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News Bulletin

Response to Doklam showed this is not India of 60s: M J Akbar

Union minister M J Akbar Saturday said the handling of the Doklam crisis showed that “we are no longer India of the 1960s” and those criticising the government over it have “no IQ sense” about governance. Speaking at Mapusa near here, the Minister of State for External Affairs said the only way to ensure peace is through “strength” as India was “perhaps being tested”.

In an oblique reference to Congress president Rahul Gandhi, he said those criticising the government over the issue “clearly prove over and over again that they have no knowledge, no understanding, no IQ sense of what governance is all about”.

Rahul Gandhi said in London on Friday that the Doklam standoff with China was not an “isolated issue” but part of a “sequence of events” and if Prime Minister Narendra Modi was carefully watching the process, India could have stopped it.

“I wish they would not betray their inability to understand our country,” the minister said during his talk on ‘India’s Foreign Policy for the 21st Century’ at a college.

The Doklam stand-off was one of the most significant events in the history of our foreign policy, he said.

“We showed the world that this is not India of the 1960s (with our response). Perhaps we were being tested…I cannot offer reasons as to why it happened because we certainly did not begin the clashes, but certainly a message of steadfast courage, commitment to our national interest (went out) and (there was) display of courage by defence forces under the leadership of our Prime Minister,” he said.

“Those who criticised Doklam are being childish. The world heard us, and recognised. And today we can see, after that, even our relationship with China has leaped forward,” the journalist-turned-politician said, adding “world respects strength”.

“India has no aggressive plans towards any country, and the world knows that we do not interfere in other countries’ affairs,” he said.

“We also tell the world that we understand the meaning of defence. And the meaning of defence is not an inch of our land shall ever be under threat,” Akbar added.

Read more at; https://indianexpress.com/article/india/response-to-doklam-showed-this-is-not-india-of-60s-m-j-akbar-5324813/

US: Attorney general says Department of Justice will not be influenced by politics

United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Thursday hit back at President Donald Trump, saying that the actions of the Department of Justice “will not be improperly influenced by political considerations”. Sessions’ statement was posted on Twitter by Justice Department Spokesperson Sarah Isgur Flores.

“I took control of the Department of Justice the day I was sworn in, which is why we have had unprecedented success at effectuating the President’s agenda,” said Sessions, who earlier recused himself from investigating the alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential elections.

“I demand the highest standards, and where they are not met, I take action,” said Session. “However, no nation has a more talented, more dedicated group of law enforcement investigators and prosecutors than the United States.”

The comments came hours after Trump, in an interview with Fox News, said, “Jeff Sessions never took control of the Justice Department, and it’s a sort of an incredible thing.” Trump attacked the former Alabama senator for recusing himself. “He took the job and then he said, ‘I’m going to recuse myself.’ I said what kind of a man is this?” Trump said in the interview.

Trump said that the “only reason” he appointed Sessions the attorney general was because he worked on his presidential campaign. “Because I felt loyalty, he was an original supporter,” said Trump. “He was on the campaign.”

Read more at; https://scroll.in/latest/891706/us-attorney-general-says-department-of-justice-will-not-be-influenced-by-politics

Pompeo’s remarks on terrorism during maiden call to Imran Khan trigger controversy

A fresh row has erupted between the US and Pakistan on the issue of terrorism following a telephone call by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to newly-elected Prime Minister Imran Khan, as Islamabad took exception to the American version of the conversation.

Pompeo yesterday spoke to Khan for the first time after the cricketer-turned-politician assumed office last week and sought “decisive action” against all terrorists operating in Pakistan, the US State Department said. The US has long been frustrated with Pakistan’s overt and covert support to the Afghan Taliban and other terror groups, forcing the Trump administration to warn Islamabad and slash military aid to the country.

State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert said yesterday in a statement that Pompeo, in his talks with Khan, discussed the issue of terrorism and Pakistan’s vital role in promoting the peace process in war-torn Afghanistan.

“Secretary Michael R Pompeo spoke today with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and wished him success. Secretary Pompeo expressed his willingness to work with the new government towards a productive bilateral relationship,” she said in the statement.

Soon after Nauert’s statement, Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman Mohammad Faisal said that “Pakistan takes exception to the factually incorrect statement issued by the US State Department on today’s phone call between Prime Minister Khan and Secretary Pompeo”.

“There was no mention at all in the conversation about terrorists operating in Pakistan. This should be immediately corrected,” Faisal tweeted. Nauert today said Pompeo’s telephonic discussion with Khan was good and the US stands by its earlier statement.

“In the readout, the secretary notes that he spoke with the new prime minister and expressed his willingness to work with the new government toward a productive bilateral relationship. They had a good call,” she said. “That may surprise some of you, but they had a good call. Pakistan is an important partner to the United States. We hope to forge a good, productive working relationship with the new civilian government,” she said.

Read more at; https://indianexpress.com/article/world/pompeos-remarks-on-terrorism-during-maiden-call-to-imran-khan-trigger-controversy/

UNICEF warns of ‘lost generation’ of Rohingya youth, one year after Myanmar exodus

Hundreds of thousands of mainly Muslim Rohingya continue to live in cramped and rudimentary camps in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar, after fleeing a military operation in Myanmar that was subsequently likened to “ethnic cleansing” by the UN’s top human rights official, Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein.

According to UNICEF, the international community needs to do more to prevent some half a million youngsters “falling prey to despair and frustration”.

One key need is better education facilities, which some older children say is almost more important than food, according to Simon Ingram, Senior Communication Advisor for UNICEF.

“Now they are starting to look forward, they’re starting to wonder, ‘What next?’” Mr. Ingram said, citing a child alert issued late Wednesday. “They are starting to think, you know, what sort of future that they really have, and this is where a new level of anxiety and fear starts to come in.”

Although huge advances have been made in the living conditions of those forced to flee Myanmar, including in disease outbreak prevention, improved water provision and stronger shelters, UNICEF warns that children in Cox’s Bazar face a bleak future.

“If we don’t make the investment in education now, we face the very real danger of seeing a lost generation of Rohingya children,” UNICEF Bangladesh Representative Edouard Beigbeder said in a statement.

“Children who lack the skills they need to deal with their current situation, and who will be incapable of contributing to their society whenever they are able to return to Myanmar.”

Inside Cox’s Bazar, some 1,200 education centres were operational by July this year for around 140,000 children – a significant achievement, given the level of demand.

Read more at; https://news.un.org/en/story/2018/08/1017632

Can Donald Trump Unite the World (Against Himself)?

One thing already seems clear in the Trump era: the world will not turn out to be the American president’s playground. His ultra-unilateralist, rejectionist policies on trade, the Iran denuclearisation agreement, the costs of defence and climate change are already creating an incipient anti-Trump movement globally (and in the US as well). To a remarkable degree, the countries he has targeted are banding together to oppose him and his policies. That still inchoate but gathering opposition assures that, whatever Donald Trump’s view of America may be, it is no longer – in the phrase coined 20 years ago by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright – the “indispensable nation.” Abroad or even at home, with the president facing increasingly strong headwinds on climate change at the state and local level, we’re entering a new world order on the heels of the collapsed American domination of the past three-quarters of a century.

Let’s consider the opposition Trump has generated on an issue-by-issue basis.

Cross-border trade

In January 2017, on his first day in office, President Trump promptly withdrew the US from the long-negotiated 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) pact, deeply disappointing among others a close ally, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. He had assiduously curried favor with Trump as soon as he was elected, on and off the golf course. A day earlier in January, Abe had even succeeded in getting his own parliament to approve the agreement.

But in an act by Washington’s allies unprecedented in the last seven decades, Abe, along with the leaders of the 10 other countries in that pact — Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam — refused to take Trump’s executive order as TPP’s death sentence. Instead, in a groundbreaking step into a new world, they resumed negotiations on the pact in the Chilean city of Viña del Mar.

This March, after months of deliberation, they signed the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership in Chile’s capital city, Santiago. For the signatories, it reduces tariffs drastically, while introducing sweeping new trade rules in markets covering half a trillion people on either side of the Pacific Ocean.

This was a landmark event, inaugurating an era in which countries long accustomed to following cues from Washington forged ahead without its participation. In doing so, they rejected Trump’s view of trade as a zero-sum game, consisting of winners and losers. Reflecting the common perception of the signatories, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet said, “We need to stay on the course of globalization, yet learning from our past mistakes.”

Read more at; https://thewire.in/world/donald-trump-iran-paris-climate-nato

US Says China Seeks Domination after El Salvador Ditches Taiwan

Washington/Taipei: The US on Thursday attacked El Salvador’s decision to ditch diplomatic ties with Taiwan in favour of China, saying the change was of grave concern to Washington and warning that China was offering economic inducements to seek domination.

Self-ruled Taiwan now has formal relations with only 17 countries, almost all of them small and less developed nations in Central America and the Pacific, including Belize and Nauru.

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen this week vowed to fight China’s “increasingly out of control” behaviour as El Salvador became the third country to switch allegiance to Beijing this year. China views Taiwan as a wayward province, with no right to state-to-state ties.

In a statement likely to inflame already strained relations with Beijing, the White House said El Salvador’s government had made the decision “in a non-transparent fashion only months before they leave office”.

“The El Salvadoran government’s receptiveness to China’s apparent interference in the domestic politics of a Western Hemisphere country is of grave concern to the United States, and will result in a reevaluation of our relationship with El Salvador,” it said.

Countries wanting to open or expand ties with China to get state-directed investment for short-term economic growth and infrastructure may be disappointed in the long run, the White House said.

“Around the world, governments are waking up to the fact that China’s economic inducements facilitate economic dependency and domination, not partnership,” it said.

Taiwan has accused China of luring its friends away with offers of generous aid packages. China denies that.

There was no immediate response in Taipei or Beijing to the White House statement.

Washington does not have diplomatic relations with Taipei, but is the democratic island’s main arms supplier and strongest international backer.

Read more at; https://thewire.in/world/us-says-china-seeks-domination-after-el-salvador-ditches-taiwan

The Rise and fall of Soft Power

Nearly three decades ago, American political scientist and former Clinton administration official Joseph Nye put forth an idea in the pages of Foreign Policy. He called it soft power, a concept that caught fire and went on to define the post-Cold War era.

Nye argued that, although the United States seemed relatively weaker than it had been at the end of World War II, the country still had a unique source of power to bring to bear. Beyond using military power “to do things and control others,” Nye later explained, “to get others to do what they otherwise would not,” the United States could draw on its soft power—its noncoercive power—to cement its leadership position in the world.

Hard power was easy to measure, of course. We can count the number of missiles and tanks and troops. (As Soviet leader Joseph Stalin is famously said to have asked, “How many divisions does the Pope have?”) But what was the content of America’s soft power? Nye put it into three categories: cultural, ideological, and institutional. In these areas, the world would want to be like the United States. And that pull, in turn, would help the nation shape the world. “If a state can make its power seem legitimate in the eyes of others, it will encounter less resistance to its wishes.” That is, he argued, “if its culture and ideology are attractive, others will more willingly follow.” For Nye, the basis of U.S. soft power was liberal democratic politics, free market economics, and fundamental values such as human rights—in essence, liberalism.

In the quarter-century that followed Nye’s conception of soft power, world affairs played out within the broad contours of his predictions. After the United States won the Cold War, American liberalism had unparalleled appeal around the world. Everyone wanted to vote, everyone wanted jeans, and everyone wanted free speech—so much so that the political theorist Francis Fukuyama coined the phrase “the end of history” to capture the idea that whole world was careening toward a political endpoint already reached by the West.

Read more at; https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/08/20/the-rise-and-fall-of-soft-power/

Several U.S. tech giants to convene on cybersecurity: report

Tech giants are slated to meet on Friday to share their strategies to safeguard the 2018 midterms elections, according to a Buzzfeed News report.

Buzzfeed announced late Thursday night that they obtained an email from Facebook’s Head of Cybersecurity Policy Nathaniel Gleicher The email extended an invite to a dozen of America’s more prominent tech and social media companies to convene at Twitter’s headquarters in San Francisco. Google, Snapchat, and Microsoft are all reported to be on the list.

The conference will allow time for each company to present their plan to with back against misinformation and trolling. Then the tech companies can troubleshoot hiccups as a group.

U.S. national security experts agree that elections continue to be a target for foreign actors.

Twitter and Facebook announced on Tuesday that they each pulled hundreds of fake accounts and pages that came from Iran and Russia. Both worked with law enforcement to monitor the accounts.

“These were distinct campaigns and we have not identified any link or coordination between them,” Facebook’s statement read. “However, they used similar tactics by creating networks of accounts to mislead others about who they were and what they were doing.”

Days later, Microsoft reported that it discovered Russian hackers created phony sites to hack into individual computers and steal personal information. They targeted two conservative think tanks as well as handful Senate pages.

Read more at; https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2018/aug/24/several-us-tech-giants-convene-cybersecurity-repor/

The International Army Games Are Decadent and Depraved

The familiar roar of the crowd on the bleachers as the home team surges to take the lead. The excited, inciting yammer of the commentator. The big screens showing details and stats. Just another sporting event. Only this time, the team comprises three Russian soldiers crewing a T-72B3 in the finals of the tank biathlon against rivals from China, Kazakhstan, and Belarus.

Russia’s successful blending of sport, warfare, soft power, and spectacle is a high-octane form of public entertainment. But it’s also much more than that. It opens an important window into how the Kremlin sees its military force as its Swiss army knife, a tool for all occasions.

I was fortunate enough to be standing in the press gallery during the finals at the Russian army testing and training grounds at Alabino, courtesy of HBO Sports. Part of the wider International Army Games, which also include the Falcon Hunt drone competition and the True Friend dog team contest, the tank biathlon is nonetheless the showcase event. The finals were attended by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu—the event’s patron and sponsor—and an array of military attaches, visiting generals, and representatives of the countries taking part. There were even rumors that President Vladimir Putin himself would attend.

The first tank biathlon was held in 2013, with just four teams taking part (Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia), but the International Army Games proper began in 2015, in the aftermath of the post-Crimean chill. Since then, they have grown from 14 separate events involving teams from 17 countries to 28 and 32, respectively. While most of those attending could be considered usual suspects—BRICS partners such as China and India, Russian allies or customers such as Serbia and Venezuela—this year, Israel sent teams to compete in three events (the military rally, field medicine, and a field cook-off), and NATO member Greece even joined a single event.

Although the Army Games are an annual fixture conducted not just at Alabino but in other Russian cities and beyond, including in Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, China, Iran, and Kazakhstan, it’s Moscow that bears primary responsibility for organizing, and paying for, the events. That raises the question of motive. At a time when the Kremlin is spending money openly to fight a war in Syria and covertly to maintain another in Ukraine—and when it is thrusting unpopular pension reform down a recalcitrant population’s throat at home—why spend an undisclosed but substantial sum on a martial jamboree?

Read more at; https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/08/24/the-international-army-games-are-decadent-and-depraved/


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