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Mexico can learn about dealing with diaspora from India: Claudia Ruiz-Massieu Salinas

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Mexico
Photo: @MEAIndia

New Delhi: Among the things Mexico can learn from India is dealing with the diaspora, the Latin American country’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Claudia Ruiz-Massieu Salinas said on Friday.

“India has the largest diaspora at 16 million. Mexico has the second largest at 12 million,” Salinas, who arrived here on Friday on a two-day visit, said while delivering the 22nd Sapru House Lecture.

“India has a long tradition of recognizing the value of its diaspora abroad for public diplomacy,” she said.

In this connection, she also referred to the merger of the ministry of overseas Indian affairs with the ministry of external affairs.

On India-Mexico relations, she said that both countries shared a vision of the future and their place as a regional power and economic hubs.

“Back home we call it ‘Moving Mexico’. Here you call it ‘Make in India’,” Salinas said.

“Surprisingly, there are a lot of similarities and they run in parallel directions. One pillar of ‘Make in India’ is to attract and facilitating investments. In Mexico, we are trying to increase productivity and investments.”

She said “Make in India” was also aimed at training and creating jobs for students.

“In Mexico, we accomplished an ambitious education reform that is focusing not only on ensuring that all Mexicans, all children and young people have access to education but to quality education,” the minister said.

“We are focusing on permanent training of our teachers and giving our students the skills and abilities to become global citizens and to compete in a highly integrated and interconnected world.”

Salinas said while an integral part of “Make in India” was business facilitation for economic competitiveness, it was fiscal and financial reforms for “Moving Mexico”.

“An important objective of “Make in India” is to remove absolute limits to foreign direct investments. In Mexico, we have energy reforms, telecom reforms,” she said.

While India was planning to build 100 smart cities and provide affordable housing, Mexico was creating special economic zones.

“Mexico is a natural bridge for India to dive into one of the most dynamic regions worldwide,” the minister said.

“Our network of free trade agreements and strategic make us an entry way to North America and Latin America.”

Salinas lamented that trade between Mexico and India has only grown 19 percent in the last decade.

“Two G20 economies with the size of Mexico and India should increase trading figures,” she said.

Mexico is the 13th largest country and at $1 trillion is the 15th largest economy in the world.

“We have to work together and explore new opportunities to deepen our economic and trade exchange,” the Mexican minister said, adding that manufacturing and pharmaceuticals were among such areas.

She said that Mexico was India’s second largest Latin American investor.

“In Latin America, Mexico is the second destination for India in foreign direct investments. However, we acknowledge that the approximately 170 Indian firms, mainly from the automotive, pharmaceuticals and the IT sectors are established in Mexico,” Salinas said, adding that India was home to 11 Mexican firms from various sectors.

She mentioned automotive, mining, information technology, technology as sectors, Indian companies can invest in Mexico.

Earlier on Friday, after her arrival, Salinas called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

She is scheduled to hold bilateral talks with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Saturday.(IANS)

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Across Asia’s Borders, Survivors Of Human Trafficking, Dial in for Justice

The trial has been ongoing since 2013

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Tara Khokon Miya is seen in her village home in Shipur, Bangladesh, Feb. 26, 2018. She is helping to prepare her 27-year-old daughter to testify via videoconferencing technology against the men who trafficked her to India.
Tara Khokon Miya is seen in her village home in Shipur, Bangladesh, Feb. 26, 2018. She is helping to prepare her 27-year-old daughter to testify via videoconferencing technology against the men who trafficked her to India. VOA

When Neha Maldar testified against the traffickers who enslaved her as a sex worker in India, she spoke from the safety of her own country, Bangladesh, via videoconferencing, a technology that could revolutionize the pursuit of justice in such cases.

The men in the western city of Mumbai appeared via video link more than 2,000 km (1,243 miles) west of Maldar as she sat in a government office in Jessore, a major regional hub for sex trafficking, 50 km from Bangladesh’s border with India.

“I saw the people who had trafficked me on the screen and I wasn’t scared to identify them,” Maldar, who now runs a beauty parlor from her home near Jessore, told Reuters. “I was determined to see them behind bars.”

“I told them how I was beaten for refusing to work in the brothel in the beginning and how the money I made was taken away,” she said, adding that she had lied to Indian authorities about her situation after being rescued, out of fear.

Thousands of people from Bangladesh and Nepal — mainly poor, rural women

and children — are lured to India each year by traffickers who promise good jobs but sell them into prostitution or domestic servitude, anti-slavery activists say.

Activists hope the safe, convenient technology could boost convictions. A Bangladeshi sex trafficker was jailed for the first time in 2016 on the strength of a victim’s testimony to a court in Mumbai via video link from Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital.

Convictions for cross-border trafficking in the region are rare as most victims choose not to pursue cases that have traditionally required them to testify in Indian courts, which meant staying in a shelter for the duration of the trial.

“They have always wanted to go back home, to their families,” said Shiny Padiyara, a legal counsel at the Indian charity Rescue Foundation that has facilitated videoconferencing cases and runs shelters for trafficking victims. “And most never return to testify.”

But videoconferencing is making it easier to pursue justice. Survivors have given statements, identified their traffickers, and been cross examined in at least 10 other ongoing international cases in Bangladesh, advocates said.

“Enabling victims to testify via video conference will lead to a possible decrease in acquittal rates for want of prime witnesses,” said Adrian Phillips of Justice and Care, a charity that supports the use of video testimony to help secure justice.

Even then, it is tough. During Maldar’s three-hour deposition, she withstood a tough cross-examination, showed identity documents to prove her age and countered allegations by the defense lawyer that she was lying about her identity.

Students Combat Human Trafficking
Students Combat Human Trafficking, flickr

‘Unpardonable’

Tara Khokon Miya is preparing her 27-year-old daughter to testify against the men who trafficked her to India from Dhaka, where she had been working in a garment factory.

“I almost lost my daughter forever,” she said, sitting in her home in Magura, less than 50 km from Jessore, describing how she disappeared after work and was taken to a brothel in India, and raped and beaten for almost a year before being rescued.

“What the traffickers did to my daughter was unpardonable,” Miya said, wiping her tears. “We seek justice. I nurtured her in my womb and can’t describe what it felt like to not know about her whereabouts.”

The trial has been ongoing since 2013 when the young woman, who declined to be named, was repatriated. The charity Rights Jessore is helping the family through the process, by providing counseling and rehearsing cross-examination.

“The best thing is her father will be by her side when she talks in court,” Miya said, finally breaking into a smile.

India signed a bilateral agreement with Bangladesh in 2015 to ensure faster trafficking investigations and prosecutions, and with Nepal in 2017, and laid down basic procedures to encourage the use of videoconferencing in court proceedings.

“The procedure is very transparent,” said judge K M Mamun Uzzaman at Jessore courthouse, which often converts its conference hall into a courtroom for videoconferencing cases to protect survivors’ privacy.

“I’m usually present and victims are able to testify confidently … it is easy and cost effective for us,” he said. “But the biggest beneficiaries are the survivors.”

Silencing Victims
Silencing Victims, pixabay

The future

Videoconferencing in Bangladesh has been plagued by technical glitches such as power cuts and poor connections.

“Sometimes the internet connection is weak or it gets disconnected during the testimony,” said Binoy Krishna Mallick head of Rights Jessore, a pioneer in using this technology to encourage trafficking survivors to pursue justice. “But these are just teething troubles.”

The bigger challenge, activists say, is to ensure survivors remain committed to the trial despite delays caused by a backlog of cases and witnesses’ failure to appear to testify.

Swati Chauhan, one of the first judges to experiment with video testimony in 2010, is convinced that technology can eliminate many of these hurdles.

Also read: Imagining Panun Kashmir: Dissent And Detente in South Asia

“Victims go through a lot of trauma, so it is natural that they don’t want to confront their trafficker in a court — but that doesn’t mean they don’t want the trafficker to be punished,” she said. “A videoconference requires meticulous planning and it is not easy coordinating between departments and countries. But it is the future for many seeking justice.” (VOA)