Friday May 24, 2019

Debate on morality regarding Barack Obama’s Historic Visit to Hiroshima

About 71 years ago, a mushroom shaped cloud lit up the sky over Hiroshima, and three days later over Nagasaki. Some 140,000 people in the two cities died within the year, and survivors and their children faced untold suffering due to radiation poisoning.

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, center left, puts his arm around Japan's Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, center right, after they and fellow G7 foreign ministers laid wreaths at the cenotaph at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima, Japan. Image source: VOA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nTVH4JevrdI

During what may be his last tour of Asia, President Barack Obama will make history as the first sitting U.S. president to visit Hiroshima, the site where the U.S. dropped the first atomic bomb in wartime.

Even before the president sets foot on what many consider hallowed ground, the announcement has sparked new debate on the decision to drop the bomb, and whether the United States should apologize or if a U.S. president should even visit.  Obama is expected to make a statement from Hiroshima, and will likely have to navigate a symbolic minefield.

Nearly 71 years ago

It was a moment that literally changed the world nearly 71 years ago when a mushroom shaped cloud lit up the sky over Hiroshima, and three days later over Nagasaki.  Some 140,000 people in the two cities died within the year, and survivors and their children have faced untold suffering due to radiation poisoning.  The U.S. rationale for the decision was to bring years of Japanese aggression to a quick end, potentially saving many more lives than would have been lost in a U.S. invasion.  But many Japanese see it differently, saying innocent men, women and children were unnecessarily incinerated and poisoned.

Secretary of State John Kerry visited Hiroshima last month.  He said he was deeply moved and that “every human being” should visit the site.  Some experts think that should include the U.S. president, among them Chris Appy of the University of Massachusetts.  He told VOA: “I was very pleased that he decided to go.  I think just showing up is important symbolic act that many Japanese have wanted for a long time.”

But Appy says he thinks the United States should also apologize for the atomic bomb attacks, “I am disappointed that the president appears not willing to apologize.  After all I think in our personal lives, we consider it the height of maturity when an adult is willing to take responsibility and accountability for actions.  Particularly actions that lead to the suffering of the innocent victims.”

Others strongly disagree, including Brian Harding of the Center for American Progress, who told VOA, “The president will not be issuing an apology and the Japanese government is not asking for one either.”

Hiroshima and Nagasaki victims nuclear bombing. Image source: Wikipedia
Hiroshima and Nagasaki victims nuclear bombing. Image source: Wikipedia

‘Special Responsibility’ for atomic bomb use

White House officials have made clear that the president will not apologize.  White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said, “What I think the president does appreciate is that President [Harry] Truman made this decision for the right reason.”

But Earnest said the United States does have a “special responsibility” as the only country to have ever used an atomic bomb to work tirelessly for nuclear non-proliferation.

McCain opposes visit

Others, including many older Americans and war veterans oppose Obama’s visit.

Republican Senator John McCain is a decorated Vietnam War veteran who ran against Obama in 2008 for the presidency.  He told VOA he simply does not see the point of the trip, “I’m not in the business of telling the President of the United States where to go.  But where, what is the purpose of it?  In some ways, you dredge up very unpleasant memories, but if the President wants to go somewhere he can.”

It is not yet clear whether the president will meet with any of the few remaining survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The president will be accompanied in Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.  They will lay a wreath, and Obama will make a statement.

The White House says the leaders will highlight the horrors of war and the need to work towards a world without nuclear weapons. (VOA)

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Amid Intensifying US China Trade Dispute, Indian Exporters Eye Gains

Orient Craft’s new unit in Jharkhand, one of India’s least developed states, will employ about eight thousand workers

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US, China, Trade Dispute, Indian Exporters
Orient Craft, one of India's largest apparel exporters, says it could benefit from increased business as the US-China trade war intensifies. This building in Gurgaon on the outskirts of Delhi houses its office and one of its garment units. VOA

As work on establishing a massive garment-manufacturing unit by one of India’s leading apparel exporters enters the final stages, the company is optimistic about keeping the machines humming. Slated to begin production in August, Orient Craft’s new unit in Jharkhand, one of India’s least developed states, will employ about eight thousand workers.

Inquiries from buyers in the United States, its biggest market, have increased in recent months as a trade dispute with China intensifies, according to A.K. Jain, who heads the Commercial department at Orient Craft. That is why he is upbeat about generating new business. “This is an unbelievable blessing in disguise,” he says. “It will give us an edge.”

Exporters in India are reaping the benefits of the trade war between the world’s two biggest economies as business with both countries jumps, according to Ajai Sahai, who heads the Federation of Indian Export Organizations.

“While overall exports have gone up by nine percent, exports to the U.S. have gone up by 13 percent and to China by 32 percent,” he says. And as the confrontation escalated last week after the two countries failed to reach a deal, his optimism increased. “Since the tariff hike is now substantial from 10 to 25 percent we feel we will have more advantage in market access.”

US, China, Trade Dispute, Indian Exporters
A slowdown in the Indian economy is being attributed to a drop in consumption by an affluent middle class. VOA

India is among a handful of countries set to benefit from the U.S.-China trade dispute, a report by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development stated in February. “The saying ‘it’s good to fish in troubled waters’ could apply to some bystander nations,” the report said, pointing out that most of the Chinese exports subject to U.S. tariffs will be captured by firms in third countries.

While China has opened its doors wider to a range of agricultural products from India such as rice and sugar, exports to the United States have increased in areas such as chemicals, pharmaceuticals, jewelry, auto components and apparel.

“In various products we were losing out to China with a very narrow margin. With the hike, we are able to offset that,” says Sahai. “That is why the tariff war has presented us an opportunity to enter markets in the U.S. in some areas we were hardly penetrating.”

But even as Indian exports benefit, trade experts warn that clouds are also gathering over New Delhi’s trade relationship with Washington. In recent months, U.S. President Donald Trump has slammed Indian duties on some U.S. goods, saying that India is not providing “equitable and reasonable access” to its markets.

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Economists also warn that an eventual slowdown in global trade due to the U.S.-China trade spat will hit all countries including India, which is already staring at an economic slowdown

Growth in the world’s fastest growing major economy flagged to 6.6 percent in the last quarter of 2018 – it’s lowest in more than a year. It is not expected to fare much better this year.

The slump is blamed on slackening domestic consumption, which powers the Indian economy. Unlike East Asian countries, which have raced ahead on the back of exports, growth momentum in India is largely based on an affluent middle class snapping up goods such as cars, refrigerators, air conditioners and other consumer goods.

But there are concerns as automobile sales, the barometer of consumption, plunged to the lowest in nearly eight years in recent months.

US, China, Trade Dispute, Indian Exporters
Like other carmakers, the Hyundai showroom in Gurgaon has witnessed a decline in sales of cars in recent months. VOA

At the Hyundai car showroom in the upscale business hub of Gurgaon, near Delhi, a range of swanky models beckon customers, but there are few to be seen. This is in marked contrast to the last three years when buoyant automobile sales helped India overtake Germany to become the world’s fourth largest automobile market. That prompted car makers such as Hyundai, Honda and Toyota to expand their presence in the country.

“In recent years, March and April used to be good months. But now 20 to 30 percent drop is there in these months also,” says Gagan Arora, business head at the Hyundai showroom. “There is a slowdown in the whole industry. New buyers are not being added so frequently.”

Economists say while rising exports to the United States and China present a silver lining, the first challenge facing India’s new government due to take office after vote counting in elections is completed this week, will be how to restore overall momentum to the economy and see why consumers are not so willing to open their wallets. (VOA)