Posts Tagged ‘India’

India’s Modi Claims ‘Surgical Strikes’ across the Line of Control — Pakistan military denies it ever happened

April 19, 2018

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday said that India will not tolerate those who like to “export terror” and will respond to them “in the language they understand”, referring to the 2016 ‘surgical strikes’ across the Line of Control (LoC), reported Times of India.

On September 28, 2016, India had claimed that the country carried out surgical strikes on seven terror launch pads across the LoC, inflicting “significant casualties”.

The Pakistan military, however, had swiftly rubbished the notions of a surgical strike, saying: “This quest by the Indian establishment to create media hype by rebranding cross-border fire as a surgical strike is fabrication of the truth. Pakistan has made it clear that if there is a surgical strike on Pakistani soil, the same will be strongly responded.”

Read: Mystery of the ‘surgical strike’

Modi, during the ‘Bharat ki Baat, Sabke Saath’ diaspora event in London on Wednesday, claimed that before making the news of the ‘surgical strikes’ public, India had repeatedly attempted to contact Pakistan government to inform them about the operation.

“I said before India gets to know, we should call Pakistan and tell them what we did so they can come and collect the dead bodies if they have time. We were calling them since 11am but they were scared to answer the phone. At 12 we spoke to them and then told the Indian media,” he was quoted as saying.

Explore: Surgical strikes — The questions that still remain

“We believe in peace. But we will not tolerate those who like to export terror. We will give back strong answers and in the language they understand. Terrorism will never be accepted,” Modi said.

The Foreign Office on Thursday reiterated that India’s claims about the ‘surgical strike’ were false and baseless. “Repeating a lie doesn’t turn it into the truth,” said FO Spokesperson Dr Muhammad Faisal.

In response to Modi’s comments on Pakistan exporting terrorism, Dr Faisal said that it was the other way around and that India was backing terrorists in Pakistan. “Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav is proof of Indian state-sponsored terrorism.”

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Demonstrators stage a protest against the visit by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Parliament Square, London, Britain, April 18, 2018. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

‘Don’t politicise rape’

Hundreds of noisy protesters greeted Modi when he arrived in London on Wednesday. Holding placards reading “Modi go home” and “we stand against Modi’s agenda of hate and greed”, they gathered outside Downing Street and parliament as Modi arrived for talks with Prime Minister Theresa May.

Kashmiris held aloft flags, while others displayed posters depicting an eight-year-old Muslim girl, who was raped and murdered earlier this year in a brutal attack blamed on Hindu men.

Speaking on the gruesome incident during the event, Modi said: “Rape is rape. It cannot be tolerated. But should we compare the number of rapes in different governments? We cannot say there were this many rapes in our government and that many in yours. There cannot be a worse way to deal with this issue.”

Read: No Muslims left in Rasana — the village that has become a symbol of India’s rape crisis

He also urged people and political leaders to refrain from politicising the rape cases, reported Times of India.

Sexual violence against women is a highly charged political issue in India. Protests have erupted across India after the latest rape cases — one of the Kashmir girl and the other of a teenager — were reported. Police officers and a politician are under investigation in two of the unrelated cases.

A state lawmaker from Modi’s Bha­ratiya Janata Party stands accused of raping the teenager. No action was taken against the politician until the girl threatened to set herself on fire earlier this month. Her father died soon afterwards from injuries he sustained while in police custody.

Nearly 40 per cent of India’s rape victims are children and the 40,000 reported rapes in 2016 marked a 60 per cent increase over the level in 2012. But women’s rights groups say the figures are still gross underestimates.

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Israel turns 70 — “Benjamin Netanyahu is no longer a defender of Israeli democracy”

April 19, 2018

Israelis’ second-favorite choice for prime minister charges that the long-serving incumbent does not put the greater good of Israel ahead of his own political interests anymore

Something happened to him. Something changed. He’s not the same person that he was.

So says Yair Lapid, the country’s second most favored choice of prime minister, about the man he is determined to defeat: the seemingly perennial first choice, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Interviewed this week in a bustling Ramat Aviv cafe, Yesh Atid leader Lapid acknowledges helpfully that he’s not Netanyahu’s psychologist, but he ascribes that change to a combination of factors including the prime minister’s legal problems, the sheer length of his time in office, and the fact that the world is changing and he didn’t change fast enough with it.

Lapid insists that he’s not blind to Netanyahu’s many achievements, but ultimately, in his telling, what Israel is witnessing with Netanyahu now is the corrosive impact of a premier far too long in power. He can’t even think of another Western leader in office today who was first elected as far back as Netanyahu’s initial victory, in 1996. (Because there isn’t one, though it should be noted, of course, that Netanyahu was out of office for 10 of those 22 years, between 1999 and 2009.)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and finance minister Yair Lapid attend a signing ceremony for a new private port to be built in Ashdod, at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on September 23, 2014. (Noam Revkin Fenton/FLASH90)

And while Lapid goes to considerable lengths to challenge Netanyahu’s persuasive assertion of Israel’s economic and foreign relations renaissance, and to highlight Netanyahu’s failures in tackling the threats posed by Iran, he says it is Israel’s domestic cohesion that is most threatened by the prime minister’s hold. What worries him most, as Israel turns 70 and he wonders how the country will fare in the years to come, is Israelis’ capacity “to work together towards a common good” — a critical factor in Israel’s survival and one he claims that Netanyahu cynically undermines by fueling division for narrow political gain.

Therefore, if elected prime minister, Lapid, 54, promises he’ll pass legislation mandating a two-term prime ministerial limit. And he’ll pass it early, he says, before he too succumbs to the typical Israeli prime ministerial delusion that the country’s very existence depends on him retaining the post, and that all means can be sacrificed to that end.

Under Netanyahu, Lapid asserts, the determination to retain power at all costs is coming to threaten Israel’s very democracy — with the courts, law enforcement and the media all under sustained attack. Asked what’s wrong with legislation, currently contemplated by Netanyahu, that would prevent the High Court from striking down Knesset legislation it finds to be undemocratic, he answers starkly, with a rather unhappy laugh: “Because if tomorrow the 66 members of the coalition vote through a law saying we’re hanging the other 54 opposition members of Knesset from a tree, who are we going to go to?”

Netanyahu and his government, he further charges, are exhibiting a “failure to understand politics as an ongoing process, in which sometimes you’re in power and sometimes you’re not, and that you have to protect the rights of the people who are not in power, including minorities.” Lapid’s most devastating critique? That Netanyahu is no longer a defender of Israeli democracy.

I’d have been happy to discuss these critiques, and a whole host of other issues, with the prime minister himself, needless to say. But the Prime Minister’s Office, as is its wont, did not respond to a request for an interview beyond acknowledging it. Netanyahu long since abandoned a tradition by which Israeli prime ministers made themselves available for multiple interviews by the Israeli media twice a year — around Passover/Independence Day and New Year. (Apart from a few brief minutes in China last year, the last time he spoke on the record to The Times of Israel was on the eve of the 2015 elections.)

And yet, the polls keep showing, this ostensibly dangerous Netanyahu is still far more popular than Lapid, and his coalition would triumph again if elections were called. Threat to democracy or not, it’s Netanyahu that Israelis plainly still want. Responds Lapid, determinedly, “Well, this is my job description — to convince them that I’m a better alternative.”

Lapid spoke in English. What follows is a transcript lightly edited for clarity and concision.

The Times of Israel: Here we are at that time of year again — the mourning and the celebration.

Yair Lapid: I wrote many years ago that this is the only country where the difference between the saddest day and the happiest day is only 60 seconds. We’ve debated whether or not to separate those two, but I think we’re better off with them touching each other.

The former enables the latter. It’s appropriate.

Yes.

How do you think we should be feeling on our 70th birthday? Obviously it’s an amazing achievement to have reached 70 in this toxic part of the world, and, moreover, to be thriving. But we also have lots of problems.

Lapid with his father Tommy in the 1980s. (photo credit: Moshe Sinai/Flash90)

Lapid with his father Tommy in the 1980s. (photo credit: Moshe Sinai/Flash90)

On anniversaries you tend to think on a bigger scale. I’m 54 years old. When my grandfather was 54, he was already dead — ashes in Mauthausen concentration camp. When my father was 54, in 1985, the country was in a healing process from the first Lebanon war; the startup nation was not invented yet. There was a fragility to Israel that you don’t feel now. We’re doing well.

I look at my son and I recognize that we live in an amazing country and I’m happy for him that he’s here. I should believe that when he turns 54, in 23 years from now, he’ll be living in a country that’s better than the one I’m living in. But, for the first time in my lifetime, I’m not convinced that Israel’s future is necessarily better than its present or past.

Because?

Because nobody’s taking care of it. Because we have a totally dysfunctional system and leadership which is not as obligated [as its predecessors] to doing the right thing even if it has political consequences. We were brought to the amazing place we are now by people who led us in the right way, and I don’t think we have those kind of leaders now.

It’s the system or the personalities?

They have to do with each other. The political system is totally unsuitable, not only to what this country needs, but also to the soul and spirit of the nation.

That sounds like the sour grapes complaint of somebody who’s not winning. The public, in every poll that we see — despite Netanyahu’s reversals on the deportations of migrants, the corruption cases, the strains with the Diaspora, etc., etc. — seems to like him more and more. Don’t we have the leadership and the system that the people want?

First of all, the incumbent always has the advantage until election day; only then do we know what the public really wants.

I disagree with Netanyahu; I’m not a member of Likud. But to be fair to Netanyahu, he’s done a lot of good things for the country as well. The only problem we have is that something happened to him.

I think we can agree that if we want democracy to defend us, we need to defend democracy as well. He doesn’t do this anymore, which is alarming. And it’s twice as bad, because he wasn’t like that in the past. This is something that’s happened in the last two or three years, because he’s been in office too long

I’ve known him for more than 20 years. I’ve served [as finance minister in 2013-14] in his government. [In the Channel 10 Independence Day television series on Israel’s leaders] you can see the moment when [first prime minister David] Ben-Gurion had been there too long. It’s the same with Netanyahu. He’s been there too long.

Something happened to him? What does that mean?

Something changed. I’m not his psychologist.

Like all politicians, he had his own agenda, but if it was him or the country, the country came first. It’s not like that anymore. If he feels — and he does — that the divisions in Israeli society serve him politically, he has no problem contributing to these divisions instead of seeing it as his duty to heal the wounds. And if he feels it serves him politically to have an open attack on the police, the Supreme Court, on all the institutions…

I think we can agree that if we want democracy to defend us, we need to defend democracy as well. He doesn’t do this anymore, which is alarming. And it’s twice as bad, because he wasn’t like that in the past. This is something that’s happened in the last two or three years, because he’s been in office too long.

Don’t all of our prime ministers become convinced over the years that if they are not prime minister, the country is in terrible peril?

Yes.

And therefore all means to that end? Is that what we’re seeing?

Yes and hence the term limits that some democracies have.

That’s what you would do here? You would change the system in that respect?

Yes. I introduced a bill in this Knesset for a two-term limit on the prime minister. And if I’m prime minister, this is something I would pass in the first three months. Because probably after three or four years, you’d also be in peril of convincing yourself [that only you can lead the country].

But the public, again, obviously likes him more than the alternatives.

Well, this is my job description — to convince them that I’m a better alternative.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) and finance minister Yair Lapid during a press conference speaking about the reform at Israel’s ports, in Jerusalem, on July 3, 2013. (Flash90)

I’m not part of this anti-Bibi camp that thinks that everything he ever did in his life was wrong. I don’t have that instinct. I come from a right-wing family. I already served in his government. I know his family. It’s just he’s been there for too long and he’s taking the country on the wrong course now.

You said you don’t think there’s the fragility that there was before for Israel. So we are at least more certain of existing? Are you sure that we’re through the worst period in terms of physical threats?

We had worse times. Think of the atmosphere in this country in May 1967, when my grandparents called my parents from abroad and told them, the least you can do is send the children to us. It was so obvious to everybody, five minutes before this unbelievable triumph, that the country was going to be destroyed.

We do face things that are alarming. The Iranians in Syria. Hezbollah, the biggest terror organization on earth, with 140,000 missiles and rockets aiming at us as we speak, and some of them precision-guided. But if you ask me what is the biggest fear, it relates to Israeli society and our ability to work together towards a common good.

On the eve of the 1973 war, there was no sense here of existential peril, but we were in existential peril. You don’t think we’re overly complacent now? What happens if a few weeks from now hundreds of thousands march on the border from Gaza, and Hezbollah opens up a second front, and who knows what goes on in the West Bank. Are we as capable as we think we are, of meeting any grave physical threats?

Yes, we are. The things you’re describing are alarming, but they’re not existential threats. An existential threat is five Arab armies moving toward our borders. There’ll be no such war.

Palestinian men wave their national flags as smoke billows from tires burned by Gazans at the Israel-Gaza border during a protest, east of Gaza City in the Gaza Strip, on April 6, 2018. (AFP Photo/Mahmud Hams)

We live in a time in which the differentiation between peacetime and wartime is opaque. We need to have good answers to 50,000 Palestinians marching on our border in Gaza, but it’s not an existential threat. Israel is mightier than any of our enemies, including Iran.

So you’re most concerned about social cohesion and the stability of our democracy?

And our ability to work together, and to make sure that our best and our brightest are here.

It could all be so different internally if only what?

Countries don’t work like that. Countries are big boats and turning them takes time. What we need is a different leadership, really making plans and working for the future of the country, not the future of the politicians. That’s why we [in Yesh Atid] put forward the 7 point plan for the future of this country. It’s sad. When we issued it, I was eager for debate. But there is no debate. I don’t want to be one of those people who blames the media for everything. But basically we couldn’t even get a real debate going about the economy in the age of the machines, about social gaps…

Netanyahu would argue that he’s tackling all of this. That under him the economy is thriving. And that our foreign relations are great.

It’s fine to argue as long as your claims are correct. Let’s take the two examples you gave.

Israel’s economy is doing very well: the startup nation was established due to two processes created by two different governments. The Likud government in the 1980s, that created the Office of the Chief Scientist. And a Labor government in the 1990s, that created what they call the initiative program — essentially governmental hedge funds for the high-tech industry. Nobody’s doing anything right now to create the next economy. We’re living now on the fuel of the decisions that were made 20 years ago.

On that horrible night that you probably remember, when they passed the penultimate budget and gave money to everyone — [United Torah Judaism’s Moshe] Gafni took 80 million shekels and [Likud MKs] Micky Zohar 40 million and Oren Hazan 10 million which he hasn’t used to this day because he doesn’t know how. They gave money to anybody, to any politician, to any coalition agreement, but by the end of the night, they had no money left, so they cut from something which has no political price, which was the chief scientist budget. The budget that is supposed to create the next economy. Innovation. The economic air that we breathe. This is the kind of irresponsibility that this government is demonstrating.

As for the other example you cited, here things are even worse because there is no foreign policy renaissance. You’re not going to print this, but I’m going to tell you anyway. You’re not going to print it because it’s long and it’s complex, but it’s interesting.

Try me.

In Israel’s foreign policy we have eight arenas: the United Sates, American Jews, the European Union, international establishments such as the UN, the Middle East, Russia, China, and what we’ll call the rest of the world. Aside from an arena and a half, we’re not doing better than we were, say, two years ago. We’re doing a lot worse. We’re doing well in the United States because Donald Trump was elected and is a devoted supporter of Israel and I couldn’t be happier about that. The [scheduled opening next month in Jerusalem of the US] embassy is the perfect present for Israel’s 70th anniversary.

But [Trump’s election] had nothing to do with Israeli policy. The Republican candidate who we did support, Mitt Romney in 2012, lost, and it was a huge mistake supporting him. The Republican candidate we didn’t support, Donald Trump, won.

So we’re doing better [as regards the US president].

US President Donald Trump (right) welcomes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House on March 5, 2018 in Washington,DC. (AFP PHOTO / Mandel NGAN)

We’re doing horribly within the Democratic Party, and with more conservative Republicans, and with American Jewry — with everything that is not the president. If you don’t believe me, look at the complete failure to convince the Americans to get involved in what is happening in Syria, Iran’s establishment [of its military] in Syria, which according to Netanyahu is the number one goal of our foreign policy.

As for the European Union, we just gave up. Apparently nobody cares about our biggest trading partner. We need the Europeans  — including to tackle the money trail of Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations. But we’ve decided to declare [EU foreign affairs chief] Frederica Mogherini an enemy, the European Union an anti-Semite. That does not constitute a policy for a country. What you do if you have a problem somewhere, is go and work to make it better. The same goes for the UN. I support leaving the UN Human Rights Council. But anything else [you have to work on it]. You don’t appoint a second or third class politician to be your ambassador to the United Nations. You make sure you have the best diplomat on earth there, fighting the fight.

Russia is ignoring our most urgent security needs over Syria. China in the next few years will become Iran’s biggest trading partner.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara with Indian prime minister Narendra Modi as Netanyahu arrives in India on January 14, 2018. (Avi Ohayon/GPO)

In the rest of the world, where Netanyahu [ostensibly] did well, you have to distinguish between photo ops and policies. He got an unbelievable photo op in India and everybody was so impressed they missed the fact that a few weeks later [Prime Minister Narendra] Modi came from India to the Palestinian Authority, went to Arafat’s grave, and called him one of the greatest leaders ever. And Modi hosted [Iran’s President Hassan] Rouhani in India. It was unbelievable: The reception for Rouhani was a carbon copy of the one that Netanyahu had. But the deals they signed are ten times bigger, including for an Indian port inside Iran, meaning we’re being messed with again.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, right, and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, left, wave after a ceremonial reception at the Indian presidential palace, in New Delhi, India, Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

And this is called a policy renaissance? There is no renaissance.

There is no one working on the economy. Or making an effort to minimize social gaps.

Having said all that, I’m not one of those leftists who thinks the country is terrible. The country is unbelievable. The army is fantastic. The people are the best. We live a good life.

Netanyahu would bitterly dispute that he is resting on the economic laurels of 20 years ago. For starters, he would stress Israel’s capacity in cyber, including to counter cyber threats, where we’re a world leader.

Well, that’s true. The IDF is at the heart of that.

It’s a good thing that Netanyahu focused on cyber when he did. It’s a very good thing that he was talking about Iran when nobody else wanted to. If he was the same person that he was then, I might have a weaker case

He’s done some good things. He started talking about cyber when nobody else was. But let’s not [try to claim credit that really goes to] the IDF. The IDF was the best army in the world in 1967. It was the army that almost broke, but then won, in 1973. It was the army that, in 1948, against all odds, created the country. This is not Benjamin Netanyahu’s doing. This is Ben-Gurion’s version of the iron wall: Part of the reason we won wars was that we were capable of maintaining our qualitative edge. The qualitative edge was always technological. Can you compare the cyber abilities we have to the fact that we built nuclear reactors here in this country in the 1950s? People had nothing to eat in the 1950s.

It’s a good thing that Netanyahu focused on cyber when he did. It’s a very good thing that he was talking about Iran when nobody else wanted to. If he was the same person that he was then, I might have a weaker case. But he isn’t. Unfortunately. For various reasons — including his legal problems, the fact that he’s been in office too long, and the fact that the world is changing and he wasn’t able to change fast enough with it. I can’t think of any other current democratic leader who was in power in 1996.

Do you think he’s a danger to democracy, that he’s destroying Israeli democracy, that he would destroy Israeli democracy to stay in power?

Israel’s democracy is strong and well established. But we are now the third generation from World War II. People don’t understand the risks and perils of not living in a democracy. So they want to live in a democracy, but they don’t want to pay the price.

Part of a strong, vital, vibrant democracy is change of leadership every now and then. The pendulum must move, and if somebody is trying to slow down or prevent the pendulum from moving by abusing his power of authority, then this is an undemocratic process

People tell themselves, I want to live in a democracy and I’m for a free press, but you can’t write everything, without understanding that the whole idea of a free press is that you can write everything. And they say, we want a strong Supreme Court, but they shouldn’t intervene in things they don’t understand. Without realizing that yes, the Supreme Court has to understand, but it is supposed to intervene. That is the purpose of the court. People say, yes, we should have a strong police force, but what’s wrong with the prime minister attacking the police? Well, there is something wrong with the prime minister attacking the police because if you don’t trust the police, who are you going to trust when the next intifada breaks out?

Part of a strong, vital, vibrant democracy is change of leadership every now and then. The pendulum must move, and if somebody is trying to slow down or prevent the pendulum from moving by abusing his power of authority, then this is an undemocratic process.

And that’s what you think is happening now?

We are seeing some of that now in Israel, yes.

And yet, when he attacks the police, he rises in the polls. Here’s a theory: Israelis hear you, and [Zionist Union leader] Avi Gabbay, and [Netanyahu’s former defense minister Moshe] Ya’alon, and others in the opposition, all telling us that it’s crisis time. That our leadership is bad for this country. But we don’t see you all as being so worried for this country as to put aside your egos and get together. If Moshe Ya’alon walked into Yesh Atid headquarters tomorrow, and said, Yair, I’m willing to be your number 2 because the hour is so critical, people might start to take it more seriously. Instead, we see all these dissenting egos who each warn that this is a terrible moment, but also all say that they have to be the one to oust the prime minister.

Yair Lapid (center), and Tzipi Livni (right), with Moshe Ya’alon (left) at a 2013 cabinet meeting. (photo credit: Emil Salman/Pool/Flash90)

You’re lumping two things together. You cannot get together with people with whom you have a very different ideological prism. I cannot unify with Labor because they’re on the left and I’m in the center. For the same reason, I cannot have a unified party with the Likud.

You would, surely, if the domestic crisis was severe enough. You would say, we have to put aside ideological differences over diplomacy and security, albeit temporarily, to save the country internally.

Well, then, it’s not on me, it’s on the voters. This is what happens in real life. The voters look around and say, who has got the best chance of winning and then they go there in the elections. Until then, it’s what we see now.

Secondly, all these moves [by politicians into the various parties], all these generals people are talking about — and I think these are good people and I want them in politics — everyone will make their decisions when we have an election date. (Lapid is referring to such potential politicians as former chiefs of staff Gabi Ashkenazi and Benny Gantz.) To maneuver just for the sake of maneuvering…

It’s premature?

Yes, but these things will happen.

What’s wrong with the argument made by Netanyahu about constraining the Supreme Court. People say, we voted in these politicians. They make the laws. Why is it unacceptable [for the government to advance the legislation it is considering] to say the Supreme Court should not intervene [to overturn laws passed by the Knesset]?

Because if tomorrow the 66 members of the coalition vote through a law saying we’re hanging the other 54 opposition members of Knesset from a tree, who are we going to go to? (Lapid laughs rather sadly.) The idea that democracy is only about the majority… When people talk about the tyranny of democracy, this is what they’re talking about. The entire idea of democracy is checks and balances.

Outgoing Supreme Court President, Miriam Naor (C-R), and incoming President Esther Hayut (C-L) at the Supreme Court during Naor’s last ruling and retirement ceremony, in Jerusalem, on October 26, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

But the problem with the bills that the government is discussing now is even greater because of the motive for the legislation. Why now? Netanyahu’s been prime minister on and off since 1996. Twenty-two years. Why now? Because of his legal problems, and [his belief] this will serve him when dealing with his legal problems.

When they ask me about the French bill [the notion that a prime minster would be immune from prosecution so long as he’s in office], I say, I’m willing to have that discussion when we have somebody [as prime minister] who is not under investigation.

The key difference is that France has term limits for its immune-from-prosecution president.

I would add, since they’re also discussing the British model [of the balance between parliament and the courts], that it also has to do with political culture. And besides (laughs), if they’re going to have the British model here, I want the queen as well.

So again, this is an attack on the rule of law, an attack for the wrong reasons, by the wrong people.

Do you think there is something systematic here when it comes to media? The most read Hebrew daily, Israel Hayom, has been largely working for Netanyahu; there was an effort to reorient Ynet and Yedioth; there was influence at Walla, the second biggest news site after Ynet, and all sorts of machinations relating to television news. Was this an effort by the prime minister to corral the media?

The prime minister is far too preoccupied with what is written or broadcast about him. When you’re prime minister, you’re supposed to be a little above all that. You know what? I get my fair share of attacks. And I cannot tell you I’m philosophical about it. But this is part of the democratic game. And saying I’m going to get involved in changing it, actively using the powers I have, is dangerous. Beyond that, this is all under investigation [in the corruption probes against the prime minister]. It’s for the state prosecution to decide.

Let’s go back to the Russians and the Syrians. What should be done differently? We seem to have been very robust in Syria. We’re even apparently directly confronting Iran in Syria. Why do you say this hasn’t been handled well?

There were two cornerstones in Israeli foreign policy. No nuclear agreement [that didn’t fully dismantle Iran’s rogue nuclear program], and no Iran in Syria. The prime minister or the government has failed in both. Regarding Russia, we were promised time after time that everything would be taken care of. Netanyahu was going back and forth to Sochi and to Moscow, and was very proud of the mechanism [for coordination between Jerusalem and Moscow] they had created, which is a good one. But it doesn’t seem like we are capable of convincing the Russians to take into consideration our part of the equation.

Which may not be the prime minister’s fault.

I don’t know if it’s his fault or not. This is his job. His job is to make sure the Russians understand. They have their own interests. We have our own interests. Friendship is nice, but basically it’s about interests. The Russians need to know that if their main goal is to stabilize Syria, they will not have a stabilized Syria so long as the Iranians are there because we will not let them. And for everyone who is saying now that Israel is pushing for military conflict, let us remember that we are ten years late — because Iran has been pushing for violent military conflict with us for a decade or so. So they use proxies. But is there anyone who doesn’t know that Hezbollah is an Iranian proxy, or that some of the terror attacks were premeditated in Iran?

A photo released by Iranian media reportedly shows the T-4 air base in central Syria after a missile barrage attributed to Israel on April 9, 2018. (Iranian media)

So yes, there’s going to be a conflict until they understand. There’s no point in red lines unless you stick by them. Apparently we were not successful in making the Russians understand that [for Israel, an Iranian military presence in Syria] is a red line. And that this will endanger Assad’s rule in the long term, that this will endanger the idea of a stabilized Syria.

Are you concerned that our elections could be manipulated via social media manipulation? I’m thinking Cambridge Analytica, Facebook and so on?

I have no doubt that there will be attempts to manipulate public opinion. There is always a certain amount of manipulation of public opinion, which is okay. But there is going to be foreign and not-foreign manipulation — with money.

Are you expecting to see your emails get hacked? That’s the kind of thing I’m asking you about.

Nothing would surprise me anymore. We monitor the social networks. Some of the stuff I saw about myself made my jaw drop. On the other hand, it was so obvious in France that they were trying to manipulate the election against Macron, and he went out and said to the French people, you know, somebody’s trying to manipulate you. And I think the Israeli people are at least as smart as the French, and we’ll make sure they understand what is going on and why it’s going on.

This government has convinced itself that it’s going to stay in power forever. And once you’ve said that to yourself, you have no reason to protect the rights of the opposition

All of a sudden every minister under the sun is advertising their work, and the work of their ministry, and the special events they’re holding, on the radio. It’s creating the sense that the minister is synonymous with the role, with the office, and therefore deepening this perception — because Netanyahu has been prime minister for so long — that they are the government and that nobody else is a credible alternative.

This is part of what we discussed before about the attrition of democracy. Why? Because part of living in a democratic society is the understanding, when you’re sitting in the Knesset, that sometimes you’re going to be in the coalition and sometimes you’re going to be in the opposition. So it makes sense that when you’re in the coalition, you’re going to make sure that at least some of the rights, or even the habits, that are protecting the opposition will be maintained, because it could be you [who needs them] in a year or two or three.

This government has convinced itself that it’s going to stay in power forever. And once you’ve said that to yourself, you have no reason to protect the rights of the opposition.

I’d like to see them, two years after, let’s imagine I’m prime minister. There is a coalition. They’re not in the coalition. And they have no Supreme Court to go to. They have to listen to our ministers all day long on the radio, glorifying themselves, using public money. And there’ll be no police to file complaints to, because the police would have been so weakened and frightened.

It’s that failure to understand politics as an ongoing process, in which sometimes you’re in power and sometimes you’re not, and that you have to protect the rights of the people who are not in power, including minorities.

Finally, respond to this government’s argument, this prime minister’s argument, that we’re the only people who can be trusted to run this country in this hostile region and this terrible era.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the opening of Israel’s 70th anniversary celebrations, at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, April 18, 2017 (GPO screenshot)

I’m not in the business of answering them. This is what I’m telling the Israeli public: You can trust us. You can trust me. You can trust us more than them because they are not to be trusted anymore.

And yet, Israeli voters went into the polling booths in 2015 and evidently decided they trusted Netanyahu and those around him to keep their kids in the army alive. I think that was a key factor.

You know what? Part of what trained me for the prime ministership is what happened to me in 2015 [when Yesh Atid fell from 19 seats to 11]. Because in 2015 we [in Yesh Atid] fell on our faces and everyone was standing around us and staring at the corpse and saying, they will never climb out of there. We did. Hard work. Going from place to place. Making sure we’d sharpened our ideas, our abilities, from a very low point. Until you’ve really fallen hard and climbed back up, you’re not prepared. That fall is part of the reason I’m prepared now.

Yair Lapid and his wife Lihi Lapid vote in Tel Aviv in the general elections on March 17, 2015. (photo credit: courtesy)
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Religious clash in Indiana? Sikh leaders say they are embarrassed by temple brawl — Giving All North American Sikhs A Bad Name

April 19, 2018

Brawl At Sikh Temple In Indiana Is Giving All North American Sikhs A Bad Name

By Surjit Singh Flora

Sikhism is the fifth-largest organized religion in the world, with more than 23 million followers. It originated in the Punjab region of northern India in the early 15th century.

Every April, millions of Sikhs world-wide celebrate Vaisakhi Day, a day that marks the New Year. Vaisakhi Day is considered one of the most important festivals in the Sikh calendar. Parades celebrating the event are held in Sikh communities around the world.

Sikh means “disciple” or “learner” in Sanskrit. Founded on the teachings of the guru Nanak, the faith grew in the region during the time of this first guru (teacher) and nine subsequent Sikh gurus.

The teachings of the gurus and other writings compose the Guru Granth Sahib ji, the holy scripture of the Sikh faith. Among other writings, this scripture includes about 3,000 poetic compositions, many of them hymns.

Leaders of the Central Indiana Sikh community say the brawl that broke out Sunday at a Greenwood temple does not reflect their religious teachings.

“It’s only a couple of people, two or three people, who are making the problem for everybody,” said Jagbish Singh of the Sikh Society of Indiana.

Police from several agencies were called to a fight at the Gurdwara Sikh Temple, 1050 South Graham Road, shortly before 3 p.m. on a report of a large disturbance with weapons, dispatchers said.

Officers arrived to find a crowd of 100 to 150 people and some people trading blows, Greenwood Police Assistant Chief Matt Fillenwarth said Monday.

“There are bad elements in every community,” said Gurinder Singh Khalsa, the chairman of SikhsPAC, a Republican-leaning political organization that supports candidates in Indiana.

Tenth Guru (Master) baptized Sikhs and they must wear the Five Ks, or articles of faith, at all times. The five items are: Kes (uncut hair), Kangha (small comb), Kara (circular iron bracelet), Kirpan (dagger) and Kaccherra (special undergarment). The Five Ks have both practical and symbolic purposes. But due to different laws and regulations in different countries, Sikhs cannot carry all five items all the time.

So, they keep fighting for their rights.

Factions of Sikh residents who worship at a Sikh temple in the suburbs of Indianapolis have been feuding for weeks. This feud erupted into a massive fight involving a group of over 100 men group of men on Sunday afternoon.

Some of these men were fighting with swords.

Others attempted to pull each other’s beards.

The disputes at the Greenwood Temple are about the leadership elections which are conducted every two years at the Gurdwara Shri Guru HarGobind Sahib Ji temple.

This is reportedly the second time a management leadership fight has taken place at the temple.

The bloody fights at the temple have adversely affected the image of Sikhs.

Also, groups of Sikhs had a bloody fight inside the sacred place.

What are we trying to teach our next generation of North American-born Sikhs?

Guru Gobind Singh taught that “in the family of God there is no caste, no high or low, no sect. The only caste is that of humanity.”

Guru Gobind Singh did not say “This person is Sikh, that one is Hindu, or the other person is Muslim.”

Instead, he said, “Recognize all human beings as one. You are all sisters and brothers. Let all humanity be recognized as one. God put His light in everyone. No one is an enemy and no one is a stranger.”

Are the Sikhs following Guru’s message?

They’re too busy fighting.

The fights are a wakeup call for the Sikh community to learn a lesson and make way for the new generations to come forward and take control.

Only those who build a Sikh place of worship. should be allowed to run its affairs.

There shouldn’t be any voting or changing the management agenda, so there’s no risk of a fight to dethrone the management or trustees.

No fighting to attain higher positions should keep the Sikh community in peace and harmony.

Surjit Singh Flora is a prolific freelance writer and a practicing Sikh. Follow him on Twitter @floracanada.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.

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http://dailycaller.com/2018/04/19/massive-sikh-temple-brawl-gives-all-sikhs-bad-name/
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See also:
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Sikh leaders say they are embarrassed by Greenwood temple fight

https://www.indystar.com/story/news/crime/2018/04/16/sikh-leaders-say-they-embarrassed-greenwood-temple-fight/520605002/

India journalist threatened over anti-rape cartoon

April 19, 2018

BBC News

Screenshot of cartoon by Swathi VadlamudiImage copyright SWATHI VADLAMUDI
Image captionA screenshot of the cartoon which was shared widely on social media

An Indian journalist and cartoonist who has received online threats over a cartoon that refers to recent incidents of rape says she will not back down.

Swathi Vadlamudi’s cartoon depicts a conversation between Hindu god Ram and his wife, Sita, to criticise right-wing support for the accused.

In the cartoon, Sita tells Ram she is “glad” she was kidnapped by demon king Ravan and not her husband’s followers.

Ms Vadlamudi said the threats have only made her “stronger”.

The illustration has been shared by thousands on social media, but her use of the characters from the Hindu epic Ramayana in the cartoon has sparked controversy.

Ms Vadlamudi told BBC Telugu’s Prithvi Raj that drawing satirical cartoons was a hobby of hers.

She said the illustration was meant to condemn two gruesome incidents of rape which made national headlines last week.

Swathi Vadlamudi
Journalist Swathi Vadlamudi said the threats have only made her “stronger”

An eight-year-old Muslim girl from Kathua district in Indian-administered Kashmir was brutally gang raped and murdered – outrage grew after two ministers from the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) attended a rally in support of the accused men, who are Hindu.

In another case, a 16-year-old girl attempted suicide outside a BJP lawmaker’s house after alleging that he raped her.

In an interview with BBC Telugu, Ms Vadlamudi said both incidents “involved India’s ruling BJP – either leaders who have committed a crime or supporters who have backed the offenders”.

She said that many of those who defended the accused or insisted on their innocence identified themselves as “bhakts” or “zealous devotees” of the god Ram.

A vigil for 8-year-old Asifa Bano in Jammu, India, on April 14.Credit Jaipal Singh/EPA, via Shutterstock

Given the brutality of these crimes, she said she couldn’t help but wonder what would have happened to Sita if, in the epic, she had been kidnapped by these so-called “Ram bhakts”.

After the cartoon was published, she has received numerous threats online, with many calling for her arrest.

Some of the threats also referred to the recent murder of an Indian journalist who was known for casting a critical eye on Hindu fundamentalism.

“I can’t sleep at night because of the threats on social media,” she said, adding that her family was concerned over her safety.

Indian police have registered a case against Ms Vadlamudi after a right-wing group insisted the cartoon hurt the religious sentiments of Hindus. Women’s groups and the Indian Journalists Union (IJU) have condemned the complaint against her, calling it an “attack on the press”.

In the last few years, journalists seen to be critical of Hindu nationalists have been berated on social media, while many women reporters have been threatened with rape and assault.

The Committee to Protect Journalists, a non-governmental organisation, has ranked India as a country with a poor record in safeguarding journalists.

Their research shows that at least 27 journalists have been murdered because of their work in India since 1992.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-43806970

See also:

What the Rape and Murder of a Child Reveals About Modi’s India

NYT:https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/17/opinion/international-world/india-child-rape-murder.html

China taking direct aim at US with Indo-Pacific trade strategy, expert says

April 18, 2018

The proposal is seen as a response to Washington’s efforts to boost Indo-Pacific alliances to rein in Chinese military deployment and investment

South China Morning Post

Beijing’s plan to open up “China’s Hawaii” as a gateway for Indo-Pacific investment and economic ties is an attempt to counter the United States’ efforts to form alliances against China in the region, analysts say.

The Hainan plan, unveiled by President Xi Jinping in Haikou, the provincial capital, on Friday, will have “genuine value” for China’s trade with countries in the Southeast Asian and Pacific regions, according to Iris Pang, chief Greater China economist with banking and financial services provider ING. 

The proposal comes as Washington works to build up its alliances in the Indo-Pacific region, including the Indian Ocean and the western and central Pacific Ocean, covering nations including Australia and India.

 Xi Jinping announced his plans for Hainan’s redevelopment after the Boao Forum for Asia. Photo: Bloomberg

Washington’s moves are seen as an attempt to counterbalance Beijing’s increasing military deployment and investment in the region, especially through its massive infrastructure plan, the “Belt and Road Initiative”.

Manoj Joshi, a distinguished fellow at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi, described the Hainan development plan as a response to Washington’s “Indo-Pacific strategy”.

“It’s a major easternmost maritime facility for China, and China has been quite active in the Indian Ocean in the past decade or so,” he said.

“China is already an Indo-Pacific power – it has significant economic commitments in the region.”

The free-trade port that is to be “basically established” in Hainan by 2025 and “mature” by 2035, according to government guidelines issued on Saturday, will allow this holiday island – home to 9.3 million people and sometimes called “China’s Hawaii” – to benefit from more opening-up policies, economic freedom and market access.

Building Hainan, which is already a special economic zone, into an important gateway to China for countries on the Indian and Pacific oceans is in keeping with the “new trend of economic globalisation”, according to the guidelines.

The island province – which is 30 times larger than Hong Kong, covering 35,000 sq km (13,500 square miles) – will be allowed to develop its information technology capabilities in big data, satellite navigation and artificial intelligence, health care and deep-sea research.

It will become home to an offshore innovation centre, as well as exchanges for energy, shipping, commodities and carbon trading.

China will also allow horse racing and new types of sports lotteries on the island under the plan.

Gurpreet Khurana, executive director of the National Maritime Foundation in India, concurred that the Hainan plan is China’s riposte to the Trump administration’s Indo-Pacific strategy.

 China’s navy conducts a parade in the South China Sea off the coast of Hainan. Photo: AP

“They are focusing on their ultimate national objective … the economic and material well-being of their people, which finds appeal in the countries that are partnering with China on its belt and road plan,” he said.

Hainan enjoyed a construction boom three decades ago when it was deemed a special economic zone, similar to Shenzhen. Amid a massive surge of property development on the island, Beijing moved to restrain the country’s credit risk in 1993, dashing hopes of an economic surge.

Zhang Jun, chief economist at Morgan Stanley Huaxin Securities, said the latest development strategy for Hainan was “far higher” in significance than its early 1990s predecessor.

“It will be implemented by the central government against the backdrop of building a maritime power and pushing forward the ‘Belt and Road Initiative’,” Zhang said.

 President Xi Jinping (second from left) inspects the planning hall of the Lecheng international medical tourism pilot zone in Boao, Hainan province, last week. Photo: Xinhua

Liu Zongyi, senior fellow for Asia-Pacific Studies at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, said the Hainan strategy was largely an economic plan, but it acknowledged the province’s ability to play an important role safeguarding China’s interest in the South China Sea.

“China has naval bases in the South China Sea, so Hainan is critical for maintaining stability and peace there as well as the security of China’s resource and imports and exports, so there are safety considerations,” he said.

“These considerations are parallel: in order to protect your economic prosperity, you need to have this security shield.”

 Beijing said that redeveloping Hainan was a way to keep pace with the new trend of economic globalisation. Photo: Xinhua

Richard A. Bitzinger, visiting senior fellow with the Military Transformations Programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said a more developed Hainan would serve as “a better jumping-off point for the Chinese military”.

“The island is already home to a major base for nuclear submarines,” he said. “Hainan is a good base for reinforcing Chinese military facilities in the South China Sea, especially Woody Island and the artificial islands in the Spratlys.

“And it puts the Chinese military and economic capability about as close as possible to the Malacca and Singapore straits and the entry into the Indian Ocean.

“In other words, Hainan is a win-win for China. It is geographically well suited for the ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ and politically safe as well. Modernising Hainan can only help China’s presence in the south.”

Xi’s announcement came on the heels of his keynote speech at the Boao Forum, dubbed Asia’s Davos, last week.

In that address, China’s leader differentiated himself from US President Donald Trump by opting not to use the moment to launch another round of retaliatory duties on American exports to China.

Instead, he said that while not seeking trade surplus with any country, China was ready to increase imports that were needed by the Chinese public.

He also promised to remove trade barriers and open the Chinese market further by lowering tariffs on a range of foreign goods, easing restrictions on foreign ownership in Chinese companies, opening further the capital and insurance sectors and protecting the intellectual property of foreign companies doing business in China.

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What the US-China Struggle for Regional Dominance Means for Southeast Asia

April 18, 2018

This week China will undertake live-fire exercises in the Taiwan Straits.  This provocative action comes on the heels of simultaneous major U.S. and Chinese naval exercises in the South China Sea.  While the situation is not as dire as it may seem, competition between the United States and China for dominance in the region is indeed intensifying.  Faced with this burgeoning soft and thinly veiled hard power struggle for their political hearts and minds, Southeast Asian countries are doing what they can and must to maintain their relative independence and security in this roiling political cauldron. Indeed, neither China nor the United States should be under any illusions that any particular Southeast Asian country is supporting them in general or in a particular policy or action because it believes in their vision of the ideal world order.

Some are so far skillfully negotiating this political tight rope and benefiting from both sides’ largesse in the process.  Indeed, most Southeast Asian countries are not blatantly choosing sides but are instead demonstrating that the matter of political choice between the two is not “either-or”  but a continuum. According to Max Fisher and Audrey Carlsen, writing in the New York Times, there are three groups at various stages in this ever evolving continuum — “counteracting” China, “shifting toward” China, and “playing both sides”.

Let’s look at some individual countries’ situations and current positions regarding this U.S.-China struggle.

Image may contain: stripes

Singapore does seem more ideologically aligned with the United States and even provides temporary basing for U.S. Navy warships and aircraft collecting intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance regarding China. But Singapore also seems to be hedging if not waffling. Perhaps Singapore’s current role as both ASEAN interlocutor with China and ASEAN chair has resulted in it taking a more neutral position between the two. For example, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong seemed cool when asked recently about the U.S. proposed Quad — a potential security arrangement between Australia, India, Japan, and the United States — saying, “We do not want to end up with rival blocs forming.”U.S. “strategic partner” Singapore and U.S. ally the Philippines are thought by some (though not the NYT feature) to be in the U.S. camp of “counteracting” China. But this is misleading.

The Philippines is an example of a country clearly “playing both sides” — and so far successfully so. Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s abrupt pivot from staunch U.S. military ally to a more independent and neutral stance between the United States and China has startled those analysts and policy makers that assumed Manila was firmly in the U.S. camp. So far the Philippines has benefited from its better relationship with China while maintaining its military relationship — if a less robust one — with the United States.

Other Southeast Asian state — like Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and perhaps nominal U.S. ally Thailand — appear to be moving toward China, preferring China’s economic incentives over the benefits of U.S. military “protection.”

Brunei may also be shifting its position. Although a claimant to part of the disputed area of the South China Sea, it has been relatively silent regarding both the disputes and the U.S.-China struggle for influence.  Brunei and China apparently have overlapping claims in the South China Sea and Brunei may be using its claim as leverage to keep badly needed Chinese investment flowing. But this is a two-way street. Beijing may try to use its economic ties with Brunei to help prevent a consensus within ASEAN regarding decisions or statements on the South China Sea.

Indonesia has sharp differences with China regarding the area of the South China Sea north and east of the Indonesia-owned Natuna Islands, where their claims may overlap. The Trump administration is trying to take advantage of this to reinvigorate U.S.-Indonesia military relations. But nonaligned Indonesia and the United States have very different world perspectives. They differ sharply regarding U.S. policies and actions in the Middle East — especially the recent move of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. While the United States sees ASEAN as a useful bulwark against China, Indonesia’s current interest in leading ASEAN and in regionalism itself seem to have faded in favor of domestic concerns. Foremost among these are development projects in which China’s investment and aid can be critical.  Plus, U.S.-Indonesian military ties have a troubled past. In the late 1990s they were suspended due to alleged human rights abuses by the Indonesian military. More important, many Indonesians in high places remain suspicious of U.S. motives and worried about the potential regional destabilizing effect of the US-China competition.  Indonesia’s Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu has suggested that “if regional countries can manage the South China Sea on their own, there is no need to involve others.”

Vietnam also has sharp differences with China regarding the South China Sea. Vietnam has a policy of “diversification and multilateralization “of relations with the major powers, and the United States has tried to take advantage of this as well as Vietnam’s concerns with China. But Vietnam is steadfastly nonaligned. Indeed, its long-standing policy is the “three nos” – no participation in military alliances, no foreign military bases on Vietnamese territory, and no reliance on one country to fight against another. Meanwhile it continues to have strong economic relations with China and seems to have reached an unsteady modus vivendi with China regarding the South China Sea disputes. While Vietnam’s position may seem to be anti-China, pro-U.S. , this should not be taken for granted.

One thing is fairly certain — China –U.S. balancing will become increasingly important and difficult for Southeast Asian countries. It will also undermine ASEAN unity and weaken its “centrality” and influence in security matters in the region — both collectively and for its individual members. ASEAN’s divisions on South China Sea issues currently advantage China.

This unfolding political drama could well turn out very badly for Southeast Asian nations that are unable or unwilling to successfully hedge and waffle. Indeed, there is a yawning chasm filled with adverse implications beneath this political tight rope if a country should lose its balance and fall to one side or the other. But for clever, self-confident, and bold leaders, this dilemma presents an opportunity that could prove a boon to those skillful enough to safely navigate these treacherous political waters.

Mark J. Valencia is Adjunct Senior Scholar at the National Institute for South China Sea Studies in Haikou, China

https://thediplomat.com/2018/04/what-the-us-china-struggle-for-regional-dominance-means-for-southeast-asia/

IMF sees emerging Asia as top global growth engine

April 17, 2018

AFP

© AFP/File / by Ryan MCMORROW | The IMF is bullish about emerging Asia

BEIJING (AFP) – The IMF said Tuesday it remains upbeat about the economic prospects of emerging Asia, labelling the region “the most important engine of global growth” despite concerns over trade disputes and mounting debt.The International Monetary Fund’s latest quarterly World Economic Outlook forecasts global growth of 3.9 percent this year as the world economy hums along and nations retain supportive fiscal policies.

The fastest-paced expansion will remain concentrated in Asia, it predicts, where the buoyant economies of China, India and a host of Southeast Asian nations will perform well above the global average.

The IMF left unchanged from January its growth estimate for China of 6.6 percent for 2018 and 6.4 percent in 2019. The country’s own 2018 target is around 6.5 percent.

China reported Tuesday that its economy had grown 6.8 percent in the first quarter, maintaining the same pace as the fourth quarter.

India is widely expected to be the next global growth juggernaut.

The IMF foresees the nation’s economy surging by 7.4 percent this year and 7.8 percent in 2019, also unchanged from its previous outlook in January.

The two Asian giants have seen their economic prospects brighten amid strong global demand for their exports and as their massive populations start spending, the IMF said.

Southeast Asia’s booming economies of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam will collectively maintain growth above five percent this year and next, the fund said.

“Emerging Asia, which is forecast to continue growing at about 6.5 percent during 2018?19, remains the most important engine of global growth,” the fund wrote.

Global trade jumped 4.9 percent last year, the fund estimated, with China’s exporters being among the largest beneficiaries.

Their prospects are less certain amid US President Donald Trump’s threats to impose tariffs on up to $150 billion worth of Chinese goods as part of his “America First” agenda.

“Growing trade tensions and risks of a shift toward protectionist policies, and geopolitical strains” are among the greatest concerns, the fund said.

“An increase in tariffs and non-tariff trade barriers could harm market sentiment, disrupt global supply chains, and slow the spread of new technologies, reducing global productivity and investment,” the fund said.

– Debt risk –

Ballooning debt in both India and China has been a top concern for the IMF in recent years. Last year the fund said China’s credit growth was on a “dangerous trajectory”.

In India spiralling bad debt forced the government to recapitalise state-owned banks to the tune of $32 billion in October to help them clean up their books.

Chinese policymakers have delayed cutting debt, instead allowing for “stable and rational debt rises” this year to maintain growth. The IMF said officials were “eroding valuable policy space” but applauded regulators’ efforts to rein in the riskiest portion of its lending known as shadow banking.

“Nevertheless, total credit growth remains high,” the IMF wrote.

In India public banks are saddled with bad loans, making it hard for them to continue to fund the economy.

The debt and credit quality problems at banks will “exert a drag on investment in India”, the IMF wrote.

by Ryan MCMORROW

Call for death penalty for child rapists in India — Not long ago, child rape didn’t even rate a news story it was so common in India

April 15, 2018

Image may contain: 15 people, crowd

People protesting against the gang rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Jammu and Kashmir and the rape of a teenager in Uttar Pradesh at a candlelight vigil in Bengaluru, India, on Friday.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW DELHI • India’s women’s minister has called for the death penalty for child rapists as nationwide outrage mounts over the brutal gang rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, even as a lawmaker from India’s ruling party was arrested in connection with the rape of a teenager.

Ms Maneka Gandhi, Minister for Women and Child Development, said on Friday that her ministry planned to propose the death penalty for the rape of children younger than 12. The maximum punishment now is life imprisonment.

“I have been deeply, deeply disturbed by the rape case in Kathua and all the recent rape cases that have happened on children,” Ms Gandhi said on Twitter.

Anti-Muslim demonstrators shut down much of the town of Kathua in northern India on Wednesday. One woman said that if Hindu men accused of raping and killing a Muslim child are not released, “We will burn ourselves.’’ Credit Mukesh Gupta/Reuters

On Friday, Kuldeep Singh Sengar, a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lawmaker in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, was arrested in connection with a rape case involving a 17-year-old girl.

Said senior state police officer Rahul Srivastav: “He will be presented before the court and charges will be pressed on Saturday.”

The rape case in the city of Unnao might never have seen the light of day had the alleged victim not tried to set fire to herself last week outside the residence of the Chief Minister in the state capital of Lucknow. She was stopped by guards, but the suicide attempt brought to public attention her accusations against Sengar, a member of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party.

JUSTICE WILL PREVAIL

We are all ashamed as a society and a country. I want to assure the country that no criminal will be spared. Justice will be done and completed.

PRIME MINISTER NARENDRA MODI

In a bizarre sequence of events, the girl’s father died in police custody last week, fanning suspicion that Sengar was somehow involved. The girl’s father, 55, had been beaten before being taken into custody following a complaint by his assailants. The girl tried to kill herself after her father died in custody.

What has angered India and, surely its women, is that the girl’s family went to the police following her rape in June, but no case was filed.

Director-General of Police O.P. Singh, the most senior police officer in Uttar Pradesh, said that the police had launched an investigation into accusations that Sengar had played a role in the assault.

Police have suspended several officers in Unnao over the past few days pending investigations into their conduct, another senior police official said.

Campaign groups have called more rallies over the weekend, demanding justice for the teenage girl as well as for the eight-year-old Muslim girl who was gang raped and murdered in a Hindu-dominated area of Jammu and Kashmir.

Eight people have been arrested over the killing, including four police officers and a minor. All are Hindus.

The victim, whose identity was protected by a court order on Friday, was murdered in January near the town of Kathua. According to the charge sheet, she was abducted by the minor and an accomplice.

The girl was forced to take sedatives and, over five days in a shed and a Hindu temple, she was repeatedly raped by the juvenile and different men, including a police constable. She was finally strangled and beaten to death with a stone. According to the charge sheet, one of the attackers raped her just before she died.

Underlining the political and religious tensions over the case, some members of the ruling BJP joined a rally organised by a hardline Hindu group last week to show support for the eight Hindu men accused of the crime, including the priest of the temple.

On Friday, two of those BJP members resigned as anger mounted over the rally.

Amid fears the case could escalate unrest in Kashmir, where security forces are battling a long-running insurgency, separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has vowed to launch a mass agitation if any attempt was made to shield culprits or sabotage investigations.

Prime Minister Modi also promised justice on Friday after nationwide outrage mounted over the rapes.

“The incidents being discussed for the last two days are definitely shameful for any civil society. We are all ashamed as a society and a country,” Mr Modi said in a speech in New Delhi.

“I want to assure the country that no criminal will be spared. Justice will be done and completed.”

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, ASIA NEWS NETWORK

http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/south-asia/call-for-death-penalty-for-child-rapists-in-india

Related:

See also:

An 8-Year-Old’s Rape and Killing Fuels Religious Tensions in India

NYT:https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/11/world/asia/india-girl-rape.html

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BBC News

India sexual abuse: ‘Four child victims every hour’

  • 1 December 2017
A protest in India against child sex abuseImage copyrightAFP
Image captionCampaigners say parents are generally reluctant to admit child sexual abuse and incest is almost always hushed up

In India, a child is sexually abused every 15 minutes, according to the latest government figures.

The National Crime Records Bureau report, released on Thursday, shows a steady rise in incidents of offences against children.

Child sexual abuse has been in focus in recent months after the case of a 10-year-old rape victim who was forced to give birth hit the headlines.

Two of her uncles were sentenced to life in jail for raping her.

According to the report on crimes in India for 2016, released by Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh in Delhi, 106,958 cases of crimes against children were recorded in 2016.

Of these, 36,022 cases were recorded under Pocso (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) Act.

The BBC’s Geeta Pandey in Delhi says India is home to the largest number of sexually abused children in the world, but there is general reluctance to talk about the topic so the real number of cases could be much higher.

India graphic

According to a 2007 study conducted by India’s ministry of women and child development, 53% of children surveyed said they had been subjected to some form of sexual abuse.

Campaigners say most of the abusers are people known to the victims, like parents, relatives and schoolteachers.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-42193533

See also:

The Indian media needs to rethink how it reports rape

https://herald.dawn.com/news/1153682/the-indian-media-needs-to-rethink-how-it-reports-rape

“Hybrid War” Imposed on Pakistan, Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa says

April 15, 2018

Dawn (Pakistan)
April 15, 2018

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Pakistan army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa (left) at a ceremony

ISLAMABAD: Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa said on Saturday a “hybrid war” had been imposed on Pakistan to internally weaken it, but noted that the enemies were failing to divide the country on the basis of ethnicity and other identities.

“Our enemies know that they cannot beat us fair and square and have thus subjected us to a cruel, evil and protracted hybrid war. They are trying to weaken our resolve by weakening us from within.” Gen Bajwa said in his speech at the passing-out parade of cadets at the Pakistan Military Academy in Kakul while referring to the strategies of the ‘enemies’ employing political and other means of interventions.

This was the second time in a week that the army chief has indirectly referred to a new movement launched in the name of rights of Pakhtun people.

Speaking at events in Peshawar and Rawalpindi on Thursday, he had cautioned against the “engineered protests” and emphasised that “no anti-state agenda would be allowed under the garb of those protests”. He believes that these protests have been instigated to undo the gains made by the armed forces in the fight against terrorism.

Editorial: Is PTM a destabilising threat to this country or a testament to its resilience?

Army chief gives credit to sacrifices and courage of people, particularly tribesmen of KP and Fata, for success against terrorism

A selection of video testimonials of the graduates, released by the Inter-Services Public Relations, included cadets from the Federally Adm­inistered Tribal Areas (Fata) who mentioned contributions of the Army in restoring peace and normality to their areas. The line of messaging in the testimonials was aimed at challenging the narrative of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement that is built around deprivation of and discrimination against Pakhtun people, besides denial of their basic rights.

Among the cadets, who got commissioned in service at the ceremony, were 67 cadets from Balochistan and 31 from Fata.

The army chief vowed to defeat the nefarious designs of “inimical forces”.

“We also refuse to be pulled asunder on issues of sect, ethnicity, caste or creed. The diversity of Pakistan is our strength. The very resilience of Pakistan comes, not just from our military capacity, but from the synergetic mix of a people who have come together, willingly towards a single purpose,” he said.

He credited the successes against terrorism to “the willing sacrifices and matchless courage of our people in general and Pashtun tribesmen of KP and Fata in particular”.

Gen Bajwa noted that the armed forces were determinedly focused on the “primary objective” of “eradication and elimination of terrorism” and said that the action was indiscriminate against terrorists of all hues and shades.

“As a result of past and ongoing operations, Pakistan has eliminated almost all organised terrorist presence and infrastructure from its soil. We are now going after the residual and scattered traces of this menace under the banner of Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad,” Gen Bajwa said while giving the current status of counter-terrorism operations.

He also touched on external issues, including Afghanistan, and reaffirmed the support for the reconciliation process there.

About Kashmir, he reaffirmed Pakistan’s political and moral support to the basic right of self-determination for the people of Jammu and Kashmir and said the route to peaceful resolution of Pak-India disputes — including the core issue of Kashmir — ran through comprehensive and meaningful dialogue.

“While such dialogue is no favour to any party, it remains the inevitable precursor to peace across the region. Pakistan remains committed to such a dialogue, but only on the basis of sovereign equality, dignity and honour,” he added.

Published in Dawn, April 15th, 2018

https://www.dawn.com/news/1401747

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PTM

Starting off as a political movement primarily focused on securing the political and social rights of Pashtuns, Pakhtun Tahaffuz Movement has now taken a rather concerning turn with it earning a supportive voice from Afghanistan and a bid to seek assistance from international mediatory bodies.

In a country with political conditions as volatile as Pakistan, it won’t take much for an apolitical grouping to embark upon an entirely political path and hence turn into a dissenting or separatist movement.

The case of PTM is no different. It would have been better had its young leadership not touched upon sensitive issues such as the presence of the military in the northwestern areas of Pakistan. As facts go, the military operation in those regions has played a pivotal role in bringing life back to normal, albeit to an extent. Moreover, with civilian and military leadership already trying to defuse the Faizabad debacle, another one staged on similar grounds would outright destabilise the order.

https://tribune.com.pk/story/1685325/6-the-case-of-ptm/

India: After Outrage, PM Modi Speaks Up On Rape Protests, Vows Justice — “Such incidents could not be part of any civilised society.”

April 14, 2018

All India | Edited by Aloke Tikku | Updated: April 14, 2018 12:21 IST

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PM Narendra Modi spoke on the Kathua, Unnao rape cases that have drawn widespread condemnation

NEW DELHI:  In a move to cap the spiralling public anger over the Kathua and Unnao rape cases, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said such incidents could not be part of any civilised society and promised to make sure that the culprits do not get away. “As a country, as a society we all are ashamed of it (rapes),” PM Modi said of the crimes that have jolted the country and brought the BJP’s alliance with Mehbooba Mufti’s PDP close to breaking point. Ms Mufti has been angry with BJP leaders for defending the men arrested for the rape and murder of the eight-year-old girl in Kathua. Minutes after PM Modi’s statement, two ministers, seen as the face of the effort to communalise the arrests, were forced to quit from the Mehbooba Mufti cabinet.
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Here are the 10 facts on this story:
  1. “I want to assure the country that no culprit will be spared, complete justice will be done. Our daughters will definitely get justice,” PM Modi said at an event in the national capital. This is the first time that PM Modi has spoken on the two rapes of minors in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kathua and Uttar Pradesh’s Unnao where BJP leaders appeared to be backing the wrong side.
  2. In the Unnao case, the Yogi Adityanath government has been blamed for trying to shield the BJP’s influential legislator Kuldeep Singh Sengar who was accused of raping a 16 year-old girl last year. Instead, the girl’s father was beaten by the lawmaker’s brother and sent to jail. He died on Monday.
  3. A special team to probe her allegations was set up this week and quickly disbanded after the government decided to refer the case to the CBI. Kuldeep Singh Sengar was arrested on Friday evening on the orders of the Allahabad High Court which called the approach of state government’s top law officer’s “appalling”.
  4. The ruling coalition has been roundly criticised for its handling of the rape cases and also provoked civil society and celebrities to start a “I am Hindustan. I am ashamed” campaign.
  5. Congress president Rahul Gandhi yesterday led a candlelight march to the India Gate monument in the heart of the capital to highlight the “unimaginable brutality”. “When the government sleeps, the country’s watchman sleeps… the Congress has the responsibility to wake him up,” senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad had explained.
  6. Mr Gandhi, who had earlier on Friday, called the Prime Minister’s long silence “unacceptable”, later thanked him for his remarks. “You said “our daughters will get justice”. India wants to know: when?” he tweeted.
  7. It was after the chilling details of the Kathua killing back in January emerged over the past week that the brutality of the crime hit the country. The eight-year-old girl, kidnapped by a group to allegedly drive out her Muslim Bakerwal community, was kept sedated and gang-raped repeatedly for days before her head was bashed in.
  8. The case was transferred to the state’s crime branch after local cops tried to protect the accused by destroying evidence. When the special team started making the arresting, a local Hindu group supported by politicians supported the narrative that they were being framed.
  9. Industries Minister Chandra Prakash Ganga and Forest Minister Lal Singh – the two BJP leaders who have sent their resignation letters to the party – were the most prominent faces from the BJP to defend the accused. “Why such a hullabaloo on the death of this one girl… many such girls have died here,” Lal Singh had said.
  10. Mehbooba Mufti’s party was learnt to have been considering pulling out of the alliance if the BJP did not pull out its two ministers from her team. Omar Abdullah, leader of the opposition National Conference, thanked PM Modi for speaking out. “… and thank you (for) responding to the mood of the people and removing the ministers who supported the Kathua murderers,” he tweeted.

https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/unnao-kathua-cases-pm-narendra-modi-silences-critics-on-rape-cases-2-ministers-quit-soon-after-10-fa-1837397