementing the Link Zambia project, which seeks to transform the country from land-locked to land-licked. The project involves paving 8,201 km of the road at an estimated cost of USD 5.6 billion. The country is also expanding the collection of road tolls on major roads to fund road maintenance and broaden financing options for road infrastructure development, such as the Pave Zambia 2000 program, which is aimed at the rehabilitation of 2000 km of urban roads; and the L400 project, which is constructing or rehabilitating 400 km of Lusaka urban roads at a cost of USD 348 million.

Infrastructure development and industrialization is no doubt very important for Zambia for self-reliant and sustainable growth. But in this bid, there is a danger of Zambia falling into a vicious cycle of debt and its repayment, especially since the Chinese debts are accumulating and posing servicing burdens on the financially weak country.

According to a Press release at the time of its offer of the second tranche of the World Bank’s support for the Macroeconomic stability, Growth and Competitiveness Programme, Zambia is in debt distress and urgently needs deep and comprehensive debt treatment in line with the Joint WB- IMF Debt Sustainability Analysis (DSA) that called for USD 8.4 billion in debt relief in 2022-25 period and additional relief through 2031.

In such a situation Zambia needs to be cautious about any new external borrowing. Rather it should seek relief from its largest creditor, i.e. China. Besides, bargaining external funds in lieu of its natural resources is not good for the future development of the country. It would always be better for Zambia to develop and diversify its own industries and gradually try to be self-reliant. It is believed that if Zambia carries out economic reforms as suggested by the multilateral financial institutions, it would have more access to concessional funds from them and it would draw more investment.

Asia News PAKISTAN World News

SPECIAL: Talibanization of PoJK intensifies under Pakistani jackboot

The wearing of hijab is now mandatory for female students and teachers. Individuals are being required to register as Pakistani citizens in the 2023 census. Another development contributing to concerns of Talibanization is the expansion of the Rehmatul lil Alameen Authority’s activities in the region. A special report by Dr. Sakariya Kareem on the plight of the people of Pakistan Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (PoJK)

People living in the Pakistan Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (PoJK) are being forced against their will to accept measures instituted by Islamabad aimed at incorporating this territory into Pakistan. Three steps have been recently taken which signal these efforts.

The first step is making hijab a compulsory part of the uniform for girl students and women teachers in the PoJK region. The second step is to force the people of POJK to register themselves as Pakistani citizens, under the 2023 census and the third is the constitution of the Rehmat Ullil Alameen Authority. These are the latest measures that reflect misplaced priorities in Pakistan when the country is on the verge of economic collapse.

Of the three, the second is unprecedented as previous Census documents showed the PoJK people resident of Gilgit Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir. Their NADRA ID cards showed as “native of the former State of Jammu and Kashmir”. This has now been discontinued. The compulsory hijab order was issued (6 March 2023) by the “Azad Jammu and Kashmir” Education Department and it specifically targets co-education schools where girls and women teachers in rural areas have been merged with the boys’ schools since their numbers and school infrastructure do not match the requirements.

The Dawn newspaper reports that the order applies to all female students and teachers and requires covering of all female heads in ten districts. It quotes Deevan Ali Khan Chughtai, the “AJK minister for elementary and secondary education”: “We have done it exactly in observance of the injunctions of God and His Messenger (peace be upon him) […] The women have been ordained to wear veils and men have been ordained to lower their gaze.”

Officially, PoJK has 92 per cent literacy among boys and 90 per cent among girls. The Gilgit Baltistan area supposedly tops it. But on the ground, it reflects the overall neglect and paucity of infrastructure that school education suffers in Pakistan, where girls are worse off compared to boys.

The Global Citizen says, “Millions of Girls in Pakistan aren’t attending school” quoting Human Rights Watch (HRW). The British newspaper The Guardian also quotes from a survey which states that millions of girls are especially at risk, and HRW is calling on the government to step up for their futures.

Another step towards Talibanization in PoJK is the extension of the work of the Rehmatul lil Alameen Authority. Set up in October 2021 by former Pak PM Imran Khan, the authority is to conduct research on the Prophet’s biography and hadith to build the character of the youth in Pakistan.

Pakistan delegation in Kabul to mend fences over TTP and border flare-ups.(photo:IN)

In addition, the authority also consults with experts to make the biography of Muhammad a part of the academic curriculum and will explain Islam to the world. The reality of this exercise was exposed by Zahid Hussain, who wrote in the Dawn newspaper that the authority is really an “extension of Gen Zia’s legacy of deploying religiosity to achieve political gains, with the cover of resetting the system in the name of Islamic faith, the moves are to undermine the freedoms of expression, democratic processes in the country and encourage authoritarianism”.

Implementation of this Authority in PoJK will certainly have a regressive impact on the people of the region and lead to a blurring of the unique Shia and other religious/ethnic identities of the people of the region. Perhaps most telling in the series of efforts to integrate PoJK people into Pakistan is the rejection by the Bureau of Statistics in Pakistan of the demand of civil society in PoJK to register citizens as residents of PoJK (Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan) and the insistence that they should register themselves as Pakistani citizens.

This step not only violates the UN Resolutions but also violates the human rights of the people of PoJK who could be identified according to their ethnic or tribal identity. On 1 March 2023, Pakistan rolled out its first digital population and housing census ahead of the Parliamentary elections in the middle of the year. Prior to this, Pakistan had deleted the term “native of the former state of Jammu and Kashmir” from the digital NADRA ID cards of the residents of PoJK. Subsequently, the separate identity of PoJK and local languages was excluded from the Census form.

PoJK activist Amjad Mirza revealed that the Bureau of Statistics had declined to accept the demand to add a section for Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan, in the Census 2023. Despite protests by the people of PoJK, the census authorities continue to register them as Pakistani citizens. This was not the case in previous years.

The Daily Times also reported that the District Bar Association of Kotli passed a resolution supporting the Kashmir Development Foundation campaign demanding the inclusion of “Bashida-e-Riyasat Jammu & Kashmir” in the Census2023 online form. The District Bar Association demanded an amendment in form of a Census to give full representation to the citizens of the so-called Azad Jammu and Kashmir settled in Pakistan in the census form.

The resolution was passed in which the Government of Pakistan and the Joint Commissioner of Census of Pakistan were asked to include options for certain answers related to the domicile and language of citizens of Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan settled in Pakistan for business and other purposes. At the same time, the move to impose the hijab on women by the Sardar Tanveer-led PTI government has been severely criticised by local journalists and activists who find it to be an attack on women’s rights.

Others compared it to the Taliban decree in Afghanistan. Senior journalist Mariana Baabar Tweeted and criticised the decision and stressed that women should be given a choice. The PoJK government has “made it mandatory for female students and teachers to wear the hijab in mixed-gender educational institutions. “#give women a choice #stop dictating to women and men,” she said.

Murtaza Solangi, the executive editor of Nayadaur Media, tweeted, “First Afghan Taliban broke the ‘shackles of slavery’, as declared by Taliban Khan and now his great deputy” has “broken the shackles of slavery” in PoJK. “The Toothless Dentist (Pak President Arif Alvi) who acts like an activist of the fascist party must answer how their govt is enforcing Taliban rule” in PoJK, he went on to say. The plight of the people of PoJK needs to be internationally highlighted.

Clearly, Pakistan wants to gobble up illegally occupied territory in violation of the UN Resolutions of 1947 and 1948. Gen. Zia ul Haq began the process of Islamization of this occupied territory and today, steps are being taken to erase the local linguistic and ethnic identity of the population. These need to be vigorously opposed. The problem is that Pakistan is today on the verge of collapse and little attention is being paid to the people of PoJK. This is the tragedy of the situation.

Arab News Business World News

Lulu To Build Mall of Srinagar

The foundation-laying ceremony of the Mall of Srinagar, which will begin with an investment of INR 2.5 billion was held at Sempora, Srinagar

 Lulu Group is launching a new hypermarket in Jammu and Kashmir. Lulu Group and the UAE-based EMAR Group have partnered for the launch of the hypermarket. The foundation-laying ceremony of the “Mall of Srinagar” was held in the presence of Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha, Rajit Radhakrishnan, Indian chief operations officer of Lulu, Amit Jain, CEO, EMMAR Group.

Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha with Rajit Radhakrishnan, Indian chief operations officer of Lulu

The foundation-laying ceremony of the Mall of Srinagar, which will begin with an investment of INR 2.5 billion was held at Sempora, Srinagar. The project, which covers an area of 10 lakh square feet, is set to be completed by 2026 and will feature a globally renowned Burj Khalifa and Dubai Mall, among others. The new Mall will create 1500 jobs. The Lulu group will invest 200 crores in the union territory. The Mall will support local farmers through special facility to procure agro-products directly from the farmers. The Kashmir products will be promoted through Lulu Group’s 248 units across the world.