Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Can China and India team up to drive global economic growth?

September 17, 2014

AHMEDABAD India Wed Sep 17, 2014 7:21am EDT

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi (R) and China’s President Xi Jinping wave before their meeting in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad September 17, 2014.  REUTERS/Amit Dave

(Reuters) – A combination of the “world’s factory” and the “world’s back office” will drive global economic growth, Chinese President Xi Jinping said ahead of a rare visit to India on Wednesday, playing down mistrust that has kept the Asian giants apart.

India’s new prime minister, Narendra Modi, is determined to build closer relations with the world’s second-largest economy, whose leader arrived on Modi’s 64th birthday armed with pledges to invest billions of dollars in railways, industrial parks and roads.

“As the two engines of the Asian economy, we need to become cooperation partners spearheading growth,” Xi wrote in a column in The Hindu newspaper.

He said China’s strong manufacturing base and India’s software and scientific skills had massive potential both as a production base and for creating a consumer market.

Xi flew straight to Ahmedabad, in Modi’s home state of Gujarat, where the prime minister gave him a bouquet of lilies.

The visit coincides with a slowdown in China’s economy, with Chinese companies looking abroad for growth opportunities.

A deal worth $6.8 billion to set up two industrial parks for Chinese investment in India was on the cards, a senior Chinese official said in New Delhi at a separate business event where another $3.4 billion worth of agreements was signed between Chinese and Indian firms.

Further deals worth tens of billions of dollars were expected to be announced on the three-day visit, dwarfing the $400 million invested by China in India over the past 14 years.

Modi is keen on Chinese investment to help balance $65 billion in annual trade that is heavily tilted in China’s favor. He is also seeking more access for India’s IT services and pharmaceuticals to China.

The leaders may also discuss working together on civilian nuclear programs and seek a solution for a long-running travel visa row, Indian officials said.

Modi hopes the leaders of the world’s two most populous nations will establish a personal rapport to match the warmth he shares with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who wished him happy returns in a phone call on Wednesday morning, Indian media reported.

But beyond the smiles and the commercial embrace, ties between nuclear-armed India and China are marked by competition for energy and regional clout as well as a festering border dispute that led to a brief war 52 years ago.

Days before the two leaders shook hands and smiled in Ahmedabad, friction emerged over an alleged Himalayan border incursion by China and over a pact between India and Vietnam to explore for oil and gas in parts of the South China Sea claimed by Beijing.

In his column, Xi said the “Chinese Dragon” and the “Indian Elephant” both cherished peace and shared one of the most dynamic and promising bilateral relations of the 21st century.

In one sign that India wants the Xi visit to be a success, New Delhi asked the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, to reschedule an event in the capital so that it would not clash with the Chinese president’s trip there on Friday.

The Dalai Lama, whom Beijing labels a separatist seeking an independent Tibet, has lived in India since fleeing across the Himalayas after a failed uprising against Chinese rule of his homeland in 1959. Police detained a small group of Tibetan protesters from outside China’s embassy in Delhi on Wednesday. Other Tibetans were held in Gujarat.

MODI’S “INTENSIVE” FOREIGN POLICY

In a little more than 100 days since he came to power, Modi has engaged in what his government describes as “an intensive state of global engagement”, reaching out to smaller neighbors and clasping Japan’s Abe in a bear hug on his first major trip outside South Asia.

He is due to visit Washington and New York at the end of the month.

India has taken a tougher stance on Beijing’s practice of issuing stapled, rather than printed, visas to Indian citizens from the disputed regions of Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh. Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj told her Chinese counterpart she expected China to accept a “one India policy.”

“When they raised with us the issue of Tibet and Taiwan, we appreciated their sensitivities. So we also want that they should understand and appreciate our sensitivities regarding Arunachal,” she told reporters earlier this month.

India said on Tuesday it would firmly defend its 3,500-km (2,200-mile) border with China after domestic media reported a new face-off on the frontier.

“The two … have the opportunity to craft a new kind of relationship between great powers that is very different from the Western-dominated, post-World War Two model of great power ties,” said Jabin Jacob of the Institute of Chinese Studies in New Delhi.

“It remains to be seen, however, whether Modi and Xi can together summon the vision and statesmanship needed to grab the opportunity,” he wrote in a commentary before the visit.

Modi is not the only regional leader seeking strategic influence, defense partners and economic opportunities.

Earlier this month, Abe visited Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, asserting Tokyo’s interest in a region where it has ceded influence to China.

Xi followed this week with trips to the Maldives, the Indian Ocean island nation that New Delhi has long considered its area of influence, and Sri Lanka, where the two sides built on a blossoming relationship by agreeing to launch negotiations for a free trade agreement.

(Additional reporting by Manoj Kuma in NEW DELHI; Writing by John Chalmers and Frank Jack Daniel)

The Obama legacy is a more dangerous and disorderly world — And a less trustworthy U.S. government

September 17, 2014

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Barack Obama put his oar into the national debate over the militarization of local police forces on Monday, saying it may be time for Congress to take a close look at how the Pentagon is giving army gear to law-enforcement personnel

President Barack Obama spoke about events in Ferguson, Mo. on Monday, August 18, 2014 from the White House. Associated Press photo.

America needs a change of direction domestically to cope with a dangerous and disorderly world.

By  Holman W. Jenkins Jr.
The Wall Street Journal

The reports of Darrell Issa’s House Oversight and Government Reform Committee are a clinic on how government is really run. The latest on ObamaCare is no exception.

We see Chet Burrell, head of Maryland insurer CareFirst, emailing in alarm last April to White House aide Valerie Jarrett. The administration had just publicly stated its “risk corridor” plan would be revenue neutral—i.e., no extra taxpayer dollars would be available to cover insurer losses.

President Barack Obama and Valerie Jarrett

We see Mr. Burrell warning that sticking with this plan would mean politically “an unwelcome surprise,” namely premium hikes of 20% or more later this year as ObamaCare policies come up for renewal.

We see Ms. Jarrett emailing back in concern. We see her later assuring Mr. Burrell that insurers would get 80% of what they sought. After another program tweak in May, the figure would be closer to 100%.

Sure enough, this week came the fallout. Bob Laszewski, a policy wonk and former insurance executive whose bloggings are closely followed in the ObamaCare debate, writes that the administration has succeeded in temporarily suppressing incipient ObamaCare price hikes, contributing to an illusion of sustainability. He suggests that some insurers might even slash rates to “grab market share because they have nothing to lose with the now unlimited ObamaCare reinsurance program covering their losses.”

The non-surprise revealed here is that ObamaCare turns out to be just another subsidy program, throwing money at health care. In economics, you can’t subsidize everybody but we’re trying: 50 million Americans get help from Medicare, 65 million from Medicaid, nine million from the Department of Veterans Affairs, seven million (and counting) from ObamaCare, and a whopping 149 million from the giant tax handout for employer-provided health insurance.

Much of this money (which will total about $1.3 trillion in 2014) is shoveled out regardless of need, driving up prices and spurring production of services of dubious value. The spending is less effective at improving the nation’s health. An “Affordable Care Act” worth its title would have gotten us off this kamikaze mission. It didn’t.

Then there’s Halbig v. Burwell . This is the latest legal threat to ObamaCare’s improvisational unfolding. At issue is whether the words in the law mean anything—i.e., whether Congress in fact authorized the subsidies the administration has been doling out to users of the federally run (as opposed to state-run) health-care exchanges.

A cosmic test of any administration is whether it can escape town before its misplaced priorities catch up with it. An obvious Halbig solution would be for Congress simply to clarify what the words mean—except the House is now controlled by a party not a single member of which voted for ObamaCare.

The president, meanwhile, is weakened by a deteriorating world situation while he focused on “nation building at home”—by which he meant ObamaCare. He is weakened by U.S. companies accelerating their flight abroad from an unreformed U.S. tax system—because the only reform Mr. Obama was interested in was ObamaCare.

What will the president’s legacy be if not ObamaCare? A fracking boom he had nothing to do with? His threadbare claim to have rescued the economy from the 2008 meltdown?

ObamaCare has become his Ukraine. It cost his party control of Congress. It might have cost him re-election if Republicans hadn’t nominated somebody who reminded Americans of everything they hate about Wall Street. It barely squeaked past the Supreme Court. It got him sued by the House speaker. It has required ever-more flagrantly lawless exercises of executive power. Even the IRS scandal has its roots in ObamaCare—recall that Lois Lerner was allegedly tasked with suppressing tea party activity in the runup to 2012.

Lois Lerner (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

Halbig, which remains to be adjudicated by the appeals system, may be a very big deal for the administration (to modify Joe Biden‘s phrase). But it’s not a big deal for health-care reform, the unstarted work of closing the gap between cost and benefit so the U.S. can avoid bankrupting itself. Suddenly luminous is the true historical significance of ObamaCare: A left-liberal president, in the backwash of a global economic crisis that he could plausibly blame on Wall Street, could not get a “public option” through an all-Democratic Congress.

The high tide for single payer has come and gone in America. The action now moves permanently to the challenge of paying for existing welfare programs, not creating new ones.

This connects to another Obama legacy, a more dangerous and disorderly world. A world in which America needs to tighten up and toughen up. A world in which rising powers (e.g., China) no longer can be expected to finance endless American deficits so Americans can spend somebody else’s money on health care. Election 2016 can’t come fast enough for an America that needs a radical change of direction to cope with a changing world.

 cat 

Nearly 50 dead in Syria air strikes on central province

September 17, 2014

(Reuters) – At least 48 people including rebel fighters have been killed in Syrian government air bombardments around a town in the central province of Homs, a monitoring group said on Wednesday.

Two days of air strikes left women and children among the dead, including a mother who was killed along with five of her children, said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors violence in Syria through a network of sources.

Around a dozen fighters and multiple rebel commanders were also confirmed killed in the bombardment, which targeted Talbiseh, a town north of the city of Homs on the country’s main north-south highway.

In May, Syrian rebels had abandoned their last stronghold in the heart of Homs city, which had been an epicenter of the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad.

The death toll from the bombardment on Talbiseh – which took place on Tuesday and Wednesday – is expected to rise because dozens of people including children were in critical condition, the Observatory said.

More than 190,000 people have been killed in Syria’s conflict and millions more displaced, according to the United Nations. The conflict began more than three years ago as a peaceful protest movement and turned into civil war after a government crackdown.

(Reporting by Alexander Dziadosz; Editing by Toby Chopra)

Wellness: Take care of Your Brain — Read Slowly to Benefit Your Brain and Cut Stress

September 17, 2014

At Least 30 Minutes of Uninterrupted Reading With a Book or E-Book Helps

Members of a Wellington, New Zealand, club gather weekly to read slowly. 
Members of a Wellington, New Zealand, club gather weekly to read slowly. Frida Sakaj
By Jeanne Whalen

The Wall Street Journal

Once a week, members of a Wellington, New Zealand, book club arrive at a cafe, grab a drink and shut off their cellphones. Then they sink into cozy chairs and read in silence for an hour.

The point of the club isn’t to talk about literature, but to get away from pinging electronic devices and read, uninterrupted. The group calls itself the Slow Reading Club, and it is at the forefront of a movement populated by frazzled book lovers who miss old-school reading.

Slow reading advocates seek a return to the focused reading habits of years gone by, before Google, smartphones and social media started fracturing our time and attention spans. Many of its advocates say they embraced the concept after realizing they couldn’t make it through a book anymore.

“I wasn’t reading fiction the way I used to,” said Meg Williams, a 31-year-old marketing manager for an annual arts festival who started the club. “I was really sad I’d lost the thing I used to really, really enjoy.”

Slow readers list numerous benefits to a regular reading habit, saying it improves their ability to concentrate, reduces stress levels and deepens their ability to think, listen and empathize. The movement echoes a resurgence in other old-fashioned, time-consuming pursuits that offset the ever-faster pace of life, such as cooking the “slow-food” way or knitting by hand.

More from WSJ

The benefits of reading from an early age through late adulthood have been documented by researchers. A study of 300 elderly people published by the journal Neurology last year showed that regular engagement in mentally challenging activities, including reading, slowed rates of memory loss in participants’ later years.

A study published last year in Science showed that reading literary fiction helps people understand others’ mental states and beliefs, a crucial skill in building relationships. A piece of research published in Developmental Psychology in 1997 showed first-grade reading ability was closely linked to 11th grade academic achievements.

Yet reading habits have declined in recent years. In a survey this year, about 76% of Americans 18 and older said they read at least one book in the past year, down from 79% in 2011, according to the Pew Research Center.

   

Attempts to revive reading are cropping up in many places. Groups in Seattle, Brooklyn, Boston and Minneapolis have hosted so-called silent reading parties, with comfortable chairs, wine and classical music.

Diana La Counte of Orange County, Calif., set up what she called a virtual slow-reading group a few years ago, with members discussing the group’s book selection online, mostly on Facebook. “When I realized I read Twitter more than a book, I knew it was time for action,” she says.

Screens have changed our reading patterns from the linear, left-to-right sequence of years past to a wild skimming and skipping pattern as we hunt for important words and information.

More academics and writers are advocating a return to absorbing, uninterrupted reading—slow reading, as they call it. WSJ’s Jeanne Whalen discusses with Tanya Rivero. Photo: Getty

One 2006 study of the eye movements of 232 people looking at Web pages found they read in an “F” pattern, scanning all the way across the top line of text but only halfway across the next few lines, eventually sliding their eyes down the left side of the page in a vertical movement toward the bottom.

None of this is good for our ability to comprehend deeply, scientists say. Reading text punctuated with links leads to weaker comprehension than reading plain text, several studies have shown. A 2007 study involving 100 people found that a multimedia presentation mixing words, sounds and moving pictures resulted in lower comprehension than reading plain text did.

Slow reading means a return to a continuous, linear pattern, in a quiet environment free of distractions. Advocates recommend setting aside at least 30 to 45 minutes in a comfortable chair far from cellphones and computers. Some suggest scheduling time like an exercise session. Many recommend taking occasional notes to deepen engagement with the text.

 
F. Martin Ramin/The Wall Street Journal

Some hard-core proponents say printed books are best, in part because they’re more visible around the house and serve as a reminder to read. But most slow readers say e-readers and tablets are just fine, particularly if they’re disconnected from the Internet.

Abeer Hoque, who has attended a few of the silent reading parties in Brooklyn, N.Y., said she plans to read a book on her phone next time, but turn it to airplane mode to stop new emails and social-media notifications from distracting her.

When Ms. Williams, who majored in literature in college, convened her first slow reading club in Wellington, she handed out tips for productive reading and notebooks for jotting down favorite words and passages. Each time they meet, the group gathers for a few minutes to slowly breathe in and out to clear their minds before cracking open their books, as in yoga.

Roughly 20 to 30 readers have shown up for Sunday evening sessions, Ms. Williams says. Most new members fill out a brief survey on their experience with many describing it as calm, peaceful and meditative, she says.

Write to Jeanne Whalen at jeanne.whalen@wsj.com

Islamic State urges supporters to attack Times Square with pipe bombs — New York man found to have ties to ISIS

September 17, 2014

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Supporters of the Islamic State are posting recipes for bombs on forums online coaxing followers to attack American tourist attractions.
Photo: Shutterstock (main)/Inset (Reuters)

Supporters of the Islamic State terror group are being urged to attack Times Square and other popular American tourist attractions with easily assembled homemade bombs, according to a disturbing report Tuesday.

A message posted on an ISIS Web forum lists widely available ingredients needed to build a pipe bomb, and includes photos showing how to combine them into a deadly explosive device, Vocativ reported.

The message is titled “To the Lone Wolves in America: How to Make a Bomb in Your Kitchen, to Create Scenes of Horror in Tourist Spots and Other Targets,” and was written three weeks ago.

The Arabic-language message cites Times Square — the scene of a failed car-bomb attack in 2010 by al Qaeda sympathizer Faisal Shahzad — and the Las Vegas Strip as prime targets, but also suggests striking sites in Texas and mass-transit stations across the country.

But it “resurfaced” on Saturday afternoon, around the same time ISIS released a video of the beheading of British aid worker David Haines on the same Web forum, according to Vocativ.

NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said cops were aware of the message, but added: “There are no credible, specific threats to the city at this time based on the latest intelligence.”

“We’re quite concerned, as you would expect, of the capabilities of ISIS, much more so than al Qaeda … to use social media to try and spread their recruitment efforts to try and inspire,” Bratton said.

“We’re focused on it, and I believe, we are as prepared as any entity could be to deal with threats. But the reality is that we are living in a new era of potential terrorism.”

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Mufid Elfgeeh, 30, a naturalized US citizen from Yemen is accused of trying to support ISIS with materials and resources. Photo: Reuters, AP

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — An upstate New York man accused of plotting to kill members of the U.S. military and others faces new charges that he tried to aid the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq.

Mufid Elfgeeh, 30, of Rochester, was indicted by a federal grand jury on three counts of attempting to provide material support and resources to the group that has been designated by the U.S. as a foreign terrorist organization, federal prosecutors said Tuesday.

According to court documents, Elfgeeh tried to assist three individuals in traveling to Syria to join and fight with the extremist group in 2013 and early 2014. Prosecutors said two of the individuals were cooperating with the FBI.

“Disrupting and holding accountable those who seek to provide material support to foreign terrorist organizations is and shall remain a critical national security priority,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Carlin.

Elfgeeh was arrested earlier this year by members of the FBI’s Rochester Joint Terrorism Task Force after federal authorities said he bought two handguns and two silencers as part of a plan to kill members of the U.S. armed forces returning from war, as well as Shiites in the Rochester area.

The investigation included linking Elfgeeh’s home computer to tweets from alias Twitter accounts expressing support for al-Qaida, violent holy war and Sunni insurgent groups in Syria, according to court papers.

The FBI said it had been investigating Elfgeeh, a naturalized U.S. citizen, since early last year.

Information on Elfgeeh’s lawyer was not immediately available.

http://nypost.com/2014/09/17/upstate-ny-man-allegedly-tried-to-aid-isis/

India tightens Vietnam defence, oil ties

September 17, 2014

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India’s President Pranab Mukherjee (L) poses for a photo with his Vietnamese counterpart Truong Tan Sang

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India extended a US$100 million export credit to Vietnam for defence deals and tightened energy ties on Monday during a visit to Vietnam by Indian President Pranab Mukherjee.
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The two countries said in a joint statement that the credit line would “open new opportunities” for defence cooperation and that details of what Vietnam would buy were being finalized.
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“The leaders agreed that defence and security cooperation was an important pillar of the strategic partnership between the two countries,” the statement said.
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They also agreed to “consolidate” energy cooperation following a 2013 agreement under which PetroVietnam offered India’s ONGC oil and gas blocks for exploration and production.
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India and Vietnam have deepened military cooperation over the past decade and under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India is pushing ahead with a new strategy to establish itself as an arms exporter using export credits to leverage foreign sales.
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The money may help slow-moving talks to sell Brahmos cruise missiles to Hanoi.
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Vietnam is strengthening its navy with Kilo class submarines from Russia and it would like to add India’s missile technology to its defences.
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India and Vietnam have both traditionally depended heavily on their mutual Cold War partner Russia for military knowhow. The Brahmos itself was developed with Russian help.
Regional competition.
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Carl Thayer, an expert on Vietnam’s military at the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra, said he believed Vietnam was seeking India’s ship attack variants of the missile.
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Indian tests showed the supersonic cruise missile could be successfully fired from ships, which matched Hanoi’s goal of creating a meaningful deterrent against China.
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“This is leading-edge technology that would further complicate the ability of the Chinese navy to operate off the Vietnamese coast with impunity, particularly in the south of the South China Sea,” Thayer said.
“The Vietnamese do not want to be in a situation where they wake up one morning and discover the Chinese navy has surrounded one of its bases in the Spratlys,” he said, referring to a disputed island chain.
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Business is growing fast between India and China, but the rising powers’ ties are also defined by competition for energy and regional clout, as well as a border dispute that led to war 50 years ago.
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Long insecure about China’s strength, India elected Modi in May partly because of his promises to build an economically strong nation that could hold its own on the world stage.
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The timing of Mukherjee’s visit to Vietnam may not have been planned to coincide with China’s President Xi Jinping’s visit to India this week, but it underlined Delhi’s new twin track diplomacy, foreign policy analyst C Raja Mohan wrote in the Indian Express newspaper on Monday.
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“Much like China, which does not limit its strategic relationship with Pakistan because of Indian concerns, the Modi government apparently believes it can build a partnership with Vietnam on its own merits without worrying too much about what Beijing might think,” Mohan said in his column.
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Also on Mukherjee’s trip, India’s Jet Airways and Vietnam Airlines agreed to start flying between Delhi and Ho Chi Minh City from November 5, via Bangkok.
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Xi will be in India from Sept. 17-19.
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Strategic partnership 
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Indian President Pranab Mukherjee arrived in Hanoi on Monday for a three-day visit to Vietnam.

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He has met Nguyen Phu Trong, Secretary General of the Communist Party of Vietnam, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and National Assembly Chairman Nguyen Sinh Hung.
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During their discussions, President Mukherjee stressed that Vietnam was an important pillar in India ’s Look East policy and the development of India-ASEAN relations, and expressed his wish for their strategic partnership to be strengthened further.
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The state leaders highlighted the rapid growth in bilateral trade which is expected to hit $15 billion by 2020.
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They also agreed on the importance of security, safety and freedom of navigation in the East Sea, also known as the South China Sea. They called upon all parties to resolve disputes peacefully in line with international law, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, implement the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea and work towards the adoption of a Code of Conduct in these waters.
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South China Sea: India-Vietnam offshore oil-exploration agreement will likely face China’s anger

September 17, 2014

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India’s President Pranab Mukherjee (L) poses for a photo with his Vietnamese counterpart Truong Tan Sang under a statue of late Vietnamese revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh before their …more  meeting at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi September 15, 2014. REUTERS/Kham

Saibal Dasgupta Saibal,TNN | Sep 17, 2014

BEIJING: On the eve of President Xi Jinping’s trip to India, China on Tuesday suggested it would take a dim view of an India-Vietnam agreement if it were to include ONGC’s exploration of oil wells within the waters of the disputed South China Sea.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said China wouldn’t object to any “legitimate and lawful” agreement between Vietnam and a third country. However, Hong added, “If such agreement concerns waters administered by China or if such cooperation project is not approved by the Chinese government, then we will be concerned about such an agreement and we will not support it.”

Hong was responding to questions on President Pranab Mukherjee’s signing an agreement during his current visit to Vietnam. “We have noted President’s Mukherjee’s visit to Vietnam. I would like to point out that China has indisputable sovereignty over Nansha islands and adjacent waters,” he said, going on to spell out China’s concerns.

READ ALSO: India tightens Vietnam defence, oil ties ahead of Xi Jinping’s visit

Chinese government sources said Beijing is prepared to severely oppose India’s “newfound enthusiasm” for Vietnam after defence deals with another rival, Japan. It has earlier opposed India’s oil exploration efforts along with a Vietnamese company in the area.

In this May 7, 2012 file photo released by China’s Xinhua News Agency, Haiyang Shiyou oil rig 981, the first deep-water drilling rig developed in China, is pictured at 320 kilometers (200 miles) southeast of Hong Kong in the South China Sea. China on Wednesday, July 16, 2014 moved an oil rig that it had deployed in a section of the South China Sea, triggering a dispute with Vietnam. Beijing deployed the massive rig in early May close to the Paracel Islands, triggering a furious reaction in Hanoi and the most serious uptick in tensions in the waters in years. (AP Photo/Xinhua, Jin Liangkuai, File)

While it isn’t clear where the two oil wells will be located, China has conveyed similar objections about wells previously allotted to ONGC by Hanoi. China lays claim on almost all of South China Sea, a stand opposed by Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei. In fact the dispute between Vietnam and China over oil exploration flared up last May when Hanoi fiercely resisted Beijing’s attempts to deploy a major oil rig.

‘Boundary feud doesn’t affect ties’

Hong also said the India-China boundary dispute doesn’t influence bilateral ties “because it covers several issues including economic relations”. Asked what he thought about the latest incursion by Chinese troops into the Indian border, Hong said, “As per the border issue you mention, China’s position is consistent. We believe that for a long time China and India have maintained stability in border areas, and this issue does not influence bilateral ties.”

The two countries should make continuous efforts to resolve the differences, and maintain tranquility and stability at the border, he said.

READ ALSO: ​India, Vietnam ink seven agreements

The foreign ministry also tried to set the tone of China’s approach during Xi’s India tour, saying the most important task was “development and realization of China’s and India’s dreams”. China and India are willing to stand by each other to accelerate the process of joint and common development, Hong said.

This photograph taken on May 2, 2014 and released on May 7, 2014 by the Vietnamese Foreign Ministry shows a China Coast Guard ship (L) using a water cannon on a Vietnamese ship in disputed waters in the South China Sea. (AFP)

“We stand ready to step up developmental cooperation with India and boost the development of global economy. We wish full success of the visit so that bilateral relations can be brought to a new high,” he said.

The two neighbours will exchange their experiences on national governance and development strategies, Hong said. “Through this visit we hope to connect our important civilisations and make contribution to world civilization,” he said.

Pentagon Sees Possible Role for U.S. Ground Forces Against Militants

September 17, 2014

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By Julian E. Barnes
The Wall Street Journal

WASHINGTON—America’s top military officer raised the prospect that limited U.S. ground forces would be needed to battle Islamic State militants if fighting in Iraq grows more difficult.

That prospect could test President Barack Obama‘s strict ban on deploying ground troops.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, didn’t recommend U.S. combat forces be used in Iraq now.

The White House said that his comments didn’t indicate disagreement with Mr. Obama.

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, left, and Gen. Martin Dempsey testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

“To be clear, if we reach the point where I believe our advisers should accompany Iraqi troops on attacks against specific ISIL targets, I will recommend that to the president,” Gen. Dempsey said at a congressional hearing on Islamic State, which is also known as ISIS or ISIL.

Responding to questions at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Gen. Dempsey said he has opposed allowing U.S. military advisers to serve alongside Iraqi units on front lines and had blocked requests from commanders to send U.S. advisers into combat to call in airstrikes.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin Dempsey testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee during a reappointment hearing on Thursday, July 18, 2013 (AP Photo/ J. Scott Applewhite)

But he suggested his recommendations to Mr. Obama could change, depending on conditions on the ground.

He told senators one such condition would be if Iraqi forces took on a more complex military operation such as trying to retake control of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, which fell to Islamic State militants earlier this year.

Gen. Dempsey’s testimony pointed to the depth of public concern in the U.S. over a possible ground war in the Middle East as the U.S. expands a campaign of airstrikes in Iraq and plans a new military mission to target Islamic State in Syria.

It also pointed to the extent of disagreement among lawmakers on the role of American military advisers in Iraq.

He said an international coalition being assembled by the administration was the appropriate way forward.

“I believe that will prove true. But if it fails to be true, and if there are threats to the U.S., then I of course would go back to the president and make a recommendation that may include the use of U.S. military ground forces,” he said.

Following Gen. Dempsey’s comments, the White House reiterated its opposition to ground forces.

“The president does not believe that it would be in the best interest of our national security to deploy American ground troops in a combat role in Iraq and Syria,” Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, told reporters traveling on Air Force One. “He will not deploy ground troops in a combat role into Iraq or Syria.”

He said Gen. Dempsey was supportive of Mr. Obama’s policy, which clearly rules out ground forces. Mr. Earnest added that Gen. Dempsey was responding to a question about a hypothetical situation.

Gen. Dempsey’s spokesman, Col. Ed Thomas, said later Tuesday that he supports Mr. Obama’s strategy, wasn’t considering ground combat forces as an option and believes the current approach is working.

During the hearing, Gen. Dempsey said that Gen. Lloyd Austin, the head of Central Command, had requested that he be allowed to place U.S. special operation forces inside Iraq units to help call in airstrikes them as they tried to retake Mosul Dam.

But Gen. Dempsey said the military instead developed a plan to have U.S. military advisers in Erbil help manage the battle remotely by viewing feeds from cameras on board U.S. aircraft.

“We learned some things about how to use advisers from remote locations. I’m not saying this’ll work every place every time, but we pulled that mission off,” Gen. Dempsey said. “And I think it’s a good template for future operations.”

His comments came as Central Command announced a fresh round of airstrikes in the expanded campaign against Islamic State militants.

Central Command said it conducted strikes aimed at helping the Iraqi security forces counter Islamic State militants.

Northwest of Erbil, the U.S. said it hit an armed truck and an Islamic State fighting position. Three more airstrikes southwest of Baghdad damaged another truck, destroyed antiaircraft artillery piece, a small ground unit and two boats resupplying Islamic State militants on the Euphrates River.

An Islamic State militant holds a piece of a Syrian war plane that crashed in Syria’s Raqqa province. Reuters

Military officials have said disrupting the groups supply lines are critical in helping Iraqi forces make inroads against the group.

Within Congress, Gen. Dempsey’s comments sparked a debate over the administration’s intentions in Iraq and Syria. Sen. James Inhofe (R., Okla.) said it was “foolhardy” for the Obama administration to rule out special operations forces on the ground to call in strikes.

But the committee chairman, Sen. Carl Levin (D., Mich.), said having combat forces on the ground can be counterproductive.

Gen. Dempsey’s comments were discussed at a closed-door meeting of House Democrats.

“There’s a concern that you can’t just pour in a huge amount of additional weaponry, that you can’t go in and launch all these airstrikes without having some blowback and some consequences, many of which may have been unintended,” said Rep. Rick Nolan (D., Minn.). “That may very well change the situation to the point where people who are against boots on the ground say ‘We’ve got to have boots on the ground.'”

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What’s it like to live under the rule of the extremist group known as the Islamic State, or ISIS? WSJ looks at the situation in Raqqa, Syria, through the eyes of two activists — and through the lens of ISIS propaganda videos.

Rep. Peter Welch (D., Vt.) said Gen. Dempsey’s comments could affect a congressional debate on training Syrian rebels.

“When you have General Dempsey, who is a straight shooter, saying there’s some potential for ground troops, it obviously is another factor people have to take into account,” Mr. Welch said outside the closed-door meeting of House Democrats. “But there’s revulsion at ISIS and there’s a collective desire to do something.”

Congressional leaders from both parties on Tuesday backed the president’s request to train and equip Syrian rebels to fight Islamic State militants, predicting the measure would clear Congress with bipartisan support.

After the hearing, Mr. Levin said Gen. Dempsey’s comments about U.S. ground forces were being misinterpreted.

“He suggested if in fact they are needed in the future, if the circumstances are different, he is open to making a different recommendation,” Sen. Levin said.

Gen. Dempsey has publicly supported the Obama administration’s foreign policy approach, backing the Obama administration’s focus on stripping chemical weapons from the Syrian regime in lieu of airstrikes in 2013. Like the president, he has publicly urged careful use of American military force and has cautioned against potentially long and costly entanglements.

—Michael R. Crittenden
and Kristina Peterson contributed to this article.

See also:

ISIS shoots down Syrian Air Force fighter jet — a first for the Islamic State

September 17, 2014

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A Syrian Air Force fighter plane fires a rocket during an air strike in the village of Tel Rifaat, about 20 miles north of Aleppo, on August 9, 2012. (Reuters)
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By Staff Writer, Al Arabiya News
Tuesday, 16 September 2014
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The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) shot down a Syrian regime fighter jet conducting airstrikes on the group’s strongholdofRaqqa on Tuesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.The Britain-based monitor said: “It is the first aircraft shot down since the regime launched air strikes against thejihadists in July following their declaration of a caliphate in late June.”Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP that the plane was carrying out strikes on the ISIS stronghold of Raqa when it was hit.

It crashed into a house in the Euphrates Valley city, the sole provincial capital entirely out of Syrian government control, causing deaths and injuries on the ground, he added.

A photograph posted on a jihadist Twitter account purported to show the burnt-out wreckage of the plane.

“Allahu Akbar (God is greater), thanks to God we can confirm that a military aircraft has been shot down over Raqa,” another account said, congratulating the “lions of the Islamic State.”

The plane is far from the first Syrian government aircraft downed by opposition forces, but it comes after President Bashar al-Assad’s regime stepped up its air campaign against ISIS in eastern Syria.

In recent weeks it has repeatedly targeted the group’s Euphrates valley strongholds in Raqa and Deir Ezzor provinces and jihadist-held areas of the northeastern province of Hasakeh.

An air strike on an ISIS training camp in the Deir Ezzor town of Tibni killed 17 militants and a child on Saturday.

U.S. President Barack Obama said last week he would not hesitate to hit ISIS in Syria.

Senior U.S. officials have said that the Syrian military’s air defenses would face retaliation if Syria attempted to respond to U.S. airstrikes that are expected against ISIS targets in Syria.

One official said if the Assad military were to demonstrate that it was a threat to the U.S. ability to operate in the area, it would put Syrian air defenses in the region at risk.

The United States has stressed it will not coordinate with the Assad government in any way in its fight against ISIS. Obama’s position has long been that he would like to see Assad leave power, particularly after using chemical weapons against his own people last year.

But airstrikes against ISIS in Syria could have the indirect effect of benefiting Assad because the extremists have been fighting the Syrian government during what is now a three-year civil war.

Washington wants to train and equip Syrian rebels who are deemed to be moderate to hold territory cleared by U.S. airstrikes.

The president will meet on Tuesday at the White House with retired Marine General John Allen, who is in charge of coordinating the activities of a coalition expected to include some Western allies and a number of Arab states.

A senior U.S. official said some Arab states have agreed to join the United States in launching airstrikes, but declined to identify them.

[With AFP and Reuters]

Last Update: Tuesday, 16 September 2014 KSA
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Wreckage from a Syrian warplane was removed on Tuesday near Raqqa. An Islamic State flag flew in the background at left. Credit Reuters

BEIRUT, Lebanon — The warring parties in Syria have launched newly assertive attacks on several fronts in recent days, seeking to gain ground and psychological advantage ahead of an intensified United States campaign against extremist Islamic State militants that could include the first American airstrikes inside Syria.

On Tuesday, fighters with the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, said they had shot down a Syrian military aircraft over their stronghold in the northern city of Raqqa, in what antigovernment activists said was a first for the Islamic State.

Read the rest:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/17/world/middleeast/syrian-plane-shot-down-as-attacks-by-groups-intensify.html?_r=0

People load parts of the wreckage of a Syrian war plane onto a truck after it crashed in Raqqa, in northeast Syria September 16, 2014. Islamic State fighters shot down the Syrian war plane using anti-aircraft guns on Tuesday, the first time the group has downed a military jet since declaring its cross-border caliphate in June, a group monitoring the civil war said. (REUTERS/Stringer)

South China Sea Dispute Tests Philippines’ Ties With China

September 17, 2014

 

FILE - Protesters display a Philippine flag and placards while shouting slogans as they march towards the Chinese Consulate at the financial district of Makati city east of Manila.

FILE – Protesters display a Philippine flag and placards while shouting slogans as they march towards the Chinese Consulate at the financial district of Makati city east of Manila.

Simone Orendain
This week a huge trade show opens in Nanning, China, focusing on promoting ties between Southeast Asian countries and their largest trading partner, China. However, for the second year in a row, the Philippine president is not attending, following another tense year in the South China Sea.Philippine Foreign Affairs Spokesman Charles Jose said an agreement in 2011 between President Benigno Aquino and then President Hu Jintao is what guides Manila’s relations with Beijing.

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“Both countries should not let the territorial dispute affect the overall relationship.  So on the part of the Philippines, we are willing to extract and isolate our territorial dispute and deal with this separately, but at the same time we try to promote and strengthen the other areas of our cooperation with China,” said Jose.

Three years ago, there was no Scarborough Shoal standoff and no pending case at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague. At the time, the Philippines had only filed a string of diplomatic protests against China, which claims “indisputable sovereignty” over practically the entire South China Sea.

In 2012, China effectively took control of Scarborough after a tense months-long standoff between vessels of the two countries in waters within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

A year later, Manila filed an arbitration case questioning China’s sweeping claims in the resource-rich sea.  Beijing rejects arbitration and has not responded to the case.

Last year, the Philippines was the designated “country of honor” at the China ASEAN Expo in Nanning, but Philippine officials say President Aquino was uninvited because of the arbitration filing.

The Chinese Embassy in Manila declined a formal interview request from VOA to discuss the relationship.

Rommel Banlaoi, executive director of the Manila-based Philippine Institute for Peace Violence and Terrorism Research, said the sea dispute is hindering relations.

“It’s still in a very sour political state. The relationship is still at its lowest point,” said Banlaoi.

Still, the foreign affairs spokesman said, trade and tourism between the two countries remains strong.

Official Philippines’ data shows that in the past three years tourism arrivals from China increased, with a 70 percent jump from 2012 to 2013. Last year 426,000 of the country’s 4.6 million tourists came from China.

Philippine exports to China were slightly higher than imports from China in 2011 and 2013. But the Philippines took a hit in 2012 after China imposed requirements on its bananas entering the country. Observers say this may have been linked to the standoff.

Banlaoi called the tourism increase “miniscule” and said Manila has been losing out on Beijing’s ability to aggressively promote international travel. Besides, he added, more Filipinos invest in China than the other way around.

“The Philippines could have been one of the major destinations of China’s investment in Southeast Asia…  China has this policy of the Maritime Silk Road… The Maritime Silk Road aims to intensify China-Southeast Asia economic relationships through increased investment and through enhanced trade and commercial relationships. The Philippines is not part of that,” said Banlaoi.

Banlaoi noted neighboring Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and other countries in the region are participating.

Earlier this month, China’s foreign ministry warned its citizens to avoid visiting the Philippines following a foiled bomb plot allegedly targeting the Chinese embassy and Chinese-Filipino owned businesses.

Banlaoi called the potential for violent incidents like the bomb plot a “major concern” since they can fuel nationalistic sentiment and pressure governments to take a harder stance.

Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Jose said the office reassured the Chinese government the country is taking measures to ensure safety of their embassy personnel.

While ships from the two countries jockey for position in remote islands of the South China Sea, and officials in the capitals keep up the heated rhetoric, some analysts think the situation will largely remain the same, mostly because of the Aquino administration’s push to expand its military relationship with Washington.

Renato De Castro of De La Salle University in Manila said that relationship is viewed skeptically in Beijing.

“For them, President Aquino and Foreign Secretary [Albert] del Rosario are basically pro-American. That’s how they view it… they’re puppets. They’re being manipulated by the United States. If they’re removed, if they’re gone, everything will go well,” said De Castro.

De Castro thinks China is simply waiting out the end of Aquino’s term in 2016 in hopes of returning to normal relations with the Philippines. But he said for right now, Manila is doing a poor job of balancing its ties to both superpowers.

Related here on Peace and Freedom:

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Zhao Jianhua (L), Chinese ambassador to the Philippines, presents the letter of credence to Philippine President Benigno Simeon Aquino III in Manila April 8, 2014. (Xinhua/Rouelle Umali)


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