Get subscribed to our newsletter
Get interesting updates to your email inbox.
Hardline Buddhist monks in Sri Lanka have celebrated the creation of a new Buddhist entity in Ladakh. It is an optical illusion that Jammu and Kashmir has been neatly divided into Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh, that is, Hindu, Muslim and Buddhist entities. The projection of Ladakh as purely Buddhist is odd because in the combined population of Kargil and Leh, Muslims are a majority according to the 2011 census.
New Delhi has also been keeping a steady gaze on Sri Lanka where Buddhist, Muslim and Christian factors came into play during the April 21, Easter Sunday massacre. Indian Intelligence had alerted their counterparts in Colombo as early as April 4 that a major act of terror would be executed in the island nation, possibly near Easter. When the bombs were detonated in Colombo’s churches and hotels killing nearly 300 people and injuring 500 more, Indian Intelligence looked very impressive after the event. Then Intelligence agencies from the US, UK, Israel, Australia, India, all descended on Colombo with state of the art technology. Everyone was out to hold Colombo’s hand. A petrified establishment, it was hoped, would fall into the Western lap. Machinations would then follow to steer Sri Lanka away from the Road and Belt Embrace.
Spanish Anthropologist, Joseba Zulaika’s famous dictum is worrisome: “Counter terrorism is terrorism’s best friend”. Hints of terror cells in South India, the cover up in Sri Lanka, the political turnstile in the Maldives makes this Indian Ocean triangle a source of anxiety.
All the more worrisome because the current phase of terrorism is not just Muslim anger, revenge, vendetta. It has been identified as energy to be harnessed as an asset. It all began with the Afghan Mujahideen in the 80s. Just take a look at what some scholarly investigations in Sri Lanka have found.
Sniffer dogs, making a round of the Hilton hotel found nothing but the hotel staff asked the handlers to examine another branch of the hotel. At this new location something mysterious was experienced. The dogs would not stop barking in front of one room. There was some humming and hawing, and excuses by the management as to why the room could not be opened. It was occupied by employees of the US embassy. According to Dr. Michael Roberts of the University of Adelaide, Australia, when the embassy officials ultimately opened the room, Sri Lankan police found two bomb detectors which, the officials explained, were for their own safety. The overawed Sri Lanka police appears not to have pursued the obvious line of inquiry. Sniffer dogs would bark only if the detectors had been in contact with material which went into the manufacture of bombs.
One complicating factor is the divergent foreign policy preferences of the President, a votary of China’s Belt and Road initiative, and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe who has exerted every muscle to sign the Status of Forces Agreement which would give the US Military a free run of an island. Note the head on conflict. The Prime Minister is keen that SOFA is signed before the Island’s general elections next year.
There are some tell-tale details. I have earlier mentioned a research paper, “Weaponization of Religion” by Darini Rajasingham-Senanayake. According to her, the growing Chinese influence on the island may well have been the target of the Easter attacks.
Not only were hotels targeted which had Chinese affiliations, but the six Chinese who lost their lives were from the South China Institute of Oceanography. Western agencies would not look at this data. They were, quite tellingly, focused only on the clash of civilizations and conflicts across faiths.
Tibet, Ladakh, Bhutan, Sikkim, Mongolia, Myanmar and Sri Lanka, are all bound by Buddhism, though sometimes of distinct Mahayana and Hinayana strands. How many of these would possibly be brought into play in President Donald Trump’s strategy of encircling China?
When Trump entered the White House in 2016, his avowed aim was to upturn everything Barack Obama had ever erected in the arena of foreign affairs, as in other areas. But his demoniacal desire to eradicate Obamaism from its root has run into that constant called American national interest.
The Obama-John Kerry team’s priority became the nuclear deal with Iran, signed in 2015 for a reason: focusing on West Asian affairs on a daily basis was keeping the administration away from other global priorities that required urgent attention – the pivot to Asia, for instance. Despite Israel and Saudi Arabia throwing every monkey wrench at hand into the 5+1 discussions with Iran, the team determinedly concluded the deal with several objectives but one which often goes unnoticed.
Lyndon Johnson’s colourful image was instructive. “It is better to have the camel in the tent, peeing out, than to leave him out peeing in.” Iran was going to be part of West Asian balance of power along with Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, Qatar. Washington would then have the time to focus on Asia Pacific.
To be characteristically contrary, Trump walked out of the nuclear deal, made a mess with Europe, North Korea, raised stakes everywhere. But eventually he picked up the thread where Obama had left it: “Pivot to Asia” but only after having soiled much turf enroute. The US support to the protests in Hong Kong, playing up the Taiwan-China differences, shady US behaviour in Sri Lanka, the Economic showdown with Beijing are all part of Trump’s risky, untidy “contain China” movement set by his predecessor. But with Trump you know nothing until you do. Who would have expected him to propose a meeting with President Hassan Rouhani on the margins of the UN General Assembly? Or that he would initiate direct talks with the Houthis in Yemen either with Saudi concurrence or without it, sailing above their heads? Either Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be hopping mad at this turn or he will be pleased as punch in case he was in the loop and these leaks are only designed to set up adversaries. Who knows? (IANS)
Israeli Ambassador Naor Gilon on Thursday said that the Pegasus snooping issue is India's internal matter.
The NSO is a private company and it has a license to sell its software to the government entities only, he added.
Gilon said: "This is an internal issue of India and I can't speak beyond this point. This is the only main requirement that... under the requirements, they cannot sell it to non-governmental actors".
Responding to a query if the Indian government will contact them, he said that he has no idea whether the Indian government has contacted them or not.
Referring to the explosion that took place last year near the Israeli embassy in Delhi, he said that the perpetrators are yet to be nabbed; however, the investigating agencies of both countries are cooperating with each other.
"We are thankful to the government of India for providing security to all embassy personnel," Gilon said.
Talking about the newly-formed quad with Israel, India, the US, and UAE, the Ambassador said it is totally an economic forum based on mutual cooperation among the participant countries.
"It has nothing to do with the military component as of now," he added.
Talking about Afghanistan, Gilon said that the country should not be used for extremism.
"There should not be any human rights violation and women and children should not suffer there", he commented.
Saying that Israel is a technologically sound country but it cannot go for industrial manufacturing, the partnership between India and Israel can work better for industrial productions.
Sharing the details of the recently-concluded visit of External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, he said that the visit was most successful in terms of bilateral relations.
Jaishankar met all important Ministers of the Israeli government and also met the Indian Diaspora, the Indian Jews who have recently settled there.
"It was a very warm visit, very friendly which I think emphasized the strategic partnership declared during the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Israel. I think that the visit was in the spotlight of 30 years of diplomatic relations which we are going to celebrate on January 29 next year," Gilon added. (IANS/JB)
Keywords: Israel Politics, Indian Diaspora, Pegasus issues, Pegasus snooping issue, a partnership between India and Israel.
The Sher Bahadur Deuba government on Thursday recommended veteran diplomat Shanker Sharma as the next ambassador to India.
Sharma earlier served as Vice Chairman of the National Planning Commission and Nepal's Ambassador to the United States of America from 2009 to 2013.
The post in the New Delhi embassy of Nepal fell vacant recently after Deuba recalled the ambassadors from 12 countries including India. The outgoing ambassador, Nilamber Acharya has already returned to Kathmandu.
Sharma has extensive experience in government, international institutions, and economic research. Before joining the National Planning Commission as a member in 1997, he worked as a Senior Economic Advisor, Ministry of Finance, Nepal; a Senior Economist in the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore; and a Fellow in the East-West Center, Hawaii. He also served as a Professor of Economics in the Centre for Economic Development and Administration, Tribhuvan University.
He worked regionally and globally for many organizations, such as the UNESCAP, World Bank, and ASEAN. Sharma is close confident of Prime Minister Deuba. (IANS/JB)
Keywords: India-Nepal relations, Nepal Ambassador, economic research.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday announced that 2022 will be celebrated as the friendship year for India and ASEAN countries as both have completed 30 years of partnership.
The event will coincide with India's celebrations of the 75th year of Independence from the colonial regime, he added.
While participating in the 18th edition of the India-ASEAN Summit, Modi said, "India is committed to deepening its relations with the next presidency, Cambodia and country-coordinator Singapore."
"History is witness to the fact that India and ASEAN have had relations for thousands of years. India-ASEAN relations are reflected in everything, including in our shared values, traditions, languages, scriptures, architecture, culture, food," the Prime Minister noted.
Speaking about the Covid pandemic which engulfed the whole world, he further said that the Covid period was also a test of India-ASEAN friendship. "Our mutual ties in the Covid time will keep strengthening our corporations in future and form a base for goodwill between our people," Modi added.
He further said that the unity and centrality of ASEAN have always been a priority for India and history has witnessed the fact that "we have had ties since thousands of years," he said.
The Prime Minister also said that India's Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI) and ASEAN's Outlook for the Indo-Pacific are the framework for their shared vision and mutual cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region.
During the Summit, the head of the member states will review the progress of India and ASEAN Strategic Partnerships which was signed in 2012. They will also review the progress achieved in the sectors like Covid-19, health, trade and investment, connectivity, education among others, the officials of India's Ministry of External Affairs said. (IANS/JB)
Keywords: India, and ASEAN partnership, COVID-19, India, and ASEAN, India, and history, Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative.